Would I still be an atheist if I hadn't grown up in a fundamentalist religious cult? If I'd had a more typical form of American Christianity, would I believe in a loving god?

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Comment by Human Evolution on January 10, 2010 at 1:50am
Comment by Angie the Anti-Theist on January 10, 2010 at 11:54am
@Robert I think most of the time when Christians ask me this, what they are really asking is "Would you be an atheist if you went to MY church?" B/c of the different denominations, etc. it's very easy for Christians to play the No True Scotsman fallacy. That's why I wanted to specifically address why I think I would've been an atheist even in a moderately religious or mainline Christian (or Catholic) home. My mom is a Jesus freak so there's no way she would have brought me up nontheist, even if we hadn't been such fundies.
Comment by Angie the Anti-Theist on January 11, 2010 at 1:29am
@Robert - Ah preacher's kid. Cult leader's grandkid is pretty similar, actually. Probably less public spotlight attention to behave well for me. I can't understand how my mom can be rational enough to have a PhD in testing & measurement (analytical, math-based discipline) yet STILL believes when I prayed over her I could cure her headaches, etc. Like I've got magic hands or something. Sis is evangelical; bro is an atheist physicist. It's gotta suck for my mom, thinking 2 of her 3 kids are going to be tortured in hell forever (especially since I don't talk to her now)
Comment by Nathan Hevenstone on January 11, 2010 at 1:18pm
I had a "normal", less abusive religious experience. I grew up in a liberally religious family. I was taught that Evolution was true from the beginning, and I was taught to be rational. In fact, I was taught a Jewish/Catholic form of Universalism (it's works and deeds that will get you into Heaven, not necessarily faith, because you can be saved after death). My religious upbringing was quite positive. In fact, my parents had pledged to give me and my brother options, and I will be forever grateful to them for it.

I'm an atheist.

In fact, I had a discussion with my mom's dad (who is a Deacon for the RCC) recently about my atheism, and, to be honest, I can't really figure out why he's a Deacon. He believes the Bible is a book written by man inspired by their faith in God. So not directly written by God, nor directly inspired by God. Men wrote the Bible out of inspiration from their faith in God. He doesn't believe Hell is where non-believers or non-Catholics go. He doesn't believe in the fire and brimstone stuff about Hell, either. He also accepts Evolution, and the scientific age of the earth and the universe and all that.

I think (though I'm not entirely sure), his belief is solidified by his and Grandma's experiences in Medjugorje (apparently, on one trip, they had a bunch of black Rosaries turn gold in their hands... I saw two of the Rosaries, one they had not brought with them and was still black... the other one was the exact same type of Rosary, but its color was gold, although I have no idea if they ever got it tested to see if it was real gold or what... and I know my grandparents enough to know they were being honest).

The better question would be: Would you still be an anti-theist if you had grown up in a more open-minded religious family? I would still say yes (Richard Dawkins), but I think that question would be harder to answer. I'd have to say no for me, personally, because I'm not exactly an anti-theist. I don't hate faith, I hate radicalism/fundamentalism. I think faith is fine as long as it doesn't impede on reality and as long as parents allow their children to be exposed to the real world and let them choose.

It's when it hits the public sphere and gets radical (Patrick Henry College, Patriot University, Creationism/Intelligent Design, Biblical Literalism, Jesus Camp, Evangelicalism, Suicide Bombers, etc) that it becomes an issue. But I only think that way because I grew up in a liberally religious family, so I don't have the background to hate faith. Within my family, I've seen it do nothing but good. Personally, it didn't do any bad for me... it just didn't do anything at all. And becoming an atheist corresponded with some very positive life changes for me. But for those around me (my Dad, who's a Hazzan, is a great example), faith has done wonderful things. I can't hate it based on my upbringing.

Just my $0.02; make of it what you will...
Comment by Angie the Anti-Theist on January 11, 2010 at 1:39pm
@Nathan - " I think faith is fine as long as it doesn't impede on reality and as long as parents allow their children to be exposed to the real world and let them choose." That's really the crux of it. I suppose I don't see how faith can *not* impede reality :p
Comment by Nathan Hevenstone on January 11, 2010 at 4:09pm
Well, I won't fight you on that point. We both had wildly different experiences with it, and I have to grant that a huge amount of those who have faith impede on reality all the time.

And I suppose it does in the sense of believing in something that, really, is just fuckin' stupid for an adult to believe in (adults with imaginary friends are stupid). Dawkins would rightly criticize me as a believer in belief. I just don't think faith is good or bad. I think it's neutral.

Plus, I've experienced radicalism outside of faith. I'll never forget the vegan who vilified me at a Kroger in front of the meat section (called me a cannibal, of all things). Nor will I forget the (male) non-smoker who attempted to burn a smoker with her own cigarette because she was smoking in the designated smoking section (which was outside and far away from the buildings where others were). And I'll never forget getting yelled at by a group of treehuggers because I drove a 1999 White Chevy Astro 30 miles (from my house) to school (it's also the car I have because it was free... and yes, I hate it, but I'm broke). I also don't think it's possible to forget the Liberal who nearly punched me because I dared not be "politically correct".

For me radicalism is a virus that effects all groupings around an ideology, and religion just happens to be the most vocal currently. I would bet that if we all woke up tomorrow and religion was completely gone- all 6+ billion people in the world were atheists- radicalism would pop up in some new form (most likely in politics).
Comment by Angie the Anti-Theist on January 11, 2010 at 4:20pm
@Nathan - I agree with you extremism comes in every shape and flavor (and I've had run-ins with vegans myself) However, I don't think religion just happens to be most vocal in its extremism, or just the most extreme thing right now. I think religion, inherently, breeds extremism. See the moderate believers need the radicals to keep the faith pure, to keep it meaning something, to keep the bible or the koran from being more than a book of fables or myths. And the radicals need the moderate believers to lend a veneer of credibility to their hate mongering fanaticism. So while it's certainly being the neighbor of (or probably child of) the moderate believer, I personally still see them as being a major part of the problem.
Comment by Nathan Hevenstone on January 11, 2010 at 4:34pm
I never thought about it like that. But doing so, I can see your point.

Like I said, I think it's that we were brought up in very different environments. Faith was never a really big issue with me until I stumbled onto the whole Creation vs Evolution thing (do you know that, for most of my my life, I didn't even know this controversy existed? I was taught evolution was true from the beginning, at RCC CCD, no less. So I was quite shocked that there was a debate going on). When I got into that, I finally came into contact with the brand of Christian that I always thought was as much a fairytale as the Bible is. It was, honestly, shocking. I spent the first few weeks following the whole thing with mild amusement and extreme shock. "These idiots actually exist! Where was I all these years?"
Comment by Angie the Anti-Theist on January 11, 2010 at 5:09pm
@Nathan - Yeah I know there are a lot of extheist atheists who grew up in religion & don't hate it at all, or just the rape & genocide not the concept of salvation or original sin or atonement or childhood indoctrination. But I was definitely on the fundamentalist, extremist edge. I was a Middle East politics major in college b/c I've always felt a certain kinship with suicide bombers & other terrorists or martyrs. The notion that an idea can so completely intoxicate you, & that an environment can be so out of touch w/reality that atrocities seem righteous - that a person can become so committed to something their self-preservation becomes secondary - isn't foreign to me at all. I would have died for Jesus, or died giving birth if I thought Jesus wanted me to have more kids, or died by not getting medical treatment, both physical & psychiatric, when I needed it. In the Bible, Jesus says his followers will be able to heal the sick if they pray in his name. Catholics believe this too - there are healing masses and of course Lourdes. Medicine men, shaman, witch doctors, faith healers & televangelists have more in common than not. As long as people consider the Bible inspired or holy or Jesus divine or even just a good teacher, some well-meaning loving parents are gonna kill their kids. A little boy I used to babysit died of medical neglect when I was 14 & he was 2. It was the first real crack in my faith. It was hard to reconcile the promises (in old & new testaments) of miraculous healing and the results. I walked with a cane for three years in high school from a dislocated hip. (I smoked so. much. weed. It was easier to buy a dime bag than see a doctor without parental consent.)

That was all really long just to say: the book itself is evil and it gives terrible, deadly advice. It needs to be dishonored & stripped of its credibility. It should not be called a "good book"
Comment by Nathan Hevenstone on January 11, 2010 at 5:32pm
I cannot disagree with your assessment of the Bible. The biggest reason I'm an atheist is because I read that disgusting trash. And it scares me that there are people who take this shit literally.

I think the thing I love the most is that they claim the Bible's morals are unchanging, and yet if you read it, the morals change so often it's mind-bending. I think social morals changed less often then Biblical morality. Plus, true biblical morality is disgusting, as the Westboro Baptist Church can show.

Then there's Creationism. That, really, is the crux of it. Lying for Jesus n' all that...


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