Most of my friends have always been Caucasian or Christian, and I’m neither of those; I am an Asian atheist. I grew up in a religiously diverse family. My mother is a devoted Catholic that brought us to Sunday school throughout our adolescent years; my Buddhist father places Buddha statues carved by my grandfather in prominent areas of our house.
But until I was 10, I believed in God.
When I was 10, I was enrolled in a Catholic elementary school in my hometown. Every Tuesday afternoon, we would have ethics courses to learn about the Bible and good values we should adopt in our lives. Our teacher was a lady in her late 50’s who was working as a youth pastor in the local church.
I dreaded these classes, mostly because I was not able to sit still for the duration of a ninety-minute course, but partially because of the way I felt in that class. I wasn’t raised conservatively—growing up under Western influences, I was told to express myself fully—but in the boundaries of the classroom, I felt like I was stretching myself thin to fit a mold.
During those ethics courses, we were taught to be accepting and provide love and compassion for the ones in need, but I was also scolded when I failed to pronounce passages from the Bible. The teacher mocked my inability to read in what was supposed to be my native tongue. The other Catholic kids in my class laughed along.
It left a bitter taste in my mouth. I began shying away from Sunday school more and more, feeling constantly out of place and unwelcome. When I moved to a new city a few months later, I stopped going to church.
I understand now that not everyone treats ethics or religion like my teacher. But my 10-year-old-self couldn’t say the same.
As I grew older and I began seeing the famine, violence, and hatred around the world on television, I began casting more doubts. There seemed to be a tremendous amount of pain and suffering around the world, and there was no way to control it. None of it matched the stories I was told as a kid about how God relieved people from their pain and struggles.
Even in my own life, when I faced difficult situations, I used to look for the light of God. I prayed in situations in which I needed guidance. But through it all, I failed to figure much of it out. I looked for signs, but I couldn’t find any.
When hearing that I was writing this article, my best friend, Hannah, who is a devoted Christian herself, exclaimed, “You do realize God doesn’t have time to watch everyone, right?”
“But what about the big events? Like war, famine, and terrorist attacks? Why are they still happening?” I responded in disbelief. I wanted to believe that if God was real, He holds the ability to protect all of us and grant us victory over evil.
Evil entered the world through the serpent that lured Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. And somewhere deep down, beneath my previously strong religious faith, I wished God was stronger than the evil, and that His good could overcome the bad. But that wasn’t the case. At least not visibly.
Being an atheist doesn’t mean I dislike God or those who believe in him, but rather that I couldn’t blindly put my faith in what doesn’t match up. When I was a kid, I didn’t want to be an atheist. I wanted to believe in something. But when the same thing grew to be superficial, I realized that I’d become a blind follower once again.
In my culture, in which everyone seems to be believing in something, someone, I feel outnumbered, but to me, in my atheist beliefs, I find that it is important to believe in the changes we are capable of making.