I am an atheist. When I am asked for my religious views, I answer "none", since atheism is not a religion. I offer my thoughts and support in the face of tragedy, and of course my practical help, but no prayers, since I don't pray and wouldn't lie about something like that. A couple of weeks ago, I officially joined the ranks of the ever-growing number of atheists in Germany, consisting partly of those who just want to evade the official church tax, and some who are really atheists. I probably was the only atheist, who was still an official member of a church, even though I hadn't been there in forever. Probably the most difficult thing about being an atheist was telling my family; my mom, however, made it easy for me when she asked me whether I would join them for the holiday service, already anticipating my answer.
My journey to become an atheist was not an easy one. This may sound weird, but I have quite a religious career behind me. Born and raised a German Lutheran, I experimented with a few cultist rituals as a teenager, just to become a Jesus Freak a couple of years later. This phase I also outgrew, and started to seriously think about the meaning of life. A former friend of mine, who was an atheist back then, once told me bluntly: when I die, I'll be gone rotting in the ground. That's it. For me, reading my way through Far Eastern mythology and Buddhist philosophy at that point, was just not ready for what I have now come to understand to be the truth. My truth at least, since as a tolerant being, I accept everyone else's truth as well, as long as they accept mine. This is called respect, and when it comes to religion, or the lack thereof, respect is often the least on people's minds. This is the reason why I really enjoyed the atmosphere at our Atheist/Agnostic parent group. Even though we had the common interest of raising our kids to become informed adults, we had many different view points within the group that everyone respected. The discussions, if they turned to religion, were always respectful and interesting.
Why I abandoned religion? Easy to explain: first of all I have learned that believing in a god or gods is simply not inside me. I tried, oh yes, I did, but there's still nothing. Then, there's the fact that most religion out there right now has more to do with controlling its members and amassing wealth than actually living according to the rules. Prime example: the Pope. He calls himself Peter's successor, God's voice on earth, and millions listen.. This man lives in a palace in his own little state, wears only the best robes and tons of jewelry. He has an entourage and a standing Army (even if it's only the Swiss Guard). What do you think would happen if Jesus showed up here tomorrow? I'd say Temple Scene 2.0!! Yes, I actually read the book, that's why I know what I'm talking about. I like Jesus' message, minus the "Son of God" part. It's about peace and tolerance, coexistence and support. I think Jesus would jump down a cliff the very moment he realizes how many people died in his name. And I'm sure the same applies to many other religions. Their worshippers today have distanced themselves so far from the roots and adapted rules and rituals to fit their needs rather than stopping, reading up on the issue again, and really asking themselves "WWJD" ("WWMD", "WWAD", or "WW*insert applicable deity here*D"; if it's Kali, killing and pillaging would actually be the right answer!).
I simply had to get this off my chest. I am not a bad person just because I don't believe in religion. I try to be the best person I can without expecting any reward for it in another life, I just hope to be remembered as the person I was by my children. I am tolerant and gladly grant others' their own point of view without belittling them for it; and all I ask in return is the same courtesy. No-one will ever be able to "convert" me, because, as I mentioned before, religion is just not inside me. Still I am still a happy person, living my life to the fullest, since this life is all I have. The only support I need comes from my wonderful hubby, who is an atheist enjoying science documentaries just like I do. We plan on raising our daughters to be independent, conscious individuals, who look for answers in themselves and not to what other people tell them. This is often not the easiest way, but at the end of the day, it's the only way that makes us truly happy.