CHICAGO – A self-professed atheist who grew up in a Christian home says she has been unable to escape an inner awareness that God is with her, thus shedding light on an inward struggle perhaps faced by other non-believers.
Elizabeth King is a writer in Chicago who grew up in a devout Christian home. Last week, “The Washington Post” published an opinion piece by King titled, “I’m an atheist. So why can’t I shake God?”
As explained in her essay, King said she once “believed in the Bible,” “feared hell,” and considered herself “a ‘born again’ Christian who loved God with all her heart.” Like many young people, however, she walked away from her family’s faith when she was a teenager and found herself drifting toward atheism.
“The story of my departure from the church resembles those of many others who have abandoned the flock,” she observed. “When I was about 16, I started asking questions during services that my youth pastors couldn’t or didn’t want to answer.”
Those questions continued to bother King, and she found the youth pastors’ responses to them unsatisfactory. As a result, her faith dwindled. She slowly lost confidence in her family’s religious convictions. Eventually, she realized that she was not a Christian.
“I didn’t believe there was a God, or heaven and hell,” King remembered. “It wasn’t even a choice that I made. I just slowly stopped believing until all of it was gone. Or so I thought.”
However, King confessed that scrubbing her mind of all belief in God has proven so far to be an impossible task. “God lingers with me,” she wrote, adding, “somehow God has found a way to stick around in my mind.” Even though King now describes herself as an atheist,” she says she still has an intuitive feeling that God is with her.
“He’s present,” she wrote in her opinion piece.
“The idea of God pesters me and makes me think that maybe I’m not as devoted to my beliefs as I’d like to think I am and would like to be,” King explained. “Maybe I’m still subconsciously afraid of hell and want to go to heaven when I die. It’s confusing and frustrating to feel the presence of something you don’t believe in.”
Evidently, King is not alone. She cites research that reveals a remnant of belief among atheists today.
“According to a Pew Research Center poll about religion and atheism last year, 8 percent of self-identified atheists believe in God or a ‘universal spirit,’” she wrote. “Not a huge proportion, but considering that an atheist is by definition a person who denies the existence of God, that 8 percent highlights something very curious about belief.”
Though she still thinks God does not exist, she says maintaining that belief is not easy.
“When we opt for atheism,” she stated, “we are doing hard work to battle against what our minds are generally inclined and well-equipped to do: believe.”
“I’m not sure what to do about God,” King concluded. “If I could figure out a way to banish this figure from my psyche, I would. But psychology is not on my side. … I may be stuck with his shadow forever. While I remain steadfast in my (non)belief, I also feel I have no choice but to accept that I’m an atheist with a sense for God and that without this kink in my beliefs, I might not strive to understand myself better.”
As previously reported, a number of scientists in recent years have proposed that belief in God is naturally ingrained into all people and is something that “cannot be expunged.” Similarly, a report last year found that nearly half of atheists, agnostics, and those with no religious preference in the U.S. see evidence in the universe for a creator, supporting the Bible’s assertion in Romans 1:20 that the invisible things of God “are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.”