Its not common that I receive three different endearing labels in just a couple of days. One poster jokingly called me the "atheistist atheist of atheistdom". Someone who had the label hilariously foisted on them gave it to me, "That Little Evil Thang" and I was recently told by my daughter that as regards atheism "I'm kind of a big deal", another joke of a label that comes from a funny movie and one I repeated on TA a couple of times.
When I thought about this I realized people are saying this because I was more or less born atheist; I mean, my parents were both atheists and I was never drawn to religion. And that made me realize that almost every story I've read on TA is about the deconverted; people who have left religion. Is there anyone out there who was "born" atheist? If so, I'd like to hear your story. I'd especially like to know at what age you decided for certain that you would not "depart" from tradition and convert. For me it was 12.
We hear the deconversion stories all the time but I rarely hear our stories. Also, I'm curious if anyone's larger family is all atheist? All my relatives as far back as I know were all atheist. This seems rare. Is it?
One of the reasons I ask this is because when new people join who have deconverted they tell their stories about it and, while I can understand it in a deconversion context, its hard to know how to relate to some of the issues they encounter, especially after deconverting. There is so much tension within their own families and I don't know the right thing to say to them. Any ideas on that?
All are invited and I'm not a topic natzi.
Thanks for reading - kk
If I was born with any existential thoughts racing around in my tabula rasa brain, I’ve forgotten them. My parents were Presbyterians - a calvinistic denomination. Their mistake with me, from their point of view, was that they talked about two concepts that were difficult - impossible, really - for me to accept by the time I was 7: Santa Claus, who could fly around in a sleigh; and some god guy who they said could do even more fantastic things than Santa. So, naturally, when they let go of the Santa myth, god just naturally rode off in the sleigh with him, never to return. For some reason, I was, from a very early age, a natural skeptic about anything I couldn’t see, hear, feel, smell, or taste; so no amount of urging or pleading by my parents (or my distressed Presbyterian and Mormon cousins) made any impression on me. Besides, there was no way I was going to submit to either the ignominy of baptism or the pain of circumcision, both of which had been set aside by my uneducated parents in their struggles to cope with The Depression.
I was, from a very early age, a natural skeptic about anything I couldn’t see, hear, feel, smell, or taste;
Same here - kk
I was baptized when I was born, but I don't recall ever being raised with religious values. I asked my mother at one point if she was an atheist by the time I entered this world, and she said that she was. I asked, if she was an atheist, why she had me baptized. I believe her response was that it had to do with expectations from family or some such thing. My grandparents on my mother's side were Catholic, but I've never been sure if they actually believed or not. On my father's side, I'm not sure who believes what aside from my father who is not religious, and one of his brothers who is a Chaplain and a Christian.
I was not raised to be against religion. My mother was a microbiologist at the time, so I learned about nature and science, but I don't recall either of my parents telling me to believe or not believe any specific philosophy. I went to Sunday School a few times with friends. I read about religions and had exposure, but it just never took. Sorry Christians, but Thor is way cooler than Jesus by a looooooooong shot, and no one had any trouble dismissing Thor. Sure, 'coolness' isn't the standard for being real, but my interest in Norse mythology led to the obvious question: why is one set of magical tales taken more seriously than other sets of magical tales?
I grew up free to explore, but as time went on, it became more and more clear that religion tends to place more restrictions or reality than it provides meaningful explanations of reality. Not only were the myths of various religions not compelling as plausible explanations for phenomena, but they just didn't offer an interesting path forward.
Some of my friends growing up were religious. Some were even Evangelicals. We debated and remained friends all the same. It didn't seem all that important of a distinction between us. Now, most people I know seem to be irreligious, but I don't seek that out. Religiosity just happens to be declining for the most part. as long as people do not use any belief (religious or otherwise) to justify destructive behaviour, I will not go out of my way to challenge it. I am open with my views, but it's not that often that the subject of religion comes up. How my co-workers -- as an example -- believe the universe came to be is not overly important to our relationship. I wouldn't date someone who was devoutly religious, but it most other interpersonal relationships, I don't really care all that deeply how people believe.
In terms of people who have deconverted, you are obviously going to encounter a variety of experiences. For those who have recently given up religion, or are on the cusp, I think the one thing you can offer up is the perspective that living without gods doesn't have to be scary or unhappy. It just requires a bit of shift in thinking. There is a way of looking at the universe without gods that is not only comfortable, but comforting.
... why is one set of magical tales taken more seriously than other sets of magical tales?
Once I can get someone to honestly and sincerely begin to frame it that way I know the outcome.
Not only were the myths of various religions not compelling as plausible explanations for phenomena, but they just didn't offer an interesting path forward.
Forward to what?
I think the one thing you can offer up is the perspective that living without gods doesn't have to be scary or unhappy. It just requires a bit of shift in thinking.
Thanks, I'll remember that.
"Forward to what?"
To anything. My life is a series of emerging experiences, realizations and shifting perspectives. Because my worldview is not rigidly prescribed, I can adapt and evolve over time with relative freedom. I don't have to let my life play out on set path programmed by the tennets of religious dogma. I don't have to vet new knowledge against its compatibility with sacred texts. I don't have to fix my ethics in line with the beliefs of men now centuries dead.
Thats the nice thing about being a freethinker, eh? I couldn't agree more.
I was also born atheist, or raised without religion. My mother was baptised lutheran but it was never taken seriously. Subsequently I was never baptised at all and we generally had nice quiet sunday mornings. The closest we got to religion was going to the christmas carols at the local church.
I don't think I ever really could of been swayed by religious arguments to convert. Once, I was waiting for a bus, and someone started talking to me about where people came from. They made the argument that since science says there is common descent, it must inevitably mean we came from 2 people, and that those two people are Adam and Eve. Even at the age of 15 or so, I knew enough about science to know how wrong that was but couldn't really articulate like I can now.
I guess it's not really a particularly interesting story like some of the deconversion stories, but it's important to let people know that there are people like me out there. At least 3rd generation non-religious and focusing on raising a 4th generation right now.
It sounds like our situation is very similar. We also attended community events of a religious nature, like Christmas caroling and such, but only when it was done at the community level. Congratulations on rearing a 4th generation.
Would you say that your family is pretty close-knit? I wonder about us because I think maybe the reason why our atheism is so ubiquitous in our families has more to do with the larger pattern of similar thinking. My family is very, very close and we all think mostly alike. That might not be such a good thing, but it could explain the phenomemon.
My family is not particularly close knit and it is rather small. I have 1 brother, 3 uncles, 1 aunt, 3 grandparents remaining, and a grand total of 0 cousins, due to the fact that my aunt and 1 uncle are gay and the other 2 uncles were never interested in having children.
You know, that's funny. This is another thing I hear often from atheists; that their families were not all that close-knit. Interesting.
I can see this view for someone who has never experienced profound love but its harder to see for those who have (which is not to say that it can't be the case). When someone really loves you you're never alone, you do not live alone and you won't die alone.
Most every conversation in home was science
So, just to be clear, you are saying that you were convicted of your atheist belief before age 4? I'm curious of the timeline relating science to atheism. Were you drawn to science at a young age, then later became atheist? Or was it all more or less at the same time?