I grew up as a Southern Baptist and both of my parents are very religious. I respect them as I respect most other religious people so as long as they don't try to force or manipulate their beliefs on to me. Since I was a child, I was raised to believe in god and jesus and all of the other beautiful and inspirational stories found in the bible. However as I got older, I found myself questioning them more and more until eventually it drove me crazy inside. I felt like it was impossible to be a good Christian and impossible to practice a religion that I didn't fully understand. After many years of analyzing things and breaking them down, I decided to proclaim myself as non-religious. I do still believe in some sort of intelligent being(s) that created us or at least set things in motion soley due to the sheer amount of organization in the mechanics of the universe. Here are the reasons why I gave up religion:
As a Black American, I find it incredibly difficult to practice Christianity with any sense of sincerity. Like most blacks in the West, most of our ancestors arrived here through the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and were robbed of their former lifestyles, belongings, freedom, culture, and even birth names. Our ancestors had their own very well developed religions as well as relevant lore, customs, legends, laws, and moral codes surrounding these religions. These religions were practiced uninterrupted for thousands of years and even to this day in Africa as well as many countries in the Carribean and Latin America. The only reason why blacks practice Christianity in the first place is because European masters robbed us of our identity and forced European ideals and ways of life upon blacks. Had it not been for this, I'd very likely be worshipping the dieties shown above. This also brings me to my next point.
Distribution of Religion
If there is this all knowing and almighty powerful god who can create light and darkness from the snap of his fingers, why would he only bring the "correct" religion to Europe and the Middleeast? Why would a good, benevolent and almighty powerful god be so unfair? Why wouldn't he send Moses, Jesus, Noah, Abraham, the 10 commandments, the Arc of the Covenant etc. to other parts of the world? The birthplace of Christianity was in the Middleast. Nearly everyone in the entire world worshipped "false gods" and it was only through brutality and force that people were converted into Christians. In fact, Europeans often used this as justification for conquering other lands and enslaving their people.
One important part of Christianity that makes it so effective is fear. People are raised and bred to respect the religion out of fear of going to Hell. We are told from an early age that if we sin, we will burn for all eternity in a firey pit deep within the ground. Not the most comforting thing to tell a child in my opinion but the mind of a child is underdeveloped so it's weak and easily corrupted. That being said, telling things like that to a kid can stick for a long time and possibly forever. It sticks in a manner similar to a traumatic childhood experience such as rape or abuse. This fear is usually accompanied by sets of moral codes that you must follow to avoid punishment.
Moral Codes and Guidlines
Religions always have a set of standard codes of conduct. Things such as lying, cheating, and stealing are considered "sins" and you will be punished in some way during or after your time on this Earth if you disobey that code. Many people lack the ability or the self-control to adhere to moral codes without any incentive to do so. Telling someone that they will endlessly burn in a firey pit for stealing will enforce their morality similarly to the way people avoid stealing things for fear of being put in prison or paying fines. However not everyone needs an incentive to do the right thing. I don't need a 3000 year old book to know what is right or wrong.
Well the Bible says...
This one has always been hard to get around until you really truly think about it. The Bible says many things indeed but who wrote the Bible? Many superstitious people from various cultures, through various time periods and various translations. People often lie and exaggerate things especially in ancient times. Most religions of the world have their own "Bible" whether it be in the form of a book, a statue or oral tradition. All of these cultures swear up and down that their way is the RIGHT way and other ways are the WRONG way and they believe it just as strongly as Christians do. History has proved time and time again that just because "the Bible says it" doesn't mean it's true. The only things that have been consistently correct have been science which is conducted through a trial and error basis and not accepted as fact until proven. The Bible even condones many questionable things such as slavery and discrimination against women.
Don't question him
This ties into the previous paragraph. The Bible tells you so many things that you must obey without question, even if you don't fully understand it. Even if you can't bite your tongue any longer, there is always this simple response to anything you may find confusing "God works in mysterious ways." That response pretty much encompasses any and everything that can possibly happen in life and it has no real basis to back it up. It doesn't answer any questions and gives you no evidence. It is basically an easy way out of any situation that is hard to understand in the bible and you are expected to follow it like a mindless sheep. They don't say "the lord is my shepard" for nothing.
Sex and Homosexuality
Naturally we are sexual creatures. We naturally get aroused whether we like it or not and we need a release in order to be happy. If this was such a big problem for "the almighty", why did he make us that way in the first place? Most mammals only mate once a year even though they clearly get pleasure from it. Other mammals like humans, and dolphins have very different reproductive cycles that make them ovulate more often thus mate more often. This naturally makes us more promiscious creatures and in many cases even attracted to the same gender. What was the point of creating us this way if it's such a terrible and sinful thing? Homosexuality isn't a choice, it's a natural urge that is just as strong as heterosexuality. My sister is a shining example of a Christian who is faced with this dilemma. She has been in a genuine, loving relationship with another woman for over 4 years yet she feels terrible because she is sinning by doing so.
Christians often frown upon Islamic practices such as their treatment of women and their seemingly barbaric practices against sinners. However, no more than a few centuries ago, Christians were doing the same things with striking similarity to Islam. They were also doing these things correctly in accordance with the Bible. Islam remained relatively pure and uncorrupted by modern changes in culture. Christians pick and choose what and what not to obey and rest easy "knowing" that "God will forgive them." Despite the fact that not too long ago, their ancestors were executing people for comitting similar offenses. Modern society simply doesn't cater to what is expected of a "good Christian."
The Simplest Solution is Often the Best
The Bible provides relatively clear guidlines and codes to follow accompanied by vivd fairytales that explain our creation and our existence. The moment complexed science and testing come into play, people lack the patience to try to understand things or analyze it for themselves. It is much easier to accept the "God works in mysterious ways" statement and move on with life. Let's take evolution for example: There is undeniable evidence that living creatures change over time. You will often hear the common question "If we evovled from monkeys... why are they still here?" Questions like that show that the asker clearly lacked any knowledge of evolution. Why? Because we didn't come from monkeys, we share a common ancestor similarly to how cars and trucks share a "common ancestor." There are thousands upon thousands of fossils found in various layers of Earth. The deeper you go, the more "ape-like" the skeletons appear. The changes in the body clearly display the transitions in the anatomy of the creatures. For example, modern apes walk on all fours so their pelvis is shaped as such. Humans are bipedal so our pelvis has a bowl shape to support our upper body weight. This same shape has been seen in older fossils with a gradual change from a quadrapedal to a bipedal shape over thousands of years (through layers of earth). Modern apes have changed over time as well but they took a different evolutionary path which never evolved the need for bipedalism.
There are simply far too many holes in religion for me to believe it. Just to recap:
- Why would God only introduce the "correct" religion and prophets to a certain part of the world?
- Why would he allow the majority of the human population to worship false gods without any fair or clear knowledge of the correct one?
- Being scard into believing was the only way that ever truly worked me and I don't feel like respect should come from fear. I don't think I need a 3000 year old book to dictate what is right and wrong. I can learn what is right or wrong in the same manner as I learn other things in life.
- Just because it's in the bible doesn't mean it's true. Every culture had it's share of myths and tales and the Bible is just another one of them. The only reason why it's so successful is because of the fact that it was a religion practiced by the most powerful Empires on Earth like the Romans and later the British, Spanish, French, etc. who spread it by force.
- I think I should have every right to question and investigate things that I don't understand. Being open minded and exploring things is how we progress as a society and accepting that "god works in mysterious ways" without searching for evidence is a mentality that holds us back. We need to figure things out on our own.
- If God is almighty and all knowing, why would he create us to be biologically promiscious if it is such a terrible thing. He created animals and plants that only mate once a year but made humans and few other creatures have sex soley for pleasure.
- Christianity is an outdated concept and it's nearly impossible to integrate it into the modern world.
- And finally it offers a "simple" guidlines to follow in life rather than having to go through the trouble of investigating things and figuring them out.