Today we have another episode of “Your Stories”. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to post one of these, but this one comes from a friend of mine who shared this on his Medium account – when I read it I knew I had to share it with my own readers and help them follow the posts he’ll be using to follow up from this one. So please, follow my friend Prashant Patel on Medium so that you can read the next in this series as I’m positive they’ll be informative posts that you can reflect on and identify with. While Prashant is an ex-Hindu turned atheist – people from any religious background should recognize many of the same feelings portrayed here.

This was originally posted on Prashant’s Medium Page Here.

I’m writing this to explain why I moved on from my religion. I have been asked many times about how it happened and I often think about this most when I think of the event that pushed me over the edge. So here’s that event and the context. In the future, I’ll be writing about what effect this has had on my life and what it could mean for you should you also be questioning your own faith.

The Context

So first of all, it didn’t really all happen in one day. For me, it was gradual with some major turning point along the way (I suspect the same is true for many people who change some important viewpoint they hold). My major turning point was September 27, 2003 (11 years ago today).

It all really began a few years before that day. Our temple had youth education known as Balvihar (it’s pretty much like Bible study or Sunday school for Hindus). Younger children were regaled with various religious mythology and how the heroes of history overcame the evils that threatened our world. As we got older, we were moved into a different group where we sat with a respected member of our community and discussed various religious texts we had been assigned to read. Our discussions often focused on why we maintained certain traditions and held certain beliefs. These discussions are what led to my first debates about my faith. I’m purposely not going into details because you already know the problems with major religions and it won’t add anything to this story. Anyhow, these debates were the tremors leading up to the earthquake that was September 27, 2003.

The Incident

On that fateful day, I lost someone close to me. Two someones, actually.

Man, son killed when horse hits car
CROSS ANCHOR — Two members of a Union family on their way to a worship service were killed Saturday night when the car they were riding in struck a horse. Jayesh Patel, 35, and his son, Deep, 2, both died in the wreck, which occurred around 8:10 p.m. on S.C. 49 near Browning Road.
They were seated together in the front passenger seat of a 2000 Nissan Maxima driven by Urmil Patel, 24, also of Union, Lance Cpl. Dan Marsceau of the South Carolina Highway patrol said. The car was traveling west on S.C. 49 when a horse came running toward the vehicle, Marsceau said. They met in the roadway and the horse struck the passenger side of the vehicle.
Wendy Alley, an investigator with the Spartanburg County Coroner’s Office, said both the Patels were pronounced dead at the scene of the wreck. They died from closed head trauma. Urmil Patel was not injured, Marsceau said.
Three other people who were riding in the back seat were injured, but their injuries were not life-threatening, he said. The horse also died. Its owner was located Sunday, Marsceau said. The wreck is still under investigation. The family was on their way to a temple in Greenville when the wreck occurred. Jayesh Patel, a native of India, was the manager of American Inn, and the family lives at the motel on 755 North Duncan By-Pass.
Deep Patel attended school at Union Christian Day School. Today, flags at the school are at half mast and the school’s sign reads, In loving memory of Jayesh and Deep Patel. Superintendent Roger Estes said Deep, who would have turned 3 years old in December, already was enrolled in 4-year-old kindergarten. He was that intelligent, he said. He was an adorable child who always had a bounce in his step.
Estes said he had been to visit the Patel family. He said teachers planned to gather together Deep’s work, put it in a folder and present it to his family. Funeral services for the Patels will be held today.

I was at the temple indicated in the news story when it happened. My dad approached me and said we had to leave early because of a car accident that involved my uncle, aunt, cousin, and grandmother. We left for the hospital immediately, but we soon learned that nothing could be done. Though my aunt and grandmother had survived with minor injuries, my uncle and cousin had both died of severe trauma mere minutes after the accident.

I still remember my grandmother recalling the accident, how my uncle had picked my cousin up and yelled his name, as if to wake him up out of death, just before my uncle himself succumbed to the trauma. She lived that experience, watching her son and grandson die right before her eyes. My aunt as well, seeing her husband and son being taken away forever. I cannot imagine that pain. Just visualizing the moment brings me to tears.

I also watched my own mother deal with the grief for month. She had always been close to her younger brother and the intensity of her pain was ever present. Her entire world was shaken for a long time, but she recovered. My family all found their way back to their faith. I took a different path.

The Aftermath

As I said before, this was all a gradual process. I had doubts and lots of questions, the same ones that are asked by millions of people every single year. How could this happen if God is really looking out for us? Why is there evil in the world and why does it succeed to ruin lives so often? Why are we constantly fighting ourselves for some ideologies set in place centuries ago?

I only ever got one good answer from anyone. For many people (myself included), religion had provided comfort in the face of difficult situations. Our faith had been a place to focus to push through tough circumstances. I tried to disregard all the problems of religion and focus on the faith. I focused on accepting that things happened for an intentional divine purpose and that ultimately, everything was going to be alright. I tried to find that comfort. I just couldn’t accept what it meant. I also quickly realized that comfort only came if I truly believed. I spent hours on end trying to find that feeling again. It was gone. Forever.

I became an atheist.

Prashant Patel is a former Hindu and an atheist. You can follow him on Twitter or on Medium