Fifth Place Tie 2016 Michael Hakeem Memorial College: Education led to my deconversion: By Elias Rodriguez

FFRF awarded Elias $500.

By Elias Rodriguez

“All I know is that I know nothing.” This phrase encompasses how I felt during my deconversion from Catholicism to atheism.

As an immigrant from Mexico, I did not have any choice in the religion that I would be brought up in, but I did have a choice about whether to continue believing in it. Although my deconversion happened slowly and over the course of a couple of years, there were three main stages to it: breaking away from the church; moving away from a theistic mindset; and embracing the agnostic-atheist position.

As a child in Mexico, I went to church every Sunday with my family. Church was such an integral part of my upbringing that I was actually allowed to deliver part of the sermons during Mass. It was around the age of 15, now living in the United States and working on my education toward Confirmation, that I began having a crisis of faith.

Until that point, I had been raised to believe that the church was a beacon of morality and that the pope, the central figure of the church, was infallible as God’s spokesperson. As I learned more about history, I discovered many of the atrocities that had been committed by the church in the past, including the Inquisition and the imprisonment of Galileo. These facts, along with evidence of systematic cover-ups of pedophilia by priests, led me to abandon the church completely.

I became enamored with philosophy once I entered high school. It was during this time that I learned of many philosophical arguments that would help with my deconversion. The most notable was Pascal’s Wager. Ironically, this argument is used by theists to highlight the supposed pitfalls of atheism. However, I did not see it that way.

Pascal’s Wager states that it is better to hedge your bets and pray to God because if he does exist, then you won’t go to hell. This argument helped push me toward atheism for two reasons. First, this wager states subtly that God is more concerned about how much praise is given to him rather than the good deeds performed by people. Second, it commits the fallacy of assuming the Judeo-Christian god is the only possible god to exist, but does not take into account that this very argument could be used for a myriad of other deities.

My final step toward deconversion came when I read Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. I had always had a deep love for science, but it was after reading this book that I understood just how useful and powerful science and the scientific method could be.

Removing feelings and biases and relying on testable evidence was the best way to find the truth. I also learned more about genetics and evolution and I realized just how imperfectly beautiful the world around me was. I realized that the evidence used to support God failed to pass scientific scrutiny. I believe strong evidence is required whenever a falsifiable claim is made. Whenever someone asks me why I became an atheist, I always feel compelled to quote Christopher Hitchens in order to answer them. “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” Faith is subjective, scientific evidence is not.

My road to deconversion was long and mentally arduous, but I would not trade this experience for anything in the world. I have learned more in the past couple of years than I could have ever thought possible. However, all I know is that I know nothing. My experiences as a nonbeliever have led me to look at my life and the world in a completely different manner. I feel empowered knowing that I was able to reach this decision by asking questions and by challenging my belief system. I feel humbled knowing that there is still so much left to learn about the world and that I have the rest of my life to learn as much as I can.

Elias, 22, lives in Frisco, Texas, and attends the University of Texas at Dallas. He enjoys playing the guitar, running long distance races, and researching philosophical and scientific concepts.

Freedom From Religion Foundation