Many people have misconceptions about Atheism. It's not that we are some soul-sucking, children-hating, stubborn-minded individuals who wish hatred and suffering on society. In fact, Atheism isn't really much different from any other faith, it's just that we have a lack of said faith, and replace it with something else. For example, personally, I explain most of my answers using science. Science is how the world came to be. Physics and biology and chemistry... They all intertwine to form something incredible... This is what creates the world and everything around it.
However, this isn't really the point of my writing. I'm not here to convince anyone to change beliefs, I'm not looking for understanding or, as some would look at it, pity for my disbelief. I just feel the need to share something that has opened my eyes, but for that, I need to give some backstory.
I grew up in a catholic school. Every day prayers and classes shoved the meaning of God down our throats... It was suffocating. Them trying to turn math into a religion lesson just made me feel that all the more, the aspect of a higher power was unfathomable. Yet despite all of this, I believed. I believed in God because it was what I was taught; I didn't know anything else. I mean, what 6th grader really knows what she does and doesn't believe? I was a good child, so I believed with all my might that this suffocating religion was something good, that God was there for me, that he would look after everything.
However, I would soon learn that wasn't the case. My family went through some rough times. My parents are good people, yet they always managed to get used by others. Financially, emotionally, physically, the pain got to the point where the stress was making its way into the family dynamic and I developed some mental illnesses and was driven to thoughts of suicide. That high belief, good little girl mindset gradually disappeared until one day I found myself just hoping for the best, instead of praying to God to help me.
"Why would He let bad things happen to good people? Why wouldn't He help my family, when all they try to do is love and support others? Why is He letting people starve around the world? Why won't He do anything to help? "
Question after question ran through my head until I was sure that a higher being could not possibly be in existence. I felt fooled, not only by the school that was supposed to teach me right from wrong, but I also felt fooled by myself for believing so long instead of simply taking matters into my own hands.
As high school came around, I carried my new beliefs with me, or lack thereof. It wasn't until 10th grade that I realized that there was a word to describe my perspective on religion: Atheism. I found it difficult to describe myself at first, because of all the underlying stereotypes that came along with that word. I stayed in the dark, almost hiding my feelings and who I was because I didn't want people to judge me and think I was a horrible person with no morals. The truth is, I do believe in the morals included in the Bible, some are good rules to live by. But everything else just made no sense to me.
During my time in high school, I met one of my lifetime friends. Her and I have the same work ethic when it came to school, so we became close quickly. But there is one major difference: her belief is 100X stronger than my disbelief. She is Muslim and takes her religion very seriously. Both she and another close friend of mine (who is also a strong believing catholic) used to have debates with me about the existence of God and how the sciences and religion all tie together to make a whole, yet I never really believed a word of it. I was stubborn, stuck in my mindset and unmoving. It wasn't until recently, when I went to my friend's house, that I truly understood the depth of belief, and while I didn't change my mind, and while I'm still an Atheist, I was moved to tears.
While I was at her house, I had a chance to talk to her mother, who is also a strong woman in her Muslim beliefs. We had a healthy debate, and she would ask me questions to which I didn't have any answers. Yet I still tried my best to make my point seen. Once we got pretty far into the debate, I decided it was time to open up that science wasn't my only reason for disbelief. I told her about my rough times, my dark places, and she said something that moved me so much. She said, "The reason you went through all that darkness is because God loves you more than anyone. He is testing you and is trying to make sure you get the most out of life. He thinks you are worth it, and has something special planned for you." She said that I might always feel alone in my darkness, yet God is always with me even if I don't accept him.
Being a victim of depression, and having so much happened to me in the past couple years, I was ready to cry, but I didn't, I couldn't do it in front of her. Her strong belief, and the strong belief of my best friend and the family in general is what could make me believe again.
While she doesn't know it, my best friend's mom changed my life in a simple conversation. She didn't shy away from my beliefs, she didn't shy away from me. She accepted me with open arms and offered me a glimpse into her mind where God is ever-present and willing to offer support. And while I know I'll never reach out to him, I know that I always have people like her and my friends and family, that believe in me like they believe in a higher power. And for me? That's enough.