I hang out at a place called Loonwatch (a site for countering Islamophobia) and often cross paths with a poster named HSkol. I find his background interesting in the sense that he was raised as a Lutheran but is now an Atheist. In the current world, where more and more people are leaving religion, I am very curious to know why a person would change from a believer to a disbeliever. My intention in publishing this article is not to condone Atheism but to find what might be the underlying factors. I like to know people and wanted to find out more about HSkol. Here is his story. Thank you HSkol! ~AJ:
Toward Defining My Atheism
I have recently been asked by a friend to provide a narrative of my journey from Lutheranism to atheism. Because this journey itself would truly be rather short, I’d prefer to define and provide a simple definition and very brief history of my atheism. As I sit here at my keyboard, wishing to explain just who I am, I have found that this exercise might not be as easy a task as it sounds. As a great many people do, I introspect quite well. I have rarely if ever, however, been asked to provide public commentary as related to my own Dasein (quick definition – existentialism: factual reality or existence within the spatiotemporal realm. Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dasein), so please do bear with me.
I have accepted this assignment for three reasons: 1) I thoroughly enjoy getting to know others and their innermost workings; as well, 2) I like that others might come to know who I-myself am, provided they care to know; and, 3) I’ve been asked to do so by a friend that I greatly appreciate and respect. Hoping that the reader here may keep in mind my disclaimer above, regarding me providing potentially difficult public commentary, I intend to offer a part of Me to the best of my ability. Onward.
I was born into a faithful Lutheran family some decades ago. My mother had the most golden heart I have ever known, always willing to drop her own commitments to help someone in need. From her, I learned to always treat others with dignity and to always look out for the “little guy”, the less fortunate. I carry her teachings and her great heart within my own less than perfect heart today. My father, well, let’s call him pragmatic and puritanical, always with a solution and never an unethical/immoral approach. I have been “gifted” with his manner of reason and logic.
Yes, I was raised in an environment perfectly conducive to producing a good Lutheran kid who would presumably grow into being a good Lutheran man. I will here offer a saying from some members of my community: Once a Lutheran, always a Lutheran. The various lessons that I had learned from my parents and their minister are still quite close to me. Those lessons will never be unlearned. I have not given up on the moral and ethical principles and practices I learned early in life – though, at times, I admittedly fall short of them even by my own standards and expectations. And, of course, there’s still that guilt thing that I cannot seem to fully yet let go.
As a child, I had attended church with my family each and every Sunday – as well as all Christian holidays. I was baptized and confirmed. I did what was expected of me, as was required by my parents until my eighteenth birthday – from which point I have neither returned to the church nor directly looked back. Oh, eighteen, to follow my own path, my own heart, to live by my own understanding of the world – yes, behaviorally as a Lutheran, but ideologically as a full-blown atheist, as one who does not (because he cannot) believe in God, as Me. How nice.
I remember stories of God, Abraham, Cain and Abel, Noah, the angels, and so forth from my very early years – interesting stories really, with wonderful lessons and guidance. I remember as well thinking these stories to be just a bit too fantastic to be believable as true, real-life events. My father has noted to me in my adult years that as a child I was skeptical of Biblical accounts of history, and that God was conceptually simply too much for me to fathom. In a nutshell, believe me or not, agree with me or not, I’m a natural-born atheist. I have really never identified as religious or spiritual, even in my practicing Lutheran youth, even within such an appropriately faithful environment (my childhood home and church) – it’s simply not in my nature, perhaps not in my “wiring”.
I have searched high-and-low for God, for any good god really (here I refer more to faith than God). I have prayed that I might find God’s peace and be seen and protected and connected with Him. I have prayed for family and friends – if only that all might be well with them. I have looked to the world with which I am familiar, the physical world, for a sign of or from God. I have meditated to connect cerebrally with God. I have searched my emotions for God. I have even perhaps cursed myself in the name of God – if only that I could not find what I’ve been taught to find – Him. I’ve asked for forgiveness from God, time and time again. Yet, I cannot believe. If God is, He knows all of this.
The greatest downside to my atheism is that I feel as though I have let others down. Please remember, I’ve been taught to consider others, and often times even before considering myself. My father is truly the most heart-broken person in my life where my atheism is concerned. He’s worked with me through the years to address my skepticism, really my full lack of belief – my atheism. Dad is my Yes-Man. And, yet, I cannot believe. He and I have read and discussed the philosophy of Søren Aabye Kierkegaard and his great leap of faith. And, yet, I cannot believe. My father, his minister and I have spoken candidly about our world, our thoughts, our concerns, our beliefs and our limitations as mere men. And, yet, I cannot believe. My dad accepts me. My dad loves me – as I love him – but, he’s heart-broken, and that breaks my heart. This really does impact me at times – my poor father. But, what can I do? Deny Me? I cannot. I’m simple. I cannot see beyond what I am only permitted to see by Me. I love our world and those that walk beside me – regardless of their world-views. I am honest with myself and with my loved ones. I am simple. I am an atheist.