It’s a familiar story now. Young Christian was born into a God-fearing household. He learned to read from an illustrated children’s Bible (one of those with the sex and nastiness carefully bowdlerised). He went to a Christian school. He joined a Christian group in college. He got into an argument with an atheist and found his knowledge of the Bible wanting. He set out to study the Bible in greater depth, so he could answer the atheist’s objections all the better. He found the Bible hopelessly flawed and suffered a crisis of faith. He went to his church so his faith might be restored, but found no convincing answers for his questions. He left the church, convinced that there was something wrong with him, which made him unable to believe and left him eternally damned. He discovered that there was life after religion, and that it wasn’t all bad, and that there are more things in heaven and earth than his priest ever told him about. Now he calls himself an atheist.
I have read hundreds of stories like this, from both men and women. Each story has its unique details and deviations, but the similarities between them are still remarkable. I find them fascinating, because I am a second generation atheist and I did not have this deconversion experience. I have never felt that sensation of having the rug pulled from beneath my feet. God was never real for me. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were, because they left presents and chocolate in the night — but God never did that. And, of course, everyone knows what Santa-Claus and the Easter Bunny look like. God is just some sort of formless blob in the sky. He doesn’t seem to have a personality (until you get your hands on a real Bible and read all of those nasty passages that were left out of the children’s version).