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. Our first story this week was submitted anonymously:
There may or may not be atheists in foxholes, but I’m certain there are none in the Ku Klux Klan. – George Carlin
I am from India, majority of people here are Hindus and so I was brought up to be a Hindu. And I was religious as a child , we have many gods and each of the important ones have holidays attached to them. Also locally we have what is known a ghost god worship ( sounds better in local language) where a priest gets possessed by a deity which I believed as a child , now I realize its a act or a dissociative episode. I was very religious at the time. There are multiple religions in India but as a child i didn’t think about the others as different due to Hinduism you can add any other God as part of the multiple system. Then I was in a Jesuit high school where my best friends were catholic and I with my friends started going to church believing Jesus as just another avatar/ part of God. After highschool I joined medicine to become a doctor, I started to see more Hollywood comedies and then I watched George Carlin. At first it was cognitive dissonance at its best with his religious material and loved his other material. But soon I started thinking about what he jokes about and then slowly I found myself thinking about god honestly for the first time. It was not a sudden thought , I thought about it a lot and gradually over months I first became a deist then finally an atheist. Now 5 years later still an atheist.
Next, a story from Rachele:
I was born an atheist but my well meaning father brought myself and my sibling up as Catholics. I say my father because, my mother is actually an atheist. Religion is important to my father, so my mother let him raise us as Christians. My mother understood how important it was to my father and even attended Sunday mass with us. You would think my mother’s atheism would have effected me in some way but, my mother never shared her thoughts on religion. I didn’t know my mother was an atheist until I was in high school and I was shocked to hear tell me she was an atheist. For years we went to church as a family and never once did she day I don’t believe. My sibling and I attended Sunday school, which I hated. It was so boring. I remember one of my Sunday school teachers told my class that God loved us and I distinctly remember thinking he was crazy. I wouldn’t believe him and I actually believed in god back then. It was the first time I had actually heard of the concept, that God was capable of love. I was so use to hearing do this and you go to hell, tell a lie and go to hell, have sex and you go to hell. It always sounded to me that God hated us and could never forgive the whole mishap with the apple. So he made these impossible rules to follow, so no one could get into Heaven. “God loves me” I would think and the thought alone baffled me. I considered that the moment I started shedding my religion. It took years of me struggling with the brainwashing I received as a child to finally become an atheist. It wasn’t till my senior year in high school that I finally became an atheist. And a couple years more to say it proudly. Hi, I’m Rachele. I’m 24. I live in Michigan and I’m an atheist.
Finally, here is Jean:
I was the “good kid.” I tried really hard to follow all the rules, and Mom and Dad were Catholic. So I was Catholic. When I went off to college, I went to mass every week, and was a lector. But I was learning logical thinking, and a lot of basic church tenets started to bug me. Okay, so our lives are as a blink of an eye to God. He’s a loving father. But, then, if I don’t do everything right in that blink of an eye, my loving father condemns me to ETERNAL suffering in a lake of fire? And yes, I can ask for forgiveness, and Jesus died for my sins, and I can get out of jail free. But only if I do the asking-for-forgiveness thing just right? Hmmm. The more I thought about it, the more Catholicism and every other religion seemed like obvious social constructs. People made religion to enforce rules that allow us to live together and sort of get along. Sure, there are laws, but what if no one’s looking? We need an omnipresent Cop! And religion also obviously supports whatever power structure is current. You’re poor? Your life stinks? Well, don’t take my stuff. Your reward is in the eternal afterlife, so suck it up for now and labor for my benefit. I still tried to be Catholic. I went to daily mass. I went on, and eventually led, religious retreats. I went to Bible study — and for a Catholic, that’s radical. But no one was ever able to address my questions or show me any proof of a truth beyond the social construct. So I kept being Catholic, for the community of it. I was in choir. I went camping and drinking with my friends. None of them ever questioned anything to me, but then I didn’t express my doubts either. Then I heard myself in mass, saying the Apostle’s Creed. “I believe…” I knew then that I didn’t. Could I still belong to the community? I decided that I couldn’t. That was hard to give up. I miss the friends and the singing. But I’m glad I’m not lying anymore. I still have a moral code. It’s just not driven by the Heaven-carrot and the Hell-stick. I choose what I believe is right and true and moves humanity in the direction I’d like to see it go. I choose gentleness and kindness for my own sake as well as for others. And if I’m wrong about it, because who knows, and the loving God does send me straight to Hell for my disbelief, then I will be proud I didn’t waste any more of my time bowing down to someone so unfair. But obviously proud in eternal agony. Still worth it.