Why Atheism Works for Me.
After nearly 55 years of looking for answers, I finally found them.
There’s a whole library of books out there explaining why atheism is the right answer, and gods and goddesses are the wrong answers. I’ve never read any of them. I have, on the other hand, read the bible backwards, forwards, front ways and side ways so many times that, at one point, you could give me any verse in the bible, and I could place it within two to three verses.
I have also read the Koran, was elected to the committee of the leading reform shul in my country within a day of converting to Judaism (that doesn’t happen often, if at all), and I was acknowledged as having a thorough, in-depth understanding of God, spirituality, and all that nonsense. Many saw me as wise, highly ethical, highly intelligent, and a good person.
Actually, I was an innocent and a mystic, and very desperate to understand why I was living a life of hell. Easily explained in the years after I finally realized there was no god — I grew up with chronic, extreme abuse, have Asperger’s, an auditory processing disorder, an IQ measured somewhere between 165 and off-the-graph (depending on the day, the quality of the coffee, and the state of my brain), the kind of physical beauty that stopped people in the streets, plus the kind of ignorance that is difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t grown up in primal jungle. To quote the counsellors I saw in my mid-50s, “You grew up like a wolf-child — with no human contact.”
All those things are another story, however. I want to share with you why I think atheism is the right answer and the only answer.
The Days of the Holocaust
There is a kind of suffering that is so extreme and endures for so long, that when you pray and call upon god , and there is no answer, the only thing that makes sense is that there is no god. My late father, a holocaust survivor, had no belief in any god after the events that he endured. He lost family, friends, his country, and any belief in his religion.
I understand that. At the age of 14, the only thing I could identify with were the photographs of the victims of those Jews who died in Auchswitz. I grew up in South Africa. I had an Afrikaans mother and a German father. The long and short of it is that my late father was absent — perhaps with Asperger’s like me, but more likely to have been so thoroughly traumatised by the events that he never recovered. My mother, I’m sure, was either a sociopath or stark, raving mad. I do not have one single memory of being kissed, hugged, only beaten with a whip, mentally and emotionally abused. I wasn’t taught anything — not how to eat with a knife or fork, not how to bath or brush my teeth, or how to greet people or how to say thank you. I grew up in a country where there was no TV and I was forbidden contact with other people. It is inevitable that I was odd, had no social skills, but nevertheless drew attention for my looks, and, of course, people accused me of cheating because, well, who could possible be as stupid and ignorant as I was, but continually get 100% for math.
My life was hell. I was ostracized, abused, never understood people, couldn’t hold down a job, was unqualified, unskilled, and more.
And so I turned to God.
The God Experience
I have, I suppose, some sort of innocence, and a natural ethical outlook. I never knew that people lied until I was bout 45. Then, again, that was the same year I realized that men asked me out because they were interested in me sexually — I thought they were asking me out because they were honorable, and they didn’t want me to sit at home on my own. I cannot begin to explain to you how ‘good,’ I was. I would confess if I made a mistake. I would endure people doing all sort of things to me in silence because God said that we were to turn the other cheek. I would never try to be first or compete, because God said that he loved the meak and would bless those who were last. I turned down opportunity after opportunity. I sought only to please god.
I was ‘born again’ somewhere in early 1976. I ran into someone from my old school. She asked me how I was doing. I explained to her that I was really struggling. She said, “If you give your life to Jesus, he will take all that away.”
I was bewildered. I said, “But how can you believe all that? There are no miracles.”
She told me that she had seen miracles in Canada — people risen from the dead. It says something about my ignorance and innocence that I believed her. I saw no reason why she would lie or be mistaken. I didn’t realize people could be in error. I thought when people said something, it was truth.
And so I went to church, accepted Jesus Christ into my life. And if I thought my life had been bad before, I can tell you that during the ten years I was in the church, my life was a living nightmare.
I have never met so many malicious, ignorant, awful people in my life. The problem was that I didn’t realize it at the time. I simply grew more and more bewildered. Why were the wives of the elders gossiping about members of the congregation? Why did the pastor’s wife tell me that I was like a whore walking through the church beckoning all the married men to sleep with me? Why did she tell me that she wanted to stop hearing how beautiful I was and she wanted to hear what a nice person I was. I had no idea. None of it made sense to me.
So I sought God more and more. After all, everybody else in the various congregations had a personal relationship with him. He spoke to them. He didn’t seem to speak to me. Maybe I was deaf? Maybe I wasn’t good enough? Oh, how I prayed. How often I asked him to come into my life? How many times did I ask him to not let people be nasty to me. I asked him over and over again what was wrong with me.
I clung on to bible verses.
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Job. 13.15.
“Choose you this day whom ye will serve;… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
“…but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Corrinthians 10:13.
I prayed for two or three hours every day. I read the bible a good three hours every day, once reading the bible 18 times in 18 months from Genesis Chap 1 through Revelations 21. I attended bible study once or twice a week. I went to church twice on Sunday. I gave up everything except working. I tithed 20% of my salary, gave them all my hierloom jewelry, and I probably earned less than anyone else — the wage of a secretary.
When I pointed out things that didn’t make sense, I started alienating people, I suppose. I wanted to know why speaking in tongues wasn’t just straight gibberish. I wanted to know why the rich members of the congregation weren’t sharing all their money with the rest of the congregation. I wanted to know why the only decent pastor I knew got censored by the congregation, and why the two crooked pastors were idolized by the congregation. I wanted to know why all these people wanted to change the night of the bible study so that they could watch the soap opera, ‘Dallas?” Surely if they loved god, they wouldn’t want to watch a soap opera?
None of it made sense to me.
Eventually I got chucked out of the church in the most horrific, traumatic way. There’s a lot more to the story, and it deserves a book (which will never be written), but I landed up with PTSD, married to a man with half my IQ, a grade 4 education, and who probably had fetal alcohol syndrome. He looked like Elvis Presley, was a very good man, but, oh, lordie, a brain he did not have. These are statements of fact — not hyperbole. He passed about six months ago from Covid-19.
My life was destroyed, and for the next fifteen to twenty years, I sought answers. During that period, I studied the law of attraction, shamanism, became a Jew, and I don’t know what else. Life was a desperate struggle. Holding down a job was a nightmare. I eventually gave up working formally about the age of 45. After that, I might hold down something for a year or a month, but by the time, I was 49, that was over. I have, I suppose, lived in poverty of one level or another ever since. I would call an income of $300 a month extreme poverty, wouldn’t you? It terrifies me as I write this — I will be 70 this year, and I see no way out.
Throught out all of this, God, never answered one single prayer. Not a single one. The law of attraction didnt’ work either, by the way. So by the time I hit 55 years old, I was done.
The Moment of Realization — There is No God.
Somewhere in my mid-50s, I realized that there were only three reasons that there weren’t answers to my prayers— either God was incredibly evil and didn’t care about people suffering, or he wasn’t interested because there were a lot more entertaining things to do on Mount Olympus, or he simply didn’t exist. It didn’t take rocket science to work out that the most obvious answer was he didn’t exist.
And that’s when the burden of belief fell off my shoulders. I saw the light. I cannot begin to explain to you the sheer feeling of lightness that enveloped me. Relief flooded me for a week after that. I was almost euphoric from that realization. Suddenly so many things made sense.
It was around that time that I went to college (I already had numerous qualifications, none of which helped me to find a job — the problem was my autism — not my lack of skills). I thought I would learn a trade. As I was new to America, I didn’t realize that one didn’t learn trades at college. I was also extremely confused as to what people meant when they asked me what my passions and interests were and what made me happy. I had never thought about anything like that. I had no idea. I made a lot of bad decisions.
I did, however, wonder into Disabled Services one day (after a part-time job became pretty shitty), and asked them if there was anything wrong with me. By that time, I had read at least 600 psychology and self-help books, and I could explain exactly how my brain worked.
The lady looked at me and said, “You have a learning disability.” It took another 8 years from that day to uncover the autism — Asperger’s. I think people did have an inkling. My daughter certainly did. She taught special ed at a school for autistic kids. I just didn’t want to believe her. After all I had gone through, it just didn’t feel fair that I had to be autistic to boot. Then I did the test. And, yes, I have Asperger’s.
Yet, again, once accepted, there was relief. I had already started focusing heavily on science. I did geology classes. I learnt about our earth. I already had a pretty sound knowledge from all my reading (a book a day for a lifetime), and, of course, my late father was president of the astronomical society and chairman of the engineering society). I also attended a K12 school where the focus was on science and math. In retrospect, that probably had a lot to do with my skepticism during my church years. Too many things niggled at the back of my mind.
I can only tell you that my years of abuse, my extreme level of ignorance about people and life, and the way my brain worked prevented me from putting all the dots together until very late in life.
Why Atheism Works for Me
Call me practical, but I have absolutely no use for a God who doesn’t answer prayers. “I say to you, whatever you ask from the Father, He will give it to you in My name,” simply didn’t pan out. I didn’t ask for much — just for why I was being treated so badly. All I wanted was answers. And a job where I wasn’t treated badly.
I never gave a holy shit about life after death. In some respects, I don’t think I ever believed there was one, or it wasn’t relevant. And I don’t think I ever believed there was a devil. I think I just loved goodness and ethics, and that’s what I focused on. I wanted political systems that worked (I found apartheid so unfair and terrible). And I wanted a husband and a home. I wanted to be safe.
Once the nonsensical reasoning of religion was out of my life, and I could begin to apply my intelligence as to why things really happened, so much fell into place.
I began to understand that the reason other people believed that they had answers to prayers fell into several categories.
- They were honestly not of high intelligence, and it was more a matter of belief than actual evidence.
- They misinterpreted the real source of the ‘response. Nothing like getting antibiotics for an illness and then saying that it was god who cured you. Or you prayed for a job, told the congregation of 4000 people that you needed a job, and then a member of the congregation offered you a job, and you thought it was god giving it to you.
- You were brainwashed to believe that what you saw was a miracle. I once when to a ‘revivalist’ meeting where a pastor supposedly made someone walk. She walked up to the podium with a crutch. The pastor prayed for her, laying hands on her, then broke the lady’s crutch, and told the congregation that she could now walk. All I could see was that an elder walked her back to her seat, supporting her with his arm/shoulder, and now she was minus her crutches. The congregation blessed Jesus, said numerous amens, praised the lord, and were all smiles. My friend next to me swore blind that the lady could now walk.
The bottom line for me is this. I am living on this earth. I am not dead and living in some spiritual form somewhere else. I need help and answers here and now. If a god who is supposedly a personal god, and who supposedly answers your prayers, is not responding to me, he is of no use to me whatsoever.
Also, if I can find those answers through science, and if I can get medical help for my health issues, what on earth do I need a god for?
Atheism ultimately works for me because it allows me to find real help for real problems; God never even came close.
Religious people will tell you that you need to believe in god otherwise you can’t be good. That’s simply not true. More to the point is that a lot of criminals gravitate towards chuches because they fear hell, and they know if they give their lives to Jesus, they will be forgiven. I guess that’s why I met so many bad people in church. I have never met a bad atheist.
Some months ago, in response to this, I wrote a book called “Good without God — A Case for Secular Christianity.” I wrote it because I think I understood what Jesus was saying far more than what today’s Christians think it says. And I think that so many of my questions in those days were threatening to Christians. It threatened their wealth. It threatened their habits. It threatened their lifestyles and their politics.
Today, when Christians tell me it’s not possible to be good without god, I refer them to my book, and if nothing else came out of all those years of suffering under the burden and yoke of believing in a non-existent god, it is this: I have the knowledge to respond, using the bible as my weapon.
There is no god.
I ask with great caution that you will buy me a cup of coffee for $3 at Kofi. My income at Medium, after ten months, is averaging between $45 and $55. I had intended to try to earn about $1000 a month so that I relocate back to Europe. It hasn’t worked. I obviously do not write the kind of things that people want to read.. Thank you for reading.