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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Your Stories of Atheism: From Catholicism to Unbelief

This is an ongoing series featuring your stories of how you came to identify as an atheist. If you want to send me your story, you can submit it here. To read past stories, click here.

First, we’ll hear from Sheldon:

My story is probably similar to many others. I was raised in a passively Catholic household. My mothers’s oldest sister is super Catholic and was always pushing my mom to get us more involved. She is a religion teacher at a Catholic school. She talked my mom into making us go to PSR. We went to church most Sundays throughout the school year. I did the reconciliation and first communion ceremonies as a young child. I played 3 sports for the local church team where I made friends with everyone who went to the church elementary school. I joined the scouts through church to spend more time with my friends. So to say I was around the church a lot, is more than a fair statement.
As far as church itself went, I honestly don’t ever remember getting a single meaningful thing from the hundreds of hours wasted there. Sure, I learned the rituals and when to say what and I do remember having a reverence to the gold cabinet that the Jesus parts came out of, but I really don’t remember anything meaningful. I really just remember hating going and doing nothing for an hour when I could be at home outside playing.
Both my sister and I hated PSR. To me it was just a total waste of a perfectly good evening. It was like more school. We bitched and moaned the entire time for several years and we finally got our way. I vividly remember arguing with the sister who taught the class about the whole Noah story that we were coloring pictures of. I kept asking the very basic and obvious questions that anyone with 3 active neurons would ask– what about trees, fish, and how did they all get there, what did they eat, how did he tame them, etc. She got more than fed up with me. My mom had to come in for a meeting. I tried to tell my mom it was nonsense, but she thought I was acting out just because I hated going, not because I thought what they were trying to cram down our throats was nonsense. I was in 1st grade at this time. I think we only had to suffer through 3-4 more years of PSR.
Another landmark moment for me was when I was about 12 or so . I don’t know why, it was probably raining and I was stuck inside, but I picked up my children’s bible that I had had for years and never opened. I started to read Genesis and was immediately caught off guard by the phrase, “God saw that it was good.” And, “god was pleased.” I thought this had to be dumbed down for kids. So, I went and got the family “document holder” to read the real thing. And sure enough, it was there too. I was shocked by this. Why would an all powerful, all knowing being have such petty and human emotions? Of course it was “good” he just proofed it into existence, did he think he tricked himself? It didn’t and still doesn’t make any sense.
As an older teen, I never really believed and rarely went to church. I joined the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) in high school, mainly as a transcript fillier and I thought it would look good somehow. I went to a Jesuit University for college. I was scared to death to take religion courses. I was having PSR nightmare, flashbacks. As it turned out I loved them. I was only required to take 2, but I think I took 5 or 6. Even an ethics class I took, I wrote all my papers in reference to religious beliefs. I was and still am fascinated by people who live their lives truly believing the mythical mumbo jumbo that I saw right through as a very young person.
So, I guess what all of the above states is that my brain always got in the way of allowing religion to infiltrate my being. If I was asked as a child I would have honestly said yes there is a god, but I didn’t really know what that meant and I didn’t live my life in anyway of worship or even acknowledgement of any such god. I was truly an atheist by my early 20’s, but honestly I didn’t give it much thought. I am now 100% a atheist without any question whatsoever. The final push, not that there was any resistance as it just wasn’t part of my consciousness, was meeting my wife. She brought religion to the forefront again in my life. She is a Southern Baptist, raised in a very religious household. She still strongly believes and talks about prayer all the time. When we first started to get serious, she asked me to church and I said no. I hate being bored for a hour. Why would I go some place special to do so. I’d rather stay home during a power outage and stare at the wall for an hour than go to church. She was a bit put off. So she consulted friends and I’m sure her mother, who has tried several times to evangelize or witness or whatever to me, and she decided that we were going to read Stroebel’s “A Case for Christ.” We went to the park after work and she read while we had a picnic dinner for a week or so until we finished it. At this point in my life, a gun to my head, I would have been 99% sure there isn’t a god and 99.9% sure there isn’t a Christian god. After listening to that rag, the last bit of percentages we’re gone. Absolutely, 100% atheist now for sure. I couldn’t believe the crap in that book. It was like reading the Bible. I kept saying to myself, did anyone read this first? How did this stuff make it in, if you are trying to prove the exact opposite? Best example: Lee was interviewing some high ranking priest about the “truthfulness” of the Bible and it supposed contradictions. The answer was, you have to be absorbed or allow yourself to be under the power of the Holy Spirit before you can read the Bible and get any meaning from it. I was floored. I made my wife read it over again like 4 times. I couldn’t believe that was in there. She didn’t seem to get why I was flabbergasted. I had to explain it to her. It says that you have to wholeheartedly believe in the words on the page BEFORE you even read them to know what it is you are supposed to believe. I re-read, and re-read the page to make sure that it what it said. It does. That sealed it for me. Their best messenger’s best work and the one that was supposed to get me to switch teams, blatantly told me that that knew they were full of it.
My wife knows I don’t believe, but hasn’t given up hope, even though there is none. My sister found God after her ex-husband found it in prison. So now my nieces and nephews have all been indoctrinated. During this process, my wife and mother have bonded and go to church together. They used to ask me to go. They would badger me into to from time to time, but the last couple of times I misbehaved so much, they don’t ask me back. I’m sorry, but some of the garbage they spew on stage just makes me laugh. Apparently, that is in poor taste and isn’t allowed. They both still wish I would buy into it and go with them, but again, my brain won’t allow it.
My old job had a lot of downtime in a cubicle with just a computer for entertainment. So I started to print books , threads, papers, any and everything on faith, Jesus, Christianity, atheism, etc. I have bank boxes full of of files that I categorized. I have notes, scribbles, references all over thousands of pages. I thought I might write a book. I worked on an outline and then I got a new job that doesn’t allow for that anymore and kind of put it on the back burner. The most influential document I ever found was the Atheist Easter quiz. This really struck a nerve with me and inspired my thoughts for the potential book. If they can’t get the most critical and central point of their faith correct, than the rest has to be nonsense, which of course, it is. Really, just using the synoptic gospels, trying to tell just one story– the passion, they are irreconcilably opposed to one another on the most basic of facts. That is still astounding to me today. They don’t know the who, what, where, when, why, or how’s of the central tenant that their entire faith is based upon. Staggering. Without the passion story, there is no Christianity. It is so botched in their own books, not the Old Testament which they love to dismiss, that no one could read the gospels and think for one instant that they had any merit. It is truly baffling to me. How can there be biblical scholars that believe how can there be divinity schools? I’m more than baffled by the Jesuits I used to know. They had to have read the gospels. What about preachers, and all the hundreds of hours of bible classes that Christians are so fond of. Like I said before, I am fascinated by it.
I attended a humanist society conference as well as a rational society club meeting in the past few years. I enjoyed both and would go more, if I had more time. Plus, I won’t lie to my wife about it and bringing it up to her would just be a fight I don’t care to have. She doesn’t attend church that much anymore. So, we really don’t discuss religion much at all.
In the last few years, I have spent a lot of time online on Youtube watching videos on Atheism. My first discovery was the Atheist Experience. I haven’t stopped since. I subscribed to dozens of atheist you tubers and watch something almost daily. I now know and love Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins, etc as well as,
Nonstampcollecter, thunderfoot, amazing atheist, Jaclyn Glenn, etc. My wife doesn’t know what I am doing online, and she doesn’t ask.
That is pretty much my story.

This one was submitted anonymously:

I drifted from liberal Catholic/sometime neopagan to unbelief without any bells and whistles. There was no anger that I’d been lied to or anything like that. I really didn’t think about it very much, until I found out I was pregnant. For some reason, when the protective hormones kicked in, one of the things I suddenly felt urgently and passionately about was not wanting my child to have baptism or a naming ceremony or anything even remotely religious attached to his birth. If he chooses that later on, that’s his business. But for me, bringing another human being into the world was the first time I really adopted the atheist label as something important to me.

If you want to send me your story, you can submit it here. To read past stories, click here.

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