Nearly ten years ago now, I met the love of my life, the one, or, as Dan Savage says, the 0.72 I can round up to a one satisfactorily, and the rest is kind of history. I've talked about him some in the past, but today, I'd like to explore one of the biggest milestones on my path to nonbelief: his deployment to Afghanistan.
We had been dating just over 18 months when he deployed. It was his first time out of the country, and to say that it changed his outlook is a significant understatement.
During his deployment, my faith was substantially renewed (go figure!). Although I worked many Sundays, any Sunday that I wasn't working found me worshipping at our independent Baptist church, ending the service on my knees at the altar praying for his safe return. My faith was incredibly comforting during this time period. I'm a fairly anxious person by nature, and having the ability to talk to God and air out my anxieties was beyond relaxing. Feeling like I could put it in God's hands allowed me the space to continue to live my life while he was away.
When Spousal Unit returned home, he'd seen religious fanaticism in action. One of the facets that really struck him was the way that women were treated in Afghan society. He found it unconscionable when they happened upon a man, a boy, a donkey, and an obviously pregnant woman hauling wood on her back. Why not use the donkey the boy was riding on? Why wasn't the man carrying the wood and letting the woman and boy ride? Or the woman ride? Or something?
The abject poverty also left an impression. Surrounded by people with nothing, it makes you question your own existence. You can't resist comparing the two, and the difference are stark.
He brought home a very different attitude towards religion. He's not an atheist, but he questioned religion in a way that I'd never heard it questioned before. In that time period after he came home, we had many heated discussions that ended with me hotly proclaiming, "Why can't you just respect what I believe?"
In all fairness, he wasn't even being mean-spirited. He was just trying to understand how I could believe these things that he considered patently untrue--or at least, unproven.
Try as I might, however, his questions would linger. I'd find myself "GTSing"--googling that shit--and this introduced me to a wide variety of arguments both for and against God. It was during this time that I came to explore and understand (and thus accept) evolutionary theory, when before I'd been an ardent young earth creationist. I accepted the idea of the Big Bang.
And eventually, I found my faith chiseled away. As I came up against a question that fundamentally shifted my view, I found myself responding more and more often with, "Not all Christians believe that. I don't believe that."
And slowly but surely, that became, "Well, what do I have in common with Christianity any way?"
And after a time, the answer to that became, "Nothing."
In the end, my spousal unit was the first person that I told about my atheism. Side by side on our couch one day, talking about something totally unrelated, I finally worked up the courage to say the words, "I think...I think I'm an atheist."
And he said, "Okay." There's been no turning back for me since.