Why I'm a Humanist

(Via Abi)

Before I start rambling, if you want to know what Humanism is all about....

I thought I'd write about my reasons for being Humanistic...

I had an odd and sort of fractured childhood, but when I was very little I remember my parents were evangelistic Christians, or whatever the correct term is.... I didn't often get to go to their church - it was an odd, small 70's box of a building, and inside there were 'new age' Christians in white robes, who would push you over with the power of Christ (or rather, their hand) it scared me really, and the way my parents talked about God made me feel uncomfortable, because I had little seeds of doubt right from the start...

Later on, after we moved house, my parents tried the local (more um, normal) church, and disliked it, so they seemed to forget about Christianity, and never really mentioned it again. Sunday turned into a day which was spent lounging round the house drinking wine until Mum saw double....

When I met Tony (my husband) I hadn't really thought about God all that much, I think it's much easier in the UK to just avoid religion, as it doesn't seem as culturally important here as in the US and other countries... but when you get into a proper relationship, you discuss everything don't you, so naturally, eventually it came up.... I thought of myself at that time as an Agnostic, I was sitting on the fence, not really caring about making my mind up. Tony on the other hand is a supremely logical creature (or at least thinks he is, but it's just 'man' logic, and therefore incorrect most of the time ;) ) I found myself agreeing with a lot of the things he said - that there is no proof of a higher power, there never has been proof, that a lot of things in the bible are impossible (the lack of evolution, the whole nativity story etc etc) and over the next few months I decided to become an atheist...

There were a few things that troubled me about being an atheist - for a start when I said 'I'm an atheist' I felt it was a sort of negative statement... I was in effect saying 'I don't believe in God' which can be easily twisted into 'I don't believe in much of anything'.... also faith is important to me. How can you be an atheist but value faith? Well, I started by attempting to have faith in myself, I believe in myself. I have lost that belief from time to time, sometimes for long periods, but it always returns.... I have faith in my ability to be a good person, a person of worth, a loving, caring human. But that was just not quite enough, it was a very closed bubble of faith, and it didn't feel quite comfortable....

So I started to expand my bubble.... I didn't just believe in myself, I didn't just have faith in myself... I had faith in Tony, my children, people close to me.... then I realised after a while that I have faith in humanity. It dawned on me that I have an integral faith in human beings and humanity as a whole. Humanity may go astray from time to time, have it's bad apples and bad moments but intrinsically I feel that humanity has this amazing capacity for caring, and love.... and I have faith in that, a very strong faith. I also believe that each person, no matter how much they have strayed, no matter what they may have thought or done, can find the happiness, the caring and the love inside themselves, if they are willing. Some people may need a lifetime of professional care, but I think a glimmer of that 'goodness' will shine through. I have faith in people.

It took a while for me to realise that this was Humanism... or at least my own form of Humanism. My mother in law Phyllis has recently started talking to me about her Humanistic beliefs, and the Liverpool group she is thinking of joining..... rather than converting me she helped me to realise that this was what I had been believing in all along. I'm looking forward to having people to share it with.

My beliefs may seem very naive, and I find the problem I have with expressing them to others is that the age card gets pulled a lot.... a few people have laughed off my beliefs and told me that when I have 'lived a little' I will lose my faith in people..... I would offer those people the chance to walk in my childhood shoes, in which I met a few people who did evil things.... and then see if they would tell me the same thing. I believe that people who do evil things still have the capacity for good - it's not God given, it is residing somewhere deep within themselves.

Anyway I should shut up, Come All Ye Faithful has just come onto Classic Fm and I feel suitably sinful ;) ;)

Still in hiding

(Via Kourtney)

I'm agnostic. I have been for the pasted 5 years. I never told my mom until she found it on my MySpace page. She confronted me about it and I confirmed it. My dad is clueless though but I have no doubt my mom told him.

Ups and Downs

(Via Lindsey Turner)

Five weeks ago I came to the bloody realization that I had been lying to myself for about 19 years, I never questioned God this hardcore or even thought about being an atheist. It made so much sense to me when I came to the realization that I was actually in the right for once. I told my parents, utterly devout people(dad is pastor), and they kicked me out of the house. Needless to say, thanksgiving was just dandy. Now I am off to make a completely new life for myself and it is fucking refreshing!

Six Confirmations & Evolution Confirmed - Again

(Via Jerry Brown)

"Six Confirmations"

Over the past several years I have become increasingly aware of the futility of promoting atheism as a worldview to the general public. This is, admittedly, an almost complete turnabout from my former position, but it has been necessitated by subsequent study, observation, and a desire not to be deceived.

In the past two weeks six events have strongly confirmed this opinion. Two were Skeptics meetings at Caltech, each attracting a full-house crowd (which paid a minimum of $5 per head.) One featured Richard Dawkins discussing his new book, An Ancestor's Tale, the other a talk on critical thinking and the graphic display of information. Last week at Santa Monica College there was an excellent talk on learning, early brain development, and how easy it is to be deceived. This one also to a packed house with people sitting in the aisles. That evening I went to a meeting of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which featured a dynamic talk on creationism vs. evolution in the educational system. Many in this group are atheists, but their objective is the very important one of keeping religion and government separate.

The next night at the Glendale Library I heard an impassioned speech detailing dangers in the policies of the current Administration, with special emphasis on their theocratic, corporate globalism aspects. Although in some of these talks there were hints of the absurdity and danger of religious belief, the word "atheism", to the best of my recollection, was never mentioned.

Finally, last night at a local discussion group the subject of origins came up. I said that in my opinion the least troublesome explanation is that the universe has always existed, and always will, having no beginning and no end. Another member, no fundamentalist, but a "spiritual" type, disagreed, saying she joined a church because she believes there has to be a "first cause." Ok, I said, if everything needs a cause, then what caused that "first cause" (i.e. God)? Silence all around.

And therein lies my point. The vast majority of humans simply cannot accept what all the evidence shows - that this life is all there is, that there's nothing beyond it, and that the ultimate questions as to why, when, and how everything came to be may never be answered. These people need an answer, so they turn to religion, which gives them one. Probably a wrong one, but that doesn't matter. It's something they can hang onto. Like my aunt who finally discovered why her son had so much bad luck. He was born on Friday the 13th! In her mind, that explained it, and she was relieved.

With highly educated scientists, after hundreds of years of painstaking investigation by their profession steadily pushing "God" further and further into the background, still believing in some form of godism, the conclusion is inescapable: religion is not going to go away. The need for it is hardwired into most human brains. I'm finally having to acknowledge, albeit grudgingly, the truth of a statement I once read in a psychology textbook: Man needs religion, but some have paid a high price for it.

They have indeed, and they will continue to. It's in their genes. Don't get me wrong. I'm just as strong and proud an atheist as ever. But I cannot continue deluding myself by expecting vast numbers of people to join me in this view. I should instead support efforts to keep the superstition steamroller from crunching our Constitution into rubble. I would encourage all atheists to do likewise. This effort has never been more needed. It is essential that we win. To do that, we must close ranks and set our sights in the right direction.

"Evolution Confirmed - Again"

Every time I get out on the roads I am impressed (not favorably) by the drivers who roar around me so they can jam on their brakes to stop at the upcoming red light. That way, they force me to stop also, whereas otherwise none of us might have to. Not to mention unnecessary tire and brake wear.

And for what? They got one car length ahead of me, and they won their little game of one-upmanship. What is it that causes presumably intelligent people to behave so illogically? The other day while observing this ridiculous behavior once gain, it suddenly dawned on me that I was seeing the truth of Dobzhansky's observation that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.

Here was a manifestation of the primitive survival drive in action: Those who get there first have the best chance at food and mates. Never mind that in the "civilized" life that we have made for ourselves many of these ancient, automatic actions are no longer appropriate and may be dangerous. They are programmed into our brains, most of which have not evolved sufficiently to override primitive instincts. Most people (at this basic level at least) seem to be running mindlessly on their limbic systems, oblivious to the problems they are creating for their fellows. Me first, and to hell with you!

This same explanation can account for many other troublesome aspects of human society. Why do we hoard? Why do we overeat? Why the exploitive excesses of economic systems? Why can't socialism work? Why are people who are "different", those who have disabilities, or whose sexual, philosophical, or other preferences set them apart from the mainstream shunned, denied equal access, and considered outcasts from society? Why do we humans behave so much like other animals? Because we ARE animals, and at the genetic level are not as different from what we like to call the "lower" ones as we would like to think. In fact, we are remarkably similar, carrying in our genes much of the same information. The main thing setting humans apart is that we have a brain more complex than any other creature we know of. This enables us to think about ourselves and, in principle at least, avoid being slaves to the "selfish gene."

Can we do it? My guess is that, claims about "free will" notwithstanding, we cannot, at least in the foreseeable future. The pathway from the primitive to the more modern part of the brain is much easier than in the other direction. Hence nurture has a hard time prevailing over nature.

Lest this sound too pessimistic, I think we must not give up. We must keep searching, questioning, learning all we can about how this amazing blob of protoplasm really works. The first step on that road is acceptance of the FACT of evolution, and the rejection of the ancient myth of creation. It would also help to acknowledge that there is no inherent plan or purpose to any of it, and that whatever meaning we want in our lives we must make for ourselves.

An important part of that meaning, it seems to me, should be to learn all we can about what we are and where we came from, and to make this life (the only one for which we have any evidence) the best we can for all sentient beings.

Nature doesn't care. We can, and we should.

Here in the Heart of Dixie

(Via Ian)

When I was young, very, very young, I was a Christian. I grew up in a very hardcore Christian family, and so never really questioned in my earliest years anything about religion.

The process of becoming an atheist was unnoticed by me, meaning that I simply didn't care enough to think about it. I have always been a doubter of everything my family showed me and taught me, and a doubter of everything for that matter. That doesn't mean that the doubt was merely rebellious, in an irrational, anger, blind way, but rather curious, independent, and benevolent. I had to see and learn everything firsthand, and still do. So I basically just ignored everyone around me who was only talking about meaningless Jewish history or the prospect of being good solely "because God's watching".

The question of religion presented itself by way of me volunteering at the zoo in some teen program, where I could walk around the zoo with one of the small animals and let the people pet them, which was really fun. That was the first time I was ever introduced into an environment that was not overtly Christian, that was where I could finally talk about religion and the concept of God in a skeptical way, and that was when I finally, concretely thought to myself that I was an atheist.

I had no internal conflicts about my atheism, but many about whom to tell. Today I tell my family that the reason I kept that secret for so long was because I did not want to hurt them. That is true, but I wonder whether it was really because I was sort of afraid of the reactions. I often thought about what they would think, how they would react, and how deep they would get if they talked or argued about it, if at all.

To this day, I have told only ONE person: my mom. Now, my father, two kid sisters, and grandparents "somehow" also know. The only reason I told her was because she had been nagging at me for awhile and relentlessly about how I need to find "God's Will" for my life. Also, I let her know only because I thought she would still think I was going to Heaven somehow, and wouldn't have a heart attack or anything like that, since, to her, I had already once been "saved" at some point in my life.

"What would they think?" I was wrong to think that they would still believe in my "salvation" and passport to Heaven. Apparently I had never really been saved and am currently going to Hell. Even though I still find that funny, I really didn't want to put them through that kind of emotional state. Now, however, even though I love them, I do not feel any sympathy towards anguish which exists solely in their minds and on a fallacy. Obviously, I seriously miscalculated what they would think.

"How would they react?" Not well. They would cry. A lot. Then yell some, go talk with some counselor about the curse of having a wayward son, and cry some more for good measure. Again, I miscalculated the true level of their ignorance and insanity.

"How deep would they get if they talked or argued about it, if at all?" I love them, but they are indeed swimming in the kiddie's pool. The whole of the "arguments" I have heard so far consists of pure drama and popular bromides, with such phenomena as "So, do you just hate God, now?", "Does God know that you don't believe he exists?", and "There are no atheists in foxholes." This last was said by my dad the day I aced the D-LAB (the hardest test ever devised) and officially signed up for my U.S. Air Force job: airborne linguist. Out of all the things anyone has ever said to me that I would usually regard as stupid and therefore worthy to be ignored, this is the one that stung, badly. I almost considered making a scene and somehow banning him from coming to my basic graduation at Lackland.

As of the time I'm writing this, I'm living with my grandparents, a few miles away from Montgomery, where my parents live. I'm just doing odd jobs here and there until I ship out in exactly six weeks from today, and I have vigorously avoided any arguments with any of my family; I hate arguing. Every time I sit still and think about whether this issue with my family will ever die down, I always come to the conclusion that it will and soon. But I also concluded years ago that my family wouldn't react the way the have, so I am not making any predictions when it comes to illogical stuff like that.

Also, my family now hates Ayn Rand, as I'm sure many do. They have cursed her many, many times for "converting" me over to atheism and remind me time and time again that she is burning in Hell, which can apparently serve as both a scare tactic and an irrefutable argument. They overlook the fact that just because I knew who she was when they found out about my atheism doesn't mean that I knew her when I "converted".

Lastly, they do not know how lucky they are, and I, to a certain extent, that they only found out about me recently. But before I say anything please know that I am NOT speaking for all atheists here. One of my biggest problems as a child was my irrational, negative feelings toward Christianity. I am very proud of myself for getting over being overly angry at someone simply because they are a Christian. I used to think that if an adult reached a certain age of intellectual maturity, than there was absolutely no excuse for still following the Christian faith. (As a side note, I would like to mention that all of my arguments for atheism and against religion are in the field of morality, as I could care less about the origin of the universe and of man.) It has taken me time to realize that just because the Christian tenets are evil (again, NOT speaking for any other atheists out there), does not mean that all Christians are necessarily evil. I do admit to the fact that there may be, and probably are, benevolent AND religious people out there, even though I have yet to meet them. Today I still try to hold on to this thought when confronted with my family, and can only hope that the people here in Alabama will eventually grow a little more lax.

I don't believe in God.

(Via Doug Matthews)

I don't believe in God.

Not only am I an atheist; I'm also a free thinker, an independent, a philosopher, a truth seeker, and a pragmatic constituent of veracity. I don't need a magical space wizard to tell me how to conduct my life. I don't need the stress and worry of making sure that my every word, thought, or action is going to be added to an already huge list of moral discrepancies. I'm not referring to social discrepancies; I'm talking about the inconsistencies with my life and the life I would be following as a Christian in accordance to the all-powerful, ill-conceived, contradictory laws of the Bible.

For 22 years, I lived in fear. I was raised in a Christian home. My father was a pastor, his father was a pastor, his father was a pastor, and so on. I had big dreams to get into the “church business” and make a name for myself. Throughout my teen years, a lot of my freedom was stripped through religion and the forcefulness of my parents. I don't blame them; they were raised the same way I was. I do, however, wish that they had the same free thought and will power that I had and could see through the mud like I did. Sometimes I was in church as much as three times per week serving for the Lord; sealing my guarantee that I would enter an eternal paradise upon my uneventful death. I sponsored youth events, converted several people from atheism and agnosticism to Christianity, I prayed several times per day, I made sure that I erased any sin as soon as I committed it. I was living the true Christian life and subconsciously hated it.

I always had doubt though. I can still remember telling myself in my younger years that there was no God, and this was prior to all the knowledge I have now. It always felt more natural to me, more in my comfort zone than believing in the Christian non-sense. Sure, I can claim several times in my Christian walk where I thought God touched my life. I can cite supposed miracles, unexplainable things and feelings. However, I can also cite and convey a lot of negative, and unanswered prayers, more bad than good. Looking back, I now know that those “miracles” were simply general statistical phenomenon or coincidences, if you will. To be even more concise, I can probably explain all the ways that God touched my life using simple science and pure common sense.

Why won't God heal amputees? Why does God allow innocent children to be raped and murdered? Why doesn't God just abolish Satan now? Why won't God show his face or prove to mankind that he is real? Why are we supposed to live in harmony with ancient manuscripts, written by men who were obviously just trying to explain and justify their environment? Why don't modern day Christians stone homosexuals as they are told to do in Leviticus 20:13? I could go on…

As millions of other legitimate Christians all over the world deal with their subconscious tendencies to negate the Christian dogma, I am proud to say that I've faced my fear and stepped outside of the box. I'm an American Atheist, one of forty-eight million.

My transition

(Via Danelle Pack)

My transformation into the Atheist I am today happened in stages.

It started four years ago. I was raised as a Christian, and even called myself born-again. I married a non-believer. He would never have called himself an atheist to my face, but I knew he had doubts. He liked to paint me a picture of believing in a “higher power”. As a “born-again” Christian I felt this was acceptable. I would show him the “true” path. A year into my marriage I started to notice the gap that my faith caused in our relationship. Moved by what I thought was the Holy Spirit, I decided to educate myself on the arguments. I wanted to witness to him. I gathered many Christian apologetic materials and consumed them.

While I was in this fervor, a close and respected friend said to me “Why have you chosen this God, and rejected the others?”. This question stumped me. I had no response. How could I have chosen this God? I hadn’t “chosen” him at all. He was the only one I knew. I scrambled to solidify my knowledge about my own beliefs. I started to read the bible, cover to cover, for the first time.

I was appalled, even disgusted, by what I read. This was not the God I learned about in Sunday school. He was mean, vindictive and sadistic. And this flood, how could there have been a worldwide flood without leaving some kind of scientific evidence? My eyes and mind were opening, slowly. At first I thought I had just “chosen” the wrong God. I even bought "World Religions for Dummies" to research different beliefs.

The turning point was the May 2007 GOP Presidential Debate. The candidates were asked if they believed in evolution. Three raised their hands. For most people it seems it was a shocker that three presidential candidates didn’t believe in evolution. For me it was this reaction that was the shocker. I had no idea evolution was so widely scientifically accepted. I hadn’t realized that this theory had been around for 150 years and was still growing and solidifying. My mind began to expand exponentially and I started to educate myself, not just on evolution, but on physics, astronomy and critical thinking. I realized that this life, this universe, is plausible without a creator. The word “Atheist” still scared me. I started to devour Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, any and every author on the subject and I became a very proud Atheist.

Three months ago I came out to my mother and father. My mother stated she would have rather heard I was dying of cancer than that I was an Atheist. I realize the pain I have caused her, and it still weighs heavily on my heart, but I am now able to have a more open and honest relationship with her. On the flipside, I learned that my father is a closet agnostic and our relationship is closer than ever.

As an Atheist, I have never felt more alive and more grateful for this life.

My Story

(Via Pockets)

I grew up in a loving Christian house; my father went to parochial school until he was in high school. My mom has always been active in church for longer than I can remember.

I started going to the local Catholic Church from the time I was baptized (infant) till I was probably about 4. The rotating priest (our town was too small to have a full timer) was pretty anti-kids so my mom decided that she had had enough and we started church shopping. For a few years we (my mother, younger sister and I, my dad said he did his time in grade and middle school and was out on good behavior). We ended up at the Episcopal Church down the road. It was full (relative term) of really good small town people. (see Eddie Izzard’s portrayal of the Anglican church for a really good representation) As I grew up I became more and more disenfranchised with organized religion. God was never in church, the only awe inspiring moments was walking around in the woods behind my house and coming into a clearing overlooking some valley.

By the time I got to college I had a pretty cynical view on religion. My favorite phrase was a bastardization of Nietzsche “God is dead, and the church killed him”. I got into the business department, while most of my friends that I have made got into science (CS, Chem, Biology). After I graduated I met my wife. She is a twice a year type catholic, not very religious but has a strongly ingrained belief in god. After moving over to the “big city” we moved in and prepared our full mass wedding. At this point I still had a fairly deist view on religion. There was probably some kind of higher power that created us but had lost interest a long time ago.

Ironically my rocket ship to atheism started at Christmas last year, I got an ipod by my in-laws. I started getting into podcasts, particularly science based podcasts. I started off with TEDtalks then moved into the skeptical arena. I started off with Skeptoid hosted by Brian Dunning. This consisted of short (5-15 min) blurbs about various science, pseudoscience and paranormal phenomenon. This took me to Skepticality hosted by Derek and Swoopy. Their podcast is about an hour and is filled with everything skeptical. I think the highlight of the podcasts are the interviews, with everyone from Niel DeGrass Tyson to James Randi to Michael Shermer to atheist rapper Graydon Square.

Through the journey I was exposed to many views and people that I had not heard about, Michael Shermer, James Randi, Phil Plait, The Skepchicks, Scott Sigler, and many more. I learned about and purchased Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go of God".

Lately I have gotten into a routine of keeping up to date with the podcasts I enjoy as well as reading science based nonfiction. I am currently reading "The Science of Good and Evil" by Michael Shermer. It takes a look at individual and group morality from an evolution standpoint, including the origin of religion and the role it played to our ancestors.I have also read "God Delusion" and "God Is Not Great" and have a laundry list of books to acquire.

I have told most of my friends from college that I am an atheist, and more recently I told my wife in definitive terms what I do (not) believe in. She was shocked at first, but we have talked and everything is back to the way it was before, we both love and respect each other. Now we are looking to the future and deciding what is going to be best for our kids when they appear. I would consider myself half in the closet, my family and in-laws don’t know and some of my friends don’t know. But its more of a “you haven’t asked” position. I don’t think if asked I would lie, but I don’t think I am going to get a big A tattooed on my forehead either.

That’s my story; I want to thank this website for the catharsis that it creates for people like me who were “deconverted”. I have to say that I have been moved by quite a few of the previous posts, and am grateful that I came to my conclusion in such a gently way.

How I Did It

(Via Jerry Brown)

From my earliest years I was indoctrinated with what I call the Pascal/Graham Syndrome: Believe a cruel, inhumane story or be punished in hell eternally for doubting it. And, since I couldn't prove the story to be false, I had better believe it, because "eternity is a long time.) The problem was, I couldn't.

Fear, even if irrational, is hard to dispel, especially if pounded into one's mind at an early age. But about 1990 I decided that I had to try. In a public library I found a magazine called American Atheist. I read the works of Robert Ingersoll. I read cosmology, physics and biology, including the evolution of life forms.

The more I read, the more absurd theism looked. I found out that religion is just what I'd long suspected but didn't have the courage to admit - superstition. Further research told me why it originated and why it persists in spite of hundreds of years of contrary evidence.

I subsequently severed all ties to paranormal belief, and became a full-fledged, unabashed atheist. I call it my great enlightenment; it has been the most intellectually rewarding experience of my life.

Atheist Me

(Via James)

From the time I was born until I was about ten or so, my family was devoutly christian. I recall going to church and enjoying it, I would even sing at my grandparents church (my grandfather was a pastor). I was never particularly devout though, far to young to fathom such concepts as the Universe and God, as I believe most children are.

It wasn't until later in life, after we had moved from the city to the country, and stopped attending church, that I started wondering about faith. I recall in the fifth and sixth grade still wondering about god, I still tried to be as good a christian as I could, although I didn't fully know what it meant to be one.

Around the end of sixth grade my mother started becoming an alcoholic and with it came the fights. Her and my Dad would argue and argue. She would leave for the bar and sometimes not come back for days. Sometimes my dad would bring her home and beat her. Her behavior grew worse and worse over the years from sixth grade onwards.

Surprisingly this somehow made me more devout. I would try to read the bible. I would try to understand why god would make my world like this. Just a test? I recall theorizing that god did this as a test, everything was a test to see if you were worthy of heaven. I remember becoming so faithful that I could shrug off fear, knowing that my life was in gods hands and if it was my time it was my time.

I recall the night I stopped believing very clearly. I was lying in bed crying because of a terrible fight my parents were in. They were hitting each other, throwing things, screaming at one another. I knew all of my younger siblings were being tortured by this just as much as me. I was only 13 or 14 at the time. Being the oldest I wanted to do something but I couldn't. I was too small, too weak.

So I started praying. I recall clasping my hands together so tightly they hurt, as if squeezing them tighter would help send my message. I asked god to please please stop my parent's fighting, not for me but for my two little sisters and little brother. I begged and begged and begged.

After a while of this I finally realized that God was going to do nothing. If he was there, he did not care for my families plights. I was heartbroken, how could such a loving caring being as the christian God forsake me? How could he forsake my completely innocent siblings?

After that night I began wondering more and more why there was so much suffering on the planet if God "cared and loved so much". I became a horrible pessimist in my godless world. Gone were my blissful feelings of fearlessness and faith. I felt hate and anger.

That has healed over the years and I am now a peaceful atheist, but vehemently anti-religious. I think religion is a horrible delusion that is abused by the powerful to control, inflicted upon unwitting children, and maintained, fueled, and strengthened by ignorance.

Fair warning to "unequally yoked"

( Via Inversionmaster)

My story is probably not that interesting (until the more recent stuff) since I was never a believer. I vaguely recall kindergarten Sunday school and having doubts about the creation story. My family attended church off and on, due to my mother's prodding. Mom might be considered Christian-lite and my dad is probably a weak agnostic. As a boy, I recall going to weekend cub scout event but if you didn't attend the really wishy-washy church service you had to help in the kitchen (it was more fun anyway!). I left out "under god" during the Pledge in school (nobody noticed). A few years later, my mom made me attend confirmation classes but I thought it was a bunch of nonsense. Shortly after that we switched to a more modern Episcopal church where the minister would occasional swear and I even joined the choir (good snacks!). Too busy or not interested in church during high school. As a college student I never attended church but had a couple of strange experiences with the "faithful". There was the student down the hall who sent 10% of his financial aid to the church and I remember thinking that was just wrong. There was a fundie classmate who was into the whole young earth creationist thing. This kind of blew me away since we were both in the cell and molecular biology program at a large research university. He refused to answer questions dealing with evolution and even showed me his exams with the zeros. I respected his determination but not the arguments. Up until this point I would probably consider myself a weak agnostic, other than a few run-ins with these characters, religion just had little impact on my life.

In graduate school I met a woman who was catholic. She was not that hard-core, though there were a couple of things she was strict about like not missing church and Lent. I cheerfully followed along, perhaps feeling like I did something "good" by attending church. After a couple of years dating, we married and had two beautiful, intelligent kids. Slowly the Catholicism was replaced by fundamentalist protestant Christianity. It started with a Bible study class which lead to Sunday *night* services and sometimes Wednesday prayer meetings, AWANA, Vacation Bible Study and other stuff. Our library is filled with books by CS Lewis, James Dobson, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell and related ilk. I attend Sunday morning service but have made it clear that it is only to "keep the peace". All of our friends are church members, so it is hard to develop more than superficial friendships. I can only protest in silly little ways; by *not* singing at church, *not* bowing my head during prayer in church, small contributions to the collection plate (to pay for the air) despite several pleas that god will bless us if we cough up 10%. I've told my wife she is free to get a job to pay her 10% but she is so tied up with bible studies that won't happen. In an odd way this has made me much more liberal on many issues. We don't attend any charismatic churches and I have told her that there will be serious problems if she moves in that direction.

So we have this impasse. I don't know if religion has helped my wife become a fantastic mother but on other hand I know it has mediocre wife. To be fair, she probably feels the same way about me. We both know that if things were done all over again under the current conditions we never would have had a second date, so yeah, valentine's and anniversaries are a bit awkward.

As my children are approaching the end of their high school years they will be under less influence from their mother. There are several looming issues pertaining to college. Their mother has really played up very conservative colleges. I fear attending one of these schools will lock them into a network of like-minded peers, alienating me even further. At this point, the kids have what they think of as a strong faith, is it my job to tear that down? This is a very difficult position, whether a secular or christian university, one parent is going to be disappointed. So in some ways I hope my story is a bit of warning to those consider being "unequally yoked". From what I've observed, people tend to get more conservative in their religious views as time goes on, especially when children are involved.

Free to Think and Question

(Via Peter White)

I was raised a good Christian in a place where religion was a way of life. I lived in the province of Quebec which, at the time, was almost a theocracy. The laws of the province prevented the dissemination of birth control information and divorce was not possible. As a result Quebec had the highest birth rate in Canada. I was a member of a small minority of people who spoke English and were Protestant. I never understood why French speaking Catholics hated us as a group and I had to defend myself from attacks both physical and verbal.

I was as fervent a believer in God and Christianity as anyone. I loved the idea that there was a being who loved me and protected me from harm. I felt safe as long as I knew God was on my side and I tried hard to behave in a proper Christian manner.

Around the age of 9 I started to notice things that didn't make sense to me. The people who were teaching me to be a good Christian didn't seem to follow their own rules. I was not treated especially well by any of them. I thought they must be either very stupid or insane. How could anyone risk an eternity in Hell by not following the rules that God made? Since I was much younger and probably not as smart as any of the ministers or Sunday school teachers I reasoned that something else must be happening.

After a year or so of trying to figure out why the people in my church didn't practice what they preached, the reason struck me one day. They didn't want me to treat them the way they treated me. Then it started to make some sense. The threats of eternal damnation were their protection from evil.

Over the next 5 years or so I noticed more and more things in all religions that made no sense. I had the privilege of attending school with children from many countries who belonged to many different religions. That gave me a perfect opportunity to make comparisons. I had a few friends who were very interested in religion and we spent a lot of time reading the Bible. We stumbled on many passages that nobody in church ever mentioned. That made me even more suspicious of religious teachings.

By the time I was 15 I had become absolutely convinced that no religion had any basis for its beliefs. I rejected any supernatural explanations for what we see in the universe.

During my last year of high school I went to live with my older sister and her family. My sister's family were Jehovah's Witnesses and tried hard to convert me. We had regular debates on many subjects and I had to do a lot of research to defend my beliefs. As a result my atheist position became increasingly solid as one religious argument after another was shown to be false. I have continued looking into religions and to this day I have not found a good reason to believe the teachings of any one of them.

The Road to My Deconversion

(Via Derone T. Pugh)

The origin of my Atheism or deconversion, as I like to refer it, was a long and rocky road. I was baptized at the tender age of six. This marked my indoctrination and allegiance to an organization and doctrine, that at the age of six I had neither the knowledge nor maturity to understand and decide if I wanted to be part of. However, I did not begin to see the light until a couple of years later. I began my journey on the road of Atheism at about the age of nine in a church in which my grandfather was the Pastor. I can remember walking into the church and looking up and seeing a painting of what was suppose to be Jesus, which depicted a Caucasian male with long dirty blonde hair and blue eyes and a radiant glow around his head. I asked my self, how would we know how he looked? The church in which this painting was housed was home to an African-American congregation, which in large part, was comprised of the poor and down-trodden of a Southern California African-American community. These congregants prayed fervently to their Jesus, danced and gyrated around the church, sweating and moaning with the occasional outburst of an “yes lord” “Amen” and “thank you Jesus” while my grandmother banged away on an old slightly out of tune piano, my grandfather stood in the pulpit intensely beating and rattling a tambourine and I rocked out on the drums. All of this occurred during what is called the devotional portion of the church service and it went on until it reached a climax or fever pitch. Now as I reflect on the emotional intensity of the congregants during the devotion, I realize that the devotion possessed what I think is the emotion that one would have for a lover. That is, the outpouring of emotion had, what I realized after my first sexual encounter, produced the type of loyalty and attachment that one would have for a lover. Please understand, I am not doubting the sincerity of the congregants or my grandfather, they all were certain that they were doing the work of the “Lord.”

After the devotion period, began the fleecing of the congregants, that is, the tithes and offering were taken up. My grandfather would open by saying something to the effect, “the Lord is good and has been good to us. It’s time now that we show our appreciation to the Lord by doing what he commands us to do, ten percent of our income is to go to the Lord.” I began to ponder, if God created the earth and the entire universe, what would such a powerful being need with some measly pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents printed on them? It was always during the fleecing of the congregants that I began to wonder and doubt. For why would an omniscient, omnipotent, and loving being want to obtain the money that his poor and down trodden children so desperately needed to acquire the bare necessities to survive on this earth?

Another point of contention I had with the Christian doctrine at the age of six was the idea of the Trinity. I could not wrap my brain around the idea of there being three persons, beings, or “spirits” in one. I can remember sitting in the church pew during a sermon in which the preacher explain the concept of the Trinity. To say the least, his elucidation of the concept was inadequate. I attempted to mentally visualize the concept but could not. I left that sermon being more confused than I was before I heard it. My reading and attempting to understand the Bible led to even more doubts and confusion. I asked myself many times during my childhood, why is god so confusing and mysterious? Why does not he reveal himself to the faithful? Why is Revelations the most gloomy and depressing portion of the Bible? I never took any consolation in the Book of Revelations. In fact, I take even less consolation from the Bible as a whole being an African-American and reading that god supposedly cursed the darker nations of the world through the curse of Ham (son of Noah). This god is not as just as his worshipers boast. What is even more absurd is the reason why this god cursed Ham, for seeing his father (Noah) naked. Naked!!! Even at nine years old, I found the propositions in the Bible absurd and the people around me in church credulous. Nonetheless, I feigned belief through cognitive dissonance and for fear that I would be shunned by society and my family.

However, around age 15 I began rebelling and told my father that I did not want to go to church anymore which resulted in my being kicked out of my father’s house. And no, I was not the prodigal’s son; I did not return to my father’s house, I went to live with my mother. At that point, I rarely if ever attended church again.

At the age 18 I entered the Marine Corps and found many people which held faith important part of their lives. However, of all the people in the world, I think it is the combat soldier that needs something to hold on to during perilous times. In any event, it was during my enlistment in the Marines that I began to seriously call into question the existence of a god. In August of 1990, my unit received orders to deploy to Monrovia, Liberia and do a partial evacuation of the United States Embassy and evacuate some American citizens and augment the security of the embassy. Liberia was in the midst of a civil war and to borrow a phrase from the great 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, the people of Liberia were reduced to a “state of nature” in which every man was for himself. During that operation I witnessed some of the immoral expressions of the human psyche come to fruition; and I wondered, if a god who is omnipotent, loving, and just exist, how could he allow people to perpetuate and live in such horrific conditions? I witnessed children starving, heard people being tortured and executed and many other immoral acts being committed all in a quest for power. This experience shook me to such a degree that I left Africa with a very small measure of belief that a god exists than when I had arrived and even less confidence in humanity.

What solidified my deconversion or atheism was my study of Philosophy and Political Science at the University of Southern California and meeting an unrepentant Atheist who I will refer to as JH. JH was a graduate student and was one of the nicest, most intelligent, and most well read people that I have ever met in my life. Through JH I met other Atheist who shared the same characteristics. One common thread that ran through all of them is that they did not have to believe in a god to be moral people. They cared about their fellow students, the environment and the poor. I enjoyed very much having my beliefs challenged and engaging in intellectual discussions. To say the least, the university environment was refreshing. It was after reading Hobbes, Hume, Socrates, Machiavelli and many other great philosophers that I realized that the internal struggle that I have had since childhood had been pondered over many times before by people who had the intestinal fortitude to challenge the common assumptions and authority of their day. Shortly thereafter, I read Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Suddenly, a new world was open to me. I became aware that it is okay not to believe and have doubts about things which there are no evidence for. That is, those things which people hold sacred became perfectly fine for me to question, doubt and disbelieve. After reading more philosophy and the works of Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris and learning how to think critically, I realized I had been finally set free from the debilitating, controlling and irrational belief in a god.

One thing that I have become conscious of is the day that I admitted quietly in my mind that it is plausible that there is no omnipotent being who intervenes in human affairs, which was around December 2002, is the day I began to take charge of my own life and take responsibilities for my own actions. It is this realization that led me to go back to college which ultimately resulted in my attending the University of Southern California. I am the first person in my family to graduate from college. Presently, I am working, my wife and I are raising five children as freethinkers, and I am applying to law schools. Thanks for reading.

An Atheist Blossoms

(Via Andrew)

In the beginning there was the Book, and the Book was by God, and the Book was about God. In the end, it would be the Book that would lead me from God, and then from any god. But lets not get ahead of ourselves…

I had the boring stereotypical white-bread, middle-class upbringing, complete with church and/or Sunday school most weeks (and let’s not forget Christmas Eve). This included being only one of two kids in my fifth-grade class to memorize each of the monthly bits of indoctrination (all the books of the Old Testament in order, anyone?), but hey, there were prizes on the line! I was even an acolyte for several years, lighting candles and carrying the cross ahead of the choir as they entered and exited the worship area.

It was never really an act of faith, though. I made the motions; I sang the songs; I spoke the words; hell, given a minute to think back, I could probably still spit out most of the Lutheran liturgy that I had memorized by repetition. But I never really had any sense that it was at all meaningful. That’s not to say I doubted the existence of God, though, because, like a good little Christian, I never questioned it…or anything.

This continued through the start of my high school years, when my mother decided to go back to school – in her case, a seminary. Like any good kid, I did my duty in this situation and began to look up Bible passages that might cast doubt on her decision to become a minister. (“Look mom, it says right here that women shouldn’t speak in church!”) It was here, seeing the utter stupidity of so much that was ensconced in that book, that the seeds of doubt were planted.

Those seeds, however, wouldn’t begin to sprout until several years later. I was working in an internship in Iowa one summer, and bored as someone could be. Thinking about the doubts that had started to grow some years earlier, I decided to do the unthinkable – I bought a Bible and began to read. And I read…and read…and read. And the only conclusion that I could come up with was that there was no way that what was in the book could be true at the same time that mainstream Christianity was; the two were just too far contradictory.

Now that the doubts had sprouted, it would only take the triple threat combination of water, fertilizer, and time for it to bloom. In this case, the water came in the form of a battery of European, Western, and World History classes and the fertilizer in the form of Comparative Religions classes. The history classes, in showing the rise, spread, and abuse of Christianity throughout Europe and the West, opened my eyes fully to the farce that it is. Nietzsche was right, it is the religion of the slave, and the masters of Europe used it to strengthen their hold over their chattel. The comparative religions classes cemented my feelings that all other faiths were equally absurd.

So, that’s how it came to pass. No sudden break, no big moment, just the ordered progression from doubt, to dissatisfaction with organized religion, to rejection of the faith of my parents and my society, and finally to a rejection of faith in its entirety. Just, that is, the ordered, logical progression of one who thinks and reasons – and, after all, that is the domain of the atheist, is it not?

The Story of My Disbelief

(Via Jaakko Wallenius)

I have in this blog repeatedly pointed out the importance of the indoctrination that is done in the early childhood in transferring the religious beliefs. This is in a pivotal point in Richard Dawkins work.

My lifetime of atheism is certainly in some part based on the fact that I have not been subjected to any religious indoctrination in my early childhood.

I grew up in a family where the relationship with religion or church was quite indifferent. In both my parents families there was a strong tradition of activism in the Social Democratic movement which can in part explain this neutral attitude towards religion, even though both my grandmother’s were devout Christians.

I did not however receive any atheistic teaching or even had any knowledge of its existence in my childhood. My parents had very typical Finnish relationship with the religion. They followed the traditions, but they held a definite aversion towards any preaching or even religious way of thinking.

I doubt that a crucial thing in my own development was the thing that I never received teaching in religious matters before reaching the regular school-age, which is six or seven years in Finland. My mother was a housewife and so I never did go to kindergartens that are giving religious teaching in Finland, nor did I attend any Sunday school.

I suppose that the religious teachings received later in the school had much less impact, when there was a definite lack of the religious teaching most people receive at an age when they are not able to think for themselves at all.

Our family was on the other hand not against religion in any particular way and so I attended the regular religious teaching given to almost all children in the Finnish schools.

Even so, I remember thinking that the stories in the Bible were just another collection of bedtime stories, and I remember slightly wondering why this kind of series of clearly made up stories is taught in the school.

This early wonderment changed however to active resistance in the early teen-age. I can’t really say what caused this change. I only soon found out that I did spend the hours reserved for religious teaching thinking about arguments against these patently false and unhistorical assertions that were given as facts in this class.

The history part may have been crucial in my development, as I did nurture an everlasting love for history from the tender age of nine or ten, when I did first read the 600 pages of Pocket World History, admittedly skipping the dull parts dealing with culture. After that I read practically everything in our local library that had anything at all to do with history.

I did not receive any direct atheistic influences in the real life, but the clear antireligious tendencies in the modern world literature must have made on impact also on me. Besides history I spend my spare time mostly by reading contemporary American and Latin American literature. From the older literature especially George Orwell’s earlier works had a great impact on me.

I remember clearly that my first antireligious thoughts were formed when I realized that Christianity condemns to oblivion also those who have not had a physical opportunity of even hearing about its teaching.

I must admit that in high school I was the favorite pupil of our teacher of religion. He represented a very modern view of Christianity and she had great appreciation for the fact I had even thought about this kind of things in any way. My classmates were clearly only extremely bored by the whole thing with religion.

My views were maturing during these formative years and in my 18: t birthday I severed my formal links with church for good. In Finland a child is not allowed to resign from the membership of the state church without his or her parents’ permission before the age of 18, but I did at very moment it was possible.

After high school the matters of faith did disappear from my life quite totally for a very long time. Quite simply there were no more situations like the religious teaching at the school where you had to take any stand in these matters.

My atheistic views very not in any way changed in the years spend in studying political history, sociology and political science in the university. On the contrary things learned in these fields gave a new understanding the underlying causes for religions and new information of their negative impact in the humanity.

During my years in university I did not once meet a fellow student who would have been interested in religious things in any way or who would have professed open religious beliefs of any kind.

I do not even remember of ever conversing about religious or atheistic matters with anybody during these years, but my memory may be failing me, as alcohol may have been involved in these extended conversations.

Not even on a single occasion I did I have any need to openly defend my atheistic views as these matters simply were not important in this group of fun loving young people in the Finland of late 1970:s. In the same vein I did not feel any need to present my own views to anybody.

I have never based any of my views of the world on how popular they would have been in the time. Therefore I did not have any need to convert anybody to my own views.
By this time I had a brief but very tempestuous political career in the Social Democratic student movement. Politics was soon so much more fun than studying and the studies were soon left to a zombie status.

After the rollercoaster ride of this rather short-lived political career was over, I had to find a new livelihood, as starting over of with my ailing studies did not seem a locking prospect anymore.

I turned to journalism, as I had liked writing all my life and my background did give me qualifications for just that profession.

My first steady job as a journalist was in a quite large newspaper in the western coast of Finland and there I met for the first time a person with real and open religious beliefs for the first time since listening to my teacher of religion in the high school many years earlier.

I remember seeing her as a person with a severe disability. The fact is that you are constantly checking your way of speech and things you are saying when in presence of a person with a major impediment, even as this is not a thing you should do… In the same vein I remember carefully watching my language in a strange way when this person was present.

The person in question was quite nice and charming young lady, but very soon I did find our seeking other company. The human being is just built so that a person prefers a company where you can be the person you really are and you don’t have the think about hurting the particular beliefs of any person.

It gives a good picture of the status of religious life in Finland, if a person can live to be nearly 30 years of age before meeting a person with strong religious beliefs. To come to think of I have not met many such ardent believers in the newspapers I have worked even after that.

A little later I moved for a spell to my original little hometown deep in the inland to work in the local newspaper there. There for the first time in my life I met a genuine young person under my own age, who would profess a religious belief. I had by then already come to believe that the young people would not fall for this bag of old tricks anymore.

This person was however an exception as religion played no part in the life of the people in my age group even in this a little already shrinking old industrial city with paper mills and one big company.

Al these years I did from time to time think about the origins of religious thought and reasons for their continued existence in a world where the made up explanations of the world are no more needed, when we have the science to give us all the explanations we need.

In the autumn of 2006 I listened to a collection of lectures in IT Conversations –Podcast series. By chance one of the lectures was Sam Harris and after listening to that lecture I suddenly realized that I was not alone in the world with my line of thinking, but there are others who had been thinking just the same things as I had.After Sam Harris I found rapidly also Richard Dawkins and his work.

The next big thing for me was the ‘06 version of Beyond Belief –conference. I did watch the those whole 15 hours of wonderful lectures and debate with growing enthusiasm.

By then I had already ordered the books by Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and the Beyond Belief –videos were soon accompanied by a tough selection of atheistic writing.

After that I have read the works of Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Michel Onfray, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Pascal Boyer, Nicholas Humhprey, Scott Atran, Victor J. Stenger among others. I am step by step getting a clearer picture where atheistic thought is today and what are the challenges ahead.

How Love Trumped God

(Via Erica)

Aside from sporadic Sunday church attendance in childhood, I was pretty much apathetic to religion or atheism until the age of 14. When I started high school, one of our marching band’s part-time assistants was a youth pastor at the church of Christ across the street from our practice field. He invited everyone in the band to football game “after-parties” at the church, complete with free pizza and a dunk tank inhabited by our associate principal, so I started going and got to know (let’s call him “Brandon”) pretty well. In the course of chatting, I mentioned some issues with my boyfriend at the time, and Brandon suggested I stop by his office after school some day to talk. This was the beginning of weekly chats that lasted the entire school year and a few weeks into my sophomore year.

We’d always start out talking just about life in general – my boyfriend and what sexual things we did or didn’t do (and Brandon would always point me to the most chastity-inspiring bible verses he could find), how school was going, whether or not I was contemplating suicide that week. He became a great source of strength for me in a REALLY rough time in my life. All of my best friends from junior high had turned on me and started harassing me that year for a meaningless incident that escalated due to pure peer pressure. Brandon even drove to my house in the middle of the night once when he thought I was seriously considering killing myself. I wasn’t, but I sure thought I was at the time. I had attended a few Sunday services and considered joining his church. I bought a study bible. I became close enough to his family to visit him and his wife in the hospital when their son was born on my 15th birthday. But the more Monday afternoons I spent in his office, the more our discussions turned to god, and the more our time was spent reading bible passages.

While these were comforting at first, I started to come to our meetings with lists of questions, and Brandon started pointing me to the bible’s answers. I had issues with a lot of these. Brandon would even joke that I was the exact opposite of most of his congregation – I could grasp the intellectual aspect of the religion, but had problems with the faith. Two points in particular caused cracks in my fledgling belief that would eventually lead to me rejecting religion entirely. First of all, Brandon’s church believed that women shouldn’t speak in church, and that they should submit fully to their husbands. Brandon pointed me to bible verses stating specifically that women are the “weaker vessel” in marriages. I may have been in a fragile emotional state and desperate to believe anything, but there was no way in hell I was going to swallow that load of shit. This answer, of course, led to the question, “what about gay couples? Who submits when there isn’t one man and one woman?” Brandon’s following statements about the sinfulness, vulgarity, and necessary christian intolerance of homosexual relationships are ultimately what led to my rift with religion. He understood right away that I had problems with this, and tried to remedy the situation by informing me that all major religions believed that homosexual relationships were wrong. This further weakened any hold I had to faith – because whatever I could suspend logic to believe in, I could never, NEVER believe in or have any respect for a god who would make any kind of mutual, non-harmful love a sin.

Pretty soon the school year ended, and I had the entire summer to research atheist as well as christian and all other sorts of religious websites. I had a few other trying personal and family issues that summer, all complicated by the fact that I was depressed, but I came out stronger in the end. I started 10th grade wiser (yes, you may laugh about the idea of a 10th grader being wise, but it’s a relative term in this case) and more skeptical. I still met a few Mondays with Brandon at the beginning of the year, but my schedule didn’t allow for our talks as easily. Over the next 2 years, my faith completely dissolved and led way to a zealous love affair with science and reason. As my depression was successfully treated, I came to realize how my state of mind had opened me up to ideas and beliefs that seemed utterly ridiculous to me when I was healthy. I learned how religion mirrors the cycle of addiction and codependency. I started talking very frankly with my parents, particularly my mom, about religion, and found out that they’d always been mostly agnostic too. They’d purposefully never shared their religious views with me or my brothers because they felt we should develop our own belief systems – a technique I will absolutely continue with my own children. Most of all I found it impressive that I’d independently reached a very similar position on religion to what my parents believed.

In college, my views were bolstered in the small, private liberal arts school environment, and probably also due to spats with my Catholic roommate. I joined the gay-straight alliance and became a very active straight ally, and fair legal treatment of lesbians and gays still tops my political priorities list. I’m a bit less irreverent now than I was in college, but my flippant preacher’s-son-turned-atheist boyfriend is doing his best to correct that. =)

Atheism is like a liferaft in an ocean of religious despair

(Via BiMamaFeminAtheist)

This story was originally posted on ex-christian.net so references to fundie trolls are intended for that audience.

I was born at home in January of 1983. Six of my grandmothers eight grandchildren were born this way (the other two are adopted). My parents split up before I can remember, and my mother went back to school to get her degrees (ending up with a PhD). So my grandmother was my primary parent (although mom did live in the same home). My grandmother, who I have always known as Giggy, was both devout and insane. She made the rules and meted out the punishments. In the late 1970s she wrote a Xtian bestseller about the end times and promptly retired from nursing, a job she hated. After a few years of notoriety and fame in the Xtian fundy world (then known as charismatic) she became a "spiritual midwife", urging women to forgo traditional prenatal care and instead root out "defilements" in their lives that might cause a less-than-perfect birth experience. This is the world I grew up in: no Smurfs, Care Bears, or Fraggle Rock. No music outside of church and church choir. No movies till they'd been broadcast on basic TV and then recorded and edited by my grandmother (heavy on that fast-forward button through any bad language or dirtiness). No public school till 4th grade, when my mom graduated and we moved out of state to get away from Gig.

I was sheltered from typical childhood experiences like trick-or-treating (evil and pagan) and Santa (a threat to the "true" meaning of the laughably, equally pagan Christmas) but instead exposed to horrors like medically unassisted home births. I remember being maybe six years old, coloring in the dining room of a stranger's home for hours and hours and hours, when suddenly my grandmother pulled me into the bedroom where the birthing was taking place. There were complications, and my grandmother seemed to think God would be more amenable to the prayers of a child in this case, so I was brought in the room to lay hands on the laboring woman. Her baby was premature and so small. I don't know now how it turned out later in life. We were just there for the births, as far as I know. My grandmother wrote another book, this one non-fictional (supposedly) about her experiences in the "home birth ministry". This one has sold all over the world. My grandmother was invited to speaking engagements across the US and as far away as Perth, Australia to tell people how they weren't real Xtians if they didn't put ALL their faith in God. Did I mention we weren't allowed to lock our doors? Because that would mean putting our faith in things of this world, like man-made locks, instead of in our heavenly provider and protector.

We did not go to doctors. I got into the typical childhood scrapes, bruises and cuts. I also remember stepping on a rusty carpenter's nail in my cousin's back yard when I was about 5 and it going clean through my foot. No tetnus shot for me! Just prayer. It was the one-size-fits-all magic bullet. And it was all about manipulating God to do what He promised in that book of his. We had this huge wooden door hanging on the wall in our entry room, that my grandmother had painted blue, and had written the names of God from the OT in white paint (Jehovah Rapha, Nissi, Shalom, etc.) If you want a pop-cultural figure to relate her to, I offer Becky Fischer of "Jesus Camp" fame. Actually, watching that whole documentary was like some weird flashback, and what has triggered me writing this story.

So here was this incredibly "Godly' woman, well respected in the Xtian circles we saw (fundamentalist charismatic crazies), who would beat the shit out of us, supposedly because we were "in rebellion" and our "Adam nature" had gotten out of hand. Also that whole crap about "spare the rod, spoil the child". Gee, thanks Jesus, way to give child abuse some real religious authority! Fucker. But the weird thing was, for all the emotional, spiritual, mental and physical abuse, this was also the woman who would comfort me. When I had nightmares (which was frequently) she would rock me in her chair and sing Xtian hymns/lullabies about the peace of God to me, and hold me till I felt better, long after the age where I no longer comfortably fit in her ample lap.

My family was actually a bit open-minded in a close-minded way when it came to various denominations. We were non-denominational because NONE of them had enough "faith" as proscribed by Gig, but to get us out of her hair she'd happily send us to every single VBS (Vacation Bible School) in town: the Methodist one, the Mennonite one, etc. and we were involved in children's choir at the Baptist church.

In second grade I stopped being homeschooled and started attending a local private Christian school (I believe Church of God, but I'm not sure). This meant Bible class (easy for me, as it was all we GOT at home), typical school subjects, and of course Chapel on Wednesdays. I was friends with a girl who lived down the block my age, and I remember one Wednesday going to her house after school. Her dad said she wasn't home, but I could come in to wait and watch TV with him till she got there. He molested me. I will never forget that it happened on a Wednesday, because that's why I was wearing a dress that day. I'm older and now more about perverts and I'm pretty sure he would have tried at some point anyway, but as a kid, I associated it with being a girl and wearing a dress. That went on for over a year, till I finally broke through the "don't contradict your elders" teachings enough to tell my mom what was going on.

Being raised the way I was, I thought I was dirty, sinful, "impure" and above all, not a good woman. What man would want me? Also, I overheard the doctors (first I EVER saw was a freaking gynecologist doing a PAP smear on me at 8 to verify I had indeed been violated) telling my mother I would never bear children. This is all really painful to type, but I must get it out.

During this same time my older brother was getting into trouble with the law and at school. Mostly kid stuff, like shop lifting from the local 7-11, but also some kind of frightening things, like homemaking his own weapons. One day when I was in third grade a police officer came to my school to ask me questions about my family, because my brother had called child services to report we were being abused. I was so hurt that my willful, rebellious, sinful brother would dare make such accusations against our loving and godly grandmother! I still feel sick about not defending him. My family responded by shipping him across the country to go live with our stoner ex-Xtian dad.

Anyway, a few months after this my mom graduated with her doctorate and got a job very very out of state and we left. Now came public school, which I was totally unprepared for. Educationally I was actually ahead, but socially I was years behind. Imagine sending a five year old to fourth grade; essentially that's where I was socially/emotionally. I got picked on and bullied terribly. I remember the girl with leg braces picking on me, since it moved her a notch up the social ladder (she'd been at the bottom till I came). It didn't help that I had ingrained exceptionalism and elitism that belonging to a cult gives you, that totally out of proportion to reality arrogance and ignorance.

But I didn't think I'd been raised in a cult, just in church. We still attended church up north, though oddly enough my mom, sister and I each went to our own. I went to a local Community Church, my sister went to youth group at a Methodist, and I believe my mom attended Presbyterian singles group. I liked the pastor at my church because he was gentle and none of his sermons were about hell. During the three years we lived out of state, we still came to live with my grandmother over the summers, so we could spend time with our cousins, etc. She was no longer physically abusive and was a lot more relaxed about things like food (I remember eating nothing but Pillsbury Strudels for over a month one summer) but still crazy restrictive on others, like "secular" music.

One summer, she had a two-week long tour in Australia, and my aunt was left in charge of us. There was an incident where she got nutty and decided that either my sister or I had stolen some of her French chocolate liquors (ew). So she locked us in my grandmother's room with Bibles and assigned us to look up and write out passages about our sin. The truly hurtful, insane and FUCKED UP part was that she assigned us different sins - I was declared a "thief" and my sister a "glutton". Now, if it was the same crime we were both accused of, stealing and eating nasty boozy chocolates neither of us wanted (and to this day, in talks with each other, both deny having done it - I believe her) wouldn't we have gotten the same punishment? Just another example in a lifetime of screwy dogmatic child abuse.

A few years later we moved back to my home town for good. I started spending weekends at my grandmothers, and started working for her ministry. I would mail out her books and newsletters, type, file, etc. I also built the "ministry's" first website and blog. I actually got a lot of really good skills and training from that work, but in retrospect wish I had not done anything to help advance her unhealthy message. I was really starting to believe the things she said, right down to where doctors did more harm than good and people shouldn't expose their kids to those egotistical perverts. (She really hated being a nurse.)

Thank God for high school (ha!). I went to a school for the performing arts and was suddenly and joyously exposed to all those heathens I'd been warned about - people who openly practiced witchcraft, lesbians, actors, stoners, EVERYONE! It was glorious and wonderful. I had my first girlfriend, I found my first truly close friends. I had a little bit of breathing room, for a few hours a day, to be as weird as I wanted or needed to be. I think it's what saved me from being completely racist, sexist, and anti-gay. My grandmother certainly put forth a concerted effort to indoctrinate those principles into me.

After that I was never a "good Xtian" again. I still went to church, meant it when I sang and worshipped, etc, but I had sex when I wanted, experimented liberally with drugs and alcohol, and listened to rock and punk and rap and just everything that had been denied for so long. It was my own stumbling renaissance.

At 17 my mom kicked me out of the house for stupid shit, so I moved in with my dad (whose sole purpose is apparently to be there when my mom gets sick of us, but I'm grateful to him for that at least). I messed around with ecstasy (yuck) and was consequently hospitalized for suicide attempts twice. Then I got alcohol poisoning. My dad's girlfriend decided I was a liability who would have to go. In order to persuade my mom I was "worthy" of coming home, that I was truly "repentant" I had to go to a Christian cult detox FARM in Texas, where all the animals had biblical names (swear to mythological creature). It was insane. They were trying to cast demons out of me and after four days of this I finally just started faking convulsions to get them off my case. They also took my science fiction books from me, told me I was a whore because my belly button showed in some of my tops (it was AUGUST and where I'm from that means skimpy tops, sexuality aside), etc. But they did let me keep smoking cigarettes, oddly enough. Anyway, after a few weeks of that I got to move back in with my mother for a few months until I could afford my very own mobile home.

Flash forward a few years of this mildly uncomfortable double life (though really, only mildly) and you'll find me pregnant by my loser alcoholic boyfriend. What does the family say I should do? Marry the jerk, of course! So I waddled down the aisle at seven months pregnant and promised "till death do I part" in front of an Anglican priest. That same priest just a few months later had the decency and good counsel to tell me I should consider a divorce; he saw what my family wouldn't - he was a raging alcoholic and extremely emotionally abusive. So, less than three months into my marriage, with a broken ankle and a six-week old infant, I dipped.

I went back to my mom's house. She wouldn't help me pay for getting a cast, so I hobbled around without one, caring for my son as best I could. Only within the last few months have I seen how unloving that was - for her to watch me in deep physical pain every day, but do nothing. But then, she had experience with the matter. Between the ages of 14 and 18 I spent almost all my time with a dislocated hip. It could easily have been treated by a doctor, but instead I was forced to suffer godawful pain for a religious belief she no longer even really held. I think she had just decided i was "faking it" (like when I told her I was suicidal and she said I was being "dramatic" or when i told her I was bisexual and she told me it was a "phase"). I smoked a LOT of pot both as a teenager, and as a new mom, something I'm not very proud of, but the only way I knew of to deal with the physical and mental pain.

When my son turned two I went back to college. I fell in love with two subjects, American History and Middle East Studies. I was fascinated by the convoluted situation in Israel/Palestine and the role that religious extremism played in sustaining the conflict and hiccuping attempts at peace. During a class this Spring in American History from 1800-1850 we learned about America's two "Great Awakening" spiritual revival movements, and the genesis of a lot of our homegrown cults: Jehovah's Witness, Latter Day Saints/Mormons, and Seventh Day Adventists. We also read a fascinating book on the Oneida Utopia and it's narcissistic-personality-

disorder poster boy, John Humphrey Noyes. While all my classmates were saying "What a load of bull! Who would fall for this crap?" and "This is weird! This is bat shit!" I kept thinking "Why does this remind me of my childhood? Why does this all seem so familiar?"

So, one night a few months ago, I Googled my grandmother's name and the name of her ministry. Pages and pages of links came up, but the mostly fell into two categories: 1. Xtians and others refuting her teachings as dangerous and/or unbiblical, and 2. newspapers about cult deaths and medical negligence deaths, of people who had read my grandmother's books. One story, for anyone interested in Googling it themselves, was about the Attleboro Cult. After reading my grandmothers book on home birth, this small "home church" group went round the bend and turned into a full blown cult. One of the female members told another woman that she and her 4-year old son should stop eating and only drink almond milk. The little boy slowly starved to death in a house full of food. I still can't think about that kid without crying, and regretting all my complicity with the lies my grandmother spread so far and wide. (Though others with far more power are to blame also: she appeared on 700 Club and Pat Robinson, as well as Jim & Tammy Faye's PTL.)

Within a few hours of looking at link after horrifying link, I learned of people on four continents who had died following my grandmother's reckless "spiritual' advice, including an Australian woman who died in childbirth and an African couple who refused to get HIV/AIDS treatment because they believed if they just "prayed and had faith" God would heal them. (He didn't.)

That was by far the biggest blow to my spirituality I've ever faced. Coming to grips with the fact that I was raised in a cult, that my grandmother was a cult leader, that her wackiness didn't just hurt me, but killed innocent children halfway around the world. I'm not exactly over it yet. I think a lot of years of therapy are in my future. But the word "cult" was helpful, because it gave me a place to start. I researched cult characteristics, watched "Sorry I knocked" videos on YouTube, donated to SilentLambs.org (for sexual abuse victims of Jehovah's Witness' "pedophile's paradise"), and protested against Scientology. I started to look at all these religions I could clearly see were crazy. I knew the stories of Joseph Smith and Edward Miller and Brigham Young and John Humphrey Noyes and L. Ron Hubbard. They all had a lot in common with each other, and with my grandmother. Deep personal dissatisfaction and insanity. Untreated depression, and I'd wager a lot of serotonin imbalance all around.

This led to a greater questioning of my own dormant religious faith (I'd kept my son out of church semi-instinctively; like not trusting myself to find a non-abusive boyfriend, I don't trust myself to find a non-abusive church). Everyone on here has great sites they can link you to, but for my WhyWontGodHealAmputees.com did the trick. It confirmed what I was already beginning to believe (that God is imaginary) and gave me the push I needed to go ahead and let myself explore atheism further. I'm reading a wonderful book now "God is Not Good: How Religion Poisons Everything" and it's just incredible. I watched "Jesus Camp" and I swear I want to go kidnap every one of those kids and put them in "normal" homes where they won't be brainwashed into believing they are inherently sinful, evil, and wrong and that their natural desires prove they need a mythical hero to die and rise to save them from that same mythical God's curses.

Atheism is like a life raft in an ocean of religious despair for me. I look at my son everyday now and I am so thankful that he won't be subjected to the torturous childhood I had. I teach him to love himself, that his body is wonderful and his own, and that he should be proud of his accomplishments. I do not present fairy tales or mythology as truth to him and frankly, I'm not sure I'll tell him about Santa either. I don't know. My son is very bright but delayed in expressive and receptive language. In a lot of ways, I feel really blessed about this. He is catching up fine, but it gives me extra time to just *enjoy* him for who he is, and not for what he says or how he performs. We love each other so much. And I would never, ever, ever worship a God that would condemn him for hell for dying too young, for refusing to kneel before a tyrant, or for possibly being gay (who knows, he's 2). i don't yet get the great "Why?" questions or the screaming "No!" fights either; instead I see a child who does not question the nature of good and evil, of his own "immortal soul" or heaven and hell. He lives in the here and now, and that gives me great inspiration for how I can live my own life happier than it has been so far.

Thank you for this forum, and for letting me ramble on so long. Tears are streaming because I feel so glad to get this all out. Oddly enough, i do still love my grandmother. I'll never leave her alone with any child, but I forgive her for what she did to me. She is on antidepressants for the first time in her life, and has become a different person. I see now how much of her insanity was truly just that, chemical imbalance that is behind most insanity. What she did to me was awful and it will probably take me a long time to move completely beyond it, but I have the rest of my life to myself, with no God horning in on my happiness.

And to all the Xtian trolls - I *know* my Bible, so don't tell me to read it. I won a Bible Bowl trivia contest against kids twice my age when I was 7. It's not that I don't know it, it's that I don't believe it. I'll let other members explain to you why it is so improbable; this story was personal and not theological. Again, to the webmaster and other ex-xtian members, thank you for letting me get this off my chest.

It's my Life

(Via Daphne)

I am 14 and I never knew what atheist meant. I thought it was something like communism and stuff like that =] I never really "believed in god" but my dear friend did and she took me to church on the rare occasions. I never liked it or understood the point. Mostly I went to the arts and crafts thing with the younger kids and made interesting things...

I remembered one time when I was around 7 or 8 I got worried for some reason (I don't remember if it was because I had done something wrong or if I was afraid I would be alone or something) and I asked my mom one night if bad people went to heaven and she said "everyone goes to heaven" I was intrigued by this idea and I kept asking things like what if they robbed a bank? What if they murdered someone? What if they murdered Everyone!? Same answer every time =]

My mom is an atheist and I like it that way. I like it at my house because I'm pretty sure if I wanted to go to church every Sunday my mom would have driven me there. If I wanted to be a Hindu she'd support me all the way. I think every parents should be like that. Let the kids decide when they're old enough if they want to go to church or not or if they want to be Muslim and pray everyday.

I am proud to have no religion. I'm gonna make up my own scientific one with the big bang theory and evolution... I guess that's just the same thing as science though... A couple of my friends are worried that I wont get to go to heaven with them and I tell them what my mom told me..."Everyone goes to Heaven" XD

Atheism not Porn

(Via Susan)

I was an "active" member of our fading Southern Baptist Church back in the 1970's. It pleased my mom to no end that I attended Sunday service (twice) and Wednesday night service. As I said the church was fading, very few young people and about 200 old people (mostly women). I kept my nose clean, mumbled along with others, played piano for some of the Sunday school classes, and just tried to fit in (and stand out, as I am an outgoing person). I was interested in cults (still am)and never ever heard of someone not being a believer in God in some way or form.

As I got older I started to question why I did not seem to feel the same euphoria and blessings that others did. I prayed all the time asking Jesus to show me a sign that he was listening to me. I pretended to hear God talk to me, and even got Baptized (never had it done all these long years). I was SURE that after the Baptism I would "feel" something, but nothing ever happened. I had no thoughts of skepticism, or Atheism or actually anything but wanting to experience what everyone else was experiencing.

It came to a head when our pastor asked everyone to wear these little buttons that said, "I've Found It!" (I think they were green). I did not want to wear it because I had not "found it" I was still looking for it (check behind the couch I can hear you yelling). I found all kinds of excuses for not wearing it, my pastor kept asking me why I kept forgetting it or losing it, finally after he had given me several I just knew something was wrong with me. The program finally faded and they stopped wearing them, but it had already forced me to face the reality that I was having trouble believing.

I wish I could remember where I heard about Atheism, I must have been about 17, but it was profound. The idea that people did not believe! Wow! I could not discuss this with my mother (My dad was an nonpracticing Catholic, and we never talked about religion). We did not have that kind of relationship. I wish now I had gone to my Dad, he used to read the Bible and my mom told me much later that she feared he was a non-believer. One of my mom's greatest fears when my dad was alive was that he was going to hell, as a teenager I had serious problems with this, and did not like this option for my dad who seemed to be a "moral" person.

Anyway, somehow I got a hold of the word Atheist, I do remember looking it up in the Encyclopedia (we didn't have the Internet back then folks) I went to the library and found Madeline Murry's book "Why I am an Atheist". That was jaw-dropping in my world. I checked that book out several times (always sneaking it between other books I was checking out so the library staff didn't notice). Thankfully my sister had moved out by this time so I had a room to myself, imagine me sneaking this book into my room, hiding it in my closet. Then sneaking peeks at in while still in the closet, I was afraid my mom would find it if I left it in my bed. I have no doubt that it would have been horrible for me if found, I can't imagine my mom finding porn or having to chose between the two as the most horrible. I guess I could have said that the Atheist book was for a school project, but if she didn't believe me I would have been in big trouble (I don't even want to think about it).

Somehow I grew up and managed to get a hold of other writings, and selected the term "Agnostic" to reflect my beliefs. I didn't want to make waves, and this sounded so much better, also most people didn't know what it meant. I started trying out my new beliefs on select people, and did okay. Much later I came out as an Atheist. My mom found out somehow, I was a mother and living with my then husband at the time, independent of her. I talked to her about some of the problems with the Bible, and she got upset for attacking her and her religion (its never okay to do that, but always okay to attack Atheists in their mind). In fairness to her, she had never had her beliefs challenged (I suppose) everyone was always a Christian or a non-Christian never a non-believer.

As a new mom I toyed with the idea of making my kids more "moral" and sending them to Church. My non-religious husband who never took a stand on anything said that he had turned out okay, so why make our children attend church. Very good decision. My sons are now 20 and 17, very much atheists. I read whatever I want now, and my kids and I discuss all kinds of topics.

I became friends with my mom about 6 years ago, we spent quite a lot of time together, never best friends, just her closest friend. We never discuss religion, but avoid that topic. One year at a fair she went up to a booth for Women's Right to Choice and told them, "good job" and bought a button from them. I was so proud I had no idea how she felt about that issue.

The last 3 years my mom's health is fading, I moved her into my home, and took over her care. Her quality of life improved a lot (socially) and she was the queen of our household. Today, she is 85 and dying at a rest home. She had been in and out of the hospital and rest home, we always hoped she would come back to us, but the doctor said to prepare ourselves. Her body is just giving up, she was so active and alive. But I am not sad, I know I did the right thing in giving her these last few years.

My siblings may experience guilt after she dies (for not spending enough quality time with her) but I don't. I made YouTube videos of her, and put her in our family Christmas photos, we even had a neighborhood Christmas party at my home last year so she could socialize with everyone. If my kids do the same for me when the time comes I will be very happy. My best friend, (a Creationist Christian) has told me on two occasions that she thinks I'm one of the moralist people she knows. She even told all her church friends that she can't understand how I can be an Atheist. "Too bad", she says that "I'm still going to hell". Fine with me, at least I can hang out with my dad.

Now I find myself planning her religious funeral, am in the process of talking to Pastors, and writing her obit. Her church friends (probably don't know) that I'm a foaming at the mouth Atheist, I will not disrespect them and her by making my feelings known. But I bet I will get some interesting comments on my Christian attributes once they pay their respects in a few weeks.

I have not read any of the other "coming-out" stories yet. Wanted to get mine in before being influenced by other stories. Looking forward to reading them today

there and back again

(Via George Evans)

I was raised in the middle part of the last century in a small town in remote rural Missouri. I wanted to be part of the community, so I joined the church when I was eight or nine. (We had attended services faithfully for my whole life). As I grew older, things didn't add up, though. How come there were all these different brands of faith, all claiming to be the one true faith? How come things were such a piece of shit at home? I grew outspokenly skeptical, and soon I was labeled as the village atheist; as a teenager squadrons of churchgoers would appear at my door to convert me whenever a roving evangelist hit town. It seemed funny at the time.

About the time I finished high school, though, my life went through a period of crisis. My girl dumped me, I was into a lot of sixties stuff, and the Jesus freaks were in town. The Jesus freaks included some people who I had thought of as cool, and joining them seemed like a way to shut down mentally and let someone else do my thinking for a while. So I did. Not wanting to do anything for halfhearted or insincere motives, I brought myself to be the most sincere, committed, heartfelt, Jesus freak that I could be. I moved into a commune, started prayer groups (that, sadly, continue to this day) and evangelized on the streets, converting many of my friends. Years went by, and my fervor (i.e., fanaticism) only increased. Then, my family physician persuaded me to go to medical school. He had known me as a bright young man, and he thought I would make a good physician.

At his suggestion, I went back to college to take an undergraduate degree, but soon I found things that were deeply disturbing to my faith. The first of these was when I took zoology, and we dissected the fetal pig. During the examination of the surface anatomy, I was stunned to see that our (female) fetal pig had a clitoris! I knew that the only function of the clitoris was to give sexual pleasure- but only humans needed a clitoris, since we were the only animals who had eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so only humans had free will. Animals had sex out of instinct, not by choice; yet the undeniable presence of the porcine clitoris suggested that animals acted from motives like our own.

As I continued my studies I encountered over and over evidence that challenged what I had been taught about my faith. In physical chemistry and cell physiology I learned that living things weren't anything but bags of chemicals that obeyed the same laws as non-living systems. Comparative anatomy showed how much more likely it was that widely different creatures had evolved from common creatures over time, since they were so similar (and would work so much better with a few design changes; e.g., the human sinus system). Studies of the laws of thermodynamics showed that it was inevitable that complex systems would arise from simple systems, just as eddies flow upstream in a river's overall downstream movement, entropy increasing in the total system. I don't remember any sudden moment when I realized that I had been transformed from a religious zealot into an atheist, but gradually my faith evaporated. What remained has been a source of confidence and peace. Life has only the meaning we give to it. There is no permanence. We are grass. I've found this enormously liberating, but also somewhat isolating, since there are so few that share this outlook.

The Amiable Atheist

(Via Amiable)

I was raised religious. My mother was Baptist, and my father was Seventh Day Adventist. When I was young, we moved a few times, so we were always sampling different churches in the area to find the right fit. I went to Calvary Chapel, Episcopalian, Evangelical Free, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Latter Day Saint, and Catholic church services. When we finally settled down, we decided on a small Baptist Church in our rural town.

As a young girl, I was very familiar with Bible stories, I prayed often, and went to church regularly. I accepted everything that my family and the church told me because I trusted that they knew best. I remember being so concerned with not sinning that I would pray for forgiveness if I let a mean word slip or if I was disobedient to my mother.

When I was 15 I went to a Baptist summer camp. It was a great experience. I was surrounded by other young people who loved the Lord, there was great music, and lots of fun. During an emotional sermon I stood up and "accepted Jesus into my heart". I cried, and everyone cheered for me. I felt completely filled up and good.

When I got home from the camp, those feelings soon faded as I realized I could not maintain that kind of elation in my daily life. I began to discuss baptism with my pastor, but everything seemed hollow and meaningless. When I was baptized at 16, I felt nothing and knew something was not right. I stopped taking communion and started doubting the things taught in my Sunday school class. I remember sneaking onto the computer one afternoon when nobody was home, and googling "atheism". To me it seemed like a dirty, evil word and I was frightened of being caught. But I just wanted to know, did they have any valid points? But my guilt over this urge was overwhelming and I didn't look any further.

At 18 I went away to college and during my freshman year I took a course on the religions of the world, anthropology, and geology. Learning about the many different religions in the world made me wonder, how could all of the others be wrong when they were all so convinced of their beliefs? In anthropology and geology class I discovered that the real world contradicted many of the stories in the Bible that I had been taught to interpret literally. The world was millions of years old, and humans had only been alive for a fraction of that time! At first, I began to accept the fact that perhaps the Bible was not to be taken literally, but that God was still important and my faith was not at odds with science.

But the more I learned about science and the world, the more I realized that my religion was just plain wrong; my Bible was filled with cruel and ignorant stories and it could not explain how the world began, and my fellow believers were sometimes intolerant and hypocritical in the name of God.

This is when I realized that I was an atheist. Since that point, I have never regretted this discovery. The only time I have felt a loss, is when I instinctually begin to pray at moments when things aren't going my way. I have to stop and laugh when I realize I am talking to myself.