Let me just begin this post by apologising in advance. I’m just going to be posting my thoughts rather than attempting to put together a structured post. That may cause my musings to be a little disjointed or difficult to follow. So, sorry ’bout that.
Growing up, my family were not strictly religious. My Dad came from a Catholic family and Mum’s family were Protestant, but we never went to Church or said Grace or anything like that. My parents did believe in God though and, while they didn’t hate or discriminate against non-Christians, Dad did seem to look down on them as inferior. He was particularly contemptuous of non-monotheist religions like Buddhism and Paganism.
When I was in Primary school, I attended Catholic Scripture classes. Like I said, my parents believed in God so non-scripture was not a choice I would have been allowed to make, even if I wanted to. Don’t get me wrong though, at that point in my life I very much believed in God, so I doubt I would have even considered non-scripture anyway.
Despite being Christian, neither my parents or my grandparents were fire and brimstone types, so I can only assume I picked up the concept of the Devil in Scripture. All I know is that, at one point in my childhood, I became convinced that the Devil was going to get me. The only place I felt truly safe was the bedroom of a family friend. I was quite young, so I don’t recall exactly why I felt safe there, only that when I was there I felt calm and loved and protected.
My fear of the Devil may have originated in Scripture class (at least I presume so), but it was probably helped along by the fact that I have, for my entire life, suffered sleep paralysis. I won’t go into detail here, as I have another post on the topic, but I’m sure this condition was a contributor to my fear.
In any case, at this time in my life, I was very much a believer. In the later years of Primary school and the early years of Secondary school, I began attending various Churches. At various times, I attended Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Hillsong and Anglican services. In fact, I wound up being baptised and confirmed in the Anglican Church.
In early High school, I still attended Scripture classes, only this time I attended Protestant classes rather than Catholic. Then, in February 1993, an event occurred which had a profound effect upon my worldview. Fred Hollows, a famous Australian ophthalmologist, died. I felt then, and I feel now, that his death was a major loss to this world. However, not a week after he was buried, while discussing faith and repentance, my Scripture teacher said something that shocked me to my core.
He told our class that, if Adolf Hitler repented on his deathbed, he would be welcomed into Heaven but, as Fred Hollows died an Atheist, he was consigned to suffer in Hell for all eternity.
That one statement marked the end of my belief in the Christian God and marked the beginning of my path towards Atheism.
Arriving home from school that day, I spoke to my mother about switching to non-scripture. I refused to ever set foot in Scripture class again and was perfectly prepared to receive detentions for skipping out on class if I could not get permission for the change. Thankfully, that never became an issue though, as Mum signed a note for me to switch classes. It was around this time that I also stopped attending Church.
My path towards Atheism hasn’t been a smooth one though. Since my impetus for change was a loss of religious faith rather than a faith in Science, my quest for answers led me down different paths. I experimented with various faith-based systems including Wicca, Isis-Worship and Asatru. After that, for many years, I considered myself an Eclectic Pagan.
Nowadays, I’m really unsure what to label myself. I no longer believe in the existence of an over-arching Deity, or Deities. That would seem to indicate that I am Atheist, right? Yet, at the same time, I do believe in things that many Atheists do not; things that I feel have simply not been discovered/proven by science yet.
I believe in the existence of some kind of energy which continues to exist intact after bodily death, which is the basis of what religious people call the ‘soul’ and others call ‘ghosts’.
I believe in the existence of beings, either from other dimensions or natural to this one, which are either more powerful or more technologically advanced than us, which early civilisations labelled Gods and/or angels. Just to be clear, I don’t believe they actually are Gods, merely that they have been labelled as such.
I believe in the existence of more malevolent beings, either from other dimensions or native to this one, who have been variously labelled as demons, devils, djinn, fiends and so on.
I believe in the existence of other so-called ‘supernatural’ beings, either from other dimensions or native to this one, such as the fae, brownies and others. I believe these beings will one day be discovered and documented by science.
My belief in all these things leads me to question whether or not I should actually call myself an Atheist.
What do you guys think? Am I an Atheist, or am I not?