I did not become an atheist because of what others said, I simply was an atheist. What I found interesting is that when I actually did find the atheist community, many of the arguments I had formed f…

I did not become an atheist because of what others said, I simply was an atheist. What I found interesting is that when I actually did find the atheist community, many of the arguments I had formed for myself had been formed by others. Reading what other non-theists had written was like a trip down memory lane, for I had reached the same conclusions, independently, many years before I ever read other non-theists thoughts. Like many I have read, they thought they were the only ones, a non-believer in a land of believers who were sure of their stance. Now I understand that we are many, and we need not hide anymore!

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Comment by Gaytor on August 19, 2009 at 12:34am
It's the beauty of the internet. It removes the conservative social boundaries put in place in many of the homes or towns we grew up in. We are no longer the fringe 9%. Having a voice has driven us to 16% of the US and nearly 40% of the youth have found reason in our message. I have a feeling that when I'm whittling away on my digital stick in my anti-gravity motion chair I'll tell the grandkids about the days when a 2000 year old book written by sheepherders ruled our lives whether we liked it or not.
Comment by D Fisher on August 19, 2009 at 2:03am
I became an atheist growing up in a small town, Christian family. I have a mother who loves to read and a father who loves to learn. ( learned how loving to read and loving to learn are not synonymous!) I had a deep sense of curiosity instilled in me from my dad and a love of books from my mom. What first inspired my sense of doubt--rational curiosity, I like to call it—was… drum roll please… reading the Bible. Having grown up in the conservative Midwest US, I could see many Christians around me didn't actually read the Bible much. In fact, not only did they hardly know what the book actually said (vs. the stories that are told), they didn’t read all the in between parts, between the famous stories that preachers use to "salt and pepper" their sermons. (The sermons, of course, are primarily a pastor’s personal views plus passages to support him.)

Like Doug said, I began filling out details of arguments that I later found many other atheists also formed. For example, Christianity is a type of in group morality system, the key words being "in group," a way to put walls up to keep others out. Not that their morality system was any better (it's not!) or is exclusive. One way I found this was in Bible study. Hey, I didn't last long! I was chastised for my probing questions. I just wanted to understand. In hard drive terminology, the "believers" had sectors on their hard drive (religion) that were "ready only." Hey, don’t change any of this. They were protective, in a defensive way, often to very simple questions. I look back fondly now on those experiences.

It is funny to me now (and it’s unfortunate) how many Christians feel that the dissonance they feel of reality clashing with their religion to them is emotional proof that they are right. As a younger kid, I recognized this dissonance in developing alternate explanations for events other people attributed to god. My dad is the one who showed me over and over (through his praise god for this, praise god for that) that a belief in a god is largely superfluous. (My dad has been a tremendous positive influence for me, btw. A great guy. Not knocking him.) Every time people attributed a good thing to god, I realized there was a perfectly reasonable (a much better) cause for the event. And, hey, as a kid, I thought, if god is good and powerful, why does he allow bad things to happen?

Later on, I stumbled upon Michael Shermer's book "How We Believe" and "Gospel Fictions" by Randy Helms. Those books opened my eyes all the way. I realized that there's no way the people I grew up with actually studied the Bible, other than to support their own views. (This is just one of the ironies when people say without religion, there is no morality.)

As a kid, I learned to dislike dissonance with reality. Reality could be what the Bible actually says, actual causes or events, or whatever. Where I got that preference, I’m not sure. I’m one of seven siblings and most of them did not get it. It seems the wind blew another direction for me.

Not to wax on too much, but this reminds me of a Rush (the band) song, the way the wind blows:

Now it's come to this
It's like we're back in the Dark Ages
From the Middle East to the Middle West
It's a world of superstition

Now it's come to this
Wide-eyed armies of the faithful
From the Middle East to the Middle West
Pray, and pass the ammunition

So many people think that way
You gotta watch what you say
To them and them, and others too
Who don't seem to see to things the way you do

We can only grow the way the wind blows
on a bare and weathered shore
We can only bow to the here and now
In our elemental war

We can only go the way the wind blows
We can only bow to the here and now
Or be broken down blow by blow

Now it's come to this
Hollow speeches of mass deception
From the Middle East to the Middle West
Like crusaders in a holy alliance

Now it's come to this
Like we're back in the dark ages
From the Middle East to the Middle West
It's a plague that resists all science

It seems to leave them partly blind
And they leave no child behind
While evil spirits haunt their sleep
While shepherds bless and count their sheep

Like the solitary pine
On a bare wind blasted shore
We can only grow the way the wind blows

Somehow, the wind was blowing a different direction for me.

Comment by CJoe on August 19, 2009 at 3:08am

I've done plenty of writing about my past experiences as a Christian, but I keep wondering why I didn't quite get it until later. There were a few spurts of questioning before I was 18, but... in my memory, I never remember anyone else REALLY challenging the Bible. Everyone on the site seems to have a memory of being chastised for asking too many questions, but I didn't encounter that until I was 21. Maybe this is due to the fact that it took me that long to overcome my shyness. I was too preoccupied with anxiety to be pondering the character of God. Once I got the nerve up to ask questions, I was pretty quickly told I thought too much. Whatever it was that was making me uneasy was MY problem; my separation from God. I didn't like that answer. The whole charade didn't last long after that...
Comment by Doug Reardon on August 20, 2009 at 11:29pm
Well, at least you eventually saw the light!
Comment by D Fisher on August 20, 2009 at 11:46pm
There are a lot of things to figure out in life growing up, that's for sure. Metaphysics is just one. People's generalized recount of their life, including my own, is hard to use to pindown specific things. I, too, was shy and had mainly suspicions until I was in my 20s when I really put all the pieces together.


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