I sat down a while ago to write exactly how, why, and when I became an atheist. I have had people ask me about it before, and I thought I would write it all out and get my thoughts in order so that anyone who was curious could read about it. I started writing, and three hours and 1,500 words later, I wasn’t even a quarter of the way through. So, I scrapped that, and decided to write a condensed version.
What it comes down to is that I was raised in a very close-knit and very religious Mormon family. Many of my friends were my same religion, and I spent a lot of time at church. My family read the bible together, prayed together, and in high school I spent an average of 10 hours a week at church ( scripture study class, Sunday church, and Wednesday night youth activities). Church was a huge part of my life, and it was important to everyone important to me, and so I went along with it. I said what I was expected to say and I mostly did what I was expected to do. My family thought I believed it. For the most part I didn't question my “faith.” I’m a pretty easy going person, so I went along with what other people wanted, because I thought it didn’t much matter. This lasted through high school, through most of college (at a church school), and even afterwards for a short time. I didn't have a testimony of Jesus, but so what? I’ll go along with being Mormon, because it’s all I know.
At college, I started studying the bible for a required religion credit and finally started paying attention. I was supposed to believe WHAT??? I was supposed to look to the Bible for moral guidance? Murder, slavery, child brides, and polygamy all get condoned, and I’m supposed to believe this is the highest moral law? Suddenly, something actually was important to me. That something was figuring out what I DID or DIDN’T believe. Did I believe I should submit to my husband? Did I believe that homosexuality was a sin? Did I believe that my church was true? Did I even believe in god? I had a lot of incentive to believe. My whole family is very religious, and I wanted to make them happy. I was pretty miserable at this point in my life and I saw how content other people were in the church, and I wanted to be content like them. But still, after four years of study, thought, and unanswered prayers I realized that no, no church is true. There is no god.
It’s not that I think religion is “too hard,” and I didn’t want to put the work in. It’s not that I want to live a terribly sinful life. It’s not that I’m angry or sad. It’s that it’s NOT REAL. Once I realized that simple truth, I felt an actual weight lift off my shoulders. I no longer had to force my mind to believe ridiculous unscientific facts. I no longer had to harden my heart against equal rights for the LGBT community. I no longer had to feel unloved by a god who seemed indifferent to me. I had finally found the happiness I wanted so badly, and I found it through abandoning the religion that had been tying me down!
So, I guess it’s as simple as that. I’m an atheist because I tried really hard to believe in a god, and couldn’t. I tried praying, fasting, studying the scriptures and that only drove me farther away from religion. I stopped being depressed and angry when I stopped trying to force myself to believe in god. As an atheist I became more giving, open, confident, smarter, happier, and a better person.