Jesse Kilgore was a devout 22-year-old young-earth creationist who had been writing a conservative blog, but tragically committed suicide in October of 2008. A copy of Richard Dawkins‘ book The God Delusion was found under his bed, and he had confided with friends that he had been doubting his faith. Assuming that this atheistic book was the source of Jesse’s despondency and the cause of his death, I’d like to introduce the fact of my own depression I experienced immediately after leaving Christianity and introduce the alternative to suicide that Jesse had not the chance to see.
On the inside of Evangelicalism, you are taught that, outside of Christ, there is only meaninglessness, purposelessness,and despondency. This was so ingrained in my mind that, when I finally felt compelled to leave Christianity due to the cognitive dissonance I was experiencing within my faith, I resigned myself to the probability that my future would be darkly spent agonizing over personal meaning and significance, and I contemplated suicide on a regular basis.
In fact, my first year at university, I attended a philosophy seminar and asked the speaker during Q&A why so many philosophers committed suicide. That is what I had been taught. I was met with amused reactions from the speaker and audience whom I later discovered to be having the time of their lives. It took a while to assess why all these people who strongly affirmed that life had no objective purpose were so fond of living.
Once I began to disassemble all the fictitious constructs of Christianity, it became increasingly clear that a godless life was indeed well worth living. Jesse died with some of the Christian illusions still intact. We were both lied to, and I regret that I alone was fortunate enough to have had the social and academic support to step across the line of despondency into the existential life I enjoy now.
A godless life does not include imaginary friends that can console you upon every misadventure, nor does it contain canned dogmas you can incant when insecure. You’ll have to confront the world head-on, and spend real time and energy pursuing truths that can be elusive. But it’s well worth it.
Here it is important to note that, unlike my experience, Jesse seemed to faced more pressure from his family. The last relative to have spoken with Jesse told his father,
…the professors and the book had presented him information that he found to be irrefutable. He had not talked … about it because he was afraid of how you might react1.
Those who have not experienced the relentless pressure and criticism of devout Christian relatives may think this strange. But this no doubt contributed immensely to Jesse’s sense of despair. This fact was completely omitted in an interview that attempted to use Jesse’s death as an example of the consequences of apostasy3.
I wish I could have been there for Jesse. He had obviously invested all sense of self in his faith as I had, and once that toppled, he imagined himself with nothing as did I. The lies of Christianity made the the ditch of despondency seem impassable. However, I’m around to testify that the ditch is exactly one stride wide. It is a stride that resigns self from all vested interests associated with faith and the accompanying lifestyle, and commits to nothing that falls outside the scrutiny and confirmation of rational thought. Step away from the false hope emergent of a credulous faith, and plant your feet on the much firmer shore of reason. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.