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Atheism:

Personal stories of three Atheists

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Overview:

People become Atheists in many ways. For example:
  • Some simply do not develop a belief in God and remain Atheists from birth to death.

  • Some grow up being trained in a specific theistic religion, but gradually abandon their belief later in life.

  • Some grow up within a theistic religion, but suddenly abandon their belief in a deity, often as a result of experiencing a major tragedy.
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Interview of Atheists by "The Bee:"

Sue Nowicki of The Modesto Bee -- the newspaper in Modesto CA -- interviewed a number of local residents to learn how they became Atheists. 1 It was not a simple task to find Atheists who were willing to talk openly about their religious beliefs. Ms Nowicki wrote:

"It's difficult at times being a person of faith, but it can be even harder to be an atheist, someone who believes there is no God."
"Some local atheists who replied to an invitation in The Bee were afraid of adverse reactions at their places of work. Others worried about being flooded 'with unwanted attention from zealots,' and two were protective of neighbors and spouses. One hesitated to talk on the record, but then said, 'If I don't speak up, who will'?"
"... area atheists say there are several misconceptions about their beliefs. Several strongly make the point that they are not Satanists, immoral or dumb. Those who spoke with The Bee range in age from 20s to 60s and from business owners to blue-collar workers. They'd like faith groups, especially Christians, to be more tolerant of their views."
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Statements by three Atheists:

  • Mary Brush is a 53-year-old teacher. She was raised in a Catholic home. She said:

    "I went to catechism classes, but I gave my mother so much grief, I didn't take confirmation in eighth grade. The nuns frightened me. They really made me afraid of dying. I thought I'd go to hell."

    "The [Bible] stories sounded a little too fantastical to me. It didn't seem to go with reality. Over the many years, I've had [religious] friends and have gone to church and tried to pray. It just didn't work for me. I'm more of a scientist at heart; science works for me."

    [She has] "... mellowed over the years. I used to be more militant. I believe if [religion] helps people get by in life, that's OK. I can see how prayer can be important in other people's lives. I think it's helped a lot of alcoholics and people on drugs, people in hard circumstances."

    "I'm a good person. Just because you don't have a belief in God doesn't mean you're not a good person. I'd like a little more tolerance."

  • Shawna Amaral is a 22-year-old caregiver. Her parents and grandparents were inactive Christians during her childhood; they did not attend church or read the Bible. She said:

    "They were too busy. Since nobody was there to teach me basic religion, I just came to believe that I can't believe in a god or a higher power or anything."
    "When I was 16 or 17, I discovered paganism, an earth-based religion. You don't have to believe in in a god or goddess, so I still consider myself an atheist in that way."

    She lived in Alabama for a while. When they found out that she was an Atheist:

    "... they'd call me a devil worshipper and said I'd go to hell. I'd laugh at them and ask how I could go to hell if I didn't believe in it to begin with."

    She would respond: 

    "Your religion is not the religion. I believe whatever someone believes will come true for them. If you're a Christian and you believe if you're good that you'll go to heaven, you will. If you believe you'll be reincarnated, you will. I believe willpower is extremely strong."

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  • Jason Gale is a 57-year-old business manager, said:

     "As a child, my mom was religious, so I kind of came along for the ride."
    At the age of 25, someone told him his religion:
    "... was a belief in magic. That caused me to start thinking about removing magical things from my thinking."

    Gale became an Agnostic which he describes as "... someone who says God can neither be proved or disproved." He later transitioned to Atheism: He says:

     "It is a belief; not something you can prove, but it seems to be better supported by empirical observations around you than religion. In religion, you need to have a leap of faith.

    Gale believes that religion is:

     "... a crutch. They don't have the fortitude to stand up to reality. That sounds cruel, but I recognize the necessity of [religion]. You can't yank it away from them, or they'd be disoriented and unhappy. My wife is much happier going to church, so I encourage her in that."

    He wants people to know that:

     "I'm not an evil person because I'm a nonbeliever. I don't torture dogs and cats just because I don't believe in God."

    To followers of conventional religions, he suggests:

    "No matter what they believe, it's not worth injuring other people -- from flying planes into buildings to starting wars. If you gave me the chance to do one thing about religion, I would say, 'Keep it on the positive side.' Help people, like the Peace Corps. Do what Jesus said, visit the sick and the people in prison. Do all the good works and stay away from weapons."
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Personal stories of four more Atheists

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Sue Nowicki, "Modesto-area atheists speak up, seek tolerance," The Modesto Bee, 2008-AUG-16, at: http://www.modbee.com/

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No copyright claimed, for obvious reasons
Original posting: 2008-AUG-21
Latest update: 2011-AUG-21
Compiler: B.A. Robinson

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