My atheism didn’t happen in a vacuum, there were guides who helped me along the way. People who through their thoughtfulness, patience, and yes love have helped take the religious blinders off my eyes. For many ex-Christians, the journey away from faith can be marked by more often by negative people and experiences. I have certainly have had plenty of those, but they weren’t enough to convince of God’s absence. There is a list of people who I’d like to thank for their positive influence in my life which has led me to reject faith. Unfortunately I can not thank them publicly, at least not yet.
Today’s thank you goes to my dad.
My journey away from faith wasn’t a short one, I would even venture to say it has been going longer than my journey with Christianity thanks in part to my father. My father rejected Catholicism around the age of 12 when he had the good sense to be revolted by the prospect of his protestant friends going to hell because they weren’t catholic. Before my father dropped out of college has was a biology major, and his love for the natural world was infectious. I have fond memories of watching Nature and NOVA with him. My step mother hated nature shows but she, who almost always got her way with the TV, would allow us to watch them.
My father really encouraged scientific inquiry and experimentation with me. My favorite gifts at Christmas or my birthday were telescopes, microscopes, chemistry sets, bug collecting sets, and books upon books about science. Science was the one subject in school I always loved, though due to my slacker nature my grades didn’t always reflect this. When I got into college and even after becoming a Christian I still pursued a love for science both in the classroom as well as a hobby.
Spend enough time in the sciences and you learn how important the scientific method is. You learn the first rule of research is “correlation is not causation”. You learn that anecdotal evidence (*cough* *cough* testimonies *cough* *cough*) does not supplant scientific findings based on large sample sizes. Essentially, scientific education teaches skepticism towards lots of things but it also imputes or at least encourages curiosity.
It was this curiosity and the need to study that allowed me to entertain doubts and honestly examine them. But it was also my frequent encounters with non-religious people that allowed me to see what other Christians often miss; there’s no conspiracy among scientist to suppress the Truth about God. My dad, my professors, my lab partners, my friends, were all just normal people going about their normal lives. There was fear of “what if God is real”. They had no reason to believe He was.
My dad tolerated my religious conversion, and continued to be a good father to me. He still teaches me to think and act wisely. Much more so than anyone else I have known in religious circles. He has always been the smartest person I’ve known.
Thanks dad for helping deconstruct my religious beliefs. Perhaps someday I’ll even tell you about this in person.