Hey everybody :) I'm going to try and keep this introduction nice and short, because I'm sure a lot of people are tired of hearing the same things over and over again.
I'm going to go over this very briefly; my name is Morgan, but I occasionally go by Morgana because an ex-friend of mine used to call me that during my first 2 years of high school. This friend is no longer a part of my life, but I like the nickname, so that's what I'm going to go by on here. I'm an 18-year-old college freshman, and I'm majoring in animal biology with a minor in design arts. I don't know what I want to do with my life yet exactly, but I want to do something with both art and animals, as they've been the two most important things in my life pretty much since the day I was born.
Also, I'm from Wisconsin (I'm going to school here as well.) Just wondering if there are any other Wisconsinites out there to talk to :) I don't know any people, personally, who are openly atheist and it'd be cool to find someone on here that lives in the same general area as I do.
Now, onto why I'm here!
Looking back on things, I'm pretty sure I've been an atheist my whole life. However, like many others on this site, I come from a Christian family. At least, I think so... It's hard to explain, really... My family is Christian, but we rarely, if ever go to church. All I really remember is going with my grandparents on a regular basis when I was very young. In the second grade, my parents had me enrolled in Sunday School to do first communion and everything... I remember crying when my dad told me I was going to Sunday School because I hated all of the church-y stuff...
Back on topic: so I was forced against my will to attend Sunday School and learn about God and Jesus and everything that a good Christian should know. I payed attention during class; I did my homework and I was a pretty good student. That was only one day a week though. The other 6 days it was almost like I had never gone to church a single day in my life. I just didn't care about it. At all.
Like most kids, we were basically told in Sunday School that if you're a good person in life, you go to Heaven, if you're bad, you go to Hell. That kind of freaked the other kids out a bit; pushed them to try and be good people. But I didn't really care. I heard the words, not just about Heaven and Hell, but the religion in general, and I don't think I ever really believed it. I've always wanted to be a good person for the sake of being a good person. My grandma recently told me a story of when I was about 4 years old. My grandpa was doing work out in the yard one day during the summer, and it was really hot out. She told me I went over to the fridge and brought him a glass of water because I wanted to make sure he wasn't thirsty... At age 4. No one told me to bring him anything, I just did because I thought it was the right thing to do. That was way before I could even understand the concept of Heaven or Hell. Honestly, I think I've always just been a good person by nature, not because I'm afraid of some eternal punishment...
Anyway, going a little off-topic here: I learned to read when I was around 4, and even at that age, I preferred to read nonfiction books over fiction. When I was forced to go to church as a kid, sometimes to keep me happy, my grandparents would let me bring along a book, and it would usually be one about African Mammals or something along those lines...
I was raised by my family to believe in God and Jesus and everything, and I always said I did, but I couldn't have possibly cared less about church or Jesus or going to Heaven or anything. I was more interested in the sciency stuff. We were always told in church that God created the animals. I've been a firm believer in evolution from the time I first started reading about dinosaurs... Probably when I was about 5 or 6. I don't know what about my childhood made me this way, but I think I've always seen straight through the religious stuff and got right to the science. I wanted to have proof about why the animals are here. Just hearing a priest say "God did it," wasn't ever really enough for me. That's why I think, even though I'm just now "coming out," I've been an atheist my whole life, I just never wanted to admit it because everyone else in my family is kind of on the religious side.
So anyway, my little brother was born when I was 5 1/2, and after that things were just crazy. My parents and grandparents didn't have time to take me to church anymore. Not that I was complaining, I always hated going ( and still do to this day.) I still considered myself a Christian though, even though I've only gone to church maybe 10 times since my brother was born (he's 13 now.) It wasn't really until high school that I seriously started questioning my faith.
Like I said, subconsciously I've never believed in God. But it was the norm for everyone to be Christian. All of my friends were, my family was; but I felt like a part of me was missing out on what they enjoyed about their religion. My friends always said they felt like a "family" with the people in their church. I never had that. It was around my sophomore year of high school that I decided that I didn't believe in religion at all. I didn't really want to consider myself an atheist though... I thought (and I still think,) that with the word "atheist" comes a negative connotation. People automatically assume you're a bad person or a "satan worshiper" if you tell them you're an atheist. I try and avoid that type of conflict if at all possible, so I just slapped the term "AGNOSTIC" onto myself (figruatively, of course,) and I thought everything was okay. I was "agnostic" until right before my high school graduation a few months ago. I took a sociology class last year, and during one of our class sessions, we got on the topic of whether or not creationism should be taught in schools. I brought up the point that, as a science, evolution should be the only thing taught in our schools. If you wanted to learn creationism, you should take a world religions class and learn about all sorts of different cultures perspectives on creation, and not focus on just one. There were these girls who sat on the other side of the classroom who FREAKED out about the mention of learning "other cultures" creation stories; they only wanted to focus on their own; the Christian story. They also pretty much said that we shouldn't learn evolution either because "not everyone believes in it." Well, not everyone believes in creationism either. I don't remember that class hour much, but I do remember being EXTREMELY pissed off at the end of the hour (my frustration was probably why I don't remember the class; I was too busy seething in my seat.)
It was pretty much at that point that I came to the conclusion that there's absolutely no point to religion at all and I didn't want to have any part of it. I wanted to better my knowledge through science to try and learn as much as I could about the world around me, rather than sitting in a church and believing things are there because "God did it." That's why I'm a biology major. I have a fascination with the living world and it's something I want to spend the rest of my life doing. If I can help it, I will never set foot in a church again. There's just no point. It's a waste of time. I could be doing something so much more with my life.
The sad thing is; I'm so happy being an atheist. Not believing in a deity or eternal punishment. It's great really :) I don't feel any pressure to do good in order to "get to Heaven." I do good because I want to. But I can't tell my family... At least not yet... My parents don't go to church anymore, and my 13-year-old brother flat out told me that he thinks religion is stupid and he doesn't want to go to church... And based on conversations I've had with my mom, I think she might be an "in-the-closet atheist" too... But I feel like if I come out and directly say that I don't believe in God, I'll be building this barrier between me and the rest of my family. They're all wonderful people, and I'm sure they'd try and be supportive and respectful of my beliefs, but... I don't want to take that chance yet. Not until I'm settled down, have a steady job, and I'm able to provide for myself. That's why I'm here. I don't like holding all of my beliefs inside, but I do it around my family and friends for my irrational fear of rejection. I'd like to talk about things with people on here without those worries :)
... This... Was much longer than I had anticipated... Sorry about that. I tend to ramble a lot when I type. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this, and I hope someday in the future I'll actually pick up the courage to comment and be more active on this site :) I'm a very shy person in real life AND online, so it might take a little while for me to get that far. I've actually been a member on this site for about a month now and I'm just now introducing myself.
With that said, I think you all seem like really great people, I'd love to get to know more of you!
As a side note, I just discovered that there was a biology and medicine section in the forums :D I think I'll be spending a LOT of my time there when I don't have schoolwork I'm supposed to be doing.
And as another side note, is it okay/normal to post our own artwork on this site? Most of my artwork isn't directly related to atheism (I actually draw fantasy/dragons a LOT, so it's pretty much the complete opposite of what this site is about,) but... I like getting feedback and learning what I can improve on, and sometimes it's nice to hear things from people who aren't a member of an art site :) Just wondering if that's okay. If not I'll try and limit my posts to more realistic things.
Thanks again for taking the time to read this!
Welcome, Morgana. There are people on here who are somewhat closeted. You will come out when you're ready.
I, too, never believed in a god or religion, although I did like the pomp and elegance of the high mass in Latin. For the past 40 years, I have only been in churches for weddings or funerals. There are two occasions when I was very poor and tried to get help from churches but they didn't help me.
There are some great people here with whom you'll be able to converse. I think your experiences with religion are a somewhat common theme. I am not surprised at the reaction of your classmates, especially given the reputation that Wisconsinites are a good, "God-fearing, go-to-church-on-Sunday" people.
If your feelings about your mother's and brother's beliefs are true, then there is really no harm (imoho, others here may feel differently) in waiting to have that/those conversation(s), to avoid added stress to your already crazy work/study load.
However, at college now, is where you really begin to build your relationships with people for the future. You do need to actively seek out associations with like-minded people. These are people with whom you'll begin networking, to help you find jobs, do research with, etc. LSU, (where I work, only: I don't have a degree) has an "Atheist, Humanist, and Agnostic Club." It might behoove you to look for such an association on your campus.
Start building your relationships for your future with the people with whom you'll want and need to associate. You don't have to "come-out"(I hate that term!), to classmates in some Psych or Western European History class. Why it should bother you at this point, how people respond to your views on religion, though, somewhat escapes me, unless you have a fear of being ostracized. In that case, I would just remember that the people who would ostracize someone, are rather narrow-minded in their views and are not necessarily worth getting to know.
I've rambled on here, myself and just want to reiterate: WELCOME Morgana!
Man, that is the longest short introduction I've ever seen! I'm scared to see you in full flight.......!!!!!!
Good on you for having the courage of your convictions. I hope my kids show the same strength.There is nothing worse than an opinion without evidence or rational thought (ie God!). You show a maturity beyond your years and I'm sure you'll find others who have the same capacity for reason.
I look forward to reading your insights and contributions to the site. You seem like you have done two of the most difficult things in life early on, throwing off the yoke of religion and gone through the first and worst break up of your life, your family. Since you already do artwork I highly recommend using your new free time on Sundays to look into aestetichs. Nothing fuels an open mind like challenges.
Good luck on your studies, and remember that Lady Fortuna favors the prepared. :)