My journey towards atheism
I have been following the Christian/atheist debates on News24 for a while, and I while don’t think the debaters will ever find common ground, I do believe that it is a great environment for people to learn about and question their long-held beliefs. In the end, more people will become atheists than what would be converted to Christianity, and that is a good thing. It is liberating to be freed from the mind gymnastics of Christianity.
So, my story is not an unfamiliar one.
I grew up in the NG Kerk during apartheid. What a glorious time it was to be a little white boy in South Africa.
Between the National Party, the NG Kerk, the Broederbond, the SADF and the apartheid education system, they had EVERYTHING sorted out, just for us, because we were special. There was an answer for everything. Apartheid was OK, because God said so in the Bible. My white skin and privileged upbringing was OK, because God loved us, and we were his special people. Amen.
The fact that most Blacks in my environment were poor and uneducated was OK, because God knows best and everyone is in the position they find themselves, because God planned it that way. The fact that people I know died in the Angolan was also OK, and part of God’s plan, because it was a sacrifice we were supposed to make to defend our country from the evil communists and their godless ways.
Protestant Christianity was the only way. Muslims, Catholics and all other sects were going straight to hell. Not to mention atheism; that word was such a vulgarity, I don’t think we even had a category to file it in!
Good thing God was on our side; I wouldn’t have wanted to be on his wrong side during that time!
At the age of about 20/22, I decided that I really wanted to become the best Christian I could possibly be, and get closer to God. I started asking questions in the NG Kerk, and soon realized that they were just not that much into God as I thought they could be. They were not really “feeling” God, as I thought they should.
I decided to make the radical move of leaving the NG Kerk, and join the AGS (AFM), which seemed to be much more in touch with God. What an experience it was, those first few years. I spent hours reading the Bible, learning about God, feeling myself getting closer to God, feeling “holy” almost; a chosen one. I saw people speaking in tongues, others providing the interpretation. It was really exciting stuff, and I was finally in the place where God also was!
I wanted to grow further and even closer to God, and got myself baptised. After that, I was assigned a spiritual mentor who led me through a study course, at the end of which I was also speaking in tongues. I was really making progress!
It was around this time that things started changing in South Africa. Pik Botha declared the Cubans to be his new best friends, and all of a sudden that terrorist, Mandela, was to be released. Our world was changing, and fast. Living through that period, and realizing that your whole world was based on a false, contrived premise, was quite something getting used to for that little white boy from the farm.
During the mid-nineties, when I realized that Mandela was in fact not a terrorist, but one of the greatest statesmen the world had ever seen, I started questioning the larger aspects of my upbringing in protestant Christianity. If God/NP/NG Kerk were so wrong about such fundamentals of our South African society, maybe they were wrong about more?
What really triggered my journey towards atheism was a traumatic event in the early 2000’s, when someone very close to me lost her husband in a senseless murder at their home. He was killed right in front of her. She was left with two small children, and no real means to support herself.
The usual line from God and the Kerk, when something like this happens, is that it’s God’s will, and that it will make sense in the end. I prayed; I looked for meaning for about a year, but in the end saw that there was nothing coming back from god. We were on our own, and whatever we said about the event in the context of god and the kerk, we were just human beings trying to cope to the best of our ability. There was no god. If there was one, he was pretty cruel and useless. There was no good reason to put this woman and her children through the trauma they went through, however hard I tried to find it.
When I opened my mind up to the possibility that there may be no god, I started reading more on the subject, and slowly but surely grew in confidence that I could be onto something. The NP/NG kerk conspiracy of leading me to believe that god was in control of everything, was in fact as valid an argument as the ones used to justify apartheid.
It is now more than 12 years since that fateful night in Pretoria, and I am glad to be rid of the Christian noise in my head. Being a Christian was a constant battle to figure out where I’m going wrong, what I should be doing better, and how I might land in hot water with god, if I wasn’t careful.
As an atheist, I still try to improve myself on a daily basis, I still respect and honour people around me, the only difference is that I do it with peace in my heart, without justification to jesus or fear of eternal damnation.
My current view of religion (in the sense of a personal relationship with a deity) is that it is a cultural construct, a coping mechanism to help people through difficult times. In that sense, it has purpose, and I completely understand that can people get comfort from believing in a higher purpose. Good for them.
For me personally however, there is no sense in believing in a god anymore.
I have no fear of dying. When I die, I will be dead, and that will be the end of me.
I am happy and I am at peace and I wish the atheists and the Christians on this site the same for their lives.