Rethink What You Thought You Knew

Posted: March 29, 2015 in atheism, religion
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I did not grow up an atheist. My parents were deeply religious, and I followed in their footsteps until fairly recently. I was a “favorite” and “favored” child due to my devotion to the faith, my stalwart obedience through hardships, and my dedication to study and service. Despite a large bump in my path, I grew up to be everything my family and church leaders expected me to be, and I even became an individual whom others would seek out for spiritual knowledge and advice.

See, I was always “book-smart”. Even as a baby, I would sit down with a book and look through the pages reciting “blah, blah, ga, ba, na” as if I understood the words on the page and simply could not yet articulate them. I was reading Anna Sewell’s “Black Beauty” by kindergarten, Lowis Lowry’s “The Giver” in fourth grade, and many of the great classics by seventh. With my love for reading also came a love for science, philosophy, and religion. I wanted to understand EVERYTHING, and I soaked up information like a sponge.

However, I was also very naive and trusting. I had a wonderful home life with all a child could ever want, and I idolized my parents as any child would. To my young self, they were perfect- smarter than me, stronger than me, kinder than me, gentler than me, etc. And as all loving parents do, they sought to teach me what they thought was the truth and guide my moral compass on the path that would lead to my ultimate happiness. I never questioned what they taught me. If my parents believed it, certainly it had to be true. So with my thirst for knowledge also came a desire to please, and I obediently guided my studies toward topics that would garner the approval of my family and religious community.

Were it not for the eye-opening trauma I experienced upon entering adulthood, I’d likely have allowed my desire for approval to override my desire to obtain knowledge, and I would have abandoned my passion to become a humble house-wife dependent on the provisions of my spouse. Like my own mother, I would have put my personal life on hold in order to devote all my time to supporting a husband and “raising up seed” for another obedient and suppressed generation of followers.

But trust was broken, and the reality I’d built around myself shattered into the fleeting pieces of fantasy. Healing came slowly, over a course of years, and what pulled me out of the dark abyss of anxiety, depression, and tumultuous emotions was rekindling the flame of my passion. At first, I again sought out information from “approved” sources and avoided materials my peers had deemed questionable and even outright antagonistic. However, I seemed to be breaching a limit in what was available to me. Everyone around me was content with what they had, but I wanted MORE. More books, more information, more debate, more discussion… I was hungry for anything and everything I could find to feed my starving mind and combat the wounds that had been inflicted upon my very core.

My journey was (and is) like a metamorphosis. Everyone around me… was a caterpillar, and they were quite content to remain caterpillars. They had all the food they could want. They were happy and peaceful and serene. They grew fat with their wealth and felt quite certain that this was the best life could possibly get. With winter, they built their cocoons around themselves, and they felt snug and warm and safe wrapped in their protective armor. Certainly, this was the best life could possibly get. But I ached – oh how I ached to be FREE of the confines which everyone around me said were for my good. And now, I AM free. I have emerged as a butterfly, and everything I thought I knew about the world has changed.

Many who are faithful to their respective religions view atheism as a loss. I “lost” my faith. I have “fallen” from the path. But it is only now that I finally feel “found”. Atheism is not a loss at all, but a freeing of the mind from restrictive belief systems that fail to embrace the totality of the universe and our place in it. All religions essentially construct a “box” within which the faithful must remain in order to be deemed righteous and worthy. These religions chart a path which is deemed the “only” way to obtain enlightenment or happiness, and followers who stray from the path are viewed as lost, trapped, chained, confused, depressed, or miserable.

Reality is so very different from the world portrayed by religious doctrine, and I have found myself having to relearn even the most basic concepts. The foundation on which I had built has crumbled, and I am now reconstructing the pieces into a magnificent masterpiece. As I continue pursuing my passion for learning, I am having to “remodel” my mind, knocking out walls that do not belong, expanding and changing and letting all the false expectations loose. I am strengthening the beams of morality, humanity, and empathy and breaking down the barriers of modesty, guilt, judgement.

Concepts that had been drilled into my mind through years of indoctrination are now breaking apart into sand and drifting away on the wind, while features of my character that had been suppressed are now rising and basking in the new found light. Everything is different. Everything is brighter, more beautiful, more invigorating. Life has new meaning, and I can describe the experience as nothing less than a spiritual awakening.

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