Saturday, October 04, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Righteousness lines my path to atheism

By Be-Asia McKerracher who writes for the Kansas City Star

When I was an 11-year-old girl with frizzy hair and oak-brown skin, I got on bended knees by my bed and told God that I never wanted to speak to him again.

And then I panicked.

“Wait!” I said. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it! It’s just that I’m confused. I’m a good girl. I do well in school. I never cuss. I read all the time. I pray every night at home and every Sunday in church. So why does Grandma still drink all the time? And why do I have to live with my aunt instead of my mom and dad?”

By college I had become an agnostic. Though no longer certain that my Baptist upbringing provided the answer to life’s mysteries, I wasn’t willing to completely forget about God.

But something happened in college. First, there was my philosophy of religion class — who knew that the Buddha had said the same things Jesus did, only hundreds of years before Jesus was born — what does that mean? Next came mythology class — can you believe that many communities throughout history have had a creation story that is similar to Genesis?

So how did I become an atheist? I remember sitting in class one morning when a thought popped into my head: I had never read the Bible. How could that be? How could I — born and raised a Christian — never have read the Bible? Sure, I’d heard bits and pieces of it in church all the time, but, like most Americans, that’s where my knowledge ended.

And so the Good Book and I spent some much needed time together. What a shock! The Bible I had heard as a little girl was so different from the Bible I read as a young woman. The Scriptures that once sounded so beautiful, kind and perfect to my ears now seemed mean and sad and — to me, a young woman of 23 — deeply unfair.

Reading the Bible left a hole in my heart. What filled it would become a guiding philosophy of my life.

Twenty years after I begged God to forgive me for my lack of faith, I reflected on my life: I’d graduated from high school, took a train from Seattle to Missouri with my two daughters, graduated cum laude from college and married a superb man.

These were my accomplishments, my good choices, and I’d made them on my own. After years of struggle, I had decided that being a righteous person did not require a belief in God.