It doesn't make any sense...

(Via Jennifer Curtis)

I never really bought the whole "god" thing. From an early age my family went to mass on special occasions, or to participate in family functions. My mother and father only took us to church out of some weird traditional obligation, and the first memories of youth services were of choreographed song and dances with oppressive themes like spelling out the word "obey" and lame music. Around 13 or so my mother threatened me with private catholic school and I told her I'd drop out if she did (there were no music programs in this private school).

When I reached high school I made friends with a bunch of nice girls who all attended a Methodist church across the street from my house. Since it was right next door, and all my friends went there and my parents supported me in this, I went regularly. The people there were all very nice and helped the community out quite a bit, but I never felt any different than before. I never experienced any presence in my life, nothing got better or worse because of it. I did meet some very special people out of this place who have made a very big difference in my life.

During my "church" years, I avoided involving myself too deeply with these people, as nice as they were. I never signed up for mission work or participated in their musicals (even as a musician), I just couldn't make myself. Somehow, even though it was the "right" thing to do, it felt wrong. So I eventually stopped going, and only showed up for "holidays."

During all my education, I learned of all the horrible things that were done in the name of "god" and religion across the world. Coming to age right after 9/11, I've witnessed enough of my own to take interest. I read and researched endlessly. I discovered the biggest lie ever... GOD. Why can't everyone else see that their god was created to control them? Their is no after-life where you get to party with your whole family, pets and all, looking and feeling great... You only get one time... Do what comes natural, it's okay to be human...

I never had a really bad "church" experience, and during my earlier years, all the people I met because of it were good people. I just paid attention in my history classes and asked questions. Science can answer almost any question I've come up with, and is continually answering more everyday. Logic and reason seem to be the only things you can't use with god... you can't ask "why?" and get an answer. It just doesn't make any sense...

Never Really Bought It

(Via jono)

From the early years, I vaguely remember going to church and getting in trouble from the Sunday School teacher for not bringing my quarter to put in the little Church-Piggy Bank.

My parents took us out of that church, but my sister and I were going to a Lutheran school where we had to go to chapel everyday. This inane process was only fun because we tried to say obscene things at higher and higher volumes to see who could get away with yelling "Penis!" at the top of his lungs.

We stopped going there after I completed kindergarten (yes, we were yelling "Penis!" in kindergarten. I spent a lot of time in the Principal's office) and we didn't start going to church again until I was in 4th grade.

To be honest, I think it was this time off that saved me. I imagine these are quite formative years in a child's life. Years in which Sunday School teachers literally beat the word of their god into you. I remember looking around at all my friends and feeling completely alone and dark in a big scary world because I was the only one that didn't know off the top of my head that it was DANIEL that was sent into the lion's den, not Claude Balls.

Throughout Middle and High School I was very involved in the youth group and youth choir at my church, and I enjoyed it very much. However I still just ducked away from the "How's your walk with Jesus going?" or "Do you do your devotions every day?" questions. I just enjoyed being around a bunch of girls in the youth group.

In college I went through some non-Christian activities, such as rugby team beer chugging fests and what-not. After college, my sweetheart and I were married (It's been about a year and a half now. Old married couple...) and we were going to church in our town. I was paying attention in church and reading my Bible and making notes, underlining Jesus' statements that I thought might be useful when telling my possible future kids how to live.

Then, it kind of all came crashing down. I started thinking about the whole thing. I read The Golden Compass and heard about how evil Philip Pullman is. I started reading about atheism and learning that it was, in fact, NOT evil. Then I realized it. I've been an atheist all this time and never knew it. I always thought that there was no way there was a dude up in the sky listening to me. The first time I heard about evolution, I bought it hook, line, and sinker. It all made so much sense, whereas Christianity never did.

So there you have it. You know how some religious folks tell you that Jesus is already in your life, you just have to notice him and weird shit like that? It's the exact opposite for me. And I am proud to say that I am an atheist.

It is one of the best things I've ever done in my life.

always was

(Via liz)

i have always been a non believer. my father is a physicist so you can do the math there. i guess as a kid i went thru the motions of praying before a meal and praying before bed because i thought i was supposed to. i didn't know that it was something that connected to the world of religion. you know, they teach kids to pray but not why. all my friends did it so i did too. i always knew i didn't believe in god, but didn't know how to articulate it until high school when the other students started asking me about it. so i am an atheist...always have been.

Prayer didn't work

(Via Csaba)

My mother was a caring parent. Hard-working and always ready to kiss the forehead of any of her two sons if he made a mistake and say "It's okay, Mom loves you no matter what".

She had breast cancer once and somehow made it through, when I was a small kid, with support from my father. Then, after a few years, it appeared again and this time, she knew she couldn't survive the chemotherapy. She cried in front of me because she knew she was going to die. I prayed and I prayed and she still died bereft of her dignity because she was a completely different (eventually half-) person by the time the cancer had spread to her brain. She died weighing 90 lbs. (40 kg) at 5' 8'' (172 cm), almost having no hair at age 41. Our prayer didn't work.

My father supported my mother as much as he could and although he eventually became an incurable alcoholic, he never laid his hand on any of us. He also smoked, liked Chuck Norris movies and was very proud of the last batch of red/white wine mix he home-made from the grapes growing in our yard. His work was hard, he changed jobs a few times in his last 5 years.

Three factors finally did him in: smoking (stiff blood vessels), red wine (high blood pressure) and his change of jobs, from fixing refrigerators for 25 years to carrying 120 lb. (55 kg) air conditioning units up some stairs, 3-4 stories, which was too much for his 48-year-old heart. I called him on his birthday and wished him "May God give you a long life!" as it is customary around here. He died about 36 hours later, having had a heart attack (myocardial infarct) during the night. All those times I prayed for the well-being of my family didn't count.

The priest said the same old lines at their funerals, about eternal life etc. but I believed less and less and now, having read "God Is Not Great" by Christopher Hitchens, my puzzle is coming together rather coherently and God is not in it.

Don't ever look back.

(Via russellnation)

It was a cold dreary 5th grade catholic school Wednesday morning required mass. My eyes filled with sleep. The moment reached when we were all supposed to kneel and pray. As I leaned forward to kneel, my brain screamed in astonishing insight that it was all a farce and no sense was to be made from it. I never looked back.

What am I doing?

(Via damiank)

I'm a college dropout, but in my first year, i took anthropology 101. The professor said something similar to this: "If you are determined to believe in Adam and Eve, there's the door" (pointing to the door). From that moment, I've been fascinated with human evolution. I'm a Cajun catholic, so I guess I believed that atheists were evil. Since i can remember, I've never been fond of church, and failed catechism, but still convinced myself that I had a personal relationship with god. Until age 26, I would kneel and pray at my bed asking for forgiveness for the past, present and future so I would be covered, in case I forgot to pray. After hearing of many scandals, and seeing the hypocrisy at the local church, I started to really question things. Why do men go to church, then walk out and say "look at that ni**er"? That's not too Christ like. One night while preparing to pray, I asked myself, "what am I doing?, what's going to happen to me if I skip this?" So, the experiment was on; no more praying. My life started to clear up, and I realized that I was in control, and that I haven't been struck by lightning yet. I remember getting excited, like being released from a minimum security prison or something. It took awhile, but I saw the light.

The Black Milk Bottle Story

(Via David Michael)

My earliest religious memory is a picture in the Catholic Baltimore Catechism showing three bottles of milk to explain sin and the state of grace. There was a black bottle of milk to show the result of mortal sins, a grey bottle for venial sins and a bright white bottle for being in a state of grace. The bottles were your soul.

Although I was only 7, I identified with the black bottle of milk because I had the feeling I was bad and had been punished by god who caused me to have polio and wear a brace.

I think I must have come to that thought because I was told that if I was bad, god would punish me, and since there was no one else in my school or family who had been “cursed with polio”, I must be bad.

I was made to feel like an outsider because of my leg. In actuality, I had a very slight case compared to those who were totally paralyzed or in iron lungs. I was actually able to run, after a fashion, but not fast enough not to be overlooked for competitive games, or chosen last just to keep the sides even.

There was plenty of cruel name calling and bullying for the ensuing years of elementary school to the point where I even dreaded recess because that was when it was the worst. I gained my full height early in life so now I was fighting a lot because what better target than the big kid who could not catch them when they would play a frustrating game of hit and run. These were not just one-on-one fights either. I found my best defense was to but my back to a wall to have only one front to defend. I would occasionally be able to grab an assailant by the arm or trip one running away and then give better than I got. I remember being on top of one of worst bullies and beating him to the point he had to go home, but I was the one doing the crying.

Never once were any of those bullies at my catholic school ever punished by the nuns (or for that matter, god) for what they did to me.

Once, a nun told me that I would not need to help myself up from a genuflection, while training to be an altar boy, if god really wanted me to serve at Mass. I quit that day.

That catholic school experience helped to make me an atheist. Now, at the age of 60, I am thankful for that help to see the truth.

I fortunately went to a public high school and had some surgeries that removed the need for the brace. The limp was only marginal and my height and strength made up for my lack of speed, hitting home runs but rarely beating out a single.

I was interested in science, the one subject the nuns had not turned me off on because science was not on the curriculum at all. I became a biologist and embraced evolution for my explanation for life, but not wanting to be an outsider again, I kept my agnosticism, that grew to atheism, to myself. I would go to weddings and funerals in a church even though; I actually shook inside and out as I would walk through the church doors. I would go through the motions, standing, sitting, kneeling but without praying, all the while watching the clock for the moment I could get out of there.

When I married, I gave into my wife’s request for a church wedding by consenting to one at the Universalist Unitarian church, which I never attended, just because I was told even atheists were welcome.

We raised our daughter without any mention of god, but in her twenties she became a believer from the influence of her friends. I hope she will accept my truth some day.

Just a few years ago, I found an atheist group meeting in a UU church and went to a few meetings but found them unsatisfactory. They resemble a church meeting. There is one person who runs the meeting, like a priest. The donation plate is passed. Cookies and fruit punch (bread and wine) are shared. The worst thing about the meetings is that more religion is discussed than most church services, although it is discussed so it can be argued against.

I would rather find out more about the good things that are in your life as an atheist than the bad things that are in your life as a believer. I would also like to become more active as an atheist than the intellectual ambiance that hangs over the meetings with people trying to impress others with how much they have read in the bible that is in conflict. Why waste time discussing something so worthless to an atheist?

I would be the happiest if I could go for at least a year without hearing the word god. I have been fighting a battle with myself to even get god out of my cursing vocabulary, but a simple hammer to the thumb gives god some free advertising I don’t want to give. Old habits die hard.

I am presently trying to get as many people as possible to view the excellent video“The Root of All Evil?” on You Tube. I have just started approaching some public television and some cable stations to broadcast the video. Wish me luck and write in yourselves!

My long path to reason

(Via John Gordon)

My parents wanted to give me a religious upbringing so from an early age I was exposed to regular church and Sunday school. I was quite young and had been taught to do the “right thing” without questioning. From grade 5 I was enrolled in a Christian all-boys college (Church of England – now Anglican) and my religious exposure increased to almost daily. Chapel services every morning started proving tedious, this was not fun! I tried to be religious, I tried to find God but nothing was there, I found myself just wanting to be outside doing something exciting instead of wasting my time going through this chore. I would look around when we were supposed to be praying to see if there were others like me, but everyone else had their eyes closed and seemed to be in a trance like communication with God. Apparently God didn’t want to talk to me – oh, well, this is boring anyway.

I wasn’t particularly interested in receiving my confirmation but was compelled to attend a course and the ceremony. My grandmother never attended church and in my teens my father stopped attending also. I never thought to ask why, my grandmother was a little strange, and my father – well, perhaps he was too busy? Religion was not something that was actually discussed – this was the task of Sunday school and church. My mother kept dragging me along and gradually my resistance increased – I just couldn’t see the point in wasting half of my precious Sundays.

I became more selective about those parts of the ceremony that I would follow. I refused to recite “we are not worthy to gather the crumbs from under his table”. I had some self respect! I was not going to allow myself to be so pathetic. (I was worthy to gather crumbs!) There were other phrases I can’t recall now. I still generally sang hymns, which I found kind of moving. I would participate in the sacrament – the blood and body of Jesus – I thought the idea silly but it broke the monotony and I got to have a sip of port! At this stage it meant to me that the service was nearly over.

Suddenly my mother stopped forcing me to attend to church – what a relief. We would make an effort at Christmas Day and for weddings and funerals. For a long time I stopped even thinking about religion, good or bad, it just wasn’t for me.

In my adult life I became an avid reader, I started off in an ad hoc manner but my reading gradually became more focused. History began to fascinate me. I was reading something real, real people and real events that really happened - this seemed so much more relevant than imaginary stories – and I was learning. As I read about the Middle Ages, the inquisition, world war one in the trenches, the holocaust, I started to realise just how much suffering there had been (and still is) in the world. I became quite contemptuous of a God that would allow all of this to happen. It didn’t seem very forgiving or loving to me. I guess if he existed for me at all then he was not even worthy of my attention.

A critical point occurred while reading Norman F. Cantor’s “The civilization of the Middle Ages”. I quote the relevant phrase: “The disciples saw visions of Jesus a few days after his death; they believed that he had risen from the dead, and certainly he stayed alive in their memories”. A light came on! There is no evidence for the divinity of Jesus Christ! I just knew I had found what I was subconsciously looking for. Jesus was just a man, a prophet, (perhaps a very talented one), but a son of God? Born of a virgin? All the biblical stories suddenly seemed so silly – so much doubt and confusion fell away when I stopped trying to rationalize historical reality with biblical fairy tales.

I pointed this out to my wife (at the time) who scoffed at my book, how someone could dare to contradict the “truth”! Her instant denial was most disappointing; evidence was not in the least relevant to her beliefs.

A few years have passed since then in which I have had some other quite pressing personal matters such as a career change and divorce. Religion was irrelevant for me and I considered it harmless. I could categorise myself as an agnostic at the time although it was not really something I thought about much. Christmas I considered merely a tradition, on par with Santa Claus, a holiday to be appreciated and a time to share with the family. Occasionally at dinner in my sister’s home one of my nieces would say “Grace” in order to thank God for our meal. This was a surprise when it happened – like an unwelcome friend who has dropped in uninvited. I accepted this pointless exercise because I was in another home as a guest and it seemed to be important to them.

Religion reappeared in my life again when I remarried. My wife is a catholic and she is a believer – although (thankfully) only attends church rarely. We had a religious wedding because it was what she wanted, but I agreed for traditional and cultural reasons – what harm could there be? The ceremony was a beautiful experience and a wonderful time in my life. Although I still had not admitted atheism I did feel a little hypocritical being back in church, appreciating the beauty and ignoring the dogma.

Reading the “God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins was my final step in becoming an atheist. I devoured the book and it was quickly followed by “God is not Great” by Christopher Hitchens and “The end of faith” by Sam Harris. I spent a lot of time reading atheist websites and forums on the internet and I’ve joined the Brights. Discussions with my parents reveal that they are non-believers also (very passive though) and I gave my father a copy of “The God Delusion” which he really enjoyed. My parents revealed that they encouraged my church attendance when I was younger because it was **what they thought they should do**. “A gift”, if you will. “A gift of confusion” in my opinion – I have really begun to realise the dangers that religion poses in our society.

My wife is highly intelligent and well educated and we have had some relatively heated discussions on the topic. Her bottom line is “I don’t care how much logic or reasoning or evidence you give me; I have the gift of faith and I believe”. In the interests of matrimonial harmony we have agreed to disagree, she accepts and respects my philosophy and I need to accept and respect hers – which is difficult if I think about it too much! Open atheism is not readily accepted in our society, if only it were. Perhaps little by little the light of reason, truth and logic will prevail – one can only hope.

Hey Brothers and Sisters, I'm Ready to Testify!

(Via Brother Richard)

I pretty much grew up a "heathen." My Mother was raised Catholic so occasionally we would attend Midnight Mass at Christmastime, and my Father was raised Methodist, so we went to a few Easter Sunrise Services. Other than that, I only walked into churches for weddings, funerals, and every once in a while, one of my cousin’s First Communion.

I had an extreme "born again" religious conversion as a teenager. I had run away from home and was somewhat manically depressed. (although never diagnosed). On my return home, I found God—like many people do—watching religious television. Make no mistake; it was very much a “real” experience. I physically felt a change, and it saturated my entire life. I became one of those annoying Christians who passed out salvation tracks on the streets. I started going to a Charismatic (tongue speaking) church and immediately felt the call to prepare for ministry.

When I graduated High School, I enrolled in a Bible College that was run by a 12,000 member mega-church. While I attended school, I met just about every televangelist (Jim and Tammy Bakker, Oral and Richard Roberts, Pat Robertson, Robert Tilton, Jimmy Swaggart, etc.). Looking back, I think I was “Forrest Gump” of religion.

Not long after I graduated, I began doing God’s work. A couple years later, I found myself in a church surrounded in controversy. Several of the pastors were caught up in sexual scandals. There were lawsuits and news reports almost daily, and Sally Jessie Raphael, Inside Edition, and Larry King dedicated entire episodes to our predicament. I stuck by the ministers through the hard times and didn’t leave the church until I stumbled upon what I felt was money mismanagement. I could no longer condone this ministry by remaining in leadership. My wife, newborn daughter, and I, walked away and had to start a new life.

Over the next few years, I attended a handful of churches and continued to study the Bible. I slowly evolved into what I now know is a deist. I wouldn’t even consider—not believing—my personal experiences were very real, and I was scared to go to Hell. So I kept God in a little box at the back of my mind and went on with life.

About two years ago, I decided to rededicate myself to the study of the Bible and Theology. This time, however, I would do so without any preconceived beliefs or theological presuppositions. Surely, I thought, if God was real and the Bible was His Word, they both would stand up to reason, doubt, and logic.

It was not a pleasant experience. I was shocked to find out how many contradictions were in the Bible and how much it had changed over the centuries. I didn’t allow these revelations to change my mind about God, but, I did allow myself to let go of the idea that the Bible was inerrant.

Next I decided to study the Creationism vs. Evolution debate. I had always been a strong believer in evolution, and simply thought that we didn’t understand Scripture. I was amazed to discover that there really was no controversy; Creationism and Intelligent Design were not scientific theories at all. They were so bad they were not even wrong. The entirety of their argument was irreducible complexity, which says that some things are so complex that it is impossible they could have evolved. That’s it; end of discussion. Creationists spend the rest of their time focusing on unresolved evolutionary components and inserting God as the explanation.

The final nail in my “faith coffin” was the last Creationist book I read. The author after hundreds of pages, made one last desperate plea for believers not to be tempted by evolution. His argument went something like this:

“There are many Christians who wrongly accept evolution and are not aware that it is in direct conflict with the basic tenants of their faith. Christianity teaches us that all death and suffering entered the world when Adam sinned. If man evolved, then by definition, his predecessors lived and died. I ask you, if sin did not cause death and suffering, why do we need Jesus? The Bible is very clear, just as sin came into the world through one man, Adam; salvation came into the world by the second Adam, Jesus.”

The author’s words terrified me. He was right; I couldn’t have it both ways. With those words—which I’m sure he prayed over—knocked me into non-belief. It was like blinders had been removed from my eyes. Suddenly, I realized that it was just as easy to believe that the Universe (in some form) had always existed as it was to believe that God had always existed.

It wasn’t until I read Dawkin’s book "The God Delusion," that I accepted the fact that I was an atheist. All the books that followed helped solidify my beliefs and gave me the courage to "come out of the religious closet."

Being a former minister, I immediately realized a great lacking in the non-believing community. When we had our first daughter, young families from our church brought meals to us every night for two weeks. When a brother or sister in Christ needed help moving, we were there. If one of us ended up in the hospital, we visited them and gave support to their family. It was wonderful. I am convinced the church pews are full every Sunday with individuals that are there only because of the friendships and structure it gives their families.

Science teaches us that the need for rituals and inspiration are an important part of our evolution. However, when believers give up their religious superstitions, often they don't have anything to put in its place. I don't think this needs to be the case. Why can’t we find inspiration in music, art, literature, and the beauty of the Universe? Why shouldn’t we honor traditions and celebrate holidays without the irrational beliefs? Why can’t we teach our children morals with stories and parables (even from the Bible) without teaching absurdities? And most of all, why can’t we enjoy the benefits of community with like-minded individuals? As the old saying goes, "We don't have to throw the baby out with the bath water."

My wife and I feel that this is our new “calling.” If you live in the Atlanta area, help spread the word and let's get active. If you live elsewhere, contact us and we can try to help you establish community in your area. If you already attend a similar group, tell us about it. We can all work together with common cause.

If you need an officiant for any traditional event and you want it religion free, I’m available. I have been ordained secularly and would love to help out. I am also available for speaking engagements and debates.

Finally, let me encourage you to come out of the atheist closet. Many of us have been blogging that being an atheist today is like being gay in the 80s. All joking aside, it is true. It is time for us to not be ashamed and to let our family and friends know the truth. We can't let our society fall back into another Dark Ages. Spread the word. Contact your representatives. Write letters to newspapers and comment online. If you have a blog or web page, I ask that you provide a link to our site. We have provided various buttons on our site. I provide on my site and do the same for the others you enjoy.

Thanks for letting me ramble.