My timeline on becoming atheist. What's yours?

Sapient's picture

I saw someone ask a facebook group to state when they became agnostic/atheist.  First of all, please feel free to answer the question yourself, in the comments below.  I responded, and then I expanded on it briefly for facebook.  After 30 minutes it's got a bunch of likes and comments, I realize it's a moving story to some and so I'll expand just a little more about it here.  But I also ask that anyone who has a similar story share it below.  I know I am not unique, religion has caused the destruction of millions of relationships over time.  

I was born an atheist,  at 5 I was sure God existed because I was told by the person I trusted the most that God existed.  As I learned about the bible and started to understand the world I became a little more agnostic on the idea and was an agnostic catholic at 8.  At 13 my mother decided the Catholic Church wasn't exciting enough and we joined a born again Christian Church, I was 13.  I said the special password prayer you need to say to let Jesus know you want in to heaven.  Literally, this was the argument and justification, say this prayer and you won't burn in hell, you'll go to heaven.  What 13 year old that still trusts his mother wouldn't do that?  I did it... I was an agnostic Born-again Christian.  I talked to Jesus at night before bed, and I tried to get my father on the proper path as well.  I was tortured over the thought of him going to hell.  

As I learned about science I leaned towards being an agnostic deist.  This process lasted several years and I happily with any type of theistic belief.  I was living with a non-practicing Jewish father who I thought of as very "Jewish" and now know him as someone who believes in Spinoza's God or Einstein's deistic leanings.  When I was about 20 I looked up atheism for the first time on the internet, I found Jake who helped me think myself out of my deism.  I was able to call myself an agnostic atheist less than a week later.  For the first time I was able to call myself an atheist without thinking I was evil because of the word that my mother brainwashed me about, that was 14 years ago. It was at that point I decided to spend my life correcting the wrongs of religion.

Mom, if you're reading this... keep in mind, your completely ridiculous religion helped cause our family breakup.  Religion kills families.  My efforts come in large part because of how religion was forced on me as a child, but also because of all the other people who have told me about their upbringings, some of whom can use the word "Cult" to describe how they were brought up.   I was about 14 when you started praying for me to want you in my life, it's been 20 years, where is that getting you?  

 

 

 

- Brian Sapient


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Skepticus's picture

Hi, Brian

Hi, Brian.

I only became a "born-again" christian in 1992. Before that, I attended church because that was what was expected of me.

My de-conversion took about a year because I went through different phases in this process. At first I look at other religions because my first question was why Muslims who really do good things, goes to hell?

From there it developed into me becoming an atheist.

Regards.

Brian37's picture

I was raised Catholic. I

I was raised Catholic. I started to seriously take my doubts seriously with one question from a co-worker at the time, "What if Jesus was just a man".  But when I say "doubt" I don't mean that I gave up on belief, but I  did start questioning organized religion and the bigotry of literalism.  It took almost a decade to to go from Christian, to deist, to agnostic deist, to atheist and be comfortable calling myself an atheist. That's the short story.

My open atheism did start at a limited level in college. Then after I found out that not all the people of Lynchburg, in fact even most of the religious people in Lynchburg hated the bullying of the Falwell family, I started getting opinions printed in the local paper. I was going to a Unitarian Church at the time and found other atheists and liberal theists that I quickly made friends with.

But what broke the door wide open for me was an opinion by a Chicago nurse who, after 9/11/01 got her opinion printed all over the country. She was an atheist nurse who was concerned about the lack of inclusion in the mourning and reminded everyone that there were not only Christians who died that day.

That is what lead me to join the Atheist Network. Then Reginald Finley started Infidel Guy, and then Brian Sapient started this one after being on the prior. I have not looked back since.

Some doubt the growth of the movement. But I can tell you just 10 short years ago, atheism was more considered on the fringe of society than it is today. But it takes all of us. Not just one post, one poster, or one website or one book.

I am now seeing more and more people, even on newspaper websites, being open and challenging the claims of theists. I am not as negative as some are. I think it is getting bigger and better and easier for atheists. I see the change every day now, not just here, but everywhere.

 

 

 

 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37

Vastet's picture

On October 18th, 1978, I was

On October 18th, 1978, I was born. I've been an atheist ever since.

Not a particularly entertaining tale, but I seem to be a minority of a minority, so at least it isn't a common one.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Kapkao's picture

My life story? Heh... takes a burden off of me.

My timeline? Age 10, if memory flashbacks confer any useful information. I know I've been doubtful/skeptical (as Sagan was at various times) since I could speak and learn about my grandmothers' PoVs regarding religion and afterlife. Phrases like "God works in mysterious ways" "You got one of them meaness spells in ya again!" "This is all God's creation" "(remark about a long-dead husband from a deranged and slightly dissociative person that doesn't bear repeating over the net)" "Are you gonna play on your nintondoes again?" were common enough for me to remember them.

Viewing religion through the lens of grandmotherly points-of-view and behaviors confirmed my belief that one should not always take senior citizens completely seriously 100% of the time thanks to memory and cognitive function loss that comes naturally with age (a process that can be verifiably slowed through continuous mental stimulation and [of course] medication as is needed. I will likely deal with the same thing eventually. If that makes me sound elitist or ageist to anyone, so be it.) My grandfathers, both of whom are WW2 vets, died to vice before I was born and my great grandfather died to Blacklung just a few months before I lived. All of which, is unfortunate, because that left semineurotic females (save for my great grandmother) in charge of both sides of the family tree for the most part, and there was one that no one cared to deal with because she had a habit of sabotaging her social relationships with other people and sabotaging the relationships of everyone else, just so everyone could remain focused on her while she lied about things in the past nonstop (Histrionic behavior). Enough about family elders...

MOM AND DAD! Time for Mom and Dad memories... *deep sigh*

Since the late 80s, my father has been involved in an "open-minded" denomination that could be described as "Christian Mysticism". It borrows from Abrahamic stuff and Zen Buddhism. I remember the extensive number of times my dad attempted to coerce/convince/manipulate me into going to the services with nothing but praise about such in his words and little praise towards me if I refused to go. So I refused to go in my teens, even on Christmas (if I could successfully manage such.) My dad also had a habit of dropping bits of Zen philosophy on me if he thought it would help me. It helped by convincing me to learn the French term "cliché" and learning how to express that word if I grew tired of my father's or anyone else's philosophy. He thought I had no valid reason to reject Eastern Mysticism and practices. I was thoroughly convinced (as most teenagers tend to be) that most of my parent's philosophy was completely bunk. As it turns out.... I was right. The Church my dad involved himself with apparently became seen as a prime target for pedophiles and child molesters. Many of these were either (phony?) psychiatrists or pediatricians, one was really charming and somehow convinced my dad that I should see him. I still resisted the notion because I know how my dad tends to think while 'enthusiastic' or 'emotionally charged' about something, and his ability to remain rational while such goes directly to the shitter. This is unfortunate, because while he did drop the New Age Yuppie bs and is about the most well-meaning person I can name offhand, he forgot to "Unlearn!" the church part of it. No point in deconverting him (which I actively attempted as a teenager, along with many other people.) I did grasp one essential concept at an early age(9): that you can't always rely on the opinions of others, that your own opinion should always rank #1 in terms of 'personal value', that the "first conclusion reached" (words to that effect) is the best one (provided no medical problems that effect cognitive ability. I'm deeply "intuiting" about how I interact with most people. heh), and that I can 'self-parent' if need be more effectively than most "grown-ups" ever could. I could at least stay home unsupervised at age 9 from manipulating a promise my Dad had made at age 6. I am very much grateful for that, in truth. I would think I succeed at independent thought in virtually every criteria. I'm not inclined to question people to their face without some familiarity, but being polite to some minimal degree is a nonissue. He also has a deep-rooted aversion to conflict thanks to his parental environment. My mother, on the other hand...

My mother... difficult subject to write about. I'll try anyhow...

My mother is difficult to write about because her past abusive behaviors do NOT register as "physical" (primarily), at least in most professional  contexts. Many of her past and present friends give her the benefit of the doubt in her dealings with her only child (me.) during her notable pity parties. She has been physically abusive at brief, isolated moments; example- squeezing my right forearm at age 4 til the circulation there became constricted all because one female pediatric psychologist DARED to challenge her capacity as a parent. I wriggle a bit, she squeezes even harder. I get tired of this behavior and of the ache developing in my wrist  and right hand, wriggle very hard... and she finally lets go. I decide to become (even more?) introverted and emotionally distant from others. I don't know what "label" could be applied throughout most of my preteen, teen, and adult years so far, but I think "emotionally battered child" fits perfectly. (Yes, I know unprofessional self-diagnosis is ill-advised by those well-learned in mental health. Bite it.) Thinking about her is also difficult because she is (perhaps) THE most secular person in my family tree.

Like AE, I dream of an "Armegeddon" to deal with people like her; to authoritatively put her in her place in such a way that I don't have to think about or even address anyone like that ever again. However, for better or for worse, it's entirely up to me to pursue such an "Armageddon". Growing up out of (extended) adolescence, getting a real career instead of a brief stay at a service profession, deal with personal physical and mental health (mental health because consistent water and salt intake is a must for someone with nonexistant adrenal glands) without 'assistance', pay bills on time, and live my life entirely how I choose without undue social pressure. The idea is that I put this one woman out of my head eventually, where 'she' will stop renting room in it. Problem: at present, that's the trickiest circus act in the book. It's 'Houdini', in a sense, but I'll be damned if I can't learn some pioneering 'escape-artist tricks' along the way.

One such trick was the complete and total rejection of God, religion, and any attempt to manipulatively involve me with such. It took 10 years of age to do that with some heavy, life-altering prices to pay of entirely my own making -I tend not to 'see' inherent value in all opinions or even in all people, and that is why I keep a safe distance from AU.com even though I support the concept. I don't think I ever will 'see' it in a "univeral happiness" sense or even in a "Universal Unitarian" sense. I'm also very introverted  Jeffrick has me beat by 2 years in his decision not to believe. Bully for him! For some, it takes many decades or even a half-century or more to do that. Through that 'lens', I can understand the anger and the desire to confront found amongst many atheists. This is largely because I have challenged and confronted many theists off-line and on- during my own time. How many? I loss count and interest in it (so to speak) after participation in a few highly-populated politics and gaming forums. When egos come to the fore, rationality bites the dust. Don't expect my inner confrontationist to (frequently) come out over here at RRS though. There are too many people here to fill that niche already. I'm a secondary forum colonizer and decomposer, dammit! According to some forms of Buddhism, I might just somehow "transform" into a Clostridium sp. microbe in some mysterious manner that lies completely outside of the carbon, nitrogen, and water cycles defined as they are in biology after I eventually die. C'est la vie, guys.

Eye-wink

“A meritocratic society is one in which inequalities of wealth and social position solely reflect the unequal distribution of merit or skills amongst human beings, or are based upon factors beyond human control, for example luck or chance. Such a society is socially just because individuals are judged not by their gender, the colour of their skin or their religion, but according to their talents and willingness to work, or on what Martin Luther King called 'the content of their character'. By extension, social equality is unjust because it treats unequal individuals equally.” "Political Ideologies" by Andrew Heywood (2003)

digitalbeachbum's picture

I was raised catholic and I

I was raised catholic and I won't bother going in to detail about my experiences. I can tell you this much

1) the pastor of the church and school was a pedophilist and/or gay. I know gays and pedophilist aren't in the same classification but if you saw this guy act and talk you would understand my view.

2) the nuns were tyrants. they ran the school like little Nazi Hitlers. Yes I got spanked with big wooden paddles.

3) I had always questioned god, jesus and the virgin mary but I trusted my parents. This I think is the cause of the perpetual lie when it comes to religion. Parents tell their kids and they believe, just like Satan Claus and other lies. When we get older we reject it because the parents didn't indoctrinate us the way we were with church.

I believe that the number of religious followers would be a lot less world wide if the conditioning and training wouldn't be so intense. Very few people actually believe this shit called religion. It's a lie and we know it. We continue the lie because we are ignorant.

4) by the time I got to high school I was well beyond the grasp of the church. I stopped going to church and rejected their teachings. I knew there was no god(s) and that the lie was global. I didn't know I was an atheist yet as I was calling myself an agnostic.

5) when I joined the military I picked "catholic" for my denomination because as a religious person I was able to get more free time away from the drill instructors. People who were atheists in my platoon were picked on and given a very difficult time. 

6) I was married in a catholic church but rejected the ceremony. my wife and I wanted an outdoor wedding but the church wouldn't do it and our parents were paying for every thing. We kept it quiet and went along with the charade. We did how ever convince our priest to keep the ceremony under ten minutes. The entire ceremony took less than 30 minutes total time.

7) I didn't really pick the word "atheist" until mid-2000's when I saw the blasphemy challenge. It was about this time I made a commitment to atheism and actually using the world. For a long time it was taboo to use it and if I mentioned it in private circles I was scoffed at the idea I could even consider being so.

I found that being an atheist and buddhist worked well together and I openly told my parents, family and friends. As I grew in to my new "skin" I felt more comfortable and started to realize that I didn't care what others said about me. After all, my views now were that they were the ignorant ones and living the lie. I was the one who had opened my eyes and rejected the fallacies.

 

Free will is an illusion. People always choose the perceived path of greatest pleasure.

-Scott Adams

Another Catholic

Not very exciting, but here goes:

 

I was raised in a relatively liberal Catholic family.

I went to Catholic schools and until I was about 15 or so, was made to attend Mass.

When I was about 9 I started having doubts. I can't remember my exact beliefs at that age, but I was probably an agnostic.

I certainly didn't accept the Catholic teachings. The brutal ways of the nuns no doubt influenced my opinions.

 

At about 15-16 I started questioning everything more thoroughly and became a strong atheist after examining a variety of religious beliefs.

Zen Buddhism seemed the least ridiculous belief at the time, so I gave that a chance, but I realised quickly that even though some wisdom was expressed there, it was mainly platitudes.

After this, I found Bertrand Russell's analysis of Christianity (in my school's library!) and started to analyse religion more carefully.

This led to me regularly debating atheism with the head priest at my school and winning, though I will give him credit for being a well read, intelligent and open-minded man.

After leaving home, I hardly thought about religion for thirty years, but then I became more interested in history and this led me to wonder about exactly how religions take hold in society.

 

 

 

 

tonyjeffers's picture

Tony Jeffers

I have told my story in parts throughout many of my posts, so I'll try to spare you all of too much repetition.

Born 1972.  Victim of the Protestant Christian Church of the Nazarene Cult.

Earliest memories of brainwashing at age 5.  Mother was the only one who was really religious.  Dad just went along with it to do what he thought a good father should do.  My brother and I were helpless victims.

Sunday school and church service every Sunday and if you got in trouble the prior week Sunday and Wednesday nights were added as punishment.

We had what they call devotion every night before bed. Basically you kneel down as in prayer in the living room and say what you are thankful for and what you are guilty of. then you all recite the Lord's Prayer.  I remember opening my eyes and looking around at my family and being very creeped out. This didn't go on for too many years. I think my Dad must have stopped it.

At about age 12 I was able to start standing up for myself and manged to get out of church here and there. My Dad rarely went anymore and my Mom's hope for a nice, "normal", christian family fizzled out.

This was all very tramatizing to me, and is probably one of the reasons I started abusing drugs and alchohol at the very young age of 11.

Our family was disfunctional and I want my own way, leaving home and supporting myself at 17, but the poison of religion was still in me.

I didn't really pick it back up until about the age of 20.  I had casually followed a few TV evangelists here and there but no one had really gotten to me, and I thoroughly studied the bible on my own.

Then I took a job for a while building cars for Chrysler and Mitsubishi, and found a new friend Sam was much older than me and was the wildest christian I had ever met.

He introduced me into a new cult.  I became one of the followers of the very eccentric and psychotic Dr. Gene Scott.  I thought I had found the way thru this rebellious man who taught way outside of the mainstream.

I finally woke up and left religion for good after following him for about 6 years.

I walked around in a daze for a few years calling myself an agnostic, but now I know there is no such thing.

I am now a proud Atheist and am glad and thankful to be among the rest of you.

I am very bitter towards christianity.  Should I ever again lose my senses would someone just come find me and put me out of my pathetic misery.

"...but truth is a point of view, and so it is changeable. And to rule by fettering the mind through fear of punishment in another world is just as base as to use force." -Hypatia

Kapkao's picture

digitalbeachbum wrote:We

digitalbeachbum wrote:
We continue the lie because we are ignorant.

No. It would be morally convenient to label someone as "ignorant" because they hold (self-)destructive views of the human race and its origins, but that hardly does the "God Fallacy" any justice. People who "believe", I think, want to believe. They want some sort of 'justice' to all the wrongs done to them when they die. They want everlasting euphoria. They want some sort of grand purpose. Then they go into denial about the probability of such things because they can't possibly face such a 'spiritual' disappointment directly without having a nervous breakdown. That is, IMO, the definition of "Blind Faith"- belief in the intangible and undetectable via nonsensical tools (scripture, totems and ridiculous Abrahamic icons of various sorts.) 

To have "Blind Faith" implies a tendency to be in denial.

Granted, I'm not attempting a threadjack nor looking forward to one if it occurs because of this one post.

“A meritocratic society is one in which inequalities of wealth and social position solely reflect the unequal distribution of merit or skills amongst human beings, or are based upon factors beyond human control, for example luck or chance. Such a society is socially just because individuals are judged not by their gender, the colour of their skin or their religion, but according to their talents and willingness to work, or on what Martin Luther King called 'the content of their character'. By extension, social equality is unjust because it treats unequal individuals equally.” "Political Ideologies" by Andrew Heywood (2003)

im better now

I was born into a Christian family My first doubts arose never During my childhood years I thought we played just go to church and pray, it was not until 8 years Comense to notice that actually believed that someone had magically far into it. That began the nightmare, I could not speak or think without fear of being reprimanded, punished or condemned. Remembering my childhood was surrounded by fear control, everything revolved around God and the Bible, was the simple answer for everyone, and when something did not understand the will of God, it was not until adolescence that I empiesa to be that maybe my religion was not the answer, it was not like I wanted to live, was to confront my parents or go on living as hypocritical. The confronts and his response has been better than I imagined. My life today is far more complex than before, questioning everything, doubt everything and constantly work to concentrate on learning, my new attitude brought me many problems, but it's worth, I am calmer now, my life has meaning for me, not for my religion, I live for myself, I no longer feel chained, forced or oppressed.