I'm interested in the thought process that allows reason to triumph over faith and leads people from belief in god through doubt and questioning, culminating at the statement 'I am an atheist'. Where did your train of thought start, what stops did it make, do you think you have reached your final destination in finding answers to the Big Questions?
Please share your story here.

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Mrs. Dark Excellent read.
When did I make the big change?
An incident in college was the straw that broke the camel's back,as it were, but I'll get to that soon enough.
I recall my mother reading bible stories to us every night,replete with beautiful illustrations. The stories were interesting,but to me,they were just stories.
(Yes,she worked hard to make us religious,but my brother and I both became atheists. )
I recall one of the neighbor kids saying once that they felt closer to god down on the river than in church. i recall feeling a tiny shock of fear when they said that,but realized they were right.
I do remember disliking going to church and the older I got the more I hated it. it was so boring!
One night me and my brother wanted to watch a Nat. Geographic show on bears. i recall my mother saying:"But you'd rather go to church wouldn't you!?"
Both of us said no,but she made us go anyway. The anger and resentment i felt towards her at that moment on that night was palpable!
And then there was Sunday "school" and being forced to sing sappy shit like Jesus Loves me...Every time I hear that now,I just have to grit my teeth.
What I disliked most was the screaming rants we got every Sunday from the Methodist preacher...Always at the end of his boring sermon,he'd start yelling for people to come up and repent for their sins. I'd look around and notice no one EVER cam forward to repent.
Week after week he'd scream at the congregation about the whole lot going to hell and such and they all just sat there. I used to wonder why people tolerated being screamed at every week,cause i sure did not like it. And they were PAYING him to do this. I found it very odd.
I also would wonder what all those adults could have done that was so bad to deserve hell? I also learned early on prayers were never answered,ever,so I stopped praying early on.
Only one summer did mother make us go to bible "school". She told us if we didn't like it,we did not have to go back. It was as boring as watching grass grow.
What was funny was at cookie and Koolaid time (I hate Koolaid and sugar cookies,btw) two "teachers" were discussing E. Smith in the hall.
E. had 'dissipeared"...But was found hiding in the boys restriim in a stall standing atop a to lit. THAT should have been a clue to the old bitties as to what a bad job they were doing,but they did not get it. i remember thinking I wish I'd thought of that. That incident also spoke volumes to me about other's world view not being so different from mine.
When i was 13,I had enough and stopped going to church...Went back briefly when i was 16,but founbd it just as worthless...I read a LOT and decided there was a god,but god created the universe,but washed his/her hands of us after that.
College is when I slipped over to the dark side. In medical ethics class a xtain said "God created handicapped people so we could feel better about ourselves."
I turned on her and let her have it. Saying basically I'd sure not worship a god like that who treated humans that way. before she could respond, the bell rang!
She tried to confront me later and I stood up to her and she backed down.
The older I got,the more i cam to realize religion was just a load of bs..

My fundy kin helped with this as they seemed more interested in getting to heaven than living in the real world of here and now. (I always found that rather sad, really.)
.So that's where I am today.
I now have a LOT of hostility toward religions and religious people and even cussed one out last year when she tried to lay the "Your going to hell" sermon on me.
Whoa! That was drawn out!
For me Ruth...it wasn't really much of a thought process. I don't think I ever really believed...even as a child. I tried to believe, but I figured out a a very young age that lying to oneself has no benefit. I have, however, become more vocal and sure footed as I challenge the beliefs of those who claim to possess faith.

I have not reached my final destination in finding the answers to the Big Three Questions...I don't suppose that will ever happen. My satisfaction is not HAVING to know... at least in that I will not accept the substitution of speculation as fact.

I hope for a grand connection of the cosmos and a place of eternity of my being...a unification of me and the universe, but I'm not holding my breath and I am fully aware that wishing can never cause an effect.

Incidentally, like De Rerum Natura, I can better be described as an anti-theist. I believe that all delusional thought is dangerous, potentially destructive and a barrier in the pathway of rational, deductive logic.
To me it was mostly a value judgment, I looked at the benefits that religion had to offer... and I looked at the benefits that non-belief had to offer... and I came to the conclusion that non-belief had more to offer... or more humorously, less to offer... if that makes sense. ;o)

What I mean is that, to me, religion tends to rule your life... it takes over the entirety of how you think, what you do, and how you take responsibility for things. I am a freethinker and always have been... so I naturally settled on non-belief because I am not about to let other people demand that I think one way or another. It is one thing to be open to varying opinions... and to truly consider them, but it is another thing entirely to accept whatever others say simply on the premise that it is supreme law.

I was raised Methodist and had a passive sort of belief in it until I was about seven years old. It was at this point that I really started to notice some things about the religion. I think that the largest turning point on my rejection of Christianity was one particular church outing when I overheard a group of women complaining about how a poor woman was there and how she was dressed so poorly and how should have been ashamed for it... and then on the same day I overheard three men chatting and complaining very nastily (using words like, 'f---ing c-nt') about a baby that was crying during the service. This just led me to think more about the flock, our nature as humans... and how social propriety was a major factor in why people go to church and the like. It was this turning point that led me down a path of reflection and discovery about the realities of religion.

Subsequently, after reading the Bible cover-to-cover for the first time, my world view completely changed. After reading all of the completely fantastical and totally far-fetched stories contained in that morose book... I began to realize the scariest notion that I had ever come to understand. The fact that the vast of majority of people out there truly believed that everything in that book actually happpened. And this scares the crap out of me.
I was lucky to avoid indoctrination as a child.. though it was a close call.

In Elementary School we all stood to recite the Pledge. I went along for a few years not really thinking much about it. It was enough to avoid getting into trouble. I then pondered this odd word God that was included. I had no concept of the supernatural and it was an unanswered question for some time. I didnt think to ask anyone in particular about it. Maybe I thought I was odd for finding it odd and didnt want to embarass myself?

Fast forward to Middle School. We study Greek mythology. I then think 'oh, there were people (foreigners) in the past who held these odd views about invisible people who had special powers'. Surely these are antiquated ideas that have no bearing on the here and now. I sort Mythology away in the 'history bin' of my mind and move on without much more thought.

Here comes High School. I am sitting in the library before classes start. Early birds ftw:) I look at the tv which has the news on. I see President Clinton at a podeum with some people who look different than anyone I'd ever seen. They were wearing head garbs and talking about some kind of public policy. 'Oh', thought I, 'there must be isolated pockets of culture in the world even now that hold onto these beliefs that dont come up in the Science classes.'

Right on we go to College and 9/11. I was in my Accounting I class when we found out about the attacks. No details.. just that something was up. We continued the lecture and when I went home that day I came to find out there were people out there angry enough at us, I immediately thought of blowback regarding some unreported action committed with our tax dollars, to commit these haneous acts.

I wondered what it could possible take for someone to snuff out their own life. What does it take for good people to do bad deeds? What ideal could they hold above their own mortality?

I had always thought that my views were unique. I was fed the Santa ploy as a kid. It definately hurt the development of my critical thinking.. but I managed.

The attacks on 9/11 showed me the logical conclusion of blind faith. How those in power weild subversive tactics on the weak-minded.

I now see religion for its corrupting influance.

Now before the waves of retaliation come in, one of my best friends believes in God. I dont equate Christians who just want to live in peace in America with militant terrorists from abroad.

I guess I just have a hard time coming to terms with the internal processes and rationalizations of the moderate religionist.
If one has a strongly enough held belief about the Cosmos.. and this includes stringent though arbitrary rule sets for personal conduct, shouldn't one act upon it?
We're talking about peoples' souls and the eternal afterlife here. Who wouldnt want to edit the guest list given the chance?
For me, becoming an Atheist wasn't that hard. It was a natural progression of events that lead me to Atheism.

As a child, around 5 years old, I attended Sunday School. My mother enrolled me mainly because it was some place for me to go with other children to socialize. We had never gone to church before hand, and weren't practicing any type of religion, to my recollection.

Needless to say, shortly after my enrollment, I requested to leave Sunday School because I didn't like what they taught, and I didn't like the teachers. Most of them were bitter and old.

After that, I never had any association with religion at all until I came to about my mid-teen years, around 14 or 15. Before then, I had been somewhat passively searching for answers, but it never entered my train of thought actively. I was a science buff and really enjoyed learning about astronomy, cosmology, biology - any -ology I could get my hands on. During this time, as I said, I had been passively seeking an answer of sorts.

None of the science classes or anything I read ever made a reference to religion of any sorts, or the fact that there was even a debate present about it. It was when I was at the ages previously mentioned - around 14 or 15 - that I found Christianity. It was interesting, because it gave me a feeling of comfort that I didn't really feel before. The fact that someone could claim we would go to heaven, a place of eternal bliss, if we were good little boys and girls seemed highly attractive. I was unwittingly sucked in by the great Anglerfish in the sky.

With such an attractive lure, I was soon a believing Christian, even young earth creationist. I read a lot of material on how the bible said the Earth was created. However, as the years passed, I noticed they rarely referred to real science, the stuff I grew up loving. The weird thing is, I was still generally interested in science, even though its claims didn't agree with my views. The amount of things I viewed and took in obviously took a nose dive, but the interest was still there, just lurking in the dark. After about three or so years of unconscious belief in Christianity and Creationism, my faculties started to come back to me.

At about 19 years old, out of high school and working menial minimum wage jobs, I started to migrate into other areas, forgetting creationism and adapting a more mystical view of the world. I didn't necessarily believe in a personal god anymore, but believed that there was some sort of creator and would ignorantly use the world around me as self-evident proof. I wouldn't talk to anyone about that, but it was my own personal proof.

As I drifted in to mysticism, it naturally progressed into things like sacred geometry, brain wave bio-feedback systems, and other gobbledygook. The ironic thing is that the very belief in these things got me heavily interested in science again, and started my change in to Atheism, a stance I unknowingly held years before, but didn't care to define it because belief wasn't important to me.

I'd say about 2 or so years ago, around the age of 20, I finally came back to my first love, science. With this new found lust and finally, most importantly, a real definition for my belief system, my mind was stronger than ever. I got back in to school, went to college, and graduated two years later (2 year course at a community college for Mechanical Drafting, they're the guys who do draft work for engineering blueprints and whatnot), and I'm as happy as a clam.
Like a lot of others here - I've never really NOT been atheist - for one reason, because my parents weren't.

So I've carried on my life, un-indocrinated, using my parentally informed morality to determine what was right, and wrong... And now, I think I've turned out pretty well, and I don't expect a payout at the end of my life to do good things - as far as I'm concerned, courtesy, decency, and inquisitiveness are all you need to teach a child... Then they'll turn out OK...

CandT
Morality is not defined by religion... I think that this is one of the primary messages that we, as Atheists, need to spread throughout society.
I was lucky to not be raised religious. I was raised by two agnostics, with some of my extended family being religious but we never talked about it. It was probably toward the end of elementary school I finally started learning about religion. The only time in my life I was tempted to believe was when I was 12 and my grandmother had died. I didn't want to believe she was really gone, so I tried to brainwash myself into believing in god by praying. After a couple months I gave up, and I think my grandmother would have approved since she was an atheist.

For middle school and high school, I was interested in religions and considered myself an agnostic. Partly because I hadn't really investigated them enough to figure out what I thought, and partly because it just didn't seem important enough to have a definite opinion. My first year in college was when I finally decided I was an atheist. There I encountered the campus crusade for Christ, people who took Pascal's wager seriously though I doubt they had heard of it, and many religious hypocrites.

I think that seeing people who took religion seriously, and realizing that those people exist and many don't like those who don't believe, that made me finally figure out what I believed, or didn't. My religious family members were always ready to let the rest of us not believe and it wasn't an issue. But there were actually people who thought I would go to hell for not believing. So, that year I decided I was an atheist, and have never seen anything to change my mind. I doubt religion will ever really make sense to me.

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