Is there anybody out there who WAS a true believer and is now an atheist? If so, I'd love to hear how you got from there to here. I always put the whole God story in the same category as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and I was lucky enough to grow up in New York, so I knew from the beginning that there were lots of belief systems and lots of degrees of belief and compliance. I've always been impressed by people who had what must have been the comfort and ease of automatic belief and who gave it up for the much more demanding and unsavory challenges of reality. I'd love to hear your stories, particularly those of people from communities where no other options were around, were available, were even acknowledged.

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I'm not referring to our personal life experiences being a motivation for rebellion against an imaginary being (though I can see how you would think that). i'm referring to how the god of the three abrahamic religions is portrayed by their own sacred texts.
Thanks for the kind words, Timo.

I remember the priests getting upset when I would suggest that instead of protesting a woman's right to choose, why doesn't the church set up adoption facilities? Another was the tithe system. If the local churches collect all this money for their bills, why not divide the remaining funds among the parishioners? You know, not laying treasure up in this world, and all the rest of it.

I suppose it's not very catholic to be proactive...
I was a believer for a brief, but increasingly intense period of (I'm guessing) 2-3 years when I was around 10-14. I don't remember my exact age, but I remember feeling convicted that I was not living as "God wants me to live." I was raised in a very fundamentalist, Pentecostal church (the UPC) and had a very conservative, though not unintelligent pastor. I started becoming serious about God and church. I happily went four times a week; Sunday morning for advanced Sunday School, Sunday night for the preachy sermons, Wednesday for Bible Study and Friday nights for Question and Answer Session. I became something of the pastor's pet. I would ask questions after his sermon or bible study. I would dominate the question and answer session. I was captain of the bible quiz team in my church and won 1st place Quizzer in my state district. I was on the track to becoming a minister.

Somewhere around 14 or so I asked myself, "If I'm really going to commit myself to God, then I really need to know Him. I decided that I didn't. All I had was a bunch of words in a book. Despite my belief, and my desire to believe, I knew that I had never had a real experience with a supernatural being that I could honestly consider revelatory. Yet that was what my pastor insisted you needed before you could even begin to get saved. I realized he was right. Without that, I couldn't commit my life to something in my head. It wouldn't be honest or productive.

I'm not sure how much my religious upbringing influenced my thinking in this matter, but I'm inclined to think that it had a lot to do with it. I was taught like most religious folk that you should be honest, true to yourself and that's what I always tried to do. It didn't work out so well for the religion meme in this case, though.

I gradually disassociated myself with the religion. I became less "praisy" and more solemn during church services. Once known for lifting my hands in praise, I became known for reading through scripture or just listening contemplatively during services. I shared my concerns with my pastor but nothing he could offer satisfied the need to KNOW that God was there and that he was communing and communicating with me. That, of course, was never going to happen short of deluding myself.

Eventually I let go. I still wanted to believe but couldn't bring myself to sacrifice my intellect on the altar of faith. It took a long time nonchalantly meandering the path of agnosticism to reach the point where I could get over the fear instilled in me as a child. After lots of thought and conversations with people about it, I realized it was nonsense to stand on the fence any longer. I have just this past year decided to take a stand for what really makes sense.

How people can go through life believing in something that really doesn't add much of anything to their lives is beyond me. I guess it's all they have or know. That combined with the fear, the guilt, the disassociation with loved ones and all that comes with it.

Well, that's my story in a nutshell. Hope you enjoyed! :)
Growing up I could never get simple questions to the problems I had with religion. Where did god come from? If he made us, who made him? If Adam and Eve were the only people on Earth at the beginning, How could the world be populated when they had two sons who would have no wives? Anyhow, you get the train of thought which led to me being an Atheist. I just can't believe some of you folks though. What do you mean you don't believe in Santa. Your going to get coal in your stockings!!!!
I was raised in the Texas panhandle, which is VERY conservative and VERY religious (largely evangelical Christians). This is my favorite story that illustrates the ridiculousness of uber-Christians in the area where I grew up: My parents never went to church, but they consider themselves Christian. I went to church from about 10-13 or 14. I was quite overzealous, I think. One thing that strikes me as a defining moment that didn't at the time was when my youth minister told another girl in the youth group that wearing an Elton John t-shirt and going to his concerts was the same as "supporting his lifestyle." I don't need to explain how idiotic that statement is in so many ways. I realized that someone I looked to for religious guidance was misguided on at least one area. I considered myself agnostic by the time I was 15. I was actually an atheist by 16, but around 19 I started the process of becoming comfortable with calling myself an atheist. I credit finding an atheist boyfriend and a group of accepting friends (some religious, some not) with helping me shed that last bit of ridiculous guilt and fear I was holding on to. My entire social circle outside my family knows that I am an atheist, though with my family I tend to refer to myself as a secular humanist. I suspect that they have a lot of misconceptions about what an atheist is, and I just don't think it's worth discussing. My parents know that I'm both non-religious and a good person, and that's good enough for me.
Thanks, Clare. That was kind of an amazing transition you made - one day you believe that the entire world, the whole universe, was one thing, and the next day it was something totally different. If you don't mind my asking, though, can you tell me if, once you were no longer constrained to maintain certain Catholic positions, did you change your mind about abortion and homosexuality also? I mean, was your original opinion that both were a sin actually YOUR opinion or was that just the position you took because you had to?




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