I've heard believers say things like "You've chosen to reject god," or "You've chosen to be an atheist." I've never felt like I chose to be an atheist. These days, I like it a lot -- it's liberating -- but in the early days it was tough going. If it had been a matter of making choices, I'm not sure it's one that I would have made. I might have chosen to be a Christian like most of the people I knew, and be accepted into that community. Atheism felt more like something that happened to me, like a realization that I couldn't avoid, regardless of what I would have chosen.


Religion seems the same. How could I have "chosen" to believe in a god? Or not to?


I realize that nothing is as simple as that. Sure, the Jack Chick tracts make it look like all you have to do is make a decision and the deal will be closed, but for most people the journey is more complicated than that. We're all influenced by what we read and hear, and by the people around us. There are some choices we can make that can influence outcomes, I suppose. And we all know that lots of people so happen to believe, or profess to believe, what their parents and neighbors believe.


All I know is that I never chose to become an atheist. The only choice I made was whether or not to accept it and be honest about it.


To what extent did making choices enter into it for you? Did you choose to be an atheist?


Views: 35

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 25, 2011 at 11:14am
The short story for me is I needed to read the bible to resolve some contradictory dogma and the more I read the more I realized the dogma was bullshit. I managed to hold on as a deist for a while, but then I realized that any remaining belief I had in a deity was just the result of vestigial superstition from my childhood indoctrination. I would say I still remained agnostic for another few years, but finally I just had to face what I believed; there is no god. So no, I really couldn't choose to believe anything - although I could have chosen to ignore the facts.
Comment by Walter Maki on March 25, 2011 at 11:31am
All I know is that I never chose to become an atheist. The only choice I made was whether or not to accept it and be honest about it.

I feel pretty much the same way Lee. Without going into a lot of detail (which reflected in my blog) I just had to be honest with myself. When my wife present this type of questioning to to me I said "Why would I choose something that will get lots of negative feed back and make my life more difficult. I made my decision based on what I have learned and just couldn't rationalize being religious anymore". I didn't choose it, it chose me out of reason and logic. Forgive the religious reference but "I was blind but now I can see (for myself)". Now I am an atheist.
Comment by palebluejosh on March 25, 2011 at 12:31pm
dawkins points out that this is the problem with Pascals Wager! ...you can't force yourself to believe in something!

the wager... if you believe in god and you're right, then there is reward.
if you're wrong, you've wasted your life but there is no real punishment.

if you don't believe in god and you're right, then that's fine. but if you're wrong, the pinishment is eternal hell... that's shitty.... therefore you're better off just believing in god.
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 25, 2011 at 12:33pm
Of course, even if you can delude yourself - how do you choose which god to believe in?
Comment by Joe Lofty on March 25, 2011 at 1:16pm

I grew up as a Seventh Day Adventist Christian. As I grew up and got more and more interested in science and developed some form of logic, the less and less it made sense to me. I never chose; it drove me away.

Comment by Ryan E. Hoffman on March 25, 2011 at 3:21pm
I absolutely chose to be an Atheist. I did not choose to reject god, but I definitely chose to stop believing in things that my mind did not consider to be rational, and the idea of god was one of them.
Comment by Lisa on March 25, 2011 at 3:26pm
I didn't choose it.  The only thing that I did on purpose is allow myself to examine the evidence.  Once you do that, there's no going back.
Comment by Ava Wilson on March 25, 2011 at 5:14pm
Atheism is not a choice. Religion is. You're born an Atheist and become religious through brainwashing and deciding to do so. Atheism is the default position.
Comment by Steve M on March 25, 2011 at 6:57pm
Atheism is no more a choice than homosexuality. Seriously who would choose to be ostracised from the majority of society.  Once you see all of the evidence for the natural universe and it's mechanisms it simply cannot be unseen.
Comment by kris feenstra on March 25, 2011 at 8:26pm

Ah... yes and no.  Mostly no.


  • I did not choose my disbelief in deities and the supernatural; I simply have not encountered a compelling reason to believe in deities thus far, and the concept of 'supernatural' seems paradoxical and, well, rather silly.
  • I did choose to not actively pursue evidence of any god's existence or nonexistence.
  • I did not choose to adopt the position that the existence of God seems pretty much irrelevant outside of a subject for mental masturbation.  I just can't find a point in my philosophy that changes with or without a god.  I would rather look at understanding describing the natural universe through science and reason, and if that incidentally reveals some truth about the existence or nonexistence of gods, I'm all for that.  Thus far, nonexistence seems to have a pretty dramatic edge.
  • I do choose not to accept unfounded, faith-based arguments in place of evidence and reason, which means despite my statement that God is irrelevant, I do have to argue against God's existence from time to time for practical reasons.  
  • I did choose to openly identify as an atheist, philosophically and culturally.



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