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.

Bree's Story

(Via Bree)

I grew up in a small Catholic community. Back then, I was an only child, and my family and I went to church regularly. I was pretty good about it, always went without much fuss and sat quietly through the hour. As far as my little mind was concerned, it was just something everybody did and never questioned, like school and work and coming home at eight thirty every night.

When I started school, I also started religion classes. But so did most of my peers, and so I went along with that too. Most of it made little sense outside of 'Do this and go to heaven, do this and go to hell.' Soon enough though, I did take an interest. I learned more on my own, and took an interest in the different portrayals of heaven and hell and the entities within. I perceived it as more of a story than a faith then, and I enjoyed the remainder of my religious experiences for what they seemed to me; chapters of one big story.

When my younger brother was born, we stopped going to church. He wouldn't be quiet long enough to be in the church for very long, and even as he got older, he was a difficult child. He still is now. Religion eased out of my life and like any phase, I quickly grew out of it and took to something new. I became more of a tomboy, hanging out with boys and coming home covered in mud or swamp water with a snake or frog or bug to show for my efforts.

When my parents decided I needed to make my first confession, it was very awkward for me. As I'd grown and changed, so had my views, and my belief in god was fragmented and uncertain at best. I went through with it, of course, squirming and hoping whatever I made up was right.

In the following years, I changed from a doubting Catholic to a solid Atheist. It was a small, quiet transition, and it was a long time before I ever brought it up with my parents.

When I did, my mother was most surprised and disappointed. She told me I shouldn't talk like that, argued with me, and when I still stood by my choice, she blamed herself. I assured her no amount of force-feeding me religion would have changed my beliefs. At that time, she didn't want to talk about it.

Anything related to religion was tense after that. She would always make a comment, and the word Atheist was like a bitter taste in her mouth that she couldn't spit out fast enough. It was a long time later, over drinks, that she brought it up. It started with a genuine question. She asked how I could live thinking there was nothing out there for me. I started to talk to her about my views, and soon it was more of a debate than a discussion. Looking back, I could have presented things better, but under the influence, I suppose I didn't do too bad. By the time we were done, she quietly admitted to be having doubts, and the only thing I could tell her then was that it was okay. Okay to have doubts, okay to think differently, and okay to believe in whatever she wanted.

My mom still considers herself Catholic, and I have never budged in my belief, or lack thereof. But since that awkward discussion, she's been a little more accepting, and that works for me.

Born Yesterday

(Via Chris Mitchell)

If you just want to know the train of thought behind my own mental blossoming, I suggest you skip the first segment.

I was born a human and raised a Christian. My family attended services at a contemporary Presbyterian church. I attended kindergarten at a Lutheran school and grades 1-7 at a Catholic school.

I'm not sure what to call it, but the environment I was raised in was not that of fundamentalist Christians, thank goodness. I was naturally inquisitive growing up. This especially applies to me spiritually. I could never stop questioning my being. Of course, I was so close to the religious beliefs I had been brought up with, they were always a part of my self-image. I could not view myself without a god.

My mother, unfortunately, kept me hooked on many of the weakest faith based ideas. My father, more open minded, and an atheist himself, was and still is an incredibly weak man. Weak to temptation and quick to anger. My time spent growing up was a... very confusing part of my life.

Finally, at the age of 17, my parents finally broke up. There were a few other tragedies, which I will not make particular mention of, that really struck me. A great number of other heart-wrenching events decided to take their place literally within the same week of the divorce. Mentally, I broke down. The household and family I had grown up with fell apart entirely and I had lost all of my good friends, which was basically all of my friends. This was a major changing point in my life. Not weird, I suppose, but after these events I found myself lacking the will to do absolutely anything. So I spent most of my time thinking, listening to music, playing video games, and thinking some more.

This is how it occurred to me. I always found it strange that so many other religions exist other than "my own". I simply thought thought that if there were so many Christians, we must be right. But then it began to dawn on me just how different beliefs were from person to person. What was the point of a religion that refuses beliefs from all other religions when there are not only many variations of said religion itself but variations of beliefs from person to person? Could you really be a Christian if you were not a fundamentalist? And if I said yes, was I not simply in a state of denial, torn between my own morals and beliefs and the "faith" which I felt I belonged to?

Eventually, I came out of this denial. I called myself agnostic for a small period of time but soon realized the bullshit involved with such a concept. One of the core elements of "faith" is indoctrination and so I figured it'd just be better to call myself an atheist. Not to mention realizing that believing in something does not make you a christian in any way, shape, or form. Also, what I believed in did not include a deity. I finally realized that spirituality was a core element of my own, personal being and it was not necessary to butcher the term with religious beliefs.

Now, I do not call myself an atheist. I do not need to. I am a free man.

Reality Ruled

(Via Xpider)

I was raised Catholic with a very open minded background since my parents were divorced I was never really raised, but everyone was religious and took the god illusion very seriously but I always questioned this idea, at the age of 8 I got kicked out of a church for denying the prescience of god in a discussion with a priest, and then I realized that the people who preach this stuff are not as nice as they're supposed to be, this was all in Mexico, at the age of 14 I came to the united states where I learned the meaning of Atheist and on 2007 I made the decision of calling myself an Atheist as opposed to "I'm Catholic but I don't really believe in what I'm supposed to", reality has always been my way of living and when someone tell me to lie to myself in order to feel better, I simply refused to see it that way, I never thought this was so acceptable until I found the friends I have now who understand me and gave me a better logic to live by...

My story.

(Via Jennie)

My story is, as Christopher Hitchens stated on page four of God is not Great "... one of those who's chance at a wholesome belief was destroyed by child abuse".

The day I discovered god doesn't exist.

I was 9 years old, and I had decided to look into religion on my own. My mother and step-father had no interest in religion, so I had asked a friend to take me to Church with her.

One bright summer morning, I was waiting for my friend Monica and her parents to pick me up for vacation bible school, as they had for the previous four weeks. My step-father decided it was a good morning for a beating. After he slammed my face into our wooden porch three times, I dusted myself off, and continued waiting for my friend to arrive. When her family showed up, I told them that I wasn't going to go with them anymore because I don't believe in God.

Never questioned the idea of a God existing after that day.

The End.

The Story of My Disbelief

(Via jaskaw)

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 anti-religious 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 anti-religious 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 roller coaster 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.

This blog then is a way of trying to transmit this newfangled view of the world also to others for what it is worth.

Always an Atheist

(Via Roy Fischler)

I was always an atheist, as far back as I could have an opinion on the matter. My immediate family members were all atheists. Even my large extended family were virtually all atheists, as I gradually learned in more recent years.We're Jewish, ethnically, and I've read that Jews have the highest rate of atheism of any group in the US. Only one of my grandparents was a closet religious person to some degree, surrounded by atheists, and I didn't even know it until she died.

Not that my parents indoctrinated me -- far from it. The only thing I can even remember as far as my parents talking about the subject was my mother saying, once in a great, great while, "Isn't that stupid. How can people be so stupid.", while watching something about religion on the TV news. Mostly, they had a passing interest in science, which turned into a life-long passion in me. They exposed me and my brother to various scientific things. We traveled to the Bay of Fundy in eastern Canada and saw the phenomenal tides there, saw 2 total eclipses of the sun (the most awesome experiences ever), went to planetarium shows and museums. We had a small telescope. Near my grandparents' place in upstate NY, we used to go fossil hunting at a quarry. We'd collect seashells at the beach, and thereby learn about various forms of life. They subscribed to National Geographic, with their excellent science articles. But what had the most profound influence on me was the 1964 NY World's Fair, which portrayed a wondrous technological world of the future. I got the feeling that rationality and science and technology were the keys to making the world a better place.

While I can't claim that I figured out all by myself that religion is nonsense, as probably most atheists in the US (who came from religious backgrounds) can, I'm sure I would have even if I'd come from a religious family. Though my parents claimed that Santa Claus brought us presents each year, I remember figuring out by myself that the whole story made no sense, for a variety of reasons.

I was never one of those atheists who practically memorize the Bible in order to refute it. I never wanted to waste a single second or brain cell on religion, just ignore it. But with what's going on in this world now, between the Bible Belt and the Middle East, and being persuaded to join our atheist group, reluctantly at first, I finally took an interest, and it has been a (pardon the word!) revelation. Especially, I started reading websites pointing out all the craziness and blatant self-contradictions and outrageous evil in the Bible, and can't believe what "fun" I'd been missing. I am astonished at how 1.5 billion people can claim to follow that book and agree with it, and yet surely never have read it all or have much idea what's in it! Apparently, they all think that the next guy has read it and had no objections, but the next guy is thinking the same about them!

How I Became an Atheist

(Via Josh Albert)

Why I am an athiest

(Via Chris)

Well, I was never really raised with any religion. I heard people mention Jesus or Muhammad from time to time, but just kind of figured it was some leader somewhere, i didn't really care. My mom i guess is kind christian, and we celebrated Christmas, but religion was never a part of it. I really first encountered religion when i was ten. I had already found out that the tooth fairy was fakes several years before, and I knew about Greek mythology. When someone spent an hour and a half talking about Christianity, to me it seemed just like Greek mythology, so i just dismissed it as such. I started to encounter other religions, and none really were convincing. I read some of the books, but it felt like i was reading a fiction story. So i chose not to believe in a god, cause I figured that god/allah/etc. was just like the tooth fairy, fictional. I have yet to see any real evidence of ones existence, so, until there is any, I'll remain an atheist.

Third Generation Atheist

(Via Tom)

My grandparents (on my mother's side) arrived from Poland through Ellis Island during World War One, and immediately upon arrival had their names changed (by others) and dropped their religion (by themselves). They were Communists with a capital C and lived their whole lives devoted to the ideal of everyone contributing what they could to the common good. On my father's side, my grandparents paid lip service to a form of Reform Judaism but didn't observe any rituals or holidays. My father dropped his religion when he entered World War Two at the age of 18. My mother was raised Atheist. All four of their children were raised Atheist from birth.

For me there has never been a question, and never been a problem. It's quite clear to me that religion stems from a massive failure of imagination - the inability to perceive the enormity of space and time or the tininess of individual creature-lives on any one particular spinning rock in space. I don't mind people believing what they like, as long as they don't force it on others, but of course, most of the monotheistic religions have evangelism as one of their core principles, so they do impose themselves on others. This is to me the evil of religion - the coercion of one group's madness on others. The same held true for Communists with a capital C, so this is not something inherent in religions. It's foolish to condemn religion for the weaknesses of humans.

Religion is not "bad". Atheism is not "good". "Each person only knows what they have seen and experienced for themselves, yet each imagines to have perceived the whole" (Empedocles).

I say, take it easy, and forgive all those who know not what they do :}