Why are you an atheist? Share your story!

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Tony J Hopkinson's picture
If you mean why am I not a

If you mean why am I not a theist, and in fact have never been one. Why that is I can't really identify.
Indoctrination failed, (they started in me at age 4).
My parents never reinforced the stuff I got taught at school.
They never made a distinction between the God stories and other ones, leaving me with a 'Jesus and the beanstalk' perspective.
I'm a voracious reader, but didn't read the bible until I was in my thirties.
My reading showed that mainstream Christianity was immoral.
I can destroy every argument for gods a theist can come up with, but even if they came up with one I couldn't, I'd just view that as a failure to find the flaw on my part.
Even if there was a god, I wouldn't lower myself to worship it.

Natural Born Atheist?

Calm Wishbone's picture
When I registered here I

When I registered here I ticked "always atheist" which is close enough to the truth to be accurate. When I was six I asked my parents for a copy of the Bible (the one I'd seen at school was bright, colourful and had illustrations in that I really liked). I probably read the first dozen or so pages and lost interest as it didn't have any illustrations in it. I believed in God because I was told he existed and that was enough. Fortunately for me, my parents didn't show any interest in that part of my life, one way or the other, and by the time I was in Secondary school that Bible was propping up my small snooker table and that's the last place I remember seeing it.

Religious Education was compulsory up until the age of 14 but I asked my parents to write me a letter, so I could opt out of it for my GCSE years (I claimed I wanted to focus on more important subjects). At that time, I assumed everyone identified with a religion, even if they didn't actively practice it. I didn't know there was such a thing as an atheist. As a former boy scout, if asked what my religion was I would say "Christian". I didn't know any better but then I also didn't know much about Christianity. I didn't believe in God either.

Until perhaps the last 5/6 years religion has played no part in my life whatsoever. In England it appears there is a stigma attached to being a Christian if you're young (if someone in their 20's told me they were a Christian I would assume childhood indoctrination and feel sorry for them) but while I grew up around Hindu and Sikh communities, I didn't see my friends as religious as they never spoke about it. Recently, perhaps because I read more than I used to, have developed critical thinking skills through work and find myself disgusted by so much that the ultra-devout preach, I can no longer ignore religion the way I did for 20 years.

I am an atheist because not only do I reject the God claim, due to the burden of proof having never been met (to the best of my knowledge), I want to see an end to God and/or religion being used to justify behaviour that should be morally unacceptable in a supposedly modern and enlightened society. I openly admit to finding the vast majority of God claims laughable, but I worry that so many people but faith before fact and are so comfortable to ignore reason in favour of dogma. I don't know what I can do about it alone, other than address the ridiculous, ignorant and offensive statements made on social media with either a well-sourced fact to refute it or a request for evidence to support any claim, but I do know that Religion seems opposed to freedom, human rights and respect for anyone but those who are on-board already. I don't believe dialogue works with those who are so entrenched in their beliefs that they would choose to ignore facts that disprove what they believe, but I do believe that truth is more important than what we want to believe. Atheism isn't truth (it's merely a rejection of an unproven claim) but it's the start of a path that is rich in truth. It's our default position, it's what we are when we're born and should form the basis of greater understanding about a great many things, not to mention adopting a humanist approach to other people, even those we disagree with.

I'm not "proud" to be an atheist, I'm just glad I am one.

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NinthFloorMannequin's picture
I attended Catholic

I attended Catholic elementary & high school. I was pretty much indifferent towards religion throughout that entire period. In college, I took a course, "The History of Nazi Germany," which contained some first hand accounts of the Holocaust as part of the required reading. After reading diaries of both SS officers & prisoners in the camps, I realized that no omnipotent power would allow those atrocities to transpire. I realized that "Everything happens for a reason/God has a plan for all of us," could not be true. Then, I reread the Bible & used simple logic & morality to poke plot holes through nearly every important aspect of the book. I caught on to the patterns, the standard arguments & the rampant hypocrisy. I feel that us humans are at the mercy of other humans & our environment. Nothing else is watching over our planet.

Wgabehart's picture
I grew up around Southern

I grew up around Southern Baptist grandparents on my dads side of the family and Methodist on my mother’s side of the family. My dads parents seemed to be the only consistent churchgoers in the family (that I knew of). My parents did take my brother and I to church somewhat consistently the years prior to my parents getting a divorce. I went to numerous church camps. There was always pressure to say a salvation prayer. I always did this. It was very confusing. I got baptized many times, because I kept thinking that I apparently didn’t get saved because I never felt the change everyone around me was describing. I also “re-dedicated” my life many times at these camps. The last time I went to a church camp was around 6th or 7th grade. I got into a scuff with the pastor’s son. He spit in my face. I spit back. I was banned from coming to the camp with this church group again. I had a typical teenage experience, except I wasn't really into sports and I dabbled a little more than most in drinking and drugs.
My brother joined the Marine Corps. I was impressed when I went to San Diego to watch him graduate from boot camp. I joined also. I went to boot camp on October 13th, 1998. My job after boot camp was MOS (Military Occupational Service) 7051 Crash Fire Rescue. While at the fire Academy in San Angelo Texas, I was arrested and got a “page 11 entry” for underage drinking. This was a shameful experience, as my mother was on her way to visit the very day I got into trouble. After the fire academy, I was shipped to Okinawa Japan and assigned to MCAS Futenma. This was an exciting experience; to be in a foreign country with new people and lots to explore. It was a brotherhood. Crash Crew did everything together. Most of us got our diving certifications, but rarely used them because we didn’t have a vehicle or the gear to go diving. We mainly drank. We would have several days off at a time, as we worked shift work. When we weren’t at the Crash barn working, we were drinking. We would start first thing in the morning and drink till late at night. One night, while out drinking, I broke my ankle. This kept me from going to Thailand on an upcoming deployment. One morning, after a night of drinking, I saw Jason Reardon sitting at his post in the barracks. He was on fire watch duty. A guy named Achilles Patrick was talking to him about the Bible. Jason was arguing that the Bible was “just a book written by men.” He seemed to suggest there was no God. I thought he was crazy. I had never heard anyone say this. Achilles invited me to Maranatha Baptist Church (Independent Fundamental). I agreed to go. I knew I needed a change. My drinking was out of control. I went, fell under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and repeated a prayer after someone (year 2000). I soon got baptized. I quit drinking, smoking, chewing tobacco and cursing. I threw away my large collection of Punk Rock music and started listening to hymns only. I was so thankful that my sins were gone. The blood had atoned for my sins. I believed God now saw me as clean and righteous based upon what Jesus did on the cross. I was accepted. I was loved. I had a new family in Christ and a new life. I took a Bible institute course offered at the church. I “witnessed” to every person I saw. I was persistent and annoying. This boldness came from a desire for everyone to see, understand, and believe this great news. I lost all of my friends who I partied with. They didn’t reject me; I rejected them. To this day, I regret the loss of those friendships.
While in Okinawa and attending Maranatha Baptist Church, I met a guy named Jonathan. He introduced me to preaching cassettes of his pastor, Karl Baker from Calvary Baptist Church in Beaufort S.C. I listened to everything he had. I also got on a mailing list to receive cassettes of his preaching. It turned out that my next orders were to MCAS Beaufort S.C. I already knew where I was going to attend church when I moved to the states. Upon my arrival, I was introduced to Johny’s parents, Charlie and Cressy. They were a really neat family. Johny and his two sisters were adopted by Charlie and Cressy (Cressy was their aunt). Charlie and Cressy also had 5 children of their own. I loved spending time at their house. Their hospitality never seemed to wear out. I ate at their house nearly every night. I felt almost like their 9th child.
I got out of the Marine Corps in August of 2002. I stayed in S.C. and attended Calvary Baptist Church. I was a faithful member. I helped with the cassette tape ministry, started a nursing home ministry, and assisted with mowing the grounds. Most Saturdays, I went to historic Beaufort to participate in open air preaching. This was a long and controversial tradition of Calvary Baptist Church. I once replaced the A/C unit in the fellowship hall. This was a big task and I would have done it for free. I was committed to the cause of Jesus Christ. Karl Baker was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. However, he was a very caustic preacher. I’m not sure why, but this aggressive preaching was very attractive to me. Maybe it reminded me of the drill instructors in boot camp. He thundered from the pulpit absolute truths based on an absolutely infallible and inerrant book, the King James Bible. I loved knowing absolute truth. I believed that God inspired only the KJV Bible. All other versions were “of the Devil.” I, like any deacon, did not own a television. They were tools of wickedness. Either the Bible was true or it was a lie. My life seemed black and white. I was on God’s side. He loved me and the proof was in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus His Son. Not of works could I be justified, but by faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.
My excitement about Calvary Baptist Church came to an end in 2004 when I began to listen to another preacher’s teachings and started to disagree with some of the Independent Fundamentalist doctrines. Brother Baker caught wind of this. He invited me to his house and we had a long heated discussion. He didn't change my mind. He asked me for all of the CD’s and books that I had. He listened to all of them and began to preach against these teachings. This often felt directed at me. I also started to see how angry he seemed. It was such a negative atmosphere. For about six months, I took notes during each sermon. At the end of my notes, I would write one of two things; either the message was gospel (good news) or not gospel (something other than Jesus’ grace). I almost never concluded gospel. I felt somewhat ostracized because my differing doctrines (heresies so called). People seemed to be avoiding me because I thought differently. I cold only believe what I was convinced of. Fear and intimidation weren't very helpful to change my mind.
I moved back to Oklahoma in December of 2005. It felt good to be around my family again. I started attending various churches to find one that was “likeminded.” I ended up at Maranatha Baptist in Newcastle, OK. This was an Independent Fundamental church. However, I didn’t last much more than a year. The pastor was big on church membership, but I was already a member of the body of Christ. There were many doctrinal issues and things just didn’t feel right. The KJV Bible was the absolute authority, but how could we differ on so many things if we had the same book? I left assured that I would find likeminded fellowship.
Just prior to my exodus from Maranatha Baptist Church, I met the love of my life on a Baptist Dating website. We talked for hours, almost daily. I did most of the talking. We disagreed on many very big ideas. I wanted to homeschool my kids, like Charlie and Cressy. She was finishing her masters in music education. I thought that women should wear dresses at all times to be modest. She wasn’t raised this way. I thought Christmas was very pagan and offensive to God. She loved the tradition. These differences almost seemed to prevent any further attempts of becoming a couple and getting married. One day she called and was very excited. She said that God showed her that the Bible says for women to submit to men. She said that if she was not willing to submit to me, then she had no business talking to me. That’s when I decided to drive to Ohio and meet her. We fell in love and got married on July 21st, 2007.
We tried a few churches after getting married. We found it difficult to fit in. We didn't agree with any of the churches doctrinally. We finally, just to get some fellowship, started attending “The Bible Study Center.” This was basically a guy that loved to study and teach the Bible. He quit his job as a home builder and, with his dad and others help, built a large building. Living quarters on the second floor and a big classroom on the first floor. He would study and teach. I never truly agreed with all of his doctrine, but we stayed for the fellowship. We went here for a few years. I was often able to teach/preach. I would try to bring everybody’s attention to what I thought was most important; God’s grace to sinners through Jesus. This seemed to be the most important thing in the Bible to me. I couldn’t understand how most Christians around me were interested in, seemingly, almost everything other than this precious teaching. I believed God deals and did deal with people differently in different times. I believed we were in the time that He was dealing with mankind with grace and mercy. Transgressors of God’s law obtained this grace and mercy though the substitutionary atonement of Jesus. He died in our place, as the sinner, that we may never die, as though we are righteous. A Christian did not die, they merely slept. This gospel, according to my view, was taught primarily by Paul the Apostle. It was not in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. It wasn't taught by Peter. Paul had to reveal it to him. Peter took the Gospel of the Kingdom (which was different than Paul’s gospel) to the “Circumcision” (Jews) and Paul took the Gospel of God’s Grace through Jesus to the Gentiles (everyone else). This was something that no churches or pastors were talking about. I only knew a few people that held this view. My neighbor was one. There were Facebook pages for dispensational truth. I met another person who held a bible study in OKC. I was super excited. However, we ended up not agreeing on doctrine in the end. We lost interest in the Bible Study Center when there was a lot of internal problems with the leadership. We stopped going.
We were stressed about not having a church. There was pressure within and without. Lynae’s family thought we needed a church family. We wanted a church family to raise our children around. We went to a few different churches. There was a large mega church called Life Church. Not our cup of tea. Around 2014-2015 a co-worker told me of a church called Frontline. I did a little research and we thought we would give it a try. I went by myself the first time. I listen to many of the sermons on their podcast. They seemed to focus totally on the Grace of Jesus in every sermon. This was exciting. The sermons covered many topics, yet the Gospel of God’s Grace in Jesus was central. We started going. We liked the music. We like the sermons. We liked the coffee. We attended several home group studies/fellowships. Everything seemed great. However, as I started looking at some of the authors they suggested in the “book room” and hearing some of the subtle messages, I learned they were what I classified as Calvinist. The teachings were subtle most of the time. We got discouraged. We thought we had found “THE Church.” Sermon after sermon, these “false teachings” were apparent. Our motivation to go services eventually faded and we stopped going.
I was so puzzled why there were so many doctrines and so many churches if the Holy Spirit was in all believers.
Though we stopped attending church, I never stopped studying the Bible. As was typical, my intensity of study would have highs and lows. These highs and lows would often correlate with my self esteem. If I wasn’t reading and studying the Bible, I felt guilty. I was definitely at a low one night at work. I got into a discussion with a co-worker about the age of the earth; millions and millions of years vs. ~ 6 thousand years. After a long discussion, we ended up watching a Kent Hovind (creation science evangelist) video about the age of the earth. He was intrigued. He had a lot of questions. We started to have long intense discussions about God. I was excited. Finally, I got to share all that I had learned over the years and help someone know these absolute truths. I had the truth and was happy to share. I had just never had anyone interested. He appeared to have a genuine conversion. My intensity was renewed. Eventually we decided to go back to Frontline and just enjoy the fellowship. After all, there had to at least be someone there that knew how to correctly interpret the Bible.
We became interested in becoming members at Frontline in late 2015. We signed up for new membership classes starting around the first of the year (2016). The first night they gave us a booklet about new membership. I began to study. My main focus, as usual, was to see if there were any “deal-breakers.” I was disappointed page after page. I disagreed with so much of their doctrine. At the end they had a section that stated they also agreed with this creed and that bible statement and …… I printed those off and studied them thoroughly. There were so many fundamental things I couldn't agree with. My wife was devastated that I continually questioned everything. We could never just fit in. I planned on going to the other membership classes and asking all the tough questions. I kept asking myself the question, “If the Holy Spirit of God was in all Christians, why were there so many differing beliefs? Why couldn’t we come to the same conclusions?” This was frustrating and confusing.
While waiting to go to the next class, I was listening to a podcast on some political philosophy stuff that interested me. I didn’t know it, but the speaker was an atheist (no belief in a deity). Podcast #13 was titled “Proof, Disproof and Deities.” I listened to the whole thing with tremendous faith that God would guide me down the path of truth. I wasn’t worried one bit that my confidence in the Bible would waiver. However, I was troubled by what I heard. I didn’t want to admit it to myself that I had never approached the Bible with any skepticism. I brushed it aside with plans to answer these objections to my faith later, maybe after joining Frontline. I continued to listen to the podcast. There were several more podcast about how God/religion affected the government. I made it all the way to #29. The title was “Ten Questions To Ask Religious Friends.” This didn’t bother me because I had the truth with a capital T. I wasn't even religious. I could tell he didn't fully understand the Bible, but it didn’t matter. The truth was that the questions bothered me. I had answers, but deep down they were not satisfying answers to me. One of the last things he asked was if it is possible for people to believe false things. I knew the answer was yes. He then asked if it was possible that I could be wrong. I thought that every other God claim other than Christianity was definitely wrong. I even thought that most Christians had most doctrines wrong. I has witnessed the fact that I had believed wrong things in the past. I had no choice but to admit to myself that I could also be wrong. He then challenged his listeners. If there was a chance that I could be wrong about my belief in God, then I should be honest with my children. I should tell them that mommy and daddy believe in God but this belief could possibly be wrong. He said religious people will never have that conversation. I took this as a direct challenge. I was going to have intellectual honesty. I wanted more than anything to be honest. I wanted to, like many apologists before, answer the tough questions that the speaker had brought to my attention. I was going to turn my skepticism of all those various Christian doctrines onto Christianity itself. I had great confidence that God would guide me into all truth, as the Bible says.
I went to a Christian book store and bought a relatively small apologetics book. I figured there would be an attempt to answer most of the podcast speaker’s objections to Christianity. I brought it home. I sat down at the table with my six year old son (about to turn 7 in the next few days). I began to read aloud the foreword. The writer said something about hell. My son asked “what is hell dad?” I answered that it is a place where those who don’t put their trust in Jesus go when they die. They suffer the pain of burning in a lake of fire as a punishment for all of eternity. It is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. As I was telling my son this, I realized that there is no way he would not believe in Jesus. He would be terrified to reject Jesus now that I have told him this. His belief would be based in fear instead of evidence. I also realized if I was a Muslim, and told him about a Muslim hell, he would one day become a Muslim. This was something I had never allowed myself to think about.
I soon had a question that I couldn’t stop thinking about; “Why would someone that was once a strong Christian (maybe a pastor) reject Christianity?” I started to Google search things like “Pastor becomes atheist.” I was overwhelmed with the results. The first video I watched was “Teresa MacBain on her transition from minister to atheist at Reason in the Rock 2012” https://youtu.be/6_AWG6FmOgY. I listened to the video on my way home from work. I can remember sitting in my driveway intently listening to the last part of her story. She mentioned some authors. I jotted them down: Dan Barker, Bart Ehrman, Richard Carrier. I felt afraid. I was worried to tell my wife. I was fearful of where this all may lead. I went into the house told my wife about what I had heard. I told her I was troubled, but I have to be honest and get to the bottom of all this. I had to face these questions. In my Google searches, I also found the first atheist book I would read. It was called “Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity” by John Loftus. This is exactly the book I was looking for. John was a student of William Lane Craig, one of the leading christian apologists. I wanted to know his reasonings for rejecting what he once held dear. What was his thought process? I read the book and have since read many other books by atheist authors. I have watched countless debates. I have listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts. I met with a pastor from Frontline Church. We talked for about 4 hours. I found his arguments unconvincing, even when I wanted to do different. I wanted Christianity to be true. For it to not be true, meant that the last 16 years of my life had been lived in a delusion (belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument). It was evident that my wife was questioning things as well. We would talk about what we were reading. This was often troubling for both of us. I think she knew where these questions would all end up. She had her own spell of questioning and doubt a few years prior to all of this. She decided then to just stop the questioning. But now, we were facing it head on together. There were many tears and emotions. We weren't always on the same page. It was like a roller coaster. I felt, at times, that she may even want to divorce me if I stopped believing. This was troubling, because I knew deep down that I lacked faith and had strong doubt. I was no longer convinced that the Bible was reliable. I couldn't really do anything about it. I could have professed to believe. I could have pretended to believe. However, I couldn’t actually believe. I realized for the first time that one can not chose to be convinced of something. You are either convinced or you are not. I couldn’t believe there was sufficient evidence to believe the truth claims of the Bible, even when I wanted to.
It would be hard to explain all of my emotions and thought processes while reading the books, watching the videos and listening to the podcasts. However, I will say that I have learned a new way of thinking. I have come to learn the value of skepticism, critical thinking and the scientific method. I have learned that there were questions that I didn’t allow myself to ask when I was a Christian. I somehow thought that questioning things was sinful. Romans 14:23b says “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Colossians 2:8 (my favorite verse) says “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” I was afraid to question. I was afraid that philosophy would lead me away from Christ. I never thought too much about why I believed something. I only thought much about what I did believe. I began to question how I came to my conclusions. What were my reasons? Would those reasons be convincing to people from other faiths? What was faith? I began to see that the only time that faith is necessary is when there was a lack of good evidence. Otherwise, one would simply believe the evidence. I no longer value faith. I now value evidence. I can not say with certainty that there are no gods. However, I do not find any of the god claims convincing. Therefore, I do not believe. It really is hard to say what would be persuasive. If there was a god that knows everything , he would know what would be convincing to me.
I don’t claim to have all the answers. There are a ton of questions that I still have. I am excited about these questions. Where did we come from? I don’t know. Is the big bang true? I don’t know. Is evolution true? I don’t know. There are so many things I don’t know. I am excited to investigate them. As a Christian, I didn’t really have a need to investigate too much. I used to believe in absolute knowledge from a perfect book written through fallible men by a infallible God. I thought I had all the answers. I might not have understood, but I had all the answers in the KJV Bible. With any question, I would always start with the assumption that the Bible was true and work backward from there. It should be apparent that once you have all the answers, there is no need to ask any more questions or view any more evidence. However, now I can explore. Now I feel free to ask questions. I am an atheist (one that lacks belief in a god). This only speaks to one question about what I don’t believe, nothing else. Do I believe in any of the gods presented through the various holy books? I don’t. I am not convinced. Atheism is not a belief, is not a religion and requires no faith. It is the conclusion that those who claim God is real cannot substantiate their claim. This does not mean that I think believers are stupid or lack intelligence. I’m simply not convinced.

These are the books that I have read since the beginning of April in 2016. I studied for a promotion around the middle of August and finished in December. So, there was a three month gap where I only read Technical manuals and Standard Operating Procedures for my Job. My favorite books are the personal stories.

BOOK LIST:

Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity by John Loftus

Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan Barker

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them) by Bart D. Ehrman

The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails by John Loftus

Hope after Faith: An Ex-Pastor's Journey from Belief to Atheism by Jerry DeWitt

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins

Deconverted: A Journey from Religion to Reason by Seth Andrews

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Life Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds Meaning by Dan Barker

Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew by Bart D. Ehrman

The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern World by Justin Pollard & Howard Reid

Bible Prophecy: Failure or Fulfillment? by Tim Callahan

Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (First book of 2017)

Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality by Darrel Ray

a stolen life a memoir by jaycee dugard

Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

"Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus ever Even Existed At All" by David Fitzgerald

“The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values” by Sam Harris

"Why There is No God" by Armin Navabi

"Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor E. Frankl
“Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion” by Sam Harris

Hollis Evon Ramsey's picture
ATHEIST CRI DE COEUR: To The

ATHEIST CRI DE COEUR: To The Self-Righteous Xtians:

i reject the nonsensical burden of original sin. i'm trying to break this down into the simplest of terms so s not to be misunderstood -- either deliberately or mistakenly. because i don't bear the burden of original sin, i am not in need of the concept of salvation; that means i have no evil from which to be delivered. if that makes me "better" than you, it is only because your mind is telling you so. it is how you choose to translate the concepts of sin and salvation.

but i must admit, in all honesty, that there IS one way in which i believe myself your superior, and that is in both depth and clarity of thought. i have invested much time in study. philosophy and Socrates, in particular, have been trusted guides for which i am ever grateful. through these guides, in addition to a massive amount of reading, thought, and discussion, i have learned over the course of many years both how to think rationally and methodically, and how to formulate questions and answers -- emphasis on the importance of getting the questions correctly expressed.

you, OTOH, rely on convenient catchwords that stimulate desired emotional responses, such words as sin, salvation, saviour, love, lord, and god. you don't study thought-concepts; you react to trigger words. your moral code is not one that is in any sense carefully delineated; it is, rather, based on the concepts of obedience and disobedience, communicated through the weekly ritual of rote repetition. your ten commandments, with their "THOU SHALT NOTs," are based strictly on your obedience to the declarations of a lord whose whims constantly flout the very definitions of the terms.

for instance, "Thou shalt not murder" is a pretty important commandment, wouldn't you say? yet how many murders are committed by your god throughout your so-called "good" book? during the passover alone, this god of yours is personally responsible for the genocide of children innocent of any crime other than that of being first-born and Egyptian. don't try to blame their pharaoh -- twice, he had decided to let those pesky slaves go. BUT twice, your god hardened pharaoh's heart against that idea, thus providing your lord the excuse -- er, i mean justifiable reason -- to commit mass-murder.

turning our inquisition to the devil -- how many people is the "evil" devil responsible for killing in the bible? answer = 10 -- Job's first batch of children. and that was just to prove to Job that the lord was -omnipotent, that Job should be wary of it. note that the devil did not do this slaying voluntarily. no, his lord ordered it of him.

now, let's turn our inquisitive gaze to the U.S. Bill of Rights, i.e., the first ten amendments to the secular U.S. Constitution. i like to refer to them as the "THEY SHALT NOTs" because they carefully delineate the protections that We the People have in perpetuity FROM our secular government. they are not commandments that we must obey OR ELSE; they are rules by which the secular government is constrained from acting against its citizens. to ensure their adherence, we have courts of law, up to and including a Supreme Court, whose duties lie in careful interpretation of these rules so that our country may function fairly for every single citizen. god's "love" is completely unnecessary. we don't have to rely on spurious whim for secular justice.

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Nerdy Keith's picture
Hi I'm new to the Atheist

Hi I'm new to the Atheist Republic forum, but have been following the Twitter page for quite some time.

I was raised Catholic. Rejected it by the age of 18. I could go on forever about the reasons why I rejected it, so I’ll give you the short version. At first it was due to the homophobia and misogyny of the bible and the Catholic Church itself. Even before I came to terms with my sexuality, I had this grievance with all of Christianity. But there is also the unreasonable list off all the things you must do to not only get into heaven but to be considered a Christian (and what a Christian actually means these days is still open for debate). It almost seems like they are trying to sell an idea of morals. But its not morals based on doing the right thing because it’s the right thing. But doing the right thing based on a bribe or fear of torture. Many atheists go as far as to describe the Christian God as an almost mafia boss style character. That to me is not true morality and it is certainly not compelling at all. Obviously the high level of mythology infused into this religion, was also a very significant factor in convincing me it’s not for me.

So most of my life I tended to self identify as an atheist. Even went as far as to have myself formally defected from the baptismal register to make a point. For some reason they don’t let you do that any more.

Atheism certainly is a great ailment for Catholic guilt I can tell you. However I went through a brief time in my life when I doubted my doubt. I started to question myself by asking “Am I too being narrow minded and too assuming to be correct about such notions?”. So I started reading up on deism a lot. It seems that a lot of people don’t really understand deism. Which is a shame, because it is a great alternative to organised religion. In many ways (apart from the obvious) deism and atheism can be very similar in regard to how we embrace reason and how we look at organised religion etc. In fact if you read any of the philosophical texts written by deists, they really aren’t that much different than those written by atheists.

Eventually I arrived back at my post-Catholic conclusion. While deism is interesting, while there is noting going against it, there is nothing going in it's favour either. I will still read texts by deists and can see myself being very open to many deistic ideas. But the only thing I can call myself with complete honesty is an agnostic-atheist.

Cognostic's picture
Living in the small town of

Living in the small town of Pratt Kansas as a teen who was sent there from California to avoid being arrested for various crimes, I found Jesus. I became a "Jesus People." I roamed about the mid-west with a small church group, testifying and witnessing. I went to revival meetings and sang and devoted my life to Christ. I was happy. Then it happened! I decided to become a preacher.

What better way to learn about religion than to visit all the churches in town? To really discover what Jesus was all about. I went to the Mormons, the Baptists, The Catholics, The Church of Christ, The Southern Baptist Church, Assemblies of God, the Friends Church, and someplace along the path I realized it was all bullshit!

If you want a faster way to become an atheist than actually sitting down and reading the bible, try going to every church in your town. If you really want to see the hypocrisy of the religious and the contradictions of the bible exposed try attending a different church every weekend for a couple of months. I realized that I was a complete hypocrite playing the "I am more pious than you game." It was always the Church up the street that was going to hell for not being true Christians or following a false teaching. It was always the Church you were in that had the correct interpretation of the scripture. It was all fantasy and BS.

At the age of 17, I was no longer religious.

Typhoon's picture
I was born atheist. Just like

I was born atheist. Just like everyone else.

End of story...

Tin-Man's picture
@Typhoon

@Typhoon

ZING! Nailed it, dude!

Doran's picture
I was originally a christian

I was originally a christian when I went through a religious school where I was subject to a lot of verbal abuse from both teachers and fellow students and I was beaten up a few times. The main reason why I was so hated at that school was that I asked questions that people didn't want to or cannot answer. It got to the point where I became my own worst enemy, agreeing with my bullies that it was my fault and that god hated me. It wasn't until high school where I found out I was on the autistic spectrum and no I was not at fault for how I was treated that I began the slow trek to rational thought. I had people who were willing to answer my questions rather than tell me I was too stupid to ask these questions or to just shut up. People were willing to challenge my indoctrinated "facts" with actual evidence and eventually I came to the realization that there is no god. I am still angry at that school yes, but I have come to terms with what has happened and moved on.

arakish's picture
Dear Fellow Doubters,

Dear Fellow Doubters,

I posted once on these forums that my story was too long to put into a single post.

However, I am writing it up here, in the attempt to keep it somewhat short.

A long time ago, in a state far, far away...

If you knew where a lightning bolt was going to strike, would that make dealing with its aftermath easier to deal with?

For our eighteenth wedding anniversary, I decided to take my wife and twin daughters on a two week long vacation along the Skyline and Blue Ridge Parkway. Our twin daughters were so identical they had the same exact heterochromia: a brown right eye and blue left eye. Funny thing was that both my wife and I had brown eyes. However, we had the genes for blue eyes from our fathers. Both of our mothers had brown eyes. Both our fathers had blue eyes. Interesting the way natural selection of the genes can work.

Let’s step back further into the past, and I'll try me best to keep it short.

I was born at Key West Naval Air Station. Me dad used to tease the hell out of me by telling me I was born closer to Cuba than the mainland US. It was not until I was four years old when I used a map from one of me dad’s National Geographic magazines that I found out he was correct. According to that map, me birthplace was only 88 miles from Cuba, but a whopping 122 miles from the mainland. After I had told this to me dad and mom, they both knew I was exceptionally curious. When I turned five years old, me mom gave me a book by Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood’s End. She gave me one month to read the book and write a report about it. What kind of mother tortures her child thusly?

In actuality, I loved that story and wrote a ten page report. Even wished I had a copy so I can re-read it since I have not read it in over four decades. Two months later, Star Trek: The Original Series premiered on television. Thus, I was forever hooked on science fiction AND science.

Although my parents allowed me to pursue whatsoever my curiosity led me to discover, me mom also restricted that pursuit by forcing me to attend church. Even at a very young age, I was asking questions about the Bible that no one could ever answer to my satisfaction. In fact, until I was finally psychologically terrorized into becoming a believer and getting saved, me mom was forced to switch churches almost every year. Twice in one year. Thus, I caved in and became a believer, forsaking my constant skepticism.

The questions that got me ostracized?
o Why should anyone cede to religion the right to tell us what is good and what is bad?
o Why should anyone cede to religion the right to tell us what we can and cannot think?
o Why would any god be so stupid as to create such a huge universe for only one insignificant species?
o What if there is another species, not human, but just as advanced as we are, does this god place the same bible onto them?
There were more questions, but I feel you can get the overall gist of what I was asking and got ostracized for. In less than three years, I stopped going to any church because I realized the ultimate message of all Christendom is:

You shall do this and do that
Or you shall die and burn in Hell forever.

OR

You are condemned to Hell forever
Unless you do as you are told.

For me, this was the most hateful, spiteful, and malignant message any tyrant can force onto any person. Basically, Christians all use the same psychological terrorism tactics, especially to indoctrinate children. It would not be for another three years before I got free from the religious yoke by joining the US Navy (mainly by getting away from the Bible Belt).

However, I was still not totally free. They still had Chaplains in the military who would always try to force us to attend their church meetings. But I did have the freedom to refuse (Thank god ;P). I spent a little less than two years in the Navy before suffering an accident that got me medically discharged.

I returned home, bought a large chunk of land, had a house built, and met my SoulMate within a year. In the next two years, I started mine own landscape architect business and became a father. Then spent the most wonderful eighteen years to ever exist.

Here I am cutting out some of the eighteen years, but know that they were the most wonderful eighteen years any person could have in their life.

During our vacation for our eighteenth anniversary, we were sightseeing on a back mountain road. A blind curve. A speeding drunk driver. Lightning strikes.

Our car was knocked over the edge to tumble down the mountainside. It was not for another sixteen days before I awoke in a hospital. Complete disorientation. From that first waking, all I can remember is seeing a blob of liquid glass, a spider web, and a motion of white.

The blob of liquid glass was an IV bag. The spider web was my entire body being in traction. The motion of white was a nurse entering the room to sedate me into a comatose state.

After that first waking, it was another five days (as I was told) before anyone attempted communication with me. All I could ask was, "Where are my wife and daughters?"

All total, I spent sixteen days in a coma due to a severe head injury, then another fourteen days in an induced comatose state. It seemed I had suffered from over seventy bones being broke: me back was broken in four places, several ribs were broken, pelvic bone was broken in two, both legs suffered multiple breaks, both arms suffered several breaks, and the worst one of all, my skull was literally broken in half.

It was the broken skull which caused the most damage. I was told that I would suffer some brain damage. Fortunately, as the doctors told me, since my skull was literally broken in half, they did not need to perform any skull surgery since it could expand with the brain swelling.

"Where are my wife and daughters?" was my only response.

After another fourteen days, when the doctors felt I could handle the psychological trauma without succumbing to death, they informed me that I was the sole survivor.

First, my body was shattered.

Then, my soul was shattered.

In fact, when I later attended college to go for my Master's and Doctorate, I wrote a Research Paper, titled, "Soul Shatter: The Hidden Effects of Severe Psychological Trauma," on this event and the psychological nightmares I suffered from this incident. The first sentence about the lightning strike above was the opening sentence to this paper. It was during my research that I discovered that the psychologist, psychiatrist, and clinicians all mis-diagnosed me as having Major Depressive Disorder, instead of the truer Major Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Additionally, I discovered, at the time of the writing, that about 84% of all PTSD sufferers were mis-diagnosed. And this did nothing but to further the disorder due to receiving the wrong forms of counseling and medications. Thus, from writing that Research Paper, although it did bring the nightmares back, it also gave the knowledge I needed to combat the disorder. Yes, PTSD is something someone can suffer from for days, months, years, even a lifetime (RMF Runyan, Soul Shatter: The Hidden Effects of Severe Psychological Trauma).

Many of you may wonder if I ever had another relationship. The answer is, Yes. A few. And, it was quite a few years before I tried. However, because the ages of the ladies I had failed relationships with, they could never truly understand what I had gone through. Most ladies at that age in my life still wanted to be "The Number One" in a man's heart. They could never understand that my wife was my SoulMate. A part of my heart would always be hers, no matter what. Additionally, I still suffer from having half my soul lost with her death. I am now a man with only half a soul and half a heart. That is if souls actually exist. But it is the best terminology I know of to describe me.

The only person who seemed to understand was a lady who was (gasp) eighteen years younger than I. She was so completely understanding in knowing that my wife and daughters would always be in my heart. However, what ended up driving us apart was the "generation gap." She loved rap music. I think they call it hip hop now, but I shall always call it "rap" music because, in my opinion, you can add a "C" and get exactly what it was. I despise rap music with a loathsome passion. The only music I truly love is Classical, Classic Rock, any cool-groovy jazz, some rockabilly country. Today, about the only music I listen to is Classical/Instrumental and Jazz. Rarely do I listen to any other stuff. BTW: For me, Classical/Instrumental music also includes some movie soundtracks like Tron: Legacy, all three LOTR movies, etc.

In the almost two decades after my family's murder, and yes, I call it murder, I have suffered with the inability to re-establish myself in society at large. The best I could do was spending about the last six years completing my Master's and going for a Doctorate. While waiting for candidacy to be approved, I got a job. However, I lost that job due to the fact that I did not want a certain customer coming into the store with a loaded gun on third shift while I was alone.

How did I know the gun was loaded? Since he would not let me confirm it was NOT loaded, I had to go on the assumption that it WAS loaded.

Why did I not want him coming into the store with a loaded gun? If I were to use a euphemism to describe him, he was the epitome of a skin-head nazi redneck. If you were to see him walking up your driveway, you would rather shoot him first, ask questions later. He was THAT "evil, wicked, mean, and nasty" in appearance.

Due to losing this job, I spent all my reserves before I could find another job and ended up in a rescue mission. I chose the rescue mission because it was the only "homeless shelter" in the city that had a web presence. I spent ten months there until I was kicked out for a "six month check out" due to Disobedience. I spent the next five days camping in the woods, but I also had an "outreach program" that allowed me to use their Wi-Fi and charge my phone and notebook computer. On the third day, I got an email from my old college mentor telling my candidacies had been approved and my paper may eventually be published. He also sent me a link to my other mentor at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. Thus, not only did I get my Master's (Volcanology) and Doctorate (Global Climatology) degrees, I also had a job waiting for me.

Thankfully, I have some family who still cares. They got me on a bus to Wyoming and an apartment for a month.

Now, I am doing much better.

And I have a job where I do not have to spend hours dealing with many, many other persons. It is a job I only work for three days (all 72 hours) out of the week.

Here is a Dropbox link (https://www.dropbox.com/s/729uj2hvumqimqw/WoodardFinalTreatise.pdf?dl=0) to the PDF of a letter I sent to the Durham Rescue Mission. Specifically to the Counselor that eventually got me kicked out because I refused to bow and kneel to the worshiping of their god (the Disobedience thing). Also, please realize that I wrote this letter in anger in one sitting. It may not seem to be fully coherent.

Thank you for your valuable time.

RMF Runyan

Grinseed's picture
I've written "why I am an

I've written "why I am an atheist" stories too many times so want to keep this short and simple, keep in mind the brevity will leave out a lot.

Its the usual story, nice christian boy, after nearly decade of belief and church community service, decides bible studies are a bit dull, wants to further explore relationship with monotheistic god of Abraham, reads the entire book god is said to have authored (and there are still christians that still haven't read the thing in its entirety) and several other books on biblical and bible history and after some very difficult realisations comes to the conclusion that none of it can be true.

Fast track forty years later and after reading hundreds of books on history and science and more biblical studies I still don't believe any of it but I am so interested, endlessly fascinated in how this unbelievable Abrahamic faith has spawned three different world religions and forged the history of a greater part of this poor bloody planet.

I still read my bible everyday, its still a greatly interesting document, brilliantly written in some places and poorly in others and still I find more reasons not to believe in any religion associated with it.

That's why.

Pakana's picture
Hi! I'm new here, but not new

Hi! I'm new here, but not new to atheism.

Here's a too-long rant about my story.

I was born and raised in a Lutheran household, where no one really cared about religion, apart from the occasional Christmas church service and the mandatory christening and confirmation parties. The only people that ever mentioned any god to me were my grandma and my R.E. teachers. (Oh yes, we have mandatory religious studies in school.) Still, religion was always in the air, somehow, and it was expected of me to go through the Lutheran rites and not to question anything.

Religion meant community to me: I went to after-school clubs at my church, took part in religious summer camps, and I sang religious songs in a choir at my church. I also remember praying to the Christian God each night before bed all the way into my early twenties. Prayers were like mantras to me, really. Selfish ones at that. I wished for everything to go my way, I prayed for solutions to all of my problems, and in the last sentence/thought I also threw out a "Ohandblessmyfamilyandmakesurethey'reokay,thanks". So I would admit that back then I was merely engaging in a practice of wishful thinking and a weird form of meditation, and nothing else. My religion was just for me me me, to benefit me and for me to get over my insignificant struggles. I didn't know or care about altruism. My God was for me.

But in short: I believed in God.

I wish I could remember when I started seeing the light and stepping out of my religious fog. In a way I always doubted it all. I didn't believe the stories I was told. The Bible always felt like a fantasy story book to me. And the kids that were reaaally openly religious always seemed like the biggest jerks in my eyes, so I figured I didn't want to be like them. But I was a good girl, so I never asked questions, never raised alarms, never said out loud how it all sounded like utter bullpoop to me. And eventually, I went to the university, I started reading more books that weren't assigned to me, I listened to people's diverse views, I stopped praying, and then, fast-forward to my early 30s, I found Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins, and I couldn't understand why not all people saw the same light these great men helped me see.

This year, I officially quit my church, and I will no longer pay taxes to support the Lutheran religion.
This year, I also decided to voice my opinion about religions as often and as constructively as possible.

I wish to talk about how religion affects people, and in my small way, I wish to help. And I also don't wish to be alone in my journey anymore. I still find it difficult to talk to people about religion. Not because I don't know what to say, but because there is still a big tabu sign posted on religious topics. But I find that the more you talk about the topics you shouldn't talk about, the less they remain as tabu and the more light is shined on the correct issues that we all should be concerned about.

I became an atheist and an anti-theist because I care about people and the truth.

Thanks for reading this rant. And I hope to have some good conversations on this forum.

Big George's picture
That's a great story Pakana.

That's a great story Pakana. I enjoyed reading it.

I have nothing but respect for people who were brought up with religion but then somehow figured it out for themselves that it is all just a big lie.

It must be particularly hard when your family, friends, community (the people you love most in the world) all hold religious beliefs because when you reject those beliefs you are basically saying, at best, that you think they are mistaken, or, at worst, they are kinda stupid !

Of course, every religion knows that the younger they can indoctrinate a child the more chance they have of holding them to their doctrine for life. That's why you shouldn't be too hard on your family/friends, it is very hard to break free and not everyone is strong enough to do it.

I consider myself lucky that I was brought up without any religion. My father was an atheist. Not that I even knew what that meant back then. He never spoke about it. Religion was just never a topic of conversation at home. I had never been to church. I did learn a little about religion at school I suppose and I would have heard reference to God on television etc (it is impossible to avoid it all together unless you live on a remote island) and I suppose I would have asked my Dad a question or two. He explained that some people believed in God and some didn't. When prompted he told me he didn't. Most boys that age look up to their fathers and I was no exception. What was good enough for him was good enough for me. I was a disbeliever from that day and I didn't really give it another thought.

It wasn't until I went to college and met and fell in love with a girl who had been brought up catholic that religion ever crossed my mind. Luckily for me she was real smart and had rejected her religion. We are still together over 30 years later.

It did lead to some funny moments actually. I had never been in a church for example until I was about 20. I had never been to a wedding or a funeral let alone any form of worship. I didn't even know that different religions had different churches, I imagined they were all the same !

Anyhow, over the years I have read a lot and learned a lot. I probably know far more about religion now than the average believer. About ten years ago I began studying different religions (from an atheist background) everything I saw & read and everything I see around me just convinces me more that my dad was right. I'm an atheist and proud to be one.

Tin-Man's picture
@Pakana and Big George

@Pakana and Big George

Welcome to the site, Pakana. Great having you here, and thank you for sharing your story. (Thank you for sharing, too, George.) Like George said, it is tough breaking away when you still have family and friends who are still deeply involved in religion. It takes a great deal of courage. It was only after my Mom died earlier this year that I finally broke away completely. Still, once those blinders come off, it is almost impossible to put them back on and see things as you once did. Anyway, just wanted to say "hello" real quick after reading your post. Gonna head back out and continue my rounds in the forum. Look forward to seeing you in other discussions.

Pakana's picture
Thank you, Tin-man and Big

Thank you, Tin-man and Big George! And hello!

I suppose I forgot to reveal that I'm from Finland, which, if you know anything about Nordic countries, isn't the most religious country/area out there. So luckily, me being an atheist isn't a huge deal. It's just surprisingly odd (and a lot sad) that no one here is really all that vocal about how religion is basically useless, and how we could get rid of our Lutheran church entirely and make Finland even better. Perhaps it's just my view on things, but I still feel unable to express myself without getting odd glances.

My closest family members know that I'm an atheist, and they've told me they don't really care what I believe in, but that they also don't want to talk about it all. None of them ever go to church, pray, or talk about anything religious, ever. Religion is a really private thing in Finland, and I suppose that's all fine and dandy, but I actually enjoy talking about it all, and thus, I'm here, on this forum. So I very much look forward to spending some quality time here. :)

DarkkWolfe's picture
I used to be a christian. It

I used to be a christian. It was (and largely still is) the foundation of my entire family. If I had to describe the denomination it would be "hippie church." Lots of jesus love, worship and praise, very little fire and brimstone, and a healthy dash of speaking in tongues and prophesying.

My father was a pastor. His father was a pastor. My mother was a pastor's daughter, my grandfather was a missionary. My great uncle, great aunt, aunt, and several cousins are all missionaries. My brother was a youth pastor for many years.

The entire social structure of my family revolved around church. Every weekend we would either be involved in meetings with elders (usually informal BBQs), or having church members over to our house, often to "minister" to them. As a child, I can recall being very inquisitive about god. I asked questions about hell and heaven and I can remember never being satisfied by the answers. Specifically, I remember I always thought god was terrifying and that Jesus was an asshole (he was just mean to everyone!). And then I remember feeling guilty for thinking that. I believed there must be something wrong with me, since my entire family was "lost in love with Jesus." One thing I do remember was how my father used to wax eloquent on how amazing heaven would be and how we would all have important work for god. I actually used to wonder why we had to bother with this life, since in heaven we got to do important work AND we got super powers.

So I spent my early adolescence trying to connect with god. I would pray earnestly, trying to hear his voice. I would read scripture seeking to hear him speak to me that way. I would pray for the gift of the holy spirit (and the evidence of speaking in tongues). Despite my relatively non-judgemental denomination, I still recall being terrified of hell and that made up much of my motivation for being "right with god." Not to mention, I had been taught to believe that the right of every spirit-filled believer was a "close personal relationship with Jesus Christ" where he would actually speak to you. And if I got to ask my questions of god himself and hear the answers? Yeah, I wasn't gonna miss out on that.

I recall one time, I was at a christian camp (I think it was 7th grade), and one of the stated goals of the camp leaders was to help anyone who wanted to speak in tongues to do so through prayer. So there were messages about speaking in tongues. What it meant, how to do it, etc. After the messages, everyone would sing emotional worship songs, and then form up into long prayer lines. The staff would move down each line, praying for each child in turn. Trying to help them "receive the gift of the holy spirit." As I stood in that line, I remember telling god (as I witness what seemed to me like a bunch of pre-teens submitting to peer pressure and blabbing nonsense), "God, if you really want me to connect with you and speak in tongues, you're gonna have to do it. I'll open my mouth, but then YOU are gonna have to make all the sound come out, because I won't do it for you."

He didn't. And I never did speak in tongues.

Not many years later, my mother died suddenly from cancer (within just a few weeks) despite countless thousands of our church family and extended family praying for her recovery. My world was shattered. I retained my faith and survived by consoling myself that I would see mom again in heaven. I wished I could go right then. I had just turned 14.

My father remarried the following year, and I tried to assimilate into a blended family. I had been homeschooled for most of my life (not in the weird/creepy fundamentalist way, but there were some holes in my education for sure) and I continued that for the year following mom's death. When I was 15, I decided that I was ready for college, so I took the high school equivalency examination and moved on to community college.

There I discovered people that actually believed in evolution! Ancient earth! No God! This was all bizarre and terrifying to a biblical literalist/young earth creationist. I studied just enough to learn there was a thing called "creation science" and that smart (and more importantly, faithful) people disagreed with all this evolution nonsense. And so I put the intellectual conflict behind me, as there was no way I could challenge my faith at that time. I was just too fragile.

My journal entries from that time of my life are rife with despair. I reached out to god and only got silence. The times I "heard" him I was never certain it wasn't just my own subconscious voice regurgitating scripture back at me. Sometimes I convinced myself it was him, but most of the time, I couldn't manage to believe it. I thought there was really something wrong with me. Why couldn't I connect with God? The bible said "ask, seek, knock" didn't it? It said he would be faithful, it said he wanted desperately to live in my heart and connect with me didn't it?? Why wouldn't he talk to me? Why couldn't I hear his voice and feel his presence?

I anguished over this. For decades. I kept it secret. Hid the fact that my relationship with god didn't seem to mirror that of my family or my peers. I just felt so embarrassed over my own inadequacy. I knew it couldn't be god's fault. I knew that it was my own character flaws that kept me from seeing just how amazing jesus was (I still thought he was a jerk deep down). I pulled away from the church and just hid my flawed spiritual life on the back burner and tried to just live, but I always felt I was missing out, and I always wondered why I needed to bother with this silly mundane life when heaven awaited me the moment I died. I spent years in depression.

And then it happened. I was sharing my angish with a close friend over my uncertainty of being saved. I worried aloud about hell despite all my efforts to connect with god. She gave me a book that deconstructed the doctrine of hell. It was written by christians, but their view on what the scriptures said about hell was radically different than anything I'd encountered. They went back to the original languages and explained the words jesus was actually using, and they explained that most of the early church fathers didn't hold with the doctrine of hell, but were actually universalists (more or less). This was shocking. This was revolutionary! Here it was in black and white, verse by verse, a totally plausible argument for a different interpretation of scripture.

And just like that, I dismissed hell and all the fear I'd held for so many years.

Little did I know, that the loss of that fear would lead to a freedom to question my faith that I'd never before imagined. I began to honestly look at scripture and wonder, "If the hell doctrine arose from a mis-interpretation, what else could be wrong?" Why, indeed, did the bible have to be taken literally at all?

I'd like to claim that my superior rationality and study of scripture and the facts of nature led me to atheism, but that wouldn't be honest.

What finally led me to entertain the idea of agnosticism/atheism was the fact that in my nearly three decades of trying to talk to god, he'd never bothered to speak back. Once my fear of hell had disappeared and granted me the freedom to question things, I asked the question, "If god loves me and wants a relationship with me, why hasn't he answered me once in 27 years?"

And then I started to read. I read The God Delusion. I read Bart Ehrman. I watched debates on YouTube. I tried to find support for god. I wanted him to be there. I wanted heaven (the only thing in my life I'd ever really LIVED for) to be real. I thought I needed it to be real. I wanted to see my mother again someday. I remained unconvinced one way or the other for several years. I thought the existence of god simply couldn't be known.

And then I read Dan Barker's book "Godless." That pretty much did it for me. I realized that while I remained agnostic in the sense that I couldn't disprove god, I felt confident that Yahweh, specifically, was a myth. The last vestiges of my faith sluffed off like molted skin. I felt both free and lost at the same time. Joyful and terrified and deeply sad. What a gain! But what a loss. Relationship with god, gone. Eternity and reunion with my mother, gone.

Yet...I felt a growing joy in reality. Maybe for the first time in my life. I could actually understand the world around me! I could be certain of what was true based on evidence! Finally, I could live my life for me, not for the hope and promise of a distant god.

Pakana's picture
Hi, DarkkWolfe.

Hi, DarkkWolfe.

I enjoyed reading your story, thanks for sharing. Quick question: Did your religion actually tell you which superpowers you'd get in heaven?

Also, sorry to hear about your mother.

DarkkWolfe's picture
Huh. I don't know that I ever

Huh. I don't know that I ever got a full list of superpowers. heh. I should ask my dad. Pretty sure we were supposed to be more bad-ass than the angels, so I figured invisibility, flight, super strength and speed, maybe teleportation?

Fishy1's picture
Because I think for myself.

Because I think for myself.

I am completely open minded though. I'd become a Christian this very moment if anyone could show me indisputable scientific evidence that any of that religious nonsense was true, I just don't have any reason to believe that it is.

Tin-Man's picture
@Fishy Re: If a god was

@Fishy Re: If a god was proven

Consider this: If a god were to be proven to the world without any doubt, that would pretty much take the whole "atheist" title away. Basically, at that point, we (Mankind as a whole) would all believe god existed, right? But just because you believe, does not necessarily mean you HAVE TO BE religious. You can still choose to do your own thing. Speaking for myself, even IF the god depicted in the bible (for example) were absolutely, totally, no doubt, two hundred percent proven to be true and real, I would still never worship him/it. But, as I've said before, that's just me.

Keith's picture
I grew up Catholic, my mom

I grew up Catholic, my mom very interested in saints (actual people), my father, a history buff, informed me of all the lies and corruption the church was culpable of. The stories and narrative never added up for me. At my confirmation I remember thinking "this is BS". Praying when things got hard felt natural, but logically pointless. By 8th grade I knew enough about history, biology, etc, to say for certain religion is complete BS. I don't think being atheist is so.much about saying definitively there's no higher form of intelligence somewhere, but rather calling bullshit on religion, which can quite easily be proven false.

Metaphysick's picture
My mother was raised as

My mother was raised as Baptist and my father was raised as a Presbyterian. Naturally, my parents raised me to believe in God as their parents did with them, my mother in particular. In my early days I can remember going to Sunday school with my paternal grandparents, my parents felt that it was important I go to church despite the fact that they hardly went themselves. I don't remember much besides the fact that I hated it. I would much rather spend my time playing and watching cartoons than be stuck in boring church. Despite my dislike of church I was fond of the idea of God and Jesus. I remember always saying my prayers before bed with my mother. I grew in setting in which I was surrounded by faith. being read bible stories at night, children's bibles the whole works. My maternal grandfather was a deacon and when I would visit that set of grandparents I'd be subjected to even stricter routine of church services. Not to mention multitudes of vacation bible schools during the summers. On top of that I ended up going to a Christian private school so to me believing in God was the most natural thing in the world.

Luckily however, my mother was keen to stoke my curiosity and learning as well. I was encouraged to read and had children's encyclopedias to go along with the bibles. I had one particular encyclopedia that I used to pour over countless times, so much so that it began to fall apart (it's actually still around here somewhere). Due to this I found myself falling in love with science and loved science class in school which I excelled at, this naturally would come to help me in the process of shaking of religion. According to most, I had an inquisitive mind and I was always asking questions, another thing that helped me. I actually remember one night laying in bed with my mother after saying prayers where she explained to me that the only way to get to heaven was to believe in Jesus and no matter how good I am, if I don't believe in Jesus I won't get to heaven. I remember struggling with how unfair the notion was, and I asked her what would happen to all the people that never heard of Jesus, to which she replied that we Christians had to spread the word to make sure every person knows so that they could go to heaven too. It made sense to a degree but it still left a sour taste in my mouth that the people who hadn't heard would still end up in hell even if they were good people. Another night I asked here what was the point of creating people if he knew that Adam and Eve would sin and create all the bad things in the world. To which she answered with the standard, we humans can't understand God's ways

As time went on, my parents eventually divorced when I was 9 and my mother and I moved to a new house together with her boyfriend and his two daughters. While before I was not subjected to going to Sunday school every Sunday with my parents, my stepfather made my stepsisters go every Sunday, so naturally that means I had to go every Sunday. This I hated even more so, their church was a bit more high strung than the churches of my two sets of grandparents. It took boring to a whole new level. I pretty much ended up going to that church for majority of my teens. I remember that a lot of the stuff that was being said didn't make much sense to me. I concluded however, that this was Satan trying to deceive me so I silenced my objections and went on being a believer. Despite the fact that I was believer in God, I knew I wasn't Christian in the fact that I was "saved" and committed my life to God.

Eventually I left my country to attend university in England. This was the catalyst to my shift. I was put into a position of engaging with people from many different backgrounds and viewpoints. My first real friend that I made over there turned out be gay, this shattered my perspective of homosexuals. He was just a regular guy, so regular that I couldn't even tell that he was until he told me. As a result I became accepting of homosexuals and realized that they're just regular people going about life like everyone else. I met atheists, some of which were assholes when they found out that I believed, but the majority were just cool laid-back folks like I was. I met Muslims, who were the same as me. People raised up within a faith, that identified with it but wasn't adhering to the faith. I think I realized the reality that we were all Human despite our many differences and that we had more in common than we had differences. Most people at least. The girl that I ended dating over there identified herself as a non-believer despite claiming she was Christian (a concept I couldn't exactly wrap my head around at the time). She introduced me to the documentary Zeitgeist, which planted further seeds to question religion. I resisted the questioning though, unlike my younger self. It wasn't until much later after watching the documentary and after that relationship ended I began to open up to questioning. Somehow I found myself being drawn into New Age type ideas due to open-mindedness. I began to be willing to explore different ideas, found myself following idealist pages on facebook. First I had the notion that all faiths were just "saying the same thing" which encouraged me to explore even further. I started to be willing to look at my own beliefs and the more I looked the less things began to add up. I was scared to push further, felt that it was again Satan leading me astray. However, I encountered Aristotle's quote "it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it" and it pushed me on. I concluded that if Christianity was real then my digging deeper would only confirm that. Now, the big thing that kept my doubt in check was the Bible. I was taught from the beginning that the Bible is the most perfect book, God's literal word. All my life I had heard how no one could doubt the validity of the Bible. So I started to look at the Bible. Somehow, I got my hands on a copy of Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus". While reading that book I began to get a real sense of just how fallible the book was, but funny enough it wasn't until I encountered a meme on the internet one night that completely tore the cloak of infallibility apart. The meme questioned how could the Sun have been made on the 4th day. All my keen appreciation of Science came back to me in that moment and I was downright embarrassed that I had missed that point during all those years. My faith crumbled that night and I knew that I could not believe any of it anymore. All of the things that didn't make sense to me couldn't, because it was nonsense.

After that, I explored further into Atheist thought reading different nonbeliever authors. Despite, my apprehension of the term it wasn't long before I concluded that I was indeed Atheist. Beyond that I was able to discover Secular Humanism, a world view that I could get behind. Now, I'm encouraged to feed my curiosity again and investigate philosophy, science and whatever manner of thought I'd like without having to worry about it being in conflict with God. I can live without fear and guilt. I can live to help make the world a better place for myself and all of humanity. So there's my story, thank you for reading it.

Maria_T's picture
As a starter I was, probably

As a starter I was, probably like most of you atheists and other free thinkers, baptized, but not because my parents were religious, but because a friend of my mother convinced her it would look bad not to do it in such a small and devout town. And she was right, and I know it from experience, because there were rumors that two new kids in town weren’t baptized and people already disliked them for that and for their mother not being married in a church ceremony (in fact at that time, my parents had a church wedding in secret because they were afraid people would find out they weren’t even married by the church and they and my mom’s friend had convinced the priest to baptize me without even being married). So, yeah, I come from a very religious small town, and even my mother and I attended church for little more than a year there because her friend asked her to help her with sunday school and to organize a very important religious event when she was sick, so my mom had to be integrated because it involved more people. But my own family wasn’t very religious - my father was an atheist and my mother was spiritual but wasn’t religious at all for most of my childhood and adolescence, and also for most of it we didn’t attend church except sporadically on christmas because my mom liked the tradition (now she doesn’t even do that). So this is my experience with church: about an year of stupidity, and a few more sporadic events (weddings, christmas, etc.). As for me, I never had a strong belief in god or Jesus as the son of god and his resurrection (I think the correct term to use here would be agnostic), and didn’t even think about it much until I was about 10 years old. We also didn’t discuss this topics at home much. Then, one day I woke up and was sure of my disbelief - after reflecting on it for a while of course. As I grew up I realized I was an “atheist”, and that happened when I was 11 or 12 years old. I didn’t have much trouble with coming out as an atheist, although my parents, especially my mother, wanted to make sure I knew what I was talking about when I criticized religion. The questions they asked me, as I was seeking an answer, made me grow more into my atheism, and become a more informed atheist. Later I learned that my dad was an atheist too (although I knew he wasn’t religious already), but not my mother (the best term here is “pantheist”), although she wasn’t religious either… Later, when I was starting high school I considered strong atheism for a while, then I identified as an agnostic atheist (between 5 and 6 in the dawkins scale that goes up to 7) towards the end and when I started college (in a different program than the one I am enrolled now and I’m gonna end up majoring in). Then, I was a militant atheist for a while, although still an agnostic atheist. I’ve written many texts about atheism and related topics like evolutionary science and creationism - yes, including addressing claims that stated evolution doesn’t bring information into the genome, therefore god must have done it, which isn’t true because there are mechanisms that do bring information into the gnome, including gene duplication. I’ve written these texts in my blogspot blogs and google page [which aren’t in english so, I won’t bother to link to these pages], on tumblr in my previous blogs about atheism and even in this last blog. I also wrote about the relationship between mental health and religion (and found religion didn’t always had positive effects), as well as about the relationship between cognitive functioning and cognitive abilities and atheism/ religion, including posts in which I stated studies found a positive correlation between atheism and IQ of 0.6, as well as posts where I based my text on a study that found atheists think more rationally and have what is called a “rational brain”, and stated religious people were more on the emotional side. I’ve also exposed the genetic and environmental influences on religion, spirituality and atheism - tendency to believe is genetic, but religion has to do with culture and upbringing. So I’ve done my part on discussing the topic from an intellectual perspective, and now I’m probably one of the most laid back atheists in the entire world and now I mostly joke about it while stating some truths, and use my knowledge on the topics of atheism and related from time to time.
I’m in my senior year of college and I’m a psychology major with some professional training in clinical psychology and neuropsychology, and I would say I’m now a somewhat mature and adult atheist that is getting tired of refuting the same old tired religious arguments - including arguments about mental health and religion, and including creationist arguments. But there’s one thing I won’t tolerate and that is intellectual fraud - asserting you’re something you’re not just to look cool and intellectually credible - such as people saying they’re deists when they’re in fact theists (and possibly christian theists) and that they’re moderates when they’re fanatics… But then their actions won’t be in accordance with their words and if you’re that person, you’ll be discovered quickly.
So this was my journey into my atheism, I hope I managed to be enlightening.

P.S.: When this was written I was in my senior yer, but now I'm studying forensic science (biology and chemistry branch) for a post-graduate diploma

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
Love your bio.

Love your bio.

Maria_T's picture
This is a really good idea,

This is a really good idea, for people to share and read about different experiences...

Wolfgang666's picture
I have been an Atheist since

I have been an Atheist since I was 8 years old. Before that I only believed in heaven because my mom told me that you were given whatever you want when you die. I thought I could live in my own world and be a superhero. One day I told my mom that I thought that the Bible was absurd and so she took me to talk to a priest. He couldn't convince me and my mom is kind of a passive hippie so she never pressed it after that. I have been an Atheist ever since.

InvisiblePinkUnicorn's picture
I've been an atheist for as

I've been an atheist for as long as I can remember. Even at my youngest point, sitting in church with my grandmother, none of it made sense. I was lucky enough to not be made to attend any such services before eight or nine years old. I'd already learned the truth: All those fairy tales that made childhood so magical, you know, Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, God/Jesus, and the Care Bears were just that, stories.

Now, the confusing bit was why my adult parents (well, my mother, my father's religion is quite newly found in the last several years, though I can't confess to know why,) and grandparents so insisted that "God" was there when they, themselves, had already discredited the others. Sure, there's that big black book with the ancient writings of the original oppressors, but, I mean, this was the 80s... The 1980s... we should have all moved out of the Dark Ages of ignorance and blindly following imaginary figures.

The Earth is round, the Universe is flat (last I checked, that tends to be an ever changing concept,) and there are no gods. These things call to me because they make sense. Rational thinking should always result in the same answer: Science! Thunder isn't God bowling, stars don't fall out of the sky, and when we die, all we've left to do is fertilize the ground (thank you Dawkins.)

By the age of ten, I thought of praying to a god as useful as tossing a coin into the fountain at the mall and making a wish... both yielded identical results; no Mustang for my birthday, no best selling novel, and I'm STILL not married to Megan Fox, Mila Kunis, or Keira Knightley (the names might have been different when I was a kid, but, same concept.) Still hoping on that novel, though... that involves writing it and I just haven't gotten around to it. Maybe I'll pray some more.

tetrapod's picture
I've always questioned

I've always questioned everything. Grieving in my culture is dictated by some 'table' that calls for wearing certain colors for a predetermined time. I asked why and never got a straight answer. My questions ultimately were fielded by either 'god says so' or 'the lord works in mysterious ways'
I am glad to see things clearly

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Sapporo's picture
I came to realize that my

I came to realize that my disgust (or at least doubt) about the violent god of the Abrahamic religions couldn't be due to my sense of morality originating from that god. Ultimately I decided that if an all-powerful god has a warped sense of justice, I can never be sure of doing the right thing (in terms of my personal salvation) except by following my own standard. My conclusion is that a reasonable being would not condemn you for honest beliefs.

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