I haven't really told anyone about my upbringing or atheism before, but this seems like a good place to share my experiences. My story isn't all that exciting, and it doesn't feature any outrageous events or anything, but I hope you'll find it interesting. Sorry in advance if it is a bit long.

Norway is among the least religious countries in the world, but a lot of the people I know were brought up to be Christians, including myself. I grew up in a moderate Christian household. We only went to church during Christmas and Easter, and we didn't talk all that much about religion in general. But I was still a religious child.

My grandmother passed away when I was about six years old. Her burial was the first religious experience I can remember; I thought that I would reunite with her when I died and ascended to Heaven. Then I started to go to school where we learned about the stories of the Bible. I'm not sure if our teacher was preaching to us or if she was just teaching about the stories as a part of our teaching plan, but I believed in these stories either way, as well as my school mates. I remember this one time during the winter when it hadn't started to snow yet, when we wrote letters and drew pictures to God and prayed for snow. We even "offered up" some ice so that he could make the snow for us.

My father liked to show me video tapes featuring stories from another religion, Hinduism. He would often travel to south-east Asia, and he would often bring souvenirs. He wanted to teach me about the different cultures there, and I had no choice but to watch the tapes he put on. Because I didn't know what the Christian god looked like and since Hinduism seemed to be the only religion I could think of where they actually showed off their gods' appearance, I got the idea that the god of the Bible looked something like Shiva, with blue skin, black hair tied in a bun and golden bracelets on his arms. Heck, that's even how I drew him when I prayed for snow. (I've no idea where my father stands "religiously").

Another weird thing I just remembered is how I'd prayed to God at night. We were learning about other religions in school once we got to second or third grade, and I remember how the teacher said that Muslims had to pray towards Mecca every day. I took this into account for some reason, and I would always guess what direction I'd have to pray towards every night before going to sleep. My prayers weren't exactly your standard "bless mother and father". I would always, every night, pray that I wouldn't fall ill (and some other stuff I can't remember) on the next day. I even, and this is hilariously stupid, prayed before I went to the toilet to make sure that I wouldn't be constipated or that my feces wouldn't be watery. Ee-yup. This might sound like a bit of a parody on a Christian child or something, but I'm not kidding; this is really how I behaved back then, and I truly believed that God was the one in control of my bowel somehow. It became a habit, and I could recite these prayers inside my head in no time.

When I was 12 years old, we went to California on vacation. Some of the family on my father's side migrated to the US a long time ago, and a big family has spawned over the years. Most of them are creationist Christians. They would always say graces before meals. I, who already believed in God, would join them in their prayers. And it felt good. I felt like I was finally being a true Christian, and that this confirmed my belief in God. We even went to some sort of Jesus school (??) where kids of all ages would gather and do fun exercises in the name of Jesus. I hardly knew any English, so my cousin had to help me fill out the work book we were given. I can only remember one of the questions, vaguely. It said something along the lines of "What does Jesus know about you?" or "Why does Jesus love you?". I didn't know what to answer, so my cousin just wrote "I'm a nice person" down for me. Fair enough. I also remember that we payed a visit to a museum where they displayed bones from and models of extinct animals. I was crazy about dinosaurs back then, which my deeply religious aunt didn't like all that much. She said that "You know that God created these, right?", pointing towards a model of a bacteria or something. I simply said "Well, I'm pretty sure humans made these models." in which my aunt replied "Yeah, but God made the men behind the models". I couldn't say no to that. It was a strange conversation indeed.

I didn't continue to say grace before I ate when we got home, and I'm pretty sure I stopped praying all together shortly after that too. I can't really remember why I suddenly lost the interest in God. I guess I had more important things to think about at the time. I can't remember thinking to much about the topic until I was about 14 years old. I started junior high school just a few weeks before I turned 13, and, like many others, I experienced being neglected by my old friends, who suddenly decided that they were too cool to hang out with me. I still had two of my best friends (still in contact with both today), but I still fell into depression. My grades during the 8th and 9th grade couldn't even be considered good, which only made everything worse. I felt like I wasn't good enough, a worthless piece of crap. I developed suicidal thoughts, but I didn't turn to God with these problems. That weird Yahweh-Shiva hybrid with Muslim tendencies was long gone. Then, one time during religions class, I read about two words that were completely new to me; "agnostic" and "atheist". That's basically how the real deconversion started.

I hadn't thought much about God's existence before I read about those two words, but I had never really considered the possibility that he might not exist after all. I was going back and forth between these words, and considered labeling myself as one of them. I didn't really end up labeling myself or think too much about this for a while, but I thought that it would be wise to call myself an agnostic, as I thought that we couldn't possibly know whether God really exists or not.

Then I got into my emo/goth phase. I'm not very proud of this particular phase. I remember that I told my mom that I was a satanist, even though I didn't fully understand what a satanist was and I sure as heck didn't believe in Satan. I was a poser, going around saying that I liked the taste of blood and that I was particularly fond of the story of Cain slaying Abel in the bible while we were in church (turns out Cain was the first vampire). I was still struggling with depression, even though I had found this one way of expressing myself. This phase would last for about two years before it mellowed out a bit. That is also about the same time when I figured out that I probably was an atheist.

When I was about 15 years old, I started to watch a lot of videos on Youtube. I remember watching a video about a documentary questioning God's existence (pity I can't find it in the ocean of atheist videos on Youtube today), though I have no idea how I found it. It left me intrigued, and I got back to the thought of the two words, "agnostic" and "atheist". All these questions stirred inside my head. How do these people find the courage to say such things? Was I really brave enough to deny God completely? What if I was going to Hell for doing so? I think that was when I decided that "sure, guess I'm agnostic, then". But I was still hungry for more information on the topic, and I looked up more videos. TheAmazingAtheist was probably the one who had the biggest influence on me, as I can't remember any other active Youtube atheists that I watched back then. He had some really good points in his videos. I had thought there were much fewer atheists in the world and on the internet, but he made me realize that the world wouldn't explode if atheists were outspoken and came out of the closet like that.

Today, about three years later, I'm an agnostic atheist. I have educated myself more on the topic of religion and science, and I've become very interested in biology, among other things. I just recently bought "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, which has helped me come out of the atheist's closet and get more understanding of what it really means to be an atheist. I'm still struggling a bit with depression and anxiety, but I find some confidence and strength in my "new" world view. I'm more curious of the world now, and my grades in school are much better too. I haven't told my family about it yet (even though my mother knows I've questioned God's existence), and I see no reason to be all like "Hey, guess what, everyone?!" on Facebook, but I have no problem adapting my world view to my social life.

That's basically all there is to it. I hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it. It feels good to get this out in the open, and I suppose this is me finally getting out of the closet.

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Welcome! Thank you for sharing your story. I'm glad you are doing better; it is not an easy journey to make, but it's definitely worth while. :)


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