The road of no return

I started making the transition to atheism during my mid-twenties. It wasn’t a single event or a tragedy that made me decide to abandon my religion. I always suspected that I was an atheist and provided the right circumstances it would be a natural transition, which is exactly what happened. I consider myself lucky that these circumstances presented itself. It came during a time when I was living in a liberal foreign country, made new friends who had no religious affiliations and was not involved in a serious relationship. In other words, becoming an atheist had no direct impact on anyone around me nor on any relationships I had. Off course my family back home still had their strong religious beliefs, yet I did not experience the pressures from them should I have done this in their proximity. Apart from the ideal circumstances I found myself in, I also believe that I was at the right age when one has matured to the level of questioning and experimenting without too much influence from others. I truly consider myself fortunate to have had this time to naturally progress to what I really am.

Unfortunately not everyone is as lucky. Taking a look at most of my friends at the time, most of whom are still very good friends today, their circumstances were different and ended in a different result. Most of them were in the process of “settling down” with long term girlfriends, some even started a family and all of them were slowly integrating into their environments and communities for the long-run. These communities were without exception highly religious societies (Christian) and a strong and visible religious affiliation was not only providing comfort, but also seen as a social necessity for acceptance. Instead of debating the existence of god, they were debating which denomination is the better of the options, with the more charismatic versions normally being frowned upon. Slowly but surely they surrounded themselves with people and environments which provided no alternatives, let alone accepting anyone who would dare to even consider an alternative. They were on a road of no return.

As mentioned, most of those people are still my friends today. I’ve been fortunate that most of them have accepted my unconventional way of thinking, and because I was not around them when this transition happened, I was not exposed to the criticism and probable rejection that would have followed had I tried this move in their presence at the time. When I returned home and they realised my godless state, we were all much older and they were also matured and honest enough to realise that I did not turn into the devil worshipper that many associate with atheism.  Although I consider myself fortunate in this regard, make no mistake that I do face the regular challenges that comes with the stigma of the atheist label.

Looking back, I am convinced that many of my friends would have followed the same route as I did, were their circumstances different. I have no doubt that many of them are not convinced by their beliefs and are trapped into such by their circumstances. Their wives, kids, kids’ friends, other friends, other friends’ friends, teachers, fellow church members and their families are all trapped on the road of no return. These people and relationships are their whole existence. If they were to bail out at this point, they stand a significant chance of losing life as they know it. Most of them will immediately lose their wives, their kids will resent them and their societies will likely turn their backs on them. I am of course generalising, but have no doubt that abandoning their religion at this stage of the game would have a significant impact on their lives. To the point where I do not blame them for not taking such a risk. The end result is that they dig themselves deeper and deeper into this hole by continuously convincing themselves of the authenticity of their belief. They have no other choice but to stay the course, the road of no return.

Christianity (insert religion) does not have the ability to stand on its own. There is no factual basis for the existence of any god, and therefore this belief owes its existence to a circular web of interdependent relationships from which there is no escape.

So the next time you so fervently argue the existence of your god, consider whether you do so because your circumstances require you to, or whether you truly believe that the word of god is contained in a poorly written book full of contradictions and hate. 

RabbleRouser 2014-07-31 02:06:16 PM
My transition occurred from my mid to late teens. By the time I was 21 I regarded myself as an atheist. It happened over a period of time and was based purely on critical thinking. So there was no singular event or some life changing or tragic event that got me on the road to apostasy.
Siebert Mazus 2014-07-31 02:09:47 PM
Mine happened a lot later. I thought that I was directly speaking to Jesus till my fourties.
Brolloks En Bittergal 2014-07-31 02:19:50 PM
"Christianity (insert religion) does not have the ability to stand on its own." I say: "Atheism does not have the ability to stand on its own." Without religion there can not be atheism.
Dan Dadog947 2014-07-31 02:26:15 PM
Thank you Enzo for sharing. Just for interest sake I am not part of any church or “mainstream institution” but it is a choice for each and every one of us. I respect your decision and even if I scoff at the atties it is only because it amuses me to see the battle lines being drawn all of the time. I am definitely a follower of Jesus Christ but that is my decision without pressure from third parties :)
Langa Kapueja 2014-07-31 02:49:25 PM
I still long to be true to humanity as a whole... Good for you.
Richard Hedges 2014-07-31 03:33:02 PM
What I try to explain to people most of the time is that becoming an atheist was not a choice for me. It was a consequence. When you start to critically think as a child, a consequence of that kind of thinking leads you to start asking mommy and daddy more and more questions regarding Santa and the Tooth fairy. Your brain simply doesn't allow you to deem it plausible anymore, because your understanding and thinking logically, and with reason has subsequently led you to denounce those beliefs. From that, there is no way back. In todays age of information, the same thing happens, only this time, it's the adult version of Santa and the tooth fairy.
Anthony De Lucchi 2014-07-31 04:25:55 PM
There was a old man from Sprocket, Who went up to Space in a Rocket, The Rocket went bang, His gonads went clang, And his bum ended up in his pocket.
GMitch 2014-07-31 07:19:00 PM
Enzo Thanks for the article. It has been interesting to read all the experiences. For me I was already fairly convinced all religion was nonsense in my teens. I was lucky to have parents that let me do my own thing and make my own choices and find out for my self. Although exposed to religion through my grandparents and other family members and friends I was never indoctrinated. My education in and passion for science is also key to my thought process. Although I have kind of known that I was an atheist all my life (42), I never took the time to really understand how I came to this opinion over time. It's only in the past two to three years that I have taken an active interest in understanding the arguments presented by religion that I now know why it is I regard religion as the bane of rational thought everywhere. The internet really has been a great source of information and the ability to communicate with others that think the same has been a huge help. That said I live in a rural community where religion and belief in gods is like water. They can't do without it. It's frustrating and many times I get the urge to speak out, but know that doing so will result in my instant ostracism. My main mission in life is to afford my children the same opportunity I had, a childhood free of indoctrination, with a passion for questioning and rational, evidence based, critical thinking.
Danie Theron 2014-07-31 07:37:06 PM
I have spend almost 9 years in 4 different countries far away from my family and friends after I finished my studies. Sure the temptations are so much more when you are not where people know you but that is where the true character of a person comes out. To me being alone in foreign countries and mingling with more liberal and atheist people only brought me closer to God. So Id say I was fortunate enough to stay true to my Creator and Saviour.
Owen Walker 2014-07-31 07:59:11 PM
People run from theism and like the author is still looking backwards. Perhaps the author should focus on what atheism really is. The first point of departure should be. We evolved from apes, hence we were atheists, theisms started as people realized that atheism 'the belief in a man god' usually fails as man has to fail. Whether 'we made God' or 'God made us' is usually better than when we make 'a man god'. Individuals and societies generally manage better without 'man gods'. The other basic problem I have with atheism is that there is no standard set for a person to be an atheist. One cannot hold a man to his word because the atheist does not hold himself to a code of conduct. Therefore all atheists are set to the lowest common denominator being a serial killer, pedophile, cannibal, etc. I would rather do business with a theist as I can measure the man by his proclaimed 'code of conduct'. There is an 80% chance that the theist will live up to his standard set. An atheist has no set standard. I cannot trust an atheist as there is no 'atheist 10 commandments' and if there is then it is by definition not atheism. For example,a secular humanist is not an atheist BUT a theism that believes that it is better than God(s). I still don't think that 'selfie' gods are the way to go as it just tries to make 'man gods' look good. I have rejected atheism and agnostic stances as I know I am not a god.