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Columbia Atheists Message Board › "New" Discussion

"New" Discussion

A former member
Post #: 420
Maybe this is a question answered in person at your first meetup, but, not having been to one yet, I figured asking here would lead to some conversation:
Why are you an atheist (or agnostic, or skeptic, etc.)?

As a child raised Catholic I felt guilty(?!) lying about connecting to God, praying, seeing Jesus and feeling him seeing me. I didn't feel betrayed by my parents. They were just trying to give me a belief system with good moral values, and weren't very strict. I am not an atheist as an act of rebellion. Morals are good, and the church had good intentions toward my smaller self, but did I need it to be a good person?
As a typical teenager, I began to really question things. Why is the government run this way? Why is there a government? What is our purpose? Who decided one book should hold such significance? The more I looked into it, the more the bible seemed like a very long game of telephone. And the people most adherent seemed the least aligned with the morals underlying. Christians were giving themselves a bad name- deciding what was right for whom and when and why? Wasn't it in their motto that that was god's job? So many wars have been fought over differing religious beliefs. Are we hard-wired to seek faith, or naturally self-serving with religion as an infallible excuse? Are we naturally peaceful but clouded by systems of false identity instilled at birth such as religion, government, consumerism? Is there such a thing as "naturally"?
I don't have the answers. No one does. That's the conclusion I came to. We have one life and should live it serving others, not sitting worshiping a solemn, unseen deity. I was told when I became a mother I would see the face of god in the life and miracle happening. I saw good- in humans, in the universe, and hopefully in the balance of the natural world- but good and god are far from synonymous.
Carla B.
Columbia, MO
Post #: 23
Hi Courtney -- Thanks for sharing your story.

I was raised Catholic as well. I don't remember ever believing in that god any more than Santa, the Easter Bunny, vampires, werewolves, or the Greek Pantheon. I tried really really hard to believe for a few weeks in 3rd grade... didn't work. There was too much stuff in the Bible and in class (8 yrs of Catholic school) that just didn't make sense. Two or three different resurrection stories? "Love everyone" vs. "smite your enemies"? And don't get me started on the role of women (er, chattel) in all that madness. For the longest time, I just ignored the fluff and nonsense, but I did pay attention to the good stuff. The bits of good morality and examples of sanctioned evil have both been very useful to me.

Being a voracious reader, I've read a fair amount about various religions. The only problem is that it all seems like fiction so the details don't really stick in my head. (I suspect that's a good thing.) The beginnings of the Buddha and the doings of Hiro Protagonist (Snow Crash) are equally important and real in my mind. There's a lot of interesting things about religions, they just aren't worth devoting your entire self to them.

My stand on religion now is that I find it silly, but if somebody else wants to believe, have at it. Religious belief in society should be something like sexual practices: It's acceptable to tell a casual acquaintance that you're hetero or homosexual (or Jewish or Catholic or Wiccan) and you should be free to pursue any of those things in the privacy of your own home. However, it's the height of tackiness to tell a total stranger that they have to believe X or they are going to hell -- in the same way that a politician would never go door to door saying weekly doggie style while wearing buttless chaps and bunny ears is the only way to happiness. (At least in most places in MO.)

Greg D.
Branson, MO
Post #: 20
[Cross-posted from Atheist Nexus, where it can be found under the title "A Feeling Man's Atheism."]

My story seems to be somewhat (but not entirely) unique, as I instinctively process things more intuitively and emotionally at first, rather than intellectually. So where most of the people whose stories I've heard came to atheism through more scientific means, my first steps actually began less rationally.

Religiously speaking, I was raised primarily in the Episcopal church. When we were living in Michigan (ages 5-10 for me), however, my parents had a falling out with the local church and we just sort of stopped going for a while. After we moved to Missouri, we started going again to the local church there. I actually wound up being confirmed in that particular church (though, to be honest, that was mostly because the "Sunday School" class for my age group turned into "Confirmation Class" after we hit our teens).

As far back as I can remember, though, I never really had an intuitive sense of the presence of God or Jesus in my personal life. It just never really felt like more than mythology to me, though it was a while before I fully acknowledged it to myself. Really for most of my later years of attending that church I just went to sing bass in the choir and get away with legal underage drinking (I know it's just a sip a week, but hey... it was funny to me at the time).

I was also turned off emotionally by the character of God in the Bible, as some of you have also cited. I didn't understand how an omnipotent, omniscient, and wise-beyond-measure being could act so humanly, and oftentimes even act like a spoiled child throwing a tantrum. This lack of dignity in the deity was personally disturbing to me. Also, the hateful conduct of individual Christians who I encountered was very disturbing, and really made me question.

Eventually--somewhere around 16 or 17--I started really thinking rationally about these intuitive and emotional impressions I'd been getting for so many years. I started seeing Christianity and other religions as nothing more than mythology, and in fact (being fascinated by ancient history and mythology in general) started to be able to see a chain of progressively more sophisticated myths over the course of history. Basic animism and naturalistic spirit worship moves to polytheistic systems that give the nature spirits names and personalities, then as human understanding of the natural world grows, the necessity for large numbers of gods progressively dwindles, eventually shrinking to one (Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam), and then finally none (Buddhism) but still retaining supernatural beliefs. While I acknowledged that the modern mythologies are more sophisticated than the more ancient ones, I began to see them as nothing more than mythology regardless.

I still had a bit of problem, however, reconciling this new view with the beauty, majesty, and greatness of religiously-inspired art, especially music (by which I mean classical and symphonic music, not this mass-produced Christian pop-rock that seems to be pervading the culture lately). I've always been a very aesthetic and musical person, and for a long time, and I kept having to ask myself if their beliefs were so false, how did they produce something so glorious from those beliefs? Eventually, from looking at the ideas of Humanism, I was able to re-frame this in my mind. It wasn't their beliefs that were the causative factor in creating such beautiful music. If that were the case, then secular-inspired music would be greatly inferior to the religious, which is obviously not the case. Instead, the music, regardless of its inspiration, was coming from within them and was a reflection of their humanity more than any deity's grandeur.

That severed my final real tie to Chistianity (tenuous as it was), and I considered myself a bit of a spiritual explorer for a while, trying out various ideas until finally settling into atheism, specifically Secular Humanism, philosophically speaking. I've also got some other less-standard beliefs that form part of my philosophy, but they do not venture into the realm of the supernatural, and are simply reflections of my personal perception of the world through my intuition and emotion.
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