Normally we just type into the box and submit, rather than attaching a file and hoping that everyone has Word 07. Sorry, I pulled a tl;dr on your intro 'cause the background in Word makes me sleepy. Anyway, welcome to A.N.
Well, here's my introduction. My name is Jeremy Babcock, and I am a 22 year old student at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. I am currently studying under the Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development program there, though this is a somewhat new development. This is my third major switch -- I started in aerospace engineering, then economics, and now this. I've had an interest in evolution and development for a while now that finally pushed me over the top to make it my career path. My hobbies include playing guitar, video games, sports (mostly football and basketball), movies, and building up my home theater. I work at Best Buy, and the discount they give me entices me to spend more there than I would have ever thought before I worked there. I suppose that's all not really what anyone really cares about, though, so I guess here's my history with religion and atheism...
I was raised in a very religious household, though this was mostly due to my mother and not my father. My mother comes from a line of devout German Protestants in Wisconsin, and my dad from moderately devout Catholics in Wisconsin. I have a brother who is 20 months older than I am. When I was 5 I was sent to a Lutheran school for preschool, and my brother attended the same school for his preschool, 1st grade, and 2nd grade. The summer after my family moved to Minnesota just outside of St. Paul. My mom tried to send us to a Lutheran school here, but it was full by the time we checked it out. I then attended public school for the rest of my 1-12 education (thankfully) and managed to get an actual education. I was forced to attend both regular church service and Sunday school every week without fail from 1st grade to about 5th grade, though there were some times later when I was allowed to attend just Sunday school. During the summers at lunch time my mom would lead my brother and I in a mini home chapel service every day, which was guided by a little publication of books called "Portals of Prayer" (just in case you have heard of it). We were forced to memorize the books of the Bible, both the New and the Old in drill sessions at this time as well. In fourth grade I had to attend "First Communion Class", which met at my church once a week for about a month or so, which taught the theology behind communion, and is a requirement before receiving communion in church. In sixth grade I was forced to attend confirmation classes, and these ran once a week in parallel with the school year, which means September - May about. The expected graduation plan when I started was 6th grade through 8th grade, but during either my 8th grade year the program decided to switch to a 7th grade through 9th grade plan. I was thus subjected to a fourth year of classes. All the while I was under mandatory church services every Sunday. I had a bit of a religious backing, if you haven't noticed. Up until 9th grade I had been an unquestioning Christian, defending the tenets of that faith for years and truly believing. I suppose it would be a little difficult not to if your world is inundated with it as was mine. Things started to change a bit when I was in 9th grade. I was in my fourth year of confirmation, and I had so much bible knowledge stuffed into me that it was difficult not to have some quibbles with at least a few aspects of it. I had my first Earth and Space science course in high school that year, and it was this class that really sparked off my interest in science. It was this class that set off a few more doubts about aspects of Christianity and the Bible, and the realization of real faults in the Bible caused me to start asking more questions. Not to any person, but through the Internet. I still was a believing theist, but the stout faith I had growing up was starting to diminish. I graduated my confirmation class on the verge of agnosticism, but definitely doubting numerous claims of the Bible. My thirst for more knowledge about the world through science grew ever larger, and in 10th grade, or just before it, it hit me. Honestly, I don't even remember what set it off -- I'm kind of sad that I don't remember my "ah-ha!" moment. I just remember being on my computer with two of my friends going through some online chat rooms (which was the cool thing to do 7 years ago still). I'm pretty sure at this point I had already all but lost all traditional belief, but honestly I don't know. I just remember chatting with some Christians and being incredulous that they were arguing for things such as a young Earth and special creation, the truth of the whole Bible down to all the miracle claims, and similar non-sense. I started typing what I had probably been hesitant to think or say earlier and started blasting the credibility of all the tenets of the Christian faith, and even the existence of any god. I started insulting the concept of Jesus and his miracles, and the feeling of venting these thoughts was thrilling. My devout Christian friend wanted me to type "just kidding, I attend church every Sunday". Granted, yes, I did attend church every Sunday, but I was definitely not kidding. My other friend in attendance was not exactly a believer, and he was amused. From that point forward, I sought every criticism and refutation of Christianity and the concept of a god or gods. Everything I saw made sense and was drawn from logical reasoning and evidence. Somewhere along the way I became a full blown atheist, and my thirst for knowledge never ceased.
So here I am, about 7 to 8 years later, but with a pretty glaring problem. I've yet to tell my parents, brother, or any of my extended family. It's not a rare occasion when my mom brings up something that shows just how religious she is or how she thinks shortcomings in the world can be over-come with more church. Her side of my extended family is very religious as well, and I would definitely be the black sheep of any get together if my atheism was brought out to them. My dad... He's not as vocal about his beliefs, but he does volunteer at my family's church. His side of my extended family is Catholic, and though not as openly vocal as my mom's side, they still have their Catholic beliefs.
Then here's the somewhat awkward part -- just about everyone else knows. My closest friends know for sure, and I'm sure some of my less close friends are aware. I definitely do not hide my atheism from anyone... except my family. My girlfriend is a very new age Christian. I started dating her almost four years ago, and telling her was one of the scariest and nerve-wrecking moments I've had to deal with in my life. I told her about a half-year to a year (or so?) into our relationship after feeling guilty about not telling her. She mentioned enjoying not having secrets between us, and there was no way I could just not say anything. Luckily, she is accepting of my atheism and we are still together today. Somewhat recently she let her mom know about my atheism, something I had not wanted known to her for a while, but have for a bit not cared as much. With her knowledge, it really is just my own family now that is in the dark.
It's awkward as hell when my friends come over and there are moments when I have to fake theistic beliefs for my parents. It's especially bad with my Christian friends, since it's so much more awkward to fake the belief they have as well, with their full knowledge that I don't buy any of it. I had to go to church with my parents for several more years every single Sunday, though as I got a bit older, then insistence on EVERY single Sunday slacked down a bit if I had occasional plans that kept me from going. I had a gold mine of awesome when I got my job at Best Buy a year and a half ago. My job basically requires me to come in (usually) at 6 am every single Sunday and work until at least noon or later. This job, while being awesome regardless, has basically exempted me from having to go to church -- and without having to actually say anything about not wanting to go. I just don't have to because I have work. :) I do still go when I "have" to for the holidays, weddings, and funerals, though this amounts to just a few times a year.
I'm really hoping to say something soon to my parents, but damn is it a tough thing to do. I love my family, and revealing my atheism... Well, it may come down to a question of wanting to keep my family relationships as they are, or freeing my conscience and potentially damaging forever what I have with my family. I suppose another factor is that my parents are helping me get through college right now, and I would really not want to jeopardize that either. It could be the case that my parents would be able to accept things and we could all just go on with our lives like usual... but somehow I just doubt it.
Sometimes life is maddening. It's frustrating living in a country that so desperately clings to religion. It's frustrating having just about everyone around me being religious, and pretty strongly at that. It's frustrating knowing that almost none of those religious people even bother to really read about what they claim to believe or belong to. It's frustrating knowing that religious fundamentals suppress legitimate science like evolution, making everyone suffer for their delusions. It's frustrating knowing that most religious people won't even bother to look at anything that may in any way contradict what they believe, forever closing their minds to anything else. Sometimes I wish I would just wake up from a dream to find that people weren't actually serious about the silly bullshit they spout.
This has become quite the long introduction, but I thought I would close with saying, just to clarify after that last paragraph, that I don't have a problem with most religious people. Hell, if I did, I'd be pretty lonely. Most people in this world are good, and the intrinsic drive to do good is a part of the human psyche. Not just to do good, but to do good by helping others, caring for others, and sharing their lives with others. It sucks when ideas get stuck in people's heads that limit these good impulses and drive people to the other instincts of humanity to protect one's "tribe" and harm "rivals." Religion is often a big driver of these feelings, but it also at times supports the former. Regardless, I would be extremely happy to live in a world that finally does away with religion and people can live on ethical morals based on human reason.
If you're still reading, congratulations. That was epic. Thanks for reading. This has been therapeutic for me.
Wow - that's quite a tale! Glad it helped to get it all off your chest.
Welcome to Atheist Nexus!
Hmmm I guess Richard Dawkin's comparison between coming out as gay and coming out as an Atheist really is Fitting. Reading this made me think of all the fears and anxieties I had about coming out (as a lesbian) to my parents.
Clearly this is a huge step for you - but you DO have the support of lots of people in your life already. I hope it goes well for you when you do eventually tell your parents. - I am loathe to try to give you advice but If you were Gay I would say - don't tell them on a "Family holiday" - Christmas / Easter / Thanksgiving, but that's the extent of my advice. As you said: "I would be extremely happy to live in a world that finally does away with religion and people can live on ethical morals based on human reason." Here Here!
I'm 53 yrs old and don't discuss religion with my family. My mother is super religious, old and very set in her ways. My brother is a pentacostal minister. My sisters know better than to argue with me. They know I don't do church and if they try to preach to me I will get in their face. So we just have a normal disfunctional family that ignores the atheist elephant.