My childhood indoctrination into Mormonism lasted until I was about 55. At that time, I finally realized that no prayers had ever been answered, and Mormonism did nothing for me except give me tons of guilt and stress me out.
I then gave myself permission to study evolution (a Mormon no-no). That was the final nail in the religious coffin, and I buried it forever.
At the beginning of my Junior year in college I realized belief in god hadn't made sense to me for quite a while.
I was raised a fundamentalist Christian in Baptist-ish congregations and stayed for about 27 years. As a kid I had all manner of questions, but also serious doubts, like how if god was so powerful how come he allows Satan to exist? Or why is there even a fight between those two in the first place? Overall, my experiences with Christians were positive. I knew some great people who helped to shape me into the individual I am today. My own parents were pretty strict growing up, but that's another story.
Graduated from high school and year early and went straight to a Christian liberal arts college where I studied music and theology for four years. During that time I was also actively involved in my church.
For me, the journey to atheism started when I finally accepted that I was gay in 2008 after years of swallowing the standard line about homosexuality being an abomination to god. My parents raised me to believe that, not knowing that they were teaching their gay son horrible things about himself, and for that I'll probably never be able to forgive them. I'd known since age 16, but had started experiencing same-sex attraction several years earlier, but the thought never crossed my mind until then since you couldn't be gay and Christian.
For about two and a half years I set out to find a way to resolve my faith and my sexuality by trying to learn what the bible reallysaid about the issue. I studied the scriptures under a microscope, examining the original languages and reading a ton of books on the subject. What happened instead was that all of the doubts I'd ever had growing up started rising to the surface, and I had to now confront them as an adult. As an adult, the pat answers that we got in church and in Sunday school, and even in theology class, didn't seem to satisfy now that I was looking at them for myself.
During this time I started listening to Julia Sweeney's Letting Go of God, quite by accident, actually. And towards the end she says, "If you look over my life, every step of maturing for me, every single one, had the same common denominator. It was accepting what was true over what I wished were true." And that struck a chord, because I knew that was true for me too: that I hadn't believed in god for a really long time, and was holding on because of my family, my friends, and for the security that faith offered.
So in February of 2011 I said goodbye to god. And I wish someone would hand you a manual or something when you do that because it really turns your life upside down, especially when it's been the center of your life for over a quarter of a century. While it's been hard, it was the best decision I've ever made in my entire life.
David, powerfully stated. Julia Sweeney was the first to make me laugh at religion, before that I was cursing. Laughing is a lot more fun. Thank you for telling your story! I know, realizing there is an option of no-god, life became easier, happier, more fulfilling and the only thing that changed was god-is to god-is-not. No road maps, no instruction manual, no scriptures, no litany, no music, no art, no 10 commandments, no rituals, no ceremonies, no celebrations, no immediate community ... just NO GOD.
Now, it is up to us to create the things we miss by leaving belief in god behind.
I grew up in a strict Baptist setting. My father was a minister and I believed everything. I spent 3 years in the Army and maintained my strong beliefs throughout that time. Then I attended a christian liberal arts college for 4 years and graduated with a BA in Religion & Philosophy. Still I kept my religious beliefs but I was beginning to have doubts because I learned a few things in college about the errors and problems with things in the bible.
The most troubling thing that I learned was that there are no better reasons for me to believe the baptist slant on the bible then there is to believe the Methodist or any other of the thousands of divisions of Christianity. For that matter, there really wasn't any better proof of Christianity over any other religion.
But there were always ways for christian preachers, with their twisted explanations, to come up with some kind of almost believable story for the problems that I saw on my own. So I stayed a christian for a while but finally I came to the conclusion, on my own, that the bible stories just could not be true.
I could not believe that an innocent man had to be tortured to death to make god happy. I could not believe that there could be a god who created us in his own image and then cursed all of us that would ever be born just because the first couple ate the wrong fruit for breakfast. I could not believe that this same god would send most of us to some hell torture chamber for all of eternity just because we picked the wrong doctrine to believe in.
Latter on I discovered that there were thousands of reasons, in the bible, not to believe it. In the old testament god does such horrible disgusting things. Lots of things just don't make sense and there are lots of contradictions. I am so happy that I was able to see through the fog and now I can live my life without being bogged down with superstition.
Roy, your story has strength and obvious reflection on what is written in scripture, preached from the pulpit, and practiced by religious communities, with all the contradictions, and principles that make no sense, i.e. Jesus crucifixion. Thank you for sharing your story.
First was when I was six or seven and my parents sat me down and told me there really was no Santa Claus. I clearly remember thinking, "I wonder what else they're lying to me about?" Then, I remember being in church and hearing that, as a female, I could not ask a question in church but must ask my husband at home and he could answer me or ask the question in church. Being an intelligent and strong-willed woman, this was quite unacceptable to me. Then, in high school, I and several other girls were with a mutual friend and her family for a weekend at a lake cabin. The family were Catholics and we were going to church. I had not taken a hat with me so the mother put a facial tissue on my head. I think this might have been the final straw, that God would find me more acceptable with a snot paper on my head than bare headed was just unbelievable. After that, I never looked back.
Wow! What experiences! Yes, you figured it out early in your life. Good for you. Thanks.
I just can't help but ask questions until things make sense to me. I am from a very religious family and besides me and my wife and kids, no one else would dare to doubt the bible. It took me a while to completely break from my family on religion. You are thoroughly brain washed into the church and it is not easy to break away. At first I was very quiet about being an atheist but as I got older and saw the horrible things done in the name or religions I have become much more vocal. I admit there was some abuse growing up but I really don't feel it had anything to do with me decision to follow my own path as an atheist. Hope that is of some help.
In my Christmas stocking, I got a glossy photo of a scale representation of the planets in the solar system. I was about 8 or 9. By the time I was 12, I was an agnostic. How come almost all the important literature in theist foundational texts like the HOLY Bible did not square with what I was being told in science classes? Oh yeah! I heard all about the metaphorical interpretation from moderate Christians. No mistaking, the all-important chapter and verse was terra-centric in its perspective, no matter how literary.
I dabbled with notions of Deism in college, but never was really convinced. I have been atheist since, and several decades later, I have never looked back.
I"m a restless type and get bored easily (ADD?) so sitting during a cold, uninspired service as a Catholc kid was pure Hell. My father had been seminarian and made sure that I made that awful Sunday morning trip with him. I then started going to a "later" mass by myself which allowed me to skip church.
Having never had a spiritual experience of any kind, nor ever experienced the "love" of Jesus or god or the holy spirirt, I found it easy to drift away from religion. At 16 I convinced a friend of mine that god didn't exist, but I never thought of myself as an atheist. It wasn't until I was 50 that I seriously thought about atheism, and the impact of religion on the teaching of evolution in school, and how much this was impacted by politics.
And that's how I became a liberal progressive atheist.