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.