My name is Chris Campbell. I am twenty-three years old and I have cerebral palsy. I communicate using a computer, typing one letter at a time using a switch I control by moving my head.
I was brought up as a Catholic, but now I am an atheist. What caused this change to occur? First, because I use a wheelchair, I stopped going to mass because it was hard for me to get into most churches. Churches tend to have many stairs, making it difficult for disabled people to enter. My church tried to accommodate me by installing an inexpensive elevator on the outside of the building. I got stuck in it more times than it worked properly. This would usually cause a big scene, making it impossible to enter quietly like everyone else.
However, this was only a minor factor in my becoming an atheist. During my time in church, I also went to Sunday school. I wish I had spoken up in my class, especially on two particular occasions. In the sixth grade my Sunday school teacher asked the class to draw a picture of how the world was made—but only according to the Bible. I thought the exercise should have been to draw the world according to how you thought the world was actually made, but I didn’t say anything and just went along with the rest of the class.
Later, in my tenth grade Sunday school class, my teacher asked us what the world would be like if there were no religions. I wanted to say that 9/11 would not have happened, as religion is often a major reason for wars. In my high school world history class I had also learned about the Crusades and how people had killed each other in the name of God. I did not speak up on either occasion because back then I was more concerned with accepting what my teachers said. I thought you had to agree with your teachers or you would get in trouble.
Now that I am older and more self-confident, I don’t believe in organized religion and I disagree with many of the Catholic Church’s teachings. For example, the Church doesn’t believe in gay marriage. I think this is discrimination akin to telling me that I can’t marry my girlfriend because we both have a disability. I can’t be a part of any group that discriminates against people.
I don’t believe in a literal God because I can’t believe in something unless it makes sense to me intellectually. If God made the universe, then who made God? I am more comfortable with the scientific explanations about how the universe came to be and how life got started. Science says that it was created by chance, which I think is a fairer explanation than a God controlling everything. I think people made up gods because they didn’t know how the world was made and they were afraid to die and no longer exist.
I know that many Americans believe in God—and that’s fine—but some people try to push religion and their own beliefs on their kids and others. To me, it’s important to believe what you want because I think people, especially many of today’s young adults, are thinking the same thing I am but they’re scared to say anything for fear of what their families might think. I believe that you need to be honest with yourself and to believe what you want, whatever that may be. I hope people who think like me can find the courage to be honest with their families.
The reason I contacted the American Humanist Association is that I do not like how many local and state governments are trying to include religion in public life, through prayers at government functions, displaying religious statues on government property, or trying to teach creationism in public schools. I would like to do whatever I can to help the fight in keeping church and state separate.