Your Stories of Atheism: Murder Is Part Of God’s Plan
Our first story this week is from Dave:
I was born in 1963 and raised in Ontario, Canada in a family that sort of went along with the religious motions. Mom made us go to Sunday school at first and I don’t remember how old I was when I was given the option to not go. I don’t recall my dad ever setting foot in a church other than for weddings and funerals. When asked about religious beliefs, both of my parents always answered in evasive ways that did not stand out from the generally accepted societal norms. Eventually my parents stopped almost all involvement with the church; I think it was because they disagreed with the changing acceptance of homosexuality.
Questions about moral or religious issues were always met with answers that shut down most discussion. It’s just not something they were comfortable discussing; still aren’t. There is right and wrong, that’s it. No explanations, no logic, not much room for argument. That’s just the way it is.
I was a “seeker” and went through a religious period in my early 20’s thinking the problem was with me and that to be a “good” person I needed god/religion. After all, this is the dominant belief of the society I grew up in and to a significant extent it remains the same today. In the grade school I went to, we had to say the Lords’s Prayer every day and sing deeply religious Christmas carols. Children who denied a belief in god were given lots of grief by most of the adults in their lives.
Back to my early 20’s. It didn’t take long to realize how fundamentalist Christianity conflicted with my applied science education and common sense. The further into it I got, the worse the contradictions. I walked away from that rather unimpressed with god/religion in general. Pretty much everything I have read and learned since has reinforced my atheism, in particular the scientific knowledge made more understandable by the likes of Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking. From that point on, fundamentalism of any type has annoyed me greatly because it largely springs from blind acceptance of thinking that someone else did. Reason, accepted scientific facts and logic are forced to take a back seat to ideology.
Still, I spent most of my adult life thinking there was no good reason to challenge religious beliefs and that it was impolite and socially unacceptable to do so. I actually felt guilty buying a copy of “The God Delusion” and wondered what people seeing me read it would think. I slowly got over that as what Dawkins had written sunk in. After reading ”
Fighting God” (by David Silverman) and “The God Argument” (by A.C. Grayling) I decided it was time to come out publicly (at 52). The number of ways that our society unfairly discriminates against atheism and caters to religion is considerable. I came to the conclusion that atheism and humanism are undeniably the best path forward for me (and IMO, humanity) yet to a large extent they are badly, and unfairly, misunderstood by the majority. Atheism still has a negative connotation for most people and humanism is simply not on the radar scope for the majority of people.
Now that I have children in grade school and I see how some classmates and teachers treat those who say they do not believe in god, I’m ready to come out and stand up for atheism/humanism. All children deserve a society that shows respect for their morality, regardless of where the the adults in their lives think it originates. I think Silverman is right; as more atheists come out, it makes it easier for others to do so. Also, those who identify as atheist have a lot in common with the vast majority of people. The true minority are the folks who hold fundamentalist beliefs like AWANA. AWANA was introduced to me when one of my children in Grade 3 brought home a book a classmate had given her while fulfilling her obligation to recruit “un-churched” friends. BTW, the parents of the recruiting child didn’t even know what sorts of things their child was being exposed to at AWANA summer camp. Most fundamentalist christians share similar beliefs to AWANA, such as “all men are morally corrupt, and of themselves utterly unable to remedy their lost condition” and AWANA uses children that have been indoctrinated before the age of reason to do their recruiting for them. That’s just wildly offensive to me. Every theist that I have asked and even the pope, disagrees with the idea that morality requires a belief in god. If we redefine god to be a supernatural being that can defy the known laws of physics, the majority of us become atheists.
So there we have it; I’m out. I feel better already!
Many thanks to GODLESSMOM for facilitating this catharsis!
Welcome out, Dave! I’m so glad to have provided you with an avenue to tell your story.
Next, we have a story from Chris:
I never really bought into the whole religion thing even as young child, despite being loosely indoctrinated into the Catholic religion by my “buffet Catholic” family. My godmother bought a picture bible (bible done in comic book style) when I was about 8 or 9 years old and I immediately made the correlation that this was fiction. Everyone was telling me that superman and green lantern weren’t real “they’re just comics”, so the whole Jesus thing was the same to me. As I got older I went along for the ride because of the taboo connotations of the word atheist. As I got a little older I became a searcher for “meaning”, Buddhism, Taoism, eastern philosophy… ect. I explored other less fanatical version of Christianity and settled into the Methodist church (somewhat uncomfortably) mostly to appease my wife and family’s questions. On the morning of September 11th 2001 I witnessed a horrific act that I instantly recognized exactly what it was, a group of highly motivated religious nuts carrying out a faith based attack of another group that didn’t have the same imaginary friend as them. I lost all desire to see religion as positive force or be a part of that community. I came to the realization that all of my personal heroes were godless. George Carlin, Douglas Adams, Penn Jillette!! The list goes on… Not long after 9/11 my grandmother passed and I noticed the religious services and talk of “better place now” made me angry and offered no comfort. I called myself atheist now, I had done it before as a rebellious teen mostly for shock value but now I meant it. I started reading more and evaluating things, I no longer used the bad apple excuse for all of pedophille pastors and priests. I learned the importance of critical thinking and being a skeptic, I no longer feared the taboo, I could say with without fear I am an atheist. As I started this transition I could have an open dialogue with people and after a lot of dialogue converted my wife and my children started to develop the same skills. My youngest child like the rest of my children was born an atheist, but unlike his older brothers he has had no religious influence at all, he’s still an atheist. The single biggest help and influence in my journey to Atheism has and continues to be Penn Jillette, I have and continue to thank him for showing me “the awful truth of how beautiful life can be” without god.
Finally, here is a story from Angela:
Going to church was not so much about ‘indoctrination’ or so I was lead to believe. It’s all about how God loves all his children. I had questions from the beginning (literally the age of 5) that were brushed off and answered with magical tales. It was more of a weekly social event for the kids and a 2 hour holy babysitter for my parents to have some time alone. I enjoyed the coloring books, the sing alongs, and knowing there was some magical being who loved us all. Then reality started to set in…
A few events stand out clear as day. The first church I went to (Baptist) the pastor was discussing why it was important to accept communion. Imagine trying to explain the body and blood of Christ to a 5 year old. I asked him why we must accept eating *but not eating* the body of a man and drinking *but not drinking* his blood? Rather than answer the question in a way a 5 year old could understand I was ostracized and sent to ‘timeout’ and to discuss my ‘behavior’ with the head pastor. Rather than accept my ‘punishment’ I ran home and hid under my bed.
Second traumatizing event: My Godmother was brutally murdered in 1994. Rather than to discuss the tragedy as it is I was given these ‘condolences’ and ‘answers’:
I’m so sorry for your loss and experience, Angela.