Sunday, May 2, 2010

Neville (New Zealand)

Being an atheist comes naturally as my mind is a logical mind. I just can’t understand the illogic of believing in some sort of out of body creature. (I sound a bit like Spoc) I started in the Presbyterian Church – sent there by my parents but gave it up over 40 years ago with the excuse I needed the study time for School certificate (NZ qualification). It was also about the time our Bible class was asked the question, “who is god” and no one could answer it. Since then I have read a lot of history etc and can see how we as a population have been manipulated by the Catholic (common) church for 2000 years. A year or 2 ago I found Hawkins book the God Delusion and have since read more of his books. I have always “known” there is no God. Its not as if I don’t believe in God, I know there is no God. So to be labelled an Atheist is almost an insult as it assumes a reference of believing in God hence an Atheist is a disbeliever – I like to consider myself as a knower not a dis-believer. It’s a slightly different viewpoint.

If you understand anything about electronics then measurements have a reference point. For example cars have 12 volts systems positive with reference to ground. But years ago they used to have positive earthed vehicles. They were still 12 volts but negative with respect to earth. If you stand on a table, the floor is now 3 feet below (or negative) with respect to your feet. You are still 6 feet tall but now you are 9 feet above ground. If you can follow my analogy, an Atheist is a term used by Christians to define a non-believer. So by taking my reference as knowing there is no God, what do I call myself and what do I call someone who thinks there is a God? The reference point is from my side of the argument not the Christian point of view.

My reason for laboring this point is the term Atheist always seems a derogatory term and to proclaim yourself as an Atheist usually draws derision from any one near you who has this blind faith. We as “atheists” are expected to tread softly in our community to avoid insulting the others but it's ok for them to knock on our doors, preach it in the newspapers etc. I am getting more and more determined to tell believers how insulted I am if they put their viewpoint my way.

Being a person who knows there is no god hasn’t affected my life. I still believe in being honest in business and one of the 10 commandments that basically says “do unto others………..” In others words treat other people the same way they treat me. If they want to start preaching to me, be prepared to get it back. Many of the people I know and associate with do not believe in god and thinks it's all pretty stupid but once again, they are the silent majority who don’t want to speak out for fear of reprisals from the Christian community.

A god just isn’t logical.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

David (near New York, USA)

My story is rather simple, and probably boring, but here it goes.

I live in the US (New York, if it matters, about 1 hour north of the city).

My mother is Episcopalian, my father is either agnostic or atheist – more accurately he doesn’t give damn.

I was, as so many children, forced to go to church/Sunday school as a kid. I still remember even now, how the Bible stories always sounded so much like the other stories I used to read as a kid.

Anyway, I was always (still am) one of those “Oh yeah? Prove it!” types. I started to question the validity of what I was being fed when the ADULTS teaching the classes couldn’t satisfactorily answer the logical questions of an 8 year old (me). When told God made everything, I asked what made God. Even at 8, the “he was always there” sounded to me like bullocks.

I just never got pulled in emotionally (I think, partially due to the fact that I didn’t LIKE anyone in my Sunday School, so I kept my distance), thus I was never forced into cognitive dissonance. When you don’t have emotion clouding your reasoning, the whole thing just seems silly – I became a diehard atheist as an early teen, and never looked back. After happening upon a web site crytozology.com (which has an evolution v/s creation forum too), I was able to get some of the reasons I didn’t believe from the “I’m not sure why, it just doesn’t make sense to me” point to clear, logical-debate friendly format.

Such as the burden of proof is on the one purporting the existence of something….I don’t have to prove there is no God, since you CAN’T prove a negative, rather YOU must prove to me there IS one, or I must logically assume there is not.

I have yet to see any proof….not even any empirical evidence. Therefore I must assume there is not.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Carmen's Story

I met this young lady on the Ex-Christian forum and have been struck by her wisdom, integrity, intelligence and honesty. Even though she has not yet finished school, she writes with insight and knowledge way beyond her years. I trust you will enjoy her de-conversion story as much as I did. Steve.

I can’t remember the first time I started having doubts, but I remember that it started at about age 14. I had grown up in a Christian home, accepted Christ at age 5, and been surrounded by religion in every part of my life. My parents put me in a Lutheran school, then they pulled my out in grade 3 to home-school me. As I grew up I became involved in a number of home-school activities, all started by Christian organizations. In the younger years of my life there was not a question in my mind about whether this was really the truth, I just believed. I remember not understanding all of the doctrines of the faith completely, and misinterpreting them. I didn’t really understand the concept of eternal life. I remember lying in bed one night, thinking about what it would be like to just not exist anymore. To just die and be completely gone. Hearing about heaven was a huge relief to me.

At the age of ten I went to a summer Bible camp and had a very emotional experience there. I re-dedicated my life to Christ and found a new religious fervour. Little did I know that the emotions would fade, and that as I grew in my ability to reason abstractly, I would begin to question the things I held most dearly.

At first I brushed away the questions, thinking that they were harmful. It wasn’t until I went to a child evangelism class that I begin to take them seriously.

“Eighty-five percent of people who convert to Christianity are between the ages of 4 and 14. As people become older, their hearts become harder. This is why it is so important to share the good news with the children while they are still young.”

The people around me nodded and murmured their agreement. The teacher at the front went on to give us clever ideas about how to make the gospel sound appealing and relevant to children, how to tell Bible stories in a way that kids could understand them, and how to show children the importance of their need for God. Suddenly I realized “This sounds like nothing more than brainwashing!”

My faith quickly went downhill from there. I started looking up atheist websites, and they all made so much sense to me. I almost rejected my faith at that point.

Then my parents caught me looking at the atheist websites. They started to try their very hardest to prove that Christianity was the truth. We started reading through Christian apologetics books together, stuff like Mere Christianity, Case for Christ and Francis Schaefer. They sent me to pastors and theologians to see if they could answer my questions. I struggled and struggled.

Finally I told myself that I just had to have the faith of a little child, I just had to choose to believe despite the fact that it all seemed so unreal to me. From then on I tried as hard as I could to be a good Christian. I was respected in my youth group and among my friends for having wise Christian answers. I read my Bible every night and tried to “pray without ceasing”. I made every effort I could to snuff out the doubts when they came back to my mind.

But the cardboard walls I had tried to build around my faith begin to fall apart around my junior year in high school. I can’t point to one specific thing that made my faith fall; it was just a combination of reason, experiences, and growing up. The arguments and apologetics just did not satisfy me anymore; there was just something terribly lacking in them. When I read the atrocities in the OT, I just wanted to throw my bible at a wall. I met a couple of atheists and I realized that these people were not immoral and heartless, they were people just like me. I became increasingly frustrated at the republican ideologies, and my views became more and more liberal. I had my first boyfriend, who was a Christian. All my life I had been told that relationships should be based around Christ. I tried very hard to “put God first” in our relationship. But the more I tried, the more God seemed like a cold and distant idea. The heart of our relationship wasn’t in God, it was in our love for each other. I realized that it was the same with other relationships. I didn’t love others because God wanted me to, I loved them out of my own heart. There was no other explanation for it.

The breaking point came when I attended a teen Christian conference with my friends. It was a huge conference, set in an auditorium packed full with thousands of teens. The main focus of the conference was hell. The doctrine of hell was one that I had never really been able to accept fully. I finally came to grips with the fact that my worldview was completely bizarre, empty, and false.

This happened a couple of weeks ago. I have told my family that I no longer believe. I have hinted at my disbelief to a couple of friends, but I am trying to break the news to people slowly. My sister has many of the same questions I have, but she isn’t ready to make a definite decision about what she believes yet. My parents still want me to go to church and “be open to the word of god” while I am still living under their roof. I’m going to do as they ask, but when I go to college in 1 and half years, I am going to start a new life, free from the lies I’ve believed in for so long.

The amazing thing is that I don’t feel that different. I am still the same person inside and I still have the same morals and values. But now I have a newfound sense of freedom. I don’t have to be boxed in by religious dogmas or fears. I am free to learn about the world and grow as a person without being constrained by imaginary deities and blind faith.

Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cousin Ricky (Virgin Islands, USA)

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
I didn't have any single slide, but several events that broke my faith. The first was learning how much of daily activity would put me into HELL forever. Then I was introduced to the concept of "the God hypothesis," and I could not disagree that God is unnecessary. Lastly, I tried to verify that Christians are more ethical than non-believers, and that the sacraments gave us moral strength. No sign of any of that.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
I'm shy, and the church was most of my social life. I miss that part of religion. I also got a jolt of increased empathy for my fellow humans. For example, say a little girl is raped and murdered: for all her trouble, she's not in heaven; she's just DEAD. I also find it easier to give to street beggars--no Invisible Dude keeping tally.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

HRDWarrior (California, USA)

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
I never had any one moment where I went "Aha!" but as my de-conversion gained momentum, I eventually realized that I didn't believe in any god. After reading more on this site (ex-Christian forum), which led me to reading other scientific and historical sources, I came to the conclusion that I just didn't see enough evidence for there being any sort of supernatural. Even "supernatural" events I found there were at least quasi-scientific ways of explaining them away without it being a supernatural being of some sort. I finally called myself atheist about 8 months after determining I was agnostic, which was prefaced by about 3 years of being a "Buddhist-Christian."

Science, reason, and history led me to finally say "I see no evidence of a god, and therefore, do not believe one exists."

If someone searched my older posts you'd find I was much closer to a deist/agnostic when I first got here (to the ex-Christian forum), but the freedom to say I'm no longer a Christian has been very liberating and quickly moved me out of that mindset once I was able to embrace no longer being a Christian. Telling my family was one of the final hurdles to truly feeling free.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
As for how it has affected my life...well, for the most part, it has been a huge relief. There were moments of great stress, such as "coming out" to family and friends that I was no longer Christian, but other than that, I've finally felt free to seek the truth without the veil of religion there binding me. The biggest loss would have been the "insta-friends" one could find in churches, it is harder to find friends as an atheist since you have no established social gathering place every week lol!

I feel a lot more compassion towards my fellow humans now than I ever did as a religious person. Additionally, any judgements I pass on people (usually that they are idiots:dumbo:) is based on logic, reason, and I can justify why I feel the way I do. I am much more open to other points of view - I may choose not to agree, but find that I don't shut things out as readily as I did before.

I have also become a lot more outspoken - not rude, but no longer being tromped on by other people around me. This is probably my favorite thing - although seems to be my family's least favorite as I am no longer their drama door-mat!

Mark (Alberta, Canada)

I really cannot call myself an Atheist nor even Agnostic. Some days I am both; some days I am neither; some days I am practically Christian; some days I am Buddhist or Humanist or Spiritualist or perhaps just a Maybe-ist.

Fact is, I am just me and that is the only label I require.

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
The final "trigger" or "moment of truth" for me — and will always be — waking up one morning, ten days into hormone therapy (boosting testosterone), and realizing that my chronic depression was gone. Eighteen years of prayer and tears to Jesus yielded zero results, yet one trip to the doctor and a blood-test later and I was well and truly saved.

I did not become a non-believer in that wakeful moment, but I became a very angry, very confused questioner. That wakeful moment shattered my faith. That wakeful moment began a four-month excursion to attempt to discover a "reason", a hope that I hadn't wasted eighteen years of my life. That wakeful moment was the end of my old life and the first tentative, shaking steps into a brighter future than I imagined.

I lost all and gained more.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
March 10, 2010 will mark my third anniversary of "normal" life; a life that continues to grow in depth, in scope, in love, in hope. I will never regret leaving my old way of living and the regrets over the hurt I caused to others slowly recedes as each year passes on. I cannot change what was, only what is.

Stunning letter

Hi everyone.

I came across this stunning letter in one of the forums I'm active in. I have placed it here on our blog with the permission of the author but she asked me to please remain discreet (so I think we should all honour her request). It's probably one of the most beautiful pleas for understanding and acceptance I have ever read from a fellow atheist. Enjoy.

Dear Mom and Dad,

It is with much trepidation that I begin to compose this letter to you. I’ve been debating for a long time whether to share this information with you. On the one hand, honesty is the best policy, and it pains me every time I have to lie or deceive you in order to hide this part of me. On the other hand, I know that what I’ve been hiding will cause you a lot of pain, and I have wanted to spare you that. However, I have come to realize that it is unfair to me and to you for me to continue with this pretense. I need for you to know this side of me in order for you to know *me*.

I am not a Christian. In fact, I am completely irreligious. Call me agnostic, or even atheist, if you will. I began to struggle with doubt when I was a teenager, though I did not fully come to accept what I knew to be true until about 6 months ago. Through the years of doubt, I have kept up the fa├žade, trying desperately to believe or – failing that – to cover up my disbelief.

I often felt like I was going insane with all of the doubts that were swirling around in my head. I talked to pastor after pastor about my problems with God, and I even saw a couple of church counselors. I prayed and begged God for faith. I read countless books on grace and the mercies of God. I threw myself into Bible studies. But the more I read and learned and prayed, the more quickly the last vestiges of belief were stripped away from me.

My whole life as a Christian, I was under the impression that all atheists and agnostics are rebellious, God-hating people. I assumed that everyone *knew* God existed, but those heathens decided they wanted to live their evil lives not in compliance with God's gracious word, so they shook their fists at the sky and shouted, "I deny you!" to a weeping God.

As a Christian, it never occurred to me that, perhaps, they truly, honestly, simply found no evidence to support the idea that there was a god. It wasn't a matter of turning their backs on the God they secretly knew was there, in order to pursue their sinful lifestyle of choice; it was that when they searched the Bible or the heavens or their soul for confirmation, they found...nothing.

I don’t claim to have all of life’s answers, and there are still many things I’m seeking to learn and understand about myself and the world around me, but I do know this: I cannot go back. I feel like a child who has just learned that Santa Clause is not real. I feel a little betrayed, sad, and disillusioned, but there is no way I can choose to believe again, just as I did not choose to disbelieve.

I want you to understand one thing: I am the same daughter you have known for the last 36 years, and I love you very much. Nothing about me has changed for the worse. My morals are unchanged. My relationship to my husband is unchanged. I am still a loving wife and daughter. I am still a loyal, hard worker. And I am actually a much more compassionate person now toward my fellow human beings.

I wanted to keep this letter short and just give you a glimpse into my journey, to help you see that this was not a decision that I made impetuously – in fact, it was not a decision at all, but a realization I fought hard to avoid.

I love you.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Kurari (USA)

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
I suppose the final trigger came in 2006. I was going through a really bad year, and I kept praying, and praying, and praying for help...and received no answer. Nothing. And the more I thought about this, the more I realized I just never really ever saw any evidence of an a divine being that cared about my life, was listening, or had any sort of agenda for the world.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
It wasn't a decision to stop believing. It was simply truth and that turned my outlook. I've become a far more relaxed, open, less judgmental, and confident person since then. I'm happy to be a tiny speck of nothing in the universe that's just going to cease existing one day. I find the idea very soothing. I feel a lot more appreciation and connection to what I have, who's in my life, and the world around me. I'm more assertive and successful now that I rely on myself and not sitting there waiting for a god to "do something."

So my life has changed for the better. It's nice not having to worry about the divine. I never realized how stressful it was until the whole burden of religious trappings was lifted.

ShallowByThyGame (from?)

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
Well, that's hard to say. The first trigger, when I first doubted, was when I was reading about Muslims and wondered how I knew I was right and they were wrong. But that just started the doubting.

The day I said 'I'm an atheist', I was reading The Story of B by Daniel Quinn...I had read Ishmael the week before.

I'll post some of the paragraphs that sent me reeling...you don't have to post them on your blog but this is about my expression and I feel like posting them at the moment:

"There is only one degree of having faith, but there are fifty degrees of losing it...I think I know one priest who has faith in that one degree that deserves the name of faith. All the rest, including me, are at one of those fifty degrees of losing it. Most of my parishioners would probably consider this a shocking admission, but I don't think it is. Of course there are priests who have gone beyond the fifty degrees and have walked away from the ministry. Everyone knows that, and I've known half a dozen of them myself. But the rest of us are still hanging on...This is actually reassuring, I think, because it shows that none of us wants to lose his faith or wants to think of himself as having lost it. Admittedly, this is partly just cowardice; we know that, once our faith is gone, the religious life will become utterly intolerable and we'll have to move on, out into an unknown world. But it's also partly because we have enough faith to want to go on having faith. When that amount of faith is gone, however, then it's all gone, and you're at the fifty-first degree. You're out, you're finished." - page 99-100

"To you, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism look very different, but to me they look the same. Many of you would say that something like Buddhism doesn't even belong in this list, since it doesn't link salvation to divine worship, but to me this is just a quibble. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism all perceive human beings as flawed, wounded creatures in need of salvation, and all rely fundamentally on revelations that spell out how salvation is to be attained, either by departing from this life or by rising above it...The adherents of these religions are mightily struck and obsessed by their differences - to the point of mayhem, murder, jihad, and genocide - but to me, as I say, you all look alike." - page 148, B

"'Man is the scourge of the planet and he was BORN a scourge, just a few thousand years ago.' Believe me, I can win applause all over the world by pronouncing these words. But the news I'm here to bring you is much different. 'Man was NOT born a few thousand years ago and he was NOT born a scourge.' And it's for this news that I'm condemned. 'Man was born MILLIONS of years ago, and he was no more a scourge than hawks or lions or squids. He lived AT PEACE with the world...for MILLIONS of years.' This doesn't mean he was a saint. This doesn't mean he walked the earth like a Buddha. It means he lived as harmlessly as a hyena or a shark or a rattlesnake. 'It's not MAN who is the scourge of the world, it's a single culture. One culture out of hundreds of thousands of cultures. OUR culture.' And here is the best of the news I have to bring: 'We don't have to change HUMANKIND in order to survive. We only have to change a single culture.' I don't mean to suggest that this is an easy task. But at least it's not an impossible one." - page 255

I could quote more but I don't want to get longwinded. Quinn's writing shattered my idea of humans as intrinsically 'special' and able to ignore the laws of nature. This fit in with what I had felt all along... An important movie for getting me ready to be an atheist was The Matrix. There are many great parts of that movie, but I was always disturbed by how much I agreed with Agent's Smith's monologue:

"I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet."

That quote still makes me shake, but it was not until I read Quinn that I could truly understand it. One reason Christianity is seductive is that it protects us from the truth about ourselves. This world does not matter, only the next. I realized that religion was a drug to blind ourselves from our true nature, to ease the suffering of our existence, but like a drug we had overdosed. Religion was bringing us to ruin. These words were coming from my mouth, I was an atheist.

Forgive me for quoting so much, but you asked about triggers specifically. Before those books I was not able to say I was an atheist, and after them I was. I really just needed a logical explanation of the world that didn't include God, and I finally got one, and Occam's Razor does the rest.

(I'm not trying to pimp Quinn as someone with all the answers, but he told a story about humanity that made more sense than any religion's story)

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
I have always fought to understand the world. I wasn't afraid to ask questions because I knew that the truth of Christ would persevere anyway, I just wanted to help convince others so I had to understand where they were coming from.

So losing my faith was actually exciting and thrilling, because it simply made more sense to discard religion and the supernatural. I felt like I had solved a question of life that many could not, and I was very happy and still am.

I was always a liberal idealist, I just viewed Christ as one too, so politically I did not change.

My college friends did not go to church, and I hadn't gone since high school (I never really liked it and wanted to sleep in and ask forgiveness later), so the only point of difficultly was my parents. My grandfather was a Methodist reverend, so my father was a PK. I have three siblings, and we were all named after Bible heroes. But I could not live a lie, and refused to take communion one day when I was visiting home (though I had faked it for two years or so). Since then we don't talk much about religion, just baseball and other stuff. He probably feels I'll come around, and he's a good man, a Christian you wish most of them were like, so we are still close and he did not cut me off or anything because he believes Jesus would not do so.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Godlessgrrl (USA)

If you use my words on your blog, please credit me as Godlessgrrl, with a link to my own blog at http://Godlessgrrl.blogspot.com. Thanks.

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
I didn't leap right into atheism when I de-converted from Christianity. I was actually a neopagan for awhile, until I realized that if one deity doesn't make sense, neither do the rest. For awhile I wasn't sure that I was anything at all, so called myself an agnostic. I didn't make the leap into atheism until I had a verbal altercation with a Christian online.

I had one of those moments where I sort of involuntarily stepped outside of the situation and was watching it unfold. And as I watched the behavior of this Christian and saw the things she was saying, it suddenly became clear to me that this believer was convinced that she and her God were of one mind - because her God was nothing more than a projection of her own mind. It occurred to me that this was true of every believer, including myself when I believed.

Then it occurred to me that this was probably some odd form of ego-worship: if God is simply an extension of one's own ego, and one worships God, then that's really just a roundabout way of worshiping oneself. And if one's going to do something like that anyway, then why bother with the middleman, so to speak?

There are other reasons why I am an atheist, but that was what tipped me over the edge for sure.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
Well for one thing, I had to figure out how the world worked without involving a deity anymore, so I got more materialist and more naturalist on that. I also got less anxious and less self-hating, and loosened up a bit more. I got somewhat more hedonistic, mostly just by giving myself permission to enjoy myself without shame. When I figure out a political or ethical or moral problem now, I can't rely on a holy book or the simple answer "God says so", I have to actually think and use my head to work things like that out, so I use my brain more. I value life more now because it's short, and I don't believe in an afterlife anymore. Stuff like that.

Most of my values didn't really shift that much. I still find family and relationships important, I'm still socially liberal, still a capitalist, still a feminist, still value education, still want to travel and see the world and enjoy life. My politics are still all over the map. Once I left religion I think it got easier to allow my values to be what they really were, because I wasn't trying to force myself to fit into a mould that some deity would find more pleasing.

I'm lucky as far as relationships go; I didn't lose any because of my lack of belief. My family were a bit shocked in the beginning but nobody's cut me off or condemned me for it. I didn't lose any friends either, or lose any jobs, or anything like that. I live in the Pacific Northwest though, which is one of the most Godless regions of the nation, so I think that's part of why. Religious convictions are a private matter here and most people are pretty worldly.

That's it in a nutshell.

HungyDingo (USA)

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
I was 16 and sitting in English class. I was gradually getting angrier and angrier at God for a lot of things. Finally one day it just snapped, there is no loving God sitting up in the sky somewhere and this religion is bullshit. It felt good to finally say it. I felt good to finally debate against Christianity against believers, blaspheme their religion in front of them and shock some people who knew I was a devout Christian. I took a lot of joy in that. I don't do that anymore, I am respectful of other's believes, but at the time I was a pissed-off 16 year old.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
Being an atheist has cost me some relationships. Even when I thought the girls were just your typical "I believe in God, don't go to church or anything" people who come across as Christianity lite. I did become less judgmental on people, shaped some of my political views by becoming more libertarian and less authoritarian, believing people can live their life the way they want to and it's none of my damn business as long as they don't directly affect someone else negatively. I also became a lot more comfortable with myself, I finally let go and started living instead of worrying about the world going to hell. When I was younger, I had a huge problem with the thought that people drank, smoked, had premarital sex, experimented with drugs, and homosexuality. Now none of those things bother me and aside from the homosexuality and smoking I've done it all. All in all, I'm a much happier person who enjoys life so much more.

Agnosticator (USA)

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
For the life of me, I can't remember any "final trigger" that convinced me. I had read many apologists' books in an attempt to resolve the dissonance my experiences with fellow believers, and the Bible itself, created within my mind. I was beginning to question why bad things happen to good people, and why good things happen to bad ones. Why and for what purpose, did some of the young children and teens I knew die from horrible diseases, accidents, and murder(at the hands of a Christian adult)? Why did some arrogant church members control and manipulate other innocent members, many times causing them to lose their jobs? One even committed suicide as a result.

I tried to accept the usual answers such as, "God's mysterious ways" or "their reward is in heaven", but they seemed empty and trite. I found no answers to my constant prayers, and from reading religious books, that justified the amount of suffering and unfairness I witnessed. So I searched the Scriptures intensely, but my trust in God was dying a slow death, while trust in my "gut" was making a comeback.

When I was a naive teenager, God's fools came knocking at my mind's door. They had come to save my miserable ass. Being raised Catholic, I always believed in God. But the evangelical-fundamentalists told me I needed to be saved or receive the mark! Trust the Book! It is ironic that I ignored the very feelings that would have saved me then, as my "gut" was saying "run, and don't look back!" I should have trusted my feelings.

I finally read skeptics' books with much trepidation after meeting an ex-Christian. He was very kind and understood me. He recommended reading material, and that was the beginning of the end of my Christian experience. Now, I'm an agnostic atheist. That means God is unknowable presently, so I don't believe a God exists. There is nothing to base my God belief upon.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
There was no decision. I just gradually lost my faith while desperately trying to maintain it. As a result, I woke up and realized my marriage was a huge mistake, and never should have happened. My partner was abused in every way from her Christian upbringing. I held out hope that there would be a change for the better, but it was not to be. I lost most of my "friends" without my saying a word, because gossip travels fast. But my mind was free! It was time to move on and get a divorce; from the church and the wife. No more dissonance. I was free to rediscover the beauties of nature and the goodness of people. Now I feel connected and complete!

YellowJacket (Tennessee, USA)

I am from the eastern US, both north and south in my lifetime.

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
I started doubting in the 80s when the whole "animals don't have souls" thing was being argued in my family, and pretty much every Christian backed that up - since they don't sin but act "instinctively" (oh, and we don't ever act instinctively?) then animals cannot make the "choice" to follow Jesus, therefore their lives simply are done when they die, and cannot be present in heaven. This opened up so many cans o' wormies for me, first off, why would I want to spend eternity somewhere without animals? What about human tribes who never made that choice either? I was always assured that humans who never heard the word of God would be in heaven, because they had never "denied" him. OK, so then why be a missionary, if you can keep people from hearing the "Good News" completely, then they are guaranteed salvation due to ignorance, right? Shouldn't we keep them in their blissful state and they get a free pass to Nirvana? Or do they not have souls at all, like animals? And what about angels? They don't have souls either, so why are they in paradise? This heaven theme park sounded very unappealing to me.

But I put all this aside for 30 yrs.

My final trigger was very recent. I had been doing reading over the past 4 yrs about subjects I would never have considered before. But a year ago I was victimized by a serial stalker/predator. I survived unscathed, but the way Christian groups, victims groups, and law enforcement have treated me (as if I had done something to provoke this, or didn't follow chain of command in pursuing the pervert, or just flat out disbelief that an older woman can be victimized in this way).

To sum up, Church, Police, Victim's Rights Groups, and a few hundred others have treated this entire matter with a lot of shoulder shrugging. I have done everything I can to nail this guy, and my efforts are treated with a yawn by police. I hired my own investigators, body guards, and videographers to show how this guy operates, and still police can't be bothered to even show up, even when they themselves admit there was more than enough on my videos to make an arrest. They want to wait until this guy kills someone, I guess, which he probably will.

No amount of praying will stop this psychopath.

And no God is helping me seek justice. most Christians have advised me to "pray for peace with this and move on with your life". Really? REALLY? It's OK if he does this to other women? Shrug my shoulders and turn a blind eye? REALLY?

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
I feel greater peace knowing that all my non-Christian dead friends are having a nice long dirt nap instead of crying out in agony & eternal torment.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

RS Martin (Ontario, Canada)

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
Atheism was the default position when exhaustive search produced no evidence for the supernatural.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
Apostasy earned me formal and informal ostracism by family and friends but my conscience was free. Being true to my convictions is worth it all..."my cup floweth over"..."the peace that passeth understanding"...those "precious promises" finally came true when I let go of god and religion.

Here's the story:
I am a Canadian, bred and born into a horse and buggy Mennonite community where I spent the first forty years of my life trying in vain to fit in. When Mom told me one winter evening in the dim gas-lit kitchen with shadows lurking in the corners that there was a god that could see and hear everything that I did but we couldn't see or hear him/it, I found it rather spooky or scary. It was also extra-ordinarily unbelievable. "How could we know this thing was there? Or where was it?" She said it was everywhere and that we just KNOW it's there. I was perhaps five to seven years old.

I set out to find evidence. Forty years later I still had no evidence. Part of my search included an anthropology class in which were shown videos of aboriginal religious ceremonies and communities including African in the last quarter of the twentieth century. I concluded that it was a human trait to feel as if there was a supernatural realm or god.

The curious thing was that there was no difference in the emotional expression (visual, auditory, and verbal) of the human experience of African "pagan" religions, or the South Pacific Island "primitive" religions, or that of the North American "sophisticated" Christian religion among professors with PhDs. For a time I attended church with the latter.

In addition, all religious ceremonies included the ritualistic behaviour that anthropologists said brought on altered states of consciousness such as trance. Group singing, dance, or prayer can do it. So can being under a mighty tree, or in the presence of a powerful and wise person, or near a tall mountain or building. (I added "building" and "person" because I think it can work the same way.) It is a feeling of awe, or being in the presence of the Other, known in religion as god, ancestor, Zeus, etc.

I was more than forty years old and the stakes were high. If I continued to accept the Christian religion, I would be accepted as a good enough person by my family and friends. They were beginning to accept the fact that I was going to university. Almost I was persuaded. The "god" feelings resonated with me. But was it really and truly God?

There was another part to the problem that was even bigger than the god question. When my mother said that Jesus died so we could go to heaven, it was as if someone had grabbed me from behind by the neck; so shockingly illogical did it sound to my childish ears. I wanted to know: HOW DOES THAT WORK? I was perhaps eight years old.

That question was burned onto my brain and it would not go away no matter what happened or how old I got. The pain of not understanding--of not being allowed to know while at the same time being forced to profess belief in it--still brings tears to my eyes. The Bible says "From the mouths of babes thou hast ordained praise." But it seems that it counts only if the child's mouth reflects what the adults want to hear.

That question nearly drove me crazy. Had de-conversion not been social suicide, my religious life would probably not have outlasted beyond my teens. As it was, I stuck it out till a few months before my fiftieth birthday. I de-converted in the middle of doing a degree in theology. I finally concluded that there is no answer to my question. If there were an answer, I reasoned, I would have already found it. I did not understand all the heavy reading I had to do for my courses. However, I had been taught that Christianity was a religion for uneducated slaves and children. Therefore, it seemed that I should not have to study for years and years in university simply in order to understand it.

Some time later, when I was walking home through the bush from the bus stop, the conviction that god does not exist impressed itself on my mind. I was almost fifty years old and finally free to accept the conviction of my conscience. When I read about Michael Persinger's discovery that electro-magnetic fields can stimulate the god-feeling (http://oldwebsite.laurentian.ca/neurosci/_people/Persinger.htm), I felt I had scientific evidence that gods begin and end in the human psyche. See also "God and the Brain" at http://atheistempire...eference/brain.

My mother's last intelligible message to me was that "Hell is real." She died half a year later. My family and their church did not think I was fit to eat with them at her funeral.

SilentLoner (Maryland, USA)

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
No real "trigger" or eureka moment. Pretty much one day I realized I no longer believed. It took a few years for me to openly acknowledge it but I did eventually.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
Life's a lot clearer, IMO. Awkward moments with the extended family but no big issue. It really puzzles me to see believers with their "everything for a reason" mentality. Sad, really.

ClaraOlive (USA)

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
I live in America. When I became an atheist, I lived in the Bible Belt, a South-eastern part of the country that is known for being strongly religious.

In one way, there was no trigger for becoming an atheist. When I was younger, I stopped believing in God. I remember sitting in church and realizing that all the prayers were not being heard. However, there wasn't one specific de-conversion experience at that point. As I got older, I studied and investigated different belief systems carefully and became increasingly convinced that there was no God.

However, because my upbringing was completely seeped in religion, and I was a minor who had no choice but to go to church, go to Christian school, and interact with Christian friends, I spent a long time after that trying to hold contradictory beliefs together. It was mentally and emotionally stressful. Even though I didn't believe in God, I desperately wanted to please my parents and fit into my environment. So I went through convoluted attempts to find some way to regain belief in Christianity.

The trigger for totally getting out of Christianity years later was getting divorced from my Christian husband, for a variety of reasons, many not religious. As I watched the other members of my church as well as Christian friends that I'd known since childhood pull away from me, the sinner, I realized that my efforts to keep believing in a God that I didn't actually believe in were total bullshit.

So my disbelief was based on thinking and studying rationally, but my social break with Christianity after I'd stopped believing was because of emotional trauma, or at least inability to keep faking it forever.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
My life has been so much better after leaving Christianity, largely because the nearly schizophrenic disconnect of being one person and being coerced into acting like another person is gone. At first, I was upset about how nearly all my friends deserted me (because I had almost no non-Christian friends), but I've realized that I'm better without them. It has been very difficult that I've had to start all over again with meeting people.

I'm definitely more sympathetic and less judgmental. I realize that people's choices are a lot more nuanced than choosing either magic sky daddy's way that will bless them or their own selfish way that will lead to destruction.

Chefranden (USA)

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
There was no final trigger. My faith just faded away like the new on a new car fades until one day you realize it is an old car now. I tried my best to keep the new -- cleaning and detailing until I was blue in the face -- but it didn't work. It got old anyway.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
I didn't decide to become an atheist. It wasn't like joining the ACLU. It was just what was left over after the faith wore off.

Legion (North Carolina, USA)

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
For me it happened during puberty and it was the realization of mainly two things. First, I saw how other Christians responded to the topic of evolution. For me there was no doubt about it. We had evolved like every other organism on the Earth. But many others recoiled from the notion. And that brought my awareness to a general pattern of what I would later learn was called denial. Second, as most every male has experienced, during puberty my body was sending me some fairly unambiguous signals, and my thoughts were on women. The church basically told me that an emotion that I had virtually no control over, lust, was bad. And this brought my awareness to a general pattern of attempts to control.

These two things together, denial and attempts to control, withered my respect for Christianity and my ability to heed it as a guide. It was as if blind men were giving me commands. I walked away. After some further reflection on god, I think if there is a god then Spinoza's god or some variation thereof makes the most sense. But I am now effectively an atheist.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
Other than a much increased sense of cognitive freedom, there has been little effect however. I think this is likely due to the fact that I don't advertise my heathen nature. I blend in and I try to handle questions of faith in God creatively. I don't lie. But I also don't volunteer information.

Religion-Free Africa

I have started a new group on Facebook called Religion-Free Africa. It's purpose is to start the organization and "test the water" before embarking on the expensive web-page route.

I'm starting RFA in order to:
1. Promote critical thinking and skeptical inquiry in South Africa (and later, hopefully, the rest of the "Dark Continent").
2. Promote my book because I think it makes a positive contribution to point 1.

If you are interested then please sign up here:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=wall&gid=329626369386

OnceConvinced (New Zealand)

Ok, I'm not technically an atheist, but an agnostic. I'll answer anyway, just for something to do.

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
For me it was a very slow process, but there was no decision that made to stop believing. One day I just discovered to my horror that I no longer believed. I was in denial for a long time and fought it, but after a while I realised that there was nothing more I could do. I just no longer believed, full stop. There were many things that lead me to that position. One of the major things was discovering to my horror, that the last time God had ever done anything amazing in my life was about 10 years earlier. Of course now I can see through rational eyes and can put down those so-called amazing things to non-supernatural causes.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
Once again, decision is the wrong word. There is no decision involved, just as there is no decision when it comes to belief in God. Something convinces you and you find yourself believing. Or on the other hand, something convinces you that you're kidding yourself and you realise you no longer believe. You then realise you are an atheist... or in my case an agnostic.

I have found myself not telling a lot of people. Keeping it a secret, although I have started to tell some people now. It will not be long before I break it to my parents. I can see that coming.

Things make more sense now. The world, the way it is, the way people are makes more sense when you look at it from an evolutionary point of view, rather than a creationist point of view.

I am most definitely more accepting of minority groups. Before I used to condemn them because the Bible condemned them. I can now accept them as just being people who are different to me, but are not the evil or depraved people I thought they were. I can now accept atheists, gays, witches and many more beside without looking down my nose at them.

Before, if I wanted a relationship, it always had to be a Christian woman. Now the world is my oyster. I can have a relationship with anyone I damn well please and I have met and been involved with some amazing women recently, unlike the stuffy, inhibited, repressed, Christian women I've been involved with earlier in my life.

I no longer have to feel guilty about the silly little so-called sins Christianity condemned me for. I can accept myself more for who I am, knowing that I am simply acting on my human nature.

I am now more proactive when it comes to life. I know now that I only have a limited amount of time. There is no eternity. This is it and I have to make the most of my life now. No more complacency, no more apathy, no more thinking that this life is just a test and a blink in the eye of eternity. I create my own purpose, I create my own destiny. No more wasting time trying to serve a non-existent deity.

Franko47 (Vancouver, Canada)

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
There was no real trigger. All of my "doubts" just reached "critical mass". I also realized how many people can so easily engage in intellectual dishonesty and fantasy-thinking when they are driven by powerful feelings and prejudices.

Even outside of religion, like politics, there are so many people who will continue to rationalize to the nth degree, so that their little world view won't crumble. Economics, sexuality, drug policy, abortion..... but to be totally honest with you it was the Christian Bible-Fundamentalists who finished me off. Their whole mindset and rationale for everything is just so retarded; I was even fighting them when I WAS a Christian. Still believe in hope, charity and love, but I can do so without threats or being under the thumb of a psychotic Santa Claus.

Second, my final slide into atheism (although I'm still open-minded about the role of intelligence and consciousness in our Universe) left me with a bit of a feeling of "loss". Losing so many of my nice, childhood, wonderful feelings and fantasies about some "cosmic power" looking over me, or a God-being who cared about me, was a bit painful for a while. It was hard to face the fact that all we will ever have or know is this life; our friends, family, and so on.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
At this point I consider it to be a natural state of rational cognizance; even a state of philosophical maturity; and now I realize that I have more empathy for humanity than perhaps ever before.

I Love Dog (Australia)

I live in Australia but grew up in U.K., and I first cast off Christianity when I was 12 years old.

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
The final trigger for me was when I was going to Confirmation classes( I was Church of England) and I realized that religion and the worship of invisible deities made no sense to me whatsoever and I concluded that it was a load of nonsense. The whole "saviour" thing, being "saved", the whole of the human race being "sinners", animals not having "souls", whereas humans were given souls by "god". Stuff and nonsense! I just stopped believing overnight.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
My atheism has not made any difference to relationships either with friends or family. My family wasn't particularly religious anyway.

I'm positive that not being a Christian has made me a better person in that I am non-judgemental. A person's colour, belief, race or sexuality matters not. I have friends who are a mix of colours, races, beliefs and sexuality.

One of my very best friends is Pentecostal and he prays for me and my soul! He is a lay preacher and he is one of THE most judgemental people you could imagine! He hates homosexuals, black people, Asians, anyone of any other race or religion ... it really is pathetic and I have to wonder why I am still friends with him, but there you are, love is unconditional, is it not?

My wife and daughters, my grandchildren are all atheists and nicer people you would never meet. I have 4 sisters and a brother who are all atheists and they are, like the rest of my family, non-judgemental.

My family are all lovers of this planet and the wonders that exist on Earth and we are certain that nothing anywhere on the planet has been created by invisible deities.

We are here because of "nature"(for want of a different word), not because of a god invented 2600 years ago by a group of donkey nomads in a tiny place in the Middle East(who had the collective intelligence of a flea when it came to understanding how everything around them happened).

Soor (Ontario, Canada)

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
For me the trigger was really over a course of about 2 years. Being deeply religious most of my life I always had a deep faith in the God of the Bible even though I could not understand and reconcile much of the Old Testament God and the God of love in the New Testament. I went through a period of two years where I was going through a very hard and difficult time, not so much with circumstances in my life, but with God and who He was in my life. And after countless hours of prayer and tears and searching for truth that the God of the Bible claimed to be, it hit me one day that He really wasn't there. All you have to do is apply the Bible to itself and it fails miserably!

You don't even have to look far to find a slew of failed teachings. For me, given my circumstances, I was not looking for anything material or anything that was selfish. I was looking for the God I had so loyally followed all my life. The God who said he was the way the truth and the life, the God who said knock and the door shall be opened, seek and you shall find, ask and it shall be given.

So I did exactly as I believed, I used God's Bible to do what he said. I knocked on His door, no answer... (He lied)... I asked, I didn't receive... (He lied)... I went seeking for Him to see if He was there. I didn't find Him (He lied). Either the God of the Bible is a liar (sinner) or when you apply the Bible to itself it falls down like a house of cards.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
I am less judgemental and live my life to the fullest now. My morals are excellent without the religious BS. My biggest regret is that I lost 25 years of the freedom I have now. Funny a book that claims to free the world actually imprisons it.

I generally don't tell people that I don't believe in the God of the Bible as I find most actually don't care other then Christians. I hold out hope that there may be something great out there and that this life we live will one day have some sense to it. But right now it is not the nonsense of the Bible.

Citsonga (Pennsylvania, USA)

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
For me it was the realization that the Bible is NOT the "Word of God." I had always disbelieved all other Gods, so when I realized that the God of the Bible isn't real I was left with a default of zero gods. I actually usually refer to myself as an agnostic, though, since there may be a slight possibility of a deist sort of God, but I don't normally lean toward that view and I have no specific God belief, so I guess I'm technically an atheist.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
I wouldn't call it a "decision." I didn't decide or choose to stop believing, I simply couldn't believe anymore due to what I was learning about the Bible. For the most part I haven't come out family and friends as a nonbeliever, but it has made some things a little awkward

Atheism seems to result from an increase in knowledge. I have never heard of a person who genuinely lost faith due to an emotional response to trauma.
Mine was also an increase in knowledge, but I would suspect that there are people who lose faith due to an emotional response to trauma. Those whose faith would be lost emotionally, though, could have their faith restored emotionally as well, and I suspect that most who go back to religion would fall into this category. Those of us whose loss of faith is due to what we've learned would be less inclined to return, because we can't toss what we've learned out the window.

Neon Genesis (Tennessee, USA)

To give the short version, I was raised in the church of Christ, which is a fundamentalist Christian church. They taught the Bible was the literal word of God and that homosexuality was a sin. Eventually I realized I was gay and no matter what I did, I couldn't change my sexuality. I was afraid God hated me and was going to send me to hell and I couldn't understand how a loving God could torture people for all eternity.

I then started to study the Bible more and I came across biblical passages that depicted God committing the most horrific immoral acts anyone could ever do, like how he commanded the Israelites to murder children, rape virgins, and demanded that women marry their rapist. I've asked biblical literalists to justify God's immoral actions countless number of times and so far I've never heard a reasonable explanation that justified it.

Eventually I reached three conclusions: that either God existed but was evil and desired to see humanity suffer, God was real but was unconcerned if we worshiped it or not, or God didn't exist. I then thought that if God existed but didn't care if we worshiped it or not, it would be ok to not believe in it and so I eventually let go of my belief in God.

Shyone (Midwest USA)

What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
My conversation with my pastor was defining. It's not that he said anything wrong, or that I suddenly realized anything. It was more that I felt he knew that I was losing my faith.

Sometime later, while praying, it all came crashing down and I was alone talking to myself in the middle of a church service. No gods were listening. This was after I had already studied the Bible, history and other things, and I was practicing medicine. I knew the truth; it just didn't seem to matter until I realized emotionally that there was no one on the other end of the prayer.

How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
I understood what an explanation was, and the world made perfect sense.

Welcome to members of Ex-Christian dot net

I have had a wonderful response from members of a forum I joined recently on the Ex-Christian dot net site. I posed two questions: What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist? and how did that decision affect your life?

The next few posts on this blog come from their responses.

The administrators of Ex-Christian dot net were also kind enough to put my book into their book shop thus helping me to "make my contribution" to the furtherance of critical thinking and skeptical inquiry. I'm also hoping that Dan Barker's Foreword will attract some readers as quite a few members seem to be fans of his work (as I am).

So ... a hearty welcome to all members of Ex-Christian.net and thank you for your valuable contributions to this project.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New look

Hi everyone. Thank you all for your brilliant response to my blog. I've changed the template in order to get more words per line onto the page. Please let me know if you like the new look. Thanks, Steve

Yippie (Sweden)

I come from an almost secular family but I was sent to Sunday School when I was really young. My mother is sort of a tradition freak. The first thing she asked me when I said I was leaving the church was how I would baptize my children when/if I ever became a parent - baptism in my country, Sweden, not being self-imposed but something you just have every newborn go through as soon as possible. As you know, Sweden isn't a religious country but our religiosity does get understated in some foreign media - it's sort of a laughable subject, with political parties running the state church and all, but it's here.

What I do remember from this period (age: 4-10) is that I was really afraid about some nightmares about death. I remember times when I couldn't sleep because all I could do was think of how worm-like creatures crawled through my dead body and I remember 'feeling' how, cold and slimy, they were moving in my stomach. I also had dreams about a bear tearing out my guts, one dream in particular where I had a framework but no flesh, for an upper body, running around trying to escape from the bear. Basically I had some very morbid dreams. I don't know why.

My first teacher was highly religious, reading passages from the Bible in front of the class, despite it's illegal in our country. Her story of Heaven and being saved after death gave me comfort from my morbid dreams and I accepted that there could be a God - I believed in this God because I thought it was good. I never did pray though, I always felt it quite contemptuous to ask this good God for anything and as He was all-knowing, I really didn't have to thank Him for anything, He just had to know already.

Then I came in contact with sorrow for the first time of my life. A classmate died of cancer. I don't know what kind of cancer it was, but I liked the girl and death has a quality about it that change how relationships work.

My teacher immediately held a praying session with the entire class, honoring her memory; I should say a sorrowful meeting but, to me, it had a religious undertone. I asked my teacher: "why did God kill her? why did God take her life?", I don't know if this was during or after the sorrow session. Her answer was something that really made me question my beliefs on a fundamental level. She said: "God has a plan for everyone". My reaction to this was a deep anger towards God, His plan was bad, He should change it and bring my friend back. I stated some of these thoughts and my teacher plainly repeated that "God has a plan for everyone". I came out of this conversation with a deep conviction that God is evil (do note that I didn't question His existence at this point, I disliked Him so much that He had to be real).

Time passed (age about 10-13), at another school, without me being bothered by God, as my new classmates and teachers really didn't care about such questions. During this time I developed a sense of Irony towards God and religion. I thought of God as the ruler of the entire world and that He had some weird sense of humor. I also, briefly, studied the Biblical stories I knew of at this time, mainly the stories about Jesus, trying to figure out what made Him tick.

I changed school again (now I was about age 13-15). At a random "short story" writing session, I put some of the thoughts I had about the irony of God down on paper and these thoughts became known to my classmates. I wrote a short story about "how Jesus just as well could have suffered from schizophrenia as having been the son of God". Most of my classmates who hadn't thought about these things reacted quite strongly against it, stating almost in chorus that I must clearly be an idiot if that's what I thought. By chance, about a month later I got a letter from my church about the Confirmation and I didn't even have to think about it to realize that I did not believe in the Christian God, so the very same day I called a number on the paper and told them I wanted to leave the church. Being underage, I had to convince my parents to sign a paper. They had only a few questions, one of which I've already stated above, before they willingly signed the paper. I left the Christian Church. Do note that I still hadn't dismissed the idea about a god as the ruler of this world, I just knew I couldn't believe in the personal Christian God. Due to a brief study of the Qur'an, I also knew I didn't believe in an Islamic God. I had completely dismissed the belief in a personal God at this time of my life.

Within a year of leaving the church I came into contact with Newtonian Physics and I thought "wow, this is god". I was always good at math, my father studied engineering courses when I was really young and because I showed interest, he taught me basic arithmetic at the age of 3 (or so he says), so the mathematics of physics, rather than hindering me from appreciating the beauty, it just made me think of physics as closer to the truth than anything I've ever seen or heard about.

Then one day, I thought about whether I could 'prove' the existence of my god through an analogy with an Ultimate Formula of Physics, the One explaining it All. As I thought about this, I realized that even if I knew exactly what was going to happen in every given situation because the Formula predicts it, I would still think there's more to learn, more to know and more to explore in this world. As I realized that my god was just my will to know how this world works, I didn't need it anymore... it was gone, unnecessary luggage from the past. I replaced the word with the facts I knew and the lust to know more.

So in short: Fear of death -> Salvation from death by a personal God seems nice -> Ah, but God is evil -> God of the Bible seems like a lunatic -> Pantheism -> Free of god. It took me quite some time to get rid of the God my first teacher asserted on my world-view. I think I did quite well considering I even had opposition in my class for discussing such questions and I was always alone in my hunt for some truth. To the defence of my classmates, several of them have apologized for being so strongly against what I had to say about Christianity, some even said that they left the church. None said this was due to me but I hope I might have helped them somehow.

Now, at the still young age of 22, I just think it's ugly what religion does to logic, the beauty of physics and the absolute wonders of the world we live in. From an aesthetic point of view, I think religion abominable.

I'm still stuck with the feeling of irony towards the world that I mentioned earlier though. As I watch the news from around the world and locally, with all the wars, murders and just bad policies being passed by small schools and the like. I mean, can people really be so stupid as to blow themselves up for their religion? How can they justify the murder of doctors but not of sperm? To not watch the world and realize there's beauty in the fact that about 300 million years ago, a fish went up on land and we are its descendants - one fish that's our great, great, (...), great grandfather - I just don't get it. I sometimes sincerely feel there's some great play of Irony taking place in the world and its name is Faith, knowing full well that it's just plain ignorance causing these problems.

Another thing that affected me greatly is that my love of physics still sticks with me. I currently study to get a Master of Science in Space Engineering. Another thing is that I applied for some summer student work at a big institution, as a result of me loving the beauty of physics so much that I took an extracurricular course in Particle and Nuclear Physics, that introduced me to the idea. I'm not calling it linearly co-dependent, but due to me leaving a faith in a personal Christian God for a love of physics, I have made several choices that ultimately made me who I am today and put me well on my way to get a good education. Without me leaving the church, I cannot even begin to imagine how my life would look like today.

End of Story.

LP222 (Country unknown)

I was brought up in a common Catholic household. Went to public school so had to attend catechism class weekly. I remember rejecting a lot of what the nuns and priests even when I was very young. My parents weren't religious at all. Being Catholic was more like a membership in a club or a nationality or identity. They didn't observe anything and we only went to church on the holidays. I would attend church with my friend's family occasionally. I did believe in God, but I wasn't going for a lot of the supernatural stuff. Once I had my kids, I got back into it a little more, taught religious ed one year and participated. I hated being a hypocrite so I purposely got involved. It was a strain. I hated praying in a group before doing anything. I hated most every part of it. So, naturally this phase didn't last long and as soon as my kids were done with their religious ed, I was pretty much done, too. So I pretty much wrote off religion by that time, but not God. Really, really did believe in God.

Fast forward...Sent my daughter to college, a few philosophy classes later, she declared herself an atheist. Didn't matter to me, it was a little weird, but I could live with it. Eventually though discussions about what she'd learned and after being referred to some literature by Prof. Dawkins among others, I finally was able to shed the Catholic guilt and declare myself an atheist too.

Paul (Norway)

I am 42 years old. I became a true atheist about a year ago. I'm Norwegian, and religion here is not a big part of society, but it exists, and I was baptized as a young boy. My family is not very religious, but we did go to church at Christmas and other occasions.

Some years ago, I married a Peruvian beauty, of course she's Catholic and has deep beliefs. At the time I didn't think so much about it, but after a while, being in Peru many times and attending church there, I started wondering how religion could be such a big part of society.

I started reading the Bible and Bible history. I attended a course in Catholic teachings at my local church. Then it got to me. This is the most elaborate lie of human kind. I started talking to my parents about it, my wife and others, and it seemed none of them were enlightened on the subject. They had just taken what they themselves had been told as truth. When I started asking questions, they piled up to so many, that I finally considered the Bible as rubbish. The feeling of foolishness of the whole idea was overwhelming.

At the same time, a couple of years ago, I started reading science. Deep subjects in relativity, cosmology, and quantum physics. This finally got me back to school, where I am now studying mathematics and physics. I plan to get a PhD in cosmology. So religion did something good for me, it got me back to my dream of becoming a scientist. I have run a successful computer company for 10 years, and I quit to follow my dream. Thanks to religion.

Of course, if religion hadn't been there in the first place, I'd probably be a scientist 20 years ago.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sphynxcat (Hampshire, UK)

Was never really religious - mum was Church of England (non-practising) and dad a Catholic (non-practising). Went to a C of E infant & junior school (not for any religious reason - I was in the catchment area) but again, it was not massively religious - just the occasional assembly taken by an affable vicar. Spent most of my early life vaguely agnostic, though was (weirdly enough) quite superstitious and tended to find more worth in woo & mysticism than it deserved.

Breakthrough to Atheism came when I was thinking about the god of the Bible one day, and saw the fundamental flaw in the logic - that a god who exercises judgement upon people to whom he has given free-will cannot be reconciled to a omniscient God who knows what you are going to do anyway, and already knows if you are damned or not (thereby negating the concept of free will, and thus his judgement, at the outset). Various discussions about this with religious people have failed to change my position on this (not that it changed the position of the religious lot, either; they merely exercised a sort of religious doublethink on the matter and left it at that) and my Atheism has deepened to the extent that I'm pretty much non-superstitious (occasional lapse - dunno why. I guess we just have a side that isn't amenable to reason, and even the most diehard skeptic isn't immune: even RD confesses to personally insulting his bike when the chain breaks at an inopportune moment), and though I still enjoy the occasional woo-ey book (cos a few of them at least do contain some interesting speculations, IMO, though nothing I would waste time defending in an argument) I pretty much take it all with a pinch of salt.

Nowadays, my Atheism is such that I hold the god of the Bible and Koran to be nonexistent; and that any other religion (that I have heard of) offers nothing that is any more probable. The only 'god-concept' I remain at least vaguely agnostic upon is the uninvolved deist 'god' - the engineer who caused the universe to be and left it at that. But my agnosticism on this comes about only through my own ignorance, and certainly not on the basis that I might see any great possibility of such a being existing.

Jenglish (USA)

I was raised a fundamentalist Christian in the Midwest. I was a pretty devout Christian all the way into college. I was secure enough in my faith to question it. A combination of psychology, philosophy, anthropology and history added up to too many inconsistencies with my faith. Evolution made too much sense, there were no missing links, all of human behavior can be linked to the brain (reductive materialism), etc, etc, etc, I simply learned too much in college to continue to believe. Former pastors claim that I received "a liberal brainwashing" but it is not my education I blame for brainwashing. I have done a lot of things in my life I am not proud of, but there is nothing I carry more shame for than the people I converted to Christianity while I was a Christian.

Fordo (Melbourne, Australia)

Hmm, was raised/forced to be Catholic always saw through the lies and hypocrisy at a young age. Had a strong love of blasphemy (still do) and eventually grew up, it's as simple as that. Could no longer be complicit in perpetrating the lies of a bunch of frock-wearing old paedo's, being able to finally understand that "atheist" was a word for what I was and my discovery of others who actually think! That's it in a nutshell: I grew up and began to think.

ScottyMet (Atlanta, GA USA)

My path to becoming an atheist was a somewhat long one, but I'll try to keep the story as short as I can.

I was raised in a Roman Catholic family, and was sent to Roman Catholic Elementary School and Roman Catholic High School. All my family and teachers were Catholic, as were the vast majority of my friends.

I think when I was young, I truly did believe what my parents, teachers, and other adult authority figures told me about faith and god, but over time my belief in what they were saying started to wane. I found mass to be boring and pointless. It was probably my undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder (Inattentive), that was causing that, but if so, it also caused my natural curiosity to come into play, to examine what was going on around me, and the claims of the people who were supporting the faith. I began questioning everything, using what resources of logic I had at that age. There were large sections of the literature, the ideals, and the practices that just didn't make any sense to me and left me wanting.

By the time that I was in high school, my belief was that universe was created by God, but after that, he no longer involved himself with it, letting it go on its own. This made sense to me, and answered a lot of question for me, such as why bad things were allowed to happen. "God's Plan" that I was told about didn't sit well with me. Was a God that included horrible things in his plans truly a good God, worthy of worship? I was told that we can't know the mind of God, but if we were created in God's image, that can't have meant only physically, it had to mean mentally as well, so why would our thinking be so foreign from his. We must be able to know the mind of God, simply by thinking. Well, after it all, it made more sense that he had nothing whatsoever to do with it, and nothing whatsoever to do with us or the world around us. I had one friend in high school who was an atheist, and he was the first atheist I met. He wasn't shy about his position, but religion wasn't exactly a common topic of discussion for us. Still, meeting him was my first introduction to the idea that there may not be a God.

As I continued to examine my beliefs and question things, by the time I started University, I was an agnostic. As far as I was concerned, there was no way of knowing for sure if there was or wasn't a god, and as I still held the belief that he did not interfere, it didn't matter anyway. Going through University, meeting more diverse people of a greater variety of backgrounds and faiths, I examined other spiritual paths, just to see if I was really missing anything, but none of them sat right with me. All of them fell short in some way or another.

I have always had a great interest in mythology, and I had read about the hundreds of gods humans have worshiped, in cultures all across the world, across the vastness of human history and yet now, only one of those gods is worshiped by the majority of the population. Those ancient peoples were convinced of the existence of their gods, just as people today are convinced that the Christian/Jewish/Islamic God exists. Delving into the history of Yahweh, in response to a debate with a friend, I read about the cults of Yahweh, Baal and Asherah, and how they existed at the same time, in competition with each other in the same culture, and how the cult of Yahweh was the lesser cult, with the worship of Baal and Asherah being the dominant faiths. It was only when the cult of Yahweh violently overthrew the other two that worship of Yahweh dominated and went on to spawn Judaism/Islam/Christianity. So, there was not even any kind of centralized worship of this one god to make him any more special than any of the gods now dismissed as mythology.

That was my 'tipping point' to commit to atheism. I am fortunate enough to have met a wonderful woman who shares my views, although she was not raised with religion or faith, thus has always been an atheist. The place where I grew up, issues of faith were of little importance to people, but living in the US Southeast, faith is far more important to people here. My employers and co-workers do not know I am an atheist, and the majority of my friends here are Christian, and none of them know about my views on religion. It pains me to say so, but I do believe that if I told them, I would be ostracized at work, and I would lose several good friends over it.

Seventh Child (New Zealand)

My upbringing as a Christian and turn to Atheism is sort of an odd one. Though in hindsight I kind of prefer it to the alternative of just being raised Atheist.

My family was quite poor. I had three siblings and was the eldest male but younger than one of my sisters. Just after I started school my mother was running into financial trouble so she made the decision to send me off to live with my grandparents. I visited my mother every other weekend or so.

My grandmother is very religious and whilst living with her I had to go to church every Sunday, pray before every meal (Karakia) etc and all the rest of it. Her place was filled with religious items and Bibles of various types. She ran a very Christian household. (I think she is Anglican just for the sake of detail)

As time went on I eventually went back to live with my mother, though we, as a family, still spent a significant amount of time with my grandparents.

Around when I was 9 or 10, we moved to a very small town further south. Our two options for schooling there was either a long drive to the next town over or a 5 minute walk down the road; to the local Christian School that was situated in the town's church. It was off the regular national curriculum as we later found out, but school was school. Only alongside learning maths, English, science and the like, we also had to memorize bible phrases, attend prayer each morning and learn the books of the bible. So as a young child I got a decent indoctrinating.

However there were quite a few experiences that just didn't quite add up.

1. The dichotomy between my grandmother and my mother. I spent a relatively equal amount of time with both of them in my very young years. To my grandmother, religion was extremely important. On the flipside religion didn't factor at all with my immediate family. It's not that they were against religion, it's just that they didn't seem to care or even acknowledge it. Apatheist might be the word to use.

2. As a young child I was quite bright for my age. I applied this to God and Christianity as much as I did in other things and this seemed to evoke the wrong responses from people I trusted. My grandmother would praise me for doing well in school and would tell her friends about what a smart child I was. They would act proud and impressed when I showed my knowledge in English, math, science or history, but if I tried to question God they would either tell me I'm just a stupid child or (my grandmother's favourite) would actually insult my intelligence (Smart Alec, smart ass, "You think you're so smart" etc).

3. My interest lies in computers. I also had a great interest in science as a child (which sadly, I lost throughout high school) and carried around a little pocket book of general science. I once attended a big mass of sorts with my grandmother. They went off to listen to boring adult sermons whilst I was put in a room with a bunch of other Sunday School Students from around the city. I had never known of the arguments between science and religion over the subject of Earth's creation, but this is what they were teaching us in Sunday school (Just standard indoctrination I suppose, "The scientists will tell you this, DON'T BELIEVE THEM"). The exercise they gave us was to give us a floppy disc and break it to pieces in any way we could. Then we put it inside a plastic container and shook it around a bit, then poured the contents out on the floor. The Sunday School Teachers (One of which was an adult I trusted a great deal, they were from our church) proudly proclaimed that if science was right about how the earth and life was created, then shouldn't the floppy disc have emerged fully formed?

Even at this young age, particularly because of my knowledge and love of computers, I thought this was nonsense. I knew how floppy discs were made, and how they worked and it just seemed very silly that they should expect this to work. Furthermore we had just wasted dozens of perfectly good floppy discs.

At the time someone had also (I think my mother or maybe from a Reader's Digest magazine) gotten the words "Primordial Soup" into my head. I think (in hindsight) that it was referring to theories of abiogenesis and particularly experiments that involved charging up concoctions of water and organic materials to simulate lightning striking an earth otherwise devoid of life, but as a child I just liked the words 'primordial soup'. I raised my hand and mentioned this theory, partly inquisitive and partly proudly showing off my knowledge again, as children like to do. Her response was just, "Yeah but it still wouldn't have worked."

It wasn't what she said, but how she said it. It made me feel like what I had done was wrong. I wasn't meant to question, just follow orders and I had hurt her by stepping out of line. I immediately felt embarrassed and shut my mouth for the rest of the lesson.

4. I think the final nail in the coffin was when I attended the Christian school. We had gathered in the auditorium and one of the teachers was discussing miracles. It was something about how even today we can still see miracles all around us. They then asked us (the students) for examples of our own miracles. A few classmates offered up some examples and, not to be outdone, I tried to think of one too.

Like I said earlier, my family was quite poor. My mother had managed to get a job working at the school we attended, but the majority of our money came from government payouts for my solo mother. It had been something of a rough patch before that class, but my mother had received some money from the father of my (half) brother and sister to help out. I told a story of how our family had been in financial trouble and then a few days later we had received a cheque in the mail. Entirely true.

But then she asked "and when that happened, did you know it was God that had helped you?". I said, "Yes." But I was lying. Not lying because I was deluded that I thought God had actually caused the money to be sent, not rationalizing and saying "Yes, I believe God asked my mother's ex-husband to send us money." I knew the full story and had just decided to lie. When I realized I was lying to others, I thought that maybe they were also lying to me, maybe I was lying to myself and maybe they were lying to themselves as well.

That made me feel embarrassed (even as I told the class my story, my cheeks were burning). Whenever the issue of God came up, I felt embarrassed. At the time my computer's screensaver (thoughtfully donated to the family by the same ex of my mother that had instilled in me my love of computers) was that well known image of Jesus the saviour, but I removed it. There wasn't any big coming out or anything, I just slid God under the rug. I do recall some nights of actively wondering. Asking God if he could show me some sign (Actually there was one experience there that almost had me believing again).

By the time I reached High School, all my Christian Indoctrination had just washed out of me. Like my immediate family, I just didn't care anymore. I adopted the term "Agnostic" when I learned of it and remained that way for most of my life past the age of 13 or so.

I never critically considered the issue again until recently. Someone had linked a QualiaSoup video, not to me but in response to someone else. It was all "downhill" from there. I loved the video, it made me think, was incredibly interesting and I wanted more. I watched all of his videos, moved on to others like cdk007 and Thunderf00t and eventually to Richard Dawkins own YouTube account. After watching those videos and coming here I officially adopted the term "Atheist" (Although I still append the term 'Agnostic' to it, for the sake of being specific and slightly less antagonizing to the religious, though I think most would feel it is assumed in any case. Agnostic Fairyist etc).

I haven't read the God Delusion yet but I will very soon, my girlfriend still hasn't finished reading it. I've already read Greatest Show on Earth and am currently reading Unweaving the Rainbow. I'd forgotten how interesting and amazing science can be.

Anyway this post was a lot longer than I had intended, sorry for the wall of text. My indoctrination was probably a great deal weaker than what many others would have received but I still found it a very interesting experience, especially as I was essentially being led down different paths at the same time by different people.

I'm from New Zealand, I've always thought it was fairly secular, and sure it is, but then I realize people like Brian Tamaki and even Ray Comfort are from here too.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Will (UK)

My rather relaxed Christian parents had me Baptised in '96 when I was three. I've always thought that was silly, as a toddler would just think they're being drowned. Don't remember much religion in my early life, I know I went to an Anglican Sunday-school when I was 6. My primary school wasn't a faith school but there was religious influence e.g. Hymns every Thursday. I remember in 2001 when they tried to explain away 9/11... sorry, I'm reminiscing.

I got Confirmed in 2006 without really knowing much about the Bible but acted very passionate about it. Then someone recommended a Christian Youth-Club called IMPACT which led to my brainwashing. I went with them to the festival Soul Survivor which was very hands-in-the-air worship (now I look back it was SO fucktarded, and I've sent an e-mail to them explaining that). I thought I had a couple of religious experiences there... I couldn't find a way of scientifically explain what was going on. I heard about Calvinism from SS 2010, which led me to a more harsh, fundamentalist, YEC, "God-hates-you" style of Christianity, not the kind adopted by SS. I was about to go and find a Primitive Baptist church to join when I stumbled across a little book called the God Delusion, and started paying more attention in Science lessons and to other people's views.

Over three weeks of a lot of thinking and yes, praying, I decided that this didn't really work. Science, common sense and Dawkins is the short answer. And blimey, it's liberating. I now no longer look at someone as a potential convert or someone that my God hates. Just another human, part of a beautiful accident, for some reason called Earth.

Oster (Atlanta, GA USA)

I was inducted into Christianity around 9 years, so I remember having no beliefs prior, and the induction being wholly bizarre -- ideas of God, Jesus, eternal life, being born evil but God loves you anyway, Heaven and Hell were completely alien, and horribly inhumane (thought I didn't know the word at the time).

I had no sense of being evil, but since my parents approved of the induction, I assumed they felt the same way.

The youth leaders used direct emotional coercion playing on fears of eternal suffering and eternal separation from loved-ones, saying you have to pray for Jesus to come into your heart so you can avoid those two terrible things. Of course, I desperately prayed, but never felt whatever it was they suggested I was supposed to feel.

By 15-16, it was clear to me that justifications of "for your own good," "because God/Bible says this/that," etc. were wholly against the premise that God is Love and Truth. But I valued both, and sought to understand how people outside my family's religion and culture thought, and found myself very much affirmed about what is loving and what is truthful.

Over years of consistent consideration, I came to realize that most people value love and truth above most all, and use their ideas of love and truth to gauge what they will accept and believe even about Holy texts and ideas about God.

It was my own sense that loving behavior is not cruel which made me a judge of religion by age 9. It is education which gave me the understanding and language to say specifically what is good or bad about religion, and why.

Mojzu (UK)

I'm from the UK and basically a product of a secular upbringing, my parents are agnostic and non-practising Mormon, so religion was never really brought up around me. I effectively never had faith/belief in a God, I've never felt the need (or wanted) to believe in a celestial deity/deities. Although it's only in the last few years that I've properly thought about my lack of belief in a deity, and examined the evidence/arguments for/against a deity's existence and found all the ones for a deity's existence rather... illogical, very flaky and unsubstantiated.

My lack of belief has influenced my life quite a bit, following discussion boards like these piqued my interest in biology and gave me a lot of extra information outside school curriculum that I found really interesting, and it's why I'll be studying Zoology + Animal Behaviour at university pretty soon.

In general life my lack of belief has never really been an issue, in the UK most people are either non-practising religious or simply don't concern themselves with religion. I have a few religious (and 1 or 2 fundamental) friends, but again religion is rarely an issue, and even when it is the discussions usually get quite interesting and no hard feelings afterward.

lordshipmayhem (Canada)

Back when I was about nine or so, I saw the Scientific Method as the best way of comprehending the world around me By the time I was 12 I'd worked my way through the Bible - and realized there were too many holes in the narrative's logic for it to be completely true.

By the time I was 14, my thought processes had come to the conclusion there was likely no such thing as magic, meaning likely no such thing as supernatural powers, which by deduction meant likely no such thing as supernatural beings, which meant the most powerful of supernatural beings could not exist, either in the plural or the singular.

PC Apeman (USA)

I was born without theistic beliefs and I remain without theistic beliefs to this day despite many years of church attendance, confirmation classes, and growing up in an overwhelmingly theistic (US) society. Though do not get the impression that I was a skeptical prodigy. It just never occurred to my younger, oblivious, slacker self that I was supposed to actually believe those stories.

Gliss (UK)

As the child of Irish Catholics (who never went to church), religion was ingrained. Although I never went to church after my teens, but sadly the wooo stays with you. My husband is a Methodist preacher and I went along to that church for many years, a welcome relief from Catholic dogma. In my forties I realised I was agnostic.

After Mum died, I discovered I had an older brother, we did not know that my mother had been in one of the Magdalene Irish homes run by nuns. He had been looking for his family for years (long separate story). It is now very well documented that the Irish clergy inflicted sexual abuse on children in industrial schools in Ireland. It was only then that I had the time (got BSc) or inclination to really question religion and became atheist at the age of 50.

Our relationship with our new brother is fantastic, although we cannot see each other as often as we would like. I am however, very resentful of the impact religion has had on my life and I envy all you here who have not had religion inflicted on them or their education.

Ironclad (UK)

I was schooled in a Roman Catholic convent, it wasn't a very pleasant place to grow. As soon as we moved to a different county (I was 13 by then) my mother, who was not religious at all, invited the local vicar for tea. I hid upstairs but mother made me meet this guy. It was uncomfortable to say the least.

I did ask her why she bothered, especially in light of her Agnostic leaning, to make me go through this shit again. She was shocked about my earlier schooling tales, but admitted she thought I just might like to continue with 'my faith'. She thought it would be good for me...

Trouble is, I never really liked this Christianity thing. It was morbid, scary & filled with punishment for any slights (in my convent experience). Didn't like it from the off. Didn't believe it was true, or certainly hoped it wasn't.

The more I met 'god's minions the more I realised it was... shit, bullocks, full of lies.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rokusho (UK)

I live in the UK and have been a non-believer all my life. Though it wasn't until university and my readings of Dawkins, Hitchins etc. that I became an outspoken atheist.