If you'd like to explain how it is that you became an atheist despite all the odds against such an occurance, we'd love to hear it.
My road to atheism goes like this, in a nutshell:
I was raised as a Southern Baptist, got "born again", baptised, and was, for several years, "on fire for God". My main concern was life after death, and I figured, since I'd been told so all of my life, that without God my life after death would be eternal agony. I was told that I'd burn in Hell forever and ever if I didn't accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour. So I did, and it felt wonderful - for a while.
But at school, I had friends who were of other denominations, and who'd been told, like myself, that their particular denomination was "the One True Religion". So I began to wonder, and to ask those who were supposed to know, how I could be sure that my religion was the True One. I didn't get very good answers, so I kept asking until I was sure that no one I had personal access to had any idea what they were talking about. So I started reading books on every aspect of the supernatural and religion, including the Bible, which I read from cover to cover because I'd been told it was the best way to get the answers I sought. My first full reading, cover to cover, of the Bible was enough to nullify my faith in Christianity (I've read it twice more all the way through since then). This study went on for many years, but I was also reading many books about the scientific viewpoint. I eventually got around to philosophy and critical thinking, which brought me to Ockam's razor. That put the final nail in the coffin of my faith, because it seemed obvious to me that a universe without any supernatural realm was simpler than one with such an aspect, considering that no such thing was needed to account for existence. And it also seemed obvious to me that without a supernatural realm, there could be no supernatural entities - no [G]ods, ghosts (Holy or otherwise), goblins, or anything else.
I was born and raised to surf on the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica. I learned to read the newspaper to locate the high surf. I had one of the first wooden long boards on the beach and felt I had found Paradise. The schools didn't care if I attended and apparently my mother didn't either. 7th grade she asked me what time it was and I explained the big hand was on 6 and little hand on 12 and she spun around in such a shock I somehow knew my life on the beach was over. I and 5 of my beach pals were transformed into a boarding school in Beverly Hills. I had to attend Summer school to catch up with my classmates but discovered the vast library of classical writers and often decided not to return home but to stay and read. I began to read Orwell, H.G. Wells, many of t he early sci fi writers and Jules Verne.
My grandfather knew I was a godless kind of person and began to help develop my moral codes to keep me out of trouble. But those writers including Shakespeare took over my life and I found no reason to search for the sky daddy.
The draft from the Korean War removed our beautiful lifeguards and the beach lost much appeal for me and I went to business school. I was shallow to the extreme.
I'm still an addicted reader and still shallow as hell. I did manage to marry and take over a step son and add two girls to the family and did a pretty good job of it. I taught kids to read early so they would leave me alone to read on my own. when they too small to get through a book I sat down one Summer and read Michener's "Hawaii" outloud to them as it was the only way I could get through the damn book on my own. I was amazed that they could follow the story and we got out atlas and kids seemed to follow along. Hot Dog! We had no television but a huge library of books. I passed on my shallowness to my family and we would rather read than eat.
Alas! they finally left! I've extended my reading to the internet. Still godless and still shallow.
You don't sound shallow to me, but perhaps I am not sure what you mean by 'shallow'.
Bits of this also come in another thread.
I was born in UK in 1937 and brought up in the Church of England - a choirboy and all that stuff. One day, I was serving at the altar for a midweek communion service in Holy Trinity [C of E] Church, Stevenage (in the UK) There was no-one in the congregation and the Rev Ted Longford was consecrating the bread and wine so that he could give communion to the old and sick during the day. As usual, he whizzed through the ceremony at a high speed gabble. I was aged about 16 years, and told Ted in the vestry afterwards that I had some serious doubts. He said did I mean about Jesus. I said, 'No, about god'. He advised me to carry on going through the motions and it would all come back to me. I didn't and it didn't.
That was around 1953 and all my adult life I have lived as an atheist. In teaching, as a Head of Year in London and Leeds, I always took assemblies which were secular and refused to take any other sort. However, I did not join the British Humanist Association (www.humanism.org.uk) until 1993, having sent off for their publication 'Funerals without god' and discovering that I was a humanist. I became a humanist ceremony officiant and although I have stopped now, I have taken quite a few baby namings, weddings and same sex affirmations and about 750 funerals.
Now I feel very sure of where I stand. I try to simplify my thinking and my writing sometimes starting from a toad's viewpoint. A dead toad dried in the sun, a squashed rabbit, a dead human in an open coffin - hair neat, glasses on and best suit, slight smile and well embalmed - what is the difference? Dead and gone. When I visited a family to prepare for a funeral, we may or may not get onto this subject. Strange? I only explain where I am coming from if they ask or if the conversation goes that way. Then I say, 'when you're dead you're dead' and I believe that and I am happy with that and have no fear of death - which I really have not.
We only have one chance and we ought to make the most of it. It is strange that I haven't made the most of it and still do not really try. Is that what is meant by 'shallow' perhaps? I am not in a rush to do the things left undone in my life. I am not in a momentous struggle to make the world a better place. This does puzzle me. You would think that a true humanist would be a perfectly good person. A person whose entire energy was used up in making it all better. Not so. I think I could quite easily decide I had had enough and just bugger off into the sunset - but I guess that would make a few people very angry with me. On that subject I have an advance directive [or living will] with my doctor and eldest son because I am not intending to have life in me that I cannot appreciate. I am also a member of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (www.dignityindying.org.uk)
Another website you might like to visit is www.thinkhumanism.com
also the weekly email newsletter from the National Secular Society is well worth getting from www.secularim.org.uk
I feel very much one with the Darwinian evolutionists and suppose the depth of my 'belief' comes from my favourite image of the toad and the meaninglessness of the concept of 'soul' coupled with the idea that humans have advanced so far ahead of other animals that they suffer from the ability to consider themselves in the context of others, past, present and future. They consider death and produce the worst of fears; but it seems incredible weakness to invent an afterlife, a beautiful place where we will all be equal - well, those who get there. A bit of equality would be quite nice in this life. Of course, the whole thing has social class implications. I am not saying the organisers of religions have, as their prime objective, keeping the peasants quiet, but it certainly has that effect - or did.
I don't know that I ever really believed. As a kid, you know, they tell you all this stuff and I suppose you expect to see it confirmed as you go along, but it never happened. When I was about nine I discovered the mythology of the Greeks and Vikings, which led to an interest in ancient history. By myy early teens, after a failed attempt at indoctrination by some JW's, I thought agnostic was a good description and used that until my late teens. Finally, a couple of years into college, my then wife told me I was just hedging my bets, so I jumped for bad and started calling myself an atheist. :-o That would have been around 1970. I never really studied it much until recently, since early experiences trying to talk to others did not go well. But in the past few years I've been reading more. A little more philosophical than I ever used to be is part of it, I suppose. My views have changed more radically as a result. Reading the The Bible Unearthed and The Jesus Puzzle especially had an impact WRT how I look at Judaism and Christianity. I used to think that certain people (e.g. Moses, Joshua, Jesus) actually lived and some non-supernatural version of those events had occurred. Not anymore.
Hi Guys, I am new here. I met Unbeliever on another forum.
My deconversion started early, but only in retrospect.
I never liked being religious, there were too many questions, and not enough answers. I could never understand the concept of a loving god. Why did people get sick? Why were some born black, had to live in a hut (in Africa) and others born rich, with the privileges that go with the skin colour? (I lived in South Africa then). How can an innocent baby be born into sin? It made no sense. Why did an omnipotent god have to kill his only son? Why, why. Why were I not allowed to ask these questions? Why were there no plausible answers? I prayed regularly, but could literally feel my prayers bounce off the ceiling. It was going nowhere. And neither was I.
My earliest church memories were Sunday school in a Dutch Reformed church. Soon after, my father joined the Jehovah's Witnesses. I hated them, hated to have to attend their bible studies, hated all their stupid rules. I was the only teenager not allowed to have a birthday party, or to attend one. I was the only one in my high school who did not go on youth camps, no Friday evening social gatherings at the church, or anywhere else for that matter. I had no social life, as Jehovah's Witnesses were not allowed to mix with the sinners of the world.
I was 17 when my dad suddenly died in a car accident. Although I was devastated, I was also rid of the JWs. The congregational leader who performed the burial, said to me: You should fill the void with god. YEAH RIGHT. I decided there and then they will never see me again.
So I drifted in and out of church on Sundays and the Friday night youth meetings, not for anything BUT the social life. I went to the University of Pretoria, attended church regularly in the hope of getting a boyfriend. And lo and behold, I did. A wonderful guy whose life ambition was to become a Dutch Reformed minister!! URGHH. I knew I would NEVER be able to be a minister's wife, I wanted a life, not a damn congregation.
So our ways parted. I met my husband, got married in a church, had my two boys. Suddenly I wanted them to have a religious upbringing, for their sake, so they would not go to hell. At some stage I believed in the rapture; I tried to live a good life, prayed regularly. We attended church, sent them to Sunday School. We were in the Dutch Reformed Church, later joined a fast growing charismatic church. I kinda enjoyed it, it had about 15,000 members; I was part of a group AT LAST. I attended Bible study, had many friends, I had the social life I so much desired in high school.
Still my prayers bounced off the ceiling. I could never speak in tongues, no matter how hard I tried. I never had the holy laughter. But I persevered, as I did not want to go to hell, and definitely did not want my beloved boys go to hell, for I know about the sins of the fathers ... My husband drifted away, he could not stand the noise in the charismatic church, he did not want to attend, and when he did, he refused to dance around and clap his hands. I was so embarrassed.
We then moved to New York. Suddenly I had no friends, no social life again. Okay, back to the drawing board, I started attending all kinds of churches. But the congregations were much smaller, I could not relate to anyone. And to top it all, you could only be a "member" if you tithed regularly. It pissed me off, but I persevered. I even attend a Jewish reformed church, run by a Rabbi. I loved the tradition, hated everything else.
Then a very good family friend told me he became an atheist. I was shocked to my core. I had the whole congregation pray for him and his wife. I cried myself to sleep at night. I was devastated, how could they let go of the only thing between them and eternal hell?
Slowly reason dawned on me. They are extremely intelligent, they would not take such a drastic step without good reason. I started investigating, studying, searching, for the first time in my life. I wanted the truth, I wanted god to be real, I wanted the Bible to be true.
When I realized that all the years of believing were wasted, that there is nothing, no one, it was as if the bottom fell out of my world. At first I did not want to tell my husband, I was too embarrassed. In the end he did not need telling, he knew, as he knows me so well.
The feeling, the emotions I experienced there and then, was of tremendous relief. A mountain was lifted off my shoulders, I was free at last. Free of fear, free of make believe, free of a burden.
In the beginning I missed god, I missed Jesus, as I relied on them to protect me, to care for me. Now I had to stand on my own two feet, take responsibility. I missed Satan, as I could always put the blame of my "sins" on him. This passed quickly.
What a glorious relief I felt. It was and is a wonderful feeling.
Many of us have had long roads through difficult years of searching for the truth, and in my case I barely knew that atheism was even possible, only in "Godless Russia", I thought. Once I started reading a little philosophy, I soon realized that atheism is a viable worldview, logically consistent and demonstrable. I think it helps to travel around a bit, get to see that religion is, to a large extent, geographically distributed.
Glad to have you on the board! :-D
Back in South Africa I did not know any atheists at all. I am sure If would not have wanted too, either.
Being away from my support system, my family and friends definitely helped me a lot. I did not have to explain anything to anyone at all :wink:
I've never had anything even remotely like a support system, and had to learn to do without. Wasn't that difficult, though, having never had one. But I do wonder, sometimes, what my life would've been like had I had the support of family and close friends.
I think I was given an advantage because I started out in a multi-religious household. First, I was a Lutheran. It was a nice safe religion but my maternal grandmother was really considered an evil person. So when vacation bible school volunteers offered to keep us busy for some of the summer, my mom had no objections. This and Gideon's Bible helped me develop some of my religious views. Yet I was close to my Catholic paternal grandmother, who was basically a good person, so that always confused me some? I felt left out when I couldn't go to Catechism like my Catholic friends did? How can all of these religions be so different from each other when they are all suppose to be based on the same book? What were they learning that I couldn't? I was more concerned of missing out on important information.
It was after my first read through of the bible that I realized a lot of things both churches performed wasn't very religious at all because they had no references to their rituals in the bible. I took up the offer of a friend to visit a Southern Baptist Church when it was offered to me. They had great youth groups and I was able to travel quite a bit. I was too young though to see that what they were doing was draining me of money I could have better used toward my College Education.
I also had to admit, my family was really suffering because my father's illness was taking over his life. He was miserable and we didn't know how to help him. Despite our apparent poverty at this time, we were expected to pay for church dinners and the church offered no food bank, no assistance to poor families. This started to really trouble me. Why, we even had our own drug dealer at our church for a few years. I suppose her family tithed well? I also went to business meetings and learned that how much money you had also helped determine your standing in the church. I was lead to believe that god rained on the good but weren't we a good family? Why was god and our church making us suffer so much? Why didn't anyone in the church care about my family?
The last straw for me and the Baptist was when our resident evangelist stated that Catholics were all going to hell. How can that be? My grandmother was more devoted than many of the followers I saw every week. She said her prayers and gave to the needy despite her limited income? Didn't I personally know some good Catholics? Finally I re-read the bible again, cover to cover and I kept finding questionable acts in it that I knew I didn't feel was right or just? Either way, I wasn't going to be a Baptist any longer.
This lead me to attend Non-Denomination churches for a few years. I too was attracted to the socialization. I can't say, that heaven or hell was my main concern. It was more being a positive part of the community and hanging out with people who wanted to be good citizens. I moved a good amount and attended on and off different churches in search of the one true church.
I was a believer, if not thoroughly convinced, that what I believed in was either good or true? When I finally was able to attend College, I delved into ancient history as much as I could. I was looking for connections. Proof that what the bible said was really true and can be supported by history. I also was confused by Greek and Scandinavian Histories. How could they co-exist if the bible was the beginning, the middle and the end? Then there was the issues with women in the bible. When I was scouring it for role-models, I found it sorely lacking. How could I also miss that women were being mistreated by men and god but this was good and acceptable? How can this be so? By now, I already knew of great women in history who did so much to free us from the bondage of abuse and endless childbearing. Yet, in the eyes of the churches, these women were branded devils and witches? I was clearly losing faith in the bible.
My marriage had already failed. Despite all of my prayers. I grew bored with my ex-Husbands attempts to win me back by claiming it was good and right for us to be together. Of course, under his terms, which were not the same the ones I knew we vowed to live by. But I must forgive and forget. It took me some years but I reached the point finally that it was apparent, god didn't care about me or our children. If "he" or "it" wanted me to serve them then they shouldn't have put that part in the bible that stated Eve ate from the "Tree of Knowledge". It is a sin to be smart? Who ever profited much from being stupid? It defied wisdom.
It was my growing son's who asked me why did I force them to go to church when all they talk about is hating other people? That brought everything to me in a different light. No matter how good I was, how hard I worked, god didn't feel the need to reward us or make their father a good, reasonable person? I was already disappointed that churches weren't doing what they preached about doing. I could see around me so many people suffering. I couldn't deny that I surrounded myself with others who just didn't care. As long as there were cushions on the pews and the sermons weren't too long. They were satisfied.
I was finally ready to accept that I was a zombie and I needed to really be set free. From bigotry, from hatred, from condemning people who really were only trying to do what is right in the world. Didn't we all deserve to be free if we did nothing wrong? Did the color of our skin or what adults we fell in love with dictate what we believed in or our place in the world? Were churches really helping us look out for our own best interest or were they using us to as cattle to further their causes and increase their income? I know, a few churches really have accomplished a lot but it is all based on lies. They try to skirt around the bible, by saying, "god is love!". Well, he is also a murderer, woman hater, men hater, a very bad example for people and families in general. Sure, some can over look those faults but we cannot expect a better world if we do.
I grew tired of being told this world is going to be destroyed but have children anyways. What were they going to inherit again? Death and destruction of the world? Now we have crazy people always trying to make that happen and god always seems to be the center of it. How do you give your children hope when all the bible preaches about is death? People are looking forward to dying so that then they can start living their own lives? That alone is crazy talk to me. Their purpose in life is to tossed out, raped, hungry and abused? Why does anyone want to believe that to be true and just? God just seems stupid to me now.
So the real message seemed to focus on, "Earth sucks and Heaven is beautiful?" I have yet to meet anyone who can confirm this notion to me. Though I have noticed a few authors have tried.
Yeah, I was raised to be a sheep but I always questioned their wisdom. Now, when I discuss this with other Christians, often I meet with anger and insults. At least it would be nice to have one toss me a bible verse now and then, just for the fun of it. It wouldn't change my views but at least I could respect their believing more. I don't mean to push my beliefs on others but I can't live forever. It pains me to see others suffer because someone else told them, "this is your fate in life".
Not everyone though is so brainwashed. I still believe, that most religious people really do doubt what it is they say they believe in. I know more say they believe because of family or social connections. They want to be labeled as good and decent folks. The rest live in fear that maybe they have been lied to all of their lives. I think it is hard to say, I was a fool. I myself was stupid and I just believed whatever people told me to believe. As children, what else could we do?
When it became obvious to me, that some of the people sitting around me in church, were the very people I was trying to separate myself from, I had to face that a church is not the place to put children in if you are trying to be a responsible parent. Letting others teach them to lie, hate, live in fear for their lives from a hell that I know isn't below us, that they must worship other human beings or that because of their title or faith, that makes them good isn't right. It is just not a good environment to raise up our children. Sure they play games, go places but it is those stories, those hidden messages to serve a more evil agenda, that we often forget.
Besides, I like color. The more variety of it I see around me, the more I can enjoy my day. Nothing makes me happier than to see anyone who really is happy and successful enough that they can use that success to help bring up someone else struggling in life. I feel our world has turned all topsy/turvy. Instead of building a brighter future for our children, too many are just living for the day, because tomorrow we will die. So who the hell cares, right? I care. I don't want to be part of the problem any longer but part of the solution.
Heh, heh, I read a few lawn tombstones claiming Atheists were "all dressed up with no place to go!" That made me laugh. Most of us use cremation! "I'm going the way of Kings myself!" Personally? I rather be compost, when the worms come to get me.
I just don't want to see John Lennon's death be in vain.
I was raised as a Catholic by devoutly Catholic parents, who were nonetheless open minded and opposed to the bigotry that was so rampant in the middle of the last century.
As a teenager I discovered certain things that teenage boys do discover, and when the Holy Roman Altar Boy Church told me that was a sin the veil was suddenly lifted from in front of my face, and I saw they were trying to control me.
This triggered the sort of typical teenage skepticism that I wish all young people would experience, and by the time I was graduating from Catholic High School I was refusing to attend religious services because I did not want to be a hypocrite.
Today I like to refer to myself as an Atheist Fag, and I even own the domain name atheistfag.com.
If there is a deity that has been imagined, I do not believe in it. I do not believe in any and all deities without regard to their imaginary gender, imaginary race, or their imaginary nationality. I'm an equal opportunity atheist.
got tired of ppls obsession of god. lol i didn't really feel like typing the hole thing :p
but basically, i was never really into religion, i just followed what my mom said was right.
I sometimes joke that I started reading Genesis a believer and finished Revelations an atheist; it wasn't as simple as that of course, but it does as a quick nutshell explanation.
In fact, reading the Bible when I was 16 only put an end to my Xtianity, it took a good decade plus of comparative religious study to realize that I simply didn't get along with the supernatural at all and give up any idea of a personal god.
I don't deny the possiblity that a god could exists but since I also don't see how any human could have any knowledge of such an entity or what it wants (if it wants anything at all), I don't consider it something worth wasting time on.
What other people believe about god or gods, why they believe it, what they do about it (esp. if they try to do something legally to inflict it on others) is, on the other hand, endlessly interesting.
I was sent to Sunday School at age four. It was just before Christmas and the teacher was telling us that an angel told Mary that she was about to have a baby. I had a lot of questions about angels but the answers were most unsatisfactory and I quickly decided that the whole story was a load of rubbish.
I knew nothing about the bible, or religion, or philosophy, but even as a four year old, I was pretty sure that if angels existed in the olden days, then we should still be able to see them today, but we can't - so I figured that the original story was probably a lie.
I went to Sunday School every week for the next eight years and never ever faltered in my unbelief. I was an atheist, even before I knew there was such a word.
Just to get things in perspective, let me point out that I was always a cynical little kid and tended to disbelieve anything out of the ordinary. For example, I guessed that "Rumplestiltskin" was a fairy story simply because I assumed that no real person would have such a stupid name. I did believe in Father Christmas though, but I had solid evidence that he did exist - all those presents...