256 comments on “Richard asks: Why did you leave your faith?

  • I was brought up in the Methodist church and was required to attend until I was 15 or 16. During my teens in the 70’s I read the feminist literature that was published at that time. It didn’t take much time or effort to realize that the methodists and the feminists had two very different ideas about a woman’s place in this life. With a clearly defined choice in front of me at that time, I chose to be the master of my own destiny, the designer of my own life and the owner of my own body. My victories are my own and my failures are my learning experiences. No regrets.

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  • 4
    Abhishek says:

    I was never really religious. I realized that in my late twenties when I started listening to people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens on YouTube. Then I hunted for their books and here I am. Being born in a Hindu family, the experience of religion while growing up is very different to that of growing up in Christianity. My experience of religion was limited to ritual and some epic stories with vague morals. The religious texts are not really accessible because they are mostly written in a dead language. It was easy for me to step out of the sphere of religion when the amazing discrimination of caste and gender became increasingly evident. It is even more amazing that the same people who are close to me, speak of the pain and frustration of discrimination in the same breath as the the greatness of the religion which codifies it.
    There are actually a large number of people I know who profess atheism in private but keep the facade to avoid conflicts. There are an even greater number of people who don’t care but will come out to defend the rational position when the theocratic side starts flexing their muscles.
    That said, I find the society walking in two different directions at the same time.

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  • I wouldn’t say that I left “my” faith because it was the faith of my father and teachers – I really don’t think I ever claimed it as my own. I was raised RC and was told the usual stories that children are told. I “believed” in god in the same way I believed in Father Christmas and god didn’t last much longer than the man in red.

    There was no moment of revelation and if I credit anything it is TV, with programmes like Life on Earth and the original Cosmos. Science programming was rather good in the 1970s (not dumbed down) and the lack of TV options meant I saw a lot of it. In comparison, the childish biblical stories seemed like, well, childish stories and god itself surplus to requirements. I was functionally atheist by about 12 although I didn’t put a name to it until many years later. I continued going to church until age 16 under parental duress, at which point I declared I wasn’t going anymore.

    I’ve often wondered why faith just didn’t “stick” with me, but I’m glad it didn’t.

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  • I was in Sunday School when it happened. That Sunday, we had a special speaker and all the kids from both junior high and high school were brought together. It was 1971 and had just turned 16.

    The special speaker was talking about evolution. The thrust of his presentation was that the world was just too amazing to have happened ‘by accident’. As he laid out the argument for how improbable it was that our existence could have happened in some random fashion, I started to calculate the odds of it happening. He estimated the size of the universe, number of galaxies, number of stars in each galaxy, etc. He talked about planets in the habitable zone, size of the planets, etc. I have always been good with math and I started to add the orders of magnitude in the numerator and denominator of the ratio of places where life could evolve to what it would take for it to evolve. While the speaker said over and over again that it was impossible for life to have just evolved, it seemed clear to me that however improbable, it was indeed possible.

    I had not heard of the Drake equation at that point. My high school biology teacher in Bible Belt America, when asked what he thought of evolution said that the fossil record was clear but that he thought that some point that God stepped in and created consciousness. This is the sort of hedge committed then by rational people.

    But I wasn’t thinking about that while sitting in Sunday School. All I was thinking about was, “It could have ‘just happened’, and this is the place where it could have ‘just happened’.” That knowledge was not liberating. It was scary. I mentally reviewed all that I had been taught in my Bible believing church. God created the world, God died for our sins, God was coming back. How did I know this? Because the Bible said so. How could I trust the Bible? Because the Bible was infallible. How did I know the Bible was infallible? Because the Bible said so. It was apparent that there was some circular logic going on.

    I realized that I could conduct a simple test. Since either everything I had been taught was either true or there were some falsehoods in there, I could separate things I knew into two groups. And they were mutually exclusive, A and not A. Into the group A I put all of my religious training and supporting evidence. Into not A, I put all of the evidence of the rational world. Because they were mutually exclusive, only one was true. But proving A to be true was difficult. If I proved not A to be false, it would be equivalent to proving A to be true.

    Sitting there in Sunday School, I knew that if I assumed not A to be true and followed it to its logical conclusions and found some inconsistency, not A would be false and by inference, A would be true. So I assumed not A to be true. Over the next few weeks, I continued to think about this and I could find no logical inconsistency. The case of not A could not be found to be not true. The opposite was happening. The more I looked into evolution, the more sense it made. I could not make the case for not A being untrue.

    This caused a big rift with my parents who were deeply invested in being Christians. For my father, who became a Christian in a foxhole in Italy, while surrounded by Nazis and watching his friends die one-by-one, it was particularly hard. For my father, God saved his life. My father was a simple man, a factory laborer. He wanted me to become a preacher and I had planned to attend Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Seeing me become a preacher and man of God would have fulfilled his life’s mission. But that didn’t happen.

    In the intervening years, I have not tried to convert people to my point of view (in contrast to my years as a young Christian, where I used to proselytize). Becoming an atheist was so wrenching for me that I decided not to try to convince or convert other people. If anyone asks me about it, I will tell them what I believe, but I want them to find for themselves what it is they will believe.

    Another reason that I don’t make an issue of what I believe is that I have known or crossed paths with too many people for whom their belief in God is all that keeps them from falling back into a life of chemical dependency. And it does no good to tell someone hoisted on those tenterhooks that one of the things on which they depend is a fallacy.

    It took me a while to fully embrace evolution. While I knew that the Bible story about Creation was a myth, there were things for which I did not have an answer. For example, a human female is born with her eggs intact. Any mutations that she carries forward need to be in those eggs already. A human male may release several hundred million sperm per ejaculate, so there could be mutations in his sperm due to environmental factors. But how do mutations get into the eggs? I think I know now, but that was one of the humps to get over.

    I have come to see religion as an ethnic/cultural identifier. In most parts of the world, religion is not ecumenical. Clans and peoples adopt a version of religion and it becomes an identifier. For example, the Hazara are an ethnic minority in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They follow the Shia branch of Islam, while the majorities in those countries are Sunni. The Hazara are persecuted by the majorities and probably find some solace in a branch of the religion that is different from that of their persecutors.

    I don’t call myself an atheist any more, in part because of the way I define the term. An atheist is someone who says that it is impossible for a deity to exist. I don’t know. In practical terms, it seems illogical for a finite being such as myself to declare the existence or non-existence of an infinite being. There is no religion on this planet that makes much sense to me though. Is there a God? I don’t know.

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  • I was raised in a solid C of E family: prayers before bedtime, church every Sunday, joined the choir when I was six etc. etc. I also developed a huge interest in astronomy. It was astronomy that started the process of my deconversion. Learning about the dizzying scale of the universe and how unimaginably insignificant we are in comparison. Learning about the history of astronomy, and how the church resisted it all the way as each new discovery further pulled the moth-eaten old rug out from underneath the ancient creeds.

    As I say, that was just the start. There followed a long process of asking questions and getting highly unsatisfactory answers that even my immature brain could see through, or being told to just take things on faith. Even at that young age I could see that this was effectively nothing more than saying “because shut up, that’s why.” I increasingly started to find the people who acted this way unimpressive and actually rather contemptible. And so I decided to not be one.

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  • I grew out of my faith, if I ever really had it at all. I was a child, my family was catholic, I went to catholic school and church on Sunday’s and my grandmother gave me “my first rosary” like it was a big deal. I was a little kid so I didn’t know any different but then I started growing up. I watched the original Star Trek and Cosmos, read Carl Sagan books, read more science and science fiction, and watched science and science fiction on TV. I also read a lot of mythology and saw the bible as just another piece of mythology, stories written by humans to explain things they didn’t understand. By the time I was 9 or 10 years old I had come to realize that just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, god didn’t exist. I have been an atheist since that young age. Starting in the 4th grade I quit going to catholic school and went to a public school. I still had to go to church with my family on Sundays so I just sat through mass thinking how ridiculous it was and that I couldn’t understand how adults actually believed in such nonsense. I was fortunate to be able to follow my own path without being forced and indoctrinated by my family. Eventually my family quit going to church but I think my parents still believe in god, just not in religion. I am 45 now and my grandmother died many years ago but I am sure she was devout until her death.

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  • As a child of Christian parents and a retired Baptist preacher grandfather, there was never a question of belief. God exists and that’s the end of it. If you can’t find an answer to your questions, then you just “gotta have faith and all will be revealed,” whatever that was supposed to mean. In my early 20’s, I started meeting people, and eventually my husband, who were atheists. They taught me that is was not only OK to question, but encouraged. It still took me several years to be able to fully “let go” of my faith (transitioning from agnostic to atheist) without the fears of, “What if…?” ringing in my head. Now, it all seems so absurd to me; all the beliefs and prayers that people cling so tightly to, as if they will have no moral compass, no raison d’etre, and no one to thank when things go their way.

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  • I started losing my faith when I really needed God and discovered he was nowhere to be found. The tipping point to abandoning it (conservative Christianity) was when, while reading The God Delusion, I reflected on the doctrine of millions and billions of people being cast into eternal torture just because they disagreed with God. Even Hitler wasn’t as evil, evil though he was. Reading Richard’s book really put things into perspective for me and made me realize the foolishness and silliness and damage of religion, and enough evidence to call myself an atheist. I thank goodness for the great atheists of our time, like Dawkins, the late (miss him!) Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Dan Barker, and Sam Harris, to name just a few, most of whom have written bestsellers!

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  • In Sunday School I couldn’t see the point of the bible stories, in C of E church Canon Robinson was obviously a fool, the Bible was impossible to believe, and finally I was beaten into second place in the school Divinity prize by a boy who cheated, with his Bible open under the desk. I did meet one kind Bishop who comforted me when I was thrown out of church for talking, but I never caught the religion bug. And look up into the sky: there’s nobody there!

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  • Our family went to church every Sunday but it never took. Our church board refused to let inner city kids use the hall for their lunch during the summer when there was a camp for them across the park. I wrote the pastor about it. I think I was 13. He wanted me to come in and talk to him about it but I never did. Then the pastor wanted to go on Freedom Marches with black people and they told him he wouldn’t have a job when he got back. I began sitting in the car reading novels while my family was in church. And I stopped going at all after that. I never did well with abstract ideas, like gods and algebra. I always figured gods gave people an excuse for unexplainable things, like “It must have been god’s will”. Nah. But I never really came out as an atheist until many, many years later. People say they pray for me and they pity me. I have a very religious family member who needles me now and then. It just came about and I’m ok with it.

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  • I can’t say that I had a certain kind of “faith”. In a sociological or cultural context, you can say I was brought up as a non-practicing Roman-Catholic. So, I was baptised, did my communion.
    But at a certain age I didn’t consider this very relevant to my belief or what you may call it. Those kind of rituals never had an effect on me. Even at a very young age. You can say I’ve been agnostic until my late thirties.
    I believed in “something” but never hung on to a religion. Though very open to everything and always thinking and contemplating.

    In my philosophical journey I was wondering: If we evolved from animals which live by their instinct and kill, for instance, a weaker animal. Well, that’s nature’s law. But on a human level we call this immoral.
    On a certain stage in our evolution, we began to develop higher cognitive functions. Thanks to eating meat we got more proteins that developed our brains.
    With these higher cognitive functions we began to organise our society and developed a moral sense.

    Now, why would there suddenly be a god, when we evolve to mankind? Why, for millions of years, is the planet inhabited with dinosaurs, who have completely no clue of moral sense or whatsoever? Why would there be a god looking down on us, just because we (accidentally) developed higher cognitive functions and moral sense?

    So, bit by bit I kind of evolved (what’s in a word :-)) to an atheist. It was not an event or certain experience what changed my mind. But let’s say, just rational thinking.

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  • I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness. I was told for years the world would end at any moment and if I did anything outside of their very strict parameters I would die with everyone else. I was scared to read or learn anything about life outside of the windowless walls of the local Kingdom Hall. After a lot of acting out as a teenager and finding some courage to explore the world around me I realized how ludicrous the things I had been told really were. I broke away and was announced as the local bad apple. I dabbled in other belief structures looking for a place to call home, then I finally smartened up and looked inside. I have been living happily now that there is no big jealous judgmental entity analyzing everything I do. I live life freely but within the obvious moral parameters that are just common sense.

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  • The thing that put me “over the top,” so to speak, was the book “Why We Believe in God(s)” by J. Anderson Thomson.

    One of the most difficult issues for me was the ubiquity of religion throughout the world and throughout history. I spent decades trying to rationalize and reconcile the faith and religiosity in which I was brought up with the plethora of different religions, all the while understanding rationally that none of it made any sense. I reached a point where I held to a “I’m not buying into the particulars of “my” religion but I believe that there is some deity out there.”

    Then I heard Penn Jillette being interviewed by Ron Bennington on SiriusXM, and Penn made a reference to this book when asked why people had such a propensity for faith and belief. I got the book, read the book (it’s short), and had my AHA! moment. Once I realized that we are sacks of chemicals, with chemically-based responses to various stimuli and ideas, it explained away all my “doubts” about atheism. The book detailed the “over stimulus” mechanism that creates the propensity to believe in omnipotent higher powers, and that answered the nagging questions about why faith, religion and deities populate all of human history.

    The book liberated my mind. I am today surer of and securer in my atheism than I ever was of any degree of faith and belief I had at any point in my life. And, I am far, far happier and more at peace.

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  • I was never a church going person, but I did believe in god ( I was between 7-9 years of age ). At that age it was ” belief due to consensus ”. But as soon as I started looking at the world with a bit more curiosity, things began to stand out. Things that did not fit with the stories that I was being told by those around me.

    I never questioned or engaged in any ”provocative” talks. I silently went from belief, to disbelief. Thankfully, my family was never strongly religious. And when I did mention my disbelief the first time the topic came up ( at around the age of 15-16 ), it was greeted fairly.

    In my humble opinion. Religion ( in any form ), is an easy escape. It’s a way to ignore the world as it is, and look at it through religious ” beer goggles”. It last only as long as you keep filling yourself with ”alcohol”.

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  • 18
    j.richard.jacobs says:

    I was something of a precocious child and asked a lot of questions. Now, there is nothing unique in asking a lot of questions for a child, but it was the kind of questions I was asking. They were difficult and went straight to the heart of the matter. I could sense the discomfort from others as they struggled to formulate their responses. The answers I received were inadequate. Most seemed quite irrational and illogical. That spurred more questions.

    By the time I was twelve, I realized that what was being “taught” after school and on weekends was not even approaching reality. I determined to read as much material as was available from those religions with which I was familiar. The more I read, the more I distanced myself from that line of thinking; a way that was not really thinking at all.

    By the time I reached sixteen, I had come to several conclusions and the schism was complete. Belief, for me, was something in which I could not engage, for it was apparent to me that to assume something to be true was not a reasonable stance to take; that the only constant in our Universe was that of change and that uncertainty was the norm.

    I have been told that the relationship between theism and atheism is orthogonal and that the position I hold includes them both. I think not. I am what I call an evidentialist. I hold no beliefs of any kind. I have an array of mental balance scales into which evidence is loaded and the direction in which the scales are tipped is the direction I go.

    Most people are unable to live like that. Uncertainty is unnerving for them. They seem to need absolutes in order to function. But there are no absolutes until something has been proven to be absolute, and so far nothing has qualified as an absolute. I have no need for simple answers to complex ideas. I have no need for belief of any sort.

    I do hope this has made sense to you.

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  • 19
    Jonathan says:

    I was taught a very literal 6 thousand year time-line for earth. As I learned more about science, God became less and less connected with the world as we experience it. Finally, after reading The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking, I realized that there was no room for God right from the beginning of the universe. No interaction with the supernatural has ever been detected directly or indirectly.

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  • My father was methodist, my mother catholic. To avoid condemnation from both churches for marrying outside their religion, they had a civil wedding by the Justice of Peace. This only got BOTH denominations angry at them, priests telling my mom she was prostituting herself & reverends telling my dad he was living in sin as neither denomination recognized a civil marriage as valid. Regardless, I was born & as I got to my 5th birthday, I was enrolled in kindergarten at a catholic school. Halfway through the 2nd semester it was discovered that I wasn’t baptized, so I was expelled from school as an “unwashed heathen”. I remember my mother taking me along to a meeting with the school principal, a bishop. He told her I couldn’t be baptized because the church didn’t recognize my parent’s marriage, that my mother was but a harlot living unmarried with a protestant heretic man & that, therefore, I was a bastard and thus ineligible for baptism. The kind bishop also elaborated on how I was destined to eternal roasting at hell unless I was baptized, but to get baptized, my parents would 1st have to marry in the holy catholic church! My mom left angry, with no prospect of me returning to school in time to finish the semester. At this, my wily grandfather (my mother’s side) said he would solve the problem. He approached a parish priest on a different diocese than the bishop. For a “small donation” of $250.00 this “kind” priest ignored church teachings & baptized me. Problem solved! My mom later presented the baptism certificate to the bishop & I was back to kindergarten! During the drive home from my baptism my grandfather told me that with the catholic church MONEY resolves ALL problems & disagreements. That was TRUTH! I pondered the thought that occurred to my mind on its own – if my immortal soul was in peril of eternal damnation & torture, shouldn’t the church have overridden ALL technical obstacles to avert that fate? Shouldn’t it even have done it for FREE rather than charge a fee? The seed of doubt was planted by the church itself at age 5.
    When I was in 2nd grade at another Catholic private school, the teacher who had been giving us a lesson the previous day about oviparous (egg-laying) & viviparous (live birth) animals called in sick. The priest took over the science lesson that day & told us the teacher had taught us all wrong. He told us god could make oviparous animals give live birth or have viviparous animals lay eggs according to divine will! I was a little science aficionado & my family raised fowl (quails, chicken, guinea hens, turkeys, ducks, geese, pheasants & pigeons), so I raised my arm & told him I had never seen a hen or a duck giving live birth, nor seen our dog or cat laying eggs. The priest got annoyed & gruffly told me that had god willed it, it would have been so because god is all-powerful & he can do as he pleases. I could not respond to that since I had been taught god is all-powerful. The priest then got into the Genesis lesson of how god created everything in 6 days & rested on the 7th. I then raised my arm & asked the priest the very obvious question of where god came from, who made him? The priest then made me hold out my hands & in front of the whole class he smacked hard several times with his steel ruler as he said “do not question dogma”. It was years before I found out what the hell the word dogma meant. But I did learn to hide my very obvious questions about religion & reality that even a 2nd grader’s mind has from religious people unless I wanted another beating. If god is needed to explain the creation of the universe, wouldn’t god himself need a creator himself to explain where the hell he came from? And god’s creator would need a creator-creator himself & on & on to infinity? If my 2nd grade mind could realize the implications of such faulty reasoning, WHY NOT ANYONE ELSE? It was from that moment that I took an even more rationalist/logical thinking mode & developed a dislike for religion. The priest made me a little atheist.

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  • 21
    Tempest says:

    I was raised a Baptist in a Christian home, went to church every Sunday and even went to and graduated from a private, Christian, school. I held on to my faith past graduation, and even kept it throughout my military career in the USMC. It wasn’t until the last five years or so that my eyes started to open.

    Giving up my faith was a slow progression, there wasn’t just one thing that lead me to disbelieve, but a number of different things. One of the most influential things that contributed to me becoming an atheist was watching a documentary called “Machines of the Gods”, wherein it detailed how ancient temples would hire engineers to create all manner of awe-inspiring “miracles”…all in effort to get more people to attend the temples. More people, of course, meant more money…so each temple was constantly attempting to one-up each other in order to have the highest attendance possible.

    The second most influential thing that lead to the ditching of my faith was my interest in stage magic. The more I read up on the subject, the deeper insight I got into just how easily people can be fooled. I watched and read a lot of material from the likes of Derren Brown, which peaked my interest in psychology, The Amazing Randi, who taught me how to challenge a supernatural claim, and Penn & Teller…my personal favorites, via their show Bullshit, convinced me to read my bible….paying close attention to the numerous contradictions and without skipping all the nasty bits they seem to always leave out in church sermons on Sunday.

    Eventually I discovered that the “inerrant word of god” was more akin to fables and fairy tales than something written by an omnipotent, omniscient, all loving and merciful god. Since the bible was the foundation of my faith, finding that it was so full of inconsistencies, contradictions, and atrocities that I just couldn’t justify anymore, pretty much destroyed any faith I had left.

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  • I never really had a faith in the first place. I thought I was supposed to be a Christian until I was about 6 or 7 years old; but having been raised in a family that didn’t go to church except on Christmas eve, I never really believed (I figured out the Santa and EB things really young, but pretended to believe because I thought the gifts would stop if I didn’t) and gave up trying to believe when I felt nothing when I tried praying. The older I got, the more ridiculous the whole thing seemed to me.

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  • 23
    maria melo says:

    I guess the question has been frequent on this site. Does it really matters ?
    In first place, I think I was a passive child and relgion did not affect almost nothing, at least more than other tradition.
    I know Prof. Richard Dawkins thinks it is an absurd labelling children as post modernist, existencialist, marxist etc. but I guess I was a “feminist child” and as I was 11 and decided to read the bible as a normal book , I´ve stopped disgusted because God cursed Eve (even if God existed I wouldn´t appreciate him).
    Sorry if I am repeating myself in case you have good memory.

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  • I grew up in a near-secular Canadian home. My family had a study with these amazing children’s encyclopedias all about science, from dinosaurs to space travel to how we see colour. I’m lucky to have been raised in a pro-science household (though I became a musician). My maternal grandfather was a neurosurgeon, and my father’s side is riddled with secular free-thinkers . As for my own lack of belief, I was about nine when I deduced the conclusion myself. One by one, The Tooth Fairy, The Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus were revealed to be crafty deceptions, so it made sense that Jesus was next.
    When I would listen to believers insist that Jesus was real, “you just have to BELIEVE”, it always sounded too much like characters speaking about Santa Claus in some corny Christmas movie. I hadn’t even been aware that creationists existed until I realized that one of my high-school friends grew up as one. His lack of belief in evolution and science and his literal interpretation of the bible left me absolutely stunned. I was ‘ignorant of the ignorance’ until I started to really give it a hard look in my adulthood. My attitude towards adults who are so profoundly intellectually lazy has shifted from amusement to deep concern. My attitude towards religion itself has changed from detached curiosity to utter distaste.

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  • 25
    anthony4691 says:

    I was always active in the Anglican church growing up but at 21 became a convert to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Why I did that has more to do with a difficult and lonely childhood followed by a similar first marriage – I think I needed to belong somewhere and the JW’s appeared to me to have an accurate understanding of the bible. For 18 years of my life I tried fitting in to no avail.

    There is a subtle slide into the community that leaves you in a very difficult position should you want to leave. First you are given the passage that says ‘A mans enemies will be those of his own household’ which is taken to mean your own family will be opposed to your faith. Then you are given another passage where Jesus is quoted as saying he did not come to unite but to divide’ This then confirms to the beginner that to side with god they must reject the negativity of their family and former friends to the point of rejecting them altogether if necessary. Then the trap is set. You are afforded the opportunity to ask questions and even doubt until you agree to baptism, Now you can’t ask those questions because that would deem you ‘weak’ or worse an ‘apostate’ all of which would render you persona non grata.

    After 18 years I began to ask some doctrinal questions, certain things stopped adding up, the evidence for Evolution was becoming increasingly insistent and my doubts began to grow. I kept praying but got no answers and began wondering if I was just talking to the ceiling. I got nothing and began to doubt if a spirit world existed at all. This might amuse some but I figured I’d pray to the devil too – just to see if anything happened. I got nothing. It was a bit like living in a house of cards. The walls of doctrine looked solid enough until I pushed against them. I started to see through the idea of isolating people from their lives. It was clearly a tactic to prevent people from asking questions. Once that penny dropped it seemed reason enough to push against those walls with questions rooted in logic. The house of cards collapsed with very little pushing and I was left – as I knew I would be – without any friends and an estranged family.

    It was worth it though. For me it was better late than never to realise a cold truth than to live a comfortable lie.

    Soon after I took a degree in Psychology and learned even more about Evolution. One of the books on the list for a first year book review was ‘The Selfish Gene’. I remembered Richard Dawkins giving a fascinating christmas lecture at the RI on the evolution of the eye. I devoured the book, it made complete sense (Though I now see the self organisation of matter as a product of the second law of thermodynamics to also have something to do with it too) I then bought The God Delusion which was like looking at the old me in the mirror and thankfully I was able to laugh at myself.

    Today, I stand as an anti – theist, tired of arguing against the existence of a god and more interested in the eradication of religion through education in critical thinking skills.

    I now see that religion is not just wrong, it is a deluded scourge on humanity and represents the very pinnacle of human ignorance.

    I’m free of it and I hope my short story here helps others break free because for sure we have just this one life and the wonders of scientific discovery far outweigh some manufactured, claptrap religion offers.

    There’s a whole world and universe out there that awaits our discovery and I am glad that in my own small way I am a part of the scientific community rather than a religious one.

    So be it 🙂

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  • 26
    Brendan says:

    I was raised catholic. I grew up in a liberal Catholic Worker home, learned a strong ethic of helping the needy, loving the unloved and believing in those abandoned by society. Needless to say, that is not the prevailing attitude of Catholics in America. I attended Catholic elementary and high schools and a Catholic University where I studied Theology. In my studies of Judeo-Christian scripture I saw stark inconsistencies with the words of Jesus and the dogma of the Church. I realized that Christianity had basically ignored Christ for the psychotic musings of Paul. At first it upset me. Then I realized something, every society had developed some sort of connection with the sacred that helped them keep order. The Native Americans had the great Spirit and the Indians had Hinduism and later Buddhism. The Jews had their story of the law and why they should follow it. The Ancient Middle East had a variety of faiths with complex mythos and genealogies of deities. I realized that basically, Christianity was just more of the same, with one big difference, it was forced on the rest of the known world at the edge of a Roman sword. The fact that a pacifist, liberal, progressive religion of loving people and showing compassion to one another was hijacked by a militant empire and used to control people taught me two things. First it taught me how insignificant Christianity and all of the other “main” religions are. Second it showed me that the idea of a god that interacts with the people of earth, intercedes in their fates, listens to their prayers or even cares what happens to them is a fantasy. There is no reason to believe something exists if all of the evidence proves to the contrary. If the evidence were just inconclusive, there might be room for faith. In the case of the evidence proving the contrary, belief is idiocy.

    Five years ago, my oldest child died from leukemia. I have heard many people say “there are no atheists in foxholes” and that “atheists will start praying as soon as their kid gets cancer” and I have to tell you, it never even crossed my mind. In reflection, I was glad there is no “God.” If he existed and he let this happen I’d be so angry with him that it would have destroyed me. I would have done anything I could to hurt him. As it is, I just accept that people are born, they die and hopefully they are loved in between those two points. As for my son, he was.

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  • 27
    dduncombe says:

    Because of you :-). It was this video: http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_dawkins_on_militant_atheism?language=en

    When you said that people have to choose between believing in evidence or believing in crazy things (forgive my terrible paraphrasing) you hit a deep chord. I had always felt I was a scientific thinker that based my beliefs on facts. Why had I not questioned the existence of god before? The answer hit me hard, I was afraid.

    Once I realised that, I thought, “well god wouldn’t want me to be afraid of him or not to question things”. I had to question him too, I thought. And when I did he disappeared. It was a gradual but steady diminishing. It was like learning a new word, after that I saw the evidence for Atheism everywhere. Now I can’t imagine how it took me so long.

    Sooooooo thank you very much. 🙂

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  • 28
    Granville says:

    I was raised in a Pentecostal family. The experience of faith is much more intense and visceral than the experience of more mainstream faiths. From an early age I was “shown the reality of god.” My parents prayed in tongues, practiced divine healing, prophecy and other “manifestations of the Holy Spirit.” When I was twelve my mother’s prayer group conducted an exorcism on our living room floor. I was absolutely convinced that god was very real. While I was taught that god was love what I experienced was fear and constant worry that I didn’t measure up. By the age of twelve I realized that I was gay and my fear deepened. I tried to tell my mother and was angrily told that the devil was lying to me and that if I prayed hard enough he would leave me alone. I spent many years trying with everything I had to be what I believed god wanted. Overtime, one by one, my beliefs and doctrines fell away. It was like taking a brick out of a wall, once enough were removed it fell down of its own weight. By the time I was 28, I was disillusioned and angry. It took many years to undo the damage that religion did to me and to change my black and white thinking. When I look at religion now I wonder how I was ever able to believe it was real. My atheism puts a wall between me and my family. I suppose that the wall is my doing; I feel the need to protect myself from my families’ attempts to “bring me back into the fold.” Despite the strained relationship with my family I have never been happier and more at peace with my life. It is so good not to be wasting my time on faith in god.

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  • 29
    Christine says:

    I had never been very strong in my faith and had mostly thought of it as something my parents made me participate in. On a whim one day when I was 15 my dad convinced me to apply for a job at the creation museum (yes, the one run by Ken Ham) since he was applying for a job there. Coincidentally, I got the job and my dad didn’t. That was my first job which I worked the summer that I was 15. It was an absolutely ridiculous experience and truly eye opening for me. It was almost surreal. The air surrounding that place is so thick with delusion it smothers you.
    A couple years later in my senior year of highschool I took a college level biology course. That class was my true moment of clarity. I became obsessed with understanding how the world works. I loved that the minute details of how life functions no longer had to be mystifying. It was empowering to look at a plant and truly understand how it derived energy from the sun on a chemical and cellular level, or how DNA is used by the cells to synthesize every protein that makes up our body.
    Now I’m almost finished with my bachelors degree in Nursing and the more I learn about the human body and the world/universe in general the more solidified my non-belief is. I especially hate when people use the argument that god made us into perfect beings, because I could go on for hours about how poorly designed our bodies are and the many ways in which all of our organs can wreak havoc and kill us.

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  • Having been brought up in communist Yugoslavia, having no faith was a given. I remember my grandmother always used to celebrate christmas and easter, but it was only a nice tradition and was not accompanied by any real religious content or talks. As the wars of 1990’s erupted, so did the national identities, hand in hand with what ever church happened to be dominant. I went with the flow and soon got baptised in the Serbian Orthodox Church at the age of 20. Being a Tabula Rasa to the “word of god”, I went ahead and read it. Well, I went ahead and read a lot of them actually. The book “The Great Initiates,” by Édouard Schuré made me realise how stupid singling out a religion over another would be. Talking to priests and reading their book further made me promptly run back to reason and sanity. So I am not a classic example of someone who lost their faith as I had no faith to begin with, but I think however that my story makes a good point that religion can not conquer over reason, once religious indoctrination remains absent form a young persons development.

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  • A lot of reasons. I grew up Roman Catholic and as such was the only one of my friends and family members to actually have read the bible cover to cover and I have done so multiple times. I prefer my King James, but the NIV and NASB have a place on my bookshelves as well. The process of leaving my faith was long and slow and took about 15 years. It involved an extensive reading of the bible, other religious holy books, seeing the inconsistencies between all these religions, and even inconsistencies inside my own faith. I then started searching for answers that would affirm that my beliefs were right and began focusing on learning about science and philosophy. After seeing the best arguments the theists have, probably best displayed in the intellectual dishonesty of Bill Craig, have no real foundation to stand on. I finally realized that the actual thing that convinces people to believe in a god or gods is simply belief in the absence of evidence, that is faith, or claims to personal experiences. The issue with these for me is that they still do not argue for one god over another or one religion over another, seem to be a product of childhood indoctrination (of which I was definitely a victim of), and offer no demonstrable evidence to be true in the first place. Once realizing this reality I could not be intellectually dishonest and had to discard my faith.

    The good news is that’s the only thing that changed. I knew I did not get my morality from my religion (how could you?) and I knew my friends and family would still accept me because I am still the same person. I did learn that my mom and dad were closet atheists, so closeted in fact that they only realized they were after I explained to them what atheism was. I still have some family members and friends that like to bring up the topic of god and “save my soul,” but it usually ends with them asking me questions about the very religion they claim to believe in.

    My journey started as a search for a solid defense of my beliefs and ended with me becoming a Theoretical Cosmologist and an Atheist. My life is filled with love and meaning and I would not change any of it.

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  • I can never recall actually having a faith despite being raised Catholic. In many ways even for my Parents, Catholicism was far more a cultural inheritance than a steadfast dogmatic collection of beliefs. My Parents were religious especially my Mother but it was a rather personal belief and coupled to social/ family gatherings. I was taught religion in school but for the most part remained unaffected by it. It was not really until I was about 7/8 and going through my preparation for communion that I gave it any thought at all. At the time I was an avid reader of Norse/Greek/ Celtic Mythology and loved science, especially astronomy and this factored heavily in my atheistic awakening. The bible stories taught in school and the gospels and readings at mass seemed like bad, boring, unexciting versions of the far more interesting mythologies I was used to reading. I could see parallels between the bronze age beliefs of the Hebrews and those of the other cultures and found I related more to the latter than to the former. I began questioning openly in class the catechism being extolled and noticed that in many instances the lay teacher who was required to teach us religion was either unable or unwilling to answer my questions… so I waited until the local parish priest came to visit and posed them to him. His replies were not only unsatisfactory to me but seemed banal, automatic, pre-programmed rote which I could see satisfied him in some way but made absolutely no sense to me at all. I searched for some meaning in the catechism we where being taught but could immediately see it as a watered down children’s version of the religion full of Jesus and love and parables. I read parts of the bible to discover more and branched into the lesser taught sections and found a miasma of ridiculous stories and contradictions. Before I had completed my Communion I had resolved that it was all nonsense and that just as there was no reason to believe in Thor or Zeus or Mannanan there was equally no reason to believe in Yahweh. For a time thereafter I may have briefly believed in some deist/pantheistic god, I certainly can’t recall that belief being particularly prevalent or influential but as I grew up and looked at all the worlds religions even that faded. In the interim I did not give much consideration to the question at all until about 17 years ago when the first of two of my sisters died. Even then my thoughts were of an afterlife rather than a god and I found myself, while wishing it were true, coming to the realisation that there was no evidence or likelihood that it was true. Despite this I still appealed to some vague heavenly presence or departed spirits to show some sign of their existence. This arose again at the death of my little sister but now it was more a realisation of an often unjust uncaring universe. There was no plan or purpose except that which we made ourselves. Life became infinitely more precious despite the heartache and I did become aware of inwardly railing against the platitudes of well meaning believers… soon that turned for a distaste and distrust of the empty promises and vacuous “reasoning” employed by all the churches. I can understand that they give people hope but it is a false hope built on sand and ultimately unsatisfying.

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  • 33
    thomas_1969 says:

    I was raised in the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), a federation of mostly-liberal protestant churches. (The Evangelical-Lutheran Church in America is similar.) Ironically, I am estranged from it now because pastor S, who confirmed me, was a wonderful person who excelled at his job.

    In his confirmation classes, Pastor S was fond of discussing his favorite Bible passages with us. His enthusiasm infected me. In particular, he infected me with his conviction that Lutherans, in contrast to Catholics, did not rely on authority figures to tell them what the Bible means. Unlike them, we Lutherans were supposed to read the Bible on our own, apply our own reading comprehension to it, reach whatever conclusions our thoughts would yield, and have the courage to stand by them. All this made excellent sense to me, so I started reading “the director’s cut” of the Bible — meaning all of it, from the beginning. I reached the end of the book maybe a year after my confirmation. I would have been 15 years old then.

    Reading the whole book like that terminated my Christian faith almost immediately. Once I noticed all the Bible’s contradictions, its convenient coincidences, its suspicious omissions, its implausible conjuring tricks, I realized I did not believe its facts after all. And once I noticed just how cruel, vengeful, and petty the god of the Bible acted outside of the passages our pastor had cherry-picked, I concluded that I didn’t believe in the Bible’s moral values overall, either. To be sure, I continued to feel attached to the aesthetics of Lutheran churches. I loved the neo-Gothic architecture, the stained-glass windows, the music of Bach, and still do. But I realized that this didn’t make me a Christian any more than my fondness of German castles made me a monarchist. That’s when I knew I was no longer a Christian.

    I haven’t looked back ever since. And yet, I still think fondly of pastor S, and still cherish his lessons in close reading and critical thinking. They have taught me a lot that’s important to me.

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  • Nice read.
    When I was 6 years old my best friend told me through their screen door that he could not be my friend any more. His family was JW.
    I could see the loss in his face.

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  • 36
    Krystal says:

    I have temporal lobe epilepsy which is also known as ” the God disease “. People with TLE have a strong drive toward religion that is in no small part due to very real hallucinatory religious experiences and also things like out of body experiences. I’ve had it all my life but only found out that it was a form of epilepsy when I was 45. I lost biblical religious tendencies a couple of years before that however when I happened to be studying planetary physics, geology, and etymology all at the same time. Things began to click. I got out my bible and ended up reading it from front to back. Every description of God in the bible is volcanic. Every one. I am really under the impression now the ancients were volcano worshippers. It was common practice back in the day for the shamen of all cultures to personify their creation stories to make the stories more memorable throughout the population. Then they developed writing. At some point after that, they forgot the stories were personified creation myths and took them literally.
    Even the New Testament etymologically depicts a creation story.
    I was floored. It was not something I could deny at all and be honest it felt very liberating. I still was spiritual however to anything not oriented to the God of the bible. Then I found out about the epilepsy. I thought God and dead ancestors had been giving me visions and tasks all those years, simply because I had no rational explanation for it and it had been determined I was not schizophrenic. Doctors even now are not well versed in TLE. It’s funny though, now that I understand my problem, I still have hallucinations but they have become religiously benign. I may see a pillar of blue smoke, or wraith like creatures. Now I just smile and watch it like a movie LOL
    Please, if any of you know someone who is prone to out of body experiences or religious hallucinations, prod them to get checked for TLE.
    It is still a struggle daily to be rational. I want to believe simply because that is how my brain is wired. It’s a compulsion. I miss being able to believe in various supernatural beings. I try to keep myself in check the best I can with science and rational thinking.

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  • 37
    Jeffrey says:

    I supposed I left what one could call “a faith” of some kind sometime in my teens. I began to realize that I was seeing little return on investment with prayer. I was verbally and, sometimes physically, in both school and at home. I must’ve prayed nearly every night for the first, I dunno, 13 or so years of my life? When I found I wasn’t getting the “promise” of divine relief, I started to see what it was all about. Manipulation, capitulation, and control of the masses. I stopped believing in the traditional Christian “God” when I got to my high school history classes and began to see that there were these other faiths, all seeking the answers to many similar questions about love, about life, and about healing. When I saw the same pattern, and saw the invariable end result, I had enough of being perpetually lied to over the years and, upon my high school graduation, I renounced my belief in “God”.

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  • Double whammy of watching ‘Cosmos’, and becoming part of a no-nonsense family that embraced the sciences.

    No going back to dabbling with the ‘First Assembly of Christ’, or god, ever. Everything about the natural world simply fell in place, and when I say simple I mean true. Welcome to the wonderful world of color.

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  • I was raised Catholic. I left religion when it was time for me to do my “confirmation.” In the Catholic religion, you must confirm your relationship with the Holy Spirit and the Church right around the age of 16. In the first class I attended we were told this would be the first “adult” decision we would make in our own heart and of our own faith. We needed to ensure that we were ready to give ourselves wholly to God and to The Church.

    So, following what I thought was the responsible adult thing to do, I began asking questions. Questions I had had for quite some time and wanted answers to. These questions were as broad as “How do we make peace with evolution and creationism?” to more specific ones like: “What sort of a just and loving God is it that doesn’t allow the souls of unbaptized babies into heaven?” or “Why do we quote this page of the old testament, but not THIS one?”

    Long story short, I decided and announced to my family that I would not be doing my Confirmation. I did not feel right doing it, and I felt doing it would be a lie. Needless to say, my family wigged out just a bit. To them, this was not a decision for me to make myself, it was part of their Holy Sacraments (duty) to ensure I did it. My family, specifically my mother and grandmother, pushed hard for me to just go ahead with it any way, that I would feel better about it once I was older and that this was “just a phase” I was going through.

    Whenever I went to my family with my questions, they told me that it was not right to question our beliefs and that they were always taught to have faith and to not question. Questioning religion was questioning God…and God was not to be questioned.

    As the rest of my high school career went on, I kept my religious beliefs (or lack thereof) to myself. I did not want to lose friends or separate myself from my family any further than I already had. I specifically remember getting in fights with my younger siblings (who still attended youth groups at Christian churches with their friends) over the “blackness of evil in my heart” and “If I think it’s okay for a girl to be with a girl or a boy to be with a boy then I am weird and going against God.” Keep in mind, my oldest sibling is 10 years younger than me, so I really shouldn’t have let such commentary get under my skin….but I did. I still do – though more for reasons now that reflect how scary I feel the brainwashing can be through religion and the teaching/training they impress on the youngest of our minds.

    It wasn’t until I graduated high school, went to college, and met my now fiance that I felt comfortable in my own skin. The people I began, and still continue, to surround myself with embrace skepticism, and living a just and moral life without the need for religion or God. I no longer felt like an outsider being doomed to hell for my questions and love of the world around me. The here and now. THIS planet. THIS life.

    Like most people commenting here, leaving religion was not a fast and easy decision. I was so afraid of letting go because of the “just in case it’s true” aspect. I left Catholicism, visited Christianity, dabbled with Paganism, Buddhism, and even attended a Unitarian Universalist Church trying to find these answers or at least a way I could make myself believe. Eventually I could not settle with lying to myself. I made a slow and painful journey from being a believer to a “spiritual person” to an Agnostic and finally, an Atheist.

    Today, I am very much at peace with my decision, and finally can feel like myself. Accepting Atheism has allowed me the freedom to accept who I am as a person. To be a kind, loving, honest (sometimes far too honest,) knowledgeable, and decent human being to fellow humans, animals, and the planet on which we all live. THIS life is all we have and I’m not holding out for a second one. 🙂

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  • I was brought up as a Catholic,but when I was 12,a friends mother brought us both to see the film’The capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann’ and when my Dad came in that evening I asked him why did our President Mr.De Valera do nothing for the Jewish people he said it was political,I then asked why did the Pope do nothing and he said it was political. I was given the facts and decided against both politics and religion. It was hard when I was younger to swim against the tide,but I read people who also gave me the facts and as reality fitted with that I was happy enough.

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  • I think I only ever believed because I took it for granted that my family wouldn’t tell me something that wasn’t true – then one day at about 7 years old I found the materials my mother was going to use to put together our baskets from the Easter Bunny, and it all just clicked. If there was no Easter Bunny, then all of those bizarre nonsensical things they told me about were probably also not true. So there was no Santa Claus, no Tooth Fairy… and no Jesus. At the time it never occured to me that there was any difference between them at all – my parents must know they were wrong about all of them, right? It wasn’t until some time later that I realized they, for some reason, thought one of these things didn’t fit, but by then I’d sat through many church sermons looking at it as if the guy on the alter was reading “The Night Before Christmas” and it all just made sense that way. By the time I realized adults took this stuff seriously, it was too late. I wanted evidence. They didn’t have it.

    From there I went into a sort of agnostic/deistic phase (i.e. “I don’t know if there’s A god, but if there is I’m pretty sure it’s not the one described in the bible.”) which took up most of my preteens/teens/early 20s. Then around 25, I found myself working with a man who was a part time pastor and a HUGE fundamentalist. He made several statements that, believer or not, I knew had to be wrong and would go do the research and come back to him with a thought through rebuttal. The more this happened the more I realized that many of the arguments I’d head over the years that I just didn’t know enough to reject (“evolution is just a theory”, argument from design, etc.) weren’t on as strong a footing as I’d thought. Every bit of knowledge made me more and more curious and eventually this pastor, dead set on saving my soul, lead me right into atheism.

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  • I grew up a very devote Catholic in a Catholic household. I would get upset that as a Catholic that no one could go to heaven unless they were Catholic. I guess my faith was being slowly eroded by the Church itself. When I grew older I read the bible and was filled with anger. I became a non-practicing Catholic. I married and raised my daughters as Catholics (normal thing to do I thought?)but always questioned them on what they were learning in religion. I would tell them not to believe the old stories as they were written in ancient times and had no relevance to today. My youngest child at the age of 9 said she didn’t believe in god. She read books beyond her years, her favorites being books on the World Wars and the Great Depression. I told her that her thinking was logical and if that was what she believed I accepted it. I still believed in god. I raised my children to study science, especially mathematics and physics and question everything. I think through encouraging my children’s path, which meant my learning more about physics and astronomy , I was slowly leaving religion and god behind.

    I rejected all religions out right, 15 years ago, when I was working in the US south. I worked for a company there for 9 years and realized how sick religion was and how the churches were able to manipulate the members to accept anything in the name of god. Also I found the people ( who were very religious) quite uninformed about new scientific studies, archaeology, anthropology. evolution and anything that did not tie into their god.

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  • I was thinking of converting to my husband’s religion and did a lot of reading. I’d had misgivings before, but after all the research I knew I just didn’t have it in me to say I was a Christian anymore, let alone become a Catholic. It really just confirmed what I already knew in my heart to be true, but still, I’d been so sure at one time that God was with me and listening to my almost constant prayers, it was hard to realize I’d lost that. I considered converting anyway and faking it, just to make his family happy, but I couldn’t do that to my kids, who were quite young at the time. I’ve been extremely lucky that my kids have married atheists.

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  • I was brought up catholic. Things just didn´t make sense. I could only be a nun and not a priest because I am a girl (age6), nobody could answer “Where did God come from?” (age 7). Was corrected when I replied that the Virgin Mary must have had sex to have a baby (age 12). Again corrected when insisted the bread and wine REPRESENT body and blood of Christ, was told that it was literally the blood and body of Christ (what???) (age 14). And from then on just everything came out as contradiction and illogical, and I found that religion was not good for anything.

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  • I became a christian when I was a teenager and then became devoted to the faith over the following 15 years, though had a break away from it for around 3 years while living in another country.

    During my time as a christian I suffered from depression, which worsened over the years. When I lived abroad and had nothing to do with the church I noticed the depression went away, and enjoyed life without guilt or sense of commitment to others whom I gave much of my time, money and energy and yet received next to nothing in return. Incidentally christians call this “the desert experience”, when in fact it’s just burn-out.

    Evidently I came to the conclusion that religion was one of the main contributors to depression, and decided at that moment to reject the faith. Since then my mind has healed and the new perspective on life has made me a whole new person.

    It’s ironic how christians use the term ‘born again’, when in my experience it was the opposite. I felt I was dying as a christian, and becoming an atheist felt like I was being born anew.

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  • 46
    Lyndsay says:

    I was raised in the Seventh Day Adventist religion and my family happened to follow the right-winged view in the organization. When I was 17, I was too old for the teen sabbath school class and too young for the adult class, but decided to sit in anyway. At one point in the lesson, the elder who was reading and I realized a blatant contradiction in what he was saying. I asked why it was that the bible contradicted itself and cited the example that had made me raise my hand. I don’t remember the details because it was 15 years ago, but the elder was very upset that I would interrupt and contradict. After asking why three times, he told me in a sigh, “that is why we have faith child. We can’t have an answer for everything”.
    That was the straw that broke my tie with organized religion.
    That very day I went home and had a coversation with my father who disagreed (come to find out) with the belief in which we both were raised.
    I quit the church mentally that day and threw myself into reading mythologies and religions (same difference in my opinion) throughout human history. The more I learned, the more that it became abundantly clear to me that it’s a man mad idealism that exists solely in the confines of the mind. Personally, I prefer to fill my mind with more enlightening information.

    My life hasn’t ever been as happy or as healthy thanks to the absence of religious dogma.

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  • 47
    Vesselin says:

    I was brought up in a family of non-religious father and very religious mother in communist at that time Bulgaria. Despite the official orthodox christian religion was not then promoted, it wasn’t strictly forbidden since the communist regime quickly realized the priests make good agents for the secret services in case someone talks against the party. My mother’s family however was one of the first that truly adapted the protestant faith – Adventists of the seventh day. My grandfather has faced dead sentence for refusing to carry rifle during WW2. Later on he was awarded for bravery as a medic. Needless to say that in a family the mother has much more influence to determine the way of thinking in a young mind. I grew up with the stories of Daniel in the cage with lions, with the stories how God didn’t let my grandfather to be executed and how afterwards God miraculously protected him from the enemy bullets because he dedicated his life completely – didn’t carry a gun and never killed anyone. All this sounded more attractive than any fairytale written.
    So, without objection from my father, my mother was taking me to church every Saturday. I was given assignments to learn whole parts of the bible, there were competitions for fast reading etc.
    The break out for me happened in my high school. I studied in a specialized computer technical school in the city where the only processors in the whole area of soviet influence were made. This meant -at age of 13 living away from my parents and the atmosphere of the brain washing and healthy concentration on physics, mathematics and other sciences. Needless to say it was an elite school and the program was quite heavy – from 7 in the morning till 17 in the afternoon. So.. I can’t say there was a sudden awakening… I came back my first summer vacation and all my past didn’t seem right. I knew that there are no miracles, but just probabilities. I learned to seek the logical explanation for everything. Maybe the mindset of representing complex problems through algorithms – simple small tasks and conditions, changed my way of thinking… I don’t know. It could be the fact that during the sociology classes I learned about far more ancient, far more sophisticated religions. But right about then I started asking inconvenient questions. Like – where does 1/10th of all money given every month to the church go. It was already 1992 and the communism was just abolished. Suddenly the relevant equality in the society was broken. Groups like retired people had to survive in miserable conditions. Nevertheless they were giving their 1/10 every month. I argued with the pastor that they are in need, they should be helped. But no – it was more important to print more religious books, more brochures and to pay for more pastors and their education abroad. This is the time I started hating the religion. I am far from the communist ideology, but for one thing I agree with Marks – that religion is the utopia of the masses.
    Now, having such background and the heavy indoctrination behind my back is funny sometimes. I can argue with any pastor about any chapter of the bible even with quotations. My profession as a senior IT consultant introduces me to different people from all over the world during my assignments. And this is how I found out that the strategy of all religions has been one and same everywhere. They take you from your childhood and never let go. Every week – church, home activities, socializing… They just don’t give the person a break to start thinking.
    And when my religous discussions reach the point of : true believe means believing without facts (and they always do), I just ask where this quote comes from “Only the fool believes everything” 🙂 So.. their good book shoots them in the leg. Summarizes it all.

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  • I am the 3rd-born of 11 children, born and raised in Colorado to Christian parents, raised attending non-denominational, Methodist, and Assemblies of God churches until age 11. It was then that my parents settled on a Christian cult based out of Lancaster County, PA, comprised mostly of ex-Amish and ex-Mennonites. It’s called Charity Christian Fellowship. My parents found out about it through their “tape ministry”. They would mail free cassette tapes of sermons from the church to anyone who wanted them. My parents ordered them, became enamored, and then proceeded to establish a subsidiary church in CO. A bunch of the cult followers in PA then moved to CO to help establish the new church. My mother and sisters immediately started wearing long dresses and head coverings. My dad and I started wearing suspenders (belts were banned for showing bodily form).

    I grew up without tv, video games, music (besides classical), and books (besides the bible and books about martyrs). I started working full-time when I was 8, getting up at 3:00am to help my dad deliver milk to stores and restaurants. We were “homeschooled”, which meant we got the equivalent of an eight-grade education. I was always told that college was evil, because worldly knowledge would “lead you astray” (they were certainly right about that one). Our entire social group was within the cult. We weren’t allowed to say more than “hi” to anyone of the opposite sex. In fact, during church services, men sat on one side of the aisle, and women sat on the other.

    I finally got “saved” at the age of 14. This was at (one of many) revival meetings. I didn’t feel any spirit compelling me to go forward to the alter. I felt immense pressure from EVERYONE in that revival tent. There were about five other revival meetings at which I did not “answer the call”, so I finally caved. And what relief! I cried like a baby for hours, racking my brain to think of anything else I could confess to Denny (the cult leader). I thought it was God moving me, but in retrospect it was easy to see that it was just immense pressure relief.

    My oldest sister married the son of the cult leader, and has spent the last 16 years with him indoctrinating the good people of Ghana. Her husband is certainly in line to become the leader in PA.

    So there’s some background for you. When I was 17, Denny was in town, and so of course he was preaching that Sunday. His sermon was about how long women’s dresses should be, how they should wear thicker glasses to look less attractive, how horseback riding was ok as long as you walked the horse – galloping was considered a thrill and therefore evil. Skiing was evil, etc. I walked out in the middle of it and never went back, but it was a very long journey to the end of my religion. I didn’t want to be reactionary and throw it all out, so I kept working my way through more and more “liberal” churches, but every time it kept turning out to be a different flavor of BS. I subsequently lost almost all of the friends I ever had at any of those churches, due to my apostasy.

    When I was 21, I was thinking about the story of Paul, and how he became a self-proclaimed leader of the church. His epistles reminded me an awful lot of Denny (the cult leader) and I starting thinking: who’s to say he didn’t just make all this stuff up, just like Denny? And who says his epistles are the word of God? And his story about being blinded on the road to Damascus and talking to Jesus – how do we know he didn’t make that up?

    Once you start questioning Paul, it doesn’t take long to start questioning the rest. But does it take long to throw it all out? For me, absolutely. The fear of hell is a powerful thing, which is why I was a virgin till age 23. Fear of hell. It kept me from finally becoming agnostic till I was 28, and then atheist at 30.

    Growing up, I was always told that there’s freedom in Jesus. I’ve never felt more freedom than when I finally cast off the shackles of religion. The world is a whole different place. And now, Richard Dawkins is unknowingly my therapist. Science is a healing salve. Thanks Richard. You’re my champion of logic.

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  • Hi Mike

    It makes no sense to reject atheism from using reason, as reason supports atheism and is contrary to faith. It’s one of the main underlying principles that separates atheism from theism.

    So I’d say that other factors were involved that influenced your decision to become religious.

    I myself was brought up in an atheist household, but due to the fallout with my parents during my teen years, I rejected atheism and became a christian. My reasons for this weren’t rational or based on reason, so I suspect that others who move from atheism to religion aren’t being rational either.

    My two cents.

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  • At the age of four I wandered away from home. I went into a Baptist church and was attracted to a man who was the minister. I had parents who didn’t communicate much with each other or me. The police found me a couple of blocks away on the way home with the minister. I told my mother I liked the place and so they began to drop me off and the minister took me under his wing. About a year later I was winning contests for reciting Bible verses and stories. We moved to Oklahoma when I was six and I joined the Christian church at the end of the block where we lived. Neither of my parents went with me and at the age of ten on Easter Sunday, the pastor said that he knew that everyone in the congregation believed the same things he did… I got up and walked out. I had been reading about Buddhism, Taoism, and Advaita Vedanta and much of what I read resonated with me way more than the things I had experienced in church, etc. I never went back and after a few years and surviving two years of war, I knew that I was an “atheist, zen buddhist” and have explored and studied in many countries with a number of strong and famous teachers. Gautama was a man who figured some things out that help people to be human and get along with themselves and others. My zen practice is about one breath at a time while being open to the instant unclouded unclouded by beliefs, experiencing reality as clearly as possible without preconceptions as much as possible. I have values that come from my innards, recognizing my original nature, with my outsides matching my insides, and doing my best to uplift all beings while doing as little harm as possible. No religion at all and I’m pushing seventy years and still … one breath at a time.

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  • I distinctly remembered questioning everything I was taught in Sunday School at just 6 years old but got hushed and scolded so by the time I was 8 I finally got the courage to question it to my grandmother who chased me around the kitchen with a knife so from that day on I became a closeted atheist until I hit college and majored in psychology and at 20 I took a class on evolution and I finally had the courage and knowledge to come out fully athiest and I have never been happier with my life I have an athiest tattoo on my left shoulder as a reminder of my journey

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  • I was raised by extremely God-obsessed parents. They were ‘church shoppers’, always searching for something more. My parents eventually joined a cult with heavy Islamic undertones, and this was our life. I was raised in this cult and was 100% into it, loved it, was devoted to God etc etc…

    The leader of the cult told me I should study to be a doctor, which meant I had to get a science degree first. Once I became educated about the basics of biology, chemistry, evolution etc, my brain couldn’t cope with the existence of God or an afterlife anymore. Suddenly all the gaping holes and contradictions were unavoidable.

    After a few years of painful ‘deprogramming’, I now feel incredibly liberated and am in constant wonder and awe of the real world, instead of living with fear and inadequacy. I never went to medical school but finished my PhD in cancer research. Science saved me!

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  • well, my faith wasn’t really mine but my parents’ and i left it because of many reasons; finding out that praying doesn’t work would be one of them (or praying, fooling myself into believing that it worked, then finding out that it didn’t work when confronted with facts that proved it); studying science would have probably helped more if i would not have attended religion classes taught by a buddy who told us something like “yeah, the bible isn’t literally true when it comes to the creation of the world and of animals and humans, but that’s not even the purpose of the bible, the bible only tells us that god created the world and science tells us how he did it” (so thanks to this brainwash it took me some time to realize how the pastor tricked us into thinking that religion and science don’t contradict each other); realizing that there’s no proof for the existence of god and growing out of stories like a virgin birth (just happened naturally, like growing out of santa or the easter bunny. i remember wondering as a child why absolutely no miracles happen during my lifetime when in the past there seem to have been so many of them going on- how unfair!); getting disgusted by the cruel stories and puzzeld by the unlogical stories of the bible (most importantly, why did jesus die for me? he could have asked me first. i wouldn’t have wanted him to die for me. and if only the people who believe in him can live forever, what about all the other people who were born before he was born? like, it’s not their fault that they didn’t believe in him, but they will be punished for it anyway?); noticing parallels to other religions that make it all look the same (i went like hmmm… somehow this is always the same game, only that the characters are given different names; is christianity really christianity or just some mixture of pagan beliefs and christian beliefs, if it mixed with pagan beliefs, is it really christianity?…); and studying medieval history (there are so many horrible stories of deeply religious people in the middle ages that they can be perfectly used as an example of how not to do it: women inflicting self-harm upon them, becoming sick and claiming that the illness was a deserved punishment from god, reports of some nuns – obviously living in a monastery for too long – imagining to have an intimate relationship with jesus, ugh). but the people of the middle ages have at least the excuse of not having been presented with the facts that are available to us now…

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  • 54
    Eduardo says:

    I was raised a Catholic, but in recent years got progressively aware that there was never an original sin (given what we positively know about the origin of the Universe and of humankind), so there was no need for a sacrificial redemption (the cross). If Christian faith is based upon that, then what is left? Nothing. Furthermore, I could not call myself a Catholic, if the Vatican was -and still is- protecting and defending pedophyle priests. I was searching for a religion for myself, but then I read Gordon Urquhart’s The Pope’s Armada and Christopher Hitchens’ God is not great, both of which convinced me that I should seek no more religions, and that we do not need a religion to have ethics and moral.

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  • The “accident of birth” argument resonated loudly within me a couple years ago and led to me questioning Christianity. From there I have been going along with the perpetual process of questioning my brain, intuitions, principles of rationality, using the full current force of my mind, and doing the best that I can do at every point to make a belief system that most closely approximates reality. I have rejected Christianity on these grounds along with a form interpretation of Occam’s Razor.

    As Yudkowsky says, “if the Bible were an astoundingly reliable source of information about all other matters, if it had not said that grasshoppers had four legs or that the universe was created in six days, but had instead contained the Periodic Table of Elements centuries before chemistry—if the Bible had served us only well and told us only truth—then we might, in fact, be inclined to take seriously the additional statement in the Bible, that the Bible had been generated by God. We might not trust it entirely, because it could also be aliens or the Dark Lords of the Matrix, but it would at least be worth taking seriously.”

    Applying rationality to these religious books annihilates any moral superiority that they claim to hold.

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  • Honestly by the time I was a teenager, I was really only a Christian in the loosest sense. I hadn’t regularly been to church in years, had read a lot about different mythologies and had a million questions that Christianity had no answers to. I was wondering why Christians didn’t observe the Jewish perspective on the Old Testament (especially since they wrote it), how Cain could find himself in nod east of Eden if there were only 4 people in existence according to Genesis at the time and why an omnipotent god could be jealous by the words of his own commandments. But most of all, I wondered why everyone with a religious faith claimed to be the one true path to righteousness when all of them couldn’t be right and no one had any more right to make the claim than the other.

    Shortly after graduating high school, I was in a band and writing material for a concept about the multiple misconceptions about Christianity; all the stuff that didn’t make sense and couldn’t be reconciled. By the time I finished, I realized I wasn’t a believer and hadn’t really been one for a while. One of the single most refreshing moments I’ve had in life.

    I started reading up on George H Smith, Bertrand Russell and others before I eventually stumbled upon the likes of Dennett, Dawkins, Hitchens and so forth. The rest as they say, is history….

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  • Raised a Methodist. Dad was originally C of E (still doing latin mass when I was 4) and Mum was raised Methodist. Around 6 or so they switched to Methodist. Sunday School was a torment. I was different than the other kids, always asking ‘why” how? The story of Legion did me in, if Christ loved everyone why did he cast out Legion’s demons into a herd of pigs and make them all run over the cliff? Seemed out of character to me. Poor pigs. I tried very hard to be a good christian girl. But you know sexual abuse in the home and being preyed upon by boys at youth group hurt. By the time I was in my late teens i was out there… drink, drug, sex, rock and roll. Spent a decade in this terrible place – then ‘reconverted’ born again, got baptised as an adult. When I admitted to the pastor I had lesbian relationships I was excorcised. HA! That didn’t work. Here I am 23 years in a same sex relationship with a great gal I met in my early 30’s. She introduced me to Mary Daly’s radical feminist meta-ethics in the early ’90’s a thorough deconstruction and ‘revelation’ on how religio-politics and patriarchy works. I never looked back. Still had to cling to shreds and threads of ‘faith’ and spirituality… until 2011 when I read the God Delusion. What a relief, I could let it all go. That was frighteneing and liberating. Belief is JUST belief, all religious teaching is just a bunch of some old bloke’s imaginations encoded and enforced. Thanks Richard, just wish aethism expulsed speciesim and sexism with the same energy as religiosity. Patriarchy undeconstructed calling itself atheism is still patriarchy.

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  • 58
    Lorenzo says:

    I chose to be the master of my own destiny, the designer of my own life and the owner of my own body. My victories are my own and my failures are my learning experiences. No regrets.

    That’s just great, Laurie.

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  • Can somebody really describe, why he/she don’t believe in something? I think it’s not possible at all. I think there are individual reasons (or feelings, trends, my father was (:…), social backgrounds etc.etc).
    There are instructions for people how to believe in (X), but there are no general instructions how to be a non-believer.
    My point of view is based on, and is simultaneously a result of, inductive thinking. This inductive thoughts are synchronized, with well-reasoned/rational empirical measurements. The effect of my thoughts after reasoning about it is, that I ask to myself: „What does this all mean for me and why I am not Christian?”:-) Why is this more important for me then the religion thoughts I once had?….A very simply example:
    The color red is a construction of my brain. If tomorrow no more creatures would exist (with the ability of perception etc.), then the color red is no more as a physical entity…. without a meaning. If tomorrow no more brains would exist with certain structures (related to our creativity etc.) ….?
    Are this structures the result of evolutionary development, in order to invent survival strategies and also to invent ideas, which protect us from killing each other (in our group)?- or are the structures made to find god? I think it’s a simple decision. But I can choose god and run away from the “truth” like an anxious chicken, because of being afraid of the fact that my existence could have a limit and beyond this is nothing.
    Perhaps it makes me feel free to think: hey, god is dead( better said he’s never been real ), but I can choose that I never would kill somebody, even though there is no metaphysical judge, and there are a possibility not to go in prison for this etc. On the other hand I can choose to do something good like give my seat to an older person in a bus, or to do something else to influence my society in a positive way. (Even though there is no god who judge me) Is it because of my selfish genes?? I’m not sure if I determined by my genes, but in the end I would every time admit that life is holy, not because of a metaphysical possibilities, no… it’s because of the individuality of life and the individual live is unique and will exist only one time in time.
    So why I have chosen A and not B and why?…I could not describe it in every detail (no one can describe every quant of himself or other things of being) , another person with similar experience (and more or less knowledge or …whatever) could choose god, but I am an atheist.

    “Kill the Buddha if the Buddha exists somewhere else. Kill the Buddha, because you should resume your own Buddha nature.”(Zen master Shunryu Suzuki) …I would prefer: Kill the Buddha inside yourself, and all the other Buddha’s will die 🙂

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  • I’ve been thinking about the “probability” question for some time.

    The creationist claim that life is too improbable to have evolved by chance, or that the universe is too improbable to have happened by accident overlooks, and tacitly admits, an important point: the chance was not zero.

    The probability question however, also applies to God. If the universe is improbable, then a supernatural being who is capable of creating the universe, observing and controlling every atom in the universe, and knowing the mind of every being in the universe, which created itself, or which always existed; and which is therefore infinitely more complicated than the universe, is infinitely less probable than the universe.

    In the game of football this is called scoring an own goal. Well done creationists!

    So I choose the more likely of these two options, and the one that is supported by science: the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution

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  • I can’t remember the book, but a character was going on a rant about religion (specifically christianity) and at the end asked the rhetorical question, “And what kind of religion has an instrument of torture as its symbol?” I’d never really thought about it. [It might have been the same book that pointed out that the “peaceful” USA, from independence, hasn’t had more than 2 years in succession without being at war with somebody, I’ve never verified that statement, but it seems plausible.]

    Today it seems kind of remote and distant, and mainstream christianity maintains a social club atmosphere and a veneer of be-kind-to-children-and-small-animals. But – particularly the RCC – their “legitimacy” depends on the deep roots of their religion in the past, whereas that past doesn’t bear close scrutiny: inquisitions, crusades, enslave the New World natives (pagans), pogroms against Jews and “heretic” sects of christianity, witch hunts, book burning and the suppression of intellectual thought or channeling it into adding footnotes to the footnotes against the writings of the Greeks (while taking credit for “preserving” the past LOL), misogynist, racist etc. etc. And in more recent times, a complete lack of leadership — kowtowing to the Nazis, covering up pedophile scandals, while failing to accept women in the priesthood, same sex marriage, or contraceptives and safe sex (even in the face of the AIDS plague).
    Today it’s merely corrupt, but looking back, it was horrible horrible religion not dissimilar to today’s Taliban or IS.

    The actual content of the belief system (woo) seems of secondary interest, compared with the nature and history of the establishment peddling it. As for the “moral” content of the writings, there’s some good stuff in there (standards like the golden rule) but also plenty of “justifiable” genocides, rapes, slavery etc.

    So you’d have to ask why follow a religion:

    1) with a political organisation that is corrupt at best and (in the past) downright evil

    2) with woo-woo beliefs that are largely a patchwork quilt of existing beliefs from other cultures/religions

    3) with no consistent morality in its teachings, (in the Book)

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  • 62
    Solomon says:

    (Copied from my reply on Facebook): I’d like to think I would’ve been intelligent and curious enough to figure it out on my own without any extenuating circumstances – and I think I probably would have been. But I can’t be sure.

    What drove me to examine the faith my parents and family were whole-heartedly striving to brainwash me into was the fact that I was gay. I’m one of those who knew it young. I had my first crush on another boy at 5, and that developed into full-fledged sexual attraction during puberty. Given that my ultra-fundamentalist father, whose own father was gay (and a much-hated figure in our family) was Fred Phelps’ ideological twin, you can’t imagine the hellish stress this produced on such a young child. Being told every day that I was an abomination, that God and my father both hated me – though they didn’t realize they were saying that to me, they were saying it about -other- gay people and thus, whether they knew it or not, they were saying it to -me-.

    The sheer need to get away from such a toxic and poisonous faith just for my own psychological/emotional survival made it much, much easier for me to realize the inconsistencies and contradictions of their faith. I am still a mess today at 43 – dissociative, bi-polar, PTSD (yes, PTSD -just- from growing up gay in a hyper-fundie culture) – but I’ve learned so much from it. I also use the fact that I may -not- have figured it out if not for that one, ‘small’ detail – that if I weren’t born gay, I might be preaching right along with the worst of the right. I use that fact to keep myself humble when faced with those who are so passionate about their bigotted, ultra-conservative values. I know they truly believe it, and until they have some compelling -reason- to question it, they always will. I know they’re not like that just to spite me, they’re like that because they truly and honestly believe that is the right way to be.

    At the same time, the knowledge of how much pain their faith is inflicting on countless -other- innocent children who are “different” (be they gay or some other “different” type of person) keeps me from being able to just sit by and silently accept their efforts to impose their beliefs on everyone else. They may be misguided and sincere, but their faith is still a cancer. There is -nothing- good about it. People who manage to get something good out of their faith are just good people to begin with, they’d likely be able to get something good out of any set of beliefs they found themselves being raised with. That they have to cherry-pick the living heck out of their religious texts to -find- the good should be enough to wake them, but even though it’s not, it’s enough to tell me – there is no good “faith”, only good -people-.

    Anywho, that’s my story. I am always open to talking about it, so anyone can msg me if they need/want to talk.

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  • I grew up in a Christian home. I attended church and even assisted in Sunday school classes for the younger kids. Attended youth groups. When I was a teen I really wasn’t sure what to believe. My husband, who was then my boyfriend, is a big nerd about science and space. He taught me things about space that blew my mind. I started making up my own mind when it came to religion. Being harassed by church going folk. Or being disrespected by pastors because I was baptized as a baby, but it wasn’t up to code on how the baptists want it done didn’t help their cause.
    I decided to stop attending church. I decided to stop believing in stories. I still have issues with being bold and coming out about atheism. I have respect for those who wish to have a higher power. They do not have the same respect for me regarding my lack of belief. I’ve been told I couldn’t go into church because I would burst into flames. In a joking manner. I get told to give jesus a try. If they were only aware of how the world works. How our solar system worked. How our galaxy worked. How the universe works. If they just opened their minds instead of saying no at the door. What a more productive place this would be. I blame being informed on how things work, instead of chalking it up to the lord, on why I chose to leave my faith.

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  • My parents were not overly religious. I went to Sunday school occasionally. At eleven years I was told by a preacher that I was born into sin and unless I accepted JC I would roast in hell. That didn’t sound right to me and I questioned, silently, everything after that. At 20 years I was mesmerised by Billy Graham at a crusade in Sydney. That spell lasted two weeks. I was agnostic after that for forty years until I had the time to read more. Then became atheist, secular humanist.

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  • 66
    Charles says:

    About 50 years ago as a child, I spent a lot of time thinking about things, an existentialist in making. I just couldn’t see a significant difference between people and animals etc. This was during the Vietnam war and living and dying were very much on peoples minds. I read nothing which changed my ideas. I just felt the world, and it just told me this is all there is.

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  • I was teaching high school English and working through a mythology unit. One of my kids was making fun of the different beliefs and ideas – I asked him to please stop and realize that in 3000 years or so someone may have the same opinion of his beliefs and would he want them to make fun of him? I kept hearing that question in my head over and over the next couple weeks.

    Plus – I was sick and tired of trying to justify “good Christian” behavior with what I was seeing as “shitty” behavior and where was God in all the craziness in the world…..?

    Over the course of about a year I realized I no longer believed and referred to myself as an atheist from then on. That’s been about 11 years ago.

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  • Don Quixote, circa 1968, Fear prevents us from seeing things the way they are. Knowledge is the antidote for fear. I have been shunning “faith” in favor of knowledge since that read.

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  • 69
    Lorenzo says:

    I suppose I’m not religious material by construction -not because of transcendental reasons: I’m very bad at recognizing and respecting authority and I’m allergic rituals. That’s a no-go for almost all doctrines out there, and especially so for the Country’s (literally) resident one: Catholicism.

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  • I think it was the hypocrisy of mainstream religion that ultimately caused me to stop taking it seriously and ultimately admit my lack of belief. Witnessing people simultaneously preach love and consistently condemn others was disgusting once I realized it during my high school years. And once I found a rather significant community of people online who shared similar views as mine, I no longer felt alone in my thoughts and fully embraced my lack of belief. Thankfully for me, my parents did not treat me any differently, despite them being believers. In fact, we have engaged in a number of productive discussions about it over the years.

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  • I never really had a faith to lose as such, I did however attend Sunday school, my notionally non-denominational Scottish education was steeped in Religious Education with regular christian services, my mother and father were Catholic and Methodist respectively (that was a problem in Scotland in the 60s 70s and indeed 80s for reasons that I shall not bore you with suffice to say that the religious divide in Scotland is a near cousin to its Irish neighbours’) and my adolescence was, for entirely random reasons, peppered with friendships with evangelical christians from the Church of Christ. As a result of all these influences, I dabbled in christianity, not least of which was my mother’s habit of telling me I’d be going to the ‘bad fire’ for various transgressions like swearing and not eating my dinner; catholics of that generation, practicing or not, just can’t seem to resist repeating the propaganda that so efficiently formed their ethical dilemmas and paradoxes.

    Quite by accident, I was born with an inquisitive mind. I don’t share this trait with anyone closely related to me. Early in life I developed what would become a lifelong love affair with astronomy. I built my first telescope aged 10, from a cardboard tube, a magnifying glass and a correcting lens from a microscope that my brother had found in a skip. We had a wonderful public library, wherein I thought I had become rich beyond the dreams of avarice, teaching myself calculus and 6502 machine language after receiving my first computer at 11 years old in 1983, the mighty Commodore 64. Alas, politics and neo-liberal economics were to be the undoing of my academic dreams, and I was unable to attend university simply because we couldn’t afford it, an injustice which I am happy to report, is not currently present in Scotland.

    One thing led to another, and I eventually pursued my other love, music, at which I was relatively successful, selling a whole bunch of records and touring around the world, a world far removed from the one in which I grew up. It’s in this world that I meet the evangelical christians, people who command a very high price on the commodities of worship they produce. And it’s in this world where I encounter the frankly bat-shit crazy ideas that prompt me to take the subject of religion seriously for the first time. I don’t think of these people as being any more greedy, calculating, business minded nor dollar fixated as anyone else (believer or non-believer), but the currency they traded in certainly did not pay any lip service to leaving ‘nothing for the morrow’. And that was the beginning of an internal conversation that happily coincided with the explosion of the internet and the free exchange of ideas.

    It was that paradigm shift, that exposed me to what is casually and wrongfully termed ‘militant atheism’; the coming together of like minded souls on the internet exchanging their experiences and thoughts and through this, exposure to classical logic, ethics, the Four Horsemen, The God Delusion and so on. It is no accident that the greatest assault on theism, in all its hues, coincides with the greatest advances in human communication. I have great hopes for the information revolution, and pray, for want of a better expression, that mankind continues to have these exchanges unabated and unmolested.

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  • I was lucky enough to be born C of E at a time when few in the UK took religion seriously. Can’t ever say that I did believe. I do remember being punished at school when aged 11 I refused to attend the religious service. Have never been able to understand why otherwise intelligent people can believe in something so clearly man made.

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  • I was not raised with religious beliefs by my two very moral parents. I studied the bible and many religious doctrines looking for my place in this universe, looking for some order to follow.

    I taught my children what I understood of the bible. They grew up and we evolved together always challenging everything, asking questions. This type of inquiry is not allowed by people of faith.

    So we moved on and beyond their narrow definitions. It wasn’t a traumatic process at all.

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  • 74
    bookjunky says:

    I was always a believer (you might call it very liberal Xian lite) until I decided to study my religion in order to “get closer to God.” My mother had been trained as a minister, and so I thought my beliefs were based on some solid ground. However, after only a few weeks in the religious studies I began to realize that it was all manmade. The author of my faith’s main textbook wrote things such as “God wanted…”, which made me wonder 1) how the heck did HE know what God wanted? and 2) why would a perfect omnipotent god WANT anything at all? The more I searched for answers from other sources and online, the smaller and less probable god became. As I looked for evidence of the soul, I found freethought blogs such as ebonmusings, and books by Corliss Lamont and Susan Blackmore. It seemed highly unlikely that a soul separate from the body existed. Without a soul, the personal need for a god pretty much vanishes. It took several months and it was not an easy process by any means, as I was in my forties when all this occurred. It’s quite wrenching to give up one’s entire worldview, as well as one’s personal best friend and the belief in an afterlife of some kind. But I happen to be the kind of person who wants to KNOW, rather than the kind who wants to believe. Thankfully, the Internet has made it easy to find answers as well as a virtual community of non-believers to discuss and explore questions. After I became an atheist, I found humanism and became involved in a local group.

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  • 75
    David W says:

    You, Richard, were a large part of the reason why I left my faith. I watched your TV show, Root of All Evil, and this encouraged mean to critically examine my beliefs. I started reading many books, some written by Christians, some written by atheists. One of the books was “The God Delusion”. It took several years, but I did eventually come to the conclusion that my belief in God was indeed a delusion.

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  • My name is Afthab Ahamed. I am from Sri Lanka. Yes! you’ve guessed it, my name implies that I was regrettably born into and raised by a Muslim family. I am 33 and have been an Atheist all my life. I was always fascinated by the world and the clock work behind it, even at an early age and knew nothing of Science, I have had trouble accepting ideas simply on faith, especially Theistic ones. Religious dogma was forced down my throat at an early age by my Grand Mother. The reigns of indoctrination and psychological abuse was slowly passed on to an Imam who visited my home from time to time to victimise me further. I was beaten as a child by her and always told to fear God, Hell and to never question Islam or the illustrious Illiterate-schizophrenic-paedophile. I began having serious anxiety problems which persisted through most of my life and eventually led to depression. A few years back I decided to stop being a closeted Atheist and be outspoken about it with the help of a good few in my life who played no small part. Because of this, I was able to conquer my mental challenges and recreate myself. It was quite a personal struggle for me, but I do not say this to foster a sense of sympathy from whoever reading this. People used to give me reasons other than this to justify the state of my ailment. Yes of course, other factors could have complemented it while was growing up, but remember it all started with anxiety. Who put it there? Religion, to be specific Islam.

    Coming from a 3rd world country, I see this happening in many families, even amongst the so called educated. Most of the time I come across people who affirm a view I take, on the lack of a correlation between education/profession and intelligence. This is not an absolute, but I am vindicated everyday. This form of insidious child abuse concerns me. The Theravada Buddhist philosophy which I love, is also taught religiously here and completely misconstrued. Karma is misinterpreted by many as a substitute for a God. Of course the level and force used to indoctrinate a child varies based on the strength of belief held by the family member(s) influencing the child, apart from other factors. Yet, this is indoctrination none the less, and I am concerned about the affect it has on the mental schema of a child’s mind. I am concerned about the individual they will turn out to be. Their evolving sense of morality is tainted, and the moral influence on decisions they make may become unconsciously biased and certainly serves the Mosque, Synagogue, Temple, Church etc. This has to stop!

    Inquiry is fundamental to learning and religion says NO. I do not think so!. I have made it my personal mission to put a stop to this virulent disease. No child should go through this and No! I will not show an ounce of leniency!

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  • anthony4691 Mar 16, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Soon after I took a degree in Psychology and learned even more about Evolution.

    Today, I stand as an anti – theist, tired of arguing against the existence of a god and more interested in the eradication of religion through education in critical thinking skills.

    I now see that religion is not just wrong, it is a deluded scourge on humanity and represents the very pinnacle of human ignorance.

    If you have studied psychology, you may be interested in the work of those neuroscientists, who are tracking down the habitats of those god-delusions!


    “Neuropsychology researchers consistently have shown that impairment on the right side of the brain decreases one’s focus on the self,” Johnstone said. “Since our research shows that people with this impairment are more spiritual, this suggests spiritual experiences are associated with a decreased focus on the self. This is consistent with many religious texts that suggest people should concentrate on the well-being of others rather than on themselves.”

    Johnstone says the right side of the brain is associated with self-orientation, whereas the left side is associated with how individuals relate to others. Although Johnstone studied people with brain injury, previous studies of Buddhist meditators and Franciscan nuns with normal brain function have shown that people can learn to minimize the functioning of the right side of their brains to increase their spiritual connections during meditation and prayer.

    In addition, Johnstone measured the frequency of participants’ religious practices, such as how often they attended church or listened to religious programs. He measured activity in the frontal lobe and found a correlation between increased activity in this part of the brain and increased participation in religious practices.

    Rather than theists challenging atheists with their negative proof fallacies, to “dispove gods”, a decisive argument would be to actually identify the location and operation of god(delusion)s.

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  • While I had some resentment towards Christians from my experiences with them from my earlier years, I nevertheless gravitated towards Christianity after a failed relationship in 1990. I was desperately seeking answers to my existence and started attending both a Lutheran church and a public university. The two came together when I took a course in the New Testament at the university that taught the Bible in a scholarly way. This appealed to me, because I assumed that a perfect God would write in a perfect way, and that a scholarly approach would take a perfect word literally, and present it without the influence of people. When I started learning what was in the Bible, I was floored, and realized “This whole thing is a big lie.” It wasn’t long before I left the church, and embarked on a journey towards atheism that has left me deeply gratified. Thank God for that course in the New Testament! 😉

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  • I don’t think I ever “lost” my faith because I don’t think I ever really had it to begin with. Even as a very young child in Sunday School, I distinctly remember thinking that the Jonah living in a whale thing was just a story and couldn’t possibly be true. It made me think that maybe it was all just a made up story where there might be underlying lessons worthwhile but the story line just isn’t true. When I was seven and the family dog died, I was told by the church Reverend that animals don’t go to heaven. At that point I realized that “heaven” must not exist because without animals it wouldn’t be any place worth going to. As a teenager, my then boyfriend who was quite religious, made a point that to follow the Bible that women must submit to men– well, thats when I thought, “What a load a shit!”

    Since then, I thought I was the only one who felt this way until I saw Christopher Hitchens on TV talking about his views and I just became so excited that there wasn’t something “wrong” with me because I just couldn’t believe the whole thing! I looked up many videos on the Internet and the sense of relief of not being alone was so profound that it felt like getting out of jail. I read Richard Dawkins book, The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens’ book, God is Not Great— and just about every other book that has come out since then. Really, it was the most liberating time of my life and I have felt just “happy” ever since.

    I don’t care what others think– I live in a very religious part of the country (rural Florida). I just do my thing– reading and learning more about all fields of science (just for fun) and teaching at the college (Ph.D. in Political Science). In the next several years, I hope to go to a few atheist/humanist conventions/meetings and meet some you all!

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  • I cannot recall ever being without doubt. To me, even a young kid, it made no sense that a loving god would give us a mind to reason with and not doubt. My priest told me to pray for guidance and the more I saw and heard militated against the existence of either a deity or a personal spirit. One day flying into LA from Bakersfield, looking over the city and all the people there, it just became so apparent to me what nonsense blind belief was. It was at that precise moment, I divorced the invisible sky-ape from my consideration and construction of reality.

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  • I was raised in a highly religious family. Religious in the right-wing sense of the word. Back during the Arab Oil Embargo – tough times for many, but perhaps no one worse than those whose livelihoods depended on the price of diesel – my father came home gloating about signing the orders to reposes a truckers means of supporting his family. Gloating. I can understand that, as a lawyer for a major corporation, it was his job. To me, it would be a sad experience. To him it was like scoring the winning TD in the Super Bowl. I found it disgusting.That Sunday, the minister delivered a sermon built around “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt 25:40). Afterward, my father regaled the church leadership – including the pastor, with his great victory and they all laughed and congratulated him. The blindness and hypocrisy floored me. I started reading the Bible very closely. over the next few years, I realized that I had become an atheist.

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  • I always had my doubts growing up. My favorite subjects in school were science and music. When I was 12, we watched a video in science class about how the earth was over 4 billion years old and took at least hundreds of millions of years to form. Though I was only 12, it didn’t take much to know that hundreds of millions of years and 7 days aren’t exactly give and take values, someone has to be wrong. That week in Sunday school, I said to my pastor “Science is showing us a lot of things that conflict with the bible, how do I know which one to believe?” To which she replied “Well, you just have to have faith”. I could probably have called myself an atheist at that point, and doing research on the subject as I grew up only strengthened my disbelief. I revealed to my parents that I was an atheist shortly after turning 20.

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  • 84
    jim.price.wa says:

    I was raised in the Unitarian church. It was basically just a place for my atheist parents to hang out with fellow liberals without anyone in our conservative Southern Baptist town bothering them about not going to church (my dad worked for Exxon and we moved from New Jersey to a suburb of Houston following the oil crisis).

    The Unitarians provided me with a good baseline understanding of various faiths (we studied them all as there was not much dogma on the agenda). If anything, the church bothered me because of the relentless focus on working for social justice. I simply do not care enough about my fellow man to get that involved. Also I became a big fan of the NFL.

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  • 85
    EvolvedDNA says:

    The 1966 Aberfan disaster in Wales. A whole school wiped out when, triggered by heavy rain, a mountain of coal slag gave way and engulfed it. 144 kids and teachers died. I was 13 at the time and this was my entry into reality.

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  • I never believed in any God. It used to annoy me at school when we were expected to believe in God and sing hymns about some make believe entity. I once questioned a scripture teacher during a lesson. Her response was to try and ridicule me before the whole class and got everyone to laugh at me. What a bunch of stupid morons all of them, particularly the teacher! No wonder I have such a chip on my shoulder against ALL religion!

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  • 87
    Ramkumar says:

    I was never into any religion so I didn’t have to leave one. However my mother is a very religious and superstitious person. Her religious acts repulsed me and I never developed any sympathy for religion. I must confess that I remained biased and did advocate for the religion of my tribe ie. Hinduism when religions were compared to each other. Soon I realized my mistake and emancipated myself from the illusion at ‘some’ religions are no that bad.

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  • I was brought up by non practising Christians at a Church of England school was in the church choir and when I thought seriously about meaning and purpose in life as a teenager I saw that Christianity offered a clear moral compass based on compassion and service. I was particularly inspired and remain so to this day by the story of Rosa Parks and the speeches of Martin Luther King. I got myself confirmed in the Church of England at 18. I spent time concentrating on prayer and bible readings sometimes on courses or events and sometimes on reflection at home.

    I read History at University in particular the Reformation and also worked for a Field Archeological Unit.

    In simple terms anthropology and in my case history requires you to look for information to question and to analyse. To look for cause and effect.
    If you accept that the miracles of the bible are not statements of fact then this leaves a story no different to fable or myth. It leaves an oral record later recorded. It has immense wisdom and value as a document. As a text it immensely powerful.
    If you look at the clear history of the bible as a document you also see the hand of man in it time and time again. You do not see the prophetic disclosure of gods commandments but rather the parallels and links with the stories and traditions of earlier belief systems in the Middle East, and you see the themes common to humanity throughout civilisations across the globe and through time. Though shalt not kill steal turn the other cheek and so on are found throughout religious teaching. I was just exposed through birth and culture to Christianity.
    Christianity as an aspect of British Culture is important. It has been formative in much of what is good or benign about our society. It is part of our history and should be respected as much as our parliament or monarchy or castles Marx or Adam Smith Shakespeare Cromwell and on But now we also have the double helix the higs boson and global climate change. We have a timeline and an opportunity to create a functioning United Nations an international Legal system based on human rights and realisation that it will not be through divine intervention to preconceived plan but our responsibility alone.

    I just realised that we need to live in the now rather than in the afterlife

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  • I was brought up as a Roman Catholic in a Mexican household. I jumped through all the hoops, observed all the holidays, and rarely missed Sunday mass. But even through all that I never fully agreed with what the church represented at the time such as their stance on homosexuals, both control, abortion, and women’s roles. I also didn’t fully believe in creation (not that the church really pushes that) but I had always felt that god created everything that was necessary for evolution to take place.
    Fast forward to right before my 21st birthday when my mother died in an accident. Throughout the first week after her death I found myself becoming more and more upset at god with every person’s religious condolences. I could not understand nor could I accept that god needed my mother more than I did or that god would remove such a giving, loving, and compassionate person from this earth at such a young age. I also couldn’t understand what kind of god needed to test me in such a fashion, especially after being a heavily practicing catholic. While sitting on a shore looking out over the ocean I vocally yelled and cursed at god and renounced my faith. That has been over 14 years ago now.

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  • I liked stand up comedy. One day I found out about Jim Jefferies. And then George Carlin andTim Minchin…and then some Youtube Channels,like Dusty smith,Jacklyn Glenn,The amazing Atheist…Then I found out about Richard Dawkins,Christopher Hitchens(did not like him in the begining,now I worship this man.),Sam Harris…Then I read God Is Not Great and The God Delusion and my holy book-Qur`an…
    After 6 months of reaserching I decided to become an agnostic. I was an agnostic for like two days or so,then I became an atheist-militant atheist,as Dr.Dawkins once called himself.
    overall, I made myself an atheist . No one else in life influenced me. I am the only atheist I know in my hometown,which is sad.

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  • 91
    Allison says:

    My mom is an atheist and my dad is Christian, which mom said almost split them up before they were married, but they’ve been together for almost 35 years now. I think my dad has become much less religious over the years, although if you press him he still says he’s a Christian. Anyway when I was young I’d hear them debate sometimes, and when I was little would get really upset with my mom, wondering how she could not believe in God or Jesus. As I got older though and stopped believing in things like Santa and unicorns, her arguments started making more sense to me. I also had an inquisitive nature and was quick to realize none of it really made any sense, and eventually started seeing things about it that made me upset.

    For instance, my cousins who lived in a Christian cult led by my dad’s brother who became very religious after what my parents describe as “a nervous breakdown and too much acid in the 60s.” Because of my uncle’s psychosis, essentially, my cousins were deprived of so many healthy, natural things considered “sinful” like music and dating. I also had a good friend when I was 12 who had a younger brother. Her brother was a vegetable, confined forever to a wheelchair because their parents believed in praying instead of medical science. So many atrocities I could trace back to organized religion that I became a proud and somewhat outspoken atheist as a teenager, which was a challenge because I lived in a small town in TN with over 60 churches and not many openly secular people at all. I did have a few friends though who were openly gay or atheists and we usually stuck together and were protective over each other.

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  • 92
    Cassandra says:

    I didn’t grow up in a strongly faith driven community, so I was never ingrained with the christian faith at an early and naive age. My introduction to faith and doubt came with my adolescence, not because of parental pressure or societal pressure, but simple (yet horribly horrible) pubescent hormones. The guys I liked went to a church on the other side of town, so I randomly started going. I had never had any particular interest, or disinterest to be honest, in any kind of faith. I had always just accepted that life was simply life. That my life revolved around my actions and the consequences of those actions on myself, my immediate peers, and the world around me. Sadly as I grew up and started chasing hormones, the seed of doubt was planted in one of those churches.

    I began to question the basic understanding I had of life and who I was. The enthusiastic and passionate preachings of a Pastor I can’t recall the name of, though there were a few, became a hypnotic force that even logic and reason seemed helpless against. In such a tremendously influential period in my intellectual and social development I was intoxicated with the fear and exasperating pressure of questioning if I not only had faith, but faith in this Christian God that came so flawed and so reprehensibly before me. And looking back, the horrifying truth was that the doubt was there, which meant that my brain considered the fact that it COULD be true. With all of it’s seemingly obvious fallacy, my heart doubted. The thought terrifies me to this day, that I could ever believe such fairy tales.

    This tale though, is of how I LOST that retched faith at last. I put up with quite a bit growing up. Everything ranging from physical and emotional child abuse, spousal abuse, rape, miscarriage, and personal mental disorders I would rather not disclose. BUT! Now stay with me here, BUT… I am perfectly normal. I don’t have a chip on my shoulder, not emotionally unstable, not a detriment to society, but in fact the opposite. But for one small fraction of a moment in time, I wasn’t okay with it all. I fractured, and then after a series of unfortunate circumstances, I broke. In that moment, I was a United States Sailor attending A School. I was an Exceptional sailor at that. Top 10% of my class, meritoriously advanced, no detrimental behavior remarks, Student Staff Yeoman Position, etc. But one day, everything just broke and no one was there to save me from myself.

    It was shortly after I sought out the help of one of the base Chaplains, a “Father” someone or other I don’t remember the name of. I explained to him everything that I was going through, and after spilling forth everything haunting me all he could do was ask why on earth I would come to him. See, they had marked I was an Atheist on my questionaire form he was looking at. Apparently, this insulted him? I sat there while he berated me for wasting his time, telling me that I was doomed to live an empty loveless life without god, and that because i had rejected him I would never know happiness and had no purpose. I was of course devestated, and sobbed my way quietly and ashamedly back to my rack. I did report him shortly after, but I never heard of any disciplinary actions for how inhumanely he treated me because of my lack of religion. That was when I realized ABSOLUTELY that I had no interest in this sham of a fairy tale.

    I was administratively discharged from the United States Navy less than 30 days after my suicide, under the charge of Erroneous Entry for Mental Disorders Previously Unknown but Previously Existing. The previously existing mental disorder they were claiming? Bipolar. Ladies and gentlemen, I am not bipolar. In fact I still have reference letters from external doctors stating the same belief. For one brief moment in time I felt so much emotional pain, frustration, self hatred, shame, disgust, hopelessness, fear, anguish, humiliation, abandonment, worthlessness, and absolute loneliness that I was unable to cope with it. All I remember is the Silence. It’s a thing that haunts you, Silence, after something like that. When I woke up I was in the hospital, and they had already called my Father. The first thought through my head on realizing I was still alive, was that I was never going to be able to look at my Father again. That I had done something so unforgivable, I would be excommunicated from the family, removed from the will, Photoshopped out of pictures. That for committing suicide, even when resuscitated, I was condemned eternally to a hell in which I pictured at the time that was a loop where I tried desperately to communicate with them while they deliberately ignored me or I had no effect on them for all eternity in a personal hell . I immediately went into panic mode trying to come up with a way to try again and succeed when I realized I wasn’t alone in the room.

    The events that followed don’t relate much to how I lost my faith, so I won’t continue along that line. When I died, as I said earlier, all that there was, was Silence. I can’t convince myself to call it nothing, because I feel like if it was the final nothing, there would be no remembering, but I remember something. It’s just not a something I can elicit words from my brain to describe, if in fact they exist. But there was for sure an absolute Silence. No heavens, no hells, no reincarnation, no colors or lights or choirs of angels, etc. Now some may argue that because I am here I didn’t actually DIE, so I wouldn’t have met any creator. You are entitled to your opinion, as am I. I was not breathing, I was non-responsive, I had no pulse. I had a delayed response to CPR to draw water from my lungs, and shortly after recusitated by EMT. To me that is dead, not permanently obviously, but dead. In my “recovery” in the Navy’s local “Mental Hospital”, I had plenty of time to think between the mandatory yoga sessions, supervised dinners with plastic spoons as the only available utensil, supervised showers, and one 5 minute phone call a day. During this time it was like the veil had been liften. The absolute abhorrency of the idea of some deity(s) controlling the world and holding us responsible for our actions was gone, and I started focusing on how to make the doctors see me as normal enough to go home before they tried to shove the kool-aid back down my throat with all the mandatory “therapy” sessions.

    For a while I grew bitter inside. Everyone treated me like the plague. My Chief asked for me to be immediatly transported to the TPU building, which was granted. The base had a suicide awareness mandatory assembly, as well as my barracks having a secondary “we all know what happened here, shut up about it, move on, and dont ignore “calls for help””, yada yada. The worst part, I was forced to attend both. I fought my discharge, with every ounce of me. I took it all the way up to the commander. Unfortunatly a fellow sailor from my old division fabricated a printed letter with privliged information he had about me that he had used to write it as if I had written it to him. This made me look emotionally unstable and crushed any hope I had of rationalizing my way out of a discharge. I still wonder why no one questioned it’s authenticity when I had no recollection of having written it, it wasn’t even signed with my name but some other moniker, and had no personal identifiers to link to me other than the contents. The Navy had always been my dream. I BELONGED there. When I finally met the Luietenent Commander, to interview for my meeting with the Commander, I was told that the Commander would not be seeing me that day because I was not worth her time. I was a danger to the ship and the fleet, and that I should be ashamed that I joined in the first place knowing how emotionally scarred I MUST BE due to personal events in my earlier life (listed in the letter) that had nothing to due with my ability to serve as a Sailor.

    Of course after that I rebelled against my own sanity. I became temporarily alcoholic, removed myself from society, and wallowed in self hatred and pity. One of my best friends helped me recover though, got me through the rough patch, back in the work force. Now, after a few more horrible years where all the spousal abuse happened and whatnot, I am here. I am happy, healthy, and doing well in life and my rediscovered atheism. I rent a house where I am currently raising a wonderful little girl who is simply delightful, (most of the time right parents?), with the same best friend who saved me from secondary depression. I have 2 cars, not amazing models or anything, old but moderatly reliable buicks I was able to obtain through thr graciousness and charity of family, but MY cars even so. Not only do I rent a house and have those 2 cars, but I am NOT on ANY government assistance. I am completely self sustaining, and I am damn proud of it. I have a salaried job, I dont make much but I work my rear off for this company because I believe in what I do and enjoy the service I provide to my community, but this job is by no means easy. I sacrifice much of my personal time for my job and my staff. I have to juggle a 44-87 hour work week on top of a full time college schedule, and raising a 3 year old. All this while living in a small HEAVILY CHRISTIAN east coast town where being a prominent retail personality recognized by my customers while I shop at the local walmart. Sometimes this is not adventageous when it becomes known that the Scarlet A tattooed behind your ear means you are an Atheist, not an Adulteror or “Scarlet Letter” fan (as if atheism is worse than adultery?). I’ve dealt with a few public hate rants, humiliating sermons doled out to me at the cash register. I take it in stride. Why? Because I am happy to be here. I’m over worked, under paid, eternally stressed, and unbearibly exhausted, but I’d rather not have it the other way around. With my daughter around, my life has so much value and meaning, I am absolutely and unquestionably loved and needed by most adorable and precious thing on my planet, but even before she came, without that debilitating doubt of faith, I was able to find my lifes meaning in art, music, literature, and science. I vowed to teach 8th grade science, at the critical age where they begin to lose interest in the field, to bring them back to the wonders science offers in the truth. Sure, right now I struggle to pay bills just like everyone else, it’s hard times. I’m making ends meat for the most part, only a couple things in default or late, and I’m still nearly able to afford going to school as a result. I’m fighting to work my school around my work and my daughter, and to any tisk-tiskers out there, making it on our small income in rough times I’d say after what I’ve been through I have everything to be proud of. I have absolutely no regrets with losing my faith, I only wish I’d never found it to begin with.

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  • I read the bible. I found out what nonsense we believe in. Then I listened to “The God delusion” on audio, during bike riding. Finally , everything came into place…

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  • That about sums it up for me Daniel. I empathise with what you said about quote “In the intervening years, I have not tried to convert people to my point of view (in contrast to my years as a young Christian, where I used to proselytize). Becoming an atheist was so wrenching for me that I decided not to try to convince or convert other people. If anyone asks me about it, I will tell them what I believe, but I want them to find for themselves what it is they will believe”.
    I had an almost non religious upbringing but came to faith gradually over a period of 2-3 years in my late teens. I turned out to be radical, evangelising almost everybody I came in contact with. I preached on the street and street witnessed all over west Wales. I eventually became a missionary and proselytizing in Central Asia and church planting , learning Kazak and russian.
    I was sent home by my missionary organisation for meeting a non christian girl. It was when I was a missionary that I started questioning my faith. I had been a radical christian for 12 years but now being sent home was the start of me asking questions.
    For me, there was many variables in me opening up (leaving my religion) and not being so closed minded . One was that missionaries (so called super spiritual) tended to impress each other with how close they were to jesus, another was the influence of my wife who told me not to think in black and white, another was the influence of friends, another was that people always seemed to hear Jesus’s voice apart from me, the other was books by R. Dawkins, Sam Harris, M.Shermer, Bart Erhman, Elaine Pagels and other sceptics.
    When you mentioned the bit about how heart wrenching it was to leave your faith I can fully empathise. This is were people who have not had much religion in their lives can’t understand what you go through, the emotional upheavel which can be difficult to deal with for months or years until you settle down. Luckily my family are not religious so they could understand but it was still a difficult time for me. I wish Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris would write about this subject and try to understand this part of it. Leaving my faith was like leaving my family, I had become very close yet I’m still close to the christians who try to empathise with my position. I read last week about a pakastani guy who left his faith and committed suicide in London. I think one of the factors for him was the isolation and not having like minded people to talk to.
    What was the crunch for me was not being afraid to think critically. Before then I would quickly dispel doubts of Jesus and soldier on thinking that doubt was a grave sin. Questioning is healthy.
    For me these days, I am relaxed about my non belief and even invite JW’s into my home when they come around. I still think they have the edge because some of them have been doing it for years and the part of their brain that engaged for debating is much sharper than people who might debate with someone once a year. They have an unfair advantage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • I grew up going to a Baptist church in a small town in central Illinois. I can remember being about 8 years old and asking my mom where heaven was. She replied that it was in the sky. So I asked her, but if it’s in the sky don’t astronauts go through heaven to get to outer space? So I have always been a free thinker as long as I can remember. But I had always believed in god up until I was 15 and I started having my first doubts.

    I was sent to a Baptist boarding school in southern Kentucky when I was 15. I believed in god still but just had doubts about everything. So I talked to the preacher and told him I was having trouble believing. He asked me if I had read the bible and said that I hadn’t. Out of all the chapters in the bible about peace and love, he told me to read Revelations. So I read it, and after the part featuring a seven headed monster, I decided the bible was bullshit. Looking back I realize why he wanted me to read that chapter. It was to scare me into believing.

    I didn’t “come out” as an atheist until I was 22 I think. I had started doing research on the Internet about athiest. I looked up famous athiest and celebrity athiest and was shocked at some of the people who had spoken about it. It made me feel not so alone. That it was OK to say I was an athiest. I also watched Bill Maher’s movie Religilous. After that I felt confident in my decision to say I’m an athiest.

    Since I’ve became a non-believer I look at people who live their life by the rules of books written thousands of years ago in fear of burning in hell with pity. Being atheist has brought me the feeling of true freedom. I hope that the trend continues and more people will go to their scenes and stop believing in the fairy-tales and look at the science and facts. I believe religion is the worse thing to happen to humanity and people like you Richard Dawkins are the people that are changing people minds everyday. I thank you for the good work you have done. I look forward to a day that atheist isn’t such a dirty word.

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  • I was raised Catholic but by my mid to late teens I kind of just lived like religion wasn’t important to me but not for any conscious rational reasons but my subconscious probably realized it was bullshit. Then in my 20s I read an article by someone from the high IQ society Mensa on why religion was literally false in the scientific sense and I agreed with it; so by the time I read Richard Dawkin’s God Delusion he was preaching to the choir but it was still a good read.

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  • 97
    Mariano says:

    The fundamental issue for me is: to base ethical decisions on unappealable interpretations of a certain piece of writing, rather than on attempts to inform myself and to empathize with others, makes no sense. Full stop.

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  • I know this doesn’t exactly address the question – per se – but I was one of the lucky ones ~ I was raised without a religion, or religious indoctrination, of any kind. I’ve always been an atheist. And I think everyone is naturally — it’s a default position, unless we’re taught otherwise (and to this day I find religion profoundly strange).

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  • I abandoned faith thanks to evangelical contradictions that all leaders showed. I used to be a preacher at a young age of 16. When a friend shared with me a new vision of a pseudo judeo-evangelical sect/cult. Wanted to share this with the leader of my church, to check his opinions on this cult, and what I got was a fight between my friend and the leader. Their religion and denomination was the same, but they contradicted each other on how to read & interpret the Bible. After this, my life changed completely, I was so afraid of abandoning the belief of god or a deity; but I stayed away from religion as much as possible. Every time I visited a church it felt uncomfortable and useless; none of problems where solved, it meant to me that prayer did not work. Then the most horrifying thing happened to me…a car accident, where I almost lost my life. Firefighters tried to pull me out of the car, but it was too difficult, I did not loose consciousness; every breath I take felt like the last one…despair came, and I started praying, when suddenly my brain started to work and I said to myself “this is bullsh!t, I have to live without the “help” from god. Fought to stay alive, until I got to the hospital. Long story short, I am here now; telling everyone, you do not need a god to live or survive.

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  • I was raised an extremely religious Hindu for the first 16 years of my life. And then I grew up. For me, leaving this faith (I never really claimed it as my own, I was simply following what my parents said was right), was a split second decision. One evening, I had a particularly heated conversation with my mother over my growing sense of what she labelled “teenage rebellion”, and during that conversation I realised that I had reasons, and sound proof for my beliefs, while all she had was stories and myths. Now Hindu myths are interesting, as are Greek, Roman and Nordic myths, but they read like sci- fi at best. Anyway, during that conversation, it struck me that for the very first time in my life, I had successfully defended my decision to not believe in things blindly, and question everything constantly. That was the moment I first confirmed to my family that I was an atheist I’ve never looked back since.

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  • When I was 15 there was a cone of light emitting from a mountain near our house. I playfully called the light “Giant” with a hard G. I used to talk to it, much as one would talk to a dog. I can’t recall how this came about, but I discovered that Giant granted prayers of a particular sort. I could ask for anyone I wanted to show up the next weekend at the Hollyburn Skating club. It always worked. I decided to give it a tougher test and ask Ann M. to show up. She did not belong to the club. Lo and behold she showed up, a guest of someone else.

    Giant did not talk, but his presence was warm and comforting.

    This was just too strange. I told by friends Hughie and Robbie about this and invited them to meet Giant. They humoured me. I pointed him out. They said there was nothing there. There was no cone of light. I felt mightily embarrassed, and put the matter out of my mind.

    The cone may have had some quite ordinary explanation, but just too faint for my friends to see. It might have been an artifact of my glasses. The appearances might have been probable anyway. However, it remains a slight anomaly I don’t feel fully comfortable dismissing.

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  • The best thing that ever happened was for the bible (“buy-bull”) to be made available for scrutiny by everyone! The Church fought against translation into common languages, and for good reason. Sadly for them the horses have left the barn and, thanks in large part to the internet, can’t be rounded up again.


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  • The Moody Bible Institute has a radio station, WMBI, which I have on a pre-set in my car radio. Whenever there is nothing of interest on NPR (not often), I switch to “Moody Radio”… it is always good for a laugh, unless they start playing “christian rock”, in which case I turn it off.


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  • My parents converted to the Mormon church when I was around 3 years old and it’s all I knew growing up. Even though we lived on the East Coast of the U.S. far away from Utah, everything in our lives revolved around the church. I can’t honestly say I ever had any faith or belief in any of it, but I certainly had an acceptance of it. It just never occurred to me that my parents and all the other members of the congregation were wrong about everything and accepted that I was the one with a problem for never having received a personal confirmation in my heart (a “testimony”) as to its truth.

    Growing up, I was always fascinated with science and devoured every “hard” science fiction story I could get my hands on. I also loved reading about ancient mythologies. Despite this, however, it just never occurred to me to question what I had been taught about the universe. Again, I accepted that it “must” be true, regardless of whether it made sense to me or whether I actually had any faith in it.

    When I got to college (Brigham Young University, of course) and was preparing to go on a mission, I finally confessed to a religion teacher that I didn’t feel comfortable trying to convince other people to accept something I didn’t actually have faith in. His response was that it was OK to rely on the testimony of others for now and that if I lived my life as if it were all true God would eventually bless me with a testimony of my own. That answer sufficed for a time, and allowed me to go on a mission and return back to BYU in order to continue my quest for a nice Mormon bride with whom I could start a family.

    Well, I didn’t manage to get married while at BYU (even after going back for a law degree), but I did major in philosophy and take classes on comparative religion. Honestly, I have no idea what BYU was thinking offering courses like that, since the more I learned about different ways of thinking the less I was able to reconcile all I had been taught with was what obvious reality. At the same time, however, I began a downward spiral into depression caused by blaming myself for not having a testimony. If I didn’t have a testimony, it was because I wasn’t doing a good enough job living the perfect Mormon life. And, of course, without any sort of testimony, attempting to living the perfect Mormon life became increasingly harder to do. Paying tithing, fasting, attending endless church meetings, home teaching (not to mention only dating nice Mormon girls, abstaining from premarital sex, etc.). I really felt I was wasting my life away waiting for something that might not even be real to happen.

    Of course, the pressure from family and friends kept up and I didn’t feel comfortable talking with anybody about this and I just kept feeling more and more depressed. I graduated college, moved back home, got a job, got my own place, kept going to church and really had no idea what I was going to do with my life. How could I even think of looking for a nice Mormon girl to marry when it would mean living the rest of my life as a lie, pretending to believe (and teaching my children to believe) something I could no longer really accept, let alone believe.

    And then, I discovered a wonderful, life changing invention called the Internet. Suddenly, through various message boards, websites and blogs, I encountered lots of other people just like me who had the same upbringing and who had the same doubts that I had. People who had gotten beyond “it must be true because that’s what I’ve always been told.” People who pointed out clearly all the inconsistencies and who explained the psychology of belief. I think the final straw was when I read an article explaining how the so-called “burning in the bosom” at the center of the whole Mormon testimony was an easily explained psychological phenomenon and not proof of divine intervention in our personal lives.

    I could go on (and on and on), but that really was it for me. At the age of 30 I stopped going to church altogether, finally got the courage to let my family know that I had stopped and wasn’t going back, and got on with my life. I eventually met a wonderful girl from another culture where religion is literally a foreign concept and started a family of my own. We now have a 10-year-old son and I haven’t had a day of depression for the 18 or so years since I decided to leave the faith. Fortunately, my family continued to love and accept me for who I was and was willing to welcome my wife and son into their hearts.

    As an aside, whenever I start to feel a bit too full of myself for being an atheist and wonder how people could be so stupid to believe in something as blatantly silly as God, I have to remind myself of all the years I blindly accepted what I was taught to believe despite being just as smart then as I am now. Smart people believe a lot of dumb things…

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  • 24 years ago, as a high school freshman, I studied the history of the world’s religions. This is when I started to question. I didn’t understand how people of so many religions could fight and die for their beliefs. They believed passionately that they were right, and others were wrong. Who was I, practically a child, to say that I was privy to the “correct” belief system?

    I resolved that they must all be wrong in some way, and decided I must be agnostic. Despite (or perhaps in spite) of how this angered my Mom, I continued my studies. I payed close attention to the sciences, and even did college level course work in mathematics, biology, and physics. Before I completed my senior year I had arrived at Atheism.

    Soon I was a college freshman, and was deeply inspired by questions of determinism and free will. I also had the sense that I was peering through the veil, witnessing the underpinnings of nature, and getting a sense that I was doing so much more than just believing what I was told. I was really learning.

    Religious belief and practice had never made me feel that way. Over the course of years I resolved with my Mom, and she saw that it wasn’t simple rebellion for me, and that I really was deeply moved by a naturalistic view of the world, and not only was she happy, she was proud of me. 😉

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  • I was raised on a mix of Christian denominations, part Lutheran, part Baptist, part Catholic…but it was around 10 years old that I decided that none of them really meant anything to me. I remember telling my mother that I didn’t want to go to Sunday school anymore because I didn’t believe anything the church was telling me. None of it made any sense to my little 10-year old brain.

    I started studying philosophy and occultism in my teens and eventually joined a New Age religion (Eckankar) in my Senior Year of High School that stayed with me until just a few years ago. At that point, my studies in geology, astrophysics, and neurology overcame my beliefs. I simply couldn’t explain the attachment I had to spiritual ideals when there were much more readily available sources of information in the natural world.

    Finally, it was an experience with a hallucinogen that promptly ended my belief in a divine being. Having what I thought was a “divine experience” that turned out to be just brain chemistry convinced me that our lives and consciousness is predominantly biochemical in nature.

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  • 107
    Jessica says:

    I grew up in a military family prior to social media and dare I say popularity of the internet. (It is hard to imagine my time without it though.) My father was Presbyterian and my mother was raised Christian Scientist, but I was lucky that they allowed me to explore my own path for knowledge. I originally started going to churches because in the Southern USA I was deemed an unfit companion for my friends if I was not attending church. I would alternate Sundays with the local Pentecostals, southern Baptists, Catholics, and Presbyterian. I attended Sunday schools, bible studies, camps, and other events all pertaining to the local churches in the area. One thing that soon became apparent to myself is that I didn’t believe in what the others were saying past it being a part of our history and interesting tales. I started getting older, so instead of the churches pressuring my parents for my ‘soul’ they started pressuring me to make a decision instead. (I had never been ‘baptized’.) A friend of mine convinced me to stay with her church and to go to camp with her, I think I was about 12 then. My friend and camp ‘leaders’ obsession with seeing me baptized was the last straw, I got tired of people trying to associate their desire to ritualistic dunk me in a lake of water in order to proclaim that I was a good person. I asked my parents to pick me up (Yay for payphones!) before the event took place, thus losing all my friends in the process.

    I will say, I didn’t know about atheism then. I imagine to issue the word down there would have been a chance to evoke questions they didn’t want to answer to impressionable children. Those events made me understand the crazy nature of people- I truly didn’t understand why it was so important for me to go through with this ritual. I felt I was a good person prior- why did they need me to do this based off some stories?

    The true paradigm that made my thought processes seem sane came later when I read “Beauty” and later “The Fresco” by Sheri S Tepper(I just love this writer) in 1998. That book lead to a chain reaction of thought that left me feeling liberated, that I wasn’t bound to conventional thought. It didn’t teach me to be ‘godless’ – I did that on my own with logic, but it did inspire me to not be bound by what others think.

    I will say in relation to my childhood, I wish there had been more events that were like that for science, technology, and history. I see so many kids go to churches and are brought in by the events (camping, gaming, learning, socializing) and I feel sorry for them. So much youth wasted on tunnel vision when it could be better applied to productive imagination. My father may have been religious, but I am so glad for him. He brought me to the museums, to his work (he worked in early cellular/pc technology for the military), and bought me books on science. Most importantly, he wasn’t afraid for me when I grew up thinking different and wanting to go to college- especially since his own parents were very much of the mindset of “getting married and having kids” is the best thing for a woman outside of church.

    Novel over,
    Jessica 🙂

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  • 108
    Angela says:

    Essentially, my son came out two years ago and my faith slipped from that point until it finally succumbed to the inevitable about 6 months ago. I figured if they could be wrong about homosexuality, what else could they be wrong about? The answer turns out to be- mostly everything. My son coming out was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

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  • [Link to user’s blog removed by moderator]

    I went to a catholic primary school and high school, and in later years suffered from a psychotic episode mainly fueled by the content forced on me by those institutions.

    i found as a matter of course and recovery that i had to reject my religious faith, yet still to this day i have been unable to deny the fundamental experiences that underpinned why i believed in a deity type figure.

    I have no doubt that this will be met with a kind of reasonable derision and skepticism, but i will however argue my point nonetheless.

    i feel that the issue of faith can be best understood through the meaning of the word faith.

    belief without evidence.

    i have had powerful spiritual experiences that have helped me overcome tragedy and trauma, all without the need for institutionalized religion, and in fact would go so far as to say that dogmatic religious influences interfere with and pervert the spiritual experience.

    i believe in certain elements of what i have experienced through virtue of having experienced them, i lost my faith when the contradiction between spiritual experience and dogmatic law grew too great. i do not, despite all ive said, believe in the supernatural, and am in fact quite cynical and doubtful of the validity of what i have experienced as being anything real empirically.

    what i will say to finish is that we should be seeking to finding the truth and the usefulness of the spiritual experience as a tool for personal growth and mental exploration of human potential (without the need to infer that anything a)supernatural or b)that requires an unfounded faith based belief in a deity), and that for me it became acutely apparent that organised religion cannot by its nature allow or support the experiences as this would deny the validity of the supposedly 'sacred role' of the church, and that further i personally feel that religions undermine spiritual growth and the psychological evolution of the human race by denying any exploration of spiritual experience without claiming it reinforces the beliefs the perpetuate based on books they have heavily edited and cherry picked from.

    D x

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  • 111
    gabriel says:

    I went to a Catholic high school, read the bible, and took an introductory course to philosophy during my freshman years. I have always care for reason, evidence, and morality. After being exposed to different ideas, I realized that religions are a collection of dogmas and rituals. I was particularly disgusted with the morality presented in the old testament.

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  • My road to atheism was a long one just not very complicated.
    I was raised as a Missouri Synod Lutheran and was very into church and Sunday school when I was a kid. Right up until I started my Confirmation classes my family and a lot of the church members were certain that I was headed to seminary. Of course, outside of church I had a love of science, I’m sure that was spurred by my love of science fiction. I was a really geeky kid that loved spending tons of time in the reference section of the community library researching all of the subjects that interested me. I love facts!

    So with this burgeoning love of science and it’s methods, I began my first real study of my faith in my Confirmation class. My mother never discouraged me from asking why, so naturally, I continued doing so as this was serious stuff and I wanted to make sure that I understood it completely. The sad thing is that my questions were eventually refuted with, “Stop asking questions and just memorize the material”. I did what I was told at the time, but that was the beginning of the end.

    My love of science grew through high school. I loved it all: Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology. The scientific method was becoming the dominant lens through which I viewed the world. Of course, being high school I had far more pressing matters like girls, grades, and sports to worry about having an existential crisis. All of that was firmly on the back burner.

    College was where I met some great people and a great friend that was an out and out atheist. He was the first person that I ever met that openly questioned the existence of the supernatural. We had a lot of discussions. He eventually convinced me to take a couple of philosophy courses. The two that completely shook my foundations were Comparative Religions and Symbolic Logic. I doubt I have to explain why those two were such a potent combination. The rest of my years in college were a gradual shedding of my remaining theistic mental vestments.

    A wonderful thing happened when I was in my fourth year. The World Wide Web was unleashed on the world. Suddenly inquiry on pretty much any subject was possible. A few years after school, I came upon a website, positiveatheism.org. The final theistic shackles were released because that was the first time I came across Epicurus:

    “Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; Or he can, but does not want to; Or he cannot and does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. But, if God both can and wants to abolish evil, then how come evil is in the world?”

    Done. Finished. Complete. That was when I became an atheist. That argument, the first time I read it, made everything clear.

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  • I left my catholic school at 15 and spent two years at a secular sixth form college working towards my A levels.

    On my first day in the sociology class I sat next to a lad and when he knew I was catholic he asked me why I believed there was a god. Over the next few weeks I kept looking up at the sky and asking myself why I did believe.

    In the end I decided that all of my reasons came down to every thing I had been told in childhood but that nobody had ever given me evidence to support this fairly extravagant claim. Studying sociology and history quickly gave me a perspective on world religions and when I understood Christianity was one religion among thousands followed by people since pre-history it became obvious that no one claim to the truth was stronger than the other and that all were the myths and imagination of humans.

    I was also studying the classical mythology and the similarities between various mythologies was obvious – Christianity being just another mythology.

    From my perspective its really interesting to witness how atheism has grown in the UK from being fringe 30 years ago to a main stream view point (the deputy prime minster and the leader of the opposition are open atheists for example). I think both the Internet and RD himself with the God Delusion are major reasons for this.

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  • PS: The real privilege of reading everyone’s comments here, has struck me with two thoughts, simple though they are:- 1) the intellectual honesty and sheer courage you all have, for which you’re to be commended, and 2) that the atheist position is about far more than just not believing in deity — it is, in the truest sense of the words, an absolute affirmation of life.

    And I can think of nothing more beautiful.

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  • 115
    Sebastian says:

    Quite a boring story in my case… I was raised to be a Catholic, but from a very young age I realised it made no sense to me. Too many ‘plot holes’ and too much unfairness, chauvinism, racism, etc., which I felt completely contradicted what it was meant to stand for. So, basically, I was probably around eight or nine when I decided religion wasn’t for me.

    As for the idea of a deity, I didn’t actually give it much thought for years and years, until I started delving on the matter on-line, and I realised I was an atheist rather than an agnostic (as I usually claimed to be). I suppose some concepts hit a nerve more than others, such as the whole issue of ‘original sin’, ‘fear of the lord’ being a virtue, and stillborn children being banned from heaven because they hadn’t been baptised. Even as a young kid, I found those things ridiculous, absurd, offensive and incredibly limiting, so I just ran away from them.

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  • When I was about six years old in the mid-1960s, I asked my parents for God’s phone number. The idea of an omnipotent being unable to gain access to a telephone perplexed me. Four or five years later while vacationing with my family I found a bible in a hotel room, read a little of it, and found nothing in it worth my time.

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  • Nic, I found your post frustrating. You said “other factors were involved” but you did not say what you thought they were.

    You said your rejected atheism and became a Christian but gave no hint as to why. They may not have been rational, but surely there were reasons. You must have had some experiences, emotions or visions. Or you may have just wanted to rebel against your parents.

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  • Roedy. I think this is the reason. There is nothing more powerful in the universe than a parent teen conflict. ‘I’ll show you parents. I believe in god. So cop that.”

    I myself was brought up in an atheist household, but due to the fallout with my parents during my teen years, I rejected atheism and became a christian.

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  • I have been looking at responses. I note a lot dumped religion during childhood. It just did not make sense. I think children are less afraid of peer pressure. Adults are far more likely to pretend to believe and push their doubts aside.

    The Christians focus on indoctrinating children. Perhaps we should put more effort on children with some subversive children’s stories.

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  • Why did I leave my faith ?

    Two primary reasons, I guess …

    My dad was an atheist, so I was exposed to the concept right from childhood.
    Later on, reading the right books – Carl Sagan, James Haught, then later Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris etc ….

    I live in India, where Hinduism is the “majority” religion. A lot of Hindus like to say that “Hinduism is not a religion, but a way of life!” … don’t see much of a difference really, it has all the intolerance and irrationality of the Abrahamic religions.

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  • “…I hadn’t even been aware that creationists existed until I realized that one of my high-school friends grew up as one. His lack
    of belief in evolution and science and his literal interpretation of
    the bible left me absolutely stunned. I was ‘ignorant of the

    That was my experience too (except that I was never religious and nor were my parents). I don’t exactly remember when I noticed, or through whom — I think because I was just so stunned that that part of the experience wasn’t committed to memory, but I do remember that I quite innocently laughed out loud, in real hilarity, and exclaimed to my friend, literally, “Are you nuts?!”. It was in the 70s, in an early science class at public primary-school, probably Grade 2 or 3, and I said that because my school-friend had whispered to me that what we were being taught wasn’t true, and why she thought so, though to me it wasn’t even ‘news’, for I too had grown up to that point with a fantastic children’s encyclopaedia just like the one you describe, and the best teacher I could ever have in my Mum (a divorced, brilliant career-woman and mother of one) ~ who’d taught me to question everything, including her. At that time my entire knowledge of religion consisted of two half RE classes, out of both of which I was thrown for asking what I thought were very simple, very obvious questions. After the second time it happened my Mum, who had thought the class was going to be a theology class and about all religion, wrote a very strongly-worded letter to the school and the RE teacher, and told me I didn’t have to attend the class anymore unless I wanted to; and as I’d thought it was absolute rot from pretty much the moment the RE ‘teacher’ opened her mouth, I didn’t go again.

    But even these little exposures didn’t really make me aware of just how great that ignorance is in some places — I was lucky to be born, raised and educated in one of the world’s most secular, most non-religious and atheist nations ~ Australia, where religion is just not relevant in most people’s lives, so coming to learn the American norm as it apparently is, was probably even more stunning, and it wasn’t until after college that I was even made aware of it. It was in college too that for the first time I really realised just what religion could do to some people (I was too young for the first instances to have had any great ‘philosophical’ impact), when a class-mate asked me what religion I was, as it was relevant to the topic, and my reply was “none”. He could not believe it, insisted I must have one, and was thus just a lax-whatever, asked in what faith I was baptised, etc, and all I could reply was the truth ~ I was never baptised and my family didn’t have a religion. I’ll never forget the look on his face — the very concept had never occurred to him. My point being with that, is that his religion (Eastern Orthodox) had made him totally ignorant and not questioning of anything, because in Australian society one could not have otherwise missed that a lack of religion is quite the norm.

    That’s all a long time ago, and it still makes me chuckle … and shake my head in a kind of intellectual horror.

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  • A subversive book for young children might look like this:
    It is called “It Isn’t Necessarily So”.
    The pages are paired left and right — What was claimed and what was actual.

    For example, on the left is a fisherman claiming to have caught a huge fish. You see the huge fish.
    On the right is the fisherman catching a small fish. The skeptical child asks “Show me the fish.”

    On the left a claim of a magic wishing penny, producing a pony out of a cloud. On the right a child holding the penny and looking disappointed. The skeptical child asks “Please let me try the penny.”

    On the left a claim of an ogre under the stairs. You must wear a doily on your head for protection. On the right an empty closet under the stairs. The skeptical child asks “So where is he?”

    Santa is an easy target, but going after him could reduce sales, perhaps go after the easter bunny or the tooth fairy.

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  • Are you familiar with Professor Dawkin’s “The Magic of Reality”? I gave it to my son when he was 9-years-old and he has enjoyed it immensely. It’s basically exactly what you are describing.

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  • 124
    Nelson says:

    I came to my religious experience honestly. At the age of 15 I encountered people who were evangelical in their faith. Being a Roman Catholic by birth, they spoke a language of necessity and experience that was unknown to me growing up. I fell in with this youth group and came headlong into the contradictory nature of the difference between the traditional structure of Catholicism and the Southern Baptist evangelical church.

    Then about a year after that seeking more, I found a friend that introduced me to a Pentecostal church where I gained more willingness to experience the “gift of the Holy Ghost.” Having now experienced the gift of speaking in tongues at the rectory of a R.C. church I delved further and further into the life of the Christian, moving deeper and deeper into the Biblical knowledge necessary to speak with my peers.

    I sought out experience after experience, seeking to deepen my knowledge of the Bible. Yet there was always a niggling doubt that the Bible didn’t make sense, that there were contradictions even to the contrary proclamations of those in authority over me. So I sought out even more experiences to quell the doubts that kept growing inside me.

    I left the fold for a long while, but eventually came back. Still seeking to quash those niggling doubts about the veracity and contradictory nature of a book/collection of stories, myths, legends and fairy tales.

    I even became somewhat of a biblical scholar, even to the point of impressing a person who was my pastor and Ph.D. in two areas. I looked to him for guidance and help in my life, but even he could not quell those growing doubts. During this period I also had to have surgery to correct a herniated disc in my neck. This led to ever more doubts. I also ran into the doubts of my peers, because having surgery was considered a “sin.” Depending on the machinations of man is still considered sinful, in many circles it is abhorrent to trust that mankind has our best interest at heart.

    Then separating from my wife, it all became too much and I lost that fervor that I once had. Even as the assistant pastor of an independent church, I never list that fervor. I left the church completely and struck out ostensibly on my own. I’m now an agnostic/atheist. Looking to reason and rationality for my way in life, rather than the blind faith that is the bane of faithful people everywhere.

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  • raised strict Catholic in Ireland

    acorn … of doubt at age 7 or 8
    germination … hearing Eamonn McCann arguing with priests/teachers
    seedling … sectarian riots while in Belfast
    growth spurt … reading Joyce, O’Casey, Behan and others
    young oak … science (esp. Tinbergen on evolution) at university
    fertilizer … my devout wife’s revulsion at pedophilia in RCC (she leaves)
    ‘mature’ oak … The God Delusion and RD’s other books, Sam Harris etc

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  • 127
    Amanda says:

    Questioning my faith started to happen for me in my early twenties. For me this would be a harrowing journey. Growing up, my parents were non-denominational part-time christians. Not particularly religious, but believing in God was a given for us. Despite the fact that both my parents encouraged critical thought in all other areas, I had never really applied that to religion. I was working in a very religious office, around the time I was 23, and we had bible study every friday before work. The real doubts started to happen, after participating in this bible-study for a few weeks. At every turn there was prejudice, exclusivity, and just plain hatred for others, that was in direct conflict with what I believed Christianity to be about. It made me sick actually, and I turned an open eye, for the first time towards my bible. It’s hard once you start, not to see the contradictions, and mixed messages that exist there. I wish that I had had someone to turn to at that point to help me through the process of leaving my faith behind. I could no longer call myself a christian, and unfortunately I had a hard time seeing the point of life without God. So entrenched, still, in the doctrines of faith, even though I rejected them. I think at that point I used these feelings to go out of control, drugs, alcohol, and a deep sadness I didn’t know how to deal with. How fortunate for me that Mr. Dawkins appeared. Reading the God Delusion saved my life. It answered all the questions I had, put to bed the last fears, and gave me a way to shed the last vestiges of faith, without guilt, and with a whole new sense of empowerment. I wish with my whole heart I could thank Mr. Dawkins in person. I know it’s not as dramatic for everyone, wish it hadn’t been for myself, but in the end, atheism has given my life more meaning than my faith ever could. How free I was, when I discovered that I couldn’t fill the void in my life, because there had never been one in the first place.

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  • By the time I could reason (about 12 or 13 yrs old), I had no faith. I compared what I saw and became aware of with what (every belief system I could find) said about why I had seen what I had seen, and realized that they were utterly contradictory. SHOW ME A REASON or get out of my consciousness.

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  • The horror of the Sandy Hook massacre finally convinced me that there is no caring personal God. He supposedly knows the number of hairs on your head, but apparently can’t or won’t jam the trigger of a Bushmaster. He just isn’t there.

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  • 130
    Atheist says:

    After spending 20+ years studying religion/theology, practicing many of those, and spent the last 7 years as a very devout Muslim, I became an agnostic atheist less than one month ago. The reasoning behind my transformation is that no matter at which point in time during my life I kept defending the existence of god but inately knew that I was fooling myself.

    Science doesnt have all the answers but it sure beats falling prey to dogma zombies.

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  • Hi Lydia,
    thank you for your post. Me too, my experience was very similar to yours except mine did not happen until I was in my forties! And yes, it can take a long time to process the whole thing but once you get there it all seems utterly absurd. C

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  • You poor darling, that is such a sad story and it increases my anger with the stupid arrogant ignorance of religion. I was raised fundamental christian, which controlled my whole childhood but with out pentecostalism. My husband experienced some pretty heavy scenes in the pentecostal world as a young man in his late teens that disturbed him greatly i.e. trying to raise his friend from the dead.
    I understand every word you say and hope over time your family will come to you i.e. realise YOU ARE RIGHT AND THEY ARE WRONG!

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  • Wow Ben that is an amazing journey and you are so brave to live it and tell it. Your last paragraph sums up the whole deal for me too. My story is different but a fundamental christian upbringings, whatever the cranky bizarre flavour they add, has a lot in common. Thanks for sharing yours.
    PS I took until i was about 45 to realise it was all BS so you have more years than me to really live your life the way you want!

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  • So sad that parents deluded beliefs can inflict so much hurt and harm on their own child’s life. I hear you Solomon and I understand. You have said very profound things, particularly about people of “faith” and you have found a mature and gracious way to deal with them. I hope you have support and wish you every good thing for your future.

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  • Why did you leave your faith? Was it because you read your holy book? Read another book? Learned science? Learned of other faiths?

    Why did I leave Islam? I finished reading the Qur’an in Arabic, Indonesian and English when I was 16. I was a voracious reader of all things Islamic. When I was in the States, my best friends are Syrian, Afghani, Pakistani, Iraqi Muslims I met at the mosque. I was the lone Indonesian Muslim there and somehow being the representative of the biggest Muslim country on earth makes them eager to befriend me. Some of them left their country because they are Muslim Brotherhood. The black Muslims are also nice, they show me their guns collection and invite me to their apartments to pray.

    Is it science? I’m afraid not. Is it because I read other faith’s books? I remember burning a bible when I was 8 years old because I’m afraid I go to hell by touching it. I remember having a religious-based conflict in high-school with a christian that doesn’t end well. I also remember being deeply in love (or so it seems) by my junior who happened to be a christian girl. I gave her a Qur’an, which she said she will give someone else. I don’t know, she might have burned it. Who knows?

    I think it is because Internet. Specifically U torrent and Bit Torrent. One day in 2009 I’m surprised that my sister already have the newest Gossip Girl episode. She said she torrented by the help of my youngest brother. Shocked that this is possible I told him I want to know how to torrent. Somehow, out of sheer luck I guess, in my euphoria, I torrented a lot, one of it is George Carlin discography.

    Everything Carlin said makes sense. And from Carlin I graduated to Bill Maher. And Bill Maher introduced me to Hawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Brad Pitt the Atheist, Sean Penn the Atheist, and many more.

    And then I do a process I called Faithsurfing (I borrowed the term from Couchsurfing). In which in the year 2011 I spent the majority of my days going from one holy site to another, from mosques to churches to temples, to cults and sects, doing their rituals, praying to their deity, giving money to their cause, trying to find the one true path, the one true religion. I invited Mormon preachers, I went to Jehovah Witness, I contact Scientology and got a brochure, I contact Church of Satan, Ahmadiyah, Sikh, Vaswani, and many many more. What I found at the end was: praying itself feels good. It feels good because you feel humble. Praying together is good. But it is not right.

    From then on I conclude that I can’t belong to any religions as I found them all to be unsatisfactory. I’m agnostic, leaning to atheism, but not quite.

    So it all started with illegal downloading. That’s the honest truth. But it’s not right (?).

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  • Hello guys.

    I was born in Turkey, a muslim country as you know. And I wasn’t raised as a muslim actually, my father was an atheist. But I had brain-washing religion classes, the people around me -except from my family- were muslims or worse they were Islamists. I didn’t think about religion till I was 10 or 11 I guess. Then I said I should read Quran. When I first started it, it was kinda good. But as I continued, it turned out to a book full of violent, racist, and homophobic statements. That’s when I realized that this can’t be true, this books describe all of the characteristics of the people who should be educated. And there is no way that this book promotes “peace” as some Islamists say. That’s just ridicilous. That was the time that I decided I should be an atheist. I was reading about evolution at that time as well, and as a not brain-washed kid, I was able to tell the difference. The evidence is absolute. And evolution was my answer to all of the stupid questions creatonists asked. When I answered they didn’t understand but whatever. I don’t need them to understand. I gave up. I stopped arguing with creatonists and ever since then I’m a proud atheist.

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  • 138
    Jeffrey says:

    Why did I leave my faith? I was born to a Jewish family, and I attended occasional religious services during my childhood and adolescence. But I became agnostic at about age seven when I was able to think about the question of the existence and non-existence of a God. It was at this time that I convinced myself that I could not know–and that I would likely never know with certainty–if there was or was not a God. And I maintain this epistemological view to this day, but lean more toward an atheist view, that in all probability there is no God. So it would be more accurate to say that I never left my faith because I never had any in the first place. [Link to user’s website removed by moderator.]

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  • This is probably a worthless post, but I never had a “faith”, or at least decided at a very young age that I didn’t want one. My family were never church-goers apart from weddings and funerals, but if pushed, would probably have described themselves as “C of E”, which I realised meant nothing, apart from “a normal thing.” I do remember my dad saying that “religion has caused so much trouble in the world,” so maybe I was led by a few things like that, but nobody ever sat me down and spelt things out either way.

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  • 140
    Nassime says:

    I was born to a muslim family in the UK. I grew up as a muslim, I am 17 now and I completely reject faith. Why? Because I came to my senses, any logically thinking person would see that Faith is no more than a handicap to progress and enlightenment. I fail to understand why people would want to be stuck inside “a box”, metaphorically speaking, all their lives when there is so much more to the universe and reality. Why fear the unknown when you can face it? That is why I rejected Islam. Also because I am gay therefore I simply cannot take part in a faith that isn’t simply irrational and controlling, but also evil and discriminatory.

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  • I left my faith because I was raised in Saudi Arabia, that alone should be a good enough reason .I was told I should cover up and never speak in the company of men,forced to wear a veil and constantly looked at as the devil’s accomplice.

    I’m thinking of writing a book about my experience one day.

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  • Because it never made any sense, there were far too many inconsistencies and contradictions. I was 14 and I’ve never been more ‘spiritually’ content.

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  • Three years ago, my interest in the existence or non-existence of a divine being was rekindled, possibly after reading an article about The God Delusion in the Guardian. I bought the book with the intention of reading it during a week’s holiday at my parents’ in Dublin. It was then I realised that I was very nervous of bringing the book with me on an airplane. Not that I was afraid of what other, God-fearing people would think – no, my fear was that the Almighty would strike, casting me into the cruel Irish Sea along with a couple of hundred of my innocent fellow passengers and a handful of Aer Lingus’ finest. It was this striking realisation that made me realise that I had to read this book and – as Bob Geldof puts it in his autobiography – “rid myself of the voodoo”. [Link removed by moderator]

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  • I was brought up CofE and went to a CofE school. I also went to Sunday school until the time I got in a fight there with a bigger boy and came home covered in blood. My parents were outraged and never sent me there again (thank god!). At 11 or 12, when most of my friends were going to confirmation classes, I refused and my parents didn’t insist. Although I didn’t know the word then, I was agnostic. By the age of 14 I was an atheist, and I did know that word. Now I’m somewhere between an atheist and an antitheist. In the 21st century there is no excuse for religion.

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  • The version of Christianity, which I used to share with my family, friends and many people who I still love and respect deeply, is very liberal and humane, and I would probably be quite happy if I could believe in it. However, I found that books on critical and rational thinking had a big effect on me and I chose not to protect my faith from doubt – or rather, not to protect it unfairly. After a while I decided that just because my belief system is beautiful and comfortable, it doesn’t mean it’s true, and I couldn’t see any other sufficiently compelling reasons to believe it’s true. The loss was quite painful, especially because faith was a big part of many relationships I don’t want to lose.

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  • 146
    ckmasak says:

    Simply put, because it wasn’t MY faith to begin with. It was whatever my parents and surrounding community foisted upon me at an impressionable age. Had I been allowed to explore, learn, question and THEN choose a faith, it certainly wouldn’t have been the Catholicism so cherished by my parents. Thankfully I was LATER able to make decisions for myself….and have done so. But I cringe at all of the time and energy wasted on such trivial nonesense. Frankly, I’d like that part of my childhood back.

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  • I was tired of being on the losing side of the argument. Like a lot of Christians, deep down I knew I was defending the indefensible. Every time some member of the faith would say homosexuality was a sin, that women should submit to men, or that the earth was 6,000 years old, I’d cringe, but I’d also know those statements had credible backing from same texts I was telling people were authoritative. The cognitive dissonance eventually proved to be too much, and I left the church, adopting the position of theism. Victor Stenger’s book God: The Failed Hypothesis was the final nail in the coffin. After seeing all the data he’d collected, point after point refuting every example I thought I had of possible divine intervention, it became clear to me that, if there were gods of any kind, they had no interest in me, and the universe appeared to get along exactly as if they weren’t there.

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  • As a child, I was encouraged to attend all relevant meetings and organisations in my family’s church. Most of my extended family were Christian and I went along to anything, anywhere that told me the “Good News”. By the age of 15, I was beginning to take on helper roles and then taking on full leadership roles. My faith meant everything to me – I was an ardent Creationist and a strong evangelist. When I married, I moved to my wife’s church where I took charge of various youth ministries and church committees over the years.

    In early 2013, I set out to read the Bible from cover to cover. As a Christian of 20-odd years, I was embarrassed and slightly ashamed that I had not done this before. Yes… I lived a leadership life without really understanding what I was talking about. It’s not that uncommon, you know! 😉

    I still have the notes I took from that time and occasionally look back on them. I found so many of the contradictions and questionable texts that people always talked about but I so quickly dismissed before. And things slowly fell apart. I looked to God for some clarify, some confirmation, something… but there was nothing. The ‘God’ outlined in Scripture is a vile, hideous concept, and I can’t accept it anymore.

    I also experienced mental illness (not sure if related to faith issues or not) but the one time I expected to find God supporting me was the time he felt most far away. Christians somehow rationalise this absence when going through “trials”, but I could no longer make sense of it. The ‘God’ character outlined in Scripture is a vile, hideous concept, and I can’t accept it anymore.

    I thought of all the times I required hindsight to “see God in my life” and became aware of the cognitive dissonance I had been experiencing for quite some time. All the arguments I’d dismissed, all the arrogance I had displayed… these things haunted me for a while.

    I took off my blinkers and tried to better understand the science and evidence I had previously scoffed at – and that’s actually quite fun. I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world and space, so to look at it from a whole new perspective is really pleasant.

    Now, I’ve a level of contentment about where I am. I will account for my life to my fellow humans, not live by some abstract, ancient code which demands we submit ourselves to a phantom deity and discriminate and oppress others – even our own children – if they display some arbitrary characteristics and which ultimately damns us to eternal, never-ending torment for being unable to jump through the hoops of blind faith.

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  • 149
    Meghan says:

    I was indoctrinated into Christianity, as a child I use to beg my parents to take me to church but thankfully they were lazy christians. I was around 8 years old when my Great Grandmother died and even though I believed in Christianity, the idea of heaven just didn’t add up. Her passing just felt so final.
    As the years went on I started to become angry with the fact that the good people I knew always had bad things happen to them yet the bad people always came out on top. I don’t just mean with careers or money, I mean watching my father’s mother slowly die from Alzheimer’s while her alcoholic & abusive husband is still alive to this day abusing alcohol.
    Not to mention my personal experiences with being bullied, mentally & physically, for years when I did my best to treat everyone equally & fairly. I also had to deal with my Grandfathers alcoholism a lot.
    By the time I was in high school I was agnostic, while I clinged on to a few Christians notions, I slowly moved away from it. I have read the bible, but by then I wanted to learn the unbiased truth about other religions so I did just that.
    The final nail in the coffin came with Grade 11 world religions. For the first two weeks we had an awesome religion teacher, while he was christian he still did the class with enthusiasm and taught his students the unbiased truth about other religions & even pushed students to do so. Unfortunately there was a schedule mix-up and we were given a new teacher who was the head of the religion department. I, sarcastically, gave him the moniker of “the second coming of Christ” (because if you met him, you would see the guy acts as if he is). Myself and peers also started to call his class “Jesus hell”.
    To summarize how batshit crazy he was, he referred to Harry Potter as being comparable to getting a child to read pornographic reading material (I am a bibliophile & was a HUGE Harry Potter fan then), he denied the crusades, he said the Freemasons were a mafia at the same time as denying the crusades, he failed a peer for writing a report on atheism which I will remind you this was a class meant for talking about different beliefs. These few instances plus the many more that occured throughout the semester turned me from agnostic and asking questions to full blown atheist.

    I could not imagine ever going back to beliving in a religion, I have never felt more liberated. The prospect of what comes after life is no longer something I worry about but happily embrace (I like to think it will be the best, dream free overdue sleep I deserve). With embracing science and atheism my battle against depression has even become easier.
    It has been ten, going on eleven years as an atheist and I finally feel comfortable stating “I am an atheist” regardless of how I know others will react. Using the internet to network has helped tremendously, it also helps that my long time partner is also atheist & that wasn’t something at the time we met that I was specifically looking for in a partner. I no longer feel isolated with only people around me condeming me to Hell for thinking for myself and questioning everything.

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  • 150
    Parantap says:

    I am born in a devout Hindu family, my parents have more spiritual leanings than scriptural. Though, they are pious, I won’t deny that. I’m proud to say like many of my friends here I come from a tolerant family with secular ideology (tolerant toward other religions). From the very moment I’ve started thinking for myself I had a doubt about the existence of GOD, I was Agnostic.
    The concept of religion, something I’ve believed from the beginning, is man-made and like all man made doctrines it is inherently flawed. What troubled me was the constant hatred among Hindus and Muslims for each other, I live in India so this is the state of affair here. Hindus blame Muslims for every fanatic activity saying it is inherent in them, although it is my firm believe that it is an individual behavior not akin to a religion. Likewise, Hindu right wing makes inflammatory remarks and never let the bygones be the bygones. Muslims do suffer a lot of religious profiling if not violence in India. It seems like Hindus are not tolerant rather meek, and when in a group they can resort to extreme violence too. As an individual yes, they are not very fierce.
    The right wing provokes the ignorant Hindus by keeping the wounds of history afresh, but the worst is the left-liberal who are the textbook apologists and thus infuriates even the secular Hindus. Unfortunately, the baton is passed to the right-wing fringe elements, who rarely resort to a rational debate. All they indulge in is provocative rhetorics. You bash the wrongful practices of Hindus and you are a stooge of West, and for criticizing Islam, well you simply need courage to say what is right.
    Thus, the garb of religion never suited me well. But it wasn’t before watching Cosmos (the latest one) that I became a full blown atheist. I realized the staggering immensity of the Universe for the first time and for a God to exist to create such miniscule population in a dust particle was simply absurd. Either he is not omnipotent or plain stupid to watch over a few people and grant their wishes in a remote corner of the Cosmos. The recent activities make my disbelief even firm.

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  • At first i was muslim .. with a lot of questions in my head , the orders and explanations ( or no explanations at all ) in the holy book did not make sence , there was a conflict between what what my mind thinks of and what my heart believes in , i was so uncomfortable about it and then i learned science , i’ve read books and have dialogues with athiets i started to realise that science has better answers for my quetions ,things started to make sence then , i became more exited about the universe , science , evolution , humans , and i started to love reading books and learning about new things and this made my me more sure about my decision .. it made me a better person .. a dreamer with very high ambitious and great goals

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  • Gert-Jan Mar 19, 2015 at 11:35 am

    It was because of science that I left my religion.

    It appear it was because of PSEUDO-science that you left one unevidenced belief for another!

    I was raised a Roman Catholic, but I’ve always believed in evolution. I was raised on books on dinosaurs and the belief the earth was millions of years old. I always took the Biblical creation account to be a myth constructed by ignorant desert-folk who had no idea about real science.

    It is unfortunate that you “BELIEVED” in the (PSEUDO)-science of theistic evolution, rather than studying and understanding the biology and genetics of the scientific theory of evolution.

    I finally left my faith in 2006, when I attended some lectures on creation and evolution. The scientific evidence was simply overwhelming. I never knew there was so much evidence against evolution and millions of yearsBabel!

    There isn’t any scientific evidence against the scientific theory of evolution, there is only deceptive made-up babble from incompetent and dishonest pseudo-scientists from the likes of AIG, which looks impressive to the scientifically uneducated, but which is laughed at by scientists.

    and for the Biblical account of creation-fall-flood-

    The Biblical “Flood” story was a local flood story copied from the earlier Gilgamesh Myth!

    My whole worldview was turned upside down. Evidence such as the incorrectness of radiometric dating methods,

    This is comical delusion!! – If the nuclear physicists did not understand radioactive decay and radiometric dating, nuclear power-stations would not work. – They DO work!!

    soft dinosaur tissue,

    REAL scientists discovered a method of extracting soft tissue from rare preserved fossil Dinosaur bones!

    depictions of dinosaurs in art all over the world, the rapid deposition of sedimentary layers over enormous areas that can only have happened during a global flood.

    Are of course pure incredulity and fantasy derived from circular wish thinking and ignorance of biology and geology.

    People who actually use and study science regard these claims as comical!!

    Sorry! – but you have been conned by YECs, who have as much grasp of astronomy and planet formation, as the Flat-Earthists have!

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  • Baptised into the orthodox church, turned into a RC by the care system (very Irish RC as house mother was Irish of the Magdalene laundry variety (they did not understand orthodoxy). When 19 pregnant and unmarried told by Monseigneur Shannon that I was barred from the church until baby born, given away and I asked for forgiveness. Never went back. As I grew older realised that mother church was just a crutch. Realised that what they did to me & other unmarried mothers was far from caring. As education became more of my life realised that god (religion) is what man uses to oppress his fellow man and woman. Of course now money is god and the oppression goes on. Could write reams on all this but will not.

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  • I loved love and wanted to promote it. As a child, Christianity seemed like a good vehicle so I bought in. Over time I realized it was systemically opposed to love. Left to continue promoting love.

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  • 156
    cerzadko says:

    Growing up, I was raised in a Roman Catholic church and attended Catholic school from grades K-12. Going to mass and taking religious courses in school was a regular part of my life. I aspired to be a scientist from a very early age and so I walled off the disparity between the nature of reality in front of my eyes and what I was told to believe as part of the Catholic faith.

    As a teenager, I was a calm, genial person on the outside but inside I struggled to suppress normal sexual feelings (we were taught thought crimes were just as bad as the act) and chastised myself in a variety of ways, often attempting to bargain with God ways I would change my life if only my thoughts could be made more pure. I couldn’t reconcile why I suffered from these feelings and I was extremely judgmental toward people who lived normal, healthy lives engaging in lifestyles that were antithetical to Catholic teaching. I continued to be unable to reconcile what I was learning in science and what was taught to us in the Bible. I was extremely defensive toward those who dared question my beliefs and bristled at the notion of discussing alternative possible faiths being “just as right.”

    The first chinks in my religious armor began to wear down when I took studied abroad outside the United States to Australia. It was here that I lived among 9 other (Australian) individuals in a flat, saw the lifestyles they lived and began to realize that despite the “sins” I condemned them for, they were brilliant, wonderful, happy and just as productive as myself. The cognitive dissonance I held at bay for so long was too loud inside my head. Years after that experience, I made ever so small steps toward a more secular and more deistic view of the world and this satisfied me for a long time. I began to see fewer issues as black and white and I saw the evil in the phrase that had given me so much comfort as a very religious person: “Everything happens for a reason.”

    I eventually met a woman and we married in a Methodist ceremony that suited our parents and suited our waning religious feelings. A year into our marriage, I read The God Delusion. My wife saw that I was reading the book and we had long and very productive conversations about religious topics. Her tacit permission in this indulgence unlocked the mental padlock I’d placed on having religious discussions and I finally give myself permission to think for myself and, if no evidence supported them, cast off ideas I had been saddled with for decades. For myself, but to a greater extent, my wife, it was a tumultuous, sometimes tearful journey. But, I had never felt so free. The God Delusion really did change my life, I was on my way there when I read it but the arguments in that book ever-so-gently rapped at my brain and equipped me to argue against my own religion for the first time.

    On coming out: I haven’t had a frank conversation with a lot of loved ones around me, I’m still frightened to be cast off. I write about religion and science on a blog and pull no punches in arguing against faith so the people around certainly have the information available to know how I feel about all religion now. At some point in the future, I’m sure it will come up and I won’t be afraid any more.

    I’ve been meaning to thank you for a long time, so thanks, Richard.

    -Charlie Rzadkowolski

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  • I grew up in a very catholic house in a very catholic country. To this day, my father tells me I’m a catholic, because I was baptised and that’s a brand. I reply that it only means the HE is a catholic since I never chose to be baptised into the church.

    Anyway, to the point in question, when my teens approached I was very involved with church life, since the family spent most of it’s qualit time in church-related activities. Most of my friends were from Sunday school or kids from other families in the same prayer group my parents attended.

    But I liked to read. A lot. And everything.

    More and more what I heard in church stopped making sense with what I learned in school or in books. I decided to compare. So when I was 13 I read the bible in full, taking notes. I could smell the BS rising from the pages and I was never again able to reconcile with the holly (as in full of holes) book.

    I still was very spiritual and believed in a god, but I had ruptured with organised religion for good. I indulged in taoism for a while, but that was not really helpful. In Brazil, being an atheist is still a bit of a stigma (a bit is an understatement) so I was “agnostic” in order to avoid discussion and confrontation.

    I only came out as an atheist many years later, as I realised the damage religious bigots do, especially when involved in politics. Brazilian rightwingers tend to come from evangelical denominations, as in the US. This people must be kept at bay. They’re free to live their lives as they wish, but when they try to legislate with the bible, they must be fought. So I quit avoiding confrontation and embraced it. Sometimes people say I’m just as extremist as the extremists I abhor, but they’re just uncomfortable with someone pointing out all the inconsistencies of their dear faith.

    TLDR: Because I liked to read. =)

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  • 158
    Sean Andrew says:

    I used to go to a very conservative church and started to leave it when I felt ostracized by a new Pastor. I was forced by my family to go to a church retreat which I didn’t feel like going to at all anymore, so I just told them I would join them when it would be more than halfway over. When I came there before the last day of the retreat I noticed everybody I knew looked at me differently. We went to the conference room for a meeting, where the Pastor called me out for being late and “rebelling”, After that I just didn’t feel welcome.

    So I stopped going, still placed my faith in God. But all that started to weaken when I started watching Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Salman Rushdie, Maajid Nawaz, Ayan Hirsi Ali and the late Christopher Hitchens. I admire smart people and they are prime examples. I watched them debate with religious idiots about issues I consider important like Gay rights, Abortions, Separation of Church and State. Finally I told myself “I can’t believe I share the same Religion with these idiots”

    But the two events that really made me truly embrace Atheism was the tragic suicide of Leelah Alcorn brought on by her family pressuring her to be a boy when she wanted to be a girl, broke my heart reading about what she went through. The other event was the Charlie Hebdo attack, when I saw what happened to those cartoonists I fully understood how religion is just a backward medieval idea. These two events showed me the danger of religion and I am glad I’ve left it for good.

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  • I was brought up in a nominally Christian household. When I was a senior in high school, I professed faith after viewing a Billy Graham crusade on TV. I further deepened my commitment as a senior in college. Later, after I was married, I attended seminary and then worked as a missionary for 16 years, the last 5 being with one of the most conservative denominations. I had been trained to accept the Bible as the Word of God, inerrant and infallible, and the church’s doctrine and confession as authoritative.

    Then came the crises. I had two heart attacks, and then had some serious legal issues. Instead of encouragement, I received vilification by the church leaders, who excommunicated me due to the legal problems. I became a pariah. Rather than showing Christian love, I was shunned, and remain so to this day.

    This made me go back and look at my fundamental understanding of the Bible, and see that there were some serious problems with it. In addition, the leaders showed no compassion, which highlighted rank hypocrisy on their part. I came to realize that the Bible is not the Word of God, and is not infallible and inerrant. The “systematic theology” I was taught was just a way to cherry-pick verses, pulling ideas from all over to give some semblance of order to a disordered book.

    In short, I had a crisis of faith.

    At the same time, a friend who’s a hospice counselor suggested some reading resources, including Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Joseph Campbell. Frankly, I didn’t follow up on this at first. It was just about then that Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos series came on TV, which solidified my understanding of the nature of the universe. It brought back to memory the science teaching I had back in junior and senior high school, and helped me see the far bigger picture of reality that is beyond the myopia of the Biblical texts.

    The final straw was an article I read about neurological activation of the brain when a person has a so-called “religious experience,” also called neurotheology. So the feelings and thoughts of being close to God is nothing more than a brain function.

    Since then, I have been a voracious reader and have found the writings of Campbell and Dawkins most helpful.

    I have come to reject the mindless following of the Bible. There is some truth in it, but it is not “THE” truth. It cannot be. It was written by people who had no concept of what the universe is. And it certainly is not written by God. Why would an intelligent god write such a jumble?

    So. Athiest? Agnostic? Not sure at this point. But it’s apparent that the gods that are followed today are a construct of the mind of man.

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  • I was born and raise in the Roman Catholic church. I had a lot of questions since being a child and was often told not to question things and that god works in mysterious ways. I was a believer, for a long time. I prayed every night and went to church every Sunday. My parents did a lot of things wrong when raising me in this environment. I didn’t understand why I had to go to church but none of my friends from school did. They told me we were “practicing Catholics” and to me, being 10 years old, that sounded like it made us better. From a young age I had a tendency to look down on anyone who wasn’t a “practicing Catholic”. I had it embedded in my head that we would go to heaven and there was a chance they wouldn’t. I started to care less when I turned 13, and didn’t really feel bad about it. I stopped praying, stopped being passionate about it, put all my religious books in my basement and tried to avoid talking about it. I was still a believer nonetheless but I decided it wasn’t important enough to me to still have the same passion as before. In high school I really started to question everything. I had always thought that the world lies to us about a lot of ideas, why wouldn’t this just be another one of them? I decided when I was 16 that I didn’t believe in god, even though in the back of my mind I would still associate him at a lot of times. I met someone at 17 who “brought me back into my faith”. He was a delusional, misogynistic, racist, fundamentalist. Throughout my 2 year relationship it was one of the things we fought the most about and it was one of the things this individual was the harshest about. I was called childish, immature, stupid, naive, all for NOT believing in god and I was told one day I would “grow up” and recognize how the Christian God is the one true god. When I left him, I started to gravitate towards the New Age movement for a while, but when I started to base all of my facts off of science, I found there was no religion that would support it. So as of October of last year, I identified as an atheist, and have never felt more complete in my life.

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  • 161
    Robert says:

    I was made by gene and social interaction to be an anxious person. At some point, when I was younger, I became frightened of whether a heaven (or hell) actually existed. I spoke to a number of people seeking only reassurance, but they failed to quell my fears. So, as I was in school, I looked to the books during lunch breaks. Books of renown and books of ill repute. Silly books and serious books. I didn’t care what I had to read to get a better grasp on the question and sate my ugly gut reactions. It all hinged on one tiny keystone; whether the soul was real.

    And the language of empirical fact could find not even the smallest of truth in that key to a stable stone doorway.

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  • 162
    Claude says:

    I never had “faith” in Catholicism. It was force fed to me since my birth and using the brain in my head while I was learning the things taught to me in parochial school, I realized that the “faith” had you believe in things that could not be rectified against my daily school teachings. I vividly recall competing with my cousin when we were receiving our 1st Holy Communion ~8yo (he attended a different RC church) as to how much wealth each of our respective church”s had. Tabernacles of “gold”. Then when I became an altar boy I saw that what I thought was gold was actually only made to look like gold, and the behind the curtain lever pulling and hocus pocus was not as awe inspiring and mysterious as the clergy would have everyone believe. It disgusted me that it was all for show. And then I also saw the hypocrisy of those living a pious life, and realized that it was all a lie. I never looked back or questioned my decision to shun religion at 13. Science has filled every question and every void I have had 1000 fold. Evolution, when actually understood and fully comprehended, is an epiphany greater than any religious revelation. Thank you Charles.

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  • If there’s one sense one word to describe my leave from Islam, it’s objectivity. A combination of science and free critical thinking were of course important (I’m studying to be a physicist now), but what impacted me the most was an understanding of the [im]morality of Islam (and all of monotheism really, strangely I never thought about oppression of women, homophobia, etc.) from a third person perspective. I can really think back to three critical events that deconverted me. Two of them are the work of Sam Harris: his speech about morality and the Christian God from his debate with William Lane Craig (obviously applied to Islam), and his lecture on Free Will. Both of these were breathtakingly eye opening and really solidified my atheism. The first and probably most important event, however, was a conversation I had with a Christian friend of mine. We discussed that in each of our ideologies, the other would suffer unending pain and torture in the afterlife. We both believed this. We understood and accepted that our close friends would suffer in this way forever, yet I could not think of a single good reason to justify this punishment. It was clear that neither of us had any reason to leave our faiths and convert to the other. If anything, we had a plethora of reasons to stay with our faith. I knew that there were people who live and die without ever hearing the name Allah or Jesus who will also undergo this fate, and anyone who said that this wasn’t the case is simply lying, delusional, or ignorant. This conversation was the catalyst for my journey to atheism. (I’m happy to say that my friend is now an atheist as well).

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  • 164
    Justin says:

    This may be a bit long so bare with me.

    It’s a bit complicated and I can’t say I always had doubts I was a bit of a late bloomer if you will but I did have that moment where I decided I was done with religion. Let me give you a bit of a back story. My country South Africa is a melting pot of different cultures and I was exposed to various religions growing up, I knew people who were Hindu, Muslim and one of my closest friends was a Jehovah’s Witness (This will be important later I promise). My family wasn’t really religious it was actually my best friend who got me into the cult of Christianity and strangely enough also the reason I decided to become an atheist. It started when my friend took me to a youth service during afternoons it was here that my indoctrination began, at first I wasn’t into the whole religion thing but I enjoyed socializing with the group.

    This all started soon after I moved to a small town that was very Christian and I really didn’t know anyone so I suppose I was in a vulnerable state of mind. The school I attended though not a Christian school had prayers at morning assembly, register (home room I guess is the equivalent) and quite a few teachers were very religious. So soon something that was never really a part of my life became the new normal for me and I was identifying as a Christian before I knew it. It wasn’t until I started be exposed to a friends religion that would start me on the path to leaving Christianity. I remember he had to stand outside while we said prayers because of his strict religious upbringing.

    If you’ve ever visited a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses you know how strict they are, his family situation was a bit complicated and he was living with his grandparents. Looking back now I have to wonder if the religion didn’t play a part in this family turmoil. Don’t get me wrong they were actually very nice people and didn’t force their religion on me though they did hand me a pamphlet or two now and again. I just always thought to myself whenever I heard anything about the religion how weird it was to me but that didn’t cause me to reflect on my own religion until many years later.

    Later on I moved up from youth group to bible study with the older kids as you can expect we simply cherry picked bible verses and discussed them, we never looked really deeply at the bible. I don’t remember much from the study group but I do remember a certain session very strongly even now, it was when we were discussing the book of revelations and I was introduced to the Christian victim complex. This was the good shit the really cultist stuff the 666 mark of the beast stuff, the chips inserted into us to make us satan’s minions stuff, the end of the world is nigh and they will herd Christians into the streets and make us spit on our bibles before burning them in a big pile kind of thing. Now that seems really ridiculous to me I lived through a number of dooms days including Y2K and 2012 but as an impressionable kid I really believed in this stuff.

    They got me with this whole “We are gods army” shtick and my friend who seemed to be really into Christian conspiracy theories and stuff didn’t help either. I remember us watching a video where we had to look for an Angel in a fire and my friend told me the insignia had a flame that could only be seen by true Christians. It’s embarrassing now but I used to be really into this and I was convinced that this was really happening that the end times were upon us and I had to prepare. I started trying to get my family to go to church, I took wore a cross on my neck whenever I went out and I got really into Hellblazer and decided I wanted to become an exorcist I was going to be right there on the front lines battling demons with the word of god in hand. Of course none of that stuff ever materialized and I moved on with my life still a devout Christian but I was no longer living in constant fear of an apocalypse.

    Then I finally left small town life for the big city and went to college where I was no longer surrounded by believers and cut off from most of my friends. I was having a lot of doubts about my choice in degree and I was a victim of a mugging on my very first day there and a hijacking not long after, for at least a month after that I slept with a cross and a knife under my pillow. However one day I decided I wasn’t going to live in fear anymore and I went to explore the nearby area alone, as I was doing so I started praying to calm myself down as I walked and I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. Eventually I stumbled across a tiny comic store and I thought this was it this was a sign from God, I even somehow convinced myself that God wanted me to play Magic The Gathering (That doesn’t even make sense). As you can probably tell I was in a very weird place and I was grasping at straws for anything to give me some purpose some way to hold onto my sanity.

    I was alone and dealing with an existential crisis I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing and why God hadn’t helped me out given me a sign or something. I took up meditation to try calm myself down my neighbor gave me a book on various religions that I looked into to try find something anything that would make me feel at peace. However when I really started looking into various religions I moved away from Christianity and indeed all religions, I found out most of the stuff I was told was a lie and I was understandably pretty pissed off. So I decided to hell with religion none of these had it right, I still believed in God but I had lost faith in religion.

    Now this is the part where I decided to hang it up I was really sick and my best friend took me to the hospital and as I was filling in forms the nurse asked me a question, she asked what kind of preacher (or similar) I would like if something happened to me (which was a really weird question to ask). So my best friend tries to answer for me for some reason and I stop him and he turns to me and says “Well you’re a Christian right?” and I answer “No” I wasn’t really sure what I was at that point. I still remember the look on his face, he was horrified and it looked like his brain couldn’t comprehend what was happening at that moment. We didn’t talk about it afterwards and we continued as if it never happened. I don’t blame my friend but a part of me always felt kind of betrayed and I thought to myself “is having doubts and not having a religion really such a unthinkable thing?” it wasn’t till after I left university that I actually identified as an atheist but that was the moment I really walked away from religion and god.

    Even if no one was going to accept me for who I was I decided I was going to accept myself and for the first time in my life I felt truly free. No longer did I have to worry about some nightmarish apocalypse or what plan some imaginary being had for me it felt like a great burden had been lifted off of me. This isn’t the most inspirational or amazing story but it’s my story and even if nobody read it I’m glad I got this all off my chest.

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  • I was raised Christian fundamentalist-lite. It was beaten and browbeaten into me from toddlerhood. I was a sinner by birth and destined to be burned and tortured by the scariest creature I had heard of…unless I accepted Jesus. I was desperate to be saved from age 5 when I realized I doubted God’s existence. My mom wouldn’t let me ‘get saved’ so young, so I eventually learned to suppress the panic I felt during altar calls until it got to be too much for me at 11. I prayed the prayer and got baptized and hoped like hell it worked. Meanwhile, I learned I was bad, untrustworthy because of my sex, and in constant danger of being ‘taken over’ by Satan. I was under constant surveillance by demons, angels and dead Christians. Mythology, sex, classical art, yoga, science and unapproved biblical scholarship were all dangerous. Every infraction, proven or not, was harshly punished – spankings with a 1×4, screaming lectures, stress positions, extra chores. I developed arthritis in my hands very young because of all the lines I had to write, always Bible verses. And always, constantly the guilt, the shame of being human, the ‘you’re never good enough for us or God, but we love you and so does he.’
    I am reasonably intelligent and deeply analytical by nature but also highly sensitive. Between age 5 and 15 I came up with all the standard ‘red flags’ and questions and doubts but always squelched them or argued them away out of fear. It’s a lot like making excuses for an alcoholic parent. In my 20s I managed to let go of the Flood, creationism and most of the Old Testament. When my kids were born I couldn’t make myself tell them they were sinners in need of redemption or exactly why Jesus supposedly had to die. Then last summer at the ripe old age of 36 my friend was having problems and asked rhetorically ‘did you ever think maybe God doesn’t exist?’ I had not. Despite all my struggles and anger and apologetics it had honestly never occured to me. That was the ultimate doubt, too dangerous to even be thought much less considered rationally . So I listed all my doubts, did a thought experiment of ‘what would the world look like if there was no god,’ researched to see if that thought experiment coincided with known reality, and read a lot in general. I have had a lot of flashback-style panic moments and have to remind myself that I am not depriving my kids of anything, but all my shame melted away. I’m not out yet except to my husband, my kids and 1 of my brothers. I don’t care about my father, but I am still considering whether telling my mom will be worth the anguish it will cause her and the extra trouble she will go to to ‘save’ my kids and me. I don’t love or have relationships with many people so I try hard to preserve what I do have. But I think a day of reckoning is coming; secrets always come out.

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  • My parents took me to church , put me through sunday school, enrolled me in christian summer camps, and encouraged me to go to christian youth groups. However, even as a child, none of what I was told about Christianity made sense. I was always skeptical. I finally realized that the religion was invented by bronze-aged desert dwellers when I started watching religious debates with Mr. Dawkins, Mr. Hitchens, Mr. Harris, and others. The non-believers always won the debates, hands down. Then I read the aforementioned individuals’ books and it all became clear. Overall, there was no single epiphany, I just had to sort through the bullshit…if everyone would just think about it, it becomes clear that religion is bullshit. It’s just a desperate desire to live forever and see loved ones even after they’re gone. Wishful thinking, that’s it.

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  • I was raised Roman Catholic, including regular church attendance and being an altar boy. As I became a teen I was strongly attracted to science and simultaneously turned off by the dogma and authoritarianism of the Church. Then I read the brilliant Bertrand Russell and never looked back.

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  • 168
    Joshua says:

    I was born to a very Catholic family; my uncle was a priest. There was never any equivocation in our discussions about God: we discussed Him as we would wind or gravity – invisible but an uncontested fact.

    In the 6th grade, I became very interested in Greek mythology: their gods were infinitely more colorful than the God my family took for granted. I began to wonder, why couldn’t the Greek gods be real, too? I asked my parents one night while driving home. Their response was essentially, “Because that’s how it is.” Even then, I was dissatisfied with that answer. I asked my Sunday school teacher, who responded similarly and (unlike my parents) with clear anger. Outwardly, I accepted this answer, even if I knew there was something wrong with it. I didn’t tell anyone, but I switched to (what I now know is) a form of deism.

    This secret conviction insulated me from the religious brainwashing that might otherwise have followed. When I was 14 I began to realize I was different In other ways. Going to mass became harder; issues became more complex. I already had a very different concept of God than my family, but I was still ostensibly Catholic. I put distance between myself and its ideas, but I was too naïf to discount all of them.

    What religions are there for gay teens? Precious few, as I would learn. Catholicism certainly isn’t one of them. It left me with self-loathing and shame, the remnants of which persist to this day. With the specter of faith looming over me, it took a long time just to come out to the ceiling fan, let alone my family (who were very supportive). I wasn’t really a Catholic and yet I was being tortured by Catholic ideas.

    Nevertheless, my secret faith brought me comfort in other ways, and I clung to that for a while. It didn’t last. As I entered college, I majored in biochemistry and began learning about biology, astronomy, physics, logic, and other wondrous things. Pieces of it started to fall away like chips of old paint.

    Eventually, I let it all go – even the underlying deism. I do still wish some parts of it were true… but I can’t convince myself that they are any more than I could convince myself that I’m straight. I realized that, if there is a God, it should be enough that we lead a good life, a life rich in compassion and understanding. If there isn’t, I won’t waste time obeying the invented prescriptions of those who claim to know otherwise.

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  • I went to a catholic primary school when I was a child and they taught us stories from the bible as if they were factual; for the first few years that was the only “history” or “science” we learned, then, when I was around 8, came a lesson on evolution: I remember distinctively a book with a picture of amphibians crawling out of the water and becoming larger lizards, so I asked my teacher “If God created all the animals how did they evolve aswell?” and I was given some wishy washy answer like “Well this is what science says happened, creation is what we believe happened” which was echoed by my classmates as if I were the stupid one. So I thought about it and concluded that they couldn’t both be true as they actively contradict each other! After further thought I realized that what they call “scientifically true” is in fact just true as opposed to “faith” which means something along the lines of “what we were told is true” I also remember telling someone I didn’t believe in god when I was around 9 that I didn’t believe in god and he told the dinner lady as if it was some sort of crime! Thankfully she had to sense to tell him that I can still go to a catholic school if I’m an atheist… but didn’t seem to pleased about it.

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  • Growing up a Catholic, I always had this thought that if I just took the time to read the Bible, I would find the answers to all my questions and lead a better life. So I read the Bible. Then I read the Qur’an.

    Now I am an atheist.

    Read the books.

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  • I was raised in Ireland as a roman catholic. In my teens I realised that the old and new testaments were nothing more than fairy tales and cruel and barbaric ones at that. That is ok in a free society where one can live free from medieval superstitions. But Ireland into the 1990’s was a catholic Theocracy. A cold grey place where contraception, divorce were banned and practically every author had their books banned. Even innocent folk books like the”The Tailor and Antsy” were banned.
    The Tailor And Ansty, Sixty years on – Cumann Staire
    For an unbeliever or non-Catholic it was a dreadful place to live, the Catholic Church insisted on its right to instruct the government on moral law and for their laws to apply to all. (Error has no rights). To add insult to injury we discovered in recent years of the systemic sexual and physical abuse of children in the churches care and you must realise that the church controlled and ran hospitals, schools, orphanages, and youth detention centres. Laundries staffed by women who had children out of wedlock and were used as slave labour. Their babies often sold to wealthy Americans for a nice profit. All of this was well known by the hierarchy who never took any action against the abusers just moved them on to fresh pastures when a parent complained. Thankfully this has all changed, the churches are half empty, and they have lost their moral authority. More importantly the politicians are no longer afraid or mother church. I have believed for a long time that if Satan exists and he wanted to give mankind a gift that would create the maximum amount of misery and suffering he would give religion.

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  • I left the Catholic Church because it still teaches sexual repression and opposes birth control, and I realized these things cause tremendous suffering. I’m asexual and actually could have conformed to the Church’s “morality” without much stress, but it offended my moral sense. I realized sexual repression was hurting innocent people, and that a tremendous amount of suffering is created when parents are pushed to have more children than they’d rather.

    I still believed in “God, or at least something” for a few years after leaving. I left the Church because it was hurting people in the name of something it called God, and I found it revolting and couldn’t bear to be part of it anymore.

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  • Eventually it occurred to me that it was entirely up to me to be the kind of good person I wanted to be and that the god of the Bible was not what I would call good (except for a few rather nice tidbits).

    I gained a tremendous sense of power and peace by seizing the rudder of my own morality.

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  • I was raised as C of E, a choir boy and confirmed. I consider myself to be a decent, kind and loving individual despite my atheism. I certainly haven’t killed anyone hiding behind the auspices of MY belief structure. However as I matured and became more educated and open minded it became impossible to believe in something that is nothing less than superstitious nonsense, and without ANY basis or scientific proof. Religion was something I was just something I was dogmatically expected to follow. The demand to be religious is no different to governments rhetoric spouted about for example ‘illegal’ drugs, which we all know is perpetuated by large multi nationals with vested financial interests, the ‘church’s’ of today so to speak. So nothing changes there then! Religion is a gravy train, always was, always will be.

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  • 177
    Michael says:

    I left religion not because of reading about science, nor because of anything Richard Dawkins wrote. I left religion because I learnt about Christianity by being forced to attend anglican confirmation classes. Something so utterly ridiculous defeats itself, nobody should need anything else to convince them.

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  • I came from Islamic background and i got to say there was no sudden moment that changed me, it was all gradual.

    Thankfully my parents are not religious (I’ll use Daniel Dannet’s phrase here) they believe in belief, at least that’s how I see it. They believe that the Quraan is the word of a God but they don’t take it literary and they never made me pray or fast it was an option for me and my brother who chose to pray and fast and still do.

    But of course I was surrounded by friends, all of them are Muslims, and of course a school where teachers of all subjects brainwash us about Islam like they been brainwashed, from a young age we had to memorize (Suras) of the Quraan and they took us to a mosque (mosques are built in all schools here) to teach us how to pray.

    To shorten the story a bit, everybody I am surrounded by is spending a great deal of time to glorify God, his prophet Mohammed, and to horrify everybody of Hell.

    I REALLY believed the story of Noah’s ark, Jesus being born from a virgin and Mohammed riding a flying horse that took him to God in space or heaven! and I think this is normal because all the sane people i know told me that it was real from a very early age, I mentioned that to show that these crazy stories are not the reason I doubted Islam.

    NOW back to the real subject, the reason I doubted Islam is because I thought it was impossible that a GOD who created the whole universe a GOD that great could be so Unjust, so Cruel and so Irrational, I thought that there was no way that he/she would put me in hell for eternity even if I’m a very friendly caring loving person who do good to others, just because I don’t pray for him. I begun to ask myself why pray for him? to thank him? thank him for what? maybe I’m born in a good condition, why would poor people thank him? why would blind people thank him? why would a mother who lost a child thank him? what would they thank him for?. And I thought why would he/she make man inherent as twice (or maybe more) is their sisters? and so on.

    It all just didn’t make sense, my position later was that OK Islam may be real but in that case the Quraan must have been rewritten by somebody who wanted to control, and that if I’m a good person I’ll surly go to heaven even I do nothing of what is said in the Quraan

    The next phase was deism, that was when I was about 23 (I’m 28 now) after thinking and reasoning for a long time I came to conclusion that all religions are nonsense but there is a God and there may be heaven and hell.

    Then I just begun to question everything, and I mean EVERYTHING especially things that are considered taboo, I begun to watch Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins videos and other videos doubting the existence of God, in the same time I watched videos of the other side of the argument, I kept doing this and kept thinking and thinking until I finally got over the idea of God and easily understood that evolution is the only reasonable explanation for our existence in this form, I actually never refused the idea of evolution, it just was never introduced to me in the first place, well, it was once or twice as: western Scientists claim that we were monkeys then we became human!

    That happened about 2 years ago, that I became agnostic and agnosticism was a very short transition to atheism. Even then I kept watching these videos everyday and I just get more confidence in my position.

    I’ve recently completed reading The Magic of Reality, and I’m about to finish reading The God Delusion, both of course by Richard Dawkins, and I watched almost all RD videos in the RD foundation channel. I mention this because I want to say that for me I still would have managed to become an atheist but with the help of Richard Dawkins I’m a much much much more confident and satisfied atheist (I remember Richard himself saying something similar about Charles Darwin)

    Other Than Richard Dawkins and even Sam Harris to be fare, I think I owe a big Thank You to my parents for not indoctrinating me, If I had different parents there would be a very great chance that I’m still deluded and will continue to be for ever, maybe even worse maybe a member of ISIS who knows!

    Finally, Sorry for making the story long, I just thought that those details were important. And sorry for my English I’m obviously not a native English speaker (my language is Arabic and I’m from Bahrain)

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  • 179
    Edward says:

    I am a 61 year old American ex-believer who find myself having shed the belief in anything supernatural quite recently. Once gone it seems strange that it held so long! It is not that I was uneducated, or un-curious, or unaquainted with Christian writings, traditions or practices. I acquainted myself with ‘new athiest’ bestsellers, online discussions and so on, and simply could not take the belief I had in a God or Invisible Higher Power as true. Such a belief seems now a sweet insanity, a delusion, a romantic fantasy, dissolved by my new understandings.

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  • I see a pattern. Exposure to multiple religions is a common precursor to dropping them all. We should be demanding that schools teach comparative religion.

    The most impressive religious thing I ever saw was in the Roman ruins in Bath England. It was a metal face of Minerva Sulis. That was a believable god. It commanded my head to swivel and stare. I would like every Christian to see it to shake them up. (Exploring the old Roman bath was one of the most interesting afternoons of my life — highly recommended.)

    As a child, I was inoculated against Christianity by reading Olive Beaupré Miller’s The Book House for Children which was a 12-volume set bound in shades blues and greens, with volume 1 for preschoolers ranging to volume 12 for adults. It introduced me to the mythologies of the Greeks, Romans and Norse among others. These were all ripping great yarns, but obviously not true. Perseus was a far more impressive that Jesus. It was obvious that Jesus was of the same ilk.

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  • It appear it was because of PSEUDO-science that you left one unevidenced belief for another!

    I think you are being a bit tough here. People often use the word “believe in” to mean “I examined the arguments pro and con and I decided the pro arguments were better”.

    It is rather frustrating when Christians say “I don’t believe in evolution” as if it were a matter of belief rather than examining evidence. But they are probably being accurate. They are rejecting evolution without examining any evidence probably by deferring to some pseudo-authority.

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  • At younger age I realized my religion, Islam, did not make sense and I couldn’t find any answers to the questions I had. For years I couldn’t express my doubts to my parents, siblings, friends, classmates, and anyone around me. Even to myself. I couldn’t ask for help or guidance because I knew what that meant; I would be thought of as evil for questioning Islam and may be shunned abd ostracized for doubting the religion. In my country to be Somali is to be Muslim. Islam is not only a religion but an identity and everything. had to nake do with decades of confusion, guilty and deep and painful cognitive dissonance (I didn’t kniw both the concept and the term for it but lived it). I had to live in denial and at one time tried to be deeply religious to scape rhe pain of the confusion but it kept on escalating. Just three years ago after marriage and a big family, I stumbled upon documentaries by someone who will become my intellectual hero Mr Richard Dawkins and realized this is a whole big fairytale after all. And after finding my footing I secured some of Dawkins books and followed Sam Harris and late Christopher Hitchens. And, as they say, the rest is history.

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  • 184
    Matias says:

    I was born and raised in a Roman Catholic Apostolic family (not too fanatic) and went to a Catholic School. But some day when I was 15 or 16, our religion’s teacher talked about Christ’s birth and it was unbelievable (impossible to believe what she was telling us), just to keep Mary’s virginity. And from that day I started to doubt of what they had been teaching me.
    And doubt was my freedom.

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  • I grew up catholic. My grand parents brothers and sisters were priests and nuns. Apparently, from my grandmothers point of view, I should have been a priest. And I really tried my best to be a catholic. I went to church, tried to think catholic thoughts and do catholic things. Went to youth camps and everything. But unfortunately, from a church point of view, I’m quite bright coupled with the ability to see things that don’t fit. It’s like seeing the cat in the matrix or noticing the lag in the game. I knew that archeology, isotope dating, palaeontology, geology and the other sciences were real and an honest pursuit of knowledge. It was only when I was in late twenties that I realised that the churches around the worked didn’t. I also realised about that time that while I am quite bright, clever and insiteful, I am also a bit slow. I couldn’t quite believe that something as so self evidently obvious wasn’t acknowledged universally. That’s when I started to look at other aspects about my religion. I compared what I was told with what was obviously true and came up with a few of my own conclusions. For example, mine is the one true religion while the Muslims and Jews are followers of false gods. I thought about that, combined it with the knowledge that Muslims and Jews are told something similar, I came to the conclusion that this god is either a psychopath or just s bit of a prick. I dabbled with other belief systems such as shamanism and polytheism. They were kind of cool. I kind of think that if there was a god for humans I’d love it to be hanuman. There is a place in the world for gods, regardless what many people. What D&D based rpg would be fun if there were no gods. I digress. I started thinking about what was justified by religion and covered up by religion. Things that if the person, people or country had said “I/we do this because we really want to!” Rather than “I/we do this because god told us!” We’d be appalled. I was appalled. I realised that as a child I was given childish ideas to accept. Heaven and hell. Good and bad. Do and don’t. These were enough to keep me on a straight and narrow path. And this seems good enough for a vast majority of the world. Then I grew up. I had to put away these structures in my mind. They were fragile and prone to failure under scrutiny. I had to build new ones. Better ones. More flexible, stronger and beautiful ones. So that’s why I left my faith.

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  • 186
    xingren says:

    I was raising in religion Muslim family, since i was young i was bad at praying and memorizing Koran the teachers of madrasa used to beat me. During fasting month of Ramadan when exhausted from hunger i used to break my fasting and i could no longer hold on. For years ago started university i met different people from different believes i debated a lot about religions which one is right or wrong, all i got was counter-productive argument .I became more open-minded asked why is it difficult that people can’t figure out the right religion.

    The god who threatens human for eternal hell and judging our lives by spending to pray and thank him as slave meanwhile watching human suffering all of a the world is utterly bullshit and monster god, which is by the way is dead to me.
    by age of 25 back in 3 years ago i started to think free and all it came down that religion is just man-made political sort freak of philosophy to control and benefit from gullible masses.

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  • I converted to Conservative Judaism in my 20s. I’m Scottish on both sides of the family, so I have (had) straight red hair, blue eyes, a small nose — and I’m 5’9″ tall — and slim. I lost count of the times I had my nose rubbed in my “shiksa” status. I took it for 25 years, and then I just let it go. NB: I think this is why Christianity and Islam are so robust, as religions. A convert there is welcomed with great joy. A Jewish convert — especially one that looks like me — is always a second-class citizen. My realization that god really is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance was critical to my decision, of course — but religious xenophobia played a very large part in it, as well.

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  • Ditching 20 years of religious brainwashing was the easy bit – being born in Enfield logically meant I had to be Christian and not a Muslim, Hindu, or other zealot who thinks they have sole access to God’s ear. Shame it took me so long to realise this obvious accident of birth. If I had been born in Timbuktu, Outer Mongolia, or the American Bible Belt, I could have been brainwashed by a whole set of different beliefs. So I decided none of them could be right and my religion had to come from my own personal relationship with God, without the religious baggage.

    The hard bit was ditching God. After another 20 years of science, logic and reasoning I made a leap of faith! I would dare to consider what it was like to go from the scientific possibility of a god, to the illogicality of a single entity that initiated something that had no start or end, was infinite, cyclical and uncontrolled. This universe is just one of many possible realities that needed no God to create or sustain it, merely appearing and disappearing by the balancing forces of nature (don’t ask who created these forces!) Stephen Hawkin’s A Brief History in Time got me nearly there, but left open the possibility of a god. Zeitgeist explained how humans invented the concept of a god, by needing an external power to explain the then unexplainable. TV programs like BBC2’s Horizon and people like Richard Dawkins, David Attenborough and Brian Cox filled in the gaps of my knowledge and understanding. Christopher Hitchins gave me the ‘balls’ to get off the fence and declare my rejection of theism as a valid explanation of reality. My scientific training leaves me open to consider contrary evidence, but the overwhelming balance of probability lies with the conclusion that there is no god, never has been or ever will be, except in the minds of fallable and irrational human beings.

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  • Oh my goodness, where to begin?!

    I was raised in a strict muslim household, my parents moved to Britain from Pakistan shortly after they were married. I was born in Britain and somehow I always knew that teachings of the religion they were forcing on me were definitely not my own thoughts. I grew up around 2 siblings who completely believed everything about Islam, so I definitely clicked on that I was just wired differently. From a young age I was told what I could and couldn’t do, whether it was what I could wear, what career I wanted to pursue, which university I went to (they wouldn’t allow me to move out) or even what I was allowed to eat. Now, any religion which stops you from eating certain food (i.e. Bacon) always seemed completely ridiculous to me. Needless to say, I completely ignored my parents at every point in my life, my education and love of literature had turned me into a strong-willed independent young girl who was certainly not afraid to speak her mind. I would eat copious amounts of Bacon and other snacks with non-halal meat. I would buy them on the way home from school and eat them in my room. Oh, the adrenaline rush!

    I realised that every time I tried to talk to my parents about how I felt, I would get shut down. Whilst growing up, I was not allowed to go out with friends at all, and every time I would ask why the answer would be “because we were muslims and it is not in our culture to hang out with friends” or “you are a girl and it is not appropriate” or “the girls you want to hang out with are all going to hell because they are not muslim.” Yes. That was literally the answer, and they genuinely thought that it was true, which was so mind-boggling to me; because I just thought there is no proof that anything about this religion you blindly follow is true, but they were adamant that it was written in the quran and so it was true.

    My family and I never got along, I would sneak out to see friends and one day my parents found out and I was abused. My father abused me and left me with bruises that day. It was the only time he did it and I was 16 at the time. However, it was not the physical bruises that hurt as much what they said to me. My parents came into my bedroom and basically ranted at me that I was a failure, I had embarrassed them and they would disown me if I ever did something like it again. Now, bearing in mind all I did was go into town with a friend, my lovely mother even said that I might as well go and sell myself on the street. I mean, can you imagine.

    So, I knew I would just have to wait, wait until I turned 18 and move out. And I did just that. I followed my parents instructions for another 2 years and making fake letters which told them I was applying to the course of their choice, whilst actually applying to universities far and wide. Then, a week after my 18th birthday, after all my exams had finished, I packed my bags and left. I stayed at a friends house over the summer and then moved to London to study at UCL. I wrote them a long letter about how I thought religion is BS, I was no longer a virgin and that I am going to live my life, I also left an empty bottle of wine and a pack of sausage rolls just to let them think I was going to hell. Now, 2 years later, I am having the time of my life, travelling the world with friends and I am well on my way to becoming an Investment Banker. If that’s not an FU to my parents then I don’t know what is.

    Wow, sorry for writing an essay here! Thank you to Mr. Richard Dawkins whose books have always inspired and informed me!

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  • I left my religion for several reasons. One of the main reasons is that I actually started reading my holy book which for me was the Bible. I also started doing research on how the Bible was compiled and the history of this book. I also started studies history, anthropology, science and other fields how what they had to say about the claims in the bible. Another reason for me leaving Christianity was my personal experience. After over 30 years of praying and never seeing any answers and seeing the pain that religious indoctrination played in my life I could no longer believe or live by it’s dogma. My personal experiences with Christianity and the divine word of this supposed god just didn’t make sense anymore. Oh another thing that started me questioning my faith was going to college and taking courses that forced me to question my faith.

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  • Why? Because it’s a crock of shit. Please excuse my French but it’s superstitious nonsense. Big business is simply the church of today with a different name, it’s all about power, control and let’s not forget the money. Actually it’s ALL about the money!

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  • I was raised in a family which was (is) mostly Christian. My parents themselves, though they do consider themselves to be Christians, aren’t really all that religious. I can’t remember going to church with my parents very often as a child. But a lot of my family (two of my uncles specifically) are extremely devout Christians, and they had quite an influence on me growing up. Because I happened to be born into this family with these believes, I also always believed that there was a god. Like my parents, however, I wasn’t really all that religious. At least not until I was around thirteen years old. We were visiting my uncle during spring break and he, being the very religious Christian that he was and believing that it was his life mission to “save” as many souls as he could, dragged my parents and I to church. It was a very large and elegant church, and it ended up being a very pleasant experience because all of the pretty bible verses were preached, and none of the verses demonstrating god’s wrath were discussed that day. Needless to say, I was somewhat moved and I became pretty religious after that. By religious, however, I mean that I was very in love with the idea of god, but I never really took the time to read the bible or attend church. I tried reading the bible once when I was a sophomore in high school, but it bored me. I made excuses for myself and would avoid picking the book up. And thus, I decided to be my own kind of Christian. All I needed to know was that Christ died on the cross for our sins and that the rest of the bible was just filler (I didn’t realize it at the time, but that is how most Christians actually are).
    So as time went on and I made my way through school, I studied the science that was taught at and it made a lot of sense. I learned about Charles Darwin and evolution, about the big bang, carbon dating, fossil records, etc. None of this made me doubt my faith though. Why? Well, since I never went to church or read the bible, I wasn’t aware of the “facts” that my religion claimed. I had a vague idea about the garden of Eden and the six-day creation of the universe by god, but I always told myself that they were metaphorical interpretations of god’s word. So I essentially never studied the principles of creationism and therefore had no idea that my belief in god was invalidated by scientific facts I learned over time. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I started to question my faith. I had learned a bit more about what the bible claimed and I realized it didn’t coincide with what I had learned in science. For a long time, I was in denial. I told myself that the bible was complex and not meant to be taken literally. But then there was inconsistency. When I was close to breaking the threshold and most desperate to hold on to my faith, I ignorantly told myself that both science AND religion were correct. And I created different kinds of analogies and explanations in which religion and science could coincide. And finally, what made be accept that I didn’t believe anymore was a thought that I had since I was young. What if I’d been born somewhere else? Maybe I’d be a Muslim. Or maybe a Jew or Hindu. Why was my religion correct? Well, because it said so of course. And I accepted that by that logic, every religion that has ever existed would have to also be correct.
    Since leaving my faith, I’ve learned a great deal about the world around me. I’ve learned that I actually don’t know as much as I once thought I did. That the amount of things to be studied is so enormous and frightening, but at the same time so inviting and exciting. By taking philosophy and ethics courses in college, I’ve learned, through reason and logic, what it actually takes to be moral. It feels so good to question the universe and its mysteries without fearing that I’m questioning the authority of an almighty being that will send me to burn for eternity for doing so. It feels good to be free.

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  • In Canada, in 2015, pretty well any crazy religious idea trumps civil laws. Parents can deny their children medical care, they can refuse to vaccinate them, they can viciously beat them, they can deny them education, they can take weapons where no one else can, they can insist on special food, they may cover their heads wherever they please, they can ignore requirements for a uniform. They can refuse to wear safety gear.

    Canadians are firmly for freedom of religion, so they make all manner of special exemptions to civil law for religious reasons. About the only thing the religious can no longer do is kill homosexuals, though they may harass them and call for them to be killed.

    The percentage of people associating themselves with these religions is dropping precipitously. I suspect, over time, the Canadian interest in humouring them will drop, and the interest in protecting children will rise. This will be seen as erosion of freedom of religion. I would counter that freedom of religion is not supposed to give you a licence to harm others, just to do odd harmless things.

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  • There was a time when I believed in god. I was in a Catholic school until I was approximately 12 years old and it was about that time that religion started to give way to reason. It wasn’t a conscious decision, mind you, it was sort of an awareness that developed much in the way that many children come to the realization that Santa and the tooth fairy aren’t real. It simply made no sense and the more it was explained to me the less sense it made.

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  • Why did I leave my faith? Well, I never chose one. I was coerced into it. I was born in former Yugoslavia, where atheism was a part of the doctrine of socialism which was in fact rather good since science and human progress were emphasized and religious beliefs were describes for what they are – figments of imagination. My mother was Catholic, somewhat practicing – a yearly pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Virgin Mary and the like. My father Orthodox – but only baptized as one, self proclaiming to be an atheist which he was only nominally saying since he accepted religion later on very fervently after the break up of Yugoslavia.

    With the break up of Yugoslavia religion was revived to an unprecedented level – Catholicism became a state religion and many minor sects which were rather cautious in their proselytizing during Yugoslavia became completely unleashed in their newly discovered freedom of religion. So, my mother accepted to be become a member of one of those sects – namely Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was 10, and they started to indoctrinate me and my brother who was 13 at the time. My father firstly declined to join this religious group but upon my mother’s insisting he gradually accepted it zealously. I think I am damaged for a lifetime.

    The indoctrination that I had to go through was unimaginable. And my mother pretended to be a “soft-core” Jehovah’s witness as she would make us a cake for birthdays and even some friend were allowed to come over but not too many. I’m stressing this as J.W are notorious for not celebrating birthdays. However, she is a liar as most religious people are since she would invite her close friends, couple of them, when she had her birthday, where she regularly prepared various cakes and meals for her own birthday party. Although she pretended to be “soft-core” JW she believed and supported all of their doctrine and was pushing us to be regular at “Christian” meetings and to regularly proselytize. She was coercing us together with my father who became a total fanatic in the meantime.

    So, since I was 10 until 18 years old I was deeply indoctrinated as I developed many self-restrictions and inhibitions in behavior and thinking. When I left my home town and moved to another bigger city to attend university I felt such relief as I was not monitored all the time whether I attend regularly the “Christian” meetings and proselytize regularly. But, as I was freeing myself from the outward impositions the inner impositions remained to my detriment. I don’t even want to enter into the area of sexuality as I think that is the area where I was deceived the most. The indoctrination and the deception remained as I couldn’t get rid myself of the idea that maybe there is some divine force and that force maybe is the malevolent vindictive Jehovah who will destroy me in Armageddon if I have sex to put it bluntly. I’m 33 now and the shadow of Jehovah still reappears although I know he ‘s as real as Zeus. Now, there is also Jesus Christ.

    I think that myth deceived me even more than the Jehovah myth. As Jesus is portrayed as a “softer” version of the vindictive Jehovah, as a good forgiving son of a genocidal father – I fell into a sort of schizophrenia of beliefs. Namely, the religious premise gives this conclusion – if Jesus is forgiving and understanding, and if Jehovah is unforgiving and adamant, I will be forgiven through Jesus which is also even a bigger lie. So, I was celibate for years and did not have any relationship. The things that religion can do are the pinnacle of indoctrination imaginable.

    Now, watching videos with Richard Dawkins using reason and scientific evidence as the only viable tool of argumentation helps me a great deal. But I think I developed a dual personality. I don’t believe in the myths of Jehovah and Jesus but every now and then the shadow of that myth clouds my mind. I was considering some kind of therapy but what kind of therapy exists for the annihilation of a perseverant myth and its influence on my psyche? Watching videos with Richard Dawkins seems to be helpful and thank you very much for them !

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  • Asking the wrong (finally the right) questions (e. g.: If Jesus talked about equality and not being into things as private property and wealth, why does our arch bishop need a big mercedes and a slave like driver, standing beside the car and waiting for orders what to do? I asked that as an acolyte in church and the reactions told me more than years of sermon before that event!), made me a non-believer. Learning something about science and by that, how much stupidity there is in religious teachings anyway, did the rest. Wasn’t so hard at all. The problem was to leave church as an institution, as being a member of a christian community including your family raises problems. But I solved this as well. So after deciding to think for myself, droping my religious belief was the only possible solution!

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  • I’ve had a fabulous hour or so reading this thread. A personal thanks to all for their stories, long and short.

    These stories and those accumulating in Converts Corner deserve to be more obviously preserved and available from the front page with a clear button like it used to be. The sheer varieties of experiences and of harms remains a shock. We must ever be mindful of how families and communities may serve themselves before individuals.

    Mongrel cultures are the happy and strong ones. Pure bred end up barking…

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  • I don’t call myself an atheist any more, in part because of the way I define the term. An atheist is someone who says that it is impossible for a deity to exist.

    Daniel, why invent definitions? The dictionary definition of “atheist” is one who does not believe in gods. This does not mean that an atheist thinks that it is impossible for gods to exist. By all means, coin a new term for a person who believes that it is impossible for gods to exist, but don’t use an already well defined term and attach your own mistaken definition to it.

    In practical terms, it seems illogical for a finite being such as myself to declare the existence or non-existence of an infinite being

    This has nothing to do with logic – it is simply a silly statement.

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  • Huw Mar 17, 2015 at 5:57 am

    For me these days, I am relaxed about my non belief and even invite JW’s into my home when they come around. I still think they have the edge because some of them have been doing it for years and the part of their brain that engaged for debating is much sharper than people who might debate with someone once a year. They have an unfair advantage!

    Not really! They just have a script with pseudo answers to trot out in response to most scientific evidence and knowledge.
    As they will press the mental bigot’s reset button, as soon as they move to the next house, don’t think your are persuading them of anything.

    I usually take a leaflet from the ones distributing them at major shopping centres. Their leaflets are full of YEC woo and “Jesus” rubbish, but the leaflets are better used for filling recycle bins than confusing gullible people.

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  • Daniel Mar 16, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    I don’t call myself an atheist any more, in part because of the way I define the term. An atheist is someone who says that it is impossible for a deity to exist.
    As Macropus has pointed out, we should use dictionaries, and not burden ourselves with alternative definitions which have been made up by confused theists.

    I don’t know. In practical terms, it seems illogical for a finite being such as myself to declare the existence or non-existence of an infinite being.

    It seems you are still stuck with the fanciful claim that there is some god which is “an infinite being”, or that the term “infinite being” actually has any meaning at all!
    Theologians love obscurantist big words and lists of superlatives, which are meaningless mumbo-jumbo!

    There is no religion on this planet that makes much sense to me though. Is there a God?

    Only one??? Their followers claim thousands, but then they also deny the thousands followed by all the other religions and often kill each other in disputes as to whose invisible fantasy is the “real one”!

    I don’t know.

    But you can make deductions about probabilities from, the absence of evidence for each of the thousands of gods and the numerous false and fanciful claims made by god-followers. Theists don’t waste their time on thousands of gods, so atheists should have no problem dumping one more than the rest.

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  • 208
    Starsector001 says:

    I couldn’t agree more! So much courage, intellect, and honesty in these stories that was a geniune priviledge to read!

    I’m fortunate to not have been indoctrinated as a child. I read the bible completely on my own initiative at age 8. I couldn’t believe how horrible that book was, and how unjust. I knew then, at 8 years old, that I was more moral and ethical than that God, and so were most of the people I knew.

    I never thought too much about my non-belief after that, just kept studying all the science information I always loved. Until I discovered, quite recently actually, the on-line atheist community including Dr. Dawkins. I didn’t know there were so many others like me, and I found I was in good company 🙂

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  • I wasn’t brought up in a religious family but we were told we were christian (my grandmothers both went to the United Church of Canada). I started school in 1960 and we had to recite the lords prayer every morning as well as sing god save the Queen. The small community I lived in was predominantly baptist so I was exposed to some of their beliefs through friends and was astonished that they weren’t allowed to dance! I married into a family that was part baptist and part lutheran (long story) and was lectured for most of one day by my husbands lutheran grandmother about religion when she found out we hadn’t had our daughter baptized. When I told her I hadn’t been baptized she turned to my husband and said “Why didn’t you have that done before you married her?” Incidentally this discussion happened after my sister in law had her children baptized in stolen christening gowns and she was being held up to me as a shining example…. yah. The grandmother then went on to berate my mother in law because my husbands little sister had drowned before she had been baptized and therefore would not be allowed into heaven. It was after this that I really started to think about these beliefs and question them. The tipping point though probably came when I started learning about all the other religions and realizing that everyone thought they had the “right” one when obviously they couldn’t all be right. Reading Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens confirmed all my atheist leanings.

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  • My experience with the religion beliefs forced on me is that the injunctions and threats enter the psyche as norms of behavior. Maybe psychologists could explain it better. During our upbringing we are taught how to behave – e.g. say hello to a neighbor, don’t eat with your hands, don’t be rude to your teacher. The religion uses this pattern – the parent figure imposing norms while prohibiting or threatening. So, in the psyche the voice of a god be it Krishna, Jesus, or whatever myth is disguised as a voice of a let’s say a father instructing you. I have no other explanation for that. Anything other than that would be a mental illness. As there is no supernatural god those who believe there is one are either mentally ill or outright lying. As most religious people seem sane they must be lying.

    Those who do not want to claim the existence of a god – i.e. those that do not want to lie about the existence of god are stuck with the norm already imposed onto their behavior and thinking. In those cases serious mental harm is inflicted as the voice of a god translates into psyche as voice of someone close – be it a parent, intimate friend who warns about “consequences”. That’s how I explained the effect of religion on my psyche. The most religious people are the biggest liars – they look for victims. They are sadists as they enjoy to inflict suffering and are unhappy if they don’t succeed in it.

    I think evolutionary religion will have to disappear since it is obvious that it is hampering human development and progress.

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  • 211
    Tuomas says:

    When I was growing up in the 1990’s in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Finland, amidst my early teen years I, like all other youths in the congregation, was required to not only attend, but participate in propagating the weekly sermons, always led by varying members of the community, including myself every now and then. I was also nothing but happy to parttake, especially as it served as my outlet for letting out social pressures accumulated in school and extracurricular activities. In church, I knew exactly what to say, when to say it, and that I would get lauded for doing so. It was an empowering feeling for me, who, with slight reading difficulty (it was optical in nature, though I didn’t know it at the time as my eyesight was otherwise fine) and more than just a slight learning problem, couldn’t keep up in school. It was of course also the only social context in which my being an LDS member wasn’t considered weird or strange. I loved being right, and preaching to the choir always gave me that confidence boost I was so desparately craven for in other areas of life.

    Then I found out I was bisexual (or pansexual, if you’d ask me today). I freaked out and told absolutely no-one. I had learned through my time in church that sexual divergence was – to put it mildly – not OK. In fact, all sexuality in church youths was systematically stifled, and pre-teens constantly reminded of that their hormones will most certainly take over their waking minds and make them commit pretty much the only sin that a Mormon would go to hell for: To break the law of chastity, that is, to have premarital sex; if given the chance. No sex above the knees, as they say. Okay, easy enough, if I was required to tell my mind to not want, anyway, it shouldn’t matter which gender I’d be telling my mind to not want. This way I slowly suggested myself into thinking I was straight as an arrow, that the homosexual thoughts I was having were part of being human and resisting them was what God willed of me – that telling myself I wasn’t gay would get me to Heaven.

    But it only grew worse. The less I admitted it and the more I fought it, the stronger the urges became. I could no longer look at any of my male friends for longer than two seconds before a sexual image of them would pop up from somewhere in my subconscious. People I wasn’t essentially attracted to, even. I couldn’t tell my parents; my step-sisters, 10 years older than me, had moved out when I was about 6yrs. old, and I didn’t know of anyone – in church or otherwise – who would have listened to my plight. Being gay was regardless of my religion very much taboo where I grew up.

    Eventually I stopped going to church altogether. This was partly due to my mother falling terminally ill, and couldn’t go pretty much anywhere anymore, but as I could have continued to go, I chose not to. And when I did, the double standard of the people in church shone in my face like a dark sun. Even the act of not going every Sunday to participate in the self-indoctrination led not by any single ordained ministers, but by the people themselves, was considered a terrible omen and these “inactive members” as we were called, were seen as misled and in need of correction. There was no one higher authority who would take care of these matters – it was an issue for the whole congregation when a once prolific member no longer took part in these rituals. When I reflected on this, I quickly came to realize these people had very different ways for treating not only sexually divergent people or inactive members, but everyone who didn’t share their particular belief about any given thing. I also thought, isn’t this exactly not what Jesus taught us to do? If these people claiming to have a living testimony in their hearts, of the Holy Ghost, the truth of Christ etc. you know the litany, could cite Luke 6:41 to my face and still not get it, I could very well argue that their testimony was but self-suggested and didn’t result of any true divine reassurement, even though each and every one claimed it did.

    It was for this reason I started asking the queston, “how do you know your testimony is true”? How did I know mine was? And, sure enough, I found out they didn’t, just as I didn’t. I had been fooled. I had fooled myself. And what infuriated me the most was, I had been required to keep fooling myself on a weekly basis. That’s what threw me over the edge and the rest, as they say, is history. It’s been a long and slow path, dissolving previously held misconceptions one after another, but I’m getting there. I progressed from “Christian six-day creationst” to “agnostic Christian”, to “agnostic deist” to “agnostic atheist” over the course of several years that followed. I don’t know where I’m going next, but unlike the better part of my life thus far, I sure as heck won’t allow me to self-indoctrinate myself in believing something based on the good feeling it gives me, or the communal benefits professing would entrail, anymore.

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  • Sexual area is one of the most important battlefields of religion. I had the same problem with being gay – Jehovah will destroy me in Armageddon. I have never actually believed that a mythical deity would kill me – it’s the compulsive idea of it that kept going through my mind.

    And then the other idea was Jesus Christ – that idea was about avoiding sex but less condemnation which is the same or worse as you have to be constantly forgiven – so you either stop having any sexual relationship or you see through the lies and deceptions of it.

    Jesus myth is a very strong myth that is recurring from the times of ancient Egypt, and it was recorded back in history in various cultures with different names but basically the same message – son of God, born of Virgin, killed and resurrected. All religions prove to be a completely sadistic concept. In practical fact religions are not only sadistic but genocidal. Just looking back at the Spanish Inquisition is a blatant proof of the nature of religion. It is made for sadistic individuals who enjoy to deceive everyone about the existence of a supernatural being.

    The weak point of religions is their essential stupidity and shallowness. Deception is their only weapon and they use it constantly. I don’t know what the future holds – maybe a war of religious fanatics against atheists. I firmly believe facts will prevail in the future and religion will be gone as an anachronistic and baleful practice.

    And an ironic remark – when I think of the ancient Roman and Greek times I realize that if today’s religious believers lived back then their god and “creator” would be Zeus or Jupiter and not Jesus Christ since this myth spread at the end of Roman empire. In our civilization Jupiter is now a part of Roman mythology. In a few thousand years time Jesus Christ will be a part of another mythology.

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  • 213
    Miguel says:

    Five years ago, my oldest child died from leukemia. I have heard many people say “there are no atheists in foxholes” and that “atheists will start praying as soon as their kid gets cancer” and I have to tell you, it never even crossed my mind. In reflection, I was glad there is no “God.” If he existed and he let this happen I’d be so angry with him that it would have destroyed me. I would have done anything I could to hurt him. As it is, I just accept that people are born, they die and hopefully they are loved in between those two points. As for my son, he was.

    Brendan… your wisdom is truly amazing. I wish to be this wise. I am still at a phase where I WANT to blame something, even though I know there is no god. Personally I think this is because I became an atheist so late in life, even after showing anti-religious thought processes as young as grade 7. For every step where I moved to REASON in my life, there has always been someone who dragged me back to superstitious and nonsensical thinking. The first step for me is blaming no-one but myself for this and the second step for me will be to handle the next MAJOR life challenge (such as you so bravely share) from within a “Atheist” mindspace.

    Thank you for sharing, I really appreciate that.

    Miguel Capelo

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  • When i was 6 or 7 i was very much part of the usual things like Sunday School and religious school assemblies etc. My parents wernt very religous but would answer questions like “what happens after you die” with ” you go to Heaven forever”.

    i remember as vividly as the day it happened when i was 6. I was laying in bet thinking about usual child things like space rockets and aliens etc when one thing popped into my head, i knew nothing can be truly infinite and i knew that the universe would ultimately have an edge (i term that very loosely). Thats when it hit me, “forever”, how can heaven be for forever? It just doesnt make sense right? Even at 6 i knew that it cant be true, it was a similar feeling to that of when I figured out Santa wasnt real.

    Then i did something i regret to this day, i decided to try and figure out what must happen after you die. I probably spent about 2-3 weeks thinking about this every night. Id came to the conclusion it must be the same as before you were born. Then the silly thing…. I placed myself on my deathbed and imagined the feeling of knowing if was your last few seconds on this earth. The total sense of helplessness, fear, insignificance of my own life came flooding in. Keep in mind i was 6 or 7 when this happened, i ran down to my mam and dad in floods of tiers saying i dont want to die.
    I knew, and still know, thats what i will feel when im about to die. Probably every other night since that day I have that feeling, i cant help myself but think it. It scares me as much today as it did 26 years ago.

    To be honest it scares me so much i can see why some people would pin all their hopes on religion so not to have to deal with it.

    After the initial realization about heaven, the rest of the whole ‘Christian’ story just didnt make any sense anymore. I then had to question everything that was taught to me (much to the teachers and Sunday schools frustrations). It probably took a few years before i properly accepted there wasn’t some supernatural being that created everything but by the time i was 10 i was 100% sure that anything written in scripture was untrue.

    i hope if you read this post it gives you confidence that some children are capable of thinking around what they are being taught. though i appreciate its a minority.

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  • A question like this demands at least one answer in poem:

    “Losing” Faith

    My father’s dad was Catholic, from Dublin Ireland;
    His ma a Presbyterian, of Scottish brogue and brand; Mother’s folks were Mennonite of German, high and low; My parents met in Canada, the holy-land of snow; When Dad called home to tell them of the nifty gal he’d met; Grandma told him, “Just hold on, before the date is set; We have to know if she’s okay, if she’s of proper class”; “Oh yes!” my dad assured her, “she’s a lovely Christian lass”;

    Then came the search to find a church to sanctify their union; A place to christen babies and to celebrate communion;
    At issue was a holy place for all of those invited;
    And so they split the difference and joined the Church ‘United’; Their nuptials were lovely, the reception quite a lark;
    As folks who counseled temperance kept drinking after dark; I grew up with this pious kind of dissonant behavior;
    One face for the party crowd, another for the Savior;

    Beneath the giant steepled roof the Minister did say;
    My tiny soul belonged to God, then washed my sins away; Although I don’t recall this, as my birth had been quite recent; Yet, with the Devil on the prowl, delay could prove indecent; The Father, Son and Holy Ghost were offered rights to save me; In case I’d stray or fell away from him to whom they gave me; It took me nearly forty years to quell this silly plan;
    To say goodbye to childish things and take life like a man; To skip the prayer and superstitious ritual and rite;
    And see the world the way it is without the tripartite;

    My loss of faith I liken to a roller-coaster joyride; Buffered up with LSD and hits of nitrous-oxide;
    You see, I had my doubts way back when I was very young; But family Christian culture helped me learn to hold my tongue; Its bad, you know, to speak against religion in a crowd; And those who do so quickly get reactions mad and loud;

    A single recollection makes me bitter to this minute;
    A time of childhood innocence and all the questions in it; The class let out for recess at my brand new first-grade school; And in my zeal to make some friends I made myself the fool; For having taken seriously what we’d learned that morning;
    I mentioned evolution and was quickly marked for scorning;
    Of alpha-male assurance was a single laughing bully;
    Who spoke as though he didn’t understand the lesson fully; “My granny says that anyone who thinks we come from chimps;
    Will burn forever down in hell with Satan and his imps”; As if to punctuate his jibes he gave me quite a shove;
    A nod and wink to how we get our wisdom from above;

    So there I was, agnostic and unsure of why God’s needed; With no one else to tell my thoughts, I sometimes felt impeded; I’ve often wondered if I should have notified my teachers; But then I re-remember that they often spoke as preachers; Back then my ‘public’ school was opened each day with a prayer; Topped up with a bible verse to help confuse and scare;
    We then went off to classes we were told would help us ponder;
    Despite the fact they strayed from teachings from the ‘Man Up Yonder’;

    I grew up feeling bullied and confused by all the drivel;
    My parents felt that faith in God was needed to be civil; Apparently such civilizing faith can lose it’s force;
    Cuz nothing much was ‘civil’ in their subsequent divorce; Some would blame the alcohol, some might blame the cheating; Some might blame a curse that turns a shout into a beating;
    I cannot say their faith had much to do with why things ended;
    But one thing I am certain of, my own faith was expended;

    Still, I held my disbelief a secret not to tell;
    Just to keep from hearing how I risked a trip to hell;
    Time went on, I changed a bit when I became a dad;
    I had to teach my kids that disbelieving isn’t bad;
    I wanted them to think life through, without the scorn and shame; Without the constant invocation of some holy name;
    They grew up fast, as all kids do, but also grew up free;
    Of all the righteous garbage that the faithful forced on me;

    So here I sit to write a bit about the faith I lost;
    Though, truth be told, its more about the silly faith I’ve tossed; The pioneers of science have to fight for every scrap;
    To help the world separate the science from the crap;
    They fight an uphill battle and a devious attack;
    That labels them as “strident” if they think of striking back;
    I think I’ll throw my lot in with the folks who search for answers; Rather than the kneeling crowd, the holy-book advancers;
    It seems to me, hypocrisy was my own deal breaker;
    That cancelled out my plans to live a life to suit my “maker”.

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  • Good question.

    Well, the people I’m surrounded by are the so-called moderate muslims, family, work and friends, and I say so-called because these moderates (most of them) believe that killing is the appropriate punishment, but the good thing is that i know that they are not crazy enough to actually do it, they just believe in it as a principle.

    There are extremists here (even ISIS followers) but not too many. I don’t get to deal with them everyday.
    So far whenever the subject comes, wherever I may be i never hesitate to state that I don’t believe in Islam and God, so far it never felt like a threat, but I if one of the extremists happen to be around I think that yeah, it could be a threat.

    Thank you Roedy for asking 🙂

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  • Children can be indoctrinated very easily since they don’t fathom the difference between reality and fancy. That’s why children under the age of 6 or 7 “believe” there is a ” Santa”. Cognitive development is rapid between the age 7-11 when children start to conceptualize abstract categories such as “god”. Children learning about “god” in that period of life can become much more intimidated and indoctrinated than an adult. The growing up process is a time when children learn about the world and they go through the proces of socialization – social and cultural norms and rules are inculcated in that period. And when an almighty intimidating creature comes into play child’s view of the world is distorted and can lead to mental problems later on in life which is all connected to religious indoctrination in childhood.

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  • 222
    Michael says:

    I was BORN into Catholicism. I stress the word born here because i had no choice. I educated myself on other religions and made my choice through tangible evidence and reason. My catholic school taught evolution in the classroom and faith in church. And because of that i was able to look at both sides and come to my own conclusion. The difference for most in america is they have this doctrine rammed down their throats before they know any better. So by the time they are old enough to comprehend all sides they literally will not allow themselves to question anything involving faith. I was very fortunate in that i was able to look at the Catholic myths for what they were…..myths. as richard said before the bible old testament and new is great literature. But if people actually allow themselves to really question whether a wafer turns into a first century Jew because a priest muttered some prayers over it or wheater a entire biological body flew off into the sky will come to logical conclusion. The problem is they dont allow themselves to question it. And i believe that is simply because they are afraid that is they doubt they wont go “live forever” with god. It all comes back to a fear of death. That is what religon has or at least claims to have, the keys to immortality. And people are afraid if they dont be live they wont live forever or they will go to hell. I hope people can wake up cuz i am truly happy and i fear death as much as i feared the time before i was born.

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  • 223
    Manu Mohan says:

    I was never religious from the beginning. My father is an Atheist & my mother is a believer. My father is atheist because he hate religion. My mother is die hard believer of God. Anyway i am not religious because i believe in science. My mother is not that happy with my choice.

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  • 224
    Charlie says:

    After substantial personal struggle over my faith, I eventually began to conclude that what I had been raised to believe was divinely inspired (the Bible) was ultimately the product of human hands. This began with re-reading the text, taking notes, and comparing verses and sources (e.g. codices, papyri, translations, etc), as well as trying to square the world I live in with what the text had taught me.

    Once this switch occurred, I began to see a common thread running through all peoples in all places and in all times to explain every facet of their existence and struggles, and to do so primarily in “spiritual” contexts. This was a domino effect for me. I’ve landed in a skeptical foothold, and have an existential and empathetic viewpoint towards life and those around me.

    I’ve also realized that, regardless of being religious, agnostic, atheistic, or not caring whatsoever, we all tend to decide what our own personal objective meaning in life is anyways! This often helps me to “let go” of what I used to be so concerned with.

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  • 225
    marstal08 says:

    I never noticed any reason to leave my faith.

    I have always believed that religious faith equals stupidity.
    As a child I thought that religious faith was a rare and strange weakness of the mind, known mostly to a small number of primitive and cruel savages in far away deserts and jungles.

    Sadly, there seem to be more of them. But to my knowledge nothing suggests that religion could be anything but an ugly kind of stupidity.


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  • I typed a long answer. I somehow lost it…clumsy fingers. I will be 60 in a couple of weeks. I was born and raised in a small, extreme, obscure religion, whose 19th century founder is also claimed to be the founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My grandfathers, father, uncles and cousins were all elders, elected lay ministers, in this religion. This was a religion that expected its members to be consecrated to nothing but the work of God. Between Sunday meetings that lasted from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. sitting like little statues being perfectly quiet and still during meetings, going to meeting. There were meeting every night of the week, in addition to all day Sunday, frequent conventions, local and then the national General Convention, summer camps, and once a month all day Saturday Children’s Gatherings. We were indoctrinated, and indoctrinated and indoctrinated.

    It took me a long long time to shed the shame, guilt, and complete irrationality of that religion from my mind and my sense of ho I am. College education was not endorsed by our teachers, nor by my parents. My father did not set aside money for my brothers or my college education. He used to say a “Real Man doesn’t need college, a Real Man can make a living without an education,” and he’d give himself as a prime example, although our family struggled financially. My father used to say that ” all ‘they’ teach you in college is Buzz Words.” My parents were satisfied that I drifted into auto mechanics as a teenager after high school and had no prospects for attending college.

    Some years went by and I met a beautiful young lady who was at the time attending college. Her family emphasized the value of education. My bride to be’s older brother was a Princeton Graduate who had just finished hi MD at UVA. Her older sister had graduated Smith College with a degree in physics, and her husband was a Yale Prof of astrophysics…later went to work at Los Alamos Nat Labs.

    I had done terribly in school as a child through high school. How could I have done anything other having been subjected to constant travel going to church almost every free moment. I graduated high school in the lower third of my class. But when I married my wife, I decided to go to college. It wasn’t easy. I had a lot to make up what I missed in high school just to get into a four year school. But I did it and within six years of the time I decided to go to college I had a BS in Physics from Rutgers University, Graduated with High Honors and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and invited into Sigma Xi. Having been married and the birth two daughters during the time I was working on my bachelors degrees (it was actually a double major in physics) I needed to get work. I would have loved to continued on to a PhD in physics but I was under the gun to support a family. Especially since my wife and I were being forced out of the international volunteer religious publishing organization, Dawn Magazine, our religions’s publishing outfit managed by my father. It was complicated…but yes I went to college while working at a Religious Publishing outfit.

    I wish I could have said my eyes were opened after graduating college and that I saw the light and dropped religion shortly thereafter. But the depth to which the brainwashing was extensive. It took a lot of trouble, substance abuse, guilt shame, and a lot of trouble within the religion I was born and raised and eventually counseling, helped me escape the grasp of religion. Eventually I was able free my mind enough to permit myself to reason objectively without shame and began to see how it doesn’t make sense to believe in a God, or any higher power/deity. It just doesn’t make sense. What was more of a problem for me was not the fear of death. which most people fear anyway. Or the fear that maybe there isn’t any afterlife, which was very strongly emphasized in my childhood religion, both an “earthly hope” to a resurrection on Earth as humans, or for the consecrated who lived up to their consecration vows (and I was indeed consecrated…baptized an all) a heavenly resurrection to the prize of the “high calling,” a calling which meant to be equal with God in existence. No, my main problem was turning my back on my heritage, turn my back of God, and what if I lost God’s favor? Eventually reason broke through. My story involves a lot more than what I relate here, since I had a lot of trouble. My eventual ” epiphany” involved a long period or trouble , alcohol abuse, domestic trouble, and things like my brother’s suicide which was very much directly attributable to the religion I grew up in (he suffered 15 years of suicide attempts because of our religion…the guilt and shame, and inadequacy he felt ).

    Eventually I got my tumultuous life back on track, and in a way that preserved me, my sanity, my family, my self worth, and allowed me to permit myself to think the unthinkable. Eventually I came to question whether or not God really existed. Not only did I conclude that religion is evil, and parasitic in a very real sense, but that it doesn’t seem reasonable that God, at least in the sense purported in the Bible, or by any religion, exists… could the universe be considered a collective conscience? I don’t know, but nature is all I need to feel a part of something. A small part indeed but I feel more connected to the world around me now that I did when God was superimposed on everything in such an artificial way. . I am afraid of religion, all religion , and thin it is dangerous. Not only dangerous to individuals and their sense of who they are, but people can do the most extreme things in religion. All we need is a religious conservative president who thinks that he’s doing God’s will by starting Armageddon and pressing the button. There are too many people fighting God’s wars. Why should we fight God’s wars, can’t he do it himself and leave us alone?

    I felt ashamed to entertain the question whether God really exists. But I’m very ok with that now. I am alright. I’m not going into second death (my childhood religion’s analog to hell) for non-belief. I am nearly 60 and it took 50 of those years for me to begin to withdraw from my childhood religion, a religion I want nothing to do with ever again. I see the world, universe, in a different way now. One without this dark sullen, and vindictive omnipresence superimposed over everything, whose shadow casts a pall over all things. Now I see the universe fresh. I see it as this amazingly wonderful thing that is there to discover. One thing God takes away from the universe is joy of discovery. You see while one believes in God, people may not know how certain things work, but there was a knowledge that there was always someone who knew the answer, because he was the one who created it. It kind of takes the air out of one’s sails to say well its new to me, but of course its always old news because God always new it. Without God, when someone discovers something about the universe, it really is new, and that person is really and truly the only one who knows about that thing discovered. While God existed, our discoveries were really re-discoveries since God always knew it. But in a world without God, people can be pushing the limits of understanding in a truly sincere way, and when someone discovers something the really are the first person to discover that thing. This perspective makes the universe a much more exciting place to live. Truly the undiscovered country.

    Pete Jeuck

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  • I was raised as a Baptist, which should be reason enough! But the real reasons included no satisfying and proveable answer to the question “who created GOD?”, and this church was more involved in preaching hate rather than love. I also found the Bible (BILE) to be inhumane, misogynistic, infantcidal, and totally nonsensical. These things occurred to me by the time I was 6, but I didn’t ‘come out’as an atheist until I left home at 18. Some of my family are fundamentalists and cannot see, or choose not to see, reason. It’s hard to argue against Faith, since faith, by its very nature needs neither to be burdened with proof of concept nor reason.

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  • What country are you living in? Is there any chance of getting to a safer place?

    The problem is people talk, and eventually somebody is going to tell a fundamentalist that you exist. Then a gang could show up at your door in righteous rage that you rejected the word of Allah.

    It is like throwing dice every day for the rest your life, and needing to throw a “good” pattern every time.

    I have taken similar risks myself, but I am old and in poor health, so it would not be that big a loss if such a gang beheaded me.

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  • No single reason, rather the cumulation of a bunch of prompts that pretty much forced me to question my beliefs. Mostly getting back to governance, if there was a sane all knowing God in as head of the christian church who was willing to kill people for being deceitfull about keeping some of the proceeds of the sale of property back from a gift then there was a whole lot of stuff going on in the church that should never be ignored.

    Some from churches I’d been involved in, a lot from seeing my then wifes dealing with her “christain” faith and how much of a better fit that was within the church than my own attempts to live a christain life. There was a lot coming out at the time about the abuse of children by church workers and how little of what was coming to light seemed to be a result of it being brought to light from within the church.

    A growing awareness that there was absolutely no basis to believe that christains generally were better people than non-believers who aspired to some value systems with humanitarian values. If christains are not generally better people than those not part of that faith but otherwise similar it negates a whole lot of the christain teaching I’d been exposed to. I didn’t see a credible basis for exploring alternative views of the nature of God, I could see no compelling case to convince me that such a search warranted any serious effort.


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  • It was a standard parochial high school class on religion at a Catholic orphanage in rural Michigan. I was 16. The subject was “faith.” The teacher, a Brother of Holy Cross, declared that “Faith is a gift of God.” I asked, “What about those who have no faith. Did God choose to withhold his gift?”
    The teacher thought a moment, then replied: “It’s a mystery and will be revealed to you when you die.”
    That was the beginning of a series of cumulative events over a lifetime that have seen me evolve from a staunch, young Polish-Catholic boy bound for the seminary into a devout Atheist today.
    Science has opened my mind to rationality. I am 78 and facing the end of my finite life with absolutely no fear or trepidation.
    As Mark Twain reputedly commented, “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

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  • My room mate just told me her friend has converted to atheism. She read a book by Dr. Dawkins. I am delighted but puzzled. I would have thought, in my part of the world, (Victoria BC Canada a very secular city), she would have been exposed to these ideas many times before. Somehow Dr. Dawkins put it over the top. The very fact she was reading one of his books (I don’t know which) indicates she was primed. I invite people to speculate on what makes Dr. Dawkins so persuasive.

    I speculate the sentence “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous, proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” is key.

    It says “I am not afraid of your monsters under the bed and neither should you.” I think lingering remote-possibility fear of the monster makes people cling. It is the first thing they bring up in their arguments for the existence of god.

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  • My whole worldview was turned upside down. Evidence such as the incorrectness of radiometric dating methods,

    I don’t see the original for this. If I wanted to learn about the trinity, I would not go seeking the answer in a physics text. So why do people wanting accurate knowledge about radiometric dating use creationist tracts as their source? There are two problems. Creationists have not the background to understand the material, and they are known to invariably misrepresent it. If you want accurate information, if you want your questions answered, why not go to the horse’s mouth? People who go to known bad sources want polluted information that confirms their existing ideas. They have no interest in truth. The cheek is in using these dishonest sources in talking with people who do want the truth.

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  • Country is Bahrain, it’s in the Arabian Gulf where it’s much safer than other Arabic countries, of course not as safe as the UAE but safer than many other Arab countries.

    If you follow the news, about 4 years ago we had big riot going on, it was a thing between two sects where at some point it things got out of the government’s control and some groups made their own checkpoints.
    If that kind of riot happen again and that’s not that unlikely, this time ISIS members would take their opportunity while things are out of control, especially after ISIS released a video about 2 years ago that was dedicated to Bahrain, urging their followers to come out.

    I believe that is the real threat for me, and I guess it’s a matter of years before it happens. So I don’t think that beheading is a real threat, at least at the moment. Now to answer the question, there is a chance to leave the country, but the thing is that I’m about to get a very good job here which I won’t get anywhere else, so my plan is to stay for few more years to secure myself financially so as soon as the situations here deteriorate I can move while I’m secured financially.

    Do you live in a muslim country too to have taken similar risks, or is it with some other religion?
    Of course I’m not able to imagine how I would I feel if was in your shoes, but I guess I would still want to enjoy life to the last possible moment, but as i said I’m not there yet so it’s hard to imagine how would I feel at the time.

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  • 235
    Faithless1 says:

    I can’t remember ever believing any of it. My parents were believers but didn’t identify with any particular sects, so they weren’t churchgoers. All that changed in 1980 when they were swept up in the wave of religious conservatism that brought Ronald Reagan to the white house. Within a very short time, they had estranged all their former friends and began associating only with like-minded evangelicals. I was just entering college at the time and only made infrequent visits home, so the change seemed particularly sudden and radical to me—both my parents had been thoughtful and skeptical prior to their being born again. They were now strangers to me.

    As a result, I became even more contemptible of religion. I watched the rise and fall of millionaire televangelists like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Bakker while my parents became increasingly conservative and blinded to reality. I found sympathetic voices in Carl Sagan and later in Richard Dawkins who provided much-needed confirmation for my non-belief. Confessing this to my parents was unthinkable, not because I feared being ostracized or disowned, but because I knew it would cause them unending grief “knowing” that I was among the “damned”. On her deathbed, my mother, in her final words to me, pleaded with me to select Jesus as my personal savior.

    So I take it personally. Religion stole my parents and left willfully ignorant zombies in their place. My own two daughters grew up in the catholic church as this was the faith of my moderately religious ex-wife. I attended church with my family only on Christmas eve and easter, but kept my non-belief to myself. I did make a conscious effort to expose my girls to science-based explanations of reality. My daughters are grown now and both are unashamed atheists. I am proud that they arrived at that conclusion through their own critical observation and examination

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  • 236
    aroundtown says:

    My victories are my own and my failures are my learning experiences. No regrets.

    Sounds like a perfect addition to the new T-shirt competition. Great message with the ability to inspire. Thanks LaurieB

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  • I was raised a Jehovah witness, but I never really believed.

    I asked ‘too’ many questions so I don’t think it was a surprised to anyone that I would leave the religion. After all you cannot be a jehovah Witness if you believe in facts and ask for evidence.

    Oh and by the way according to The Watchtower of July 2012 I think it was, as an apostate I am now, and i quote , ‘Mentally Diseased’.

    I am now 28 years old and for the last year I have finally found the evidence I am looking for. I hope to increase my knowledge and understanding of science and facts.



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  • In school, I was taught science as well as the Roman Catholic religion. I was taught religion until the fourth grade and had my first communion. However, evolution and all other science related topics were treated as facts. I remember my religion teacher teaching us about Adam and Eve and how God created the world in 7 days as being not true, but a metaphor for other things; so for me, learning about evolution did not drive me away from my faith. In fact, I never knew that things like evolution and climate change were up for debate until I went to college. What made me skeptical was learning about other religions and how Christianity started.
    I asked myself, if there are so many religions, how do I know which one is true? Am I praying to the right god every single night? Also, learning that it was man-made changed my perspective completely. All of a sudden, the mistakes and inconsistencies in the stories of the bible passed from being weird metaphors to mistakes that men had made long ago. As I learned about the Roman Empire and how the religion started, I decided that religion was just a cheap way to control society. I asked my mom and other people more and more questions and was continually shut down. When I was being confirmed the next year, (not because I believed, but because that was just the culture in Puerto Rico) the priest was lecturing my class and I about how God created everything, and I raise my hand and ask, then who created God? The class turned into an uproar as the priest and my classmates started screaming at me.
    After high school and during college, I became a mix between deist and agnostic. I didn’t think about religion because every time I spoke about it with someone back home, it never ended well. I started thinking about religion again late last year when I stumbled upon youtube videos of Richard Dawkins and how he compared religion to fairytales. After a month of becoming a temporary youtube addict, I finally became an atheist.

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  • Abhishek. “There are actually a large number of people I know who profess atheism in private but keep the facade to avoid conflicts.”

    Like the 37% of Moroccons who profess to be NON-demoninational muslims. My guess is that it isn’t to avoid conflicts but rather to avoid death.

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  • For me, I don’t believe there is no god nor do I believe there is one. Just like Richard, I will not say there is no god nor will I say there is one although there probably isn’t.

    Again, like Richard, I will just live my life the best I can presuming there isn’t a god but following the simple rule, “do as you would be done by”.

    I have never worried about probabilities. If you shuffle a plain deck of cards and end up with some chaotic sequence of cards, the probability of ever doing the same thing again and ending up with the same sequence is incredibly small yet it happened at least once.

    Even the probability of mokeys or apes sitting down and writing the complete works of Shakespeare did happen once. The ape’s name was William.

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  • What a wonderful tale of rational awakening. I could wish mine was as clearly intellectual, but it wasn’t. I think the whole religion thing just didn’t “take” in me, hated being dragged to church (catholic), squirmy uncomfortable beyond any sane reasoning at the invasive nosiness of the process of confession. And that was long before masturbation. Well, that particular stake was the one that went right thru the heart of any potential faith that might have been “instilled’ in me.

    A sense of how science works, question, observe, imagine, what it means to be rational, led to an easy discovery of the defensive circular reasoning, the moat around the faith, finding the questions that must not be asked (never mind getting decent answers), all stacked up to bring me to the conclusion that there was actually nothing wrong with me. It was them. It was a lie. Which was a relief. And with a mighty bound I was free.

    I have retained one nugget of wisdom, one Fundamental Truth that is a tenet of each and every religion I’ve ever heard of: I’ll put it in capitals, it should be engraved in stone:


    I just amended this, to remove the obvious inconsistency, and make it more concise:


    QED as they say in math.

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  • Macropus,

    I beg to differ. Different dictionaries define atheist in different ways. I looked up ten or so and all include the position of people who are sure there is no god. Some include the agnostic position, about 50-50, that don’t say they are sure nor deny the possibility. So “atheist” seems to include both positions while “agnostic” includes only one.

    In Richard Dawkins God Delusion lecture he says he is 6 then 6.8 or 6.9 out of 7 but won’t take the 7 out of 7 position. He defines his own terms by saying an agnostic is someone about position 4 out of 7. So what do we do with 2, 3, 5, and 6?

    Daniel’s statement:-

    “In practical terms, it seems illogical for a finite being such as myself to declare the existence or non-existence of an infinite being”,

    isn’t much different than asking what came before the big bang.

    So here is another position. There are those that declare there is no god. There are those that don’t “believe” there is a god but won’t go as far as saying there definitely isn’t. There are agnostics who seem to me to be those trying to make up their mind and lastly there are those of us who don’t give a sh1t?

    It is not god I personally have an argument with because I never met her. It’s religion I abhor, just as I object to filthy rich people worshipping money for money’s sake.

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  • 244
    Kennylee says:

    My mother taught me to read when I was 4 years old so I could be forced to study the Bible in preparation for becoming a preacher in the Church of Christ. I was forced to study the Bible most of the day before starting school, and then 2 hours a day after starting school. I was forced to go to church every Sunday morning and night and every Wednesday night. I was forced to learn to read music, (not a bad thing), in order to become a song-leader, (Sunday nights and Wednesday nights — for some arcane reason there could only be adult song-leaders for Sunday morning worship). And, of course, the highest position for a woman in the Church of Christ is Sunday School Teacher, with slightly more esteem for being the wife of a Deacon, wife of a Preacher, or wife of an Elder. Somehow, I instinctively knew that the way women were treated was wrong, though my mother never spoke of this. And, unfortunately for my mother, I picked up on the inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible and was constantly questioning them and receiving the most convoluted bullshit apologetic replies. There’s a lot more to this story, but by the time I was 17 and had a job, I moved into my own apartment and my relationship with the church went steadily downhill from there, culminating in my divorcing the church when they told my wife to divorce me for reasons other than adultery, contradicting their every teaching on marriage.
    Taking Anthropology 101 in college and reading “The Greatest Lie Ever Told”, finally put the icing on the cake for me as far as religion and the Bible are concerned. The good thing about all that Bible study is I can’t be bullshitted about what is or is not in the Bible, although anyone nowadays has this ability nearly as instantly thanks to the internet. I certainly don’t miss the Sunday morning beauty pageant or all the forbidden gossip and drama of the church. And I especially don’t miss the collection plate that serves for paying one’s way out of actually BEING Christian. As for the Bible and the Divine Blackmailer, I do my best these days not only to prove their utter worthlessness, but I especially point out the ongoing harm produced by the slightest connection to them.

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  • 245
    iwomyn says:

    I didn’t leave my faith, it left me. Kind of trickled out over time until there was nothing left, not even even a trace it was ever there.

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  • I love this book. However, chapter 19, “The Rise of Life,” bothered me. I had hoped, like the rest of the book, it would fully detail the histories, failures, successes and evidence we have on how life spontaneously arose from non-life. He uses the words “miracle” and “imponderable” and describes this question as “one of biology’s great unanswered questions.” However, as one of science’s most important questions, I feel he gave it a short shrift and glossed over what a large, gaping hole this really was/is in science, esp. up through the time of the book’s publishing in 2003. To me, it felt like it had some of the same lack of intellectual “full disclosure” that folks have described religious teachers as having in these comments. But otherwise, a fantastic book. At the same time, for me, there is nothing in this book that makes me question my faith (note: i use, as Richard does, the word “faith,” not “religion”). In fact, for me, reading it had the opposite impact: it inspired and reinforced my faith in an amazing Creation for which we have learned more and more about through science over the past hundreds and thousands of years.

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  • If you were disappointed in (non-scientist) Bryson’s 2003 little chapter on the rise of life then you will be delighted by (scientist!) Andreas Wagner’s account of the latest research into both abiogenesis and genetic evolution in his book “Arrival of the Fittest”. This should wipe away all your regrets that a miracle once appeared to have happened. It didn’t, of course, and Wagner knows why.

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  • 248
    Brandon says:

    I was baptized as a child and attended church regularly until I was 8 or 9. I never enjoyed it much, singing, praying, and listening to people wish their problems away. I hadn’t been exposed to much else though.

    Near the age of 12 or 13 my father (who’s not very religious, if at all) explained to me what he thought. It was my enlightenment, for lack of better words. I began to explore a new universe and way of thinking where god wasn’t a variable. Being the history lover that I am, I began to see inconsistencies in religion and used logical, reasonable thinking to come to my own conclusions.

    I also have been involved in many independent studies of astronomy, cosmology, and physics from about the age of 13, which added to my doubt of a creator, of anything.

    At this point I had considered myself an Atheist but, definitely not publicly. Around the age of 14 in class one day, we discussed the ancient city of Jericho, which astonished me. I began relating it to religion and my logical findings were that, I (a 14 year old, educated in modern times) could come up with such “supernatural” or “bullshit” claims to take advantage of and control the minds of the people around me in such an ancient time, quite easily I might add.

    So I carried on slowly progressing and thinking of new ideas and reasoning them out but then recently (the last few months) I discovered all of the Atheist like-minded people on the internet. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss, Bill Maher, Penn and Teller, Michael Shermer, George Carlin, and many more!

    Currently, at 18 I am still learning from these “greats” and I am happy to know there are other logically thinking people around me. I now want to become more involved and break the negative connotation around Atheism. Making an account here is the first step, but I would like to get involved locally and eventually on the national level. If anyone has information on aiding me in this, please reply.

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  • 249
    Brandon says:

    I would like to add, my favorite quote by Christopher Hitchens: “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

    You will be dearly missed brother.

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  • With me, religion never ‘took’. Like trying to paint a greased surface. You will end up with more grease on your paintbrush than paint on the grease. Asked when I became an atheist, I say “When I was old enough to think…around 11 years old.” How do I know god does not exist ? I say “he told me.” “Well how can he tell you if he does not exist ?” I respond “The same way he can tell you he does exist. It is all in your head.”

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  • I was brought up as a Catholic and till the age of about 16 went to church on Sundays and even sang in a church choir. I felt that I belong to the community and it really meant a lot to me which is probably the reason that I didn’t questioned my belief. I got my first boyfriend when I was 17 and I believe it all slowly started at that point because he wasn’t religious. I gradually stopped going to church but felt more and more anxious for that reason. Truthfully, I was genuinely afraid of what might happen to me. At first I was thoroughly convinced that god will punish me, that something bad will happen. Not to mention my constant feeling of guilt in nearly any situation I found myself to be in.

    Anyway, years have passed and everlasting build-in guilt persisted. But then, two years ago, just turned 29, I accidentally broke my ankle and was forced to stay at home for a few months so I started reading books on science. The Selfish Gene was one of them and naturally followed by The God Delusion which I consider to be my personal ‘book of revelation’. How could I even describe that long-awaited overwhelming feeling of suddenly being FREE in my mind? As if the thick mist – all those years forcing me to walk bent – was lifted and I could actually really see the Sun for the first time in my life! For that I would dearly like to thank prof. Dawkins for all his writings as well as other great authors who pursue the same goals – thank you for giving me the strength to feel alive!

    Now, to think that I naively thought that faith can give one a meaning, purpose, joy and happiness in life when it gave me so much fear, anxiety and internal suffering instead… After all, I am pleased to say that science taught me to see real beauty in this world, to cherish the one chance given, to be fully alive and give my best – for no god, for no greater good, just for the life itself.

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  • I left my faith when I recently became 25. Before I go into details on why I left my faith, I was born into a muslim family living in the middle east and at a very young age of 5 growing up I was fascinated on how the world worked, and I found my self into science. My parents told me that God is the creator and he made everything in the world so I have taken the idea first from my parents, including the religion as well. I grew up wanting to be a chemist, so I collected materials and started reading a lot of science books, I indulged myself into many scientific fields like Quantum mechanics and much more, the only field I did not touch was evolution and anything to do with Darwin, cause at that time I did not dare to leave the boundaries of my belief cause I would not just be criticized for reading it but It would also make me feel bad and the fear of going to hell. Also during my school life most chapter in biology that had to do with Evolution and sex was cut out and the teachers were not allowed to teach those two subject, they literally tore it off our books, so I had little to no idea of evolution at all at a young age, and everyone hated the idea that humans and apes are similar cause it contradicted religion. What really got me to lose my faith was not just science alone, but the driving force that made me question my religion even more was my sexuality, i am a bisexual but prefer guys more so you could say i am gay, i could not question these feelings and i did not know why, i started a big research and have made lots of readings about it. Can you imagine waking up everyday of your life and feeling guilty of your own sexuality ? then questioning if i am the one to blame for my own feelings ? i could not live life in guilt since i could not change who i am, so i made a deep research into biology, including evolution and for once in my life i have been enlightened and i have pushed my self out of my own faith, now that i have done so i feel that the shackles have been released and i don’t feel guilty anymore, however i still have the society to deal with and my own parents, also since i live in the middle east it is mandatory for everyone to get married, so i still have to deal with my parents and their old fashioned ways of thinking which are unscientific. This is my story, if it was not for my love for science and for my sexuality i wouldn’t of seen the light about the nature of reality ever sooner.

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  • 253
    aroundtown says:

    The best thing about ditching religion is you start to heal and grow so your really not the same person after a while. Running the tape of how I got out would be like picking at a scab, best to leave it alone and tend to the healing. I still rant about the delusion but thankfully how I escaped is getting fuzzy and distant.

    I do realize this thread could help someone who is trying to figure it out so I will include a link to a very funny story of leaving it behind – I ran across it recently and if I could have figured it out like Bill that would have been fantastic. I remember mine as no easy task, but hey, I made it to the shores of sanity. I’ll provide Bill’s insights below, I think anyone who watches it will get a kick out of it and maybe a helping hand too. The reasons why he left his faith is common to a lot of us I’m thinking. Hang in there to at least the 2:30 point, that is where he starts to get to the better stuff.


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  • I was born into my faith and brought up as such. I believed, but always had nagging doubts about some of the dogmas. I learned to recite the scriptures but could not understand the words; I only understood what the preacher explained from the pulpit. Other than what was written by believers no other literature was available.
    As I grew older I read liberal literature as much as was available in book form to a boy from a poor family. Much later, and when I could afford books, I was introduced to Bertrand Russell, chanced upon Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, stumbled upon Richard Dawkins’ The God Dilemma, and found (by chance) Christopher Hitchens’ God is not Great. Life changed. The internet opened up my world. Listening to all these people on You Tube, especially Hitchens, over and over has become a balm for me.
    I stopped believing a long time ago and have more or less, “come out”. I am free and have not once regretted giving up god and religion. Public declaration of my non-belief is a little harder given the expected reaction of my small community and its effects on my family. Still maybe someday… and maybe one day I may even write about it. I thought of writing about all this on Dawkins Net several times but chickened out and discarded the drafts. Even writing this bit has been difficult, and I’m not young anymore.

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  • 255
    Connie says:

    Thank for your comments, they reflect my experience and inner struggle as well. Leaving my faith was a years-long process completed many years ago, yet I have old friends who still refuse to accept my choice. One told me recently that when I get over my anger I’ll find my faith again. Absolutely no understanding or respect for the journey that brought me to this place.

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  • 256
    alyssa says:

    I grew up very religious as a Mormon. In 2011 I had a baby boy who changed my life. After the birth of my son, they asked me to teach Primary/Sunday school classes to 4-5 year olds. I taught one class and felt so uneasy. Suddenly I realized I could teach children whatever I wanted to teach them, and they trust me, so they would believe me. I realized this was done to me, and now I could carry on the tradition and do it to these kids, and eventually to my own child. Initially, trying to disconnect yourself from this group is very very annoying. They do not want to let you go, they phone, email, and come to your door to talk. It is very difficult to be open and honest about your feelings to certain people. Instead of showing you empathy and love, they become offended, or most often they guilt trip you. It has been difficult to say the least but my heathen husband has helped me greatly, and the works of great minds like Dr.Dawkins have really assisted in changing the way I think, observe, and interact with the world around me.

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