When talking to many people, I get the notion that many Americans have grown up in a Christian church. Along side that, many leave the church because of something that the church did to them or they had a bad experience or they just didn't agree with it. 

I want to know what peoples experiences are with the American Christian Church is, and if this drove them/opened their eyes to not believing in God. Also, if you once believed there was a god, what was the moment that you stopped believing there was and why. 

- I don't want this to be just a big bashing session on Christians in general, I actually want to hear your experiences, if you don't mind sharing. 

Tags: church, conversion

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I believed in the Christian gods when I was a child.  There were so many mixed messages that it was rather confusing - but I continued believing even after I figured out that the Easter Bunny, Santa, and the Tooth Fairy weren't real.

I had no single 'aha' moment - the various conflicting beliefs just sloughed away until I became a deist that believed Jesus was a great philosopher.  Even then, as I read the bible through a second time, I realized that he wasn't much of a philosopher either, and asked myself why I believed in any form of god.  When I realized the only reason was childhood indoctrination, I knew that I would eventually not believe - but it took awhile to shake that sort of indoctrination.

Pretty much this entire playlist.

The arrogance of clergy

Have you been raised in a lab? Otherwise I don't know how any adult could be so blissfully unaware of the evils of the church and religion itself.

What has the American church done to me? Me, personally, nothing aside from almost not allowing me to marry the woman I love because I am atheist and she is not. Oh, and I almost forgot the days when my wife would be in tears for hours because she was afraid that I am going to hell because I don't believe in god.

But for a few years now I have had the privilege of watching my mother in law descend farther and farther into religiously driven paranoia in her quest to prevent Satan and demons from "getting her", which in her advanced age is spilling into every day life.

I have watched religion ruin many a relationship because one person's non-belief was challenging the other's faith in god.

I have seen people I though sane and reasonably rational actually pause and think about whether or not they would kill their children if they heard a voice in their head claiming to be god tell them to.

I have had to sit idly by and watch my wife's nephew grow up in a evangelical bubble of unbelievable ignorance, where he is not allowed to have a childhood because Batman is "of the devil".

I have had to sit at 2am on a project day with my old college roommate and listen to him almost hysterical because he felt like he was "a bad Christian" because he watched an episode of South Park.

The list goes on here in Canada, but if we step back to my old country, I got to see first hand how religion (Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim) tears a country apart and drags it into needless, senseless war, hate and bloodshed.

As for when I stopped believing; I never did believe. I have been atheist my entire life. I tried believing, read the books, went to the meetings, found nothing convincing.

I'm sure you'll get a lot of stories if people here feel chatty.

I want to know what peoples experiences are with the American Christian Church is, and if this drove them/opened their eyes to not believing in God. Also, if you once believed there was a god, what was the moment that you stopped believing there was and why.

I was a Catholic school student. As a fourth grader I believed in Jesus as devoutly as I believed in Santa Claus. In the latter case, the 'moment' was Christmas Eve, catching my parents wrapping presents which they signed "from: Santa". The game was up. Yet we continued to play it. But I understood how it worked: the younger and more gullible children weren't told, and the older and wiser folks were in on it. 

I noticed a parallel in the way the nuns and priests behaved regarding belief in Jesus. It didn't seem that far of a shift. Eight tiny reindeer and the blessed trinity. The decorated tree and the crucifix. The constant talk about things that defy belief and cannot be detected, but needed to be believed in anyway to attain their benefits. I formed a sense that Jesus was used as a teaching tool, just like Santa was used as a holiday tool.

I guessed the older kids knew already, but didn't say anything. It was like the Santa Claus "code of silence" applied to Jesus as well. I figured the nuns would let me in on it too. When would it be? Fifth grade? No, that came and went. Here I am in sixth grade and still not a peep. Surely they didn't wait until junior high! I started dropping hints that I knew. I made jokes and little comments. That just made them angry and punish me.

The more I let on that I didn't buy it, the madder they got and the more they tried to shut me up. That's when I understood. It scared me, but it was also exhilarating. The adults were like dumb little kids who still believed in Santa. Nobody had ever told them Santa wasn't real. But this was worse. They got royally pissed off if you said Santa wasn't real, and then it's punishment time.

So I kept my mouth shut and played along. Sure I love Jesus. He's awesome. You betcha. Can I go now? By the end of sixth grade I had mastered the art of subversion. I continued to make little jokes and comments. I found library books were a fantastic source of difficult questions to ask in religion class ("Can God make a rock so big he can't lift it?"). I said "under dog" instead of "under God" during the pledge, and so on. Whatever music, books, or public figures they told me not to listen to, I listened to.

- I don't want this to be just a big bashing session on Christians in general, I actually want to hear your experiences, if you don't mind sharing.

Tell me you sincerely believe in leprechauns and instantly you've cast serious doubt on your judgement, your ability to think and reason clearly, and even your sanity. The same goes when you tell me you sincerely believe Jesus was a God with limitless magical powers who died as a blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of every human sin. I tell you-- without the harshness, gratuitousness, prejudice, or overstatement that are the hallmarks of "bashing"-- the premise of Christianity is probably the stupidest thing I have ever heard. 

Wow, thanks for sharing, Gallup. That's a beautiful story, and I've never heard anyone put it quite like that before. Plus it's nice to find a fellow patripresentist.

I don't blame any church, I blame National Geographic. When I was little, we subscribed to NG, and I used to thumb through it for pictures of half-naked tribal ladies, when I noticed various articles on the many different religions of the world. So I asked my parents, with all the different religions, how do we know ours is the right one? "It just is, that's all!" didn't really strike me as a very convincing (or even well-contemplated) answer, so I set out to study religions and decide for myself.

Long story short, I concluded they're all a crock, but that some are more beneficial than others in promoting global well-being.

I don't think I ever truly believed in a god. It wasn't until I went to college and started questioning that I came upon the realization that there is little difference between most religions. The first question I had was which one is right if they all claim their god is the true god and all others are false. Did American Indians in the 1200's go to hell because they never heard of the Christian god?

Talking with my mom at one point, she recalled how a pastor belittled her for not going to church every Sunday. That was probably the first time I thought negatively of the church.

I see more pain caused by than cured by the church. I view religion along the same lines as the police. They were once a good institution but so many have tarnished that reputation that it's going to take a lot to be viewed worthy ever again.

Watching Zeitgeist was probably the nail in the coffin. I had never seen that many viewpoints put together in such a formidable manner. All my ideas on religion came to fruition shortly afterward.

Working with an extremely religious fellow it pains me that I know more about the bible learning it as a kid than he does as an adult going to church every week. He blindly follows his pastor's sermons. Had we been around 100 years ago and his church believed that slavery was defended in the bible he would have mentioned it at work. I've been challenged by him 3 times but no more. It's funny when you have a pastor at work with you and he's the one backing up your knowledge.

I find religion to be a cultural norm. People want to be liked so they say they are Christian to fit in and some may even go to their meetings on a regular basis but few walk the walk. I like to think that my morals come from me instead of someone telling me how I should act. At some point every man comes to a point where some of his parents' values don't fit in his life.

There are people who have been seriously let down by their Church that still profess a belief in God. They are also many people that have been angry with their God because of personal tragedies and yet still maintain their beliefs. Of course there are many people who have left the mainstream Church or who do not practice their faith any longer for exactly the same reasons. They feel let down for one reason or another. Many will say that they are not part of a religion but have their own personal relationship with Jesus. They are happy to live their lives like that.

For me it was never about being angry or upset with my faith. I had doubts about it for a time. Once I challenged myself to work through these doubts I very quickly same to the conclusion that God probably did not exist. Did I seriously believe that I would be given eternal life because I said “yes” I believe that Jesus is my saviour? To believe that means I would have to believe that I would become immortal. It just clicked and I realised that it was all a delusion. I did not call myself an Atheist then because I did not really know much about it. I just knew that I no longer believed in the existence of God.

That is however all that Atheism is – a lack of belief in the existence of Gods. I do not believe Christians when they tell me about their God. I do not believe what Muslims tell me either about Allah. My lack of belief in Allah (or Zeus, Apollo etc.) actually existing is the same as your lack of belief in them. That does not tell me anything about you or allow you to know anything about me. We are only defined by the beliefs we make public and these in turn are only one aspect of our personality.

I am an Atheist for over 30 years. I have no problem with anyone holding religious beliefs. I have no problem with individuals being members of religious communities.  I actively and continually rally against all religions that try to influence how I live my life. I get angry when religions indoctrinate young children in the education system. I get angry when they try to influence the passing of laws at government level. I am not however angry at a God that does not exist.

I once had this thought:  Maybe I never believed in God. Yes, I had the understanding of one existing but it was a very vague notion. All I had was a tacit agreement that I believed because everyone around me (everyone) professed a belief. It was only when I got older that I realised that I was only believed to be true what other people said was true. Once I started to question why I was holding onto those beliefs I just stopped. That was it. I no longer believed.

Of course this meant a lot of things I had taken for granted to be true needed to be looked at again (or for the first time now that I think about it). All the answers that religion had given seemed very simplistic. This is because they are. They were suitable when we were an ignorant and uneducated species. That is when they were written. Now we live in the aftermath of the age of enlightenment and discovery. We now have so many of the big questions answered and have a method of finding out more through Science (which is not a matter of belief).

I know that if you profess a belief in God that you cannot understand the Atheist viewpoint. It cannot make sense to you. As a one time believer I do know what it means to believe in God. I suspect you believe in the same God that all your family and friends believe in. Do you really believe it all or do you just believe what everyone around you says is true. If you have doubts will you challenge them? Welcome to Think Atheist.

I'll join the chorus. Sorry, Yeddie, nothing "drove them . . . to not believing in God" except just simple, rational thought - the opposite of faith. I had no negative experience with my Catholic upbringing and education (except occasionally getting my ears boxed for being an ass - which I almost always deserved). A magical, invisible Daddy in the Sky is just silly - just an overwhelmingly stupid concept. Briefly step away from your "heart" and just THINK about it.

When i was about 15 i started to have some minor doubts in  my religion . I talked to our preacher about it without getting any satisfactory answers from him and so i ended up reading the bible from cover to cover. I thought the bible, as the direct message to hes creation from a loving and all knowing god, would calm all my qualms in my religion and point me in the right direction. Instead i ended up being very surprised to find myself an atheist at the end of it.

"A thorough reading and understanding of the Bible is the surest path to atheism."
-- Donald Morgan --

I would not say it even takes that thorough of a reading. When i first read it it was not to nit pick nor look for reasons not to believe it. I then fully believed in gods existence and thought this was he's perfect word. Even once i had get most of the way through i was still giving it the benefit of the doubt. I kept expecting to come across some verse that would transform  everything else i had read into making sense. I cant tell you how disappointed  i was when it ended with revelations.

Back on topic - my  bad experiences with Christianity  only  came about once i was no longer christian. From teachers spending a whole class lecturing me on what an idiot i was for no longer believing in christian mythology and how i was now going to hell, to my step father forcing me to go to church until i got banned for questioning the minister. And lets not even talk about the drama and hurt feelings this caused in my family

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