Andrew Lamprecht is a former Christian living in Adrian, Michigan, who is an aspiring author. Enjoy. See if his story resonates with you.
Tracing a person’s ancestry back a couple generations can tell you a lot about their cultural background. Being of Polish, German, and Italian descent it should come as no surprise that after I was born, I was baptized Catholic. I grew up going to church every Sunday. My parents made me memorize my prayers and I had to say them each night before dozing off. I had a “Catholic Book of Prayers,” that remains in my bookshelf even today. At some point in my life I had memorized virtually the entire book. I attended religious education every Wednesday and was taught that this was something that God would want. A 2 hour class session of learning about how condoms and abortion were wrong, that we should follow the Ten Commandments, and how we needed to try and convince other religions that ours was just a little more perfect than theirs.Written by Andrew Lamprecht.
When I was 14 years old I went to a retreat at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. I do not recall the exact number of people at the retreat but there were hundreds of churches that attended. There were some famous people there I guess you could say, a man named Bob Rice and some other fairly big Catholic songwriters and musicians. One of the events people really enjoyed participating in was the music. Each day we were there, they would have an hour of live Catholic music. Before one of these meetings I remember sitting on the grass during lunch looking off of this hill at all the people meandering around. I don’t know what initiated the thought but I asked the leader of our group why our God was the right one. He just stood there with this disorganized look. He inevitably asked why I had posed that question and I told him I thought the answer would be a simple one. There must have been some reasoning as to why we all believed in this. He told me that we could date the Catholic Church back to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. That answer was far from sufficient. I asked him what would happen to other people who never learn about the Christian God and he said that it was God’s decision as to what would happen to them. That evening when we went to the live concert, I stood there and couldn’t sing as what was happening just felt wrong. The spark wasn’t there and I felt like the people who were celebrating this beautiful understanding of God had never taken the time to think about who he was or what he wanted, or if he would even care what religion people were. It wouldn’t make sense to worship someone who had a preference over an individual’s geography. That day was tucked in the back of my mind but in a way I pushed it as far as it could go because I figured a belief in nothing was just inconceivable. There had to be more to life.
Throughout high school I continued going to church, admitting my sins to a man I didn’t know, and praying to a God who seemingly helped me when I needed to be helped. After graduating, what I wanted to be more than anything was a musician or a writer but when I was selecting courses I saw a course called, “Reading the Bible.” In a summary below it stated that the professor would help us read through the entire Bible and we would grasp a better understanding of the material that so many people value feverously around the world. This just blew me away because I had never read the Bible before. The church had its favorite passages and I knew those but to be able to read the entire Bible with historical help and factual evidence made me feel like this class could change my life. I would finally understand why God gave us this book, who we were as a people, and a perfect system of morals. When the class started, I was overjoyed to begin reading and this was the class that procured so much of my time. I was reading and researching the history and I gave myself to the class. This was going to be a turning point in my life.
When I began to study Jesus, I learned that none of the writers were with him while he was alive. The earliest Gospel writer, Mark, was dated to approximately 40 years after Jesus’ death. This baffled me as to how this great person, this son of God or even below that, a great philosopher could have such little recognition in his life time to the point where people were trying to find the closest possible sources (most accurate). Along with this, a book we were assigned to look into was basically a summary of many scholars views on who Jesus was. In this book it discussed contradicting evidence, and a few even claimed that he may not have existed. Growing up, I was told that Jesus’ word was perfectly stored in the Bible and that everything we needed to know about him was in those few pages. My teacher of, “Reading the Bible,” was and still is a Christian. I went to his office one afternoon and asked him if he thought Jesus existed or what he thought about the controversies regarding his life and if I recall correctly, “Does it really matter if he existed or not? His impact on the world has been vast and magnificent. He is an example of someone we can all strive to be.” The questioning that authors proposed and the answer my teacher gave me made me uncomfortable. This perfect understanding I had grown up with had had the foundations crumbling.
The next semester I had made the decision to change my major to religion. The classes I was taking were a couple of Islam history courses, an introduction to Philosophy course, a class called Women in the Bible that went through each woman’s role in the Bible and how negatively they were portrayed, and finally a course on the history of monotheisms. I was reading about the history and beginning of religions and basically came to a standstill. Why did all of the revelations of these holy men come from places where illiteracy was rampant? If God was real, why didn’t he just show us who he was, couldn’t he see how much hatred and how many terrible things had been done in his name? Why wasn’t there a basic understanding of him among all people, everywhere? It made no sense to me. There is no reason to keep people in the dark, some people have told me that life is a test, but free will is absent in God’s eyes. How can someone or something be omniscient and omnipotent, yet still give what he created, free will? It is simply a fallacy. Why didn’t God help out people in need where food is hard to come by, where children are starving and dying each day? I understand that in modern America it is easy to say things such as “God only gives to people what they need” or “Our minds simply cannot understand God’s” or my favorite, “God works in mysterious ways.” I assure you that the people who say these things would not be saying them if, in the past week, they had the caloric intake of a single meal of the average American. To be a person repeating those words, I don’t feel you can say you have actually thought about what you believe in or that you have questioned your beliefs from a neutral point of view.
It is easy to read what I have written here and think that this must have been easy for me but I assure you, it was not. It was quite possibly the most depressing time in my life. To have something that I held so true and dear to my heart burned at the stake was, and still is unexplainable. To feel like I was wrong for 19 years of my life, that I had spent hundreds of hours praying and nothing ever changed because of it, to think that so many people across the world were wrong, including my own family who I loved so much. I must have been wrong; I must have been asking the wrong questions. Sure, I had wanted answers in the past but I had never settled on an understanding that there was no God. This simply devastated me. Over the course of the next few weeks, I would cry in my car and skip class because I didn’t want to learn anything else about religion. I couldn’t believe what I had done to myself, this happy Christian child reformed into someone who believed that when his time would come, that would be it.
I will never forget the day when I finally accepted this. I was sitting in my Philosophy class and we were reading John Stuart Mill on Utilitarianism. I was utterly distant. I didn’t care what everyone else was talking about as I was having a revelation of my own. My mind was developing an acceptance that there was no God but that this was nothing to despair about. I made the decision that I would hold on tightly to three things that would give my life its own meaning; morality, knowledge and love. As to God, I don’t think he understood morality as well as I did because I realized that killing innocent children is not only wrong, but absolutely disgusting and he couldn’t seem to comprehend this simple concept before washing away his creation. He did not value knowledge as he cast us out of Eden based on a curiosity of the most basic level. And he could not understand love, as there is no love in fear. I left the classroom and felt the sunlight’s warmth and wind blowing on my face. I was walking into my own life, one that I owed to myself to make abundant with meaning.
What happened in the coming months didn’t make my decision any easier however. My girlfriend whom I was planning on marrying, started to get really agitated at my questioning. She wasn’t very religious herself, but still believed in the Judeo-Christian God. She developed a hatred for me and eventually broke it off. Not only that but I lost quite a few friends. I was called “hate-filled,” “disgusting” by people whom I had known for years. It hurt to be called that because of a belief, that somehow a lack of it could bring friendships to that level. Even my own family retaliated towards me, my father still does not believe I am an atheist, and he gets visibly angry at me whenever someone starts talking about it. We have had a few confrontations that at one point led to me to packing up my car and ready to sleep in a parking lot somewhere. My mom is as sweet as ever but is convinced I am in a period of rebellion or that I am trying to get under peoples skin. I have no reason for doing something like that. My close relationship with family is absent now and I still have not told my grandmas who might have have heart attacks if they knew. The problem with all of this was that I felt like I had to start over yet I was still the same person, I just preferred evidence to faith. You will hear sometimes Christians in America say they are being persecuted but I had never felt so alone as when I decided to become an atheist. It was an awakening I was unprepared for but in retrospect, this newfound sincerity led me to discover myself more than I ever had before.