It wasn't instantaneous like I ofttimes enjoy thinking it was. It's been a slow work in progress. But four years ago today, in the darkness of my bedroom, I let that edifying thought parade through my head: I am an atheist. I knew it was true the moment I allowed myself to dwell on it. And every day since I have let that sweet freedom live in my heart.
I know some atheists have always been non believers. I know some atheists don't call themselves atheists. Not every atheist is angry, not every atheist is nice. When I first came to the realization that I was atheist, I wanted to badly to belong to the atheist group, the atheist mothers, the atheist society of intellectual hierarchy. It took me a long time to realize that groupings just don't exist in atheism the way that it does in religion.
It was difficult to deal with the sudden and inevitable sense of loneliness. I was a stay at home mother in a brand new city, in a brand new state, in a brand new region of the country. It wasn't the most opportune time to realize that I was atheist, one more thing to isolate myself even more than moving 2000 miles from home already had done.
Four years has gone by so quickly. Time has given me exactly what I needed in order to settle into my new, yet older, self. It was terrifying at first, a fact that I had finally accepted was now the elephant in my head. I tiptoed around telling my husband. Atheism isn't an easy thing to sugar coat. Especially when I had to tell the man who started out not Mormon, but had been baptized because of me. Yeah, I felt ashamed for deciding that the path I urged him to go down years prior was a path I no longer wanted to traipse along. We had brought two children into the world with the understanding that we were going to raise them to believe in a god. And now that they were already here, I was putting a immediate halt on any and all god talk, and wanted to throw it into park since I had decided on a completely different journey for them.
As scary as it first seemed, everything since that day has been beyond worth it. The response that I received from my husband was a humbling one. He said he has loved me since we were 12 and he would love me until we die and if there was life after that, he would love me then. He let me know that his love for me wasn't based on my belief in anything, he loved me because of so much more than my choice in religion. I felt silly being timid about telling him, he has always stood by my side, and I know he always will. My children were too young and I hadn't started indoctrinating them, so it wasn't a change for them. I do love hearing my children think about things rationally; debating ideas with two young elementary school children instead of telling them 'because I said so' has been oddly educational for me. (And them I hope). I never had imagined I would be that kind of mother.
As I have mentioned before, I found a lot of support online during the hardest period in losing my religion. I didn't decide to be atheist and then subsequently tossed Mormonism in one fell swoop. My journey started as a young child of Mormon parents who built this wall of 'faith' up for me and as a twenty something my journey took a turn in a new direction with that wall being taken down one brick at a time by doubt and research. The wall wasn't completely down before I realized I was an atheist. I looked for a god before I realized there isn't one. I tried to 'save' the building blocks of what my parents had put so much effort into building. But once I realized that what they had built for me had no sustenance, I couldn't help but admit my atheism and continue to raze what little was left.
Now, four years later I am overjoyed to say that all traces of the myths I once believed in are all distant, faint memories. Broadcasting my atheism is less of a fear and more of a thing of pride. And nothing brings me more joy than hearing my kids ask each other questions about how the world works, and when they don't know, they say 'let's google it' and come running over to me for help on the computer.
I thought I needed a network of atheists to feel like I still belonged to something bigger than myself. But I found that isn't true. Atheists are everywhere. Non believers make up about 16% of America, maybe more, which is more than the percentage of Mormons. And as much as it gives me comfort to know that I am not alone in my non belief in gods, and I know I have been able to pull knowledge and strength from online atheist communities, I was able to find myself in the loneliness. Which I find comfort in, because even though I knew the loneliness would pass, I found relief in the fact that a god never appeared through it all. The loneliness I felt was pure unadulterated loneliness, so as I walked through the darkened room looking for a sign of a higher being, I found myself.
And I know that without the loneliness, I would never have learned to rely on myself. Which is something I never learned how to do in Mormonism.