The first story comes from Jiri, and sounds very similar to my own story:
My story is really simple. I was born and always lived in one of the least religious countries in the world. At the time of my birth, less than 40% of people here were self-reportedly religious, now down below 20% and still decreasing. Nobody in my family 2 generations back was ever religious.
Apart from seeing several churches in the city around (and not really knowing what they were for), I never encountered any piece of religion during my childhood. I guess that is, in fact, why I don’t believe in any gods.
Later on, in my teens, two things happened. I became interested in STEM fields, and I started to discover the state of the world. We were not taught almost anything about religion in school, it was simply ignored as unimportant, so I was completely shocked by the widespread prevalence of religion and the obvious problems it causes. I found out that the country of most of my ancestors, Poland, bordering my country just 20 km from my home, is dominated by Christian nutbags, making my irreligious upbringing nothing more than an accident of history and geography. I found out that most of my peers don’t have any opinion about religion other than politically correct shit. I started to read and watch stuff, and through my interest in science, quickly bumped into the “new atheism”. And it made sense. So I always was an atheist, which is not weird where I live. Now I identify as agnostic atheist, anti-theist, secular humanist.
From my position, I watch with awe what’s happening in North America and elsewhere.
Next, we have Julian’s story:
I began to rebel against Catholicism when I was a few fingers old. My devout father had 5 of us kneeling in a row praying the rosary. Neighborhood kids would come over and see us. Cruel teasing ensued, and I rebelled, this gave me a choice, the belt and the closet or obey and pretend to pray.
I realized that I preferred pain and isolation. 12 years of Catholic school didn’t help with my salvation. First communion had Monsignor Powers teaching us that God is separate from us and we need Jesus to bring us to him.
He said we needed to believe that the host and wine WERE the body and blood of Christ.
Being a dumb 6 year old I didn’t know what the words allegory and metaphor meant so I asked if we pretend this, I wasn’t stupid I could see that the cracker was not turned to meat.
This got me in big trouble, the nuns all knew that I was a troublemaker. It got to the point of the monsignor showing me the school furnace telling me I’ll burn in hell if I don’t shape up. Every year after this I humbly obeyed pretending the motions but hated every minute of mass and religious indoctrination in class.
And here is Gregory’s story:
I was raised Catholic from the age of 7 on, I went to a Catholic high school where I learned about evolution and even debunked the creation story in religion class. I joined the military right out of high school and that is where I first encountered evangelicals. They were so sure they were right and yet so wrong. Being Catholic, they of course thought I wasn’t a Christian, which annoyed me because the Catholic Church came first.
During my time in the Marine Corps it so happened that the Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart scandals took place as well as Oral Roberts claiming he needed a million dollars or god was going to “recall” him. The hypocrisy made me laugh, but hey I was Catholic.
Right after I got out of the military and I returned to my home in Detroit and right about the same time the Archbishop of Detroit was in the process of closing a bunch of churches in the city citing “decline attendance”, which translates to “they ain’t making enough money”. Many of these churches were in poorer neighborhoods and that ticked me off and the straw that broke the camel’s back is when the Archbishop got promoted by John Paul the deuce. I was like the “Catholic Church isn’t any better than the other evangelicals”. That coupled with a friend of mine pointed out just confessing your sins to a priest doesn’t actually absolve you of the sins, you have to actually be sorry you did them and I surely wasn’t sorry for many of those things because I enjoyed doing them and why not, it was fun.
So I decided to stop calling myself Catholic or any other sect of Christian and just called myself Christian with my own ethos, stopped taking communion, the works. I still thought about the whole “god” and religion thing and not too long after that, I became kind of a deist even though back then I did not even know what a deist was. I just figured if there was a god it was so powerful that it could grant anybody in any religion that religions credo.
I also started college around this time and took a philosophy course and the professor made a point that if we were being true to ourselves which should question if there was even a god, so I did. At first it passed the test but as time went on it really stopped making sense and I just didn’t know if I believed any more or not, I was just not sure so I took to calling myself an agnostic.
I went by that title for a while and the internet was starting to really blossom and there were groups online and I went searching for some so I could talk to people of a like mind, since I didn’t know any in my real life. I joined a Yahoo group but that sucked. I ended up in a “Myspace” Atheist and Agnostics group and it was awesome; lots of great topics and after one particular discussion about how one can be both an atheist and agnostic, I realized I was an atheist. This whole process took probably 20 years with a few years at each step until I finally realized I was an atheist.
Thanks, everyone, for sending me your stories. I think I will forever refer to Pope John Paul the 2nd as “John Paul the deuce” now.