My name is Phil Deckebach and I'm just an ordinary 72-year-old guy who doesn't believe in God.
I have no particular credentials. I graduated high school and married soon after at 19 years old. Born and lived in Michigan for the better part of my life and have one 52-year-old son and two grandchildren.
My wife and I recently celebrated our 53rd wedding anniversary. I ran a hospital print shop in Rochester, Mich., for many years. We moved to Toledo because this is where our son settled following college and soon afterward graciously produced two beautiful grandchildren for us. We both plan to spend our remaining years in this fine city.
As far as atheism goes, both my wife and I have been inclined in that direction since childhood.
All human beings are born atheists, as Madalyn Murray O'Hair used to say.
Everybody comes into this world a blank slate, contrary to what some ardent religionists may claim. Many, I know, would argue with O'Hair's point of view, but that's not an issue here.
Growing up in the very patriotic, post-World War II forties and fifties, it was hard openly admitting to being a nonbeliever. Being different than the rest is a condition few children aspire to. Tends to considerably limit one's circle of friends. And I'm sure can infuriate no end many parents.
My wife and I both opted to stay closeted atheists, and most people who were non-religious seemed to go that route back in those times.
When I was about 8 or 10, I asked my mother what she thought about the whole religious question. What she answered sealed the deal for this little kid. Mom as much as told me flat out that gods don't exist and that once a person is dead he or she is dead. Gone forever. Just gonna be eternal blackness. Nothingness. No pain, no angels, no heaven. Nothing.
And then, pondering (as much as a little kid can) what she told me in bed that night, I found myself agreeing completely. Why should a person spend this short life on earth worrying about whether he was gonna end up in heaven or hell, whether he or she would qualify for eternal bliss, or forever after be tormented in hell by a sadistic demon. Made no sense to my young mind.
There was so much to do in this life instead of worrying about what's gonna become of you afterward. In any case, heaven seemed a more scary place to me than the other … just eternal boredom in Glory, I figured. Mark Twain commented on that choice when he said: “Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company.”
In the last couple years of living here my wife and I have been lucky enough to meet a number of folks who openly identify as either atheists, agnostics or freethinkers. And have been welcomed into two groups in this city who actively promote the non-theist lifestyle, Great Lakes Atheists and Recovering from Religion. Barb and Peggy are the mainstays and capable leaders of the atheist associations we've joined thus far in Toledo and it's been a great deal of fun hanging with folks of similar worldviews.
Of course, atheists come in many different varieties, just as regular religious folks do. Some can come across as arrogant and all-knowing and others nasty, irascible and disputative. I'm kind of a quiet type and keep to myself, and personally have no desire to argue with anyone.
“I don't know much, but I'm not lost.” Somebody said that once and it just seemed to fit here. But, bottom line, a person doesn't need to have all the knowledge in the world to take the road of non-theism; it's definitely much easier than being religious and you can always sleep in on Sunday mornings if so inclined.