I stopped praying in 2003.
I was living with a friend in Colorado who loved to surf. I loved road trips, so we threw two boards into my pickup and headed to California. It was good to get away--I'd hit a major writer's block with a script I'd been working on called PUNK ROCK JESUS. One of my main characters was (like me) a devoted Catholic. He was also in the IRA, so I ended up doing a lot of research into the history of The Cause. Much of the IRA dogma made no sense to me, and while I began questioning the motivation behind IRA convictions, I also began questioning my own Christianity. I didn't know what to think anymore, so I put both PRJ and my faith on hold.
My friend was an atheist, and soon I found myself very convinced by his beliefs--those based on science and not on dogma. But becoming an atheist overnight was too scary, so instead I decided to try it for a month and see how it fit me.
Indeed, I had a lot to think about while we made our way to California.
My test came once we arrived. I have a fear of the ocean, so naturally I was a terrible surfer. At one point I was knocked down really hard by a roaring wave--I wasn't even able to take a full breath before being sucked under the black currents. I waited for the wave to pass over before trying to head back to the surface, but once I did, I realized that I didn't know where the surface was. Then I felt another wave pass overhead--this one scraping my head against the surrounding coral. I didn't know which way was up and I was too scared to open my eyes. Panicking, I began doing the thing I'd spent twenty-three years doing whenever I was in trouble: I started praying.
But then I stopped. I promised myself that I wouldn't pray for a month, and it wouldn't be much of an effort if I broke that promise the very same week. So instead of panicking, I managed to use my head.
Just then I felt my leg tug. Luckily the leash to the board hadn't slipped off. Somewhere, floating on the surface, was a surfboard that had my name on it. I quickly followed the leash to the surface and got my head above water. Fresh air.
If I had allowed myself to pray in that instant before finding the leash, I would have been certain that a god had saved me. Instead, I'd found the leash on my own. I no longer believed in a god, rather that we're each the master of our own fate.
Back in Colorado, I found that fixing Punk Rock Jesus meant starting over, changing the Jesus clone from a Christian into an atheist. As my script began taking form, so did my atheistic convictions. And on July 11th, I'll finally be able to publish.