Why do people like me become atheists ?

This is a very good question. Unfortunately, it isn’t very easy to answer. There are perhaps as many reasons for being an atheist as there are atheists. What I mean by this is that the road to atheism tends to be very personal and individual, based upon the specific circumstances of a person’s life, experiences, and attitudes.

Nevertheless, it is possible to describe some general similarities which tend to be common among quite a few atheists. A particular reason might play a very large role for one atheist, a very small role for another, and absolutely no role whatsoever for a third.
Incidentally,  I am an Indian and A Hindu by birth.

1. One common reason for atheism is coming into contact with a variety of religions.

It isn’t unusual for an atheist to have been raised in a religious household and to have grown up living with the assumption that their religious tradition represented the One True Faith. However, after learning more about other religious traditions, this same person may adopt a much more critical attitude towards his own religion and even religion generally, eventually coming to reject not only the religion but also belief in the existence of any gods.

My own experience : In my younger days, when I was in St. John's Boarding School in Ranchi, I was surrounded by Jesuit priests and they never wasted a second without reminding me of the ludicrous aspects of Hinduism, viz., the monkey faced demigod cum superman called Hanuman who could fly over the ocean like geese and carry a mountain on his forefinger, an elephant headed Ganesh riding on a mouse, a ten headed demon called Ravan, a goddess called Durga with 8 pairs of hands & a four headed Brahma who is supposed to have created the universe. Same time they didn't forget to drive home the point that Christianity was much saner.

Much later however, I discovered some ludicrous aspects in Christianity as well, Viz., Virgin birth, Resurrection, Atonement, transubstantiation, Armageddon etc, etc.which could test the credibility of logical & critical thinkers.

I realized then that all religions were mere fairy tales and have no correspondence whatsoever with reality. All of them claim to be the only true religion but they are so contradictory to each other. I decided that if all of them cannot be true, all of them can certainly be false.

Have you ever wondered why there are so many religions ( Anthropologists say that there are right now 10,000 living religions in the world) telling us about the secrets of the universe, life and man but there is only one Universal Science which does the same ? Simply because regarding one concept, truth can only be one but there can be many lies.

2. Another possible reason for atheism may originate in bad experiences with a religion or its God(s).

A person might grow up with a religious faith which they eventually find to be oppressive, hypocritical, evil, or otherwise unworthy of following. Also some people, when confronted by a crisis or calamity, start praying to their gods expecting succour and go on pilgrimages to all the char dhams : Dwarka, Haridwar, Jagganath Puri and Rameshwaram or do homas & yagnas but yet find no relief. Such people simmer with anger which morphs gradually into antagonism and finally into atheism.

In my case, when in 1945 my father was being victimized & scapegoated for the missing ring of Rs.10 currency notes in Doddakanya Magnesite mines near Kadakola, Mysore District, he used to pray regularly to shirdi saibaba. He knew that his cashier had swindled the money but he couldn't prove it to his higher authorities. He had to take the responsibility for the loss and pay it back from his salary. In protest he resigned from the job. I couldn't reconcile his helplessness and the absence of help from sky-daddies with his naive conviction of the omnipotence & omnibenevolence of saints & Gods.
This was a prominent reason for my loss of faith.

3. Many atheists find their way to disbelief through science.

Over the last 150 years, Sciences have come to offer explanations of aspects of our world which were once the exclusive domain of religion. Because scientific explanations have been more intellectually convincing than religious or theistic explanations, the ability of religion to demand allegiance has weakened. As a result, some people have come to entirely reject not only religion, but also belief in the existence of a god. For them, gods are useless as an explanation for any feature of the universe and provide nothing worth investigating.
The biggest advantage to believing in god(s) — apart from the comforts of believing in everyday protection in this life, and immortality for self & Ultimate Justice for people who have deliberately hurt us, in the afterlife – is that you don’t have to unnecessarily tax your brain cells to learn & understand anything worthwhile about the origins of the Universe, life & humans — no physics, no biology, no geology, no paleontology, no anthropology, no evolutionary psychology, no neurotheology, no comparative religion, no nothing.

Most of the religious people do not have any in-depth knowledge of these subjects and also have not cultivated the art of logical & critical reasoning and hence lull themselves into a sense of self-complacency thinking that their puerile religiosity is unquestionable.

I confess I wanted to learn & understand and didn’t mind the effort required to make the paradigm shift.

And so I ended up as an atheist.

4. There are also philosophical arguments which many regard as successful in disproving most of the common conceptions of gods.

For example, there is the question of "Evil" prevailing in this world. It could be Man-made evil like man's inhumanity toward man : viz., murders, plunders & war or it could be Natural Evils like plague, floods, famine, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes & volcanoes.

Many atheists think that the Argument from Evil renders belief in an omniscient, omni-benevolent, just, and omnipotent god completely irrational and unreasonable. Although gods without such attributes are not disproven, there is also an absence of any good reasons to believe in such gods. Without good reason, belief is either impossible or simply not worth having.

This was another good reason for my disbelief.

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Comment by Michael Penn on May 9, 2013 at 6:29am

Good blog. I too, ended up atheist because over time things just didn't add up. All of the religions are simply stories and fairy tales.

Comment by Angela on May 8, 2013 at 7:38pm
Nice.
Comment by Ravi Morey on May 8, 2013 at 10:40am

A very good blog. I was also born into the Hindu faith but I grew up in America. I also went through a very similar process like the one you went through. So I can identify with your life story wholeheartedly. In my case, there was also the factor of enjoying far less personal freedom than my Caucasian friends due to my extremely strict, devout Hindu father.

Comment by Steph S. on May 8, 2013 at 10:15am

Good blog. I enjoyed reading that.

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