Were you always an atheist? Were you at one point in time a Christian, Muslim, Jew, etc.? What made you stop believing?

I'm sure we could all give voluminous answers to why we don't believe in a personal god including, but not limited to: Personal, philosophical, scientific, historical, etc. reasons; which are all perfectly valid. But I want to know what spurred you to question your former beliefs and become an atheist.

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Childhood, I would always ask god to reveal himself. The lack of consequence
i was born and raised to be a devout Irish catholic. i learned to read when i was very young. in fact, i cannot remember a time when i could not read. i didn't give the brainwashing much thought until i was in catholic elementary school and was a voracious reader though a poor student. i read the bible, classic myths, folk tales from around the world. the catholic fallacies were obvious to me even back then. it frightened me that i was the only one who seemed to grasp them. it frightened me that i was the only one who was disgusted with the dogma. i asked simple questions hoping someone would be able to comfort my fears that caused me to be ostracized. the parallels between santa and god / jesus still amuse me.
i tried to believe and desperately wanted to believe for most of my childhood years because i wanted to fit in. at about 13 or 14 i came out as a nonbeliever in god which was passed off as a phase and showed me the true nature of many people. i developed an interest in buddhism which was ignored as a phase from my family. when i learned about wicca which my freinds were into my curiosity caused problems for me with my family. in my late teens through my early twenties i began to take an interest in philosophy and after exhausting the libraries resources i finally admitted to myself what i'd known all along - deep down i don't believe in anything spiritual. i was trying to believe in something / anything to feel a sense of belonging.
ever since that day i've been liberated.
I am one of those people Christians point to and go, "something bad happened to you, didn't it?"

I always think, "of course you would think that. You know that bad stuff happens in religion that makes people want to leave!"

But the bad stuff that happened to me made me leave the church. It was the good stuff that happened to me that made me tell myself that I was an active disbeliever in gods, magic, and all kinds of nonsense. It was a declaration of Independence. A rejection of something -- we Subgeniis like to call it "The Conspiracy"--tried to force on me. False values, false self-hatred, false fears. I looked at how hard I was trying to hate myself, and I realized that I didn't at all. I was trying to hate myself because that was how I was Being a Christian, and I realized that I had to lose all of that nonsense because it just wasn't true. It was all a lie. I was pretty cool, no matter how the things I thought and did made me ugly, depraved and debased, according to my church's teachings.

That was the "epiphany."

After that came the whole Julia Sweeney experience. I read and studied and really read the bible. That was the work. The first part was cracking the shell, the mask that the church had placed over me. Once it was open, I was free to think the things I wanted, and to actually read the bible for what it was. You know, they tell you to read the bible with "special eyes." That's for dummies. I got to read the bible with the same eyes I used to read street signs, books and homework. That's when you get to look up and say "do people actually READ this thing?"

It made my world very small, this shell of mine. But while I walked around in the shell, I had parents who actively tried to show me how big the world really was. Dad was an amateur astronomer, and talked about philosophy. It was the 70's and mom was discovering feminism. She had a HUGE shell of a world to break out of. They both read to me and discussed what they learned. If mom and dad were actually making their own worlds bigger, if mom and dad had a world bigger than the church, maybe mine could be, too.

When they caused a schism in the church, that was a big crack i my shell! But I had to crack my own--I had to pursue interests that were entirely outside the family as well. If the church was a shell, I suppose my family world was another one.

My teenage rebellion was so important, I think. I had to go against my own parents for awhile to validate that I could make judgements and not go to hell. I came out as an atheist, expecting fireworks. I ended up getting agreement, (sigh) but it took courage nonetheless.

And that's how I became an atheist.
I was raised a non-denominational christian by my uneducated and reactionary family. That didn't work too well on their end, though. I was always interested in both science and mythology from as far back as I can remember, and my father is agnostic, so I think those things provided a good basis for me questioning the church religion.

The first defining moment I can remember, of actually thinking "Hey wait, that can't be right," happened in Sunday school when I was 8 or 9. Before that, I'd been all about those bible camps and children's bible stories books and church-sponsored fun time, but that moment was the start of my foray into unorthodox belief. It was as simple as my Sunday school teacher telling us that animals don't have souls and couldn't go to heaven. I, being an animal lover, having an intrinsic feeling of what I have only learned recently is called biophilia, immediately renounced (to myself) the idea that church people had the truth.

Then I started reading the bible. I lost patience after Genesis, pretty much, but the imagery intrigued me. I started trying to poke holes in the narrative and twist it in ways that Christians didn't like very much. When I read the story of Lucifer, I thought, "Hey, this guy disobeyed. There's nothing wrong with that, I disobey too. He's not evil, God was just mad at him." So I thought Lucifer was pretty cool for a while. I didn't believe in Satan, though. I had come to the conclusion that "The Devil" was just a story to scare people into being good. I found "deism" in the dictionary, thought that was cool too, and came up with the idea that god made the world like in Genesis, kind of, and then magic and all these spirits and such took over. I wrote stories about fairies that were the daughters of god. (It was very feministy - all the guy fairies were evil.) And I didn't see how believing in these was any different from believing in saints and prophets and that guy named Jesus.

And then...I started reading mythology. Native American, Greco-Roman, Norse, Celtic, African, Egyptian, Sumerian, Asian, medieval superstitions, fairy tales, witchcraft, world religions, New Age, faith healing, dream travel, early-1900s spiritualism...everything. I lived in the library, just about. My christian anything disappeared by age 10, replaced by a childishly imaginative, everything-goes eclectic polytheistic paganism. Realising that religion was basically just stuff people made up...I basically just made shit up and taught myself to believe it. It was fun. Like a big, complicated game of make-believe. I even got my friends into it. Toward the end of this phase, for about 2 years or so, I styled myself a Wiccan Witch, and spent lots of time happily casting "healing spells" on my friends, praying to nature goddesses, and doing circle ceremonies. That was really fun.

I was really, REALLY imaginative. No, I didn't get out much.

When I was about 14, though, a lot of serious stuff happened in my life that made me have to be an adult and face reality, not the least of which was the discovery that - hey! - I liked girls too. I woke up one day, the day after a Wiccan festival day, and remembered with a shock that I'd forgotten about it completely. This was shortly followed by the shock that I didn't care. Obviously, all the spells and incantations and moon goddess invocations in the WORLD could not get rid of all the crazy shit that was going down in my life. I discovered soon after that my best friend, who had been doing all this crap with me for 3 years, had also come to the simultaneous conclusion that she didn't believe. I packed up all my wands, spell books, pentagrams and tarot cards, and headed off to high school as an openly non-religious bisexual.

My high school years frankly sucked, and I gradually shed just about every irrational belief I held. Karma, astrology, empathy, "spirits", "energies"...bye bye. It was liberating, but also frustrating, because these were the things that my non-christian friends stubbornly clung to. (Oh yeah, and there were a lot of silly Wiccans.) Even so, I didn't consider my atheism anything to talk about. I even coined the term "apathist" to describe someone who doesn't believe in god out of just not giving a damn. I was political, and I was against christianity, but I didn't even think of combining the two.

When I was 16, I stumbled upon atheism.about.com. I was an atheist already, I'd freely admit it, but I didn't know anything about the standard arguments, logical fallacies, history of atheism, all the different names for it...I started looking at all kinds of sites about atheism, skepticism, biblical inconsistencies, philosophy, myth debunking, popular superstitions, stupid things fundies do, and I realised...this makes me care! I promptly went to the library to find books on atheism. The first one I grabbed was, of course... The God Delusion. I hadn't heard of Richard Dawkins yet, but as I read it, I kept realising that he was telling me in better words what I already believed about religion. I was all over atheism after that. Dawkins didn't convert me, but damn did he make me think.

So here I am. I've been a non-christian for almost ten years, a nonbeliever for 5, and a dedicated self-educated skeptical humanist atheist for over two years. In that short space of time, I have come to deeply value all those things like free speech, respect for other life, culture, science, reason, disillusionment, secular morality, education, love, peace, equality, social justice and happiness. It was not until I stopped believing in stupid things that I learned the real value of just being good to people.

I don't feel like my atheism has replaced religion. I have just stopped needing a religion. I've always been an unorthodox sort of girl. :)
Hey people. Just joined the site. :)

My story is nothing special really, but here it goes.

Both of my parents are/were catholic so that's what I was semi-raised as. I was baptized at the ripe old age of 2... My dad who passed away last year, was raised catholic but he didn't seem to be very devout at all. He never went to church or even talked about his faith as far as I remember. It's definitely possible he was a closet atheist/agnostic himself but I guess I'll never know the truth. My mom on the other hand is more involved in the church.
As a child she made me go to church once in a while but as I got older she let me decide on my own. While I did believe in God, I despised going. Catholic masses are extremely dull compared to other christian sects, especially for a young child to sit through. So I pretty much quit going. My mom didn't mind as long as I believed in Jesus. I was never big on prayer either. When my mom asked if I prayed before I went to bed I would lie and say I did. Praying always felt so pointless and moronic. Yet I still talked myself to believe in god out of fear.
It wasn't until I was about 15 when I finally accepted reality and identified myself as an atheist. I vaguely remember the moment it hit me. I was a freshman in high school and I had just left my biology class, which I did exceptionally well in. We were covering evolution. I realized how much more sense it made than the creation story. Along with that the other inconsistencies of the bible started to become clear. That was almost 5 years ago. Although it seems more like 10.
It was only recently (less than a year ago) I told my mom I was atheist. This was really hard for her to accept. Emotionally she wasn't in a good state with my dad dying just recently. She blamed herself for not... I guess, brainwashing me more. However the more I talked to her about our beliefs the more she began to accept mine. I even got her to question her faith quite a bit.
So right now I'm just living life, not worrying about pleasing some old bearded man in the sky. It feels much more rewarding to be a good person for it's own sake rather than hoping I'm good enough to get into heaven and stay out of hell.

 i found the whole church experience distasteful growing up.I think I wanted to believe at one point but just could not. Not believeing scared me as a as a kid.

 I was in church when I realized it was all bullshit. The preacher ranting about hell helped in that regard. i realized what he was saying was impossible.

I was born into a Christian household. I was a firm believer and fundamentalist until I was 15, but I didn't really make it known that I'd become an atheist and stop going to church until I was 17. I'm now 20 and nearly six years sober. :)

It started out being a a general skepticism in The Bible, which of course is no mystery as to why I turned from it. Then I began to wonder if the believe in god(s) itself held any merit, and I just didn't see any reason to believe in it based on the lack of evidence.

From a personal standpoint, I've tried many other religions, and the only stance that felt completely true to myself was atheism. Having been through and studied all of the major religions, it's really the only position I could ever be in.

As for myself, I went in stages from liberal Christian theist, wavering Christian/Agnostic, Pagan, and finally Atheist. The conflict of what's condoned in the bible while assuming a good god was the author never sat well with me, especially when I quit just running with the fables provided and read some of the book outright. Paganism held an appeal because it made sense to make the earth sacred, because it's what we all rely on to provide sustenance. Manna was as tangible as ambrosia, after all. However, the necessity of involving magick, which was also unsubstantiated, made me kind of uncomfortable. Energy never worked quite as the Cunningham and Starhawk tomes would declare. And the reliance on invisible deities (admittedly the only ones still generally worshiped), romantic as pagan ones are, also itched at what was my rational brain center. At this point Richard Dawkins had just made a splash with his BBC tv series, Root of All Evil and the bestselling God Delusion, which helped greatly in wafting away what remained of my superstitious stupor.
The simplest, and most apt, answer of why I'm an atheist is simply that I couldn't be otherwise.
The biggest mistake xians make is our reasons for deconverting. Since the babble is parable-ridden I thought maybe they would understand this, my personal story in parable.

My name's Numan.

I got a letter from a big company president, Rod, saying I was hired. It was a tough job, requiring me to go against my ownnature at times, but to work hard and I'd succeed.

I was to make a great deal, but here's the catch, I wouldn't know how much until payday. I was suspicious, but Rod said every Numan had a payday, only no Numan knows exactly when.

Still skeptical, I read on. Rod assured me that there was a company manual everyone in my department, the church of Rod, knew about that would answer nearly every question I would have and a supervisior who knew the manual inside out. Plus, if I wished, I could use the intercom and talk directly to Rod. There was a seperate division, the crapolics, that had their own vice-prez to talk to Rod.

I went to work and soon had questions. The questions mounted and my co-workers just smiled and did their jobs, which consisted mostly of not pissing off Rod. I consulted the company manual, and it raised more questions than it answered. I consulted the department super, and he just kept telling me Rod was a great boss and I should just have faith in him.

My co-workers didn't seem to notice that the intercom didn't work. In fact, they seemed to be quite satisfied to talk into it and then walk away. I pushed the button in every possible way, and pleaded with Rod to answer even on of my questions, but to no avail.

Then I saw the answer. There was no Rod. The various department bosses may have thought there was, and certainly had the workers convinced, but I couldn't make myself believe that a decent Rod would run a company like this.

So I quit.

Several of my former co-workers, and even people in other departments, told me Rod would find me and kill me, either now or on payday. Others said I'd really never worked for the company or I would have never quit. Still others say Rod will pay me anyway since I once worked for him.

Since I never saw or heard from Rod myself, I have serious doubts, but I'll find out on payday. Or not.
Well for me it was quite simple. I was a born again Christian as a young man in my early twenties (I mean who isn't in the State of Indiana). Then I decided to go to college.  That simple.  When exposed to basic scientific models and concepts I began to understand how truly wonderful the natural world is. Religion no longer made any sense as it clearly provided no answers to even the simplest facets of nature. However I did have an enormous curiosity and even as a teenager had a set of Time Life books on science and evolution (still have them, published, I'm sure long before you were born!) so I guess I had some native intelligence. Anyway, I believe if an individual has at least a combination on native intelligence, curiosity and access to higher learning, superstitions would soon become a thing of the past.

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