Has anyone here been raised atheist?

Most of us from the western world have been born into a religious environment. I myself was a catholic, went through the whole circus of sacraments and religious teaching and kind of took my religion for granted.

Now one thing the old communist regimes had about them was atheism. They rejected religion outright, based on Marx's* view of religion as being a yoke to keep people subdued so that they accept the status quo where others had the power and they had to live with it - the hope principle.

Religion, of course, persevered through that period**, since even the commies couldn't completely get rid of it.

As I read these forums, I find that most have left religion behind them. This means, however, that most of us were religious at some point in their lives. So my question is: how much different would life be if we had been raised without religion? Are there members here from formerly communist countries who may be willing to shed light on how life is without ever having had a faith?

Of course, I don't limit the question to citizens of those countries.

How do you view religious people? How do you 'cope' with the idea of not having an immortal soul? What about not having to fear divine judgement of your actions?

Do you laugh at us who have for so long thought that 'an invisible man in the sky' was watching us? Or do you laugh at us recently made atheists for worrying about this stuff so much?


*whereas I believe that Marx was an honest idealist in these matters, I also believe that the people who used his philosophy as a foundation of their states found it convenient that he was against religion, since that would give them the means to get rid of a competitor (the church) and to impose their own quasi-religious political doctrines.

**it is interesting to note that after the oppressive regimes faded, faith actually declined.

Views: 58

Comment by Steve McWilliams on February 4, 2012 at 5:05am

I was raised in a wonderful secular environment. I have great parents and would not have traded them for any others. Religion was just not something that was discussed in our home. I did grow up with friends who attended Catholic schools and this God character was brought up from time to time. Whenever I asked parents questions about this God, I wasn't told "There is no God" or anything like that. What they did was tell me other things I would also have to believe in as well as things I would have to deny. I think that what really solidified my atheism was discovering Carl Sagan's Cosmos around the age of 10. I simply COULDN'T believe after that.

Comment by kris feenstra on February 6, 2012 at 5:09pm

My mother was an atheist by the time I was born.  I don't think my dad has ever been a believer, though it might be most fitting to describe him as indifferent.  I was neither encouraged nor discouraged where religion was concerned.  All the same, I have never in my life been religious.  For reference, I grew up in Southern Ontario, Canada.  Atheism did not represent the majority where I grew up, but it was still pretty common and not at all controversial.

How do you view religious people?

I don't generally make a distinction between religious and non-religious people unless it is relevant to the topic at hand.  I view religious people the same as everyone else until their actions give me reason not to.  

As an example, I know many Christians who are not homophobic in the slightest (even if I don't get how they reconcile that with the Bible and their faith), and are very rational on the issue of LGBT+ rights.  I identify more closely with those Christians (at least on this issue) than I do with non-religious people who happen to be irrationally homophobic.

Basically, I recognize that views and beliefs are complex, and that there are a great many variations even inside of subgroups like religious people vs. non-religious.  While I would prefer that people not attribute order in the Universe with supernatural superstition, it's not my most pressing concern.  My disdain for religions and religious people only arises in those that systematically push hatred, ignorance, and intolerance.  If it's not systematic, then it's just a regular, everyday hate, which I disagree with, but do not think is unique or isolated to religious folk.

How do you 'cope' with the idea of not having an immortal soul?

I grew up not believing in it, so there wasn't much coping required.  I didn't have any preconceived notions of needing to live forever as a child, and given modern life expectancies, it actually seems like we get a pretty decent amount of time.  My biggest concern was the mortality of my family members, and the fact that one day they would be gone for good.  That's life.  That's reality.  Why rail against reality?  I got over it and accepted what I have now instead of lamenting that I will not have it for all eternity.  There's a certain beauty in ephemerality as well.

What about not having to fear divine judgement of your actions?

I think, when it comes to personal faith, God is only as hard on people as they are on themselves.  Why?  Because God is the product of their imaginations.  People who are hard on themselves will probably envision God as being hard on them.  People who are easy on themselves will probably envision a God that's prone to let bad behaviour slide with a Hail Mary or two.

In my case, God was removed as a middleman, and I had to judge myself.  That level of accountability actually makes me pretty hard on myself.  If I make a bad call, it's all on me.  I can't scapegoat divine law, or pretend that God will absolve me of my sins. I can't just say "Ah well; in the end, it's for God to decide."  I can't shirk my responsibilities and pray for a sign.  I have to face these issues myself, as a human being, knowing that I am imperfect and that I won't always make the right call.  I have to bear that burden directly.

Do you laugh at us who have for so long thought that 'an invisible man in the sky' was watching us?

No.  Humans can lean on each other for support, can seek inspiration and ideas from one another, but ultimately, we all have to walk our own path.  There are numerous reasons why a person holds faith in deities, and that's not really something for me to judge whether I agree with it or not.  If someone is being sincere and honest in their pursuit of knowledge, I won't ridicule, disdain, or condem

Comment by Marina Mayton on February 8, 2012 at 9:58pm

My parents didn't raise me without religion so much as they just supported whatever I wanted to believe, which defaulted to atheism.

How do you view religious people?
With a combination of wariness and pity. In my experience religious people have been condescending at best and hateful and violent at worst (also they don't tip). On the flip side, I can't imagine how hard it must be to live with all that guilt and fear and cognitive dissonance.

How do you 'cope' with the idea of not having an immortal soul?
I'm fine with not being immortal. The idea of HAVING an immortal soul would take coping with, though. I think an eternity of anything sounds awful.

What about not having to fear divine judgement of your actions?
This relates back to the immortal soul thing. Even if I was really good, and was divinely judged to deserve heaven...well, heaven sounds as bad as the alternative. Besides, doing the right thing out of fear of dad's belt does not a good person make.

Do you laugh at us who have for so long thought that 'an invisible man in the sky' was watching us? Or do you laugh at us recently made atheists for worrying about this stuff so much?
Maybe a little bit. But then I spent a long time worrying that there was something wrong with me because I couldn't figure out how to believe something that was obviously not true. Since we've all gotten through that bullshit, I'd say high fives all around.


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