This week’s question: “What caused you to turn away from religion? How did you lose your faith?”

[media-credit name=”Alicia Crismali” align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]As the current president of UCSB’s secular student group, SURE (Scientific Understanding and Reason Enrichment), some people find it hard to believe that I was once religious. In fact, I was born and raised Roman Catholic; I went to catechism every week; my family celebrated my First Communion and so on. The religious experience was all very real — I thought I could feel the Holy Spirit and that God had a plan for me, despite whatever hard times I might have endured. It was so comforting, and that’s why I was terrified upon having my “crisis of faith.” I had developed a profound interest in science throughout high school, and because of that, religious answers to the big questions in life no longer seemed intellectually satisfying.

In fear of losing my faith, I turned to what I assumed would be the best source for answers and solace — the Bible. In actuality, the Bible would become the greatest tool of my gradual conversion to atheism. Within its gilded pages, I found a megalomaniacal deity wielding His own versions of science and history. Furthermore, there was a striking lack of a respectable moral code.

After grappling with these issues for over a year, I concluded that our current naturalistic explanations for the universe and life render God superfluous. More importantly, I realized that you truly can be good without God. Now I don’t have to fear Hell — I can have faith in people, not gods, and I can continually find immense beauty in the universe revealed to us by science.

Tyler Santander is a fourth-year political science and psychology major.

Since I can remember, I was skeptical of the claims that the Bible and the people in my church community made about the world. My parents had taught to me to think critically, and sometimes I would run into logical problems, especially as I grew older and learned more about the prehistoric and modern world.

What was God’s plan with the dinosaurs? Why did He wait billions of years to make the first humans? Why do God-loving people have to suffer? What does God think about people of other religions? How does Jesus’ sacrifice actually correspond to my life? These are the types of questions that I used to ponder before I renounced my faith. Authority figures taught me that ‘God moves in mysterious ways,’ so I habitually resigned my critical aptitude to questions of this nature.

However, within my first year at college I became an atheist. The notion of the inscrutable God was no longer being reinforced, and I really began to explore the claims of religion and the implausibility of a personal God. It didn’t take anyone to convince me — my own curiosity led me to examine the world objectively and God no longer fit into the picture. Comparing the largely unsubstantiated claims of religion to the honesty of scientific inquiry provided my foundation for rejecting religion and superstitious dogma. While the religious are praised for their blind faith, I believe that taking a step back and appreciating the world in its empirical state is the veritable path to enlightenment.

Evan Simoni is a third-year sociology major.

I wasn’t raised a Christian but came to accept Christ of my own volition in my young high school years. I guess there is a good and bad way to look at this — I wasn’t indoctrinated as a child but instead had the strength to adopt my own worldview. On the other hand, thinking back, I shamefully shudder in embarrassment at the memory of how I was converted.

Suffice it to say, I was at winter church camp sophomore year, and I lost myself in a torrent of passionate emotion during a worship concert among all my friends. We all cried with sorrow-stricken hearts at the powerful images from “The Passion of the Christ” flashing in the background. With tears streaming, we loved Him for his sacrifice and prayed to be saved. Again, I shudder. But I wasn’t just His humble servant. I regrettably also preached His word literally, loudly and obnoxiously.

So, what changed? How did I go from a pompous, evangelical know-it-all, espousing biblical certainties, along with the moral bankruptcy of evolutionary scientists? It was the most important moment of my life. I appreciated the liberating power of the simplest question — “Why?” Freshman year at UCSB, its force overwhelmed me in Geology 2. No longer was I convinced by the Bible’s shallow account of the Earth’s age. From this point, my mind was, for the first time, truly open. I questioned everything and it felt amazing. The rest, as they say, is history.

Brian Gallagher is a third-year philosophy major.

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