My Introduction: How I became an Atheist.

doctoro
doctoro's picture
Posts: 196
Joined: 2006-12-15
User is offlineOffline
My Introduction: How I became an Atheist.

I started out saying "I'll be brief," but it became rather long-winded.

I was raised Catholic. My parents are/were Catholic. My grandparents are Catholic. And I'll bet my families have been Catholic for generations stretching back for centuries. Catholics are not "born-agains" who supposedly choose religion.

My families' were so entrenched in Catholic culture both in their home-countries and in America that I think dissent would be unthinkable. If my parents would have avowed atheism to their parents, they would have been disowned. Thankfully, my parents and the times we live in are different than my grandparents and the times that they lived in.

My mother tells me of a story in which she had considered leaving the church when I was a child. My aunt, who is the oldest of 7 girls in my mom's family, and my godmother, threatened to take me "away" and "raise me in the church" as a part of her godparent responsibilty if my mother did not raise me a Catholic. For real!

Additionally, consider that my parents went to private Catholic grade school, high school, AND college. I, on the other hand, went to public school because my family moved to a small town that had no Catholic school system. I did go to church every Sunday, CCD on Wednesdays, and I eventually was confirmed (although I had no choice in the matter).

In high school I was lucky enough to join the debate team. Now the great paradox is that my debate coach, who was one of my greatest mentors and teachers ever, has since quit coaching to become a Lutheran minister. How's that for irony. I have to toot my own horn. I had much success in debate, and I enjoyed it. My various debate partners and I placed in the upper crust at state and national tournaments. We got 3rd at state one year. Undefeated 14-0 for 2 years in a row at our Regional competition (28-0 total). And the coup de gras was qualifying for the national competition twice; and placing in the top 30 of 230 at the CFL national competition. Besides that, I won a lot of medals in "Oration," which is persuasive speaking, in high school forensics.

I began questioning my faith, which was NEVER really that strong, when I was about 16. I had a number of friends in an evangelical-type church in town. Two members were girls whom I thought were cute, so I had a vested interest in making an appearance. I'm good friends with the minister of that church to this day. We had a small "trial" on the historicity of Jesus' Resurrection. I didn't prepare very well for it, and the trial kind of fizzled out after a few sessions when I became disillusioned by the process. Especially since it was in front of their Sunday school kids (not the congregation). If I succeded, then what? Angry parents breathing down my neck? And how about the fact that I was ONE vs. all?

Needless to say, I was not a full-fledged atheist at that time and was almost more of a devil's advocate that a true atheist debater.

So I went to college and studied biology & pre-med. I got a BA degree in Biology.

I had originally intended in majoring in microbiology, but I switched after I got bored with the minutia detail... and I was free to take classes in other areas. I took several classes in linguistics and politics. Some of my favorite classes were "Eastern Civilization," "Religion: Search for Meaning," and "Religion and Political Theory."

Throughout the end of my high school and college years, I had two major episodes of manic depression. These episodes had a profound effect on my religious beliefs. If I could be brief about this: I found that rationality was the cure for the irrationality that I suffered during these episodes. After embracing systematic logic and rationality to become healthy, I could not "stop short" of eradicating religious beliefs. I have great difficulty understanding how society can have a double standard for "delusion" and religion in that SOME delusions are considered pathological while religion gets a free pass. Revealing this to you certainly brings me up to scrutiny and credibility problems, but I'd rather be transparent.

After college, I enrolled in Chiropractic school, following in my father's footsteps. It is obvious that in a community of free-thinkers and "rational response" that chiropractic would be a subject of irrational thought. I agree. There are many chiropractors who are quacks and are profoundly mistaken about their understanding of science. I am ashamed that some of my colleagues have licenses. But fortunately, my profession has had a large push towards evidence based methods. We have several of our OWN peer-reviewed journals. Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics is indexed in the Indexus Medicus, and can be referenced on Medline. I was a member of our college's Research Club that engaged in discussions of peer-reviewed research weekly. This is not why I'm here, though. I just wanted to give that background. I like my job and enjoy helping my patients. I saw a patient of mine prior to the New Year's break who'd been in pain 5 years with no relief from any treatments in tears over the affect on his life and his marriage. After a couple months of treatment, he's back to loving and enjoying life. Sure, it's anecdotal, but I wouldn't do my job if I didn't have any of my -own- anecdotal cases of improvement that gave my job meaning.

In chiropractic college, I would say that my struggle to understand the difference between science and pseudoscience is what ULTIMATELY led to my atheism. I studied Karl Popper's "Conjectures in Refutations" in detail to understand the foundations of scientific philosophy. Through this understanding, I was able to filter the pseudoscience (of which there is much) in my profession from the real science. (I actually heard of one doctor using a goldfish to find areas of the spine to adjust. He put the fish in a bag, waved it over the spine, and when the fish floated to the surface, he determined that was the place to adjust.) Look at this other quack who made it into Shermer's Skeptic magazine: http://www.psbl.com/hoeller/ Check out her video on google. Search her name, Johanna Hoeller.

I joined an atheist forum on yahoo! during chiropractic school, and I had been there for 3 years until I found this group. I have found many friends on these message boards, and I have learned a great deal. I can confidently say that I would be a completely different person if I had not engaged in discussion on atheist message boards. The conversation and the reading recommendations are indispensible. And if nothing else, at least it gave me a community where I wasn't alone. Social consensus is some comfort -- even if it's not in my own "non-internet real world" community.

Back to my family history. After becoming an atheist and having many conversations with my mother, she has since become a non-believer herself. She has done much reading on her own, so I can't take all the credit, but I certainly take some for the initiation of the process. As a result, she did not subject my younger siblings to the same indoctrination that I suffered. None of my siblings are confirmed in the Catholic Church, which I think is a good thing. Consequently, none of them are Christians either.

I'm not sure if my mom is a pantheist or a deist or whatever, I think she's in the process. I gave her "Letter to A Christian Nation" to read over the Christmas holiday. She liked it and wanted more of the books on the recommended reading list. I think she's even told her parents.

My father is another matter. He is not devoutly Catholic. He doesn't go to church and hasn't for many years. I know he's a theist, and he probably believes in Jesus too. He's a stone wall when it comes to discussion. He neither argues for or against, and chooses not to debate at all. He doesn't really give a rip what I believe, and loves me just the same. We have a good relationship. He likes to listen to audio CD's on long trips, and I plan on giving him some freethought materials.

I am becoming more paranoid lately about the state of affairs in the United States considering Rapture politics and the Christian right. Thankfully, democrats won back the congress. (Although not ideal, democrats are better than republicans for our political views.)

And it is also encouraging that according to Wikipedia, from 1991 to 2000, the percentage of atheists in the country went from 8% to 15%. A step in the left direction.

In this day and age, there is no reason why atheists shouldn't be in the majority. And I think atheists organizations and media like RRS are the solution to what ails us.

Keep fighting the good fight, and I hope to be here for a good while. I'll definitely pop in and out as my life allows due to my busy schedule.


Vastet
atheistBloggerSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 13210
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
If all theists were like

If all theists were like your father the world would be a better place by far. Welcome.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.