I went to a catholic elementary school though my parents were not particularly devout. My nominally catholic father had married a divorced woman. We had a great library. I read a lot, and when our Jr. Great Books selection was excerpts from Charles Darwin's works, it was all over. Interestingly, I married a catholic, and agreed to raise our daughter catholic. Which means she went to catholic schools, under very close monitoring on my part. I always answered her questions honestly, and exposed her to other faiths and world views. She opted out of catholic schools for high school, ended up attending the only high school for mathematics and science in the pious state of Mississippi. On her personal information page in the student class list, she put down for Faith - Atheist.
Growing up, my family identified itself as Catholic. My great-grandmother referred to my mother as "that Papist girl" as my mother grew up in a Catholic family and my father's family was Episcopalian (what I like to refer to as English Catholic Lite). However, for reasons to which I haven't really been privy, my parents decided to raise my sister and I within the Catholic Church so that we would as my mother put it "be exposed to something" and then, when we were older, we could "choose to accept it or not." The kind of Catholicism we were raised around was fairly wishy-washy and quite benign.
We sang a lot. That seemed my family's main motivation in attending mass. I still have rather vivid memories of Gary Penkala the church organist playing Preludes and Fugues, Fantasias, Passacaglias, and Toccatas by J.S. Bach and pieces by Buxtehude on the pipe organ and unleashing paeans of sonic joy that I loved. But that's what was great about mass. That was it: Music. It is still one of the greatest gifts to civilization of the Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican churches. No greater music exists than the devotional cries of existential grief in Josquin's De Profundis, Bach's Mass in B Minor, Mozart's Requiem, Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, or Penderecki's St. Luke's Passion. But the beauty of art does not reality make. And really, most of the music during mass wasn't of the caliber of the Confutatis or Kyrie in any of the above pieces.
The remainder of the time in mass I spent in fantasy land, either bored because of the stodginess of the place or frankly skeptical of the kinds of claims that were being made to us at CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) which would be known to Protestants as Sunday School. During the homily (sermon) which follows the reading from the Gospels, I would usually leave to go to the bathroom because of the sheer weight of turgid logorrhea cascading from Father White's or Monsignor Flemming's mouths. It was just too much to handle, so I'd go splash water on my face or something to keep myself from fidgeting endlessly. Sometimes, I'd stare through slits at the front of the pew and imagine I was in a submarine looking out at the ocean with sharks, barracuda, dolphins and orcas swimming by. I had been to Cape Cod, San Francisco, and the Baltimore aquarium and had by 6 fallen in love with the ocean, something my father encouraged as a native of northern California.
In CCD I just checked out. You can read the rest of this at my blog, Forms Most Beautiful.
How did I become an atheist? Hmmmm....I can't remember a time when I was not one. I went through 9 years of catholic school and I most likely at some point actually believed what they were telling me. I mean they were grown ups and they knew better, right? I guess my schools math and science classes were really good because my brain started to think more rationally and critically and the first thing I criticized was my religion. I broke it down very scientifically and I took what was good and moral from it and then I threw away all the bad, contradicting or hypocritical information. That all started around the 5th or 6th grade and I have been studying this ever since. Never really became openly atheist until I discovered that there were a lot more people out there like me and that is was when I got to college about 6 years ago.
How I became an atheist is because of the WWGHA's site and also youtube really. Thank g? hahhaha than goodness for the internet. Anyway I am 49 and grew up in northern California behind the redwood curtain as they say and I never was that religious and then I moved away from the north to the southern California part. You know what they say that Ca. is tilted and all the nuts roll down to south LOL. Anyway I got a divorce and that kind of put me on my own and I found a really wonderful lady that lets me be me not controling me like my first exes. I did get baptised as a Lutheren and went to church with my second wife a lot but I never really agreed with a lot of the bible. I mean I would think in my head what the pastor said and I would disagree with it then kind of let it go and thought that I needed to give it a chance. Well I ended up moving from the area and then went through a divorce and fell totally apart with the pain from that but I never did go to church or cry to god to make me better or anything. But the thing is I would listen to the videos that WWGHA's put out and they made sense to me. So I decided to not believe or maybe I didn't really DECIDE I more or less knew what I felt and knew it in my heart that there was no god. Wow talk about looking at things differently!!! I am amazed how things seem to look now that I have a different attitude about our planet and people. I feel like I see myself the real self for the first time.
I grew up in an irreligious home and went through the strictly-Muslim public schools of Saudi Arabia. Being religious was encouraged by parents, but thankfully there was no pressure to practice. I did try to attend the mosque during my pre-teens, but stopped after just a few visits. Despite having so much doubt and seeing so many contradictions, I kept my beliefs in Islamic dogma, dismissing my doubts as a test of my faith. Around 15 my beliefs started to break down and it slowly went downhill for Allah from that point on. I moved to the States at 18 and started to study and read and slowly became an agnostic. I went through a self examination phase at one point in which I finally decided I'm really an atheist. I have been an atheist ever since and firmly rooted as such.
I remained closeted until just few years ago. When I finally told my non-practicing Christian wife, it nearly ended our marriage (we’ve been together for 15 year,) but now she is more accepting. To this day, very few people know about my atheism.
Baptised and raised Catholic-lite: Sunday School, weekly church attendance, not much more. I was far enough into it where I tried reading the Bible at a young age (never getting past the Garden of Eden) and hallucinating an angel massaging my temples during mass. I remember prayers never getting answered, though. I also remember a neighbor briefly mentioning that secular humanism was perfectly moral. But as far as I knew, everybody was Christian, so I was too.
After moving to a new state, I found new friends who were more cultured. Some of them were questioning religion, and a few went so far as to reject it completely. One worded his stance in a way that really spoke to me: there are so many gods out there, so many religions, why do any of them have to be right? I read Greek myth back in middle school, and the light turned on. I never really thought of it as a rebellion against my upbringing, it just seemed an A-HA! moment. Like using a pulley to lift something instead of your muscles, or discovering a new routine that cuts the daily routine by hours. It was useful, so I kept it.
My mother was okay with my new disbelief, my father still isn't. I thought it important that I be out with them, and let the chips fall where they may. My dad still loves me; he just emotionally disagrees with my stance and he'll have to deal with his son being a little different.
I majored in Sociology in college so it was only a matter of time until my religious belief system was undermined by a liberal arts education! This erosion of the necessity of religion in my life happened throughout my 20's. By the time I reached 30, I no longer believed what I had been taught as a child in the Lutheran Church and was married and raising our children without religious influence.
I wouldn't say that I labeled myself as any particular thing like "atheist" or "agnostic". I thought of myself more like a "non-believer" or religiously "unaffiliated". Not as a member of any sort of formal group. Now I'm in my 40's and single (husband died in October of 07) and I've gained a lot of comfort from seeing myself as a member of a network of freethinkers and rational, reasonable people. It's not as isolating as it felt in my 30's to call myself an atheist. I'm more comfortable with that part of myself, I suppose. Maybe that's just part of being in my 40's....
I still think of myself as an observer of human behavior and somebody who's trying to understand why people act and think the ways they do. Along with Karl Marx's statement of "religion is the opiate of the masses", I was influenced by coursework in Cultural Anthropology--studying religious groups and origin myths. How religion helps people explain what appear to be "un-explainable" events.
Explanations about the functions of religious belief on the subjective, psychological level continue to fascinate me. Asking the question: What do members of religious groups gain...how do they benefit from membership? Also looking from a larger vantage point of cultural values: How does a society maintain religious institutions and benefit from a highly religious population? Here in the U.S., I continue to find myself drawn to the conflicts between religion and science, Church and State issues, and private and public expressions of faith in our secular society.
I became an atheist in my mid/late twenties...
I was raised pentecostal...my dad is a pentecostal preacher, and so was my grandpa. It was the strict version that restricted clothing, hair, where you could and couldn't go, etc. I tried hard to believe it for about 26-27 years of my life. Finally, after getting back to college and majoring in science it all just clicked for me after a simply intro bio course.
I'm going to be thirty years old next weekend...so, I'm fairly new to atheism, but I've taken to it quite fast.
It's been a challenge dealing with family & friends that remain pentecostal. I'm pretty sure that I'm going to have to leave the area entirely in order to get any sort of solace in my life.
It was kind of a surprise for me, really. One minute I was a devoted (though a tiny bit discouraged) Christian, the next, slam-wham-bang and I was out of there.
What happened was this: My sister, who was deeply questioning her own faith, was desperate for someone to understand why she was having problems. So she showed me a PDF describing why Jesus was not the Jewish Messiah.
It was then that I realized: No matter how many flowery bits of prose Jesus' life just happened to have been shoehorned into matching, he failed to fulfill the duties of the Messiah, and therefore I could not consider him the Messiah.
Five months later, after some questioning, praying, and checking into other religions (plus learning a load about evolution), I realized that I was basically an atheist in agnostic's clothes, and decided to start labeling myself appropriately.
My grandmother was a Christian-cult leader (Home in Zion Ministries) and tried to shelter us from the "seven systems of satan" - banking, entertainment, government, education, science, religion, and medicine. She functioned as a "spiritual midwife" at home births, and I saw many of these as a child before being placed in Christian school at age 8. I worked for the Ministry from 98 till about 2004. I suffered socially by being cut off from pop culture and being an elitist brat in my own mind, and physically by being deprived of needed medical care. I walked with a dislocated hip for three years in high school.
In 2005 I had my son, and suddenly realized that Original Sin just couldn't be true - no way was my perfect, tiny, infant child a sinner destined for hell. I became concerned with religious extremism. I googled my grandmother's name and found hundreds of news articles and cult-watch websites calling her a cult leader. I began studying cults, cult tactics, mind control and "brainwashing" techniques, etc. I went back to college and took a dual-major in early US history and Middle East international relations. I was drawn into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict especially, because I saw the dangers of religious extremism. I joined the SUMA (Sisters United Muslim Association) student group as a Christian and made some very dear friends with the girls of the hijab. I was astonished at how similar this group ran to Christian student groups I'd been in. A prayer, a pretty calligraphy scripture verse, then cookies and soda. I knew I didn't believe the words of Muhammad for a moment, so why did I believe the Gospel?
YouTube videos and atheist websites did the trick. I picked up "God is Not Great" by Christopher Hitchens and that was it. I skipped right over "agnostic" and jumped from "True Believer" to "Pissed Off Atheist" in about three days. I'm working on becoming a more tolerant atheist, but I still hate religion a whole lot right now (not religious people, of course)