So... I was reading the other thread on Mensa and it brought back some scenes from my childhood (it's actually an ongoing childhood, let's just says scenes from before). For purposes of this anecdote, I'll simplify my de-conversion as follows: I was a catholic until I was about 14, then an agnostic until a few years ago. I can still remember my views on atheism in general, prompted by some encounters with a handful of atheists.

I met one when I was about 11, he was some boy my age. He was quick to blaspheme and make fun of religion. Other kids saw him with awe, like the bad kid who will do mischief while the teachers not there. I just thought he was trying to show off, and that he really did believe. I now think he probably was an atheist, but he also wanted to show off. I met several other similar people, and I always thought the same of them.
By the time I got to highschool, as an agnostic, the atheists I met seemed arrogant and especially insensitive to the beliefs of others. I did not personally feel offended, but I must confess I was pushed back from entertaining thoughts on atheism simply because these people seemed like real assholes. Even now that I'm more open about my atheism, I would not think about looking for them, cause I still think they are.

So, I know it's wrong that based on a few encounters with atheists, I dismissed the idea of atheism. It was intellectually dishonest and as much as it hurts me to say it, it was one of the big bumps I had to deal with before realizing I was an atheist. And since I skipped over to the dark side, I have met lots of nice atheists. My question is this:

For de-converts: Do you remember how you saw other atheists while you believed?
For those who never got into religion: Were you one of those assholes who was all arrogant and stuff?
And for all: Even though it shouldn't, the impression we make as atheists could actually push people like me from coming to terms with their beliefs. In the end, I think I would have accepted my atheism sooner if I hadn't met any atheists. It doesn't matter if we're right, it doesn't matter if we are being arrogant. If others see us as arrogant, we could be doing Reason a disservice. Could this be same hint of a tactic?

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didn't even meet a girlfriend at church (which was a secondary motive for going.)

I knew someone who attended UU youth camps. His tales make them seem almost like Roman orgies. Maybe your experience would have been different if you'd been a UU.

I was raised pretty much atheist. I always thought of the preachy xtain, assholier than thou, types were the arrogant ones. They walked around like they were better than me and was looked down upon because I didn't "get it" (by that I mean, a ticket to heaven). If I didn't have Jesus riding around on my shoulder, whispering in my ear, I was a hopelessly lost soul. They either rolled their eyes and turned up their noses or they wouldn't even look at me because they thought devil fire would shoot from my eyes and cast some sort of ghastly spell on them. Seems it goes both ways.....
If they think I should just put up and shut up, they are mistaken. I'm not angry, or hostile, but I certainly won't let them just speak their nonsense without my trespassing on their magical thinking.

Same here, Sydni.
When I was younger I had some of those same experiences dealing with christians and they probably led to me being slightly bitter and arrogant from time to time. I've mostly let all the resentment go but the Holy Roller hypocrites can still get me fired up.

However, I don’t think I have ever been an asshole to someone who was dealing straight with me. "Do onto others..." is still a good lesson that I try to live by so if they got some attitude they probably deserved it.
I also thought of the preachy xtain, assholier than thou, types were the arrogant one as well...And I have kin like that on my dad's side. CPC...They always would ask us to go to church with them,we went once and never again..Still,every time we visited,they would ask us to go on Wed. night and twice on Sundays,year after year. (rolls eyes.)
They never gave up and they never will...Yhey were the very people that helped push me toeward athesim by being so pushy and in your face about their stupid religion and how bloody importnt it was.
The first people I suspect were atheist I met lived across the street...One of the kids said she felt closer to god on the river than in a church. That made total sense...But the biggest influence on me was the next doors neighbor,who gave up being a babtist for square dancing. She never used the word atheist,but she'd say things to my mum like:"I'll work on Sunday,it's just another day for me."
I decided she was right as well.
She was funny and interesting to talk to ..A good atheist.
i guess my friends were all atheist,as we never discussed religion. I never found it a topic worthy of discussion,so it never came up.
Me & my kid brother were raised "in" the Catholic church. One day in the Army at age 19 I heard a conversation among brilliant older draftee soldiers who had got shanghaied into military servitude. One said things that made a LOT of sense. He was a draftee control systems engineer who worked at a prominent aerospace company. He said that the U.S. women were working very hard at 'accusing' virtually ANY male who was not married (and or who had no kids) of being a homosexual! Apparently *that* is exactly why we have such a nasty homophobic society in the U.S. He had also stated that this policy ("trick") of suspecting virtually EVERY unmarried man of being a 'fag' was especially being done by the homelier women who tend to have trouble finding mates. So by having EVERY U.S. male become dreadfully afraid of being tagged as a supposed "gay" - all us males have tended to scramble to find some gal to wed and to sire some offspring to prove that we have copulated with a woman! That same fellow trooper in the Army who told us about that crappy homosexual ploy also said that ALL religion is TOTAL nonsense. Finally at about age 36 I belatedly realized that gentleman was absolutely correct on both topics. Info read on-line suggests that in Sweden the percentage who actually *believe* the fiction that a "God" exists is only approx. 15 percent of the population. It was said that 20 years ago the percent of people here in the U.S. who believed in Gawd numbered approx. 85 percent. It's been stated recently that this percentage has been falling & it may now be only 75 percent of U.S. citizens who believe god *really* does exist.
I never really thought about atheism as a child. I was raised as a Baptist. My parents were divorced when I was very young. My mother and I lived with my maternal grandmother. Neither of my parents attended church, but my grandmother did.

My next-door neighbor was my best friend from about age 5 until we moved when I was 14. One day, when we were about 12, I asked him if his family ever went to church and he replied that his family didn't believe in God and that his parents were atheists. Before then, I had never been one to discuss religion with others and I just kind of assumed that everyone else around me was a Christian as well. I didn't really even grasp how a person could not believe in a god. The idea was foreign to me.

I didn't dwell on it, I just let it go and we remained friends. I don't think I ever brought up religion to him again.
I never met an atheist until my late teens and I don't think I even knew the definition of the word or cared. Atheists didn't exist in my world. The girl that I met was confident and seemed ready for a fight. She was rebellious and everyone said that she was like that so that she could do what she wanted. I felt sorry for her and felt a kind of compassion, thought she just needed help. I felt the same way about gay people. I became agnostic (I'm not atheist) shortly after knowing her.
First of all, as the person who started the MENSA thread I'd like to apologize to anyone who is in MENSA or knows someone that is. I was in an indignant mood and on the computer (almost as dangerous as being drunk with a loaded gun) and hastily posted what was on my mind at the time in the Water Cooler section.

Anyways, I regarded Atheism as equally extremist as Christian fundamentalism up until my de-conversion. I didn't think of Atheists as arrogant, I considered them to be overly analytical and prone to sin. Being naturally predisposed to "sin" myself, I thought they were just intelligent people using their brains to come up with a justification for denying Gods authority.
For de-converts: Do you remember how you saw other atheists while you believed?

First, I had to get my head around the term "de-convert", because I don't ever remember being converted to Catholicism.

I don't remember even thinking of atheists when I wasn't one. I also didn't run into too many, or the ones I did run into didn't talk about it. I remember talking with a friend once whose landowners were a Christian and atheist couple , wondering how they got along. Evidently one's vegetarianism and the other's ominvoraciousness were more contentious issues.

I do remember my grandfather blurting something out about Madalyn Murray O'Hair when I was in elementary school, and what an awful person she was for fighting prayer in schools. I just remember feeling befuddled, because I didn't know anything about her, and didn't' quite understand what this unknown woman had done to piss off my beloved grandfather.

Even though it shouldn't, the impression we make as atheists could actually push people like me from coming to terms with their beliefs.

People generally believe what they want to believe. If an adult is going to believe that one person (or a few people) fully represents a group, they should work on their critical thinking skills.

Kids are another matter.

It doesn't matter if we're right, it doesn't matter if we are being arrogant. If others see us as arrogant, we could be doing Reason a disservice.

Oh crap, do I need to build an altar to Reason? I'll get around to that, honest I will.

I'm an atheist, and honestly, I'm put off by some other atheists. Some of the "more atheist than thou" that was being slung around Atheist Nexus recently was really off-putting. That being said, I do think that some people don't know what the term "atheist" means, or has meant historically, and apply it incorrectly. Sort of like the term "druid", or "Rastafarian". As a refugee from all sorts of subcultures, I'm really tired of some people acting like their shit doesn't stink because they believe X.

The problem is that there will always be obnoxious loudmouths who some people fear will give the group a bad name. Not much anyone can do about that other than present your perspective, be an ethical person, etc...

I do snicker about people's invisible friend(s) at times, but usually in groups of like mind. Being in a minority, it's good to have "safe space" to blow off steam.
I always been reserved about my thoughts, opinions, and outlooks. What's frustrating about having an opinion that is not popular is when all of the other people are insensitive to your ideas and when situation is vice versa you are viewed as an asshole.

At first I thought it was better to be closeted about my ideas, but now I am out in the open, but don't yell to the cows come home about it. When someone is purposely picking a fight with me, I don't waste my time with that anymore.
I'm absolutely happy the "assholes" exist. Once you get into seeing what religion really does to people, and to society, and once you see the pervasive, offensive nature of it, assholiness is completely excusable.

I always imagine the question as a parallel to the era of slavery in the U.S., and picture fat white plantation owners sitting on the veranda sipping tea and looking out over the fields of cotton, wondering "Why are these Negroes angry all the time? I just don't get why they're so angry."

When you're squashed under the thumb of people you suspect might kill you if you came out with what you really thought, people who pose as loving but are anything but, it does affect your attitude. You have to PUSH to make your own voice heard, to express your own feelings, and that push laps over into other areas of life.

Until recently, the problem has been this: The quiet, gentle atheists stayed silent because they didn't want to push. It was only the strident ones who got heard at all.

And bear in mind, if you're just an average Joe who wants to live his life, and yet you come out as an atheist and everybody around you starts characterizing you as evil and degenerate, which they absolutely would do in prior times (and still do today), that affects how you act and react too.

How many times have I heard the question "If there's no god, what keeps you from just raping and killing whenever you want to?" It's not only a thoughtless question, indicating the person has never in his life thought about what morality is and how it works, it’s also a truly vicious insult. How would it feel if you KNEW you were a good person -- someone affectionate, generous, easy-going and even gently funny -- and yet people around you persistently identified you as some sort of nightmarish evil that was just looking for a chance to corrupt children and destroy everything beautiful?

All that being said, I’m glad there’s room to be a quiet, friendly atheist today, and to be “out” without being hated and harassed. But then again, just as it was what my Deep South ancestors would have called “uppity Negroes” who made it possible for the modern civil rights movement to advance, it was the loud obnoxious atheists, the ones demanding the right to be heard and to exist, who made it possible to be a quieter atheist in today’s society.

The quiet atheists have always existed. It’s just that they couldn’t admit who they were until the loud ones paved the way to acceptance.




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