I have realized that I am an Atheist. You could say that I have known for awhile, but was terrified to come to terms with it. Let me just explain my background.
I was raised as a strict Southern Baptist by my mother. My dad doesn't go to church, and stopped because of the way the church treated my Grandpa, who is a Baptist Preacher. I was told from the time I was five years old that my morals were great and I had such a sensitive conscience that God was going to make me a preacher. So I pretty much went with this on the thought that it would disappoint everyone if I didn't become a preacher.
I was the most involved kid in church, I led worship as a 15 year old, I preached, I counseled people, etc. All because I was supposed to. But make no mistake, I fully believed in God and Jesus Christ and I was annoying about it to everyone who dared to not believe. I went to college and dropped out because I felt (more like "was told by my College Ministry leader") that I should be spending my time in the Bible and at Seminary, not at a Liberal University.
Well, that is exactly what I did. I went to Seminary and honestly hated it. But I wouldn't let anyone know that. Though I liked some of the guys that were there, I felt like I was surrounded by idiots at times who wouldn't dare open a book that potentially said something they didn't agree with. They refused to even entertain the thought that maybe, just maybe, God doesn't exist. I yearned for real education. I went back to school and changed my major to Religious Studies, something I had been interested in since childhood.
The last thing my mother said to me when I changed my Major was "Keith, just don't get educated past believing in anything." Which annoyed me because I have always had an issue with the Religious War on Knowledge.
I become very interested in Philosophy of Science and Religion and how the two interact and really began to detest Intelligent Design and Creationism simply because I saw them as ridiculous and limiting God (this being when I still believed, though I was becoming very shaken). Then I actually began truly, objectively reading the Bible and found that it is just detestable. The foundation of my faith, Christ, was a lie. I have no doubts that Jesus existed, but it is ridiculous to believe that the Jesus in Matthew, Mark, and Luke is the same person as mentioned in John. They are completely different personalities! Okay, rant over, back on subject. As I read the Gospels again and again I realized that Jesus taught that the world would end within HIS OWN lifetime. Something I'm sure most of you know. This was a point where I stopped believing in Jesus as Christ, or the Messiah. Not possible. Belief in God for me has just gradually slipped away. I find that there are too many limitations to being all-powerful for it to exist at all. If God is all-powerful, doesn't that mean he could literally NEVER be fully human (Jesus)? Because to be fully human means to die and to be unable to come back. That's just one example.
There has been no real breaking point in which I just knew I didn't believe anymore, but I honestly just don't. I read too much Philosophy to entertain the idea of an all powerful God that will help with the ACT or SAT if you ask, but didn't stop the Holocaust.
That is what has led me here. This is my problem: Only one of my good friends actually knows. He is like me, inquisitive and against the war on knowledge. He has been my sound board and I have been his. However, I cannot live the lie that still believe in God in front of my family anymore. My mother still requires me to go to church with her on Sundays with her and my brother. It breaks her heart for me to not go. I love my mother more than anything in the world and I can't stand for her to be hurt. If I tell her that I do not believe in anything anymore, she will think of herself as a failure. She will think she has failed God, her Dad (I will not even begin to write about my Grandpa and his accept Jesus or I will kill you myself philosophy that he has adopted as a old man), and me as my mom. Both my mother and my brother still expect me to play specials when I come home once every month or so from college. I'm literally known around my tiny hometown as the preacher kid. To admit to them that I am an Atheist is to take a giant step onto ground that is horribly dilapidated and will crumble at any second.
What the hell do I do?
Sometimes parents can be really perceptive. Glad it went well for you.
Keith, welcome to the group. I expect that we can, together, help you. Your father's acceptance is very important. That your mother has lived with him knowing that he disagrees with her beliefs is a plus. When your true position becomes known, you can expect to lose as friends those who only accept people who agree with them. It will hurt, but I believe you know you could never really count on them. Your mother probably has some idea how you are evolving; you can guess better than anyone here how she will react when it's out in the open. Be sure you have a support group of friends who will accept you as you are. Oh, and don't overlook making whatever financial arrangements may be needed. Best wishes; you're among friends here.
Welcome, Keith. I've read all of the replies here and they offer some good sound advice. It will all fall in place in time. Stick with us and keep reading.
One of the good things about being an atheist is that you never have to worry about God's purpose for you. He isn't there, and life has no purpose that humans can discover. You don't have to suffer these philosophical tortures, or listen to dumb preachers who are grappling with them. What a nice freedom. Go out and enjoy the life you have been given by forces that are still barely understood.
I do feel for you, as your upbringing was similar to mine. I was also to be that great preacher and did not want to let anyone down.
As to your saying that you have no doubts that Jesus existed, I simply cannot be so sure. Written records of Jesus are the writings of the bible, some of which we have and many thrown out and not included. The psuedo writings about Jesus included totally absurd things.Our gospels cannot even be said to be written by the supposed authors because we know today that names were added to writings then to give them authority. This is why Jesus is not the same in the four Gospels. In fact, we have ZERO evidence of Jesus. Nobody that knew him wrote about him. If you want to claim that his followers were mostly ignorant uneducated fishermen, this doesn't increase my faith any. Next we have all of the men who wrote about him from his time until now. This is an impressive amount of writing, all of which is based on the bible, OR based on what the other man said. What man? Take your pick. Many men did the writing and none of them knew him or met him. Disregard Saul of Tarsu because this info came from the bible and also by Saul's own lying mouth.
Then you have the christian apologists who want to argue for Jesus existence by comparing him in writings to Julius Caesar. Don't fall for this one. Writings about Caesar are in such a way that there is no question he existed. Writings about Caesar are documented. Writings about Jesus are created as a domino effect from one man of one age to another man of another age (or era.)
Now we have to ask ourselves why is this so? It is because we want an all powerful daddy in the sky guiding us, and nobody wants to die! So, we lie to each other. We make shit up..