Religion and Me, or How I Became an Agnostic Atheist

I was raised in a fun­da­men­tal­ist South­ern Bap­tist fam­i­ly in the Bible Belt, and while I start­ed ques­tion­ing at an ear­ly age, I also tried to do as all good South­ern girls do and toe the line. I stud­ied and prayed my heart out. I went to Bible stud­ies, retreats, and so on (not going was not an option in my fam­i­ly of ori­gin). I read every­thing I could get my hands on. I ques­tioned preach­ers (not that it did much good because South­ern Bap­tists don’t require any sem­i­nary train­ing in order to be ordained). When I asked about church his­to­ry, I got answers like, “Our church was found­ed by John the Bap­tist,” which smelled of manure even to a 7‑year-old.

I’d read a bunch of mythol­o­gy and his­to­ry and sci­ence on my way through the chil­dren’s sec­tion of the library, and it had point­ed out a lot of incon­sis­ten­cies in the Bible. For one thing, all those cre­ation and flood myths could­n’t be true. And what was so spe­cial about the ones in the Bible, if every­body else had them, too? What about the fact that his­to­ry and sci­ence con­tra­dict­ed the Bible? If I was sup­posed to know the one for school, why was I sup­posed to believe the oth­er the rest of the time? I do not han­dle cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance well at all. I won’t even start on how poor­ly I han­dled my grow­ing aware­ness of the misog­y­ny and anti-intel­lec­tu­al­ism in the church.

There’s a joke that says good South­ern Bap­tists only die of exhaus­tion from being at church every time the doors are open, and that’s pret­ty much the truth. There’s Sun­day School, then Sun­day morn­ing wor­ship, then Sun­day evening prayer ser­vice, and some­times a choir prac­tice or two. Mon­day evening is vis­i­ta­tion and Tues­day evening brings Bible study. Wednes­day night is full of sup­per, var­i­ous mis­sion groups, choir prac­tice, and prayer ser­vice. Thurs­day often had youth group activ­i­ties, and if it did­n’t, there was going to be some­thing going on Fri­day and/or Sat­ur­day. Is it any won­der that my first hus­band was a youth minister?

That first hus­band end­ed up ques­tion­ing the Bap­tist way, too, so we start­ed try­ing out dif­fer­ent denom­i­na­tions of Christianity—Lutheran, Angli­can, Pres­by­ter­ian, Methodist. And we stud­ied more togeth­er. I hap­pened to get a job with the denom­i­na­tion­al offices of the Pres­by­ter­ian Church of Amer­i­ca about that time, so I was heav­i­ly exposed to even more strict­ly Calvin­ist theology.

Despite my attempts to make it all make sense, I could­n’t rec­on­cile the facts, so I became an agnos­tic athe­ist by my ear­ly 20’s. I lat­er found the Uni­tar­i­an Uni­ver­sal­ist Asso­ci­a­tion, and I still con­sid­er myself to be UU. I exper­i­ment­ed with pagan­ism, which was attrac­tive in many ways (I love the rit­u­als and com­mu­ni­ty), but it did­n’t sat­is­fy me intel­lec­tu­al­ly, either, so I came back to agnos­tic atheism.

What is an agnos­tic athe­ist? “Agnos­tic” means that I do not know whether there are or are not any deities. I don’t believe it is absolute­ly pos­si­ble for any­one to know that. How­ev­er, “athe­ist” means that I do not believe that there are any deities.

That said, I still enjoy study­ing the Bible and Chris­t­ian his­to­ry both as an intel­lec­tu­al pur­suit, and because I wor­ry about the effects of fun­da­men­tal­ism on pol­i­tics in my coun­try. Because of that, I’ve gath­ered some mate­r­i­al in my stud­ies that I’m begin­ning to share here. I hope you find it useful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top