So I 'came out' about my atheism recently to my parents, and they took it extremely well (I don't think they were that surprised, really), but the first question they asked me was "When did you know?". And I honestly just said some really vague answer. I can't remember a specific moment when I said 'Aha! I get it! I'm an atheist!'. For me, it was definitely a slow and deliberate process leading to atheism. But I was curious as to how others on T/A came to be atheist (this is assuming the majority of you were raised in religious households). Did anyone have an 'Eureka' moment, or has it been a process for you guys, too? I'm just curious; I don't personally know any other atheists, so my knowledge is pretty limited in this area.
I think this may have been covered in another discussion already, so I apologize if it's redundant. Thanks! :)
I found myself walking an entire night outside a foreign city in a foreign country, alone. Then I realized how alone I actually was. Then a lot of questions started to come up. Then I started doing some research trying to answer some of those questions. Meanwhile I found Think Atheist and all seems to go in the right direction.
I went to a parochial school for ten years, and my parents were really religious.
I was pretty afraid of questioning stuff, though I did internally since I was really young.
The real catalyst was when my best friend killed himself.
I could not accept the fact that god would condemn his own creations to hell...especially one as pure and kind as my friend was, just because he couldn't endure the pain he was going through mentally.
God is supposed to love and care for the unloved, the unwanted, the diseased, the sinners...yet the priests in my church were pretty sure on one thing: he WAS in hell.
I refused to believe that, and went through a hard phase of trying to understand the world, and trying to find answers again from scratch.
But here I am, an agnostic, but well grounded in my beliefs now.
I don't think I really was before, and that's what almost killed me.
I couldn't come up with any valid reasoning behind much of the churches' laws or morals.
I was searching, searching, raised with Sunday School and all that because small-town rural American in the early 60's there just weren't options for anything else. Grew up taught Sunday School for a while. My kids were growing up and out of the house and then I had to go into Major surgery with the threat of possible cancer diagnosis.
I was asked if I wanted a chaplian and I suddenly realized I didn't need or want one. I started laughing. I coudl have been in an altered state of consciencness due to drugs. The toughts I had as I went under into the black was "If I don't come back, oh, well. Nothing will hurt then. I embraced it.
I was glad I came back with a clean bill on the cancer, but I thanked my doctors not god. That was 10 years ago and I still remember the moment I stopped believing so clearly. It was so freeing and happy.
I basically had a very intense non-religous experiend and I have neverr looked back.
Maybe it took a good shot of morphine to get me there but it has sure stuck with me.
I didn't have one "aha" moment, I don't think. I just had many moments beginning in the first grade where my logical mind was telling me different than what the nuns were telling me. Maybe my aha moment was when I realized that they only thing that kept me lying to myself was fear of hell and that it was a fool proof system to keep people enslaved.
I had what I suppose could be called an 'Aha!' moment just a few years ago. I'll preface with a little of my background.
Having been raised Baptist, religion was always apart of the background noise in my life. But I was born with an equally scientific and artistic bent. I was encouraged in these pursuits by my parents, who were then and still are Christians. Since this mindset had me always thinking, always asking questions, my faith was paradoxically both strong and unsettled.
In time, my questions won out. Christianity led me to study the Jewishness of Jesus, which led me to Judiaism. And I don't mean the "Jews for Jesus" type! I mean learning from an orthodox rabbi, studying Hebrew several hours a day, davvening 3 times a day, wearing tallit katan and a kippah, eating kosher, etc. Though I never went through full conversion, having eventually decided it wasn't the right fit for me, the religious humanism of Reform Judaism and the recent Jewish Renewal movement led me to the more pan-religious humanism of Gandhi. This eventually led me to explore Hinduism and Buddhism, culminating in a month-long vow of silence and daily, hours-long meditation and study at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Bloomington, Indiana, of all places.
Throughout all of this, I moved further and further from religion and a definable god and more toward a general pantheism. Secular humanism became a term more compatible with my convictions. However, certain experiences - mystical visions during meditation, "psychics" in the family, faith healing, and even my childhood home being haunted - made it difficult for me to completely discount the idea of the supernatural. I knew of experiments whereby sensations of the presence of supernatural beings or events had been generated in subjects via electrical fields applied to the brain. I was also was aware of phenomena like mass hysteria and the openness to suggestibility that can occur among like-minded groups. But I, arrogantly, considered myself immune to such things. My experiences were too intense, too detailed to be mere figments of my imagination. My rude awakening came on Halloween, 2007.
A friend and I drove around that evening, enjoying the many haunted house attractions in and around northern Indiana. Toward the end of one particular attraction, we had to walk along a raised platform that passed through a brightly painted, rotating tunnel, complete with rubbery worms hanging from its surface. Halfway down the walkway, a nearby guide yelled, "Raise your arms above your head!" I did so and my world was irrevocably tilted on its axis.
This simple act upset my equilibrium and generated the illusion that it was the walkway, not the tunnel, that was spinning. Off balance, I tumbled sideways, slamming my hip painfully into the guard rail. I clutched the handrail in a death-grip and tried not to topple over the side. I soon realized that it was some trick of the mind, but dropped my arms was insufficient to return things to normal. So, I shut my eyes for a moment. When I opened them again, the world was still going topsy-turvy. I tried again, shutting my eyes for 30 seconds. Still no help. It wasn't until I staggered clumsily to the end of the tunnel and out the other side that I regained my sense of balance.
Turning back, I stared into the tunnel and watched my friend as she giggled hysterically, still in the throes of the illusion I had just escaped. And there it was - my 'Aha!' moment. I realized how manipulable the human mind is, how inadequate our senses and perceptions are. While in the tunnel, it made no difference how much I had told myself that the walls, and not the walkway, were spinning; I could not bring the world back to normal. The only thing that helped was an outside, objective experience. My friend exited the tunnel, clearly having enjoyed the experience, though not in the same manner as I had. We passed through the last few rooms, but I remember none of the details of their frights. I was too busy considering what that spinning tunnel had taught me about the susceptibility of the mind to false impressions and faulty conclusions and the neutral, objective viewpoint its far corridor had provided.
Free of the haunted house, we headed toward the parking lot. I limped slightly from my bruised hip, like some modern Jacob-Israel reeling from an angelic wrestling injury. But unlike him, I had not seen the face of God. I had, instead, removed God's final mask and found nothing behind it. By the time we reached the car, I was an atheist.
Love the tunnel story, Kevin! No "ah-ha" moment for me...I never recall a time that I really believed in anything with regard to religion, although I've always been very interested in religion/spirituality. I love James Campbell's work and read him when I was fairly young. Religious stories did always seem to me to be mythology, and like others have said, as a child, I put belief in "God" in the same category as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny! I think it helpdd that I was not raised in any particular religion. My parents encouraged me to explore and to think for myself...a wonderful gift for which I will be forever thankful! :)