As weird as it is, I think it was the attitude of my former "fellow" Christians that started me on the road to doubt. Even though I've got a bachelors in Physics and have generally held a belief in evolution and big bang cosmology for most of the believing stage of my life, it really wasn't science that brought up questions(cognitive dissonance at its best). I think I've always generally never had a connection with anyone in any church I had ever attended. Mainly since most Christians, especially in the south, are non-intellectuals. But I think it really started when I began listening to extreme metal. I couldn't understand how anyone could look down on something that I loved so much and felt so natural to listen to. I can't tell you how many people have told me that its "the devils music"(even though most of the lyrics are socio-political).

Of course later on I did my research and discovered how ridiculous my former beliefs were. So who or what started you on your path to disbelief?

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Haha!  Inconvienient questions = Religion's greatest enemy.

Apart from a brief 6 month period in my life in 4th form (age 14) where i was for a year converted to Christianity by some really hot Christian rock musicians (Y1) that came to my school (apparently even fundamentalist Christians know that sex sells!) Before and after this i never really believed or just doubted but considered myself “Anglican“ because that's what I was raised as. In the last 20 years of my life i have not believed in the bible at all and in the last 3years have come out openly as an atheist to my family and peers.

I went to a Catholic boarding school - boys only. Did the religious instruction, etc. - was going to be a priest but only because when you are surrounded by it, it seems like the right thing to do. Had a great deal of fun (out in the bundu - bush to you guys overseas) and was a reasonably good little Catholic - not a great education but think that was my fault! Being around the priests and brothers you start observing their not so christian behaviour and start questioning things. Then the whole confession idiocy became apparent. Confessing to someone you didn't respect that much - weird! Then confessing that you had sworn, etc. when you knew you weren't going to stop. What a waste of time. And when I had the chance to experience sex, I knew I was going to like it and no rules were going to stop me. Realised then and there it was all a pointless exercise. It has been uphill ever since. Cheers

I was very lucky in that my parents were very cool and relaxed about all things religious.  My father's an atheist and my mother doesn't really care about spiritual stuff so, I was privileged in that respect.

As a child I was a massive reader and loved reading books of all kinds.  Aged about 10, I read a book about bible stories (Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath, Adam and Eve, etc) and found it fascinating.  Naturally, I thought because I liked the stories, and from some indoctrination at my school, that I was a "Christian".  Although I never went to church or anything, I did pray occasionally.

Aged 14 or 15, I was in a religious education lesson at school, about heaven and hell.  I asked the question, "Who decides who goes to heaven and who goes to hell?"  The teacher said, "St Peter's at the gates, and he decides".  Having a logical mind, I responded with a barrage of questions like, "So what if someone does something with good intentions, but it has bad consequences?  What if someone has a mental illness, do they get an automatic pass?" and so on... The teacher just eventually told me they'd have a discussion with me after the lesson!  That was when I realised that...it just didn't make sense, it wasn't logical.

About a year later, I read the God Delusion, and that cemented my beliefs (or lack of them!).

An interesting question and I've loved reading all the responses!

I was a Christian. Not only a Christian, but one who believed in reformed theology, or Calvinism. I read the bible and believed it's literal translation. God choses those that will be with him in heaven.  Fast forward 20 years, and I decided to go to college. I started to learn about research and evidence. I read Frankenstein and the Metamorphosis. I did papers on each story, comparing our lack of free will and how God controls everything, even if we do not like the consequences. My history of civ class revealed the fact that there are similar stories written that predate the bible. That's when I decided to do research. Long story short, I came to the conclusion that all religions are wrong, and I became agnostic at that point. After reading The God Delusion, I reevaluated and decided that I am truly and atheist. Fortunately for me, my wife was already secretly agnostic, and my son had decided that God is as real as Santa. A few friends know, and I'm sure others do too as I follow more than a few atheist facebook and twitter feeds, but nobody has really shunned me.

After being told about and reading 1 Corinthians 14:34-35

"women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."

I had been taught about how awesome and loving god was. The guy commanding this sounded like a jerk. I decided that I must have read it out of context, so I read the whole chapter. That didn't help, so I read the entire bible from cover to cover. By the time I was done, I not only still didn't agree with 1 Corinthians, I found a lot of other detestable verses, passages and entire overarching messages. It wasn't long before I had shrugged off Christianity. Sure, I remained spiritual for a long time. I wasn't ready to shrug off the god that I had grown to know and love. That was the beginning though. I sat down and read my bible from cover to cover. It's one of the reasons why I actually support biblical literacy. I encourage every Christian to read the whole bible, for this very reason. Nothing destroys faith in Christianity like knowing what it's really about.

Nathaniel, thanks; I'm going to encourage the xians I know to read the bible. I don't know how many other atheists they know but I know the bible better than most of them do.

My dad sent his five kids to Catholic schools, and in the twelve years I was in them no teacher told me to read the bible. Your words above, more clearly than any I've ever read, told me why Catholic schools don't teach the bible.

My older sister might have read the verses you cited; she never stopped asking questions in high school and quit the church very soon after she graduated. Before my dad died, he knew all five of us had quit.

I was never a believer. God seemed too much like Santa Claus and other things I knew to be nonexistent.

For me...reading the bible and prayer -- on-my-knees-pleading-seeking-searching-childlike-blood-sweating-begging, and unanswered prayer. Between the two, I could not find the god that was supposed to exist, and the one that I did "see" was not worth the time of day, nor worship for that matter.

Raised Catholic, as a child I unconditionally believed all the dogma and stories I learned in Catholic school.  Then again, I also believed in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy.  It was when I learned neither was real that I started to question Catholicism.  Several years later, my grandparents (who were devout Catholics and brought me nearly every week to church) had passed away.  By then I had so many doubts about Catholicism, and although I loved and missed my grandparents dearly I finally felt free to seriously ponder these doubts.  The idea that angered me the most was the whole "believe-or-go-to-hell" ultimatum.  That clinched it for me.  I was not about to let some old guy in a robe, or some old ladies in penguin suits, tell me what I can and cannot believe - to use my mortality as a weapon against me.  I had considered other religions and found them to be just as bad, if not worse.  Ultimately, I settled on science to explain the world around me.  I have also accepted my mortal fate and shed the fear of knowing I will not live forever.  Now, it comforts me to know that one day my conscious mind will succumb to the eternal peace of nothingness.  I can think of no construct of heaven that can beat that.

"...to use my mortality as a weapon against me."

Well said, and they certainly did it.

"...other religions and found them to be just as bad, if not worse."

I tell curious xians "Catholicism had almost 2,000 years to work out answers to some hard questions; others xianities have had much less time."

"...the eternal peace of nothingness."

I won't be in a comfy rocking chair watching those crazy humans down there? I'm gonna cry.

I too settled on science to explain the world outside. After I got a degree in math, I realized I'd chosen it because too many people had told me what to believe and I would believe nothing without first proving it. For a while I disliked even statistics.

Has anyone ever asked if you're glad you'd been born?

I reply it's impossible to know because without being born I couldn't compare.

Thank you for the kind review.  No, no one has ever asked me if I am glad I was born.  You are right though about the lack of a basis of comparison in such a question.  The trick there is to use emotion (in this case, the perceived sanctity of birth) to make it sound rhetorical, even though there is no valid answer that could be taken as obvious.  This technique is the basis of much faulty logic, especially that which is perpetrated by organized religion.

As for sitting in a comfy rocking chair watching crazy humans: don't we do that already?

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