Author Topic: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?  (Read 178 times)

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Offline AllanGuldager

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How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« on: July 02, 2019, 04:11:15 PM »
First of all: by non-believer I mean someone who does not believe in a God or gods, but otherwise does not think about or is interested in religion or atheism.

My own story goes like this:
I do not think, that I ever have believed in God - perhaps I have - but I have no recollection about praying or believing while attending different events in a church. I have been a member of "Indre Mission" (Church Association for the Inner Mission in Denmark) - a conservative Lutheran organization when I was around 6, and I have been a Green Scout, which is a subdivision of the Danish division of YMCA until 7th grade. Even though I have prayed every Wednesday at scout meetings, I have never been to church on my own. I have of course been to church lots of times, because in Denmark almost every wedding, burial and baptism is in a church. Perhaps I was a beliver then, perhaps then, but when I stopped being a scout, I did not participate in other christian organizations. And I know for sure, I did not believe in God, when I was in 8th grade. I did really talk about atheism, and I would not label myself as an atheist until I my mid20's - mostly I just didn't care. Now I find myself being more and more against the Danish state religion (yes - we do have a state religion), but I'm not against religion per se. The reason why I was a scout and part of Inner Mission, was mostly due to the fact, that is was the only thing I could attend in my small local community of 400 people besides soccer and gymnastic (which I also did).

My parents never talked about religion, and my father was an atheist (or Darwinist, as he called himself), but my family has always worked at the local church as beadles. But I have no religious upbringing. It is kind of a boring story, no interesting experience that lead me to atheism - just a lack of strong religious pressures.

Offline jds22

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2019, 04:42:17 PM »
I was a Christian fundamentalist for 25yrs. I attended mostly independent Baptist churches.
I decided to convert, or accept Jesus as my personal savior, in 1983 when I was 15 years old after reading a book about the end times. I spent the next 25yrs believing Jesus was coming back at any moment.

My journey from that to my current atheist position took about 3-4 years. I always had questions as most do but finally got tired of being told that I just need to have faith and everything will be answered in the end. So I started reading, and watching, and learning and bit by bit my religious beliefs faded away. There wasn't a single big moment that did it but lots of little moments that eventually added up. I've heard it called death by 1000 cuts.

I've answered Christians a few times when they ask why I no longer believe. Many of them seem to think something must have happened that made me mad at god. That is incorrect. I didn't get mad at god, the church or any other Christians. I didn't turn my back on god because I don't like authority and want to live a life of sin. The reason I no longer believe is that I no longer find the evidence or arguments for god convincing. That's it. Nothing more complicated than that. I'm open to being convinced but so far nothing has been persuasive.

My wife held the same beliefs as me. I actually met her while I was attending her uncle's church. I didn't tell her about my de-conversion for about a year out of fear for how she would take it. We had quite a few long talks and after about a year she stopped believing also. It turns out she had all of the same questions and issues I had but was always told not to question so she didn't. Once she felt comfortable enough to question, it didn't take long. Our two sons went thru the same process while in college. So we went from a family of 4 believing Jesus was coming back at any moment to being a family of 4 atheists and life is so much better.

One final thought. I remember shortly after coming to grips with the fact that I no longer believed in a god. I was sitting at a red light on my way to work when it hit me. There is no god watching me right now. No god reading my mind or watching every move I make. No god to judge or condemn me. My thoughts are my own. I can read, watch, and learn whatever I want without fear or guilt. For the first time in 25yrs, my life was all mine. It was like this huge weight was taken off my shoulders. It was truly a born again experience.

That was about 7 years ago and I still haven't heard any reasons or arguments that have made me reconsider but I'm still open to the possibility.

Offline daniel1948

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2019, 04:52:32 PM »
I cannot remember a time when I was not a thoroughgoing atheist. My mother told me that when I was five I would approach nuns (they all still wore the habit back then, making them easy to spot) and tell them there is no god. My ethnicity is Jewish but I was never taken to synagog or church. If my parents ever spoke about religion one way or another, I have no memory of it. I heard about both god and Santa Claus from my peers, and told them in no uncertain terms that both were make-believe.

In my middle 40's, in an attempt to recruit members into our local peace group, I attended a number of different churches briefly. I failed to recruit a single member. I went longest to the Seventh Day Adventist church because I knew that in WWII many of them went to prison rather than join the army, so I thought they might be inclined to join a peace group, and because I could attend their Saturday service and still go to a Sunday service somewhere else. Also, back then (circa 1990) I didn't know any vegetarians, and the Adventists invited me to their potlucks, and it was really wonderful to be able to attend a communal meal where I could eat the food. They believe some pretty bat-shit crazy stuff, but they are fabulous cooks. If it wasn't for the religion, I'd join up with them here for the food.

There are people who believe with certainty that there is a god. (Theists.)
There are people who think there's a god but don't feel certain.
There are people who hold no opinion on the matter one way or the other. (Agnostics.)
There are people who don't believe there is a god, but don't feel certain.
And there are people who believe that there is definitely not a god. (Atheists.)
Then there are people who believe that there are no gods or anything else supernatural. (Materialist atheists.)

I'm in that last category. I acknowledge that there's no way to know as a matter of established fact, but I believe with total certainty that there is nothing supernatural, that there is nothing that does not obey the natural laws of physics. And as a corollary, I believe that we have no purpose on this Earth other than what we decide to make of it. We were not "put" here for any reason. And as a separate issue entirely, I believe that religion is the cause of half the preventable suffering in the world. If religion could be purged from the world, the total amount of suffering would be cut in half.

But I often call myself a Pastafarian, because who wouldn't want to go to a heaven that has a beer volcano?
"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think long and hard before starting a war."
-- Otto von Bismarck

Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2019, 04:59:12 PM »
I'll be lazy and quote a very old post of mine:

I was raised a Christian from birth, mainly in the non-denominational with the gifts of the spirit kind of church.  For a long time, I was bought it wholesale; I read the Bible all the time, went to a Christian school, even did missionary trips (one even to Russia for 2 straight months at the age of 14), but after a while I realized that nothing that happened to me in my life that I had attributed to God was anything more than what I could make myself do or feel.  At the time, I didn’t know what this meant as I wasn’t sure if it was deception from the Devil, a lack of faith, or God not choosing to interact with me, but eventually through questioning and careful self-analysis I came to the conclusion that in light of the lack of direct evidence for, and all the other plausible explanations against, the existence of God was highly unlikely.  There was a long time where that felt very uncomfortable for me, and if I ever got into a tight spot or was facing something difficult I would have to consciously try to avoid praying to God for help out of sheer principle (Forcing myself to follow what I had reasoned by logic rather than emotion).  That being said, I still succumbed every once in a while, but I think that those moments of weakness are what helped me the most.  When I compromised and just “gave it a shot” nothing changed.  Everything that all my Christian acquaintances told me about needing to just humble myself and ask God for help or to reveal himself to me, made no difference and I think that getting it out of my system, rather than trying to suppress it was more healthy.  Nowadays, I feel completely at ease with not believing in God.  I feel justified, even if I don’t always argue my points as well as I would like, and I feel empowered that I am no longer attempting to appease or manipulate a deity that I don’t understand and that I can in fact control my own destiny.

Also, I'll just add that the two thoughts that I could never shake that most undermined my faith were about the bizarre and nonsensical plan of God to create a situation that was only resolvable by the eternal damnation of the majority of our species and the horrible death of his own son, and the absolutely arbitrary manner in which the Bible was written and assembled.  I know not every Christian thinks of the Bible as inerrant or infallible but seriously, if it's the most important book, THE guide for all Christians, and the basis of all morality and decisions-making, then the grossly political and contrived nature of its creation is 100% incompatible.  The only out from that is to hand-wave and say that God managed it and even though it was a human process, the end result was designed by God and that was never good enough for me.  I remember bringing this up to my mom and she just told me that since all the prophecies of the Bible about Jesus and so on, lined up and were consistent, then that was proof enough for her that it was God-inspired.  She didn't really know what to say when I pointed out that the reason everything makes sense (which it doesn't anyway) is because the people who assembled it omitted everything they didn't think jived.

Offline John Albert

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2019, 05:33:33 PM »
I was raised to be religious. I got dragged to church every Sunday, was enrolled in religious schools... I was even an altar boy.

But I first started having doubts in about the 3rd or 4th grade. As a kid I was always into science, and something about religion always seemed like hokum.

For one thing, I noticed at a young age that teachers of most subjects welcomed student questions about the subject matter, but the same didn't always fly in Religion. In Religion class the answers were often vague or incomprehensible, and sometimes the teacher would give a lame excuse in lieu of a straight answer. I also noticed that in Religion, certain kinds of questions were not very genially received. In 3rd grade I got in trouble for suggesting that we put consecrated wine under a microscope to observe how the blood cells formed by transubstantiation. The teacher scolded me in front of the class and wrote me a detention for making an inappropriate joke, but I'd meant it in all seriousness.

Over the years my doubts grew, but I mostly kept them to myself. My skepticism only accelerated in high school when I started reading philosophy books and trying to figure stuff out on my own. I quit my religion shortly after high school, but held onto a vague "god" belief for almost two decades thereafter. Despite being thoroughly skeptical and dismissive of religion, it took most of my lifetime to become comfortable with publicly self-identifying as an atheist.

Online arthwollipot

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2019, 08:45:37 PM »
I've told my story many times. TCALSS, I didn't think about religion until a religious friend converted me, spent about a year and a half in a Pentecostal church, thought better of it and went through a neopagan phase before finally realising I was an atheist.
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Offline Awatsjr

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2019, 10:37:02 PM »
While there was a half hearted attempt to make me Christian, I was pretty much settled on “naw.” I did however become interested in first century Christianity and still study today. I am interested in how we got where were are vs. what was originally proposed.

I haven’t flinched yet. I consider myself an agnostic atheist.