University of Wisconsin–Madison

A Personal Blast to The Past With Your Technology Chair

As an officer of a secular student organization, I am sometimes asked by curious acquaintances and friends how my journey to non-belief occurred. Although I think that my transformation from a Christian to a non-believer was pretty average, I have found myself unable to find the right words to briefly describe this journey in a way that accurately depicts the feelings of turmoil and confusion that came along with breaking free from religious dogma.

However, I recently found a journal entry deep within the many files of my computer that I wrote during my freshman year of college at the time when I first admitted to myself that I was a non-believer. I intended on using this entry as my way of “coming out” while also explaining myself in a way that would hopefully help disapproving friends and family to understand that my road to atheism wasn’t easy. I never ended up making this piece public, and I soon forgot that it existed, but I think that these words capture the feelings that I have been unable to describe because they come straight from the source of a younger, more uncertain me. Perhaps you’ll find something within this heart-felt journal entry that you connect with! So let’s take a personal little blast to the past, shall we?

The last few months have been absolutely life changing. I have found my beliefs. I wouldn’t say that I have found my faith, because that would indicate that I have found religion, but that is not quite it at all. I have found truth. This all started when I decided to take a class called “Evolution and Extinction” last semester. For once in my life, I have been given facts about how all that I see came to be. Honest truth, backed up with piles and piles of evidence and explanation. It is incredible to be able to know instead of simply having to believe. I have learned how the solar system, the earth, life, and I came to be. Everything around you is connected. It all fits together like a beautiful puzzle. And best of all, IT MAKES SENSE. It’s important for me to say at this point that I do not want to be pitied or prayed for by those of you that read these words with a religious mindset. This is me trying to highlight that I am more at peace with what I believe than I ever have been. It was a rocky road. I am writing this for the questioners, for the people that yearn for more than religion has to offer the thinking mind.

For years, I have questioned the logic of the biblical stories that have been told to me. That questioning has made me feel guilty. In fact, the entire institution of religion has made me feel guilty for being human. I’ve tried to understand. I’ve wanted to believe that God made Adam and then made Eve from Adam’s rib. I’ve wanted to believe that Noah built a massive ark and put two of every animal on it. I’ve wanted to think that it makes perfect sense that a loving God would flood the entire earth and kill almost every human being on the earth. I’ve wanted to believe that Jesus walked on water, and that he died on the cross just for me. I walked to youth group at a local church by myself every Wednesday for several years and I attended a 5 day church camp, despite the fact that my parents never once urged me to do so. I still found myself wanting more.

At age 15, I decided to find out more information so that I could grow closer with God and remove doubts that I had. I curiously asked a counselor at church camp what I could do for God so that he would allow me to be with him in heaven after I died. She told me very firmly, “If you don’t believe in Jesus Christ, you will go to Hell.” At the time, I was taking a world history course in school and we had talked about many different religions that are practiced around the world. Just the week before this conversation, we had talked about the percentages of people that practiced each of the top religions in the world. It suddenly occurred to me that she was saying that everyone who wasn’t Christian was going to be punished, and would roast in the flames of hell for all eternity.
“So with the assumption that every Christian goes to heaven, you’re saying that 67% of the world is going to Hell?” I asked in disbelief.
“Unfortunately, yes.” she said with a shrug.
I allowed her words to sink in.

Many good people would be sent to hell for not understanding, just as I often 

Many of those people would never even have a chance at becoming a Christian because they lived in regions where Christianity isn’t widely practiced.

I thought about the Muslims, and how they got down on their knees and prayed 5 times a day to their God, Allah. Those people believed with all their hearts in Allah, just like Christians believed in their God. How were they supposed to know that they were supposed to be praying to a different man in the sky? They still surely prayed for many of the same things. They probably prayed for wellness, and happiness, the sick, and thanked their God for things that they loved in their lives.

What was the difference? Just because a child was born into an Islamic family, he or she was pretty much doomed to roast in the flames of hell for all eternity?

It seemed to me that the religion you ended up following had very little to do with your morality as a person and everything to do with the family you were born into. I suddenly wanted to cry as I realized the unfairness of it all. That was the moment in which I lost my faith in the Christian God completely.

Suddenly, as a college freshman, I am in an environment in which it is not a crime to think, to wonder, to question. In fact, it is encouraged! Finally, I am able to freely admit that I do not believe in any of these earthly religions that have been presented to me thus far. I am not ashamed to state my beliefs (or lack thereof) for the first time in my life. When I die, I will be dead. I won’t be in heaven or hell. I will be gone. I’m okay with that. I think you’ll notice that you’ll have trouble finding me in a moment of sadness. That’s no accident. I’m aware that I’m here on this earth for just a heartbeat of time, and I am on a mission to enjoy every second that I can of my time here. I cherish my life and the people that I meet in it.

I am an Atheist.  I don’t believe in God. So what? There’s this stigma about atheism… surely, since I don’t believe in earthly religions, I must be a pessimistic, crazy woman without morals, right? Well, I beg to differ. I believe in a lot of things. I believe in love, and working hard, and smiling as much as possible. I believe in spending time doing good things for others. I believe in watching the stars, giving lots of hugs, singing, and dancing in the rain. I believe in giving, and investing in education. I believe in saving money, traveling, and leaving anonymous, optimistic notes in public places to make random people smile. I believe in taking risks and living life to the fullest. I am not a bad person. It is not necessary to have religion in order to have beliefs and morals. I am good because I want to be. I treat others with respect because that is what they deserve.

-Elle Russell (AHA Technology Chair)

If you have a similar story that you’d like to share or are currently going through emotions concerning questioning of religious beliefs, please use this blog post as an indicator that you are not alone. AHA officers understand and are always here to help. Feel free to visit us at the SAC during our office hours (Monday through Friday 3-6). You can also contact us to make an appointment to meet with us at our email:

Yes, that says “I <3 Jesus”

6 thoughts on “A Personal Blast to The Past With Your Technology Chair”

  1. You seem like an incredible person, and it is truly unfortunate that you encountered people that made you believe that God is not loving in His intentions. Doubting is a natural part of being human that most people in the faith experience, and God in no way desires for you to feel shame for that. Who are we to judge who goes to Heaven or Hell? That's between you and Him. God loves you, and he desires for you to be able to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. He hasn't given up on you.

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