First up this week is Adam:
A mix of things. I was ‘religious’ for about 16 years. I didn’t verbally state that I was an atheist until I was about 16 or 17. I was always told to be thankful for the things ‘God’ did. I was always told to pray before dinner. I was always told that you needed to go to Church in order to be a good person. I had never began to think ‘maybe this whole religion thing is bullshit’ until I was about 14 when I got ‘saved’ or whatever it’s called when a Church person dunks you in the water. I came home and my super right-wing religious nutjob asswipe of a stepdad asked me why I did it, I said I wanted to be a better person. He said, it’s not about that. It’s about developing a relationship with Jesus, so he’ll forgive you of your sins. I’m like, what the fuck have I ever done. Original sin is bullshit. If being a good person isn’t enough, and you can be a horrible person and still get into heaven, this religion thing probably isn’t for me. Then, when I was about 15 or 16, I began watching Atheist youtubers like CultOfDusty and TheAmazingAtheist. I live in Jacksonville, Florida. An area in the bottom of the Bible belt, where the vast majority of people are religious, and the vast majority of people in my family are far right religious people, but good people. Probs just uneducated. I’ve never had opposition from my family. I’m glad for that.
So yea, started when I was told the truth about religion by my asshole stepdad, and then I started to doubt it all, research it, and come to my own conclusion. And what came as the most surprise to me is, the vast majority of my political beliefs went ‘left’ once I abandoned religion.
Here’s Robert’s story:
What led me to Atheism was kind of silly to me now. But I was told that I would never be lied to in church. And I went to a Catholic church growing up. There was a candle there that was the only one ever lit. I asked about it one day, and I was told that as long as it’s lit it meant that God loved us. Well, I had also learned about a very angry God if you happened to do something he didn’t like. Well, one weekend we went to the church and the candle was not lit and they were changing it out. I quickly became pretty frightened (I was probably 7 or 8). They explained it to me. I started to question what else might have been told to me in deception. Although, I was still fearful of an angry God. I think that’s what started me off on the road to doubt. As I got older, I met more people as my doubt grew and grew. I had a co-worker that introduced me to The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. That opened up the world of Atheism to me. Most importantly, I knew that there were others like me, and it was perfectly ok to not believe. After that book, I read another. Then another. And as I gained more knowledge, and realized that science and reason had much better answers, I became a much more hardened Atheist. That’s my story.
Finally, here’s Gene:
My story is pretty long so I’ll try to keep this succinct. I’m not sure I ever believed. Officially, I accepted Christ as my Lord and personal savior when I was seven years old. I’m in my forties now. I was raised in a Southern Baptist home of the Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson persuasion. As far back as I can remember my parents, in particular my dad, would put the hard sell on me about accepting Christ, how he knew I wanted to avoid hell, get into heaven and see all of my dead relatives that I had never met. Well, one night, before bed, the pitch came and I felt the pressure to buy it. I couldn’t buy it and the internal struggle was terrible. At that moment I didn’t want to buy in to it but I knew what the right answer was, the correct response my parents were looking for so I told them I had already become born again thanks to Pat Robertson’s 700 Club alter call. Yes, I lied about my acceptance of Christ. But my family was so proud and the shouts of praise to God, the hugs, the pride beaming from my mom and dad over the next week prevented me from revealing the truth because I was scared. It was announced publicly to the church congregation. I had to play the charade. The stakes were high for me and my parent’s temper and discipline could, well, let’s just say they certainly never spared the rod. And let me be honest here too, I did want to believe. Everyone I knew believed. I didn’t want to be different. Why was I different? That question plagues me to this day. I prayed that same night after I revealed my false testimony that Jesus would come into my heart. I did this countless times over the next ten years until, finally, one day, I gave up. I never felt the revelation, the thunderbolt, the life changing… whatever it is that everyone said you feel when you become a Christian. I just couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t make myself believe in an idea that had more in common with the story of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy than anything related to the real world. Wanting to believe wasn’t enough and whatever made me different from my siblings, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, I kept it secret for years. I feared a backlash, a reprisal. However, by the age of seventeen, I was an atheist. It took nearly fifteen more years to reveal that to anyone in my family though in hindsight I’m amazed that anyone was really surprised by this revelation. In spite of being a grown man now I endured years of ridicule from my family. It became so difficult to have a relationship with them and the arguments became so frequent regarding my apostasy that I eventually had to cut off contact with them. It had gotten to the point that they were trying to scare my son with images and threats of hell fire and eternal damnation. There were no boundaries that they wouldn’t cross because it was in the name of Jesus. There is a ton of detail that I’ve left out but I am forty two years old. I am an atheist and goddamn proud of it.