Your Stories of Atheism: Just A Homo Sapiens Made of Stardust

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.

The first story this week is from Tanya:

I grew up in a Christian home. It was required that I go to church every Sunday, youth group, crusaders, and other church related activities. I was never given the opportunity to choose what to believe. It was: you believe in God or you go to hell for eternity. Those were the only choices. I lived in fear and confusion of the repercussions of not believing in God and the church. I knew never to question the beliefs I was being taught; my parents would simply not hear of it.

I moved out when I was 18. Even then, I still didn’t question my ‘Christianity’. I knew nothing else. Thinking back on it now, I find it so odd how I just continued to go along with it; even when no one was there demanding my belief and devotion to God.

Becoming an atheist didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow progression. As time went on, I began to question what I believe in; to really examine my own feelings on the subject of God and religion.

I freely admit I am an atheist; although I doubt my family knows – they’ve never asked. They do know I don’t go to church. They still talk about God in conversations with me, they still send me religious cards on occasions, they still want to pray during family dinners; and I let them. I have learned to accept that some people need the idea of religion, and that is ok. I am happy and content being a non-believer. That is all that matters. Everyone is free to believe in whatever is right for them.

This one is from Bazza:

Aged five, my parents took me to “Sunday School”. During one lesson we were told about the feeding of the five thousand with a few loaves and fish. Even at such a young age I knew it simply wasn’t possible to feed so many with so little so I asked the “teacher” how it was done. Her explanation that it was a miracle simply didn’t make sense. The numbers were specific, no question. The loaves, the fishes, the people. She persisted with the “miracle” version but I wasn’t convinced.

Weeks later when she invited me to believe this same man “walked on water” I told my parents the stories I was being told were silly. They said if that’s how their five-year-old felt then I could stop going. I did and now, knowing what I now know, the continued indoctrination of children into a religion is deeply troubling.

Finally, this story was submitted anonymously:

I live and work in the bible belt so this is going to have to be anonymous.

I recently embraced what I prefer to think of as rationality, not a big fan of the A word, for reasons that Sam Harris and Neil DeGrasse Tyson have articulated so well.

How I got here, when I was a child my folks went to a Lutheran Church and I found it desperately dull, and then came Sunday School which wasn’t much better. I remember on the drive to and from church listening to Edna Barber (The Mighty I Am) and being thoroughly terrified. I also remember looking out the window and seeing these thistles with wicked sharp spines and thinking about how painful they would be and asking my parents how God could permit such things. I didn’t get a very satisfactory answer. It turns out that the Lutheran pastor was a liberal who emphasized community and forgiveness etc. and when he moved on, my parents stopped going. Later on they became friends with a Methodist couple and I attended bible camp, again fairly liberal, nice people etc., not a great time but not bad, no feelings of spirituality on my part. It didn’t last more than a year. My parents ceased going altogether. Now both are atheists.

I’ve always had some ability to detect bullshit. When I was in 7th/8th grade in my Civics class they would show us these old State Dept. films about the Red Menace and one of the explanations that was given for the citizens putting up with these horrible governments was that they were subjected to dum de dum dum PROPAGANDA. At some point I volunteered that the films we were watching were, uh, propaganda, and at that point my classmates and probably my teacher decided I was a Communist. So, reasonably good analytical skills/poor social filter.

When attending night school in my early 20s, working an hourly crap job, & poor, I met a professor who was a conservative Catholic (St. Pius X) and he got into my head with all the stuff that would work on me, the intellectualism/tradition and ritual, it was very exotic. For a while I dreamed of becoming a Saint (inorite) I read the bible cover to cover, I read Augustine, John Henry Newman, I was VERY SERIOUS. and then it’s like I realized it wasn’t going to happen. And I quit trying.

Then (sorry for political stuff) the country went cocoa-crazy for Reagan and all of this really nutty stuff started coming out of the woodwork and mainstream Christianity “became” a mean and nasty country club that I wanted nothing to do with. I would read things about people like MLK and Quakers etc that I thought “got” Christianity (cherry-picking out the decent things in the bible) and so I was agnostic.

star-dustEarlier this year, about Easter, one of the quiet “gentlemanly” guys I ride with told us he was going to talk about Noah on Sunday and I was about to tell him about the Ryan/Pittman theory (probably false) about the Black Sea when he went on a 30 minute YEQ’r tirade. I don’t remember him dragging out the T-Rex embryo-theory, but he did explain that it was totally possible that all of the kingdom of animals fit on the ark because you have to remember that wolves evolved into dogs. And with my new and improved social filter I bit my tongue and thought, whelp all you need is Noah plus a pontoon boat and a couple of kegs of primordial ooze plus tectonic plates playing bumper cars etc. Thing is this guy is a professional and very good at his job and I would say, smart, despite the evidence to the contrary.

My rationality then kicked in and I decided that this guy needed to feel special, that he needed to be one of God’s chosen people (uh, nevermind the millions who’ve been unfortunate enough to be born where they will never hear about Christianity). At that point I decided to look into the A word and decided that was absolutely for me. It feels pretty fucking good to just be a homo sapiens made of star-dust.

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

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