August 6, 2020

Outgrowing Faith

Back in 2010, we learned that evangelical fundamentalist Christians were no longer the fastest growing religious group in the United States. That honor had shifted to nonbelievers, a diverse group of people who have little in common except that they do not believe in gods. I can't imagine this was received as good news by most evangelical fundamentalist Christians; however, I noted at the time that it was an excellent time for Christians who had been questioning their faith to examine the possibility of life without superstition. And for those who were not yet questioning their faith, perhaps they should consider this news an invitation to start.

Questioning Faith

When it comes to beginning to question one's faith, there are many places where one might start. It seems to be that one great one could involve examining some of the many myths about nonbelief, especially atheism, many religious believers have been taught by their families, friends, and churches. Even a little research will quickly reveal that much of what one has been taught about atheists is false and bigoted. Fortunately, it is easier than ever to counter these falsehoods. With impressive sales of books about atheism, the explosive growth of atheist-oriented material online, and increasing numbers of atheists coming together to support one another, we are eroding the stigma of atheism, slowly but surely replacing misconceptions with reality.

It is normal for religious believers to be curious about atheism. While one has many good options for learning more about atheism, my recommendation would be to go to the source (i.e., atheists). Many of us are doing what we can to teach others about atheism. Be wary of what your clergy have to say on the subject because they stand to lose something if you decide you prefer reality to faith.

Abandoning Faith

My sincere hope for my Christian neighbors is that they will someday outgrow their faith. As an ex-Christian myself, I know this is possible. Countless others have done it, and many have found themselves happier and more fulfilled as a result. And even though atheism offers no promise of either, many of us find merit in living in accordance with reality. I wish this for Christians because it pains me to see what their faith does to them and those on whom they impose it.

At the same time, I have to acknowledge that leaving faith can be difficult. It is something you'll need to do at your own pace. Others probably can't do it to you, and a certain level of readiness on your part is needed. The experiences of atheists who were former religious believers vary considerably. For me, it was not something I chose; it took me a long time to even realize it was an option. I experienced it more as something that happened to me. The day came when I had to be honest with myself that I could no longer believe.

This post was originally written in 2010. It was revised and expanded in 2020.