I was once a very active and committed Christian. I was the church treasurer, served on multiple committees, was a choir member and was active with the youth group. But I always had a science bug, even in high school. Yet I had never tried to reconcile my faith with science. I don't know if I deliberately avoided it or just never thought of it, but that doesn't really matter now. One evening while reading 'The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, I began to think - I wonder how well my faith stands up to critical inspection? And so it began...
I entered a new phase in my life. I tried very hard to put aside my assumptions and look at my religion with a critical eye. I tried to examine it as if I were NOT a believer but a seeker. I began to study the Bible with a new eye. I began to read up on the history of Christianity and at biblical scholarship - in particular textual criticism. At the same time I began to dive back into science and skepticism, educating myself in logical fallacies and critical thinking. I also began to read up on evolutionary biology. I read Dawkins, Gould, Sagan, Gardner, Ehrman and a lot of skeptical blogs. And the more I studied science and the Bible, the more I came to see that my faith was sorely misplaced.
Once serious doubt began to take hold, it was like an avalanche...I could not hold my curiosity back. And my faith began to be replaced with the realization that yes, I was an evolved primate on a little speck of a planet in a vast uncaring Universe. For some people this might become dismaying, but for me it was like a slave tasting freedom for the first time. I began to ask uncomfortable questions of the pastor of my church - questions he was unable to answer. I sought answers from my Christian friends with the same result. And after a while I had to admit it - I am an atheist...and I feel really good about it.
I did go through a period of missing the social trappings that go with church, but my new found intellectual freedom made up for that in spades. And it did cause some friction in my family as my wife is a believer and all of my family and hers are too. But hats off the my spouse - she took my de-conversion in stride and accepted my reason why I could no longer believe (or even pretend to believe) anymore. And as a result both of my children identify as either agnostic or atheist. I was so proud of my son when he was watching a show about ghost hunting on TV and he turned to me and said 'This is bullshit - just like religion'. And this was at age 13.
So now I proudly wear the badge of atheist. Atheism doesn't define who I am, but it is a major part of what I have become. It has made me more compassionate, more caring about how to make this world better NOW - because this life is all we have. I treat everyone with more kindness and empathy. I have lost my bigoted homophobia and good riddance. The lack of gods in my life has had nothing but positive repercussions. Even though I have lost friends over it I say 'So what - they weren't a real friend at all'. The friends I have left and the new friends I have met more that make up the loss. I have a tattoo on my right arm that says 'Ubi dubium, ibi libertas' which means in common Latin 'Where there is doubt, there is liberty'. It has become the motto I live by.
So if you are a believer I urge you - look at your belief with a critical eye. See how well it stands up to scientific fact. Do a reality check. If you do this honestly you may find yourself following my path and I can tell you it is truly rewarding. Read something out of your comfort zone. Read 'The God Delusion' or 'The End of Faith'. Take a hard look at what your religion asks you to believe. There is a greater freedom to be had if you will only seek it with an open mind.