- Posted October 7, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
A Reluctant Atheist
I had little choice in many things in my life – I did not choose the circumstances of my birth or my upbringing, I did not choose my parents, I did not choose what I looked like, or the schools I went to, or my siblings. I did not even choose to be gay. But I chose to be an atheist. And it is the most terrifying decision that I have ever made in my entire life.
There is much being said these days about atheists and, while there are those who believe in each person’s right to believe as they wish, there are those to whom such a choice is incomprehensible. Both points of view resonate with me.
Being an atheist was not an easy choice for me. It may have been for some, and will be for others, but not for me. I was the kid who prayed every night, kneeling at my bedside, hands clasped tightly, forgetting no one and nothing in my supplications. I had a lot to pray for in my childhood, and I prayed for it all every night. I was the girl who went against my Hindu parents, and in my heart converted to Catholicism at 13, the young girl who wanted to be a nun, who wanted to study theology, who believed in a personal god who was watching my every move, and cradling me warmly at night while I slept, who held me and audibly comforted me as I cried softly, tucked away in corners of my life somewhere. I went to him when I was so deliriously happy I could scream, and when everything was broken in my life and I could die. He was always there. And now he is gone. Forever.
To choose this discomfort may seem insane. To me, at least. Terror now creeps into me at night as I lie in my bed, unable to fall asleep, knowing and believing that there is nothing after death, that one day I will sleep forever, a sleep with no more dreams, and with no waking up. That belief is enough to keep me up forever.
How do I look at my son now, and tell him that I believe that there is no chance for us to ever meet again after I'm dead and gone, the very hope that has comforted his young soul many times? How do I tell him that when I'm dead, that I believe that that is the end of it, that he would never see me again? My answer is that I don’t. I am a coward. I cannot tell him this. I cannot and will never. He may one day know that truth himself, but I will not be the one to tell him at the age of ten.
How do I live, believing that my life is only in my hands, that everything that takes place in my life is a result of my actions and everyone else’s, and not of some supernatural being? Believing that there is no one directing my life, that there is no destiny for me, or fate or god-given purpose? That I have to find my own purpose? That I go where I choose to go, that I become what I choose to become?
Christopher Hitchens once wrote that losing your religion is like losing a limb. Truer words have hardly been spoken. I keep looking for that phantom limb that used to be there, that limb of faith that I used to have that helped me through life, that led me through difficulties and gave me direction and purpose. But it is gone. Forever. And I feel the pain of that loss everyday.
Being an atheist is not something simple. It is not something easy. It is not for cowards. Religion is man’s greatest concoction to cure the disease of fear of death, his attempt at an antidote for this natural fear. The antidote did not work for me, and I am left the fear of annihilation, of disappearing forever once I am dead, of no comfort of an afterlife, for me or for others.
Please don’t think for one moment that that was an easy choice, and don’t persecute us because it is inconceivable to you. Things change, and they might for you one day, as they did for me.