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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Your Stories of Atheism: Zombies and Frauds

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, comes from Brendan. We know him as Prototype Atheist and he can be followed at @ProtoAtheist:

As a child, I was raised in the Catholic faith, but was generally skeptical of the doctrine as I grew older. The congregation reminded me of zombies as they droned on each Sunday with their pre-rehearsed prayers and contrived rituals. I never felt any “spiritual connection” or feelings. Talking to God only felt like talking to myself. After this experience, I became an atheist for a short time during high school. However, I convinced myself that maybe the problem was simply with Catholicism, so I spent several years trying different churches and Christian belief systems, read the entire Bible independently, and even became fully engrossed in rapture theology via the “Left Behind” book series (and sadly, the associated straight-to-DVD movies starring Kirk Cameron!). However, my lack of spirituality persisted. Something just didn’t seem right. As I worked towards my degree in molecular biology and considered what I had read in the Bible, Christianity just wasn’t a valid option any more. A study of other world religions, history, philosophy, and sound logical arguments led me to the inevitable conclusion: there are no gods. I’ve only made my atheism public within the past year or two. I know that most of my family disagrees with my position, but for the most part they don’t mention it, and in turn I respect their right to hold a different opinion, even if I don’t respect the beliefs themselves. I have vowed to allow my children to make up their own mind regarding their beliefs. I have resolved myself to explaining my worldview as clearly and accurately as possible to anyone willing to listen, which is why I have started an online presence under the name Prototype Atheist. I am Brendan. I am a scientist. I am a husband and father. I am determined to dispel the misconceptions and stereotypes that come with the label I apply to myself. I am also an atheist.

The next one is from Tom:

I can elaborate on how it was, being raised by a born-again young-earth creationist, police officer father that praises every word that leaks out of Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck’s mouth. I can tell you how many times I’ve read the entire bible, what books I used to recite by memory or how many days I was “blessed” to fast as punishment for not doing youth group homework. Yes I was “indoctrinated” as a young boy, “obligated” to listen to hours of TV evangelicals, bible homework, taught to idolize Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort, Ken Ham, Kent Hovind and the other bullshit pseudoscientists. But Fuck all that. I want to elaborate on the people that helped me emancipate my mind from the dogma, from a tyrannical “god”. The people that save minds from ignorance that aren’t honored. My HS freshman english teacher, who introduced me to the Transcendentalists, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self Reliance” which I couldn’t live without; Simon Schama who introduced me to Great Art, to Caravaggio’s disdain for the gods, Rothko’s gorgeous essence of tragedy and Van Gogh’s never-ending benevolence towards mankind; My HS senior art teacher who helped me get into art school and land a scholarship; My homie who introduced me to the Existentialists, Nihilists, Richard Dawkins; My christian friend who introduced me to Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, C.S. Lewis, Malcolm Gladwell and continues to teach me the language of Philosophy (logic I think ;); And finally, My father who steadfastly supports me (nowadays) my goals and problems. I am an Atheist, I am a Humanist, I am Bipolar, I am an Artist and Writer… and I owe many people my gratitude.

And finally, an extremely interesting story from Stevie:

I was brought up in a small Yorkshire village and attended a Church of England primary school. My parents are not religious, and the school was an excellent little school with the usual morning assembles with The Lords Prayer and the occasional visit from the local vicar. We’d learn the occasional bible story but it never felt like any of it was being forced down your throat, only pleasant stories to act out or paint pictures to. There was no indoctrination, and I can’t think of a single person that I know that has ended up religious or a ‘believer’ in any way that attended that school. So, although I was aware of some of the ‘child-friendly’ bible stories & participated on the typical Christian traditions, I never believed in God or Jesus. I was fascinated with wildlife, natural history, dinosaurs and fossils, and from that followed learning all I could about them. I still have a nice little fossil collection that I like to swoon over every now and again 😉 As I grew up and started University, my fascination hadn’t waned. BUT then I met a girl…after a short while and plenty of good times later, she told me that her and her family were born-again Christians….(??). I said I was cool with it (as she showed very little interest in it, so it really wasn’t an issue between the two of us) and a short while later as the time came to meet the folks, it became apparent that they would look more favourably if I went to church…which I didn’t see the harm in and agreed. It was clear from the church pastors sermons that dating a non-Christian wasn’t good. But I showed willing and thought ‘well I’ll see where this goes’. Most of time I would sit there thinking ‘what am I doing here’ and almost laughed out loud a few times. I persisted, until it started to get more serious with my gf and ‘marriage’ was talked about. Now, I knew it wouldn’t go down well, her marrying a non-Christian. But by saying the words ‘Jesus died for my sins’ it was enough to convince the whole family I had been ‘saved’. Now, was I really ‘saved’? Not really, I’d spent quite a while now engulfed in the Church’s way of life. I was given the honour of saying grace at meal times, and now had a more respected stance in the young men’s bible group….then my heart sank when I heard the word ‘Baptism’…….the Church pastors quickly convinced me that baptism was a great way to demonstrate my new found faith, and to ensure I brought my family along (gulp). So…lo and behold a month later I was being dunked in front of a packed church, my mum and dad standing at the back with that ‘what the hell is going on’ look on their faces. Well, now I was an honorary Born-again fraud. It wasn’t that I hadn’t tried, I listened to the sermons, I went to bible groups, I read my bible, but it just wasn’t enough. Privately I was dying inside, it was eating away at who I was. I was putting on this act for the sake of my relationship.

Was it worth it? Well, a short while before my impending marriage my fiancé confessed to having an affair with her boss (policewoman, no surprise there!) and it gave me the perfect excuse to pack up and leave. I was of course upset over the revelation at the time, and equally embarrassed over what I’d been doing for the past 3yrs…..letting my actual friends and family think I was a bloody Christian…(which goes against every grain in my body). Having said that, my experience within the Church was worthwhile in the sense of emphasising my atheism. I am definitely more atheist because of that deeper knowledge of what is being preached with the Church. Once I’d cleared my head, there really was no doubt as to where my allegiance lies. I have since studied the bible even closer. Scrutinised every word, and laughed out loud like I should have done in the first place sat that in that Church. I’ve seen first hand how a little bit of peer pressure can lead to entrapment.

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




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