Especially on internet forums, but also to a degree in real life, I frequently encounter people who grew up in conservative Christian households or communities, who have come to reject religion and identify as atheist.
One of the criticisms I hear from these people, which I agree with wholeheartedly, is that a lot of these communities present things in a really rigid way…a way that basically comes down to: “I’m right, you’re wrong. If you disagree with any aspect of this belief system, then you’re just wrong, and here’s why…”, often followed by people picking-and-choosing Bible verses to justify their preconceived viewpoint.
I’ve seen these forms of Christianity and they can be really ugly. A lot of them focus on being “saved” and define salvation in such a way that if you disagree with any part of their church views, they assumed you aren’t really “saved”. I think it’s generally a good thing when people leave communities like this, and also good when people move beyond this in their belief system.
Leaving Christianity But Getting Stuck In An Unhealthy Mindset
A problem I see though is that people often leave Christianity and come to identify as atheist, but they ironically retain a lot of that “I’m right, you’re wrong.” attitude—they just now flip it around so they see themselves, or all atheists, as being “right”, and all Christians, or even all religion as a whole, as being “wrong”.
This is equally problematic, I think. I also think these people have then taken the worst aspect of the religion or community they were originally so critical of, and replicated it in a new context.
What I Believe
I personally believe that it doesn’t matter that much whether you believe in God or not…whether you identify as atheist, agnostic, or with Christianity or some other organized religion. I think what matters most are the details of how your belief system plays out. If you go around thinking your beliefs are the only correct ones, and everyone else is wrong, then I think that’s unhealthy. I also think it’s problematic if you accept anything without questioning it, whether it’s your own belief or others.
I think a healthy approach is one where you question and think critically about both your own beliefs, and those of other people, you identify which specific parts you disagree with or find problematic, and you don’t dismiss an entire belief system or religion just because you disagree with parts of it.