What lead you to become an Atheist?

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What lead you to become an Atheist?

  • Daniel Davis

    I was raised to be a Born Again Christian. Needless to say it didn’t take. What about you? Were you ever a believer or were you raised a freethinker?

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    • Brian Strater

      We’re all born atheist whether we like it or not because it is our natural state of being. Theism is a learned state (learned does not mean true).

      I grew up in a Roman Catholic household and the religion never caught on with me, I understood it was just all fairy tales and stories. It was not until I got being enough as a teenager that I felt I could come out and describe myself as agnostic (which is a self defeating position when assessed logically), you see if I was agnostic I was not attacking the gods of my family and so they wouldn’t have reason to attack me much, they would merely try humiliating me. It wasn’t until I moved out of the home that I felt I could be true to myself as an atheist because I finally had the resources to take care of myself so I was no longer worried of attack from my family.

      This is something I see in common with a lot of agnostics, I feel that they are afraid of committing to either theism or atheism for fear of attack.

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      Daniel Davis

      There is definitely some fear or anxiety about coming out to family if not just general acquaintances. I was raised Pentecostal and if you don’t know what that is I will just say it is the perfect example of a neurological shit storm mixed with intense brainwashing. Take that plus living in the bible belt and it is a wonder how I turned out like this. I always questioned it I guess. I can tell you losing my faith was one of the longest, most mentally exhausting processes I have ever gone through. It was all worth it though; my mind is free. I have always believed in and loved science. When I was a teenager I would spend hours reading the bible alongside science books trying to make conscious loopholes for myself so I could believe and prove both to be true. I got pretty good at it and was able to jump through enough hoops to make the big bang and creation match up, along with evolution, and many social issues. All of this thinking turned out to be the worst thing I could have done to my faith. The problem with these fundamentalist type religions is that almost every sin is forgivable as long as you simply repent. Almost except one: blasphemy. Pentecostals teach that blasphemy is doubting the holy spirit once you have accepted it. It is unforgivable and automatically dooms you to burn in hell forever. Every sin is forgivable except one: do not think! One night while deeply thinking about it all I thought my way into realizing I truly was not a Christian. Two days of confusion and intense anxiety later and voila; I was a Deist not a Christian. I no longer believed in hell, miracles, or sin. It was wonderful because with deism my mind was finally free. A few months later I realized that I had no proof of a god and and was only a deist because I was clinging to a way of thinking that was no longer necessary. I believe deism served as a way to cushion the realization that everything I believed the world to be was in fact all a lie. Regardless of what it was I finally became ready to move on. I thought “okay I guess I’m an agnostic now”. This lasted for about five minutes because I quickly realized that if I am truly being honest with myself; I simply have no reason to believe in a god of any kind or suspect that there may be one. I truly just don’t believe at all. I am an Atheist and there is no point in telling myself otherwise. If you have read this far I would like to say thank you for taking the time. You can see that in many of these fundamentalist religions the brainwashing and mind control is very strong and very real. No one is immune to it. I have known many amazingly intelligent people who follow these religions. Doctors, Engineers, and Lawyers.The only thing that can set you free is your own rational mind. Individuals with the courage to think for themselves is the only cure.

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      Kieran Keshan

      Hey Brian,

      Good job bringing up the fact that we’re all born Atheists, but I’d have to disagree with your view on agnostics. I would probably consider myself to be an agnostic ( I’m not sure what sub category) because I believe the existence or nonexistence of any deities, or anything supernatural is unknowable. Even if something did exist I don’t believe we have the ability to identify and measure it. But if evidence was forthcoming, then like the Atheist, I would change my mind.

      Daniel,

      Thanks for sharing your story, I’m happy to hear that you managed to free yourself and I hope not too much damage was done to you. I’ve been participating in some threads along the lines of, is god a libertarian, and religious free will etc, I don’t know if you’ve commented already, but you might find it interesting, especially now that you’re on the outside looking in. Particularly some of the more Fundamentalist comments. I don’t know if you can answer this one, but why are so many Fundamentalist Christians so pro gun, I mean If you have God watching your back, why would you need a gun ?

      “…neurological shit storm mixed with intense brainwashing”

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        Daniel Davis

        I believe that the pro gun thing is embedded into the culture. Typically the fundamentalist religious are located in the south, at least from what I see. Southern people love their guns. Many enjoy hunting game and shooting for sport. The south also has a lot of resentment for Government taking things from them. Leftover feelings from the civil war I suspect. To be honest about it, I’m still pretty pro gun rights. I have a hunting rifle and a old squirrel gun. Both of which were childhood gifts from my father. I was taught from the beginning that these were not toys and required extreme caution. It is a very common thing where I’m from for children to have their own guns.

        To answer your question about the God threads, I have mostly just dropped a playful joke here or there.

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      Derek

      My household growing up consisted of a father who was a Deist but critical of religion and a mother who was culturally christian but didn’t practice the religion in any significant way. While not an atheist household there was no indoctrination taking place(lucky for me). On the occasions I actually went to church with my friends family, I found the congregations  conformity a bit eerie and the sermons to be too preachy. In my formative years when speaking with peers who happened to be religious, they could never address my logical questions and instead either wished me well and walked away or referred me to a spiritual leader who was a better propagandist then they were.

      Always been an atheist

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      Derek

      Hello Kieran,

      I think there is a flaw in your understanding of agnostic/atheist. To be gnostic is to have knowledge and to be agnostic is to be without knowledge, Everyone is agnostic, so identifying as such is entirely redundant. Even the pope is agnostic as relationships with god are one way affairs and their is no way to know if their is an entity on the other end.

      “if you talk to god, you’re religious; if god talks to you, you’re schizophrenic”

      Atheism addresses the real issue at hand. Do you believe in GOD? There is no grey area in this question either you believe he is out there or you don’t. Wanting to believe something (no matter how desperately) is not the same as actually holding a believe deep in your heart of hearts (Cor Corum, latin FTW).

      Once you learn a truth, you cannot return to believing the lie.

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      Kieran Keshan

      I’ve always felt a great deal of discomfort myself when attending church. I don’t know why. But for Daniel I could Imagine how scary it would be, seeing people do the worm up and down the aisles, while other conversed in tongues. Freaky stuff.

       

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        Daniel Davis

        Yeah it got pretty interesting sometimes. I was use to it though. The dancing, worm, jumping, and screaming didn’t bother me. It was the mind control. They scare the shit out of you when your a kid. Dressing up like the devil putting on Hell plays were scary. They seem laughable now but when I believed it there was a constant fear of dying without the chance to repent and going straight to Hell. It’s heartbreaking to see the younger generations going through the same thing now.

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      Derek

      I actually did community service in a church once, creepy strangers would come up to you and ask if you know Jesus.

      And would someone explain to me how a belief system that celebrates poverty as a virtue can rationalize a multimillion dollar facility right off the highway(valueable commercial real-estate) with an indoor basketball court and a head minister that has an African art  collection.

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      Kieran Keshan

      Hey Derek,

      Just to go back over Agnosticism, I understand what the word literally means, but in regards these religious discussions, the term was coined. The stance is that the answer to the believers claims is unknowable, we cannot know. It’s not a grey area, and it’s not the stance of I don’t know, or I hope something is out there. It’s basically, we’ll never know period.

      Atheists don’t believe because the proof hasn’t been provided.

      Agnostics believe we can ever know, the debate itself is completely pointless.

      As for the Pope, I’m confused as to how he would be an Agnostic, because obviously he believes in God.

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      Kieran Keshan

      I was thinking of becoming a Mormon for a short period of time so I could get my hands on some magical underwear.

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        Daniel Davis

        Fuck the underwear I just want my own planet.

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      Brian Strater

      Kieran, Derek

      I’m going to challenge a few things. As Derek said and I agree with but I’ll expand, Gnosticism comes from the term knowledge, and is used to identify knowledge claims. (Gnosis= knowledge, ic= state of, ism= belief in; belief in being in a knowledgeable state.) Agnosticism adds a ‘without’ modifer (a). Without belief in a knowledgeable state.

      I will start with Derek’s claim that we are all agnostics. This is incorrect, as long as we can think we are gnostics because thought requires the use of knowledge. We may not have absolute knowledge but that does not change the fact our thoughts are dependent on patterns of knowledge. To say I am agnostic is to say, I am without knowledge. It’s a self-detonating statement because you are making a claim of knowledge to say you have no knowledge.

      Kieran;

      I honesty spent about 30+ minutes typing up different ways to describe why the agnostic position shouldn’t be selectively applied to other positions such as theism, but I didn’t feel that my answers would be very persuasive to you (as I was building a giant wall of text in the process), so I am going to leave this video here from Stefan Molyneux where he critically dissects agnosticism as a religious position. If you have any questions from this video I will however answer them.

       

       

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      Ethan Glover

      Honest truth, god never made sense to me to begin with. My grandmother told me about him and said I should read the bible, I asked some questions and was like, “Nuh uh!” That was that. Every once in awhile someone would try to push it on me but I just rejected it.

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      Ben P

      Just to wade in on the definitions debate; I describe myself as an agnostic atheist.  I do not believe there is a god, but I accept that – as ‘god’ is not a testable claim – I cannot know for sure.  Accepting I cannot know for sure does not leave me in a ‘middle ground’ between theism and atheism, though.  I am agnostic, but I do not believe, so I am also atheist.

      Talking about whether an individual could have their mind changed by proof cannot be allowed to have a bearing on the definition of atheist and agnostic, either.  It is not a testable claim, so there will be no proof, ever.  You are theist or atheist dependent upon belief, and you are gnostic or agnostic on the basis of your claim to know (or what is knowable), or acceptance that you cannot know.  Many believers will also claim to know!

      And to add to the OP, so i don’t help derail this topic too far! – I was raised without any religion, but everyone in my family believes something equally crazy (astrology, ghosts, spiritualism, tarot, socialism & the state – you name it!).  So, being raised without religion or god does not equate to ‘freethinking’!  I’m the only skeptic / rationalist in my tribe!

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      Kieran Keshan

      I have to say, this Is the only Stefan video I’ve ever disagreed with.

      I think the video starts off with a false premise as to what Agnosticism actually Is.

      From the video, ” The person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (God) Is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one with is not committed to believing in either the existence or nonexistence of God”

      That’s basically it in a nut shell, but I disagree with the “ultimate reality” part because the stance is only taken on the subject of religion, and we already know many things that are ultimate realities. The term was coined specifically for this debate. As for the second of example, “unwilling to commit to an opinion” I don’t agree with it at all, as the opinion has already been stated. The position is very precise. I’m sure there are many things that people believe we’ll never know the answer to before they die.

      Most of the analogies are irrelevant, because they have nothing to do with Agnosticism. Firstly he says Agnostics are basically closely in lined with Atheism, which is true, and that they believe in the importance of the scientific method, so how does he get from that statement to 2=2=green etc. Either something can be detected or not, this doesn’t conflict either. Either there is or isn’t a god, completely true. So I’m confused as to why he tries to create an alternative belief for Agnostics.

      “I’m certain that nothing Is certain”, or “truth could equal error” is not a stance of Agnosticism. It’s a method of skeptical, evidence-based inquiry, taking into consideration the fallibility of human beings. Self correcting science, constantly being updated from what we previously knew when new discoveries are made. Perhaps we haven’t reached that point yet, we may never reach that point. Until that time, if ever, It’s unknowable.

      Again, Agnosticism is not a rejection of truth (scientific), rationale, or comprehension. And It’s definitely not a stance of “maybe not”. Neither is it static, because some things we know, because it’s been proven with the scientific method, but there remain many things we still don’t know.

      Stefan says Atheists claim that Gods cannot exist, I’ve never heard that before. As I didn’t know Atheists were making any claims. There is absence of proof that any deities exist, so there is no belief, it’s a default position. You can’t believe in something without proof. Greek meaning “without god(s).

      And as for “unknowable”, No agnostics reject an unknowable, and then try to describe it, the example is wrong and is irrelevant to Agnosticism. The example is wrong because the premise is simply wrong.

      In regards to proof, no Agnostic believes “god might exist”, or claim “..knowledge of specific characteristics of the utterly unknowable, which is a contradiction” It is a contradiction, and that’s why it has nothing to do with Agnosticism.

      Proof versus incomprehensibility, Agnostics don’t believe in “might”.

      Knowable vs unknowable, “If something is in the universe, it can be empirically measured”, yes, but only with the tools that we have at the time. Science and discovery is evolving all the time. We can measure things nowadays that previously cultures could never measure or prove. Older civilisations had no way to make it to the moon, but we got their eventually. “There are only two possibilities”, of course, Agnostics don’t claim otherwise.

      Agnostics follow the same pattern as nihilism, I don’t even know hot to respond to that. LOL. Agnostics don’t claim that all positive knowledge statements are wrong, which is a contradiction from the beginning of the video because he’s already stated that Agnostics believe in the scientific method like Atheists do, so if something if proven to be true, then it’s true.

      “square circles might exist in this other universe”, is nothing even remotely close to what Agnosticism represents….and Agnostics don’t claim truth is impossible. I’ve never heard any of these descriptions before.

      And again with the examples given for argument given out of arrogance, I’ve never heard anyone make that specific claim except for christian apologists.

      Consistency, I’ve never heard of these examples before. Also irrelevant as It’s not a stance taken by an Agnostic.

      The examples given for practicality are also wrong because the premise is wrong. Agnostics don’t believe that god(s) might exist.

      “If you’re not willing to live your values, just shut up about them”… claiming that something is unknowable, or that we don’t know something specifically, has nothing to do with personal values.

      I don’t know whether the confusion comes into play with the word agnosticism itself, or the stance taken, maybe Agnosticism is the wrong word to use, maybe it’s being used in more of an abstract way, rather than a literal meaning of the word itself, but either way, I still can’t see where the confusion comes from when someone makes the statement, we don’t know, or that’s unknowable (we may not have to tools to know yet, if ever).

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      Margaret Artus

      I was raised Roman Catholic.  I accepted the existence of God, the same way I accepted that the color of the sky was called blue.  The problem I faced growing up was that, having a rational mind, the existence of an all powerful and loving creator didn’t fit in with the world I was living in.  I was praying to, and loving, a being that allowed other children to face starvation.  If the existence of this being could be proven, I’m afraid we would be enemies.

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      Lynn Nicholson

      Prior to the age of 7, I don’t recall going to church at all.  My father is non-religious and my mother grew up Roman Catholic but left to search for truth elsewhere after overhearing the penance given to the person in the confessional right before she entered and having that very same penance given to her.  I say good for her that something shook her up and made her question her faith.  That she continued looking for “the truth” elsewhere is where I think she went too far…looking back in hindsight.

      When I was 7, the Mormon missionaries showed up and began teaching my mother about their doctrines (at least a watered down, sanitized version of them).  I liked the guys and enjoyed their stories.  My mom joined the Mormon church and I attended and joined when I was 8.  From that time through the age of 36 or so, I was a fully active, true-believing Mormon.  I served as a missionary myself (I feel a slight sickness to my stomach when I have to admit this) when I was 19 thru 21.

      I didn’t realize it at the time, but one particular Mormon doctrine attempts to “vaccinate” their members against  thoughts, teachings and arguments that contradict what the Church teaches.  This is what their book of scripture called Doctrine and Covenants section 9 verses 8 and 9 say:

      But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

      But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.

      The process of leaving the church led me to read a wide variety of books and articles, some of which talk about the psychology of religious belief.  One idea in particular really struck home with me – that a person’s religion becomes a deeply ingrained portion of their identity and sense of self.  I instantly recognized this as something that had happened to me.  And I knew exactly what this this “stupor of thought” idea actually was – rather than it being caused by God due to false teachings, it was the cognitive dissonance I had always felt when I read about information that contradicted my beliefs.

      In the end, what initiated my complete exit from Mormonism, Christianity and all other belief in the supernatural were various friendly discussions I had with an atheist friend over the course of several months.

      We’d go back and forth about various implications of a belief in God, why various things happened and why other things didn’t happen.  On one occasion, we were talking about the age old question of why an all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present God let’s horrific atrocities happen to all kinds of people, especially innocent young children.  You can guess his take on the matter.  My response at the time, being a Mormon, centered on how God was going to judge everyone for their evil doing and reward those who suffered, etc.  And I brought up the particularly Mormon doctrine that our souls existed before our birth into mortality and in that pre-mortal state, we all agreed to be born and to go through this mortal trial in an effort to progress and become like God.

      I then told my friend that his viewpoint made sense within his framework of belief and I believed my position was sound within my framework of belief.  His instant reply was, “Well if both of our belief systems appear to be internally consistent, why do you choose to believe yours instead of mine?”

      I took that as an honest question, which it was, and I sat there searching for some reason that could logically explain why I stuck with my beliefs.  For a couple of minutes I went through all the arguments I could think of but could also easily defeat those arguments myself as if I was arguing against them from my friend’s point of view.  In the end, I came to a simple conclusion.  It was, however, a conclusion that dramatically affected me emotionally:  “I believe this way because I want to believe it.”

      As soon as I said it, I felt this overwhelming rush of responsibility.  Whereas before this moment, I always felt like believing the church’s doctrines was inevitable and an unalterable fact of life, I now felt – for the first time in my life – a responsibility for my beliefs.  And that led to the question, Do I really want to believe this way?

      From there, it was an easy answer.  Not an immediate, “No.”  I knew that the only reason for me to believe all the things I had grown up believing would be if I could convince myself based on all the information and evidence I could get my hands on (viewed as if I was seeing it for the first time as an adult).

      I systematically evaluated all the core beliefs of Mormonism, not just the unique aspects pertaining to its history and peculiar doctrines, but also their belief in Christ and God as well.  To become a Mormon, you really have to want to believe up front.  My experience going through their doctrine and history quickly revealed how much you have to overlook in order to buy into the church’s version of events.

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      Youliy Ninov

      There is a problem with atheism. And it is that it is not justified. At least not according to the standard, scientific way  in which data/theories are accepted/rejected.

      So, in order to claim that God does not exist one has to give evidence. Such evidence however is missing. And because of this I can not claim that God does not exist.  As Nassim Taleb puts is : ” The absence of evindence is not the same as evidence of absence”.  Confusing the first for the second is a logical fallacy.

      Agnosticism is the correct, scientific way to handle the problem. In short: ” Show me a proof and I will accept it.”. I still have to say that I am basicaly an atheist, but I realize the shortcomings of the last, so I always try in a discussion to take the more logical, consistent view of agnosticism.

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        Lynn Nicholson

        I agree with you, Youliy.  I, too, consider myself an atheist – but not a strong/positive atheist (depending on whose definition you read).  Emotionally, I think it is my disdain for religion and its terrible effects on one’s rationality that urge me to refer to myself as an atheist rather than an agnostic.  I’m just as much an agnostic about god as I am fairies and leprechauns…or about Santa Claus which may be more spot-on of an example.

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        Ben P

        Youliy, you have that 180 degrees the wrong way around!!  The claim is made by the theist (“god exists”). The atheist is simply rejecting (or not believing) that claim, due to lack of evidence.  Therefore, scientifically, atheism can be thought of as the null hypothesis.  The burden of proof is upon the theist, just as the burden of proof is upon the scientist to show evidence when they state an hypothesis.

        Both atheist and theist will likely agree there is no way to test this hypothesis, and so we come to agnosticism, which is specifically about knowledge, not faith or belief.  Specifically, it is the argument / realization that one cannot know. If there was a reliable claim of knowledge, the term ‘agnostic’ would be redundant – we’d just call them ‘god deniers’!! ;-).  So, the theist has ‘faith’ (they believe despite having no evidence), and the atheist rejects that faith.  Both can technically be agnostics (and accept they cannot know).

        I would say I am atheist (I do not believe) and agnostic (I accept that I cannot know).

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          Youliy Ninov

          Ben,

          “The atheist is simply rejecting (or not believing) that claim, due to lack of evidence. Therefore, scientifically, atheism can be thought of as the null hypothesis. ”

          I politely disagree. The atheist does not simply reject a hypothesis, he/she states his/her own hypothesis, namely that God does not exist.  It is the agnostic that does what you have quoted. So:

          Atheist : “God does not exist” ( A statement, which is not backed by a proof, because such a  proof is missing).

          “Agnostic”: “God may or may not exist. Since there no proof I pass on both. I simply do not know.”

          The lack of evidence does not make a hypothesis invalid. An example (after Nassim Taleb): People thought that all swans were white. The reason: all the evidence showed just white swans. The last had been confirmed thousands of times (thousands of sightings of white swans).  So, we had a lack of evidence that there could be black swans. Does this lead us to conclude that black swans do not exist? No, black swans have been found in Australia, but much later (after Australia has been discovered).  The real problem had been that we were not able to test the hypothesis properly. There had been no way at the time.

          Another example: For a very long time there had been no evidence that storms have been caused by natural phenomena. In fact people believed that the last were caused by gods themselves. So, again no evidence to support a statement. No way to prove it at the time. However the statement turned out to be true (centuries later).

           

           

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      Jorge Trucco

      Reason.

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