I had a very interesting conversation with a woman who grew up Catholic, but was a self-proclaimed atheist. The conversation was so enlightening to me, that I felt like passing it on.
This woman was raised in a highly religious home, with parents who fully accepted all the teachings of the Church. They took their daughter to mass on a weekly basis, and sent her to Catholic school.
Around 8th grade, the girl expressed an interest in becoming a nun. A nun at her school recommended that she begin her examination of herself by reading the Bible. Being a rather precocious youngster, the girl figured she’d start at the beginning and move forward from there. And that’s where the problems began.
When she reached the story of Lot and the three visitors in Sodom, her problems began. She saw someone just like her handed over to a mob to be raped by her own father, who was considered a righteous man.
At first, she tried to discount this story as being part of the Old Testament, not the New Testament in which the loving Jesus is found. Yet she thought to herself, it’s the same Bible, and it all needed to stand or fall together. She found other “dark passages” in the Old Testament, such as Psalm 137. As a teenager, her faith began to further unravel, as she continued to study the Bible. By the time she had entered college, she decided she was an atheist. She said that she had looked into other religions, and found them facing the same problems as Christianity.
She continues to have an interest in religion, but more from a sociological perspective. Her family is religious, and many of her friends, but she married a man who is an atheist and they are raising their children to “think for themselves.”
To me, this story was notable in that her atheism began from an honest attempt to learn more about the Catholic faith. Rather than the strident venom of atheists like Richard Dawkins, I found her story to be tragic and borne of a legitimate revulsion against injustice in one of the “dark passages” of scripture.
I learned one other thing from her that I hadn’t previously known. I had referred to her as a “non-believer,” which she said is pejorative. She corrected me that she is an atheist, and that’s a conscious choice of belief, not simply a lack of conviction or faith. She said she’s done “due diligence” to come to her atheism, and wishes that Christians would do the same with theirs.
In the context of this conversation, debating or rebutting things she said wasn’t appropriate. I just thought it would be interesting to pass on. To me, the fact that she didn’t have someone to walk her through the OT is an utter tragedy.