My “religious” beliefs have not changed much since I was sixteen. I was raised in a Lutheran church; my grandfather is a Lutheran minister. We went to church most every Sunday. I was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran church. I went to “growth group” during the week and youth group events on weekends. Actually, I was pretty involved.
It was a thinking environment. Discussion and learning were encouraged by both my church and my family. My father is a scientist; yay evolution! We were not Missouri or Wisconsin Synod or any of the “deviant” Lutheran sects. We were ALC/LCA, then ELCA Lutherans. My family still is. Somewhere around the age of 16, though, I made some new friends and was exposed to more ideas and other perceptions, and the idea of a patriarchal god started to seem oppressive to me. The concept of “sin” became insulting.
I went through my obligatory angry feminist goddess phase in college and my earth mother spirituality, but I never really believed in the concept of a “god” or “goddess” in a supernatural sense: the idea that there is a being of some sort who is responsible for “it all.” Looking back, I have been an atheist since I was 16, but I really came into it in the past ten years or so. Add in the current religio-political climate in America the rise of fundamentalism all over the world, and my views on the subject have become more solid.
After reading “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins, I realized that I had never actually used the word “atheist” to describe myself. Even to me, with my religious sensibilities, the word had been given a patina of negativity, and, subconsciously, I had not wanted to describe myself as such.
I started to wonder what would happen if I did. What would change? I decided it was important to me to just say it. Not to randomly bring it up, apropos of nothing, but if religion came up, and there were a place for it, I would identify myself as such and see what happened. After all, Christians in this country seem to assume that we are all Christians, and they tend to throw around their Christian beliefs apropos of nothing, and lay that mantle over everyone around them.
It was time for good, nonbelieving people to stand up and say it.
So nothing is different. Just a word. I have not changed. I do not believe in the concept of a supernatural god. I am an atheist.