Against all odds we are atheist. What in your life do you think led you to be an atheist? Was it an emotional event or some combination of things learned. Can it be determined what is necessary to program an atheist? Is it a matter of deprogramming false beliefs? This knowledge could enable profound changes in our collective world views. We could all be on the same page. What do you think?
Feel free to quote me.
Anthony, I like your term, "absence of belief in god(s)" much better than a lack of belief; there is no lack as far as I am concerned in not having a belief in god. What I lacked when believing in god was the freedom to make healthy choices.
My crazy thing after turning 16 and able not to go to church, I went through the rest of my teens and good part of my 20's thinking there are religious people but most are not. Though I was the only atheist I knew.
Then to my amazement one day I realized that was wrong – big time. Everyone was religious around me.
Then as decades few by everyone was getting more religious not less. While I was growing more knowledgeable in religion strangeness and wondering why I get it (still an atheist) but the people who say read the bible, say they are studying the bible or are praying don't.
While young I was infected strongly with the religious virus, but for some reason it never took hold of my head. Think having to dress up to go to church back in the 60's got me questioning why church but not school. Ask questions in school but not Sunday school / church.
The other was the talk of love, love love then having to sit still in boring church while looking through the religious comic handout of serious style drawings, which were all very graphic of war, fighting, and burning buildings. Must of blown an old radio vacuum tube in my programming back then – does not compute.....
The main reason that I could never finally believe the bible is because long years before I got invited to Church at the age of 17 by a friend, I had read in my elementary school library of the tales of the Greek and Norwegian gods, titans/giants, and demigods. I knew these were mere tales, and I saw no reason to consider the Bible to be any more than tales also, just like all other world myths. So, though I did for a while really want to believe, I just could never really and fully bring myself to buy any of it.
So that's why I have been an atheist basically all my life.
What an experience it must of been going to church at age 17 (I'm assuming the first time?). What was it like -freakish, strange or feeling like you entered another planet knowing what you knew about the tales of other gods/giants/demigods being false? Your comment made me have a flash memory being a little kids and the story of Samson losing his powers after getting some hair cut off. Remembering how I couldn't believe the tale yet everybody especially adults thought it was so amazing.
Just let me say, that from my experience of being in Church it is not what all the believers make it out to be. There was all kinds of in-fighting, mass hysterical prayer services, at least one fist fight between the pastor and a deacon up in front of the altar toward the end of my attempt to be a Christian, and at one point I was accused of being demonically possessed. Suffice it to say it was a wild ride..positively surreal.
Tony, At one point you were accused of being demonically possessed. HOW DARE THEY!
Let me tell you a story. My wife's friend has a granddaughter that she is worried about. This little girl is shuffled around between her mom and the dad, and the dad is re-married and his new wife has children from a previous marriage. They all live together except for this little girl who lives with her mom. The grandmother (my wife's friend) recently started going to church again, and she knows the little girl acts strange. She thinks it's demon possession. HOW DARE HER!
The little girl is wanting to be a part of all this family but sees that she is not allowed to be. This alone makes her different and makes her act differently. I told my wife that IF they push forward with this idea I will denounce the woman publicly and even go to her church to do it if I have to. The woman herself wants a lot of attention and has to be the center of it all. Her son (the little girl's father) is against her on almost everything.
I have to admit also that the woman and her husband used to be over to our house for dinner and a movie until I got fed up last year and said "no more." I had had enough. Today I barely acknowledge this person and barely give her the time of day.
You want to mess up the life of a child, your own granddaughter, because of your new found religious beliefs? Goddamn you! Get some common sense and get a life, moron.
I've told this story here before, so a brief (forget that -- I can't seem to be brief) recap:
Once I figured out the Santa Clause scam at age 4, I began to suspect that God was the same sort of deal. I told Mom (a social Christian at most) that I no longer wanted to go to church because the adults there seemed to be acting kind of crazy (no wild holy roller shit, just saying things that didn't seem be true). She said "Well, you needn't be pious but you shouldn't be ignorant." And so we struck a bargain that if I read the Bible all the way through, from "In the beginning" to "Amen", and be prepared to discuss it with her at any time, then I didn't have to attend church. That's a tough read for a little kid, and it took me 2 years to get through it. By then, at age 6, I was convinced that it was a bunch of nonsense. I think that our discussions also had some effect on Mom's views, and she soon stopped regularly attending church,
I didn't know that there was a word for not believing nonsense, and specifically nonsense about gods. I don't know that I was even an atheist -- I'd just decided that Christianity was ridiculous, and I didn't give it much thought for a long time. When I was a teenager I thought that I wanted to be a Zen monk. Since that would be choosing a religion, I thought that I'd better take a refresher on the religion that everyone around me practiced before deciding. And so I read the whole Bible again. I found that I had missed a lot when I was a kid, and now found that goddamn book mostly horrific! Oh, some stuff like the Sermon on the Mount was decent enough, but nobody needs magic for such ideas. That's when I began to realize that Christianity wasn't just silly, but likely the cause of much suffering. I gave up on the monk idea and began reading the holy books of many religions and found largely the same sort of things. By that point I knew that I was an atheist.
I had an active disdain for religious faith, but for the most part put it in the same category as bigfoot sightings. Actions of extremist religious groups like the Ku Klux Klan made me dislike it even more, and I slowly became less reticent about speaking out against it. The events of 9/11/2001 drove home to me that religion is not just wrong, but very harmful, and that it isn't just the extremists but the mainstream religious cultures that enable them.
I am now staunchly anti-theist, or perhaps it's more accurate to say anti religious faith. It's sort of hard to effectively oppose something that doesn't exist, but the faith of those who believe in gods certainly does exist and is harmful to society most of the time. I live in the Bible Belt, where almost everyone I know is deeply religious. Most of them are good people despite their faith, and I can think of a few who would probably be worse people without the watchful eye of a sky Daddy. I don't go around 'preaching' atheism, as I'd rather not upset friends, neighbors and family for no practical reason, but I don't hide or soften my views when the matter comes up.
I was a Christian when I moved to Alaska and participated in a barrel mission* to the Athabascan Indians who lived there for many centuries before the arrival of Russian and European exploiters.
The kindness of the native population to me, and to their ways with children, which was very gentle, almost "sinful" in the eyes of the missionaries because natives never hit their children, didn't even scold them. So, I became friendly with several families, discussed ideas with them and found that their religion was very pro-nature. They believed all things were sacred, that to harm a child or plant or water or air or elements, without reason was against their value system. They did kill animals, birds and fish for eating and each kill resulted in an acknowledgement of the sacrifice made for their benefit.
It was the attitude that interested me ... "You are not inferior to me, you are my equal in life." Very different than the notion of dominionism, of the missionaries, the idea that all people and elements of the Earth are to be dominated and exploited. Dominators felt entitled to the goods and services of others without consideration for the cost of the efforts of those who provided goods and services.
Was your upbringing anything like that?
*A barrel mission is a christian church in a native population that has support from a congregation in the lower US with a missionary leader.
Ironically, it was my parents who unknowingly started me on a very long path to disbelief. They indoctrinated me with religion almost from day one. When I reached adolescence and began asking questions that they felt uncomfortable answering, they merely resorted to the old "God did it" routine. When I actually learned the truth, I felt ashamed that I had been so stupid. I didn't become an atheist then and there, that took many years of reading, learning, and critical thinking. For many of those years, I considered myself agnostic, or a fence sitter. But, when I read Dawkins' "The God Delusion," it gave me that final push. It was like a tremendous weight was lifted from my shoulders, and I felt a sense of freedom I had never felt before.
It began with a half-hearted attempt by my parents to educate me as a xtian. At first, we were brought to the local community church for services. Later, we were dropped off and picked up. Not that I resent it but that isn't how I would go about it if I was determined to warp my kids brains. That is almost exactly how I would do it if I wanted to encourage my kids to consider the entire enterprise as fraudulent. I should be happy how things went.
Later, it was the awkward period of junior high/High school, where you're trying to fit in. What do they know that I don't know? Why haven't I met God/Jesus? So many other people talk as if they've got the personal relationship. This is where the seed began to grow that personal experience was the only proof for the existence of a higher power.
Coming to the conclusion I was probably never going to fit in, I began to consider whether God was a testable hypothesis. That required I read the bible. Egads, why do people believe this? You say because that's what people have always believed? Umm...where is the line for people who don't want to BS their way through life? Just how ethical a person do I want to be? What do I know and how do I know it? All philosophy 101 type questions.
There have been several books and authors that left an impression on my. Usually, they were history or biographical. As an example, I remember when I saw the first episode of "The Day the Universe Changed" on PBS. I immediately went to the library and reserved a book that hadn't even been ordered yet. Burke and others show us that religion has been a persistent problem throughout history. At some point, without threat of miserable punishment or death, each of us has to stand up and make a claim as to what we're willing to believe. Religion has been found wanting long ago. It's up to us to put an end to the claim that it is supposedly self-evident. What the heck does that even mean? It sounds like we're being shamed into believing that not only does the emperor have clothes but that they're purple, with purple spots and a gold fringe. I'm not colorblind but I'm just not seeing it.