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How and why do people become Atheists?

Eight more personal stories

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Personal stories of conversion to Atheism:

bullet Scott Suddarth: "I am an Atheist simply because logic and reason will not allow me to believe in any god(s) or in any of the ridiculous stories in the Bible, Koran, or any other 'holy book.'

I grew up in a Christian family that either went to church or had a home Bible study with family friends. My dad had a diploma in Bible and theology from a bible college. I never had any bad experiences with religion while I was growing up. I was always asking questions about things that did not make sense to me like, 'If god created the universe, who created god?' or 'Why did god lie to Abraham about sacrificing his son?' I never got any satisfactory answers to any of my questions. Once I got out of the house, I basically became non-religious, meaning that I was just completely disinterested in god and religion. I just never gave it any thought, although I still thought there might be a god. I went along like that until The Da Vinci Code book came out, and I heard all the uproar it caused. Intrigued, I bought and read the book. Even though it was fiction, it made me think about religion in a different way. I also saw the movie, and all of the discovery and history channel features that ran about the same time. I thought to myself, 'Why is this story so much more implausible than the actual bible story?' I realized that it was not more implausible. In fact, it was the same style of writing as the Bible itself. It had enough actual historical people and places to make the story believable, even if it was not true.

Not too long after that I went back and read the Bible again without looking through the lens of blind faith. I realized that the Old Testament was full of horrors and injustice, most of it either caused or approved of by god. The New Testament was not as bad as the OT, but it was full of implausible stories. Also, the book of Revelation was obviously written by a bitter madman who wanted people to believe that their persecutors would have justice served on them very soon.

Around that time I read Sam Harris's first book, and also Richard Dawkins's book The God Delusion. Finally some answers that made sense. I saw that god was not needed as an explanation for anything in the natural world. I also saw religion for what it truly was, an attempt by primitive people to first explain things like, 'Why are we here?' and 'What happens when we die?', and then later as a tool to control people and gain money and power. The way I see it, is that there have been thousands of gods, and just as many religions, and now either the Jews, Muslims, Christians, or Hindus have the right ones? The real ones? I don't think so. The more believable explanation is that there is no god. My favorite quote is 'I contend that we are both Atheists, I just go one god further. When you understand why you dismiss all other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.'

As far as the reason why I call myself an Atheist rather than an Agnostic, I will put it this way. Take unicorns for example, nobody believes that unicorns are real, but they can't be disproved. But, you can be reasonably certain unicorns do not exist, because there is no evidence for the existence of unicorns. I would not call myself Agnostic regarding the existence of unicorns. I simply do not believe in the existence of unicorns. I am an A-Unicornist. Now insert god in place of unicorn. Understand?

I post on the forums here because I want to try and understand why people continue to hold onto their faith. Is it ignorance, stupidity, stubbornness, or what? Is the illusion of a being that listens (and sometimes talks back) and that cares about you personally, so attractive to people that they hold on to that illusion/delusion in the face of reality? I want to know these things. I also like to see if any religious people can possibly answer any of my questions with a good enough logical explanation that would make me rethink my position. Not yet."

bullet D.S. Wallingford: "I'm not sure that I ever really believed in what my church taught- we were a mainline Southern Baptist church, although one of the more "liberal" Southern Baptist churches. We actually had a female minister of music, although not without lots of grumbling by some of the more traditional members.

Anyway, I remember being baptized because a friend of mine did it first. I remember going to church and youth activities because it was the cool thing to do at the time. Later, I was involved in music activities because I loved music, and involved in youth activities because, quite honestly, lots of good-looking guys went to my church as well as many of my friends.

My youth minister and I had many arguments about music, abortion, evolution, and although they always remained good-natured arguments, he never stopped trying to convince me that he was right and I was wrong. But the point is that I never really BELIEVED what he told me, what the Bible told me, what my pastor told me. I TRIED to believe it, but I never felt that it was true. To this, the above-mentioned people said 'It doesn't matter what you feel. Satan is trying to trick you. It's true because the Bible says so.' And so I prayed, I meditated, I read my Bible, I tried to find that truth that people kept telling me about. But it never came. So I figured that if it was real, it would come eventually, and I stopped worrying about it.

Then came college, and the mind-blowing, eye-opening that goes with it, especially coming from a tiny town in a rural area. It was awesome, in the literal sense of the word, meeting people with such differing backgrounds, each with a strong conviction that their beliefs were right. So I started thinking again. These good, ethical, moral people all believed with heart and soul in their own religions or the lack thereof (we're talking Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, Buddhists, Pagans, atheists, agnostics). The thought that one group of people was absolutely right and one group wrong started making less and less sense to me. And then, of course, there was science, which opened so many doors and questions, answering some and leaving some in mystery, but which made me think about the possible divinity of the universe as a whole, and that all paths may be the right path. Or, the lack of divinity of the universe, and the possibility that there is no right path, or no path whatever.

What feels right to me is that all of nature is divine, that there is something out there, but I just can't know what that something is. Or maybe I'm not ready to know. But I'm still very interested in finding out. And I don't think that this 'right' feeling is Satan trying to trick me away from Christianity, and I don't think that it is lack of understanding, or lack of honest searching. At 32, I feel the first spiritual feelings I've ever had. And I can't help but go with that, even if it's not the path of my childhood; it's the only path that makes sense to me."

bullet "TD:" "I'm a 38 year old woman and am an atheist but was raised in a strong Catholic family (we were on our knees saying the rosary every night). I was pretty religious until I was about 16 years old when I started to read more broadly and learned that there were people who believed and thought differently than myself. Simply put, education, exposure ot other ideas and the development of a critical mind were the stepping stones to my loss of belief in god or any other kind of supernatural being. Unlike most ex-Catholics, I'm neither angry at god nor rebelling against my upbringing and the strict tenets of the catholic church - I simply think it's all a pretty big pile of poop.

My whole family is still pretty religious so I don't talk about it much with them but my husband and I are raising our daughter (now 2 years old) and I do wonder how we'll broach things with her. I am Canadian but live here in the US where atheism doesn't seem to be as common as it is among my friends in Canada. I am curious about how I will respond to her questions about God - I'm hoping I can be honest about my beliefs without instilling her with negative thoughts about others religious beliefs. I travel widely for work and I have to say that learning more about the religious beliefs of others around the world has taught me to understand more about other people's faith but has done little to increase my respect for what they believe in.

If anyone has any advice about answering kids questions about god - I'd be happy to hear it."

bullet Karl Svensson: "I was brought up in Sweden which about 85% atheist/agnostic. But i don't think any atheist can say that they were brought up to be an atheist. We were just brought up not to hear anything from either side.

We had visits to church through school on special days to learn about it and we read about all the major religions in the world as well as science/evolution. If you get to read about it all in school when your older you get to see the whole picture and you see religion from the outside in rather then from the inside out. Then when we become older the picture becomes pretty clear to most of us and we then become Atheists for real."

bullet Joanne L. Johnson: "My 'deconversion' was quite accidental. I grew up in the Lutheran Church which had a more liberal view toward the Bible. At that time, the Missouri Synod wasn't tied to a literal interpretation of the Bible like it is now. I don't remember when I learned about evolution any more than I can remember the day I learned 2 + 2 = 4. It was just knowledge. Obviously, I didn't see that it threatened my faith at all. But anyway, I went to a Lutheran university. One of the reasons I still feel so close to my school (and therefore the Lutheran church)... they had no fear of putting the faith under a microscope. It was a requirement to take four theology courses to graduate. I am a lover of history (I was a history minor) so I naturally wafted to the historical ones. I had no idea I was going to get what I got when I took their church history course... learning how Christians came to believe in the Trinity, really shook me. It was a human construct and not from God. I guess I was pretty naive, I thought if Christianity was the one true faith, then it should have God's fingerprints all over it (to coin a phrase). It didn't. The question I was left with is 'if Christianity isn't the truth, what is?' Since I didn't have an answer, I remained a Christian. I was also 19 and had other interests and diversions and didn't think much more about it than that. When I took a history of religion course my senior year... that was when I had my 'epiphany'. When I found I could understand why a Buddhist was a Buddhist, a Hindu a Hindu, etc. and so on... ahhhh, now I see! I thought of myself, initially, as an agnostic... but eventually I came to accept myself as an atheist."

bullet "Moeporne:" "i always sorta knew i was an atheist, i had the fortune of growing up in a home that never went to church, but it's sort of like the same as when a person is not brought into contact with alcohol until they're 17 and then go crazy with it, well i was like that with religion, i never knew religion until i was 8 when my neighbor invited me to come with them, there was all this singing and everyone looked like they were having a lot of fun. i decided i was going to start going, which i think my parents enjoyed though they didn't go themselves. i did everything, i was in the youth group most my friends were from the church. i enjoyed singing the songs and going through the motions, but i knew deep down that it was nothing more then a social event for me, i enjoyed the fellowship way more then the worship, which i had little to no interest in...see i always felt very hard and was taught by my father about respect needing to be earned and i knew that i would NEVER bow down to some 'god' who didn't first show me why they would deserve my respect. i will admit that there was a time maybe when i was around 14 that i did become very interested in theology, ironically this pretty much reinforced my atheistic viewpoint, i read the Bible...many times and found myself asking 'why would a supposedly loving god do this?' and lets not forget about the contradictions in the bible. i just couldn't let it go, then i decided to take some time off and reflect on my thoughts and decided at that point i would never go back and knew in my heart that i honestly believed that there was no god, i was 15 then and i'm 28 now, i took me a while to 'come out of the closet' so to speak because i had built up this reputation among the church goers and they were still my friends so i didn't want to hurt anyone, but one day i decided to tell them...most were heartbroken, others never spoke to me again, but the ones that mattered are still my friends, today i feel free in the knowledge that i can openly discuss my beliefs without feeling self conscious. i love rational thought and feel that this world might be a happier place if there were no gods fight over...ahhh pipe dreams...oh well, that's my story for the most part."

bullet Leon K. Mire: "It's so refreshing to see kindness and skepticism united into one! Too often I find other atheists wish only to show off their intellect, or to ridicule others. I departed with religion after a long inner struggle between my reason and my fear of upsetting God. After reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, I saw how important a part reason should play in our lives. But that didn't move me instantly to atheism. I had once called myself an 'atheist-ist'.. you know like a racist? I hated atheism and I refused to even think about it. But one night, the catalyst came when, after watching a show in which an evangelistic Christian denounced atheism as the root of all our modern problems, I finally confronted the issue head-on. I was deeply afraid that I was making God mad by even considering that He did not exist, and that I was putting myself in danger of hellfire. I was even more afraid that I might someday be one of THEM, and would be forced to believe that death is final, and that there is no protective figure looking out for us. That night, however, I realized that if God really does not exist, it doesn't matter how much I want to believe in Him. It seems like such an obvious truth, that reality doesn't bend to our wishes, but it can be extremely difficult to come to terms with when the wish is so strong. Since then, I have read and thought a lot about the existence of God, and have come to the conclusion that the path of reason leads to atheism. I think it's mistaken to conclude that atheism must be true because particular God-believers are hypocrites. I've tried to keep on the path of truth as much as I can in my journey, forcing myself to recognize that reality does not conform to my thoughts. I've tried to do this with my atheism now as well, because I've built up an intellectual edifice on my atheism, and I cannot say that I wholly investigate its validity without bias. Nobody wants to have spent 7 years of their life in misguided thinking. So I have to shock myself every now and then with thoughts like, 'What if there really is a God? What if, despite everything, there is actually a deity out there, in the world?' If I don't do this, I'm liable to get stubborn and resistant to ideas that might, after all, be true. Again, I applaud your efforts to start a friendly dialogue among atheists. It's much needed!"

bullet G. Gaither: "For myself, 9/11 kinda sealed it for me. I asked myself OK who had the upper hand here? Allah, or the Christian god. But wait, they are the same, right? As kids we weren't really brought up religiously. In fact I went to church a lot for fun on my own. I even went through a 'Jesus Freak' stage. Anyway as I've gotten older and wiser I began to see religion for what it is; a way of controlling people. Sure, Jesus has some good ideas that wouldn't hurt the human race if we applied them to our lives, but applying critical thinking to the concept of religion, It just doesn't gel. Prehistoric man first started worshiping big rocks, later as time progressed, those were cast aside in favor of statues and so on. When you think about the sheer number of gods worshipped through all of history, through all the cultures that have ever been, and understand that when a new god of the moment emerged, the previous gods didn't exact their vengeance because they are not being worshipped any longer. They simply faded away. Also the sheer number of people killed by people in the name of their faith throughout history is enough to turn someone away. ..."

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References used:

  1. "Dear Atheists," Amazon.com forum, at: http://www.amazon.com/

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 Home > Religions of the world > Atheism > Why? > here

or Home > Christianity > Christian personalities > God > Atheism > Why? > here

or Home > Religious information > God > Atheism > Why? > here

or Home > Spirituality > God > Atheism > Why? > here

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Originally written: 2007-OCT-15
Latest update: 2011-AUG-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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