Originally Posted by Dad_loves_to_cook
We are going to stretch my mind a bit as I haven't thought about this is quite some time. I was raised in a very strict Catholic home back in the 1970s. Sunday mornings were brutal as my mom was stressed out getting all of us ready for another grueling hour at mass. My father was a non-practicing Lutheran so he didn't attend church much, only when my mom made him. And there were huge family tensions with the grandparents since my parents were in a religiously mixed marriage. She was Catholic, he Lutheran. My dad's parents had much more issue with having grandchildren who were Catholic. That is another story for a therapist!
When I left for the military at age 19 I felt a twinge of guilt on Sunday mornings and my mother's voice in my head telling me I better go to church or else. I went for awhile but still felt like church was an obligation, so I stopped attending. During that time I met a guy on the military base who told me about philosophy. We talked quite a bit about atheism, agnosticism and all the other religions in the world. The only other time I'd thought about leaving the Catholic church and trying another one was a non-denominational my uncle and his family attended. My mother told me I could never leave the Catholic church and that would be about the biggest sin ever.
After talking with that guy on the base I really pondered the thought of God not existing and that church was simply made up to give people a reason to feel better about themselves.
I decided to put the no God theory to a test. I chose to live for a few weeks as if there was no God and see what happened and how I felt. During that period of time I became very depressed at the thought of there being nothing after death, and simply no reason to why we where on this earth. My entire demeanor had changed and was noticed by my sergeants and a few of my co-workers. I didn't tell them about my trial so they weren't even aware.
One of my sergeants who I respected more than the others pulled me aside and told me what he noticed about my depression. He wanted to know what was going on. Reluctantly I told him. He was in his mid 30s and I was in my early 20s at the time. He told me that I had to find what was right for me in my life, and from his perspective it was evident that I did believe God existed and I couldn't live without Him. My sergeant didn't attend church but he knew me and knew that God was very real to me, even if I chose to not attend church.
Months later I received a call from my mother (I was stationed overseas and this was long before email, we lived on expensive phone calls and handwritten letters way back in the 80s!). My youngest brother who was in high school had told her he wasn't going to attend the Catholic church anymore. I was shocked and even though I'd resigned myself to never attend that church again I was worried about him. I prayed that God would bring "those type of people" who brainwashed him into my life so I could understand what he was thinking and going through.
It's a longer story here but through this event I realized my need for Jesus as a savior in my life and it is when I chose to give my life over to Him. Ironically my sergeant and many others saw a dramatic change in my life. I had never realized that I wasn't the most reliable worker until my work ethic changed immediately. While many didn't agree with my choice to have Christ in my life, they did appreciate my new found work ethic.
So basically my logical decision to dismiss atheism was based on how I personally responded to living a life with no aspect of God in it. While it may not be logical or agreeable to others, it's what I did to test and see if I truly believed in a God.
My experience was exactly
the opposite. Before I lost my faith, I was a very depressed kid. Even tried to kill myself a few times between the ages of 13 and 17 (so glad I failed).
My reasons were inherently selfish. It wasn't because of a bad immediate family situation... hell, my family is practically a fairy-tale story of separation and return and has "happily ever after" written all over it. Technically, I should believe in "soul-mates" because of my Mom and Dad (I don't because I find the idea to be irrational, but there you go). My brother was, and still is, my best friend. Not too mention how close I am
with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousin, and how close I was
with my great-grandparents, too (though my great grandparents have all now passed, sadly... however, the last one died when I was 22).
The problem was, due to things I did as a kid, I was (technically still am) horribly socially awkward. I basically had zero friends. I was the kid that got bullied even by other bully-victims. I loved my home life, but hated everything else about myself. And it was my fault, too, as I was a messed up and very stupid kid. I can say with certainty that if who I am now knew who I was then, I would not
be my friend. I brought the teasing and bullying onto myself (and I can say that objectively... for example: you would not believe how long it took me to give up the idea of "imaginary friends"... it's pathetic, to be honest... it all boils down to the fact that it took me until 10th Grade
to throw off the "Kindergarten mentality"... and the rest of high school to break the bad habits that I ended up with because of that... then I took two years off of college, and didn't care about my first year in college, all adding up to me being a 24-year-old college Junior on his way to his first Bachelor's, which is at least 4 years too late).
I didn't blame God for any of this, though. I believed in free will. I made the decisions that did all that to me. God had nothing to do with it.
At least consciously, the reason I lost my faith was because I honestly could not answer the question "why do you believe in God?" with anything other than a cliche, rehearsed answer. The honest answer was that I'm really not sure if I ever
believed. It seemed I only "believed" because everyone else around me believed. I was going with the crowd, basically. It never really meant anything to me. There's more to the story, of course... involving a Led Zeppelin forum, discovering the evolution vs. creation debate and getting into the thick of that debate, reading the "God Delusion" (though, at least consciously, it only had a minor effect on me... maybe it had a stronger effect on me subconsciously) and so on. But it was that question that was, I guess, the straw that broke the camel's back.
This happened when I was about two months away from turning 21. I was going through other changes at this time, as well. The biggest one was the throwing off
of my depression. I'm definitely still fighting against my social phobias, and it is extremely hard (I'm terrified of bars and parties and such, and find I converse easier online then offline). I'm also a very tense and stressed-out person (which means I have to consciously act to avoid cigarettes because of how relaxed and stress-free nicotine makes me feel... I'm afraid of smoking not because of the lung cancer or any of that, but because I'm a [Blues Rock] singer and have no interesting in tearing my voice up... but I'd likely be a chain smoker if such weren't the case), which makes the fight against the social phobias even harder. But it's also extremely
rewarding, especially now that I've figured out who I want to be.
since losing my faith.
However, from my view, none of that matters. The problem with emotion is that it is inherently subjective
. That's why it cannot be an argument for the existence of anything
. We don't "believe in" the existence of Martin Luther King, Jr because of the way his story makes us feel. We know for a fact
he existed because we have empirical evidence
for his existence (pictures, video, audio, witnesses, his still-existing family, etc).
I feel as if the same has
to be applied to the existence of a higher power. It's why I reject the idea that the question of God's existence, and the existence of a supernatural/paranormal realm in total, is outside the scope of science (Non-Overlapping Magisteria, or NOMa).
Science is the best tool we have to answer questions about the nature of reality. The question of God's existence is not just a
question about the nature of reality, but the
question, and the reason is because the answer effects reality in the most fundamental way, seeing as the answer is hinged entirely on why there is a reality to begin with. Reality
is the domain of science, and as such, anything claimed to be real
is best corroborated (or disproven) with science.
So even if
I felt depressed and lost without my faith, it wouldn't matter. The question is not an emotional one, but a physical
one. Reality is not supposed to make us feel good. Reality just is. How we feel about it is entirely up to us.