I never experienced any religious beliefs in my life. So it's quite a normal thing for me to be an atheist. I never lost friends or family because of any conversion. I know the opposite is true for many people. But maybe there wasn't any conversion at all, maybe the circumstances determinate how people had to think. There will be stories of oppression and abuse of power also. I consider myself very lucky being raised in a liberal family. I had the opportunity to create my very own model of the Universe. I know many people hadn't.
And for the sake of language: is the word "conversion" the appropriate way to describe the process of becoming a non-believer, a person that doesn't depend on belief to create his own model of Reality?
There must be a difference between refuting religious beliefs in general and refuting your own.
Or is it more like a difference in character? For instance: do romantic people have a certain tendency towards "believing"? Or the opposite way: are non-believers also non-romantic people? A lot of people have freed themselves from religion at an older age, 30+. What has kept them so long?
Hear me well, I'm not into division between categories, it's just about understanding the different routes that have led people towards the method of not using religious dogma to get a grip on life.
I'm looking for the connection, but I'm also aware of a difference between people who had to fight against religion and the people who had the privilege to be born free.
I've been an atheist since about 13 or 14. I used to defend my beliefs rather vehemently ( i was raised Catholic) and then one day came to the realization that i was arguing for something I didn't really believe in. I was young so I didn't know much as far as the natural world goes, but I did know that I didn't feel any love or faith in God, my defense was just habit ingrained in me by my family. Being a "convert" I can't really give you the whole perspective, but I find that I'm stronger and more active in my beliefs (or lack there-of) than some people I know who were just raised without religion. Its almost as if they're indifferent and we who lost our faith have a sort of hitch in our step, almost as if we resent the church for lying to us all those years.
Like you, I grew up without acquiring religion. David Eller, author of Natural Atheism, refers to folks like us as "natural atheists," to be distinguished from those who once believed in god(s) and then shed that belief.
The main reason for taking note of this difference, he posits, is to recognize the different life experiences of these two types. For one thing, some, perhaps most, of those who "converted" to atheism after once believing in god(s) have experienced some emotional pain, trauma, or other difficulties associated with that transition. For some, it was smooth and easy, but for many it was hard and difficult. So-called natural atheists typically have not had that sort of experience.
I don't know if anyone else here shares my view, but I find it quite unnatural and unnecessary to say "I am an atheist". Its not that there is a God and I don't beleive in him, but that the concept of God is itself made-up. So what is there to either beleive or disbeleive in?
In other words, if someone asks me "do you beleive in God?", my honest answer would be "what are you talking about" (meaning, what is it that you called God) rather than just "No".
I think that this isn't just semantics, but is an indication of one's approach to this whole question. However, its perhaps possible that others use the same words with quite a different meaning.