I'm interested in the thought process that allows reason to triumph over faith and leads people from belief in god through doubt and questioning, culminating at the statement 'I am an atheist'. Where did your train of thought start, what stops did it make, do you think you have reached your final destination in finding answers to the Big Questions?
Please share your story here.

Tags: process, reason, thought

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i'll answer even though i can't say i ever really believed in a god at all. i just remember being young-- 8,9,10 that kind of thing-- and being aware that friends of my family, friends of mine, and their families went to church or to temple and thinking it was odd. i was raised by my mother a non-practicing episcopalian and my step father a non practicing reformed jew. they never told me that there was any religion that had sole ownership of Ultimate Truth. they just told me what their religions believed and they urged me to make up my own mind. they fostered an environment where i felt it was okay to question things.
so i did. i distinctly recall asking questions of people about what they believed and about why they believed and never getting any answers at all or any that made sense to me anyway. i has always been an avid reader so i turned to books for answers. i read anything i could get my hands on that i could understand at the age of ten. the stuff i read gave me the first of what seemed to me to be real answers to the questions i was asking. it still hadn't read anything up until the age of 11 that really critically examined the bible so i sort of felt that i didn't believe in god but i didn't know what to make about the bible. i didn't know at that point that i was an atheist already. it was when i was 11 that i read Age of Reason by Paine for the first time. i was shocked to find descriptions of contradictions in the bible narrative. Paine made sense to me (even though now when i reread AoR i think Paine didn't go far enough and if he knew what we know today he'd likely be an atheist). i went off to confirm that what he pointed to as contradictions really existed. i read the bible for the first time when i was almost 12. i found it to be full of the most obvious atrocities, full of those contradictions mentioned by Paine and many more.
it was following my reading of the bible that i found George H. Smith's wonderful Atheism: The Case Against God. i read it, then quickly reread it quickly in succession. when i was done i was almost 12 and i knew i was an atheist.
since then i've always been interested in religion, reading everything i can about it, and i remain an atheist. no matter what i read it seems like the apologists are like cheerleaders; cheering for their team even though their team is down by 20 in the last minutes of the 4th quarter, while the atheists just make sense to me.
i am now what is better described as an anti-theist. i am against religion in all of it's forms. it is an impediment to morality and to the progress of the species.
How did I arrive at Atheism?

Well, I took this road, followed the signs, and there it was, a big sign that said atheism, and I knew I arrived.

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Actually, I have never been very religious. I recalled telling my dad that I didn't really subscribed to a religion sometime when I was a pre-teen and he accepted it.

I couldn't reallly find any proof of a god. I had a few times prayed to ask God to prove his existance, and of course, nothing happened.

I was fortunet, that I had found atheist among my peers in school, so I never found it a big deal to be an atheist.
From earliest memory I was agnostic: expelled from Sunday school at age 5 - with even a recommendation for exorcism (!) - for not being able to stop making jokes or controlling my laughter at the shite they wanted to shovel down my throat. Then out of sheer disgust, became atheist on principle. Now, fully Atheist, with perhaps a dash of Deist doubt.

The one consistent, deeply rooted feeling throughout - if there is a God that is capable of creating something like our Universe, at they very best they would view all of the world's religions with the same type of amusement as when you view a science experiment that goes spectaculary and unexpectedly wrong. More likely, I think any kind of creator would feel a profound and nauseating disgust.
It was always there, lurking, in the part of my brain that keeps track of reality. But I was raised in a belief system where doubts about God's existence were equated with prideful arrogance. Keenly aware of my limitations, I acquiesced, time and time again. One manner of coping with the nagging suspicion that God simply wasn't there was to become increasingly involved in worshipping him- the more I'd do for him, the more real he'd become. It didn't work. I found that quite the opposite was true. The emptiness grew exponentially.

What finally convinced me was, quite ironically, becoming honest in my prayers. Instead of begging for faith, I asked simply for the ability to see reality, in all its beauty and harshness. I asked for the strength to accept whatever that meant. It was no longer about beating myself up for not getting it, for my lack of faith. Now in my supplications I had given myself the permission to see with clarity, no longer clouded by assumptions or preconceived notions.

If I ever received an answer to my prayers, I did then. God told me that he wasn't there. :)

Thank you for asking this question, Ruth.

Regards,

Nate
Nate..
I created a group on another site called "Pray for Atheism"...I thought it was just a clever paradoxical name. I see now it wasn't. Wonderful response to my question. Thank YOU.
Jim..
This was a truly mind-warming exposition. Thank you so much for adding to my store of stories. It always delights me to read proof that, as opposed to believers, atheists almost always make a thoughtful determination to disregard religion. I have never heard a solid reason for swallowing the dogma of any church from anyone of faith...probably because there are none. Thanks again for your intelligent response.
My train of thought started back when i entered high school. i became very depressed and started questioning things. Then I began listening to my current favorite band, Rage Against the Machine. They liberated me from a lot of narrow-minded thinking and opened my eyes to a lot. They got me questioning things even more. Then I took biology last year in school. It disproves so many things about religion (especially the Genesis creation story). It kept going until I eventually did not believe in God anymore. I find it absurd and immature to believe in a higher being and I feel sorry for those who think they are so righteous when they're just pompous jackasses.
By the way, I was baptized as a baby, raised Lutheran, and confirmed in the Lutheran Church. I have rejected all that since.
Good for you, Nick! It's heartening to find young people actually thinking about what they've been force-fed from birth and rejecting the teachings of parents and ministers at an early age. Keep going forward into the light of reason and don't let some Christian rock band cause you to backslide!
Whelp, here goes!

I was raised in a mormon community. As a child it was the only thing I knew, and I was afraid of the "rest of the world." My family was extra religious, even compared to our neighbors, and it was a fright!

I didn't challenge my religion as a child. I think, because I wasn't being offered anything realistic to cling to, the religion was the only source of constancy I had in an otherwise chaotic home. Because of that, I used to think that I wasn't a skeptic until much later in life. But when I really consider it, while I didn't question mormonism as a child, I was very skeptical about other things. I challenged my parents a lot. I was never satisfied when I was told something but saw something different. The seeds got planted early. They just took a while to germinate!

When I was about 14, two of my siblings started college and took courses in philosophy. I would sit and listen to the conversations they had with their friends. Sometimes they would directly criticize the church, other times they would just speculate about various ideas they had that were antithetical to it. It was my first exposure to critical thinking, and I loved it. I decided at that point that I was a "mystic" - that I believed in the mysticism of the mormon church but not its literal aspects.

Then, at 17 when I went to college myself, I was walking across campus, considering religion. Suddenly I stopped walking, and thought, "screw mysticism, this church is an institution. And as an institution it is sexist, racist, and homophobic. I refuse to be aligned with something like that." Then I resumed walking. From that moment on I was no longer a mormon. And since I wasn't going to swap one religion for another, I no longer considered myself religious. [An aside: most mormons have a much longer and tortuous process of leaving the church. I'm not sure why mine was so succinct.]

For many years I toyed with differing versions of belief. First, I believed in god but not religion. Then I stopped believing in god, but still believed in a LOT of "supernatural" stuff. I considered myself pagan for a while, learned the tarot, learned astrology, etc.,etc.!

A critical time in my journey was a relationship I had with a wildlife biologist. He helped me really understand Darwin, evolution, and some ecology. A lot of my world view hinges around the animal world, our place as humans in that world, and the beauty and wonder of evolution. I started to be braver about calling myself an atheist. I still held on to some of my supernatural beliefs, but I was gradually letting reason win over magical thinking.

Now I really and truly embrace myself as an atheist and a skeptic. The magical thinking has fallen away. (I hope!) I read about physics, astronomy, cosmology, biology, and medicine every chance I get. They are not things I got to explore in my limited education, and I really love them. I suck at them, but I love to learn from people who are good scientists. And science ... well, it's delicious. I love it!

I'm sure I haven't "reached my final destination." I don't think I will have a final destination! Well, obviously, death will be my final destination - but as far as forming ideas about the world, while alive, I will always be questioning, changing, learning, reacting, and changing again.

Cheers!
"The final destination of an atheist is life." Wow, I love that statement.
Agreed, crustle.

Nice way of putting it, Jim.

Abrahamic religions celebrate, even long for, death. They call their hope Paradise or resurrection, but it can only be reached via death. For most believers, it's only in death that one reaps the rewards of faith.

For the atheist/agnostic/bright the here and now is the reward. If there is something about your circumstances that you find unhealthy or unpleasant, you put your energy into making a positive change. No postponing of true living till some never-to-arrive afterlife.

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