I come from a rural area in Alabama, deep in the bible belt. My family is very religious. I, on the other hand, think entirely too much to give in to Christianity as they have. I've done my research. I even took a class entitled Survey of the Old Testament because the Old Testament is not often covered in church. I have realized that religion is probably little more than fiction but I still relapse occasionally. I think this may be due to the fact that there aren't too many people here who see the world as I do and many people are very hateful towards people like me, so I feel pressure to conform. As of right now, I claim agnostic, except when I'm around my family. I have tried to discuss my doubts with some Christians, but its like talking to a brick wall. A very hostile brick wall. I need to know why others have chosen this path, and what obstacles they face if any.
They know I am an atheist but tell me I am welcome.
Oh of THAT I have no doubt; just like people are welcome in alligator infested swamps.
As others have said, there's less choice involved in becoming an atheist than believers assume, although there are related decisions one makes. Speaking for myself, it began with a growing realization that the beliefs I had were unrealistic. The first decision is the one to admit this to yourself and allow yourself pursue this line of thinking. Another decision is the one to quit the "team" by no longer attending church and religious functions—the choice to "live as an atheist" so to speak. (I personally never liked church very much, so I just never went again after leaving for college.)
Neither of these decisions are necessary, technically. I mean, you are defined as an atheist if you don't believe in God, but you can decide not to pursue it intellectually and to continue your life as before. It's been done. But for most "out" atheists this path would be too difficult because of the cognitive dissonance. I would feel like I was not being honest with myself. It's hard for a lot of people to not investigate something like that intellectually.
So, anyway, I imagine that applies to you as well Brittney. You're here: go ahead and discuss your doubts! Anything specific weighing on your mind?
I was raised in an atheist household but we were exposed to Christianity anyway. My parents were atheists but I remember saying prayers at night. As a kid, it felt comforting to know that if I said, "Now I lay me down to sleep..." nothing could harm me. In my dreams, T. Rex tried to get into my Manhattan apartment and ghosts haunted the old fort where I went for Brownie meetings.
Ironically, when I was a little older I had a concept of god that is not very far from what I believe now except that there is nothing divine in my current view. I used to think that we lived on God's head and that we were rather nasty parasites. From my position in the back seat of the car for 12,000 miles across the U.S. four times, I imagined the trees were hair. God seemed to go on forever.
My parents took my siblings and I to see every natural wonder they reasonably could. I've been panning for gold in the Sierras, had my toes in the pink sands of the Painted Desert, and looked up with dizzying amazement at the sequoias on the Pacific coast. The Earth was my cathedral, Cows, canyons, and shooting stars were my pastors.
Now I think the Earth, and the cosmos itself, are our literal creators. I just don't think there's any consciousness involved in the process besides ours. I am grateful to my parents for having been given information, experiences, and the freedom to decide on my own. Granted, there was a heavy atheist slant in the household but It wasn't jammed down my throat while I couldn't understand it.
An obstacle that being an atheist has presented is not being able to be part of a church and its sense of community. It has not stopped me from having friends but it can narrow the field somewhat. I feel the need to be careful what I say and to whom because like it or not, there can be unpleasant repercussions for myself and my children for not going along with the religiously faithful status quo.
I was raised Catholic, and went to Catholic school. The more I read the bible, and observed the claims of believers and how they contrasted with their behaviors, the more I questioned. I realized that I was an atheist by the time I graduated and joined the service. I studied other religions and philosophies over the next decade, and slowly became atheist with Taoist and Buddhist philosophical leanings.
I've gotten the usual snotty behavior thrown in my direction, along with attempts at conversion. Each has served to clarify and strengthen my outlook. Theistic apologetics only have a handful of arguments, and they all have a healthy array of refutations. The more I studied both sides of the debate, the more comfortable I became.
I've noticed three stages in my atheism that seem to be fairly common to former theists. In the early stages, there was uncertainty and a degree of timidity in certain social circles. Later, there was a more combative time where I staked my personal position and argued with others. Now, it's just a part of me, and I don't think about it much. However, I still like engaging in theist/atheist debate. I just do it for the lulz instead of having a personal investment in it.
It's helped me quite a bit to surround myself in quotes from Atheists, and frequent Atheists websites and blogs. Reading these things makes me feel like I'm not crazy. I read a quote the other day that said, "Atheism is for grown-ups, you wouldn't understand." I tend to want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but the truth is they don't want to know the truth. They don't want to understand.
Good luck, you've got a friend in Texas!
Yes, sometimes it feels like I see way too many stupid people. Sadly they sometimes don't even know they are stupid.
I think I started becoming an atheist, (because for me, it was a process) when I first discovered there were many different religions. Being raised Catholic, of course I was taught that our religion was the "right religion". But then I learned that every religion believes they are the "right religion" with different reasons to "prove it". Someone had to be wrong. After a while I realized it was all of them.
I was exposed to the Baptist version of the art form when I was a kid. I went to church 'several times', and even spent a whole summer in bible school. But it was like a vaccination that didn't take.
I was a reader of stories as a kid, so the bible stories were interesting to me. But even the stories were certainly not believable, even to a ten year old.
After a while, it seemed to me that all the adults around me were 'play acting'. It was like they were all in the middle of some strange adult fantasy game. I soon got bored watching them play their game. It just seemed silly.
Yes, 'coming out' can be a little unnerving. But once you've subtly proclaimed you don't believe in God enough times through conversation, things get easier. Unless you have friends and family that are hardcore religious believers, you can mention it enough times that they'll get used to hearing it. After a while it won't seem to bother them at all. At least that's how it was for me.
I do have many friends who believe. That's not a problem, I just keep it in mind when I'm with them. I don't think I could enjoy my life as much as I do without being friends with some believers. Just because they believe in something I don't, doesn't mean I can't be friends with them. No matter how I may feel about their skewed mental state, I would never intentionally hurt their feelings.
I think it all has to do with how you interact with other people in your everyday life. I don't say a word about my atheism unless someone asks or I'm on a forum like this one. If it doesn't come up, there's no reason to say a thing. I'm not a militant atheist, I just don't believe.
There's no way I'm personally going to rid the world of the malady of 'belief'. So why should I martyr my peaceful life for the sake of trying to change the minds of those who partake in the frenzy?
If I'm accosted by a book-thumper, I'm pretty quick to let them know my point of view. But unless I'm forced to get defensive, I just leave the room. I pick my battles.
I feel I've done my fair share of fighting against the robe & cloth in my day. My head still hurts from beating it against the wall. I now live the life of a quiet atheist.
For me, the best part of not believing, is peace of mind.
"Why am I an atheist?"
The other options available seemed a bit silly.
"Are there any obstacles I face as an atheist?"
Yes, but they are not significant and not so different from the nuisances most people face in my culture at one point or another. Some have it worse than I do for certain due to xenophobic bigotry.