Introduction - From kinda sorta believing to becoming an Atheist

I'm a newly hatched atheist. Actually, I've probably been an atheist for over 25 years but didn't define myself as such because I felt that "atheism" was too strong a word for my lack of belief. Weird? I redefined myself as an atheist because my young daughter (a "hard" atheist) finally convinced me that believing in a "concept" of God is not the same that actually believing God exists. Okay then, I'm an atheist. How could a youngster convince an experienced, educated adult? Well, I was raised a Catholic and I grew up believing that God-belief was the default. (& being raised a Catholic is a mind-bending experience.) I ended up raising a "hard" atheist who visits her friend's church and when asked if she believes in Jesus asks, "No. Why?" at 9 years old. That truly happened & the askers were too dumbfounded to respond. Out of the mouths of babes, I guess.

Deconverting from Catholicism wasn't particularly memorable. I don't remember ever really believing in any of that except "conceptually" for years. When my brother, sister and I wanted to get a pet poodle, the 2 of them prayed while I slept knowing that if God is so powerful, why would he listen to my prayers? Next day, the pet poodle magically bounded down the hill into our backyard. I didn't tell my siblings that I didn't pray--that would be embarrassing & they'd get all the credit. Boy, they were smug. Years later, I learned that no, the poodle didn't just magically appear on the hill, but that my dad was hiding behind a dumpster & released the dog in our direction. Guess what? I found out that my dad was an atheist about 20 years ago. Whadayano? He told me to never tell my mom (I kept my promise!). He confided in me because he knew I was no longer a Catholic though I was still a Deist (for luck :0). I couldn't believe he was a full-blown atheist!

I knew for certain I didn't believe that Jesus was the son of God or that Christianity (ie Catholicism) was the one true religion when I read the Bible around 10 or 11. My mom wasn't happy with my reading the Bible because she was an old-school Catholic who didn't think you should read the Bible but get instruction by a priest (& one of the priests was pretty hot!). But I digress. I didn't tell her I no longer believed until I was safely confirmed around the age of 17. Then I told her. Again, she wasn't happy, but she was relieved that I went as far as Confirmation. I would burn in Hell, but the ceremony was beautiful. I nearly cried during it because I thought I was a liar. Then I realized, who the hell isn't a liar in that church?

I heard of the warm glow that a person gets when they convert to a religion. My sister became a fundamentalist years ago & still longs for that warm glow that shows she really believes. Without it, there's doubt & doubt is bad. She had also read the Bible, and she described doubt ripping through her head like a chainsaw. But she fought that chainsaw & won! I on the other hand went for the doubt. For me, it was like a surfboard, not a chainsaw. I road the gnarly curl and landed on a beach of shining sand. The Bible was a book like any other book, and when I was done, I was convinced that Christianity was pretty silly. There was no glow, just the warm satisfaction that I was right.

So, now I define myself as an atheist. Not much has changed since I was a child & doubted that God would bring me a poodle. However, I know I'm even more right!

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Comment by Turtle Poser on November 8, 2009 at 11:50pm
Hi, Rita D, I think you're right. If God came to me and said, "Turtle, I am the all-powerful God you'd been looking for. Let me show you something?" Sure! I'll believe in God. According to the Bible, God supposedly appeared to Moses in a burning bush. Why do we have to rely on hearsay from thousands of years ago? Religious leaders always say, "Oh, well, God doesn't appear to you because he gave us the testament, blah, blah blah." Well, who are these religious leaders anyway, and why should I rely on their story? Aren't my own eyes good enough?

I've always thought EVERYONE is an agnostic. I've even convinced a couple of Christians that yes, to be honest they are agnostic. They have beliefs, but they don't have knowledge.

As far as your son goes, I raised my daughter similarly. She was interested in Buddhism at an early age - a non-theistic religion. She even believed in God somewhat, but then questioned his existence. She asked me, "Why should I believe in him just because you say he exists?" I couldn't give her an answer. I've never had a problem with atheism. I did have a problem with the harshness of the term. We're raising our children to be honest in a way that religious people can never be. I'm learning that there is nothing harsh in atheism. I have "nothing" to convince other people with. The only thing harsh is how atheism is judged by theists.
Comment by Rita D on November 8, 2009 at 7:08pm
Come to think of think of it Turtle, my "hard" atheist son and da-in-law was what got me to declare my atheism too. While I raised my son with an open mind and tried to interest him in different religions he was never interested--he thought it baloney from early childhood (maybe it was my helping him, via the Socratic method, to figure out it was me who was Santa Claus at age 3).

I too have felt "atheist" was too hard a term for a long, long time. I guess I thought it meant a person "who believed there was no God" instead of a person who "does not believe there is a God." I think we are mostly really agnostics--not believing there is a god, but open to changing our minds should proof establish that there is. What do you think?
Comment by Rita D on November 8, 2009 at 1:07pm
Thank you! Great story! Took me decades to get to where you were at seventeen. You followed the integrity of your own mind.
Comment by Michael Howard on November 8, 2009 at 5:58am
Amazing story. Welcome TP.

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