My ThinkAthiest page
Atheism is not the absence of belief in a god, it is the belief that there is no god. The difference is very significant. If you are a theist in a crisis of faith, you may have lost your belief, but you are not an atheist, otherwise you would have no crisis. I know this, because I grew up as a theist, and was fully immersed in the cannon of not one, but two religions. That, in fact, was likely the start of my crisis of faith.
One of my grandmothers was Catholic, and the other was Pentecostal. They alternated taking me to church on Sunday. Needless to say this was very confusing. Aside from the conflicts in dogma, the difference in the ceremony was difficult to keep in sync. I had to really focus to remember whether I was to jump, holler, and wave my arms emphatically or just stand still and hang my head in guilt. The real problem came when it was time for 'confirmation' in the Catholic church. My pentecostal grandmother said becoming a full fledged Catholic would mean burning in hell for eternity, because they worship idols (the saints). She insisted that I be baptized in the pentecostal church, but my Catholic grandmother said that would result in me burning in hell forever because the pentecostal religion didn't follow the Pope and was therefore not descended from Christ. Fuck, that was a hell of a conundrum for an eleven year old.
Then I had an epiphany. Both religions told me that Jesus would tell me what to do when facing difficult decisions. All I had to do was pray and believe. I prayed, and I prayed. I would stay up half the night praying, trying a catholic prayer with my head hung in guilt, and pentecostal prayers where I rolled around on the floor in a mock seizure. No luck. It made no sense whatsoever to me, because I truly believed that Jesus would talk to me, and most of my family claimed to have heard from him on a number of issues. Finally I asked one grandmother what the voice of Jesus sounded like. That's when her story got shaky. She said that you don't actually hear his voice, contrary to everything I had been told up to this point, but that I would 'feel' what he wanted me to do. Thing was, I was getting no good vibes one way or the other, I was just filled with a horror of burning forever in a pit of fire because God loved me so much.
That's when I decided to put off confirmation and baptism. I felt I had made a responsible decision, but the reactions of my grandmothers were less than encouraging. While at one grandmothers house I told her that I had decided to read the bible, because if that was the word of God then it should be clear what being a Christian means, and from that I could chose my path. She was horribly upset, and asked why I couldn't just believe her, and she told me how much it hurt that I thought she would ever lie to me. When I told her that she had already lied to me about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny she slapped me across the face. My other grandmother hit me on the head with a wooden spoon.
I did read the bible, but at that age it took me almost 2 years. It was especially difficult because as I read it I wasn't finding any references to most of what either religion seemed to be about. The worst part was that there was no real dogma to 'worship' Jesus, in fact it seemed that we were supposed to 'follow' rather than worship. This did not sit well with any Christians I met.
Slowly I came to realize that if a god did exist, he didn't communicate with us - any of us. Furthermore, he offered no recognizable set of rules for us to follow, and really didn't seem to mind that most religions claiming to worship him seemed to make up their own set. So if there is a god, then he has completely hidden himself from us, covered up any trace of 'creation' with evidence to the contrary, and has no expectations of us whatsoever. With this in mind, he is not the god professed by modern religion in any way, and therefore the god they proclaim to exist does not.
I read the bible again, and partly read some English translations of the Koran, but eventually gave up looking. My crisis of faith was over, and I finally found confidence in myself as an Atheist.