Fifth place (tie): Michael Hakeem Memorial College Essay Contest by Keith Greer Milburn

The God who wasn’t there

FFRF awarded Keith $500 for his essay.

By Keith Greer Milburn

I was raised a Southern Baptist, “saved” at the age 8 and washed in the blood two years later. I also suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder, which I believe has helped bring me to where I am today.

Anyone who has OCD is aware that doubt is a major byproduct — not being sure if you turned a light off or if you put your name on an exam after turning it in. One doubt was worse than the rest: doubting if I was going to heaven. I was always a true believer, but my belief never comforted me.

The main thing OCD produces is torment. There were many days I spent hours crying, begging God to help me. OCD creates real fears out of complete nonsense. I would be sitting there playing a game or watching TV and out of nowhere I would be stricken with thoughts that insisted I had sold my soul to the devil and that I was going to hell for all eternity. With tears in my eyes, I would call out to God to take away these thoughts, but he never did. The only real comfort came from my mother, who suffered similarly.

About a year after graduating from high school, I accepted that most of the bible was false, but my faith still remained in God and his son. Other things about Christianity did not make sense though. I could not believe that a man who does not believe in God but is a good father and husband would go to hell, yet a serial killer or rapist who accepted Christ in prison was destined for eternity in heaven.

Nor could I understand how if homosexuals were an abomination, why would an all-powerful being create them? A few months ago, I finally allowed myself to realize that under no circumstances could a virgin give birth and a dead man could not come back from the grave. But I still could not let go of God.

For weeks in place of my normal bedtime prayers asking for forgiveness and professing thanks, I simply begged God to show himself to me in even the most miniscule way. Finally the night came where I truly felt I was just talking to the ceiling and great relief washed over me. I no longer felt fear in my heart.

After accepting my atheism, I felt a great thirst for knowledge and started to read the great works of nonbelievers and to truly learn about the world and the universe. It was like a dark cloud had been lifted from my mind and the scales had fallen from my eyes. I was at peace.

I must thank my mother, who, despite being a devout Christian, has accepted me as I am and allowed my inquisitive mind to prosper. She is my favorite person to talk to and she will never know how much our theological debates mean to me. Keith Milburn, 20, was born in Virginia Beach, Va., and is a junior at the University of Memphis, Tenn. He’s majoring in political science and hopes to attend law school and specialize in criminal defense.

Freedom From Religion Foundation