I am an atheist. More accurately, I am an agnostic atheist. This means that I do not claim to know there is no god but I have not seen sufficient evidence for the existence of god therefore, I do not believe one exists. This conclusion has been one of the most difficult realizations of my young adult life.
I grew up in a small town in South Dakota. It is a typical small town in America: three churches, three bars, two gas stations, one grocery store, one post office. I went to the Catholic grade/middle school in town and graduated the eighth grade with a class of ten before going to the big, scary public school for high school where I graduated with forty. And everyone around seemed to be two things: Conservative and Religious.
That last part is not entirely true, my family is neither of these things. They are God believing folks but you will not see them in church and they are not conservative unless you are talking about raising their taxes. I also had a few teachers in high school who were definitely more liberal. However, my understanding of the world was that the “normal” person was a God fearing Republican.
Then I went to college.
I moved from small town South Dakota to the big city: Omaha, Nebraska. You may laugh, but to me, Omaha was huge. Granted, I went to Creighton University which is a private, Jesuit school. I came to Creighton in the fall of 2008; the fall Barrack Obama became the President and my world began to change. I met people who were not conservative. They openly supported marriage equality for homosexuals and thought taxation was not inherently evil. And I found myself agreeing with them.
For the first time in my life, I was free to critically think about my beliefs. I could openly believe that decriminalization of marijuana and immigration reform were issues to be discussed. I could discus the implications of US involvement in foreign affairs and the role that government should play in our lives. I also could think about why I believe in a god and what I believe that god to be.
This last thought kind of rocked me. I went through a phase of pantheism, then a phase of deism, then a phase of agnosticism, and finally at agnostic atheism. I discussed these issues in classes, with friends, and on the internet. I found myself unable to justify any beliefs I once held about this God I had spent years knowing.
My immediate friend group at Creighton was the first to know about my change in beliefs. Some of them went on the same journey and came out at different places. I now have a friend teaching theology, a friend who is an outspoken atheist, and a wife who is right in the middle. I have told my mother, brother, and sister to a lukewarm response of passive disappointment and I have made it “Facebook official” to the chagrin of at least one cousin.
It still feels weird almost five years later. I am not “out” to a lot of people and am afraid to let some people in my life in on this aspect of my beliefs. I have heard the horror stories of the internet and do not want this to happen to me. However, it is time for me to be true to myself and what I believe.
So, here it is, world. I am an atheist.