Coming Out Godless: What's Your Story?

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Coming Out Godless: What's Your Story?

We all come from different backgrounds & have different reasons for identifying ourselves as atheist or agnostic.

Whatever your story is, we'd like to hear it. Please share & encourage others who are considering "coming out"!

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How to tell your Religious Parents you are Atheist

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It was pretty much like this.

Started by Lewal. Last reply by Lewal Feb 26, 2013. 2 Replies

Coming out to my catholic parents

Started by Colleen. Last reply by Colleen Feb 20, 2013. 18 Replies

Being an 'out' Atheist at work.

Started by Zombie Atheist. Last reply by Jens Schwaiger Oct 10, 2012. 6 Replies

How committed are you to your atheism?

Started by Anachro1. Last reply by Ken Hughes Mar 1, 2012. 29 Replies

A part of my story!

Started by Wen Vides Feb 20, 2012. 0 Replies

Your god contradicts all I live for.

Started by Sebastian Torren G.. Last reply by Suzanne Olson-Hyde Oct 12, 2011. 2 Replies

Here I Am

Started by Kat Humble. Last reply by Kat Humble Sep 20, 2011. 4 Replies

Another Brit - religion as a dangerous habit.

Started by Helen Pluckrose. Last reply by Steve Sep 4, 2011. 3 Replies

How I Lost My Faith in One Month's Time

Started by Kim. Last reply by Jack Frost May 30, 2011. 28 Replies

I DON'T recommend "coming out" if you're ...

Started by Sadly 'M' iCantSay. Last reply by Patrick Earley Apr 18, 2011. 49 Replies

Where do I go from here?

Started by Kevin Marks. Last reply by LovelyGirl Apr 10, 2011. 3 Replies

i don't think i'll be a christian much longer...

Started by S.S.. Last reply by MikeTheInfidel Mar 27, 2011. 15 Replies

From Bible-literalist Fundie to Outspoken Atheist

Started by MikeTheInfidel. Last reply by MikeTheInfidel Mar 27, 2011. 3 Replies

Sharing my story for the very first time

Started by Ingrid S. Last reply by Ingrid S Mar 27, 2011. 2 Replies

Losing My Religion

Started by Wesafc. Last reply by Wesafc Mar 22, 2011. 2 Replies

Ireland deeply religous?... nope... hi, i'm Atheist.

Started by Gavin Mills. Last reply by Ken Hughes Mar 21, 2011. 4 Replies

My Story

Started by Jessica Cox. Last reply by Jessica Cox Mar 20, 2011. 2 Replies

Who else is hiding?

Started by Johnny Walker Jan 11, 2011. 0 Replies

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Comment by Joann Brady on June 23, 2009 at 12:49am
thanks Dave. Unfortunately it is all true!
Comment by Dave G on June 22, 2009 at 11:42pm
Joann, that was a truly harrowing story.

Welcome to T|A, you're among friends here.
Comment by Joann Brady on June 22, 2009 at 10:56pm
How I became a born again evangelical atheist.
Let me begin by explaining what I mean by born again evangelical atheist. By born again, I refer to a definite point in time that ended all discussion of the existence of a god for me. It was an “aha” moment, much like born again Christians describe in their conversion process. For How I became a born me it was a moment when I finally said “That’s it! I am done with god”. By evangelical I mean that I feel it is my moral obligation to relieve the world of its current god based delusions. I believe that the future of the world hangs in the balance.
At the time of my “aha” moment I already described myself as a militant non-Christian, based on extensive research into the facts, or indeed lack thereof, for this belief system. I had not entirely eliminated the possibility of a god though. The route by which I came to discover the lies, cover-ups and inconsistencies in Christianity was arduous indeed. It never dawned on me at the beginning of my search that the whole thing would unravel before my eyes. It was not the outcome I expected, nor did I accept it easily. I continued to cling as long as possible to the system of belief in which I was raised. Even when Christianity fell by the wayside, I clung as long as possible to the concept of some sort of a god.
Perhaps we should begin at the beginning.
I was raised as a Catholic in America, my indoctrination beginning shortly after my birth with my baptism. Although I can honestly claim no memory of this event, I do have very early memories of being in the “cry room” at church. I have no memory as a tike, of anyone in my world who was not also a member of our church. As I got older, I simply presumed everyone was Catholic because it never dawned on me that there were other possibilities. I may have been as old as 7 or 8, before I realized that some of the people in my neighborhood were not Catholic, but protestant. I surely did not meet anyone who was not Christian until well into my teen years. I was sent to Catholic schools, including an all girl Catholic high school. In elementary school, religion was a subject just like reading, writing, science and math. The “facts” about God and Jesus were presented in exactly the same format as facts about math and sentence structure. I had no reason to question these so called facts.
The first thing that happened, to test my faith, was that my best friend died of cancer when we were both just 13 years old. I remember praying and crying for hours to God to let her live. When it became obvious that she would die in spite of my prayers, I prayed and cried for more hours that she not suffer. It was excruciating to watch her suffering. I prayed to God to let me share her suffering, or to even take it from her entirely and give it to me. Needless to say, my prayers were not answered, and I was left at the ripe old age of 14 (my birthday was 2 days after her funeral) with a broken heart, a shattered world, and a God who ignored my fervent prayers.
I did not become particularly angry at God for this, nor did I begin to doubt his existence, or any of the Jesus story. I was inconsolable for many months, and wrestled with trying to understand this event. I was fed the standard “God works in mysterious ways” and “God must need her more than we do” clichés. They did not ease my grief, nor could I understand how God could possibly need my best friend more than I did. Really, in the big scheme of things, couldn’t she hang around with me for another 20 or 30 years? I accepted it because there were no other explanations offered. I did not question the existence of God, but I began to seriously question his methods and motives.
Karen died in June, and after crying myself to sleep virtually every night all summer, I began another 4 years of Catholic school, in the fall. After the grief subsided a bit, I began to try to wrap my mind around the whole thing, never dreaming to go outside the frame of reference of my upbringing for answers. I talked about it fairly extensively with my close friends, but rarely with any of the adults at school. Now, the other girls were all a gaga over one of the guidance counselors. They could go to him at any time, for help with the various crises in their lives. They could go on about their parents, their boyfriends, or even their teachers, while he lent a sympathetic ear, and offered sound advice. I avoided him like the plague, lest he find out about Karen, and my inconsolable grief. I am not altogether sure what my rationale was at the time, but I think it had to do with my idea that I had to keep my grief under control in public. I still cried fairly regularly when I thought no one could hear me, but unless I told my new friends and teachers at school, they did not know about my private grief. Instead of the big white disc of a soul in my chest that we were taught about in religion class, I felt only a big black emptiness. A void so vast I feared being sucked into its abyss if I exposed it for someone else to examine. More’s the pity, I suppose, as most of us are now aware of the wonderful works of Dr Wayne Dyer, my councilor. His books and lectures have helped thousands of people make sense of their lives.
In high school I did eventually examine Christianity itself to see if it was “true” and came to the erroneous conclusion that it was. I now realize that I really did not look further than my own back yard for evidence. Once I concluded that Christianity was true, I briefly explored some of the protestant religions with representative people or churches in the neighborhood, to see if any of them were better than Catholicism. This upset my father greatly as I recall. I don’t know if the church’s official stance was still “no salvation outside the church” while I was growing up, but I am fairly certain that it was his firm belief. Luckily for him though, I saw no more logic or truth in any of them than I did in Catholicism. I decided to stay where I was, not because it seemed like the best place, but because nothing else looked any better. I had plenty of issues with the Catholic religion, but the others had just as many, or even more, so I figured I might as well stick where I was. Sort of a “bloom where you are planted” solution. I was not satisfied, but did not even know what questions to ask, or where to go for answers.
As the years went by, I cried a little less, but never forgot about Karen. I don’t suppose I thought about it in exact terms, but I think on some level, I imagined that I had paid my dues in life. I imagined that the worst was behind me. Silly me.
I did, however, continue to explore Christianity and its history. I was not happy to find out how we came to celebrate Christmas when we do. It has nothing to do with when Jesus was born, since no one knows when that happened. Instead the early church took the path of least resistance, and placed the birth of Jesus at a time when most new converts were accustomed to celebrating the winter solstice. Part of winter solstice celebrations included bringing evergreens inside; they did this in the superstitious belief that the undying evergreens would increase their own chances of surviving these dark cold days and nights. They also feasted and lit as many lights as possible to brighten the darkest nights of the year. They did these things to mark the turning point from the darkest days to the lengthening days of spring, and to insure the return of the sun.
I found all this interesting, but it did no real damage to my religious faith; no more than had been done already that is. As time went on, and I read a bit more of the New Testament, it occurred to me that Jesus never meant to start a whole new religion, and really meant to work his new teachings into Judaism. I became very interested in Judaism, and even contemplated joining a group called Jews for Jesus. They thought I was nuts, of course, and I didn’t get far with them, which is just as well, since it was about this time that I found out the appalling truth about Easter. Not only is Easter a pagan holiday, but Easter is the name of the pagan goddess for whom it is celebrated. This is much more blatant than the rewriting of the winter solstice holiday into a Christian one. This time little if anything was done to disguise it. I seem to remember being taught that above all else paganism was a no-no to believers in the one god, and here we were with our two biggest religious holidays having been stolen from the pagan world. I was not amused. In fact I was somewhat traumatized by this information.
Still, I clung to my religion, albeit now with some deeply rooted suspicions. These things were all explained away by how the church managed to convert the various cultures it encountered by allowing them to keep some of their symbols and holidays. My trip to Ireland revealed the Celtic cross as the true pagan symbol it is with the circle representing the sun. Many “holy” sites in Ireland are ancient holy sites of pagans with nothing more than the name of the god or goddess turning into the name of a saint, with an accompanying “feast day” to replace the pagan rite of old. A very transparent process indeed.
Still, I believed in the foundation of my religious faith; the presumed historical facts about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. These are the facts that truly matter. The rest is just window dressing, and even though I thought the bible was pretty specific about not adopting pagan gods & rituals, the fact that we had, did not change the underlying facts.
All this went on while my life progressed in a fairly normal way. I got married in the Catholic Church, and agreed as part of my marriage vows to raise my children as Catholics, even though my husband was not a Catholic. I did however make sure the priest removed the bit about obeying my husband from the vows. I took my marriage vows seriously, and refused to make such a ridiculous promise. I maintained that if God wanted me to submit to man, he would not have made me smarter than ninety percent of them. At that time the promise to obey was still standard in a catholic marriage ceremony, and I had to specifically ask to have it removed. I doubt if they would have too many women in their churches if they maintained this medieval stance today.
As a young girl, I dreamt of having six children, but the reality of taking proper care of that many children stopped me after having four. In light of the financial and logistical reality of the project, I decided it was prudent to stay with four. If I had managed to have six in the time period in which I had four, I may have done it; but it didn’t work out that way.
I was completely unprepared by anything I was taught about the world to deal with the next body blow that came my way.
One fine day, my nine year old daughter handed me a note written on a succession of post it notes that changed the course of our lives forever. She informed me that any time I was out of sight or sound, her father exposed himself to her and rubbed his private parts on hers.
This was a revelation out of the blue to me; a lightning bolt that ripped my life apart at its very foundation. I knew that my husband was often unreasonable in his expectations of the children, and had the potential to be physically abusive, but I naively believed that he was at the core a good man.
The weeks and months that followed my daughters note are a blur of therapy, court proceedings, and trauma for all of us. The events that followed are the fodder of made for TV movies, with the possible exception that there has yet to be a happy ending that TV movies seem to always have. My life was torn asunder. The lives of my children were irreparably damaged, except for the fact that their abusive father was no longer in the picture.
He admitted his guilt (even though he actually suggested to the judge that his daughter seduced him) and was sentenced to 7 to 15 years in prison based on a plea bargain.
As for me and mine, I spent the next 2 ½ years in a therapists’ waiting room. I was forced to close a fledgling business that was my life’s dream. I drove for 1 ½ years with no car insurance and fed my children for four years with food stamps. It was revealed in therapy that my husband’s abuse of the children was in no way confined to his sexual abuse of his own daughter. There seemed to be no end to the damage done by this man, or the repercussions in our lives.
The logistics of being a single mom of four kids were so overwhelming that I often said I did not have time to go to the bathroom. I was jealous of normal single moms who got child support and every other weekend off. Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep was an unattainable goal for many years.
As the years went by, I began to wonder if there was perhaps a lesson to be learned from these events in my life. I pondered this off and on for many months. Then, one morning, just after waking up, but before actually getting up, I had a sudden thought.
Forgiveness
Perhaps my lesson was forgiveness. I must learn to somehow forgive the monster who raped my three year old, physically & emotionally abused all of my children, and shattered my life completely.
Forgiveness
I began to think about what it would mean to forgive this man. I did not know if it was possible. I had to forgive what he did to my life, but more importantly; I had to forgive what he did to my babies. To me this complicated the issue; made it a sort of three way problem. I felt that I had failed in my primary responsibility in life. After all, what is more important to a mother than the safety and well being of her children? My children were not safe with their own father. How could I not have known that? How could these things have happened right under my nose, behind my back, and while I did other things?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I did not have a clear understanding of what exactly it meant to forgive. Once again I turned to my faith.
Christianity failed for me first and perhaps foremost, from this ideological standpoint. I was looking for a way to forgive this unforgivable act. I began to think about how forgiveness functions within Christianity, as I had always considered it the foundation of my faith. After all, didn’t Jesus die for our sins? Are we not forgiven for our transgressions against God by this (rather gruesome) sacrifice? Does not Jesus call us to forgive our brother seven times seventy times? Do we not pray regularly for God to “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”? I was raised on these words, and never questioned them or the ideas behind them. Somehow, though, they did not seem big enough or strong enough to apply to the forgiveness task at hand. This was more than a “trespass”. The bit about seven times seventy seemed to be referring to fairly inconsequential acts of forgiveness, the sheer numbers point to that idea. I mean, surely I am not expected to stand by and allow things of this sort to go on. Was I not also taught that there is a sort of hierarchy of sins? A venial sin is a minor sort of sin that we can be absolved from through the sacrament of confession, now called reconciliation, but a mortal sin would condemn us to hell forever.
This idea of mortal sin raises two issues for me. First of all, would not the crimes of Mr. Williams be classified as mortal sins? I should think so. I was taught that committing a mortal sin was a one way ticket to hell, unless a proper confession was made before death. God’s forgiveness is available to everyone, but we must seek it. If I were to commit a mortal sin, I would have to confess it and be extremely penitent and humble in order to be granted forgiveness and eventually brought back into the grace of God. There is understood to be quite a bit of groveling before God before actually being granted this forgiveness, unless of course the confession is made on a deathbed. It all gets a bit confusing actually. At any rate, I have no idea if Mr. Williams has sought this forgiveness from God; he has certainly never sought it from me or his children. Am I therefore under no obligation to forgive him? Surely I am not to be held to a higher standard than we typically hold God. Forgiveness was beginning to become a rather elusive process.
The second issue the idea of mortal sin brings up is the whole idea of salvation through Jesus. I thought his sacrifice was supposed to be the final act of sacrifice for God. In the Old Testament, God required a rather complicated system of animal sacrifice for various sins, but Jesus was supposed to be the end all sacrifice. Jesus died and was sacrificed instead of us, or various animals, so now our sins are forgiven. But wait a minute, if our sins are forgiven, why do we still have to confess them? Why are there some sins from which we are not forgiven? Why do we have to believe that we are forgiven in order to be forgiven and granted salvation? Are we forgiven and saved, or aren’t we? If god wanted to forgive us, why couldn’t he just do it? Why all the drama?
Most of the time when we apply forgiveness in our own lives, there is a certain level of participation on the part of the person being forgiven, much like the model we find in Christianity. A transgression takes place, the transgressor seeks forgiveness, and the offended party grants forgiveness. Unfortunately, the transgressor often carries on as usual, which sets up an endless cycle of transgression and forgiveness, and leads inevitably to an abusive relationship. In my case, Mr. Williams never sought forgiveness, nor was I interested in repairing and carrying on with the relationship. This made forgiveness seem rather meaningless and unnecessary.
I spent a lot of time trying to make sense of this. I clung to the concept of “God is love” even though the bible is clearly filled with stories that directly contradict this, and the very paradigm of Christianity indicates a different god. Christian forgiveness is not even internally consistent. I could find no way to apply it in my life.
I have never been able to reconcile these ideas, and come to a place where forgiveness of the monster who raped my three year old was possible, necessary, or even functional. I found Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular to fall quite short on this level, so I began to explore the historicity of Christianity, in the hopes that somehow the truth had been misconstrued along the way, and if I got to the root of the matter, I would also find a model of forgiveness that would work for me. In other words, if I believed that Jesus suffered and died because I was bad, and that God allowed, even encouraged this to happen, I must also distort my concept of a loving God to include this transaction. My own act of forgiveness cannot function this way, so perhaps I was misunderstanding this very model of forgiveness.
I then began a search for the historical Jesus, along with an understanding of his “message”. The gospel accounts when read analytically and objectively are incredibly poor sources of information of any sort, so I looked for something outside the bible to validate the stories.
I spent a lot of time on this research. It was not long before I found out to my surprise, that there is exactly zero records of Jesus outside the biblical accounts. Not one source other than the New Testament even mentions this man, or any of the amazing things that he supposedly did. None of his miracles left any evidence for us. No one noticed, for instance, the earthquake or solar eclipse that supposedly happened when he died, or all the dead people that got up and walked around in town. I found this to be rather unlikely, but my Christian friends seemed to be confident that the gospel accounts themselves were history enough for these events, so I looked at them with a critical eye.
When reading the gospels, it becomes obvious rather quickly that they are not at all internally consistent, and that they present an impossible timeline. The first problem is with the genealogies in Mathew and Luke; which differ greatly. The birth story itself cannot be reconciled; as Mathew places it during the lifetime of Herod the Great who died in the spring of 4 BC and Luke puts it during the time that Quirinius was governor of Syria which did not take place til 6 CE, both cannot be true. Mathew places the birth in Bethlehem, but mentions nothing about a census, and says that the wise men went to a house to visit Jesus, not a stable and a manger.
This is all in the first few pages of the New Testament books, and the glaring contradictions and inconsistencies continue throughout. Even Christian scholars agree that the various resurrection stories cannot be reconciled. Clearly these are not historical accounts of any sort, at least not as they have come down to us today. Something seems to have gotten jumbled along the way. I began to look into just who wrote these books and when, which led me to more surprises. It turns out that except for some of the letters of Paul, no one knows who wrote these books! They were not written by the apostles, and they were originally written in Greek, which none of the eye witnesses would have spoken. It turns out that we do not have any of the original writings at all. We do not have copies of the originals, or copies of copies, or copies of copies of copies. We have many thousands of bits and pieces from the early centuries, some of them no bigger than a thumb nail, and NO TWO of them are alike! The earliest full manuscripts are from the third or fourth century. To paraphrase the words of the biblical scholar Bart Eherman….It would have been no more difficult for god to have preserved the original writings than it would have been for him to inspire them. Since he did not in fact preserve them, it raises serious doubts as to whether he inspired them. In his book “Misquoting Jesus” he explains how books were copied and distributed in those days and the inevitable changes and mistakes that happened along the way.
From there we must realize that these documents were under the strict control of the Catholic Church for more than a thousand years before they were translated into local languages; that the Catholic Church encouraged illiteracy in order to control the dissemination of information about dogma, and that anyone who was suspected of even thinking something unorthodox was summarily tortured and put to death.
The actual history of this religion is quite different than what the nuns taught me growing up. Instead of Jesus officially starting a new church, naming Peter as the head of it, and everybody agreeing on everything all along; we find that Jesus had no intention whatsoever of starting a new religion, early Christianity had many different sects and beliefs, and it was politics more than philosophy that shaped the Church in the early years.
How can this so called holy book be the inspired word of god, the inerrant word of god, or indeed have anything at all to do with a god, if people can read it and come up with no less than twenty thousand different belief systems based on it? How can we take anything it says seriously if it is subject to that kind of interpretation? Surely, if there was anything in there that actually came from some sort of a god; it would not be so muddy and ambiguous. Many of these diverse groups insist that only they have the story straight and will go to heaven after death. They believe that the others have it so wrong that they will be sentenced to eternal torture for their misunderstanding of this message. How can such a god even be possible?
I needn’t have gone to all this trouble though, really. I should have just stood back and taken an outsiders view right from the start. I would have seen the absurdity of it all much sooner if I had. Instead, I labored at this for many years, and I am still interested in debunking scripture, but this brings me to my “aha” moment. The moment when I finally said “That does it! I’m done! Your god can go F^%## himself!”
In February of this year, my brother went to the hospital because he was experiencing excruciating pain in his back. He had had back troubles in the past, and had even had back surgery, so we all thought he had injured himself again. Such was not the case, however, and 6 days after he was admitted to the hospital, he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. The cancer was in his lungs, his liver, his lymph nodes, his spine, and his bone marrow. He did not have long to live. Johnnie was only 54 years old. The family kept 24 hour vigil at his side to take care of him in the hospital and when he came home for hospice care. One person stayed with him each night, and as many as could be there visited daily. Johnnie was in excruciating pain, and heavily drugged as a result.
On March 9 2009 with his entire family around the bed with him, Johnnie took his last breath. We were devastated. We had told Johnnie that we would sing, and tell stories, and raise a glass or two to see him off, but it really didn’t work out that way. We all just cried a lot. Then my mother made that fateful comment. I know she meant well, but it struck a nerve with me, and I became hysterical. She said “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” To which I immediately replied“Bullshit!! He does it all day, every day all around the world!!” At this point all hell broke loose. I became more hysterical as the whole family yelled at me to shut up and basically not say anything bad about their god. I was escorted out of the room and my father actually threatened to throw me out of the house. My mother literally put her hands over her ears when I said I wanted that s.o.b. of a god to get the hell out of my life and leave me alone. I spent the next 45 minutes in another room crying hysterically with my daughter and niece comforting me after which I was told that I needed to apologize to the believers. This was unbelievable to me, and further convinced me that this god is an asshole.
After this defining moment, I began to wonder why I did all the research that I did. The bottom line is that there is no evidence for the existence of a god, and when approached from the top down in this way, rather than the bottom up sort of approach that I had previously employed, the issues become much simpler. In other words, I will now have to be presented with some sort of evidence of god at all, not proof mind you, evidence will suffice; and from there proceed to a discussion about which god, and which holy book he might use to reveal himself. This top down approach, which looks at all the different gods and holy books, reveals the absurdity of the idea in general, and the different religions specifically.
I now firmly believe that these delusional beliefs are a danger to our society. It is scary to have people in the highest positions in the land who base major world policies on what they think their imaginary god would have them do. This is particularly alarming given that there are other world leaders who claim to believe in the same god, who claim that this god is telling them to do something quite contrary to what our leaders think. This is surely a prescription for disaster. There have been wars fought all over the world for all of time because of this way of thinking. Of all the conflicts currently raging on our planet, the majority of them are based on religion. People actually believe in a god who wants them to kill everyone who disagrees with their idea of god. In the case of this country we do not actually think god wants us to kill those who do not believe as we do, but we do believe that god is on our side. What a preposterous idea! I liken it to several children playing in a sandbox, each claiming to be the fathers favorite, arguing over who gets the most sand, and insisting that daddy wants them to smack the other children.
Such a god is simply not possible.

Joann Brady
2009
Comment by Malissa on June 15, 2009 at 11:01pm
Here is my story: I was born into a Catholic family. I was christened as a baby. My family did not regularylt attend church when I was a child but I do remember a few times going to the Catholic church with my mom. When I was around 12 0r 13, my mom found a baptist church where we actually began attending regularly. By going, I had heightened anxiety most of the time. I had constant thoughts of hell and death and horrific images brought to me by the sermons. I was baptised and attended Falls Creek church camp for a few years. I always had an empty feeling and according to the church, it would be filled with god's holy spirit. That never happened. Eventually, going to church was a struggle. My mom would make me go and I was so miserable. The pastor made an example of me once and I never forgot it. The one thing i enjoyed then was hanging out with the youth pastors. They were decent people and very young and fun and they cared (so i thought). They left the church and went to another one. I mentioned to a friend that attended that church to say hi for me. SHe came back and said they had no idea who i was. My mind began creaking its wheels once again.
I stopped going to church and pretty much just forgot about god. There was no reason for me to think about someone who is not there. I met my husband who was already an atheist. I then called myself agnostic for the last 8 years. Finally I admitted that i am an atheist and I am happy to be one. I feel great saying that!
Comment by Serotonin Wraith on May 5, 2009 at 5:11pm
I was raised by Christian parents (Jehovah's Witnesses) from the very start. I believed it all, but I didn't like it. I found church really boring, and we had to preach to people, which I hated too. I know lots of people think it's 'sharing the good news' but I saw it as threatening people to worship our god or die by his hand. That's the message, but people try and dress it up to look nice. I wasn't fooled.

We didn't just study the nice Jesus bits like a lot of churches nowadays do, and forget all the nasty stuff. I learned it all. So I'd hear all about how God flooded the earth and killed everyone, and they'd say it was necessary cos man was evil, and I would think 'were the animals evil?' Even if they don't have souls, I'd never drown an animal. It's cruel. If God was so powerful he could have wiped out the humans without harming the animals. I thought 'were the babies evil too?' cos they drowned. I'd hear that they inherited sin, but then so did Noah and his family but they were given a chance to grow up and show they could be good. The babies weren't.

I came to see that this god was a tyrant, and I honestly was scared of him. I could see the people round me either didn't understand the kinds of things God did or the threats he was making, or they were sucking up to him and lying to themselves about God being loving because they were scared too.

I was told that non-Christians (and Christians not in our particular brand of Christianity) had been led astray by Satan, and they weren't good company. Yet I knew lots from school and life in general, and I could see they weren't evil at all. The ones in other religions might not have had the correct god, but their hearts were in the right place. They were still trying to be good people and trying to worship - what difference did it make if they didn't use the correct name? Was God that petty and unfair?

I basically resigned myself to the fact that God was going to kill me and there was nothing I could do about it. It was just a matter of time, and when it happened (they taught the end was always just round the corner, I wasn't expecting to live another 5 years) I might scream and plead and say sorry for not liking his religion, but that would have been out of self preservation, not cos I did like it or him.

I always had doubts, but they keep themselves insulated so I didn't have much influence from people with different beliefs. My friends had to be in that religion, you have to marry within that religion, things like that - which makes sense if you believe the rest of the planet is evil and about to be killed by God! The doubts were small, as much as a young boy could think critically while living in a bubble of paranoid delusion. For the most part I believed it was true, but hoped that it wasn't.

Then of course the teen years hit, and my thinking skills got stronger. I knew I needed to see the big picture - of course I believed it, I was born into it - but also because it was all I'd known I couldn't shake it. Even now at a time I don't believe in the Bible god, I still have an image of him from my childhood if he's mentioned. A bit like having an image in your mind of what's happening if you read a book without pictures. You can read the same book years later, but the images stay the same as the first time you imagined them.

Each year that passed I believed it less. If I'm remembering correctly, I'd say at 13 I put a percentage of 80 on it being true. 14 - 75%. 15 - 65%. 16 - 55%. Sixteen was the year I left it.

I would have left it earlier, because it wasn't about whether it was true or not. It was about how I felt being in a religion I hated. Cos I thought I was going to die, I obviously felt sick at having to keep going to church before he killed me. I wanted to get my money's worth and tell God he could stick his rules! I was gonna die anyway, why not?

None of that made me feel evil. I actually felt I was on high moral ground. God was the one in the wrong for being so nasty and unfair, not me for refusing to worship a dictator. God was gonna kill me cos he could, not cos he should. He had the might and I had the right. He didn't like homosexuals, I saw homophobia as a bad thing. He thought women were second best, I saw sexism as a bad thing. In the end it got to the point where I would have rather died than continued to live following that morality. I'd die, but my morality would prevail. Quite noble now I think of it! I was making a stand, despite the risk to myself.

So because I was old enough at 16, I moved home and had nothing to do with my father, two brothers and step mum. Nothing whatsoever. I completely cut them out of my life. They were so wrapped up in the religion it had consumed them. They saw everything through the lens of the Bible. I'd left their religion so I knew they saw it as Satan leading me away, not that I'd made my own choice. I knew they expected me to be killed like all the others, and even if it's family, people like me are seen as bad company and a risk to their faith. God is way more important to them than family.

I did nothing whatsoever that was religious. I couldn't even research it. I had to have a complete break, because the whole thing had stressed me out that much. Just in that break I came to see that my old beliefs were fading fast. The fear was slipping away. It wasn't that I was burying my head in the sand and hiding from God, it was that it wasn't being drummed into my head almost every day that Bible god existed and was going to kill most of the planet off. If you hear that most days for years, you tend to believe it. Repetition techniques. The more it's repeated, the truer it feels. It felt more and more like nonsense the more my brain freed itself and started developing its own worldview.

Skip forward a few years, and the belief was at something like 5-10%. Low enough not to bother me at all, but still hanging on in there whispering 'what if it IS true?' In 2004/5, I was back in contact with one of my brothers, and he was still in the religion. I also saw some people preaching in the street that same week. Right, I thought. I don't want this bugging me now, let's dig deep and see if there's anything to it and shut up the demons in my head once and for all.

So at first I looked up stuff on the net just about the religion I'd known - I uncovered deceit, cult techniques, things like that. I knew it was true because I'd experienced it. The writings from that religion (supposedly inspired by God) changed with the times, with newer ones contradicting old beliefs, and yet both were from God? Obviously it was completely man made. They'd say something like 'the beast mentioned in Revelation represents this... (let's say Russia, I forget them all now) and we know because God revealed it to us' but then when Russia got split into smaller sections and was less of a threat, all of a sudden it was 'This just in! The beast in Revelation represents this... (I dunno, the UN) and we know because God revealed it to us!' If they couldn't be trusted in the past, what made them trustworthy now?

That religion I'd been so worried about had turned out to be completely false, and without the net I may not have known for sure. So the fear was gone.

So then what about the other religions? Maybe the Catholics had it right, or the Mormons or Muslims. This honestly hasn't been a concern for me really. They all seem bogus to me because I wasn't raised to believe in them. I can tell right away that something like Mohammed flying on a magic horse and Jesus going to America are just nutty beliefs, there's no need to go 'hmm, what if...?'

Of course with the net, one page leads to another and I soon found the whole 'new atheism' stuff that was getting started. I was hooked. I listened to hours of debates, read the books, studied evolution properly cos my knowledge of that was limited, and basically went in to my 'search for truth' phase. Learning new things is important to me now, it's one of the biggest driving forces in my life. I'd like to understand the universe and myself as much as possible, instead of assuming as I used to that God was the magic force behind things we didn't know.

Any doubts about whether there's some god have completely gone now. The atheist arguments made so much more sense, and I'd only heard the other side before. I've had so many debates on the subject now it's no lie to say I can get anyone to the point where they either give up their belief in God or have to ignore me and be dishonest with themselves in order to keep it. Part of debating is for me personally to be sure I'm right - not believing because I don't want the Biblical god to exist would be just as bad as someone believing because they want him to exist.

I have wondered, if I'd believed in a cool god (like one of the gods that invented beer or sex!) would I have reached this point? The thing that got me started on my journey was not liking the god I believed in, so I was open to it being shown to be false. I suspect I'd have resisted if I'd thought God actually was loving, so I should thank the old religion for not hiding the nasty bits. It's truth that matters to me though, so even if it was tough I'd have still preferred to find out. Comfort matters less to me than truth.

I also wonder if I'd have been so open if I believed in hell. I was only afraid of being killed one time by God. If the threat was burning forever, I think that would have held me back from questioning Christianity for a time. I'd have been too scared to. If it turned out there was a hell, I couldn't have done the noble standing up to God thing. I'd have sucked up, I know. Anything to avoid that.

If I hadn't questioned it all myself, I'd have hoped someone would have brought it up with me and shown me their side. I wish that could have happened in my youth and I'd have saved myself a good many years worrying. Most people are too polite and say nothing about someone's religious beliefs, but I can't do that. If I find out someone's religious in real life (I don't know too many, most in the UK don't believe) I see if they fancy talking about it. Turns out most call themselves Christian without knowing much about the Bible (if they've read it at all!). If they want to chat, I will. If they don't, I leave it, unless they promote their beliefs. I'm not against that because I believe in free speech, but free speech works both ways. It can't be that they can promote their god without me asking how they possibly know this god exists. I see that as fair.
Comment by baddy on April 16, 2009 at 1:48pm
I was raised in a Roman Catholic home. My dad was Protestant, but converted to Catholicism before he married my mom. We went to church just about every Sunday while I was growing up and I was made to jump through all the Catholic hoops, pretty much against my will. I was baptized as an infant, received communion and got confirmed. I attended CCD every Wednesday night and eventually ended up skipping practically all of my classes by around ages 13-15. I hated church. Always did. I never felt any connection to God. When I prayed it was only because I was depressed or needed something from him and it always left me feeling unfulfilled. Any good that came out of my life I didn't understand why I should be thanking any God because it never felt like he was there for me when I was down and out.

Shortly after I turned 15 I discovered punk music. I was introduced to Bad Religion and I felt instantly connected. I finally felt like someone was speaking my language and I felt accepted into the community. In church I never felt like I was good enough. With punk, nobody gives a fuck. You can be yourself and no one will judge you.

The biggest turning point and final straw was when my friend from school committed suicide at 16. It tore my world apart and to make matters worse at the wake and funeral all the preacher could talk about was how Garrett was a God-loving young man and how he is now walking with Jesus. I thought, "What a bunch of fucking shit! That's not what they taught me!" I didn't know what to believe and I just saw the whole ceremony as some kind of sugar coating to try and pull the wool over everyone's eyes to make them feel better. Why couldn't we just celebrate his life? Here was an intelligent, articulate, goodhearted 16 year old kid who just ended his life and you wanna talk about "where he is now."

Anyway, this is less of a coming out story and more of a why am I here. My parents hate that I'm agnostic. They think I'm going to hell, but we don't talk about it. I prefer for it to be that way. When I dropped the bomb to them my freshman year of college my dad said to me, "Well, Kristen, no one really knows for sure if there's a God or not so why aren't we all agnostic?" I answered with, "Yeah, well, why aren't you?"
Comment by EmryB on March 26, 2009 at 6:38pm
I'm from a small town in Kansas. Needless to say, everyone there is Christian. Luckily both of my parents are free thinkers/agnostics. They never pushed me to be religious (even though I tried really hard to "accept Jesus into my heart").

My parents just wanted me to be a good person. I'm so lucky to have their support.

My heart goes out to all of you without the support of your family.
Comment by Gaytor on March 26, 2009 at 3:36am
My mother was raised Catholic. Her brother died in an accident at 19 and the Priest wouldn't give last rights in the hospital because he didn't tithe. My Mom lost the taste for religion but still sent me to a Baptist Church. After a few months we came upon Easter. When I was told the Christ rose from the dead, I knew the taste of death and that my loved ones didn't come back three days later. I called Shenanigans on the Sunday School teacher. The result was my nose in a corner and me having had enough of the BS in less than a year. I don't recall "coming out" maybe because I was so young. I do remember older people being terrified if it came up. I talk people that I wasn't a believer so early on that i do not even recall the first time. Just the original impetus.
If God's love leads me to embarrassment and having your nose in a corner at five for having questions, then eff it. I'll take my chances and keep asking questions without fear of reprisal for wanting to understand.
Comment by SkepticalAtheist on March 9, 2009 at 8:04pm
I was raised catholic and more or less drank the kool aid until my freshman year of college. A little time away from home and I began to realize just how insane organized religion is and what it has done for, and more importantly to, us. When I turned my back on catholicism, only my father seemed upset. Everyone else was ambivalent. I gave up on organized religion but I tried to hang onto “spirituality” for some time. I struggled to shuffle loose the spiritual coil, reconciling the desire to believe with the new reality that was dawning in my mind.

My favorite delusion in this time period, being a fan of science fiction, was that god is an alien and jesus was a human-alien hybrid. This explained all the miracles and other phenomenon, even down to his ascension into heaven (tractor beam into a spaceship, of course). The virgin birth was accomplished through simple artificial insemination. I’m sure there are at least short stories if not full novels written with this premise. I don’t care to seek it out.

Finally, I just gave up. When I started reading the works of Dawkins and Hitchens later in my adulthood, it all just made sense. It rang of Truth. I knew I had come home.
Comment by Chris Britton on February 25, 2009 at 11:26pm
A lot of crap happened to me in my life. Not a bad home environment or anything like that. (I had a very good home life actually, I'm very appreciative) But my life outside of my home, mainly my school life. From the beginning of school i was never really noticed as a person and no one paid attention to me. I wasn't picked on or anything, just never ever talked to by anyone. This trend lasted until about highschool 10th and 11th grade. It was around then that i eventually started to get thoughts of, 'well IF god is real, hes never noticed me and fuck him.' Soon, i started hearing all the disputers and such, and when i finally started looking at the evidence, with god no longer a fear in my life, i realized that i had broken the dependence i once had on god. However, this wasn't until recently. It took some time to really be able to say "I know that there is no god". My life has since got a lot better in my point of view. I am way less depressed about things, and have started focusing more on my studies. Now that the universe isn't repressed by god anymore, the possibilities are endless! =P
 

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