Pharyngula

How Ricky Gervais lost his faith

Ricky Gervais has published his deconversion story — I feel a little inferior because he made up his mind about it very quickly, while it took me years to ease my way out of the nonsense.

I like his answer, though, especially the last paragraph below.

…within an hour, I was an atheist.

Wow. No God. If Mum had lied to me about God, had she also lied to me about Santa? yes, but who cares? The gifts kep coming. And so did the gifts of my newfound atheism. The gifts of truth, science, nature. The real beauty of this world. Not a world by design, but one by chance. I learned of evolution—a theory so simple and obvious that only England’s greatest genius could have come up with it. Evolution of plants, animals, and us—with imagination, free will, love and humor. I no longer needed a reason for my existence, just a reason to live. And imagination, free will, love, humor, fun, music, sports, beer, and pizza are all good enough reasons for living.

But living an honest life—for that you need the truth. That’s the other thing I learned that day, that the truth, however shocking or uncomfortable, in the end leads to liberation and dignity.

Comments

  1. #1 MAJeff
    February 24, 2008

    I no longer needed a reason for my existence, just a reason to live. And imagination, free will, love, humor, fun, music, sports, beer, and pizza are all good enough reasons for living.

    You know, those work pretty well for me too.

  2. #2 J
    February 24, 2008

    I particularly like Ricky Gervais’s take on Genesis.

    (some cussin’)

  3. #3 Alex
    February 24, 2008

    I’m not sure when I decided didn’t believe in God anymore, but I first identified as an agnostic in 7th grade and by the end of the year as an atheist. Now I don’t call myself anything. I’ve always felt “atheist” and “agnostic” were “dirty” words and I’ve probably only said them less than a dozen times in my life.

  4. #4 BobK
    February 24, 2008

    Ricky Gervais is a hilarious gentleman, and I feel even better about liking him due to his godlessness. I never really believed in a deity, or really any other story told to children, when I was a kid. I guess that is a perk of growing up in a faith-free home.

  5. #5 LisaJ
    February 24, 2008

    “I no longer needed a reason for my existence, just a reason to live. And imagination, free will, love, humor, fun, music, sports, beer, and pizza are all good enough reasons for living.”

    This is great. This is what I think was the greatest realization for me in finally becoming an atheist. Probably the greatest thing that held my back from really deciding that I no longer believed in god was the feeling that a belief in god gave life purpose. Now that I’ve changed my mind re god, it’s incredible how much more purpose I feel my life has! Hey, now we’re doing it for ourselves, right, not some man in the sky whose intentions we need to stress over fulfilling correctly.

  6. #6 Karley
    February 24, 2008

    I actually believed in Santa for a longer time than God. True story. What can I say? I was a gullible/greedy kid.

  7. #7 firemancarl
    February 24, 2008

    Wow, pretty powerful stuff. I like it.

  8. #8 Steindor J. Erlingsson
    February 24, 2008

    Ricky bashes religion for the first 5 minutes in this youtube video from his Fame tour.

  9. #9 MAJeff
    February 24, 2008

    Now that I’ve changed my mind re god, it’s incredible how much more purpose I feel my life has! Hey, now we’re doing it for ourselves, right, not some man in the sky whose intentions we need to stress over fulfilling correctly.

    It’s funny how some can’t accept that without a deity life isn’t hopeless. I’ve had conversations last until 5:30 in the morning that have changed my life, troubled me, and provided intense pleasure. I’ve watched comics who’ve had me laughing so hard my sides and my face were in pain. I’ve had meals, which I still remember, that had my entire body tingling or brought tears to my eyes. I’ve had amazingly intimate sexual encounters when I never knew more than the other person’s first name, and never saw them again. Listening to Mahler’s first symphony at the Concertgebouw nearly sent me into spasms of ecstasy. On top of that, I have a job that engages my own curiosity and that allows me to fucking play (and while i work my ass off in the classroom, it often feels like play time too).

    Shit, that’s some pretty good living. I can imagine a lot worse.

  10. #10 Thomas Widmer
    February 24, 2008

    I feel a little inferior because he made up his mind about it very quickly, while it took me years to ease my way out of the nonsense.

    Same with me, but I de-converted at over 30 years of age and not with 8 years old. I guess the longer you have been in the longer it takes to get out.

  11. #11 lostmarbles
    February 24, 2008

    I was raised atheist so I’ve never actually had to deconvert and I always wonder if I could have actually done it.

  12. #12 Matt H
    February 24, 2008

    I never really believed….I was raised Lutheran and a lot of it never made sense, even when I was a child {and I have the scars to show; asking questions was not an encouraged activity). When I was 15, my parents told me that I could quit going to church if I’d get up in front of the whole congregation and explain why….they thought that would be a deterrent.

    It wasn’t. And I haven’t been in a church willingly since save for weddings and funerals, which are regrettably often set in such places.

  13. #13 danley
    February 24, 2008

    I’m waiting to hear from The Flight of Concords.

  14. #14 Cyde Weys
    February 24, 2008

    That is one hell of a deconversion story, and at such a young age to boot!

    I wonder how embellished it is?

  15. #15 Boosterz
    February 24, 2008

    PZ used to be a theist? Color me shocked. I always assumed he was like me and was missing some kind of religion gene or something. I can still remember sitting in church when I was 6 years old listening to the preacher and thinking “Well that’s just stupid”.

  16. #16 True Bob
    February 24, 2008

    Nice story. I know I was atheist by age 9, as I totally freaked out a teacher by telling her there’s no god. I have no moment of epiphany, though.

  17. #17 BobC
    February 24, 2008

    Sometimes it takes only one simple question to shock a brainwashed person into reality. It took Ricky Gervais one hour to become an atheist when his brother asked him “Why do you believe in God?”. When I was a high school student it took me a few months to become an atheist when my 16 year old girlfriend shocked the heck out of me when she asked “Why do you go to church?”.

  18. #18 LisaJ
    February 24, 2008

    Amen, MAJeff! ;)

  19. #19 Craig
    February 24, 2008

    I wasn’t raised religious, I wasn’t raised anything. (And I mostly wasn’t raised, but that’s another story.)

    I do remember though when I was maybe 3 or 4 years old one day my mom sent us off to the neighborhood bible school pretty much just to get us out of her hair for an afternoon. It wasn’t religious instruction, just coloring and stuff.

    I was coloring this picture of this guy, looked like a lot of people then (it was the late 60s).

    This old woman came and asked me if I knew who he was. She was OLD, I mean, she had GREY HAIR and everything.

    I said I didn’t, she explained he was Jesus, and gave me some quick kids version of the story. It struck me as odd… I mean, I was familiar with these things, I’d seen the Rankin-Bass cartoons, I loved Rudolph and had named a stuffed reindeer I had after Fireball.

    But this was different – she MEANT it. I was amazed. Here was this old lady – she was OLD – she had GREY HAIR! And she still believed in fairy tales.

    I can’t remember for sure what I told my mother about it, but that was the one and only afternoon I was ever sent to bible school.

  20. #20 Citizen
    February 24, 2008

    Lostmarbles: You could have done it. I did. I was raised without religion as well, I converted in college, and deconverted three years later. Mine happened even quicker than Mr. Gervais. It was like flipping a light switch. All I did was think “What if I viewed the world as if there was no all powerful being watching me,” I tried it, and the thoughts and feelings I had learned to associate with “God” disappeared just like that.

  21. #21 Craig
    February 24, 2008

    I want to also point out that although I loved Rudolph, I never believed in Santa either, even though I was never told he wasn’t real, and like every kid back then I was immersed in those Christmas cartoons.

    I think that the key is that while my parents never told me Santa wasn’t real, they never told me he WAS real either.

    I think kids have an innate ability to understand that fairy tales are fairy tales, that make believe is make believe, and the only time they bet wrong is when their trust in their parents is misused to MAKE them believe the fairy tales.

  22. #22 TX CHL Instructor
    February 24, 2008

    I was raised Baptist. At the age of 9, I tried REALLY HARD to believe all that nonsense, and utterly failed. I went along to get along. I did not “come out of the closet” until I moved away from home.

    My family still thinks I’m a good church-going Christian, and I don’t plan to disillusion them on that point. But the church I go to is an atheist ‘church’ — the North Texas Church of Freethought http://www.churchoffreethought.org

  23. #23 Bride of Shrek
    February 24, 2008

    My mother was what we call a submarine catholic ( come up for air twice a year ie go to mass on good friday and xmas eve)who came from a MEGA catholic family so I guess she sent us to catechism classes on a Sat morning out of habit. Dad is a staunch athetist from a long line of athesists and I guess he let her send us to get us out of his hair for two hours a week. I can vividly remember, at the age of 7, asking why the little red light was on over the throne in the nave of the church and being told by the priest ( who by the way was sadistic prick who loved giving us a whipping) it was always on when God was with us and he sat in that chair. I called bullshit on it when I came early the next week and saw the lying bastard turn it on himself. One instant deconversion from catholicism.

    And I know I’ve said this on this blog before but, I live in hope that one day the vatican might tune into Pharyngula and pass the message on, FUCK YOU MONSIGNOR WALSH.

  24. #24 Tony Popple
    February 24, 2008

    I was raised a freethinker without the benefit of knowing it.

    I was baptized into the Catholic Church as a baby to appease my grandparents. Beyond that, my experience with religion was limited to the occasional wedding or funeral. I was a Catholic in name only.

    The closest thing to an epiphany was attending a friend’s catechism class when I was about eleven. The whole experience was mortifying. I realized that I had no idea what it meant to be Catholic. Even worse, I could not accept any of the things they were asking me to believe.

    For years, I dreaded the question “What religion are you?”

    I didn’t know what to answer.

  25. #25 Malcolm
    February 24, 2008

    One of my earliest childhood memories is of being taken to church at about the age of 4. I remember it because I didn’t believe a word of it. I think that the problem was that I didn’t believe in souls. If I had a brain, why did I need a soul too. When you are 4, arguments don’t tend to be particularly nuanced.
    My mother was horrified when she walked in on my brother and I discussing it. She sent us to Sunday school every week until I was 10. Then the priest asked her to either stop us from asking questions, or not to send us any more.

  26. #26 Al
    February 24, 2008

    when I was younger my family went to church every week, but didn’t think about it much, I went to catholic school and was a pretty knowledegable kid about the handpicked church school stories.
    When I was in grade 6, I saw the movie Contact (Jodie Foster finds aliens and gets sent in to space, fundies try to blow her up), they mention ockham’s razor and how god is neither useful or likely and it got me thinking abotu how much I actually believed. I realized I was an athiest by the end of the night, and kinda horrified everyone else in my classs…

  27. #27 Rick Terriere
    February 24, 2008

    I feel like a dumb-ass for not having been an atheist since the third trimester. However, I was raised deep in the shit as a pentecostal fundamentalist. I wanted to please my father who was a selfish, grouchy, aloof man. I saw that he believed so at 5 or 6 I went forward at the alter call to give my life to Jesus. This pleased him so I continued.
    But hey, it got harder and harder to believe as I was confronted by the real, diverse world.
    At the turning point, I did one thing that makes me feel like I wasn’t such an ass. I thought that if there was a God he would have to be more perfect and more moral than I was. He would have to have thicker skin also. I reasoned, if I could not in good conscience punish sinners for eternity in a lake of fire then how could a holy god be such a dick to do so, and such a thin skinned one at that.
    I took my time and read a lot of textually critical books and read about science and evolution.
    Just like they give all competitors ribbons at the special Olympics I should get some credit for making the correct choice even if it took a while.

  28. #28 Holydust
    February 24, 2008

    Inspiring stuff.

    As for my conversion? I was your typical blind-and-deaf Christian thanks to my upbringing, though I always got the impression that my dad was just going to church because my stepmom wanted us all to. Once they divorced and it was just him and me, we tried going to a church in our new town but were revolted at how clearly everyone there was just pulling a huge popularity contest. So Dad made it pretty clear that we didn’t need to attend some stupid church to have our faith.

    I continued to parrot stupid crap — telling friends that homosexuality was bad, etc. Then I met a girl online who quickly became my best friend, someone who was at the same place I was religiously.

    Then one day we realized we were sort of in love with each other.

    It didn’t carry the terrorizing weight I would have expected. We both sort of shrugged and realized it was actually pretty awesome. At that point I realized that my conceptions of God were mistaken and I fell briefly into agnosticism.

    Then I found Wicca. :) Sure, it’s silly, but it gave me the inspiration I had needed to GROW UP, take responsibility for my own actions and be a real human being. My father never chided me for it — he merely patted me on the head and told me it was a phase I’d grow out of.

    I continued on the Wiccan path for about ten years until recently. I had been far from a practicing witch up until then… sort of like a Catholic who just says they are because it’s what they’re used to. But then I started falling in with you lot, and studying science, and now I guess I’m either an agnostic or an atheist, or somewhere in between. But only when you get down to the “before the Big Bang” concept. And I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that there’s no way of knowing about that. :D

    Silly though it was, I wouldn’t trade the Wiccan path I followed for anything. It taught me important lessons about morality. I learned to do the right thing not because someone up above would frown at me and punish me, but because it would best serve myself and the people I love if I choose to take the upright path. If it weren’t for that, I don’t know what kind of person I would be today. But I know I would have learned that, also, if I’d discovered science and atheism instead, so it’s all good. :D

    Don’t make fun of me! :D We are what we are. *LOL*

  29. #29 Craig
    February 24, 2008

    I love these stories. Thanks, people.

  30. #30 Vlad
    February 24, 2008

    I can’t relate to any of these conversion stories for the simple reason I (was) never converted. I was born an atheist just like everybody else, but I was also raised as one. You can say I was born right the first time :).

    All that said, I admire all you people that gathered the strength to break away from the dungeon called religion. In most cases it was done against a lot of oppression and negative reaction from friends, family and society in general. All things I never had to endure and am eternally grateful or it.

  31. #31 Bride of Shrek
    February 24, 2008

    Hoydust

    I’d say, from the intelligence and thoughtfulness of the comments of yours that I have read so far, that we’re glad you “fell in with us lot”. And, as I’ve said before, Pharyngulites have a tendency to surround and maul the unthinking commenter that ridiculously refuses to examine their dogma and holds to beliefs without reality based evidence. Someone, such as yourself, who examines, thinks and takes the effort to learn would NEVER be made fun of.

    Many of us come from religous upbringings, some do not,some have probably believed their fair share of woo in their lives, some have always been skeptics. What is important is the point we have achieved NOW in our lives.

  32. #32 MAJeff
    February 24, 2008

    I hope y’all will forgive me if I get a bit sociological and shit. One of the things I’m noticing here, which is interesting given the thrust of Dawkins’ “Out Campaign,” is the similarity of the ritual telling of these “deconversion stories” with the ritual telling of “coming out” stories. (And for crying out loud, that’s still a topic on the first date–are you out to your family?”)

    Parts of my work are in narrative (I teach a summer class on it too) and the ways people tell stories, the roles stories play, these things fascinate me. There are such structural similarities in these stories (vague feeling something’s wrong; uncovering and accepting truth, about self or god; difficulties divulging this identity to others, fear of and actual loss of relationships, and harrasment; integration of new identity into sense of self and open with it to significant others and in public)…..and the ritual tellings…particular threads. I wonder, do atheist dates start with this like gay dates do? I wonder, when these meetups start happening, will we be chatting about this stuff? Or, will we be traditional Americans and talk about our jobs?

    /sociologist

  33. #33 cureholder
    February 24, 2008

    The best part, for me, of reading all these stories is the fact that the vast majority come from people who have a sense of humor about what they went (or were put) through, who have managed to preserve relations with their families despite leaving the church they were brought up in, and who are not consumed with anger over the form of child abuse they endured (to varying degrees, obviously). I grew up in a really wacko fundamentalist environment, managed to escape it physically at age 22, mentally at about 30, and emotionally some years later. The people writing these anecdotes showcase what I aspired to and have at long last achieved–a life in which the religion I was indoctrinated in is simply irrelevant, a mistake set aside and learned from, but not dwelled on or obsessed over. Congratulations and thank you, all.

  34. #34 MAJeff
    February 24, 2008

    And, adding, the role of ritual story-telling in developing and strengthening a collective identity.

  35. #35 Monkey
    February 24, 2008

    MAjeff – best comment ever, perhaps? I agree in totality – life is beautiful, even the little moments of pain can be seen as beauty and experience.

    You now, I never stop being amazed at this home of ours, and itis during my classes when a student askes me a question that makes me think….really think…that I stand in amazement. A young brain, making me think. Meaning that THEY are thinking….beautiful.

    Music, food, thought….reality. Its a grand game we play. Love it. Take part in it. Dont trainwreck it with falsehoods.

  36. #36 Holydust
    February 24, 2008

    Aww, Fiona.

    You guys make me feel all warm and fuzzy every day. And the extra bonus is the sparkly wonder I get about the world when I recognize that there IS a reason to be here that doesn’t involve some misogynist jackass pulling my puppet strings. I honestly feel like I enjoy life more right now than I have in any of my previous years, and I owe it all to the things I’ve learned here.

    Now I’m gonna shut my yaptrap before I give somebody cavities. :’D

  37. #37 Bride of Shrek
    February 24, 2008

    You know MAJeff that is a really interesting point. Do you discuss this on the first date? I think there is a large cultural component to that because I think I’m a fairly typical Aussie and I’d say that we would ASSUME the other person is NOT religious unless they said otherwise, perhaps because it is by far the norm here to be non-practising of a religion ( according to the latest Census most Australians have a religion designated at birth, probably by well meaning parents, but do not pracice any form of religion.) Personally if someone started on at me about religion on the first date I’d run like a scared rabbit.

    However, as I’m an old married bag any talk of first dates for me is purely hypothetical. Fortunately Mr Shrek is a big old heathen like myself.

  38. #38 jfatz
    February 24, 2008

    And ‘lo, Gervais IS a handsome man and a funny fucker!

  39. #39 Slyer
    February 24, 2008

    As many of you in here I was never taught a religion when I was young and thus remained atheist. It wasn’t until a few years ago I started describing myself as atheist, I had preferred agnostic up until then.
    Some of the older family members on my dad’s side are religious, my aunt was a missionary who made trips to the philippines until she died of cancer years ago. It seems the younger you are the less likely you are to be religious. The amount of religious people in New Zealand is dropping quite quickly, my generation seems to be making a good effort.
    Check out the pleasing trends, 1991 – 22% non-religious, 2006 – 38% non-religious.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_new_zealand#Statistics
    I can only hope this trend continues. :D

    A few of my friends are not only Christians but creationists! I’ve made it my goal to get them to accept evolution, I’ll get them one of these days…

  40. #40 xeric
    February 24, 2008

    I guess I should thank my parents and a few good teachers that I never had to be “deconverted”. My dad is a physicist. I remember one time he suggested we make a list of “things that are bullshit”. It got to be quite a long list, including gods, pixies, angels, bigfoot, etc. etc. I also remember a geometry teacher I had who impressed upon us the need to examine any claim in the light of logic and reason. He’d start with an example, say a stupid, topical commercial on TV and ask us to really think about whether the claims made jibed with reality. I learned not to take anything at face value. From this I realized that “faith” wasn’t a positive, and that reason protected us from being victimized . I wasn’t raised an atheist. I was raised to trust my intellect.

  41. #41 waldteufel
    February 24, 2008

    Nice story. Thanks!

    I was raised from an early age in the Christian Science cult.

    At about the age of 10 or so, I slammed my palm against my forehead . . . . .and realized that Mary Baker Eddy and my parents were batshit crazy.

    Religion is all about control. You convince the “sheep” that you have the keys to their immortal soul, you’ve got ‘em by the balls.

    Fuck religion. May the holy ghost get the drizzling shits and live forever. . . . . .

  42. #42 Rick T.
    February 24, 2008

    MAJeff,
    You’re talk of coming out is ironic in my case. In my haste to add my deconversion story I used auto fill and gave away my identity. You see, my family knows that I don’t attend church but don’t know the extent of my disbelief. I’m also considered to be such a good grandson, nephew and dad that I think my family would be shocked that I could possibly be an unbeliever and still be fun to be around.
    I really don’t want to cause them anxiety because of a make believe story. Knowing them, they would have prayer chains for my lost soul. Hey, my grandmas going to be 100 in a month, my dad is 80 and I would like them to die fat and happy. They can believe what they want and I can do the same.
    Oops, I hope word doesn’t get back to them. We’ll see.
    It’s fun to hear these stories though. Let’s hear some more.

  43. #43 Sastra
    February 24, 2008

    I was raised “freethinker” and really hated being asked what I was when I was a child, because nobody knew what the heck that was — including me. When I asked about God, my mom told me she didn’t know, but felt that perhaps God was a kind of energy that flowed through the universe like electricity, and we were like light bulbs, and when we died we joined back into the flow.

    That made sense to me — and so did Mark Twain, when I encountered him later. I read the entire Children’s Book of Bible Stories and liked them as much as Greek mythology, so I became sort of “spiritual but not religious” for much of my life. I dabbled intensely for a while with New Age philosophy, which is very deep and meaningful (when you’re about 13 years old).

    Later, when I married and had a baby, I found that most of the most interesting women whom I hung out with were quite religious — so I decided to take it seriously, read, study, go to church, and investigate. After all, finding God was presumably a critical step in one’s maturity. For a short time I was “Christian” — decided to read the entire Bible with a “searching heart” — but secretly found it disappointing. This was the perfect inspired word of God? I’d majored in English lit. I analyzed it like a literary text. It was a literary text. There were serious continuity problems. And the characters were pretty flat, considering. I wasn’t filled with that blinding light of inspiration.

    After thinking about it for a while, I decided to put religion and God to the test. Everyone agreed, nothing was more important than God. It filled a hole in your life and heart that nothing else could. It was not possible to live a meaningful life without God. This was how they all just knew God existed. Love and beauty and wisdom made knowledge of God’s presence inescapable.

    Okay then — I would try to continue to fill my life with love, beauty, and wisdom — WITHOUT God. According to the theory, it would not be possible. God is the MEANING of life, and no life without God could have meaning. If I was open and not hostile to the idea, then the knowledge would come to me.

    Believe it or not, my religious friends were all thrilled with this when I told them. They thought it a perfect test. To be fulfilled, one must be in touch with their spiritual side. God is inescapable if you’re looking for meaning. They knew me, and they knew I was sincere and sensitive, so they trusted God (or “Spirit”) would find me this way.

    You can guess the rest.

    Actually, that’s not a bad test. Because if God existed, and was the foundation of all meaning, then one would predict that all pleasure in life was hollow, without it. Trouble is, being raised without religion, I was raised without the “God-shaped hole.” I was like the person who was never addicted, going cold-turkey. So, what’s the fuss?

  44. #44 Damian
    February 24, 2008

    I have never believed, either. I was Christened as a nipper, but that was really…well, I have no idea as to the reason, to be honest, as my parents have never mentioned God in any context. Even as a youngster I found the whole idea of grown ups behaving so sycophantically (towards some guy who lived all those years ago, as I saw it) as an oddity.

    One interesting point, though, and something that we should be honest about, is the fact that most of us – whether theist or atheist – seem to have arrived at our decision, not through a long process of reasoned analysis of the evidence, but as something more akin to an emotional response. Very few people change their minds, originally, due to argument (or am I wrong?).

    Of course, once you begin to examine the evidence, it is easy to see why it requires “faith” to believe. I have actually found that my atheism – despite meaning that I simply lack a belief in any supernatural entities – has encouraged me to explore disciplines that I may not have done otherwise.

    This is a great thread, by the way!

  45. #45 Holydust
    February 24, 2008

    Damian: hear, hear! I hadn’t thought of it, but you’re right. Everyone I know, including myself, was a pretty strong Christian until one moment, when there was an emotional response (much like Ricky Gervais describes).

    I’m going to bed with very deep thoughts tonight. Thank you. :D

  46. #46 Tony Popple
    February 24, 2008

    Holydust,

    I wouldn’t apologize for your experience with Wicca. I was raised by two hippies who abandoned their traditional beliefs for a New Age view of the world. They entertained some strange beliefs, but I wouldn’t trade my colorful upbringing for anything else. Although I have worked to make my views on religion as informed and intelligent as I can, the truth is my atheism is as much a result of my personality as anything. I was raised to be creative, compassionate and sincere.

    In the end, my parents raised two children who grew up to become happy atheists.

  47. #47 PZ Myers
    February 24, 2008

    I’ve only rarely heard deconversion stories from my fellow atheists, so I’d say, no, it’s not a common element. It usually comes up not by introduction, but when we’re discussing our religious context — people who have been brought up Catholic vs. Lutheran vs. Baptist do have different social histories, you know.

    I actually find it difficult to describe myself as ever being a True Theist. I was more a religious-attendee-by-default. I lost what little faith I had as an adolescent when I first thought critically about my religion, prompted by my confirmation classes.

  48. #48 Sastra
    February 24, 2008

    In my experience, de-conversion stories do tend to come up in explicitly atheist get-togethers and conventions — mostly because it makes no sense to spend all that money, rent a room, and maybe even fly across the country to meet up with other atheists — and then discuss politics, health insurance, gas prices, car repair, children, and food. You can get that crap at home, from your Christian friends.

  49. #49 Jake
    February 24, 2008

    my mom was the first in her family to marry a non-catholic, and my dad was the first in his family to marry a non-jew. by the time they met they were happy atheists and raised our family to freely choose…unsurprisingly my two brothers and I are also atheists and haven’t really experienced a ‘deconversion.’ I love reading these stories because they give hope, but also I’m fascinated by what exactly it is that triggers the change in people. is it beliefs they can’t explain or defend? catching a religious figure in a lie? the truth seems so obvious that it is very difficult to pinpoint what caused the revelation (hehehe), but tactically/politically speaking it is also extremely useful to understand that moment and the process in general. what qualities of mind or character must be present?

  50. #50 Kseniya
    February 24, 2008

    Those who believe life has no meaning without God are probably living lives that have no meaning without their belief in God. Those who believe Man cannot be moral without God are probably incapable of living their own lives morally without fear of God. Their beliefs say much about them, and nothing about the rest of us.

    With that said, I’m still oddly sad about having just gone through my first Christmas with a fully conscious self-awareness of not believing in the divinity of Christ. Maybe I have a Jesus-shaped hole… No, not quite. It’s more like a “Magic-of-Christmas-shaped hole.” I dunno.

    One funny thing happened around that time, though. I was having lunch with a guy I met at work, and we were talking about all sorts of things, including Christmas, and I could see he was heading somewhere with his conversation when he kinda stopped and said, “But… I don’t want to offend you…” I encouraged him to continue, so he admitted that he was an atheist, and I assured him that that was ok. :-)

  51. #51 Sam
    February 25, 2008

    I wonder when people de-convert if they usually go to atheism or agnosticism. After de-converting I was an agnostic for a long time before I became an atheist. I think it was just hard to let go even though I knew rationally what I had been taught in Sunday School didn’t make sense. At the time somehow the middle ground of agnosticism seemed “safer”.

  52. #52 CBM
    February 25, 2008

    I can thank my zealous youth pastor for my atheism.

    For me, the deconversion was initially gradual. I don’t remember how it started; but I do remember how it ended. When I was about 9, I believed warmly and fuzzily in the god of the gaps.

    Of course, I didn’t know it was called that then; but I thought evolution and scientists in general were right; but I knew they hadn’t explained everything and every question answered would uncover more questions to ask and this would continue forever.

    All of this god business at church seemed a little weird; but I thought I would ‘get it’ with age.

    And then I joined a church-based youth group. All was fine for the first few weeks. We watched videos. We played soccer. And then we were supposed to discuss our relationship with god. And then I told our pastor I believed in evolution; but that God had guided it. Fortunately for me, our pastor was no moderate. Oh no, I was told, the Earth was created in seven days. I was unimpressed. I was shown a bible verse ‘about dinosaurs’ (I think Daniel 7:3; but it was a long time ago). I was even less impressed.

    The contrast between the detailed pictures of Dinosaurs that science had shown me, and this vague dusty line in a difficult to read book boggled my mind. You expect me to believe this is the truth?

    Dinosaurs or god, that was the choice presented to me. For the whole evening, he lectured me. I was not a brave child. I was very shy and being the centre of attention like this was very overwhelming; and I quietly agreed so I could make my escape. I asked my mom not to take me back, and to her credit she never mentioned it again.

    And I stopped believing in my god of gaps.

  53. #53 tintenfisch
    February 25, 2008

    I was raised without much of a religious background but weakly identified as Christian in elementary school out of a sense that I had to be something. By high school my eyes had opened to the wider world of atheism and agnosticism and firmly identified as the latter.

    When I joined the Army I actually tried to convert to Christianity, mostly out of pressure from my peers and superiors. I even went to one of those giant Texas mega-churches. The services were hokey and the live music was just sad. I could never shake the feeling that everyone around me was desperately faking a their faith in order to impress the people sitting next to them. I always ended up feeling embarrassed for everyone.

    In the end, the Christians in my unit ostracized me after catching me reading Matt Groening’s “The Big Book of Hell” It was kind of a relief, actually

  54. #54 MAJeff
    February 25, 2008

    With that said, I’m still oddly sad about having just gone through my first Christmas with a fully conscious self-awareness of not believing in the divinity of Christ. Maybe I have a Jesus-shaped hole… No, not quite. It’s more like a “Magic-of-Christmas-shaped hole.” I dunno.

    It’s interesting you mention that. This was the first Christmas I haven’t had a grandparent. My last grandmother died near Thanksgiving, so Christmas time wasn’t a lot of celebrating. My sister, parents, and I still managed to have a very nice time talking about times in our family’s past that we had particularly enjoyed. We cooked and ate together. Although it was odd in that we didn’t even talk to other relatives on the phone that day (it wasn’t a “happy” day in the usual sense), we did have an enjoyable time being together in ways that we haven’t always.

    But lord did it get boring as the week went along. Too quiet. Couldn’t sleep.

  55. #55 Skeptic8
    February 25, 2008

    I got lucky. I was raised by “seculars” in a non-Christian tradition that was all about traditional form for the sake of the elders. NO one would ever pull you aside and question you harshly about “belief”. Yes, you screw a mezuza on the doorframe of your house and your aunt espies on her visit. When you put it there you have remembrance of “people” history and a the act is a joining into it.
    My Community now is a U-U Church and I crafted the membership to protect my children from authoritarian predators. We (the UU congregation) “hatched” a Reconstructionist havurah; the JCC “hatched” a Unitarian Fellowship. Humanist evangelization really continues.
    Thank ALL of you for your testimony! This is, indeed, another Community!

  56. #56 Dr. J
    February 25, 2008

    Mine was pretty simple – no deprogramming needed. My dad was raised very Catholic – Catholic school through his freshman year in HS. When I was old enough to understand that we never went to church, he explained that if I wanted to go, he’d take me but he wasn’t going to force it upon me. I didn’t but I’d go with my grandma on occasion to make her happy but it never made a lot of sense to me. My dad’s view was pretty tainted by his forced Catholic upbringing and I’m sure he’s pretty happy I never asked him to take me but I appreciated the fact that he’d allow me to decide for myself.

    I’d read the Bible and tried to understand it but even in junior high, it never really made sense to me nor did it seem to add anything to my life. Like anything else, there have been a lot of great things done in the name of religion, and a lot of terrible things done in the name of religion.

  57. #57 BlueIndependent
    February 25, 2008

    Surely you’re aware that Christians will simply say that was too easy a leap for him. That Ricky was always a bad atheist making up a story of a good Christian childhood, only to make up another story about how he “fell”. I can see them saying, “naw, that one doesn’t count.”

    I personally could care less of course, and Ricky will care less of the Christians who think he’s destined for the 9th level. But I will say it was a bit too abrupt. More elaboration please. It just seemed like the story was “I was a believer, and then I wasn’t. The end.”

  58. #58 Ego, Egoing, Egone
    February 25, 2008

    I don’t think I ever believed. The closest thing to a deconversion story I have is deciding not to go to a Lutheran Elementary school that was literally right behind my house. I remember my Dad telling me I’d been accepted, going over looking into one of the classroom windows, and seeing the big dead naked guy hanging on the wall. I told my Dad I didn’t want go, and spent an Idaho school year, snow and all, walking to my first grade class at a public school at least half a mile a way.
    My loss of faith in Santa was far more traumatic. When what you’ve wanted with all your eight year old heart was a Batcave playset and the last present you opened was a Planet of the Apes playset, acringleism sets in pretty quickly.

  59. #59 Caveat
    February 25, 2008

    I was raised as an atheist so I missed the thrill of deconversion.

    We belonged to the Unitarian Church (kind of) because my Mum always said we needed somebody to marry us and somebody to bury us.

    I went to Sunday school there once – learned about Buddha, Confucius and Jesus that day. Interesting, we had to draw pictures of them. I was about 6, maybe. Didn’t get around to going back.

    Sometimes I strain to imagine what it must be like to believe there’s a god/being/something that has a plan and worries about me, even though we’ve never met. I think it’s an abdication of responsibility, probably why it’s quite popular.

  60. #60 June
    February 25, 2008

    All the things Ricky says are gloriously true, but he does not touch on one aspect dear to my heart.

    When God suddenly disappeared from my radar, I was grateful. But I was stunned to find that the entire realm of the supernatural disappeared along with him. Gone were the ghosts and ghouls of childhood, the witches and vampires in the night, that whole cesspool of devils and evil spirits that had somehow grown in my mind. Satan and his minions vanished in a flash; the souls of the dead were finally laid to rest; this was my universe again.

    I am older now, but that feeling of liberation is still with me every single day, and I am grateful for it.

  61. #61 Kseniya
    February 25, 2008

    June, that comment makes me feel pretty sure that somewhere, somehow, Carl Sagan is smiling down on you. ;-)

  62. #62 Rey Fox
    February 25, 2008

    “I no longer needed a reason for my existence, just a reason to live. And imagination, free will, love, humor, fun, music, sports, beer, and pizza are all good enough reasons for living.”

    A-freaking-men, Ricky. This is a point lost on so many of our most recent trolls. I’m starting to think they must have a lack of ability to enjoy this world if they have to tie their happiness and worth to something not of this world.

  63. #63 Eric
    February 25, 2008

    “evolution–a theory so simple and obvious…”

    Apparently not to Ray Comfort. Can’t wait for his new book on evolution.

    http://raycomfortfood.blogspot.com/2008/02/evolution-debate.html

  64. #64 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2008

    Ray Comfort – taking the art of shifting burdens to new highs lows.

  65. #65 Alan
    February 25, 2008

    You do realize chance has no causal power don’t you?

  66. #66 Skeptic8
    February 25, 2008

    Perhaps Dawkins is just what the USA needs!
    The experiences retailed here, and thank you all, suggest that the ‘natural’ state of humans is rational. So many reject the dragons of the night! A poster observed that some congregants played a “more believer than you” game in authoritarian churches. Seeking solace in a conviction that they can’t really believe? Does this explain the virulence of fundamentalism? They fault everyone for the demons that bedevil themselves. They envy the freedom that you have claimed and exercise for they regret their loss? Pity them. Your courage is a Human claim on your existence.

  67. #67 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2008

    You do realize chance has no causal power don’t you?

    so statistics are useless, then, eh?

    who knew.

  68. #68 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2008

    hey, Alan, not for nothing, but somehow I don’t think you’re going to get many people round these parts feeling compelled to donate towards your education at Seminary school.

    LOL

  69. #69 AKDave
    February 25, 2008

    Born & raised christian, choirboy and everything – Grandparents strong southern baptist. Growing up we went to a variety of churches: Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian. Even spent a year in Catholic Boy’s School (9th grade).
    Beginning of the end for me was in Bible school at presbyterian church – maybe 10 years old – Teacher said we had to believe in Jesus to go to heaven. It occured to me, what about all the good people who never heard about Jesus? So I asked what about all of them and was told that they would burn in hell. My BS meter pegged out and even though over the decades since I tried, It just wasn’t going to work. Like many here I identified as “nominal Christian” even tried C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Chrisitanity” route – then new age flim flam – spiritual seeker thing, then un-beliveing agnostic. Finally, a couple years ago I began to be concerned about the growth of the christian taliban and realized that there was nothing left to hold on to and have been “officially” atheist (and content about it) ever since. Interestingly my brother and sister have come to different conclusions – Sister is an Antiochian Orthodox Christian and my brother converted to LDS (Mormon) church. Mom still prays for me and suggests that I find a “church home” and I just smile and say thanks.
    Today I went for a long hike – beautiful blue-sky winter day. Sat with my dog on the mountainside with a mini-bottle of wine and thought about how lucky I am to exist in a universe that has such incredible wonders. Life is a miracle that doesn’t need god to be great – have to agree with MAJeff!
    All the best from Alaska!

  70. #70 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2008

    Hey, Alan -

    if chance has no causal power, how do explain something simple like the likelihood I will hit heads or tails on a coin flip?

    you might try thinking before you speak.

    meh, who am I kidding.

  71. #71 Craig
    February 25, 2008

    The other nice thing about having not been raised with religion filling your head is that you also aren’t raised with the prejudices inherent in religion.

    In my family no mention of religion was ever made, negative or positive. For once my dad’s passive attitude was a benefit – he didn’t want to say a word about it one way or the other and let me come to my own conclusions.

    Of course I was raised in a culture where religious meant “good,” seeing appreciative parents smiling upon their praying kids in TV and amongst my friends. one night I decided I would get my parents’ approval (something I was always trying for) by mentioning how I had to “say my prayers” before bedtime.

    Nothing. No response whatsoever. No approval, no disapproval, not a word or an acknowledgment that I had said anything. Alone in my bedroom, disappointed but feeling committed to the task because I didn’t want to be a liar, I tried “praying” for about ten seconds before quitting, feeling like an idiot and understanding how stupid praying was.

    Because of this kind of upbringing I was totally unaware of the bigotry and baggage that comes with religion. Though I’d heard of the holocaust, I didn’t discover the prejudice towards Jews and the stereotypes of them until I was in my 20s. It mystified me. Didn’t discover the prejudice towards Catholics until even later.

    When I was 7 some friends mentioned that a family on the block were Jews. I asked what that meant. “They don’t believe in Jesus.”
    I shrugged. “Neither do I,” I thought, though I gathered there was something more to Jewishness than that.

    I didn’t discover that my dad was an atheist until my late teens, and I didn’t discover that my mom WASN’T an atheist until I was over 30.

  72. #72 MandyDax
    February 25, 2008

    I was 8 years old, too. My younger cousin told me that Santa Claus wasn’t real. I asked my mother, and she told me the truth about Santa.

    Me: So Santa’s not real?
    Her: No, it’s just me and your dad.
    Me: This means the Easter Bunny’s not real either.
    Her: No, he’s not real.
    Me: Tooth Fairy?
    Her: *shakes head*
    Me: God, too?
    Her: No, honey, God’s real!

    If I’d had the vocabulary I have now, I’d have called Bullshit on her.

  73. #73 mothra
    February 25, 2008

    I had my semi-deconversion at 8 or 9. I remember wondering why my parents said they believed. I would go to church and hear a ‘fire-and-brimstome’ preacher (who much later resigned after his infidelity became general knowledge) stating something to the effect: ‘God has written it in their hearts.’ I wondered, the love of god is not written on my heart. Then I was forced to watch a Billy Grahm crusade where he stated: ‘good works do not matter. You must accept Christ in your heart or you will face eternal damnation.’ That evening I went to my room to continue reading a Life Natural Library book: The Wonders of Life on Earth. Two things struch me. First, at the beginning of a chapter entitled The Old People, there was a picture of an aged Navajo man. I wondered, had he heard Billy Grahm? Second, I flipped to the chapter: The Mystery of Heredity and there was this picture of variation in birdwinged butterflies of New Guinea and I simultaniously realized that people of that Island had not heard Billy Grahm and they were going to hell for no other reason than being born in the wrong place. My childish reaction: THAT’s NOT FAIR!! I have been a non-theist ever since.

    More than 40 years later, I am amazed at how well my childhood assertion holds up. Perhaps the single most unifying yet underlying theme of at least Abrahamic religions is that they are manifestly ‘not fair.’

    Much later, in converstions with behavioral ecologist, he pointed out an additional objection. If there were a ‘limbo’ i.e. a place where the spiritually uninformed could avoid hellfire after death, then, by spreading the word, one is automatically consigning some additional souls to never ending suffering which would otherwise not be there. I kick myself for never having had that idea- but, until the virulent creos started showing up with increasing frequency in my life, I had spent zero time on additional religious musings.

  74. #74 cthellis
    February 25, 2008

    Sadly, I feel kind of ripped off that I never had a real “de-conversion moment.” I was brought up by very agnostic parents, but we were still big into the holiday ceremonies, went to temple three weeks each month (my dad wanting to skip out on the more annoying “family” service), and I got very much into the old biblical takes from the Torah.

    Now being brought up as a Reform Jew itself is pretty liberal, but we did have a fairly conservative Rabbi who was much into tale-telling as well, so I really got into it. (The man remains one of the best orators I’ve ever heard.) Not in the way that an evangelist might “get into it,” but simply into the coolness of the biblical events–mainly in Genesis and Exodus.

    Of course, at the same time I ALSO got very much into Star Blazers, the Thundercats, Transformers, and at the tender age of seven, got personally involved in that most Jack Chick-feared of hobbies… DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS! Why? Because it was just so cool! (And since I’d been given access to the Hobbit by my mother, who’d already read it to me each year since I was five–and I was about to read LotR myself shortly thereafter–it was as close as I could get to Tolkien mythology.)

    You can probably see where I’m going with this, but I basically got invested in mythology of all sorts, started reading fantasy like a demon, and… well… just grew to realize that I enjoyed them them all in the exact same way I did anything biblical. (Especially after I got into comics; I also had some illustrated Torah volumes that I would read repeatedly, because it was just cool.)

    I still enjoyed the ceremony of services to a degree–and the family holidays themselves much more–but pretty much everything on the matter slid into the same category I treated mythology from all the other sources, whether it be Greek, Tolkien, or TSR. I never even noticed the “sliding” to think about it… it just happened without my ever paying attention.

    …you see, though? I was denied my “moment!” *snf*

  75. #75 Abbie
    February 25, 2008

    My ritual story is the “never converted” category. I was raised nonreligiously; it was never a part of my life. Once when I was on vacation some kid asked me my religion, and the question surprised me. I said “Christian, I guess.” But I realized it wasn’t true.
    By highschool I found Christianity fairly absurd but I dabbled in Buddhism a little. I found Theravada neat but it still had too much metaphysical garbage. I don’t know when I formally acknowledged I was an atheist, but I quickly became pretty strident. The internet played a large role.
    Besides the Buddhism stint my main other irrationality was an interest in the paranormal- I didn’t really believe in ghosts or UFOs, but I considered myself a Fortean rather than a skeptic. My life-long interest waned when my anti-theistic tendencies gelled into a general skepticism. Ghost stories have lost their mojo now.
    In 2006 I realized that my atheism had never really been tested. I was quite the arrogant fucker and I knew I didn’t really have anything to back it up with. (It’s just so obvious!) So I started reading about religion- started with The God Delusion, and Dennett’s, Harris’s, and Warraq’s books. I read a lot of Biblical criticism. I planned on reading some philosophy but I could never get into it; I surprised myself by leaning towards the physics shelves at the library. Found my way back to Dawkins. My qualms were satisfied- It’s all done nothing but reinforce my materialism.
    This was long for a story that ended where it began… sorry.

  76. #76 bernarda
    February 25, 2008

    I was raised in a conservative xian family and was taken to church regularly, but I don’t think I ever believed in stories and dogma. In fact, I didn’t even think about them much. For me, Sunday was a day I could get together with other kids – aside from school – as we lived in a very rural farming area and houses were rather far apart. The show was also a bit entertaining.

    But finally around 14 or 15, I just stopped going to church. My parents didn’t like that much but they got tired of cajoling me. I suppose there was some moment following where I decided that there was no god, because I was a confirmed atheist by the time I started university.

    People in my dorm would try to convert me, but I was rather polite and just ignored them. I couldn’t believe that people who had reached that stage of life could still believe in fairy tales. It is still a mystery to me.

  77. #77 csrster
    February 25, 2008

    Matt H. So how does that work? Do you just wait for a quiet moment between hymns to stand up and say “By the way, I have a bit of an anouncement …”

  78. #78 Brian W.
    February 25, 2008

    I remember being around 8 or so and learning that the earth took millions of years to form. I immediately recognized this contradicted the story i heard in church. Even though the church i was going to wasn’t fundamentalist. Anyway, i went to my dad feeling like i’d realized something that no one else had. The two stories didn’t add up. So i told my dad and his answer was “well God can do anything.” I was so disappointed by that answer. It was so meaningless and hollow. In elementary school i read a lot of Greek mythology. I remember thinking “what makes these gods fake and the one i learn about on Sunday real?”

    For years i’d pretend to be sick on Sundays to try and get out of having to go to church but my parents never bought it. Then when i finally came out as an atheist i ended up converting my mom, who then apologized to me for making me go to church all those years.

    Who else can say that?

  79. #79 Peter Mc
    February 25, 2008

    Bride of Shrek: the Monsignor Walsh you desired to fornicate with himself. You’re not from the north-east of England are you, by any chance?

  80. #80 Arren Frank
    February 25, 2008
    @ #74

    Christianity is to the teachings of “Christ“
    as Dungeons & Dragons is to Tolkien’s “Arda“.

  81. #81 Prazzie
    February 25, 2008

    Matt H: “my parents told me that I could quit going to church if I’d get up in front of the whole congregation and explain why”

    So what did you say?

    I got asked to leave two different churches in two different cities by age 15. In a final desperate attempt to save my soul, my mother made me go to some crazy English church where there was one lady said to be able to “know your sins” (mostly she just looked at EVERYONE as though they were evil) and everybody kept crying a lot (there were a lot of sinners and they were all very ashamed). I told my mom that they were all insane and she gave up. Seven years later my dad told her that I was an atheist (he approved) and she phoned me in a flat spin. I don’t remember her exact words, but it came down to “ARE YOU GOING TO START MURDERING PEOPLE AND SLEEPING WITH THEIR CORPSES NOW?” Atheism needs better PR. :/

  82. #82 Sam
    February 25, 2008

    Raised without religion, dad being a staunch atheist and mum being much more polite but basically of the same opinion. I didn’t even hear about god until I went to pre-school and there was chapel for a half hour which was boring and annoying, as you had to be on your knees for most of it. Plus I had no idea what the hell they were on about.

    At seven, my folks split up and my mum moved in with her sister for a bit. They went to church and my cousins went to sunday school, so I did a bit of the whole ‘colouring in’ thing and learned about what a great chap Jeebus was and how daniel and the lions were all top mates. I also learned that by praying to God or Jeebus, you could get stuff and influence events, which inflamed my juvenile and avericious mind with a venal lust for free things.

    Putting it to the test, I began to pray during major roles of the dice playing monopoly or snakes and ladders. Shockingly, I noticed that it really didn’t seem to do a dmaned thing. I started raising the stakes, promising a life of virtue and goodness if my brother could just land on the big snake on number 86, but he hardly ever did.

    ‘Well, bugger that for a game of soldiers,’ I thought, and never worried about God again until my teenage years, when Teen Teams for Jesus would roam the streets looking for street youths to extract from the claws of the devil and I would try and set their boxes of Jack Chick tracts on fire.

  83. #83 DiscoveredJoys
    February 25, 2008

    To be honest my childhood was spent in Christianity-Lite (TM) with attendance at Sunday School, school religious service and instruction (UK Grammar School) and Boys Brigade (sort of like Scouts). I gradually realised that most other people were going through the motions, just like me, and held no firm beliefs nor acted in a particularly Christian way. So I eased out of the lot before I went to University.

    My second deconversion was when I realised that politics in Britain was also hollow. None of the political parties seemed to champion their beliefs once they were in power. In the UK at the moment there is a growing disquiet about politicians as their self interest becomes more and more apparent (thank the intertubes for that as the MSM is rubbish).

    I now believe that there is no personal god, that most people are neither good or bad but just getting on with their lives. There are also a few truly ‘saintly’ individuals and few truly ‘evil’ bastards.

    Margaret Thatcher (love her or loath her) was once roundly criticised for saying that there was no such thing as ‘society’. I think she was right… it is no more than a useful/useless label like ‘race’ or particular ‘religion’, and I don’t care to manage my life within someone elses label.

  84. #84 ChrisC
    February 25, 2008

    I can sum up, in a single word, why I persisted with Christian belief for as long as I did (till I was about 12). Fear.

    Fear of hell. Fear of punishment. Fear of the sign “abondon all hope ye who enter here”. Despite the fact that my mother was a staunch atheist, I was sent to scripture classes presded over by two lovely, well meaning individuals who scared me half to death.

    I tried to believe in that clap-trap. I really did. It was fear of hell that motivated me. But after a while, the connection was made… that hell was more implusible than most of the other crap put together. You see, I was never presented with any evidence that hell existed! A such, I made the descion that threat of hell was so insignificant, so tiny, that it was not worth the bother of belief in a fairy tale.

  85. #85 ConcernedJoe
    February 25, 2008

    This has been very interesting. Made me search for the defining moment in my life. Cannot say except that I was an duly indoctrined, devout RC as youth, more loosely attached to it as young man in college and military. By 26 I had totally left the supernatural and BS of the dogmatic things behind. There wasn’t any heavy lifting required. I in my 18 and over years thirsted for good philosophy, lit, science, and morality. Found secular sources so much more useful and rewarding. It was apparent without even a thought that Western god/religion was relatively vacuous as philosophy let alone absurd as reality, and a power trip and means for power for demigods. Eastern religion and philosophy was well more mature shall we say and worthy of consideration in my journey but the mysticism was discard out of hand. By 25 I had no problem at all saying to those that felt they needed to know “I don’t believe.”

    But my broken record is: All sane, modern knowledgable believers really don’t believe. They believe they need to believe, they believe they should believe, they are scared to buck the system socially, and they like the comfort of the association and ritual.. but chips down – their actions are atheistic. A TRUE believer would cancel the old health insurance, if you get my drift.

  86. #86 Inquisitive
    February 25, 2008

    I think it’s interesting how the more vocal atheists tend to be converts. I was raised without religion, so I don’t have much to react against. These days, I’m mostly reacting against the theocrats.

    I must confess that the first day of kindergarden, a classmate asked me what religion I was. In a panic I said “Christian, I guess” because that’s the only religion I’d heard of. I’d like to apologize for my thoughtlessness; shortly thereafter, I learned the word “agnostic”.

    I remained that for many years, because nothing else prompted me to learn more, but eventually my personal beliefs migrated to weak atheist (I don’t believe there is a god) to, after considerable thought, today’s strong atheist (I believe there is no god).

    Obviously, I can’t disprove a non-interventionist creator, but such a situation is indistinguishable from there not being a creator at all, so the two theories are actually equivalent. Occam’s razor suggests I take the simpler one, but I don’t actually disagree with someone who takes the other.

    It’s hard to imagine a religious upbringing. My parents are atheists, my grandparents (now deceased with no church involvement) are atheists. My brother’s wife’s family are atheists. My wife’s a very nominal wiccan. (Doesn’t really believe, but likes the morality, and we borrow the rituals sometimes.)

    The one article that really resonated with me was Heather Mallick’s Atheists don’t get it. “Atheists find all religious details intensely boring.”

    Although I’m affected by current politics, I’ve only clashed with religion directly twice in my life.

    Once was when I was growing up, and I slept over at a friend’s house on Saturday night. In the morning, I got dragged to my first ever church service. (I discovered that his father was a minister.) I was quite uncomfortable and avoided spending saturday night there any more.

    The second was at summer camp. They had a very generic “chapel” service on sunday morning, mostly uplifting songs but vaguely monotheistic. After a few times, I decided I wasn’t going. Once it was determined that I wouldn’t get into trouble unsupervised during that time, it was basically accepted; I just stayed on my bunk and read a book.

    I’ve also attended a Sikh and an orthodox Jewish wedding, and visited some Jewish friends for Passover. And I’ve hung out with a lot of pagans. I get along fine with minority religions (“please, while you’re here, rub blue mud in your belly”), but the presumption of privelege really annoys me.

    I quite enjoyed It’s all fun and games until there’s a buddhist prayer before kickoff (original title “Why I’m against pre-game prayers” from WingNutDaily; link is to a copy). It really conveys how uncomfortable Getting A Clue can be to people not used to the experience.

  87. #87 Bride of Shrek
    February 25, 2008

    Peter Mc @ #79

    No, I’m not but the bastard did get around so he might have ended up in your neck of the woods. After he left Melbourne ( where I was suffered unto him) in the 70′s he ended up over in the UK somewhere so I’m hazarding a guess he’s the same one. Mr Shrek is from the NE however ( Geordie from Blyth)and he reckons that if he should ever meet him on one of our frequent trips back he’ll “foock im right up for messin wid wo lass”. I gather this means he’s unhappy with my treatment under the venerable Monsignor Walsh, but I dunno, you’re a Yorkie so maybe you can translate.

  88. #88 True Bob
    February 25, 2008

    Dinosaurs or god, that was the choice presented to me.

    In the words of Tim the Enchanter: “Look at the bones!”

  89. #89 Lilly de Lure
    February 25, 2008

    I no longer needed a reason for my existence, just a reason to live. And imagination, free will, love, humor, fun, music, sports, beer, and pizza are all good enough reasons for living.”

    Wow! I’ve never really liked Ricky Gervais before but having read this utterly brilliant demolition job on the “argument from nihilism” that religiotards trot out so regularly I’m going to have to change my mind.

    Inspiring stuff – the same goes for all of those here who’ve been brave enough to share their deconversion stories here. Well done and thank you, it makes me proud to be a pharyngulite (I’ll stop now before I start rotting your teeth).

  90. #90 Lisa C.
    February 25, 2008

    There was no “defining moment” for me. I guess I never really believed, but went along with my strict Catholic upbringing for a long time to appease my parents. I think the first real seeds of doubt were:

    - reading the bible at VBS at the age of 6 or so, and hating it
    - rote learning the reponses to the first communion ritual, forgetting them in the middle of the interview, and having my mother prompt me through the whole thing
    - my dad telling me to “trust in God” when I was scared of the dark (I thought he was nuts, and was still scared)
    - beginning to hate church, which I found boring and repetitive
    - watching my sister complete a novena (series of prayers for a specific outcome) and be disappointed

    By the age of 12 I did not believe, but I went along with Cathoicism for a while, until it was time for me to be confirmed. I told my parents that I didn’t want to be confirmed because I wasn’t sure I was ready. They put a lot of pressure on me, so I did it, and I was sick to my stomach the whole time because it was just so wrong. I didn’t believe, and they never should have forced me to say that I did.

    I left the church formally in college when I was still living at home… that was not a popular decision and damaged my relationship with my father for a while. However, in the end, they let go of the religious (or non-religious in my case) aspect of our relationship, and we rebuilt the bridges. Now I feel completely accepted and respected by my family, for which I am forever grateful.

  91. #91 poke
    February 25, 2008

    I was never religious but when I was kid I was interested in ghosts, psychic phenomenon, UFOs, etc, and thought they were all real. I remember vividly the day I realized it was all bullshit. I was still afraid of the dark and had to always put lights on wherever I went in the house; that day I didn’t have to. I was about 10 years old. What pushed me over the edge was just realizing that we do have answers. (For whatever reason this seems to be one of the hardest things for people to accept; even when believers reject religion they work hard to retain not the apparent certitude we non-believers tend to imagine they find in their beliefs but the mysterious ineffable something at its core.)

    Throughout my life the one thing I’ve been continually surprised about is how much we know. Everything in our society is geared towards playing up the great mysteries, the inexplicable, what science can’t answer, etc. I remember first studying biology in school and being shocked to discover all this stuff inside cells and we knew how it all worked (mostly); it was amazing (and set my future career trajectory) and I couldn’t believe people still argued about souls and life forces and “the mysteries of life”: it’s all here, dumbasses! That’s what I love about science; you get to be “deconverted” every other week.

  92. #92 voltare44
    February 25, 2008

    Long time lurker here. Loved reading these, was wondering if anyone else actually misses certain things about their religion.
    I was raised Anglican, by a not-enormously-Christian mother, and an atheist, or at least strongly agnostic father. My schooling was CofE, and as a chorister and organist I have been involved in church music, going to church well over twice a week, for about 20 years. My church is brilliantly liberal though – no fear of hell, no brimstone preaching. They are a really really lovely community on the whole, who have supported me in my life and as a musician in so many ways.

    I have never quite got into religion though. I’d always felt it was something I didn’t really get. So much time spent praying with so little result. All the funny robes and hierachy didn’t really seem to gel with Jesus’s alleged message. But then the churches who abandoned traditions all seemed to be crazy fundamentalists, who think the world is 6000 years old, which never made sense to me: I’ve seen fossils ‘in the wild’ and held them in my hand.
    But my church never encouraged a ‘big daddy’ in the sky view of god. They taught a very critical view of the bible, as an historical text of metaphor and tribal stories. I was allowed to believe that god was an intangible presence working in us, that god could be seen in the relationships around us, and that was all fine. But it still always seemed to me that all these people would be just as nice without their belief in god.
    for me, to be honest I think reading dawkins was my a-ha moment. Pretty much everything in it I already knew. But here was someone willing to put two and two together, and actually accept the answer, instead of trying to maintain a sense of ‘there must be something’ against all the evidence.

    I haven’t come out to anyone in my church community. When I occasionally go back, Sometimes I have the courage not to take communion, sometimes not.
    I remember being at dinner once with some church friends and a much older church musician, highly respected composer of some brilliant liturgical music. He confidently mentioned that he hadn’t played for a church service in decades as he didn’t believe anymore. I didn’t have the courage to say ‘me too’
    Most of all, I genuinely love the music I grew up with, and I still sneak to Evensong now and again to soak up the music and the atmosphere. But it is slightly spoiled as I am now so cynical about all the readings and praying.
    I think one day I will be more confident in my atheism, but for now I’m still going through the pangs of guilt associated with leaving something that has been part of my life for 20 years, and in many ways I hope is still part of my life in the future.

  93. #93 PZ Myers
    February 25, 2008

    Hmm…this thread is a testimonial to the fact that there is a pent-up desire to share deconversion narratives, I guess.

  94. #94 daenku32
    February 25, 2008

    For a little bit I had the thing where I “prayed” that my parents would come home, because I was locked out of the house. Then I though about it, and realized that if they did come, they had been already on their way. It was the shortchanging of critical thought that slowly but surely got me out of it very early on.

  95. #95 Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
    February 25, 2008

    It took me until my 20s to lose religion.

    My parents weren’t religious, but as a child my mother wanted me to go to church and develop some kind of moral compass. I ended up staying there for decades.

    The doubts crept in during my late ’20s. I stopped going to church, but still Christianity kept its hooks in me and I even revived my faith at one point.

    The turning point for me was being recommended A.N.Wilson’s brilliant biography of Jesus. Having read that deconstruction of the evidence for Jesus and his life, there was no going back. It still took me a while to ease myself away from superstition, but the relief was palpable. I no longer had to hold myself up to an unattainable ideal. The guilt disappeared.

    Instead I was faced with the challenge of living a moral life without the using a bible as a compass. I’m still working on that but I think I’ve done pretty well, as most people to trend towards Humanism do. A consistent moral code is much easier to formulate without the arbitrary distortions of a holy book and the wacko interpretations of priests.

  96. #96 Karen
    February 25, 2008

    It’s funny to see Wicca mentioned in these comments – it’s a stage of my areligious development I normally leave out =)

    I was baptized episcopalian, but only attended church at my grandparents on the occasional weekend ’till I was 8 or so. At some point thereafter, my Mom tried to find a church I liked – it was sort of a losing fight. Either they let me into the service where I did a lot of eye rolling, or they sent me into a room full of idiot kids to color in line art of jesus and fuzzy animals. I was rarely amused.

    We finally joined a church run by one of my friends’ fathers – it was actually pretty cool, as churches go, and they didn’t have a problem when I announced I wouldn’t be attending services anymore, but that I’d be happy to help out in the nursery, or talk with God in the woods out back. I helped out in the nursery for a couple years.

    Then came the teenage years – I questioned *everything* in my life, and God wasn’t even worth of being questioned. I was sure there must be some cool religion out there that went the pagan route of worshiping natural elements – and found Wicca very popular among my age mates. I liked the basic creed, and I liked the people, and I liked that none of them minded that my ‘gods’ were just physical aspects of the world I sometimes pondered and rejoiced in, instead of personal, interactive Gods.

    As good as Wicca might have been for me in cementing my, “freedom to do whatever I/you/we wish as long as it harms noone else” sort of philosophy, I don’t bring up those days much anymore. It was a short stepping stone to true atheism. I still say I’m probably more pagan than anything else, but that makes me very, very little pagan.

    I cannot every remember believing in a personal God – if I ever did, it was before true memories started being developed. Sometimes I get into a mood where I understand *why* godfolk like to think there’s something more – but I always come back to the fact that if there really were a God putting us through this life as a test, I wouldn’t want anything to do with him anyway. He sounds like a douchebag.

  97. #97 Kat
    February 25, 2008

    Oh, pur-leeze. How old is Ricky Gervase? late 30’3? So, he was growing up in Reading – a major urban connurbation west of London with a lot of industry – in the 70s. The scenario he describes is more like a derivation of Monty Python’s 4 Yorskshiremen sketch. I’m older than Ricky G, but even in my day, religion played very little part in everyday life, and the Church here has been lamenting falling attendance and lack of church-going for as long as I can remember.

    As for the “you hoped your kids believed in god to keep them out of jail, but didn’t aspire to being a doctor” – it’s just so much bollocks. And unless he bunked off school, of course he learned about evolution, it’s a standard part of the biology curriculum. he wouldn’t have had any RE teachers preaching otherwise. No one in England had ever even heard of creationism/ID in the 70s – if they had, they’d probably have been part of some weird religious cult in an isolated valley in Wales, not in Reading.

    I’ve no doubt Gervais is an atheist. I doubt it happened like that though. More likely he just grew up with religion just not being a significant part of his life, like 90% of the rest of the UK. But it makes a much bigger impact for an American magazine to tell it that way, and Gervais certainly know show to tell a story.

  98. #98 KC
    February 25, 2008

    Last year my 9 year old son went from no Santa to no god in a few hours. I had just completed my own deconversion but I was keeping it to myself. A few hours after he learned the truth about Santa, he asked about god. I simply asked him what he thought, and he said he didn’t think god was real.

    An earlier poster speculated that Gervais’ account might be embellished, but I saw how easy it was for my son, so I can believe it. I think perhaps it’s easier for kids because they haven’t had as many years of indoctrination as adults.

  99. #99 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 25, 2008

    My mother was what we call a submarine catholic ( come up for air twice a year ie go to mass on good friday and xmas eve)

    A Catholic? On Good Friday? Not on Easter Sunday?

    It’s more like a “Magic-of-Christmas-shaped hole.”

    Kurisumasu: the Japanese celebration of love and rampant consumerism just for the fun of it.
    :-)

    At the time somehow the middle ground of agnosticism seemed “safer”.

    If taken seriously, it’s not really a middle ground. Behold: “I don’t know — and you don’t know either, you just believe.”

  100. #100 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 25, 2008

    My mother was what we call a submarine catholic ( come up for air twice a year ie go to mass on good friday and xmas eve)

    A Catholic? On Good Friday? Not on Easter Sunday?

    It’s more like a “Magic-of-Christmas-shaped hole.”

    Kurisumasu: the Japanese celebration of love and rampant consumerism just for the fun of it.
    :-)

    At the time somehow the middle ground of agnosticism seemed “safer”.

    If taken seriously, it’s not really a middle ground. Behold: “I don’t know — and you don’t know either, you just believe.”

  101. #101 Jeff
    February 25, 2008

    I was raised in a Catholic family and even as a young man questioned the whole story. My mother was and is very devout, but she and my father instilled a “question all authority” mindset in all of their children.

    I can’t say I had a epiphany when the truth was uncovered.
    It was a slow deconversion and a university education finally helped stomp out any remaining doubts.

    What I can say is that I am a far better husband and father because of it. I answer to only myself and can offer no celestial excuses for my shortcomings. To become a better person requires introspection and critical thinking.

    One thing I do know is that each sunset and falling star is that much more beautiful. Every hug from my children is more meaningful and every day I am appreciative of the chance occurance that gave me life.

  102. #102 AJS
    February 25, 2008

    I too don’t have much of a deconversion story.

    About the age of 5 or 6, I figured out the following:
    1. If God does not exist, who created everything?
    2. If God exists, who created Him?
    3. If God and the raw materials to build the universe could have come from nowhere, then why couldn’t a ready-built (mostly just empty space and bits of rock, with the odd bit on fire here or there; pretty hard to tell from raw materials, actually) Universe have come from nowhere?
    4. Any intermediate step you add between “nothing” and “the Universe” only increases the amount of explaining you have to do.
    5. “There was no God and the Universe just appeared out of nowhere” is the simplest explanation.

    My parents weren’t particularly observant, either. I just thought that the Bible was another bunch of fairy tales, and it shocked me a bit when I discovered grown-ups acting as though any of it was real. (But by then I’d already met grown-ups who thought a lot of bizarre things, so the bible being real wasn’t particularly strange.)

    When I went to University I had a brief fling with the happy-clappy brigade, but couldn’t really get to grips with it. It was just too much effort to try to believe something that was just — to me — so obviously not true, especially when it conferrred no obvious benefit. What finally clinched it for me was hearing a preacher talk about Pascal’s Wager. If I, a mere mortal barely on the brink of adulthood, could tell who was being sincere and who was acting the way they thought someone was expecting them to behave, then any God worthy of worship would see straight through it. If pretending to believe — and I knew, deep down, that was as much as I would ever really be capable of — wouldn’t save me from Hell (which I was only pretending to believe in anyway), then I might as well just spare myself the effort.

    I guess I’m immune to the disease that is organised religion …..

  103. #103 Interrobang
    February 25, 2008

    I figured out that I was an atheist at the age of five. I had the exact same “dinosaurs…god…dinosaurs…god…waitaminit, I’ve seen dinosaur bones” moment as one of the other commenters here. I used to piss off a lot of people by telling people that if they wanted me to believe, they had to show me some “god bones.” (I’m still vaguely proud of that, actually.) I went to elementary school with a lot of idiot kids who thought my saying that I didn’t believe in God meant that I was a Satanist. I told them I didn’t believe in him, either.

    My parents are nominally religious. I can see my dad getting more religious as he gets older, and starting to believe some things he wouldn’t have as a younger man, and considering that his dad is in a nursing home with dementia, that worries me. (The first sign anything was wrong with my granddad was, to me, at least, his deepening religious mania and his involvement with a really strange cult-like group.)

    Nowadays, people accuse me of “hating religion” because I have a very large, very vocal dislike for fundamentalist Christians, which dates back to high school. (Call it a “postjudice,” if you like — as far as I’m concerned, because of my experiences with them, all funnymentalist Christians are scum until they demonstrate they aren’t, which offends a lot of people, since they think I should either respect fundamentalist Christians’ beliefs or respect the Christians personally, and that by refusing to do so, I’m obviously just “writing people off en masse” again. No, anybody who converts to fundamentalist Christianity these days has written themselves off.)

    A family of evangelical Christians moved into my high school’s attendance district when I was in grade 10. By the time I graduated, they’d converted over 90% of the student population into their particular brand of Jesus-shouting frothing idiocy. I got a lot of conversion attempts aimed right at me — everything from “Do you wanna go to my church supper on Thursday?” to “Well, surely you must believe in something…” to that old guilt trip standard, “You know, Interrobang, I worry about you, because you’re not saved and you won’t go to Heaven when you die…” (Me: “Prove it.”)

    Those bible-beating bastards spent three years making my life miserable, and I’ve never really forgiven them for it. On the other hand, I’ve spent a lot of time reading about religion in general. I did an undergraduate degree in English literature, and you pretty much have to be fairly conversant with the Bible to do well at it. I read the Qu’ran in an English translation. (I actually just received another one from a friend which is a different translation, and if my original one is the Shia version, this one is a Sunni version, and I really like it. I call it the Heretical Qu’ran™ because not only is it illustrated with representative art, but the illustrations were done by a woman!) I’ve also got this great recto-verso English-Hebrew Torah I’m working on, but I’m struggling with it, because I’m trying to read the Hebrew as well. Maybe I should just do a “daf yomi” (“daily page”) like everyone else. Yeah, I really fuckin’ hate religion. Whatever. I hate it so much I’m studying it, trying to understand why those nutters all around me who believe the stuff believe it. Personally, in my secret heart of hearts, I really do believe that most religious people are mildly mentally ill, but it’s a societally-acceptable form of mental illness.

    So that’s my such-as-it-is deconversion story…

  104. #104 Keith
    February 25, 2008

    Dinosaurs or god, that was the choice presented to me.

    In the words of Tim the Enchanter: “Look at the bones!”

    Last year I had a chance to talk to Farish Jenkins, the senior member of the Tiktaalik discovery team, and happened to mention that the discovery had caused a fair amount of headaches for the creationists in their arguments. His response?

    “Screw them, we have the fossils.”

  105. #105 David Marjanovi?
    February 25, 2008

    Qur’?n. First the r, then the ‘al?f. :-)

  106. #106 David Marjanovi?
    February 25, 2008

    Qur’?n. First the r, then the ‘al?f. :-)

  107. #107 Reginald Selkirk
    February 25, 2008

    with imagination, free will, love and humor. I no longer needed a reason for my existence, just a reason to live. And imagination, free will, love, humor, fun, music, sports, beer, and pizza are all good enough reasons for living.

    I’m not going to get all excited about an incoherent concept. I’ll just have to increase my reliance on pizza. Really good pizza.

  108. #108 Reginald Selkirk
    February 25, 2008

    Wow! I’ve never really liked Ricky Gervais before but having read this utterly brilliant demolition job on the “argument from nihilism” that religiotards trot out so regularly I’m going to have to change my mind.

    Ah, but it’s just the inbred semi-literate young-Earth Creationist Baptist Bible-thumpers who claim that atheism means no meaning and no morality. It’s not intelligent, liberal thelogians like John Haught.

  109. #109 Cardinal Shrew
    February 25, 2008

    So, this thread is really interesting. I find these deconversion stories heart warming and fascinating.

    I myself have never had one. I was raised by a Atheist and a fallen Catholic/agnostic. They decided to let me decide for myself. I was baptized for my grandmother and she tried to get me to believe. I remember thinking around 4 or 5, ok, so there are no dinosaurs in the bible. Really? They are so cool, how could they not have mentioned them. Must be crap. (My reasoning has since matured slightly but I stick with my original convictions)

    Shortly after that I started getting in trouble at school for arguing with other students about god and whether or not he/she/it existed. Not too long after my Mom took me aside and said that what I believe and was doing was ok but it didn’t really belong in school and that I should just be understanding that our beliefs were different than some of the others. She was a teacher in the same school, so in retrospect, I might have been causing her some headaches. I was ok with that. It was my first lesson in diplomacy and the art of polite disagreement with conviction.

    I have occasionally wondered what it is like to believe in god and how you pick or reconcile all the different rules and contradictions and implications of your said belief.

  110. #110 Lilly de Lure
    February 25, 2008

    Ah, but it’s just the inbred semi-literate young-Earth Creationist Baptist Bible-thumpers who claim that atheism means no meaning and no morality. It’s not intelligent, liberal thelogians like John Haught.

    Egads! He doesn’t read as so “liberal” to me – apparantly even a theological education is no guard against being a smug twit.

    It merely allows you to be one with authority.

  111. #111 H. Humbert
    February 25, 2008

    But living an honest life–for that you need the truth. That’s the other thing I learned that day, that the truth, however shocking or uncomfortable, in the end leads to liberation and dignity.

    And this is correct. Just about ever atheist I know have doggedly pursued the truth wherever it might lead. Contrast this with the liars for Jesus who obscure, deny, and dissemble to keep their bubble of a fantasy intact. No theist values truth as much as an atheist, since atheists have made up their minds not to lie even to themselves.

  112. #112 J-Dog
    February 25, 2008

    Why all the deep thoughts?

    If you think about it at all, you realize that the Christian God’s a dick. Period. End of story. Why worship an impotent prick?

    From there is is extremely easy to realize that all gods are assholes. Muslim, Wican, all sky-father or pan-theistic deities, it doesn’t matter. Made up stories for the credulous.

    The priest class – sycophantic blood-suckers. Why would any sane person listen to anyone like a priest, pastor, rabbi or imam, or witch that has it in their own best interest to continue the charade? D’OH! They live off the blood sweat and contributions of others. If you don’t believe, they have to get real jobs.

    Raised a Catholic, once I was in high school my brain cells finally developed to the point where I realized this – it was as Ricky Gervais describes it. An hour and done.

    Free at last, free at last, thankfully now, I am free at last!

  113. #113 Kenny B
    February 25, 2008

    I was born while my parents were attending pentecostal bible college – grew up as a preacher’s kid and then followed in dad’s footsteps. At the age of 31 I quit the church I was pastoring. In the following 26 years I’ve been back exactly twice (Christmas eve with extended family).

    By the time I got out there were many fissures in my fundy world view but the one that triggered the break was finaly deciding the concept of hell was just plain insane. Even then, leaving was a difficult experience.

    When I look back at those days it’s like I’m looking at some other strange creature. How could I have believed those things? And what’s really sad is that to my knowledge only a few contemporaries ever got out.

    Talking about conversion/deconversion points to the dark side of human consciousness. As a species we are not as rational as we think we are. A fire storm of emotionality hits many people when they get close to examining their world view. I think perhaps we could use some better tools for helping people face their inner onslaught.

  114. #114 charley
    February 25, 2008

    When I lost the will to continue in the church two years ago my whole family (wife & 3 kids) was heavily involved in the church. I was a deacon and church school teacher. All of our friends and family were Christians. I had tried working my way through increasingly liberal perspectives, but things didn’t make sense until I simply rejected it all. I coasted along about a year, trying to view the world from an atheist’s perspective while going through the expected religious motions. I think it takes about that long to come to grips with all the implication of deconversion. It’s exhilerating, but the prospect of trashing a big part of your life, risking relationships and starting over is terrifying.

    Here’s what completely surprised me. When I told my wife I was done with religion, she understood and said she always had doubts herself. Within weeks none of us were going to church, and no one missed it. This is after Christian schools, college, years of church and generations of Christian heritage. Poof. Done with it. We’re all very happy now, but our parents are another matter altogether.

  115. #115 Brian
    February 25, 2008

    Now I wonder when he will stop believing in free will, which is just a vestige of religious belief.

    http://www.naturalism.org/strawson.htm

  116. #116 Heather
    February 25, 2008

    I still haven’t “come out” to anyone, although my husband suspects.

    I was brought up nominally Lutheran, but we really didn’t take it seriously. I converted to Eastern Orthodoxy while in college and married a VERY Catholic man from Poland. His faith is (sorry to say) still very much the God as Santa Claus sort of thing. But I would never tell him he was wrong, if it makes him feel better to pray and believe then I will let him do so.

    Our kids are being raised Catholic and they are doing first communion/confirmation this year. I’ve told my husband that I really don’t like them doing this at such a young age, since they don’t really understand exactly what it is they are doing. All they know is that up until this point, daddy is the only one who can eat the special bread, and after this point they’ll get to eat it too. I have a feeling if I explained it to them, they would probably say “ewwww.”

    I’m still agnostic – maybe there is some higher power, maybe there isn’t. I don’t think any of the religions on earth really have it right, so why worry about it? If it turns out there is, it will be too late to change anything. And if there isn’t, it won’t matter much. So I will live my life doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing, and treating others the way I would want to be treated. I’ll enjoy the beauty that life has to offer here and now rather than hoping for something for which there has so far been no proof.

  117. #117 Tulse
    February 25, 2008

    If you think about it at all, you realize that the Christian God’s a dick. Period. End of story. Why worship an impotent prick?

    That also describes Dubya, but he really does exist. It seems certainly not uncommon for deconversion to start from the realization that the god of the Bible is an asshole (or in my case, bizarrely concerned with the sex life of undergraduates). But however emotionally resonant that realization may be, it’s not really an argument against god or religion. To think an entity is a an obnoxious prick (or to be angry at it, as in XTC’s Dear God), is effectively to reify the very thing whose existence one’s denying.

  118. #118 Kyle W.
    February 25, 2008

    I had the same sort of epiphany that Ricky had. I was a bit older, 13 or so, but I was sitting in the Southern Baptist church I regularly attended when I took the time to listen to what he was saying. What he was saying had nothing to do with what was actually written on the page. And it dawned on me: it’s a fraud, a sham, and I wasn’t going to listen to it anymore. And I haven’t since.

    Needless to say, my parents basically disowned me, but after several years they were cool with my atheism — and after many conversations, I’m convinced that they are much less religious than they were. Atheists by no means, but they are certainly less religious.

    Baby steps, Bob, baby steps.

  119. #119 tsig
    February 25, 2008

    I was lying in a wheelbarrow looking at the North Star when suddenly I saw how big the universe is and how small the church was.

    I spent two years in a seminary after that.

  120. #120 JimC
    February 25, 2008

    Heather-

    Thats an interesting story. In some ways I think the RCC is the worst in terms of ritual and indoctrination but it’s also the most ridiculous so your children will, I’m sure have many questions for you to answer.

    They will appreciate the honesty.

  121. #121 Holydust
    February 25, 2008

    These posts have been really enlightening to read. I think they belong in a book. Sure, creobots would pass it around as a “record of lost souls” to scare kids into seeing how “innocuous” the people and process of de-Conversion (read: losing your bridge with God) can be, but I think there are more people out there that would benefit from reading it.

    I was talking with my boyfriend about this last night, and I explained to him how I’ve always said to people how glad I was that I was raised in an oddly cheerful, loving Baptist environment. I’m not sure, now, if that actually was bad for me — because without the fear and anger other people had, I might have de-converted a lot sooner.

    For example:
    -our sweet pastor, Bro. Kelly, was sick one Sunday and replaced with an angry, pulpit-pounding Bible-thumper who came in and told all of our small congregation that we were all horrible, terrible people. He described what hell was like in painful detail. Every single child in our congregation was bawling. They were bawling and crying so loudly that the adults in the congregation began to get very, very angry. Looking around through my burning eyes I saw that no one in this group liked this guy and wanted him to leave.
    -When I would knock on the office door of Bro. Kelly (like clockwork) every Sunday, come in, flop down in his chair and ask him about dinosaurs, he would smile, flip through his Bible, then close it. He would look at me and smile and say with the most honest face I’ve ever seen, “I honestly don’t know what to tell you. We don’t really know.” But he didn’t tell me, “the Devil put the bones there” or anything insane like that. So I didn’t get the benefit of having reason to shake me away from my beliefs. “The god of the gaps” can actually be even more damaging — at least in a “time wasted” perspective.
    -When I would go to sleep at night, sometimes I would lie in bed crying. My father would come in and ask me what was wrong. I would tell him I was so worried about little dying babies in Africa and places in the world where no one could get to them and tell them about Jesus. I would picture these places as impenetrable forests shielding whole villages of people that had no connection to the outside world, and I would feel like God was a really shitty person for letting that happen. But my father, on his slow path to disregarding his belief in hell entirely, would tell me quite assuredly that God would not do something so unfair. My father taught me his belief — that God would not unfairly send someone to hell for never getting to find out about Jesus. So there was “comforting misconception #3″.

    So you see, my point is, I was raised in a fluffy, sheltered Xian existence… and it’s for that reason that I think it took so long to get me to grow a brain. I’m sorry for all the people in the world who have had to endure emotional and sometimes physical damage as a result of their religious upbringing, but I cringe to think about what may have happened if no one had ever prompted me to see reason, since I didn’t really have blinding, numbing fear to prompt me as it had so many others, to think for myself.

  122. #122 Sinbad
    February 25, 2008

    Now I wonder when he will stop believing in free will, which is just a vestige of religious belief.

    The creative imagination disappears in a materialistic universe too.

  123. #123 Tulse
    February 25, 2008

    The creative imagination disappears in a materialistic universe too.

    What idiotic bollocks! What disappears is one pseudo-explanation for creativity (that just boils down to “goddidit”, which is hardly an explanation at all), but not the phenomenon itself.

  124. #124 Steve_C
    February 25, 2008

    No it doesn’t. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

    I’m a creative… did my creativity die because I gave up believing myths were reality?

  125. #125 sublunary
    February 25, 2008

    I love reading these stories. While most of my friends are religious doubters, I’m the only (admitted) atheist I know in person. It’s nice to hear others’ stories.

    Trying to fit my experience into a comment-sized bit is proving too difficult, so I’ll give you the incomplete version.

    I was raised in the Fluffy Bunny Version of Catholicism. Jesus loves you, God loves you, yay. We were lucky to have a priest in the church who was comparatively rational. I remember him telling us, yes, the world was created in 6 days, but since god is an infinate thing, one of his days could be billions of our years. He also admitted a lot of the bible was just pretty stories written to make a point. And told us we could have both god and dinosaurs.

    And then there was CCD. I blame that for my initial weakening of faith at a young age because it was just so damn borning. And the nuns who taught it rarley made complete sense. Eventually I got confirmed because parents forced me. After that I was done with organized religion.

    But I wasn’t quite ready to give up on spirituality. Like several others here, I took a detour into Wicca my freshman year of high school. I loved the philosophy and the respect of nature. But it lost credability when my Wiccan friend gave me a ritual that involved reading bible passages.

    My big revelation came the following summer. I was involved in basically summer school for smart kids and we had to read part of Paradise Lost. I remember thinking about it as I walked to school, looked up at the sky and knew in my heart there was nothing up there watching me. Not the loving god my mother prayed to, or the gay-hating god the Lutheran minister loved so much, certainly not the create-your-own pantheon of my Wiccan friends. It was just sky and clouds. And it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

  126. #126 Sinbad
    February 25, 2008

    I’m a creative… did my creativity die because I gave up believing myths were reality?

    No, because your presumed creativity never existed. In a materialistic universe, creativity cannot exist on logical and philosophical grounds — the law of cause and effect is relentless. At best, the concepts of volition and creativity are useful illusions.

  127. #127 sublunary
    February 25, 2008

    I also wanted to say I liked MAJeff’s comment about how coming out stories of atheism and sexual orientation parallel each other in some ways. It’s a great feeling in being able to share that experience with others.

    I’ll go a step further and say I always felt my experiences of self-discovery in those areas were pretty similar. In both cases I felt like I was discovering something about me that had always been true, but took a while to become obvious.

    Weirdly enough, I found it much easier to tell my family I was bisexual. They were ok with me liking women, but openly denying god would make my mother cry for days. I just can’t bring myself to do that to her yet. On the other hand I had many more friends try to “convert” me into being lesbian or straight than tried to convert be back to religion.

  128. #128 Steve_C
    February 25, 2008

    What? Sinbad. You are still making absolutely no sense.

  129. #129 Heather
    February 25, 2008

    Very interesting…there happens to be an article on yahoo right now about the “churn” of religious affiliation:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20080225/us_time/americasunfaithfulfaithful

    As far as explaining things to my kids, I’ve already had some very surreal experiences with them. My husband really doesn’t have a deep understanding of the Catholic church, nor does he know the prayers in English. So the kids come home with their homework from RE class, and guess who gets to explain things to them? It’s a lot of fun trying to give them the scoop, but sadly it is the case that I know more about the RCC than my Catholic husband.

    I try not to let them in on “my secret” becaause that would really, really upset my husband. But my daughter is pretty smart, and while right now she believes pretty much anything we tell her (tooth fairy, Santa, Easter bunny) I have a feeling she will be the questioning type.

    I also have to laugh about my friend who was raised RC. She started going to a fundie megachurch for a while and really got involved. Then she called one day and said she was switching back to the RCC because they were talking about some thing that they didn’t believe in, something that started with an R. I said “the Rapture?” and of course that was it. All along I had known that the fundie church wasn’t the same – at ALL – as the RCC, but she didn’t realize it until now.

  130. #130 Reginald Selkirk
    February 25, 2008

    In a materialistic universe, Lucky Charms can’t exist either, because they’re magically delicious.

  131. #131 CJColucci
    February 25, 2008

    I suppose I never believed very deeply. I was raised Roman Catholic, and it no more occurred to me to question this than it did to question anything else I had been told. Despite the occasional meditation on the idea that the best thing that could happen to me would be to be run over by a truck on my way out of church after receiving communion (I may not have been skeptical, but I was logical), I can’t remember that I actually lived my life as if I belived it.
    What did it for me was a high school teacher — I forget which order — who said he could prove the existence of God. This was potentially interesting, because I had never looked at it as a matter of proof. Still, Brother P. said he could prove it, and he tried. It was the basic 5 proofs of Aquinas. I was unimpressed. “That’s it?” I thought. “That’s the proof?” I had never needed proof before, but Brother P. said he had it, and he didn’t. So I figured it must not be true.

  132. #132 Stephen Wells
    February 25, 2008

    And in a materialistic universe, turbulence cannot exist, on logical and philosophical grounds. There is only the motion of water molecules.

  133. #133 Spaulding
    February 25, 2008

    England’s greatest genius

    Hey, Darwin was pretty sharp, but I’m gonna have to give the edge to Newton on this one. Oscar Wilde gets an honorable mention, too.

  134. #134 Tosser
    February 25, 2008

    Danley wrote:

    I’m waiting to hear from The Flight of Concords.

    Hell yeah! I want fellow kiwi Ray Comfort to do a guest spot on that show. His natural cluelessness would make him a perfect character. He could be the New Zealand Science Minister–”The smartest man in New Zealand,” according to Murray.

  135. #135 Gingerbaker
    February 25, 2008

    Born a Jew which means there is no escape. It’s kinda like being born a Native American. It doesn’t matter what you believe, it is a matter of blood.

    Speaking of blood, there was a whole lot of it being shed in the Old Testament. I could never understand how the Jewish God could be so gruesome, and the Temple services were so repetitively demonstrative that this God was our God, and he was THE God.

    I had an “aha” moment in Hebrew School when I was about twelve years old. The discussion was about Passover, and how the Angel of Death had visited the Egyptians and killed all their first born sons.

    I thought “Just who is this Angel of Death?” Was it disease? No… that didn’t make sense.

    Then I realized that it was the Jews who benefited from this slaughter, and that they probably did it themselves. We were the bad guys, and they covered it up with this “Angel of Death” routine.

    I confronted the Rabbi with this, and he got angry and made me wait outside the classroom until it was time to go home. When I finally arrived home, I learned that I had an “attitude problem” with Hebrew School.

    So true! :D

    Had my Bar Mitzvah, and have never been back except for weddings and funerals.

    Three afternoons a week wasted in classroom, when I could have been playing baseball. Sigh.

  136. #136 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2008

    In a materialistic universe, creativity cannot exist on logical and philosophical grounds

    Sinbad, ever sailing the Seas of Stupid somewhere South of sane.

  137. #137 Stephen Wells
    February 25, 2008

    Possibly Sinbad has proved that creativity is inevitable?

  138. #138 Sinbad
    February 25, 2008

    Sinbad, ever sailing the Seas of Stupid somewhere South of sane.

    Then St. Richard is nuts along with me:

    “But doesn’t a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not?”

    “Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals, when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing?”

    “Assigning blame and responsibility is an aspect of the useful fiction of intentional agents that we construct in our brains as a means of short-cutting a truer analysis of what is going on in the world in which we have to live.”

    http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html

  139. #139 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2008

    “But doesn’t a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not?”

    and what does this have to do with creativity?

    … oh, wait, it doesn’t.

    I’d say this is moving goalposts on your part, but it’s more like a bait and switch.

    I think I’ll just start calling you Cap’t. Stupid.

    seriously, anybody that would constantly try out such intellectually dishonest bullshit ’round these parts must be a complete moron.

    keep it up, Cap’t. Stupid.

  140. #140 Reginald Selkirk
    February 25, 2008

    Mr. Sinbad: While those three quotes address the issue of Free Will, they say nothing about creativity. Stop digging.

  141. #141 Kseniya
    February 25, 2008

    Tsk, Sinbad. Don’t make the mistake of confusing the abstract with the ethereal. Creativity is a process. It is no more illusory than the process that sends the cockroach scurrying away from the light. In your universe, is the cockroach being guided by angels?

    I realize you’re coming from a place which states that a strictly materialistic universe is necessarily deterministic. While that’s not unreasonable stance, there are compelling arguments against it, particularly with regard to human experience.

  142. #142 Sinbad
    February 25, 2008

    and what does this have to do with creativity?

    If we are in no way responsible for “our” actions (since they are inevitable responses to given stimuli), how can the notion of creativity even be coherent? There can be no measure of creativity involved if and when we do simply and entirely what we are programmed to do.

  143. #143 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2008

    I realize you’re coming from a place which states that a strictly materialistic universe is necessarily deterministic. While that’s not unreasonable stance

    uh, what?

    materialism /= determinism

    Stochastic and deterministic processes both have a place in a materialistic universe.

    shame on you for confusing Cap’t Stupid even further.

  144. #144 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2008

    If we are in no way responsible for “our” actions (since they are inevitable responses to given stimuli), how can the notion of creativity even be coherent?

    reeeeeacccchhhh.

    I think you managed to pull Stretch Armstong’s arms off with that one.

    thanks for playing.

  145. #145 Kseniya
    February 25, 2008

    Haven’t we been around that “edge” before? IIRC, it was a series of answers, harvested from an array of noteables, to the question “What is your dangerous idea?”

    Dawkins chose that particular limb to go out on. It’s the same limb that has branches with labels like “judged not competent to stand trial” and “not guilty by reason of insanity” and “neurophysiology” and “psychopharmacology”. I wouldn’t start quote-mining it in an attempt to paint Dawkins as a determinist.

    I’ll have to review the piece, though. I could be wrong.

  146. #146 G
    February 25, 2008

    Oh, I get it.

    Sinbad is one of those people who thinks that without God, the universe is strictly determined — meaning that we have no free will, creativity, or any impulse that has not been determined by the time which has come before the impulse.

    He has also chosen to ignore the fact that an Omniscient God already knows what he’s going to do, and as such, has no free will, creativity, or any impulse that has not been predetermined by God.

    I’d tell you to crawl back under the bridge like the troll you are, but either God or determinism has already decided that you have to vex us more.

  147. #147 Sinbad
    February 25, 2008

    I realize you’re coming from a place which states that a strictly materialistic universe is necessarily deterministic.

    Yup. Dennett is Exhibit A. At least Flanagan (The Problem of the Soul) has the grace to concede the obvious.

    Creativity is a process.

    Indeed it is, but in my universe Bach is more deserving of both credit and veneration than Milli Vanilli.

    In your universe, is the cockroach being guided by angels?”

    Nope.

    While that’s not unreasonable stance….

    It’s a logically necessary stance.

    …there are compelling arguments against it, particularly with regard to human experience.

    I wholeheartedly agree that the human experience makes a compelling argument against determinism — indeed against materialism generally.

  148. #148 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2008

    @Ksenyia

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stretch_Armstrong

    (it being an American toy that was popular a long while back, I though you might not have gotten the reference)

    it was filled with a modified corn syrup (IIRC)that allowed the arms and legs to be stretched quite a ways, and then would return to normal.

    I rather think Cap’t Stupid has the same type of corn syrup filling, considering how fond he is of stretching things.

  149. #149 Sinbad
    February 25, 2008

    Stochastic and deterministic processes both have a place in a materialistic universe.

    Pssst, Icky, random is no more free than determined is.

    He has also chosen to ignore the fact that an Omniscient God already knows what he’s going to do, and as such, has no free will, creativity, or any impulse that has not been predetermined by God.

    No, I haven’t. The Calvinists and the compatabilists are kissin’ cousins on this point.

  150. #150 Kseniya
    February 25, 2008

    Aye. Shame on me! :-)

  151. #151 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2008

    Pssst, Icky, random is no more free than determined is.

    indeed, since “free” has no more relevance to the terms stochastic and deterministic than does the word “green”.

    did you have a point, or were you just intended to keep spouting random inanities?

    That was a rhetorical question, btw., as it’s rather obvious from your history that you will indeed continue to spout random inanities with no point whatsoever, other than to show us all what a complete moron you are, Cap’t. Stupid.

    Psst – Cap’t Stupid, green is no more free than blue is.

  152. #152 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2008

    Indeed it is, but in my universe

    does everyone wear straitjackets in your universe, or just you?

  153. #153 Kseniya
    February 25, 2008

    Shorter Calvinist Doctrine of Free Will and Predestination:

    “You are now free to move about the cabin.”

  154. #154 Kagehi
    February 25, 2008

    Hmm. Since everyone is sharing their stories, I guess I will give mine. Frankly, most of my early experience I don’t remember much. I apparently went down the street to the Christian day care, but asked too many questions, so they didn’t want me there any more. Parents didn’t talk about god much, though they where and are still religious (but of the, “churches are about controlling people” type). They don’t entirely get why I reject faith entirely, but otherwise agree that 99% of the priests are basically con artists. But, at the time, I didn’t really know this. Mostly, God was kind of like Santa Claus, but mildly more plausible, since one doesn’t usually catch one’s parents making supposed miracles happen, like you do them putting presents under the tree or hiding spare change under the pillow when you lose a tooth. I sort of had a vague sense that “something” was out there, maybe, but that the vast majority of people had no clue what the heck it was, and believed in fairly tales. One of the more absurd moments had to be when my mother didn’t want me to keep/read the illustrated Bible story book my uncle gave me, because it came from a church they didn’t trust, never mind that she and my dad couldn’t honestly tell me why, if it contained all the same stuff as the Bible they wouldn’t have minded me reading, (it sits on a shelf, unread by anyone), it was “contaminated” by its association with my uncle’s church. They didn’t have a good answer, but I have to agree with them that as hypocrites went, his church was the hippest… Mostly, I looked around a lot, saw a fair amount of sense in some eastern versions, having watched Kung Fu a lot, and some sane stuff in Wicca too, mixed with other nutso ideas. I had a good laugh at some book series I read that mixed Christian gibberish with Wicca style magic, without much conflict, then showed, in a follow up book on the rituals described, pretty clearly that Catholicism contained a lot borrowed from the later (or at least not very distinguishable from it), despite its attempts to insist otherwise. Just change a few names, some wording, use saints or angels instead of guardians of watchtowers, etc., and you got basically the same woo gibberish.

    Eventually, the more I learned about science, the more absurd the other stuff looked. Its still fun, having dealt with the stuff before, to suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy movies and books that contain complete nonsense, and my method of dealing with them has always been, due to how I got where I am now, to think in terms of, “Ok, assuming that it *did* work, what would be necessary for it to work, and how?” Invariably, you don’t need gods to explain any of it, the gods that do exist in the stories are either insufferable authority figures who can’t leave one blade of grass alone (like the ones written by people who have a predestination bent), or whiny short sighted twits, that can’t see past their own preconceptions of how things should work, never mind grasp the fact that they long ago lost control of things and *nothing* works they way they wanted it to, but keep trying to make it do so anyway. For the most part, even the people that believe in them in the stories *get* this, on some level, and have to work around the fact that the world isn’t so clearly defined, in order to achieve what ever grand scheme the god they follow wants.

    In any case. Even if someone provided some evidence at this point for any sort of god, my reaction would be something along the lines of, “Ok, then lets invite all the other ones over too, or your other split personalities, if there aren’t any, and we can have a nice long chat about how you are not omniscient, omni-benevolent, or omni anything else, and maybe we would be all better off if you went some place else and found some other species for whom to screw everything with inconsistency, contradictory instructions, insane attempts at micromanagement and basic ignorance of what your mucking around with in the first place.” But, at this point, its only a fancy of my imagination to have such a conversation, since the odds of any one, or more, of such things existing at all, is about as close to 0 as you can get without starting to divide by zero.

  155. #155 Steve_C
    February 25, 2008

    I give up. Sinbad is a babbling loon.

  156. #156 Holydust
    February 25, 2008

    Honestly, had someone tried to pass Aquinas’ 5 proofs off on me — even as a fluffy-bunny-Xian child — I would have been a little incredulous. They’re pretty weaksauce.

    I agree with what many are saying about how “coming out” as an athiest is no doubt much harder than telling friends and family about same-sex interests.

    My mom has been born-again at least a million times — a hard drug user by history, runaway at 15, and having lived a really rough life, she’s not in the intellectual crowd. She’s lived a painful and simple life and is beyond the potential for me to try to take God out of her life. I know a lot of people think that no good can come of religion, but I can offer my mom up as an example of how taking it away would quite possibly cause her to give up trying to live.

    Having said this, when I told her I was bisexual as a teenager, she laughed and hugged me and told me she would love me no matter what. There was zero conflict. My father, also Christian, was troubled and angry at first — but his kid is a smart one. I printed out some very tame lesbian porn I’d found in the Internet Explorer cache and pushed it out in front of him — imagine, his sixteen year old only daughter — and calmly said, “Dad, you can’t tell me it’s wrong and then indulge in it yourself. I have strong feelings for this girl — we’re not even in the same state. I think you’re going to have to decide what you really think.”

    My father, rational and kind, put up his hands and agreed that I’d called him on a double-standard. Ever after he calmly wrote it off as a phase but eventually made it clear that he would have loved me regardless (possibly only would have resented me for it if it meant I wouldn’t have a kid someday).

    However, when I tried once to tell my mother that I was not Christian, but Wiccan (I was about 18), she cried. She was afraid that I was going to tell her I was an athiest. I was able to comfort her by telling her that at the time I believed strongly in a similar divine entity, but it just wasn’t God. Her tears only told me that she is desperately clinging to the idea that there will be something after this life which she feels deep guilt every day over squandering. The hope that there’s something after this — a second chance — is likely the only thing that gets her up in the morning. So I would honestly never feel it was beneficial to either of us to try to talk her out of believing in God.

    My father, on the other hand, I’m greatly enjoying having daily ID vs. evolution talks about. He clearly is not worried about the fate of my eternal soul. I think his only concern right now is deciding what he truly believes. If you ask me, though, he’s been agnostic longer than he realizes.

  157. #157 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2008

    Yup. Dennett is Exhibit A. At least Flanagan (The Problem of the Soul) has the grace to concede the obvious.

    one:

    we don’t follow authority figures – that happens only in your universe. On any given day, we can find Hitchens, or Dennet, or Dawkins just as disagreeable as Kennedy or Luskin (OK, maybe that’s pushing it a bit).

    two:

    quotemining and misrepesenting the arguments of people to try and somehow justify the random inanities you spew can and should be ignored, so don’t bother to expect a response. Dennet and Dawkins need not fear you quotemining them, and it does nothing for whatever point you are trying to make, instead it just makes you look like even more of a moron.

    If you somehow even remotely understood what the fuck you were talking about, there might be room for at least SOME kind of discussion.

    but, knowing your past history here, you don’t have the slightest clue what you’re on about, so there is little left but to make fun of your rampant ignorance and inane bait and switch efforts.

    and frankly, it gets boring quick.

  158. #158 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2008

    “You are now free to move about the cabin.”

    LOL

    that’s pretty good as a concise rip.

  159. #159 Sinbad
    February 25, 2008

    indeed, since ‘free’ has no more relevance to the terms stochastic and deterministic than does the word ‘green.’”

    A materialistic universe is one where the only choices are random and deterministic. Free isn’t possible.

    Shorter Calvinist Doctrine of Free Will and Predestination: ‘You are now free to move about the cabin.’”

    Well done.

  160. #160 Neil Peart
    February 25, 2008

    You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
    You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
    I will choose a path that’s clear:
    I will choose free will.

  161. #161 Kyle W.
    February 25, 2008

    In a very related story on “religious conversion” I read on Yahoo! News this morning, I find:

    The single biggest “winner,” in terms of number gained versus number lost, was not a religious group at all, but the “unaffiliated” category. About 16% of those polled defined their religious affiliation that way (including people who regarded themselves as religious, along with atheists and agnostics); only 7% had been brought up that way. That’s an impressive gain, but Lugo points out that churn is everywhere: even the unaffiliated group lost 50% of its original membership to one church or another.

    That’s the first article concerning religion I’ve read to make me smile in… well, 25 years. (I’m 25)

    The full report is available pewforum.org but the site is currently down for some reason.

  162. #162 Rey Fox
    February 25, 2008

    So free will might not exist. The unbreakable illusion of free will, on the other hand, does. That’s enough for me.

  163. #163 Tulse
    February 25, 2008

    A materialistic universe is one where the only choices are random and deterministic. Free isn’t possible.

    How is free possible if a Christian God exists? Does He continually help the individual to violate physical laws? Even if He did, as G points out, omniscience means that there is no freedom even under those conditions.

    Unless you can explain how the existence of God would support free will and creativity, you don’t have an argument against materialism.

  164. #164 Carlie
    February 25, 2008

    I feel kind of stupid that it took me until I was in spitting distance of 30 to deconvert, but I was indoctrinated from birth on, and always wanted to be the good kid who pleased everybody. I was born and bred Southern Baptist. The pastor I first remember was a Mr. Rogers type, kind and soft and fluffybunny, but the message was still very direct and there was to be no deviation from the inerrancy of it all. When I was in junior high we got a more fire’n’brimstone type, but the kind who didn’t hit the fear buttons so much as the guilt if you don’t help convert every one of your friends to Jesus you’re sending them to hell buttons. I was superdevout all through college, and did stuff exclusively with other Baptists. I was most probably entirely insufferable. I did notice that my religious elders were all wrong about the evolution stuff, since I was a biology major, but I compartmentalized that fairly well. When I was in grad school my husband and I had a hard time agreeing on a church we both liked, so we went several years without really going to church much/at all.
    When we moved for my job, we found a church right away in the new town. At first, I loved it. I had missed church, really missed it. It felt like home. It was home. But then, after awhile, I started noticing that I didn’t react the same way to the message anymore. That time away had given me a distance and outsider’s perspective that I hadn’t had before, and during that time I had become a lot more politically and socially liberal, and I noticed that I disagreed with a lot of what was said, and a lot else sounded pretty stupid. I thought the problem might be that pastor, and we had other problems with the church too, so we switched to a different one. At first, I got right back into it, but then I started analyzing the sermons again. Yep, same problems. I started realizing I disagreed more and more with Baptist positions, started reading up on the history of the Bible and how messed up that was, and finally I realized there was really nothing left to believe in. I had a few friends I had grown up with at church who I talked to about it, and they had done the same years before and ended up atheist. It took me a bit longer, but finally one day I realized that every last bit of it made no sense.
    It was a long, slow process, not a single a-ha moment.

  165. #165 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2008

    Unless you can explain how the existence of God would support free will and creativity, you don’t have an argument against materialism.

    he actually realizes this, and his entire argument (if you want to even call it that) is nothing but projection.

    he wants us to prove him wrong, so he can feel like his belief in a deity ISN’T actually a surrender of his own free will.

    all of these morons are best looked at with the idea that they are constantly projecting, if you care to actually try to engage them at all, instead of just laugh at them.

  166. #166 Tony Popple
    February 25, 2008

    I have seen a lot of refrences to Dinosaurs influencing young minds.

    I think PZ should put together a blog post on dinosaur evolution so we can discuss this topic in more detail. A love of Dinosaurs started me down the path to where I am now.

  167. #167 Sastra
    February 25, 2008

    Sinbad is not so much arguing against the usual philosophical categories of determinism, as he’s arguing for what’s called “greedy determinism” — an attempt to reduce all things down to one level, ignore all the other levels, and claim that only this one “counts.” Both Dennett and Flanagan argue eloquently against this sort of “smallism,” so it’s ironic that this is apparently where he’s going.

    Bottom line, he reifies abstractions. “You can’t see ‘creativity’ under your microscope, Mr. Smarty Pants Scientist …” and so forth. Stephen Wells, #130, put it very succinctly:

    And in a materialistic universe, turbulence cannot exist, on logical and philosophical grounds. There is only the motion of water molecules.

    Heh.

    One of the ways I used to reason God as making sense is that I thought that without “Beauty” the flowers and oceans couldn’t look good to me, and I wondered where the “Beauty” was and how it got in if there was no Spiritual Realm in which it exists, to now and then “float though unseen among us, visiting this various world with inconstant wing.” Later on I read poetry, and finally understood the difference between words that are abstract metaphors and symbols for patterns, and words that symbolize concrete, simple things.

    A lot of “sophisticated” sounding arguments still haven’t gotten there. And these arguments are just so much gloss on the far less complex reasoning I did as a child.

  168. #168 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2008

    I have seen a lot of refrences to Dinosaurs influencing young minds.

    All hail the hypno-saur.

  169. #169 James F
    February 25, 2008

    Tony wrote:

    A love of Dinosaurs started me down the path to where I am now.

    I think this is precisely why Ken Ham and company are trying to claim dinosaurs for the creationist cause instead of just denying their existence.

  170. #170 Stephen Wells
    February 25, 2008

    I’m perfectly willing to stipulate that creativity and decision-making are physical process involving a complex interplay of deterministic and stochastic processes, if Sinbad is willing to stipulate that “are entirely physical process involving a complex interplay of deterministic and stochastic processes” is not the same as “do not exist.”

  171. #171 Denis Loubet
    February 25, 2008

    I was raised without religion, and didn’t really give it any thought until I found my 13 year old self looking over a sea of bowed heads at a Boy Scouts jamboree. I looked at all these people praying, feeling way out of place, and thought “These people really believe that stuff!” I was dumbfounded because the idea that anyone gave the god character serious credence had never really occurred to me before. I had thought everyone considered it a cute non-event, just like me, but there were my friends, and even adult troopleaders bowing their heads to an imaginary friend. So I just wore an uncomfortable worried expression until it was over.

    The reason I was uncomfortable was that – even at 13 – I realized this large crowd of people was behaving irrationally. I realized I couldn’t predict what they might do next because what they were already doing was completely arbitrary. I realized I couldn’t trust them like I used to anymore, and that really raised the hairs on my neck.

    The same distrust of unpredictablility keeps me uncomfortable in bars, and large crowds, to this day.

    So I simply avoided religious gatherings, whenever possible, from that point on.

    I also thought I was an agnostic, and only later realized – through discussions on alt.atheism – that I had been an atheist all along due to my misunderstanding of what agnostic meant. Boy was my face red.

    So here I am now, hosting an atheist podcast, and reading atheist sites and literature, and standing behind the realization that belief in god is NOT a non-event, and instead often results in unfortunate real-world consequences.

  172. #172 Stephen Wells
    February 25, 2008

    Gah, s/process/processes/, please.

  173. #173 Sinbad
    February 25, 2008

    I’m perfectly willing to stipulate that creativity and decision-making are physical process involving a complex interplay of deterministic and stochastic processes, if Sinbad is willing to stipulate that ‘are entirely physical process involving a complex interplay of deterministic and stochastic processes’ is not the same as ‘do not exist.’

    Here’s the rub. Compatibilists dress up old-line mechanistic determinism (with some quantum level stochastic processes thrown in for good measure) in a nicer suit and call it freedom (or evolving freedom). That the illusion of volition is deemed somehow a necessary construct to justify (after-the-fact) a priori inevitabilities is not the same as “does exist.”

  174. #174 Carlie
    February 25, 2008

    Heather – you’re not the only one stuck in a situation like that. I finally came “out” to my husband last year, after two years of making sure that atheism wasn’t a phase of some kind. His response was basically to ask me point blank if I really thought he hadn’t noticed. The lack of enthusiasm is hard to hide. Now we’re in the situation of me not pulling out of church entirely, because it would reflect badly on him (in our lovely patriarchal religion), and the kids are a whole other issue. They’re going, but we have a weekly discussion that goes something like “I don’t wanna go to church.” “Me neither, but I’m a helper and Miss D. is counting on me, so we have to.” They can see that I don’t hold it in very high regard, and I’m trying my best to get them to be critical thinkers, and I guess that’s about all I can do. I think it might be better than keeping them out of religion entirely, so that it doesn’t become a forbidden fruit of some type, or make them easy prey for a zealot later on (but I never heard all this wonderful stuff before!).

  175. #175 Kseniya
    February 25, 2008

    All hail the hypno-saur.

    Yes! All Hail!

  176. #176 Peter Mc
    February 25, 2008

    Bride of Shrek: I’m so sorry. Mr Shrek sounds a very good man and (I can translate Geordie to Yorkie – a rare talent needing two kinds of beer) if he meets the offending Monsignor and needs anyone to hold his coat (or lend him a deniable chainsaw), I am at his disposal.

  177. #177 Brownian, OM
    February 25, 2008

    I don’t blame Sinbad for his thread-hijacking. Whether due to the angels dancing atop his mouse buttons or to the mechanistic processes of Brownianian motion, I’m much more interested in the deconversion stories than his Bishop Wilberforce-type gotchas.

    If you think about it at all, you realize that the Christian God’s a dick. Period. End of story. Why worship an impotent prick?

    That’s what did it for me. I was a good little Catholic boy, an altar-server even (for those who participated in my Lithuanian-pride hijacking of the ‘An Historical Meme’ thread, I once served mass for the Archbishop of Lithuania when he came to Edmonton. Despite not knowing a lick of the language, I knew when to ring the bells and bow my head. Who says Catholic ritualism doesn’t serve a purpose?)

    But I couldn’t reconcile the loving God in my head with the one of the Bible. Long before I decided there was no God, I decided the one that everyone seemed to agree existed was an arbitrary piece-of-shit tyrant who was so concerned about our spiritual well-being that he entrusted his most important message of salvation to a bunch of ignorant half-wit priests and missionaries, and I couldn’t wait to stand up to him at the pearly gates, masturbation-addiction-and-all (hey, I was a otherwise normal preteen), and tell Him to fuck Himself because I could out-moral His unethical Ass any day of the week.

    Not entirely willing to give up on theism, I became a pseudo-Catholic apologist. (Of course, the True? God doesn’t hate gays or Hindus. God’s not bad; Organised Religion? is, etc.) I do remember realising at about the age of 19 that I’d pared the unappealing attributes of my God down so much that he wasn’t much more than new-agey version of pantheism. It was then that I thought I should stop calling myself a Catholic or a Christian so as not to misrepresent the views of those people.

    Then I had a existential crisis in an osteology lab for a physical anthropology course. While examining the femur of some sixty-year-old Indian man, it occurred to me that this fella had lived and had had three times the life experience that I had, and yet it all added up to nothing, for now he was just a bone on a table. Then it occurred to me that that was a greater legacy than 99.99% of all life on Earth, since so little of it was fossilised or otherwise left any mark (other than through progeny or waste products such as an atmosphere with free oxygen, etc.) But rather than despairing, I thought it was some substantial hubris to expect anything more. Why should the world revolve around me and my need for meaning? If this is the universe I get, and all the evidence available suggests that it doesn’t give one whit about assuaging my frail ego’s fears, then who am I to demand reality change to suit my whims?

    It took a few more years of half-hearted wishful thinking regarding the claims of Taoism and Buddhism before I finally gave up and said, Fuck it. No God; No Enlightenment; No Tao.

    That’s it. And it’s far better to embrace this reality (or at least what we can discern of it) than any godlings we invented so we can delude ourselves into being the centre of attention.

  178. #178 Rupert Goodwins
    February 25, 2008

    My favourite deconversion story is from a pal who used to be a fundamentalist evangelical. He said that he always had doubts, but the thought of there not being a God was utterly terrifying. “It would be like having the ground fall away from my feet, to be left falling forever”, he said. “But when I did finally take that step, I realised that falling forever was another name for flying.”

  179. #179 Stephen Wells
    February 25, 2008

    Sinbad, there is something that happens in people’s heads, called creativity, in which new ideas turn up.

    Some of those new ideas led to the computer you’re typing on.

    Claims of the nonexistence of creativity ring rather hollow, under these circumstances.

    Creativity may not be what you thought it was, or wish it was, but that is not anyone else’s problem.

  180. #180 MikeM
    February 25, 2008

    When I was in my Senior year at UCSC, some of the students invited me to a Christian multimedia presentation set to a reading of one of the books of the Old Testament. To that point, I had been going to church pretty much every weekend.

    But after that presentation, I said to myself, “Wow, Christians really believe this hogwash?”. I stopped going to church that very weekend.

    That was in 1984. I have never gone back.

    As I’ve said before, I think believing in the supernatural, which describes Christianity to a T, fogs the mind and makes things like studying and striving for good grades even harder. It does not help; it does the opposite.

    Cycling is what really gets me going. I have gone 60 mph on a bicycle. It is really exciting.

    Way more of a rush than praying to supernatural forces.

  181. #181 spaceP
    February 25, 2008

    Sinbad:

    I agree that what we commonly refer to as free will is illusionary, as is our related concept of a subjective “I” in its popular form, but how does immaterialism help? As far as I can tell for the conception of free will that you are talking about (as exercised by a subjective “I”) you require some blob of inherent ‘youness’ that makes decisions and then tugs at various neurons to express them physically.

    So how does this blob of inherent ‘youness’ (or soul) make decisions? Is it by a process of weighing up alternatives by reference to past experience? If so it sounds quite algorithmic, not much like free will as you seem to define it. If there is no process involved then on what basis are decisions made by the soul?

    I can think of no coherent manner in which we can make decisions without a process, if that is true then how can there be free will when, no matter how opaque that process might be, we cannot go outside it? In fact wouldn’t trying to get outside that process be as meaningless as trying to get outside the universe?

    Apologies if this is adding to off topicness (and on my first post too), but it peaked my interest. I wish I had a deconversion story, but I simply have no memory of ever having belief. I seem to be in a minority on this, though I don’t recall any of my friends ever mentioning, or acting like, they were religious. I wonder how many people just never had any faith to begin with and never thought it remarkable?

  182. #182 WRMartin
    February 25, 2008

    Great comments here – time for me to share…
    Grew up in a non-religious household. Neither parent attended church. Paternal grandparents were high-ups in their local Baptist church. When I stayed with those grandparents and it was Sunday morning I was in church with them. Sunday school was a speed contest for the kids who memorized their bibles, nothing more. During service I was handed a pencil and the church program and I doodled a mechanical doodle interweaving between each character. My only goal was to consume as much time as possible until the droning from the front stopped and we could go back home. Nothing about Sundays at church was positive or uplifting or fulfilling – it was drudgery but being the good grandson I remained quiet. Thankfully (memory loss much?) I can’t remember any details about it. Not a one. General memories include being amazed and feeling left out of the bible speed contest and making those doodly loops on the program.
    I was almost 6 years old when my parents and sibling were walking through the airport in San Francisco in the late 1960′s – when air travel was still ‘special’. A krishna youngster pulled me aside and pinned a white carnation on my jacket. I felt dapper, to say the least. I ran to catch back up with my family (child abduction wasn’t all the rage yet) and was positively beaming at the flower on my lapel. My mother tried to explain who they were and that they probably wanted me to give them a ‘donation’ in exchange for the flower. I insisted (and still insist to this day) that, “No. They gave it to me.” Mom said she was even more confident that she would never need to fear me running away to join a religion/cult.
    I remember asking my mother what religion we were after I couldn’t answer a friend when they asked. She said we were Protestant, that’s all. I couldn’t answer the friend’s follow-up questions when they wanted to know what kind of Protestant. I also remember the weirdness of being at Boy Scouts and having to mumble nonsense words (or pretend to) while everyone else spouted the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer also resurfaced when I attended “Youth Fellowship” as a teenager. We lived in a very small community and I ‘joined’ simply to see what my peers were doing. I think I lasted about 3 ‘meetings’ and only 1 other person mentioned to me that they knew I was faking my ‘prayer’. Still couldn’t recite it today and I’m over 40!
    I’ve been to church maybe 10 times as an adult and a majority of those have been when someone was getting married or buried.
    I’ve never been terribly clever with a phrase or very handy with a rhyme or an analogy but the ‘best’ I can come up with for answering those people who practically insist that I’m in the wrong I vainly attempt to explain that I think of religion like I do the game of cricket: I’m not playing your religion game, I don’t know the names of the teams or the players, I don’t follow it, I don’t watch from the stands, I don’t even follow it on TV. How can I be punished for my ‘sins’? I’m not even playing! That one is still undergoing revisions while I stick with my old stand-by: Going to church every Sunday doesn’t make you better than anyone else – it only makes you a bigger hypocrite.

  183. #183 Robert S.
    February 25, 2008

    Interesting tie-in on CNN today:
    http://us.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/02/25/religion.survey.ap/index.html

    As for me, I attended Bob Jones University as a fundamentalist Baptist Christian. By the time I left, they’d hounded the religion out of me. ;)

    Didn’t happen immediately like with Gervais, but I do remember having an instant epiphany that if there were a God, he was not an interventionist God (nor omnipotent) and that prayer was essentially an exercise in futility (which I’ve since learned can be scientifically demonstrated). From there, everything unfurled over time.

  184. #184 Sinbad
    February 25, 2008

    Sinbad, there is something that happens in people’s heads, called creativity, in which new ideas turn up.

    Indeed there is. But if what we call creativity is actually inevitable (cause and effect being relentless), then it deserves a new name. We operate 24/7 as if our “mind’s eye” is essentially accurate (and doesn’t evolution suggest that we should?) — that we make choices, create ideas and strategies, improvise and that we are responsible and accountable for them. Those who believe that these essentially and utterly human sense-experiences are illusions (of grandeur), as materialism demands, ought to have the intellectual honesty to admit as much and give up the pablum of alleged freedom and responsibility.

  185. #185 Sastra
    February 25, 2008

    Sinbad #182 wrote:

    But if what we call creativity is actually inevitable (cause and effect being relentless), then it deserves a new name.

    There is “inevitable no matter what we deliberately choose to do” and “inevitable because of what we deliberately choose to do.” Funny how those two very different cases both use the same word. People could get them mixed up.

  186. #186 Holbach
    February 25, 2008

    My sloughing off of all religious nonsense came about in
    mainly two ways. The first was the obvious physical
    observation that nothing happened when I did not engage
    in religious rituals, such as still being able to brush my
    teeth, start my car, and do so many other things that was
    either proscribed by religion or else having a sense of
    being punished if I followed my natural bent. And the
    awakening that lightning struck and burned those freaking
    houses of nonsense right down to the ground, that the slime
    priests were actually molesting children and getting away
    with it and not being punished by this imaginary god, that
    babies were born deformed and many died with the insane
    pox of original sin on them, that people were still being
    slaughtered for religious means, and that no matter how
    hard they professed their religious nonsense, they still
    prevailed themselves of the logic of science especially
    when it came to choosing the wonders of medicine rather
    than the insanity of crazy prayers. There are so many more
    examples of how insane religion can finally influence a
    rational person’s behavior and thought to act and think
    sanely without that moronic vice that holds less saner
    people in its grip. The other influence is gained through
    reading books and articles on various rational thought
    provided by the great science literature. Many great and
    apt quotations are gleaned from this reading such as those
    espoused by Holbach, H L Mencken, Isaacc Asimov, Ingersoll,
    Joseph Lewis, and so many that we have come to know and
    quote. My rejecting of religion is absolute and I never
    will consider it to be of any use or of the least iota of
    influence in my life, considering it to be a systematic
    evil in all that it touches and to hold in extreme contempt
    those minds that perpetuate this horrible nonsense.

  187. #187 Denis Loubet
    February 25, 2008

    Wells #177 wrote “Sinbad, there is something that happens in people’s heads, called creativity, in which new ideas turn up.”

    Can you actually show that these are new ideas, and not just retreads or synthesis of old ideas? Can you establish that they are not ultimately based on brute observation and mechanical extrapolation? Can you demonstrate that they appear ex-nihilo via magic?

    The only thing that can create a new idea is actually observing something new. This means the mind is not the author of the new idea, the new thing is.

    What the mind can do is take old ideas and observations and combine them, mix them, and make extrapolations, resulting in movies like Titanic.

    This is what we call creativity. :-(

  188. #188 Pierce R. Butler
    February 25, 2008

    PZ Myers: …this thread is a testimonial to the fact that there is a pent-up desire to share deconversion narratives…

    Hallelujah, brother!

    What the hell kind of a revival service has all these “I don’t have much of a story” wimp-outs? Let’s hear some shout-outs!

    Don’t you damn atheist Yankees know how you’re supposed to run a testimonial service? Neither a hymn nor a plate-passing, the reverend’s let his mike get cold, and no new (un)believers have stepped forward to repent impure thoughts or other sins!

    Only one use of plural exclamation points, and that merely a double!!!

    For the record: at a single-digit age, had questions a Sunday school teacher couldn’t answser about Noah’s flood, and never looked back. Have been baptised as Episcopalian, Mormon, one school of Buddhism (whose name will come to me after clicking Post), and Roman Catholic (if you count a self-administered rite with allegedly holy water in St. Peter’s); also exposed to numerous but uncounted blessings & prayers, and the writings of Alan Watts, Lenny Bruce, & Carlos Castenada. Survivor of at least one ritual cursing, two street exorcisms, and chronic blasphemies. Multiple impure thoughts.

  189. #189 Craig
    February 25, 2008

    Hi there Sinbad. I’m an atheist. And an artist. And a composer. I must be doing these things without a creative imagination.

  190. #190 Farb
    February 25, 2008

    You won’t like this. I never de-converted.

    But . . .

    I was raised freakishly right-wing, Mom’s family being ostracized for Grandpa being a (public) drunk and Mom a Methodist (even worse), was physically abused by Dad’s aunt during Sunday School, faked being “born again” out of peer pressure, and was forced to read a ream of tracts after asking pastor about evolution (I’ve known the Paluxy footprint scam for over four decades now).

    So . . .

    I’m positively amazed all that accumlated pseudo-religious crap didn’t de-convert me then and there.

    Yet . . .

    When I switched to liberal Episcopalianism over thirty years ago, I was abandoned for spiritually lost by Dad’s relatives. Even Mom had drunk deep from the grape Fla-Vo-Ade bucket laced with D-Con by then, tearfully saying that the Book of Common Prayer “sounded just like Christianity” (?!?)

    Still . . .

    When I married an Italian Catholic, my side drank far more heavily than her side! What is it they say? Two will save your soul; one will drink you under the table?

    And . . .

    I’m practically the only Episcopalian in the entire Anglican Communion who’s been essentially excommunicated, for catching a priest with his hand in the cookie jar ten years ago. He eventually left. I returned, even more liberal than before.

    I never de-converted. But I’ve been de-converted by others more than once.

    Sometimes I find better Christians among the ranks of atheists, especially here.

    Said you wouldn’t like it. But there you go.

  191. #191 Zarquon
    February 25, 2008

    Craig, Sinbad thinks those things exist for atheists but they work by magic.

  192. #192 Kyle W.
    February 25, 2008

    Stumbled across an interesting tidbit just a little while ago:
    My baptism at age 7 (click my name for a crappy scan). That would’ve been around June of 1990. 8 or so of my friends had gotten “saved” a few weeks beforehand and I was drafted into their group via peer pressure… ain’t it a bitch?

  193. #193 Farb
    February 25, 2008

    It really is.

  194. #194 Craig
    February 25, 2008

    “Not the loving god my mother prayed to, or the gay-hating god the Lutheran minister loved so much, certainly not the create-your-own pantheon of my Wiccan friends. It was just sky and clouds. And it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.”

    Wow. That’s just… beautiful.

  195. #195 CJO
    February 25, 2008

    I got confirmed as an Episcopalian. The priest of the church held the classes, and he was very open-minded and really seemed to enjoy answering my questions. Of course the “answers” weren’t, really, but at the age of, what, eleven, I remember being impressed at his willingness to engage with me as an equal. At one point before the actual confirmation ceremony, you were supposed to have a one-on-one with the priest. (This is Episcopal, people. He was married.) Anyway, he basically said, you don’t believe this, do you? And I said, no, I really don’t, but my mom wants me to get confirmed, yadda yadda. I was sure that nascent atheism was going to mean he wouldn’t confirm me, but he didn’t care at all. He told me that he had had many crises of faith when he was a young man, and that he was proud of me for not just swallowing the story whole. Then he went on, of course, with platitudes about how God would find me, and that unexamined faith is weak and such. It wasn’t really a deconversion, since I never believed, but I’ll always remember my atheism was endorsed by an ordained priest. God hasn’t called.

  196. #196 Carlie
    February 25, 2008

    Kyle – But the real question is, was the water heated? The heater in the baptistry at my family’s church regularly conks out, so even though it’s indoors people often come up gasping for air after the shock. Especially in winter.

  197. #197 Craig
    February 25, 2008

    “Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals, when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing?”

    Sounds good to me. Anger is an emotional reaction and it’s understandable, but not particularly logical or productive.

    I have no problem with treating criminals as “malfunctioning units.” Take the revenge factor out, and treat crime and criminals as a problem to be corrected or managed if not correctable, and then we might actually have a justice system that was worthy of the use of the word justice.

    (No, justice does NOT mean payback, revenge or anything like that or even necessarily punishment – we’ve just distorted it into that.)

  198. #198 Craig
    February 25, 2008

    You know, these stories WOULD make a great book. Seriously.

    Anyone know a publisher? Gather up a hundred or so stories like this from volunteers, get it published with a catchy title, and get it placed prominently on the religion shelves in all the Barnes and Nobles.

    Not in the religion section as if atheism is a religion… just there as an antidote.

  199. #199 YetAnotherKevin
    February 25, 2008

    I was raised in a very conservative, insular fundamentalist sect. I bought into the whole story hook, line and sinker. (I think I’m more susceptible to authority than many of those here.) When things didn’t make sense, I figured the problem was with me. The fact that my prayers didn’t make my parents get along any better didn’t shake my faith. Reading the Bible from cover to cover didn’t shake my faith. What little I knew of biology, geology, and cosmology didn’t shake my faith.

    The first thing that really shook my faith was finding sincere, devout Christians from another sect. They were just as into it as I was, but they had a whole different interpretation of scriptures than the one I had been brought up with. I started to think about _why_ I believed what I did, and that was the beginning of the end. I realized how much of what I believed was cultural. Somehow I was able to look at my beliefs from the outside, so to speak, and realized how flimsy the whole structure was. I stuck with it for a while out of momentum and conflict avoidance. The whole process went on for a year or two. But I do remember one moment, as described by others above, when the lyrics to ‘Imagine’ were going through my head, and I looked up at the sky – the sky with no heaven behind it – and took a deep, free breath.

    Now I can’t even really remember _how_ I believed the things I did. I don’t know how to respond to some of the things my family and friends say. I don’t know how to speak fundapocalypticist any more.

    Thanks to those above for sharing.

  200. #200 Gavin
    February 25, 2008

    Pierce @ 186

    Testimony? What’s that? Catholics don’t do those things. ;)

    Very Catholic, I was. And I do mean Very. Coming out of it, I feel damaged, psychologically, emotionally, and I wonder if I’ll ever feel okay again (in the midst of this; it is still all too close). In the beginning, there wasn’t a choice. In the middle, the world was falling down around my ears, so I held on. In the end, I don’t see how it could have been different. That doesn’t erase the regret of all those wasted years. That’s all I’m comfortable saying.

  201. #201 Dave Eaton
    February 25, 2008

    I was raised in a mish-mash of calvinism and catholicism, the common point of contact being the instilling of fear. I didn’t fully de-convert until my 30s, though I was functionally apathetic agnostic for many years- ironically, roman catholic seminary, which included quite good exposure to philosophy, was the real coffin nail in any faith. As a child, I believed because I was scared into it. As a young adult, I yearned to have some transcendent, romantic meaning to my life- a lust for heroic journey, I guess.

    The grit in the works was that my dad exposed me to science as a youngster. I think he stayed somewhat religious out of a sense of duty, but if you tried to pin him down, his beliefs were quite fluffy and non-committal. So I pursued science, even to the point of majoring in physics while in seminary. Ultimately, religious conviction just faded away, replaced by ethics and rationality.

    I had friends in grad school who continued to go to Mass or church regularly, good scientists who for whatever reason chose not to lift the hood on their traditions. I just stopped seeing any point in participating in religious ritual, even before I totally threw off belief. I couldn’t believe I needed to placate a deity, and that if, in fact, I did need to placate a deity, that going to church would do it.

    I’m not an ‘in your face’ atheist at all. My upbringing (not the religion so much as the southern mores) makes it very difficult to swear at people or to call them names no matter how thick-skulled I think they are. I find some parts of the atheist community, such as it is, very grating at times because of the lack of grace, and the willingness to use terms like ‘idiot’ and far worse (e.g. ‘fuckwit’, which when analyzed, probably has deeply misogynistic roots…). I am not willing to concede points of fact, nor dance around a point because someone’s religion might be called into question, but I can get it said plainly without being impolite. YMMV.

  202. #202 WhattheH
    February 25, 2008

    This thread has been a treat. It’s so bracing to read so many stories that in some way mirror one’s own experience. I’m more of the “never really believed” however I was baptised (I screamed the whole time – yes I remember, cause my baptism was delayed), I attended Sunday school (Mom insisted, Dad was never inside a church) but I steadfastly refused to be confirmed in the church at age 11. I did get married in the church, to please my Mom, who got more religious as she aged, however that ended in divorce for many reasons.
    I had two children out of wedlock “gasp” who I raised alone without support, because I wanted to have children – I made a good income so why not (and my track record on relationships was dismal)? At ages 4 and 6, I introduced my kids to church, so they would have a choice. They were baptised and went to Sunday school, and I was there every step of the way. Two years later, they told me they were not interested in attending anymore, so we stopped going. To this day, they are not interested in any kind of religious activity. They know I am an atheist and that some of their friends are religious. It doesn’t register as anything important. Some of their friends have piercings and others don’t but they love them just the same. I wish the religious zealots felt the same. Anyway, thanks to all for the wonderful rememberances.

  203. #203 Kseniya
    February 26, 2008

    (e.g. ‘fuckwit’, which when analyzed, probably has deeply misogynistic roots…).

    Misanthropic, perhaps, but misogynist? How? It’s just “nitwit” on steroids.

    That said, I certainly respect your sensibilities, Dave.

  204. #204 shane
    February 26, 2008

    My mother, god-fearing catholic, did a theology degree a couple of years ago and one of the lecturers was nun who dabbled in cosmology. My mother came to me and said she now understood why I couldn’t believe. Her god was too small for my universe. She still believes of course.

  205. #205 Dave Eaton
    February 26, 2008

    Misanthropic, perhaps, but misogynist? How? It’s just “nitwit” on steroids.

    The thought sort of blebbed up into my consciousness on reading one of Ed Brayton’s posts- he called some preacher a ‘pussy’, and commenters took issue with the misogynistic aspect of that particular name. Someone mentioned that ‘dick’ is similarly misogynistic, as it implies that being in the position of being penetrated is servile and demeaning (or something). So it made me think about how the thousands of disparaging usages of ‘fuck’ likely derive their sting from a somewhat misogynistic stance.

    Not that I think that people intend it thus, and I frankly think over-analysis of words can be paralyzing. Ed mentioned worrying about using ‘pussy’, though in context, it was pretty much on target.

    Besides, if Ed had said, “That fellow certainly lacks the masculine virtues he so desperately hopes to embody, even to the point that I am going to bait him with the obvious counter-claim that he is very much not masculine”, not only would it lack rhetorical punch, someone would be pissed that he used ‘masculine’ and ‘virtue’ without ‘scare quotes’… fault-finding can go on without end when you parse what others say. No one should be given carte blanch to be offensive, but at the same time, I think it makes sense to not be so sensitive as to forget who it is that is speaking, and why they would use such language, and in the process miss the point being made.

    With all that, I can’t see myself referring to anyone as a pussy, either. It’s likely more an aesthetic than principled stand, honestly.

  206. #206 shane
    February 26, 2008

    My story seems to be the typical Australian catholic de-conversion. First communion, about 7 I suppose, you’re all gung-ho and loving the whole god thing and by the time of your confirmation, 12ish it’s all gone. No instant of awareness that you don’t believe any more, you just don’t. It all seemed kind of silly really. Being in catholic school isn’t difficult either because by the late 70s even religion class had devolved to history of Catholicism and comparative religion thing. I recall getting an “A” in religion class when I was about 15 but getting a comment that I “tended to be quite negative” on the report card.

    When I was about 13 or 14 the nuns at my school organised some charismatics to visit the class. It was my first experience with this kind of hard-core speaking-in-tongues lunacy. The charismatic would put his hand on your head and fill you with the holy spirit. Of course you were supposed to fall over overcome with the spirit. All I could feel was this dude holding me in the small of the back and pushing on my forehead, hard. I resisted, pushed back, and he said a few words and moved on to another of my classmates. He’d freak if he saw an astrological necklace saying it was evil and interfered with holy spirit entering. Later on my friends who been overcome with the spirit admitted that they dropped to the floor to fit in or not get the nuns offside. Others said they also had star sign necklaces but the dude hadn’t noticed the holy spirit hesitating to enter these souls when he couldn’t see the necklace.

    My parents were of the if you live in our house you live by our rules mindset so I still had to drag myself off to church with them. After a while I figured that if I went to church by myself to another session I could just pretend I’d gone and go and play pinball for an hour or so instead. I’d swing by the church and find out which priest was on though just in case my parents asked. By the time I was 17 my parents gave up trying to get me to go – I think they’d figured out I wasn’t going.

    My mother thought it was faze (the whole unbelief thing) I was going through and into my late 20′s I think she still had hopes I’d go to the seminary.

    In all my school years I can only recall 2 of my friends becoming “christian”. The rest of us thought they were loopy. One of them was a close friend and it made me sad – he was brilliant and I thought it was the waste of an intellect.

  207. #207 Kseniya
    February 26, 2008

    Ah. I see what you mean, Dave. Well, being penetrated against ones will is certainly a violation; it’s demeaning; it’s a crime, but even rape isn’t inherently or exclusively misogynistic, for its victims are not always women. It’s about the use and abuse power. All the macho “fuck you” stuff has less to do with male-female sexual dynamics (even allowing for the dominant and submissive roles that emerge within them) than it does with male-on-male pseudosexual and hierarchical social dynamics.

    The males of some non-human species practice pseudosex to establish hierarchy and to defuse confrontational situations. I’d say human males do it, too, though less overtly; that this has some implications regarding male-female dynamics doesn’t necessarily make it misogynistic. I’m not uncomfortable, speaking as a female of this species, in recognizing that there’s a natural tendency for dominant and submissive roles to emerge (usually consensually) in any sexual encounter, and that the dominant role in a heterosexual encounter* is more often (though by no means always) taken by the male.

    Either way, whoever’s doing the fucking (be it figurative or otherwise) is the one in charge – or, far more to the point, whoever’s stating “[I] Fuck You,” is claiming to be. It’s bluster, not rape, and the object of the claim – especially here on the innertoobz – rarely submits anyway. ;-)

    Other opinions, most of which will be more informed than my own, may differ.
    _______________________________

    * Note that I did not write “an heterosexual encounter.” Thank you. :-)

  208. #208 shane
    February 26, 2008

    Speaking of loopy nuns and brothers I remember being told by a nun, when I was about 7 or 8, that the communists were coming and that we, meaning the nuns and all of us good catholic boys and girls, would be the first put up against the wall.

    This was the early seventies and I think we, Australia, were extricating ourselves from the quagmire of Vietnam where the godless commies looked like they were going to win.

  209. #209 bernarda
    February 26, 2008

    I now remember Julia Sweeney’s deconversion story. You can find it here on youtube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtIyx687ytk

  210. #210 Gilmore
    February 26, 2008

    The priest class – sycophantic blood-suckers. Why would any sane person listen to anyone like a priest, pastor, rabbi or imam, or witch that has it in their own best interest to continue the charade? D’OH! They live off the blood sweat and contributions of others. If you don’t believe, they have to get real jobs.

    Please understand that I say this as an atheist:

    It’s much harder to have this argument work for you if your father was himself a fundamentalist minister — who also worked his ass off 7 days a week building a church, doing funerals and weddings, counselling married couples, visiting the sick and dying (believers or not), writing sermons, arbitrating squabbling church board members, directing the choir, etc. If that wasn’t a job I’d hate to see how busy a real job would have kept him. And if he was a bloodsucker he wasn’t very good at it; we lived on government cheese and powdered milk and wore hand-me-downs.

    On the other hand, he really did teach and preach that if you didn’t accept a real actual Jesus into your real actual soul, you were going to a real actual Hell. Eventually I realized he was just wrong about all that. But I’m pretty sure he was sincerely wrong.

  211. #211 Hipparchia
    February 26, 2008

    Well, my dad taught me Greek mythology before he told me about Christianity. Thanks, dad.

    My mom then decided to baptize my brother and me as Orthodox Christians, so I am, technically, one. This allowed me to get married in a church to placate the aunties and grannies in the family. It was fun, the priests were drunk and reeking of alcohol.

    Then I passed through the wicca stage, met with some violent woo that was so absurd it made me explore more…some months and thinking later, and here I am a rational lady and an atheist.

    My only holy book is Moby-Dick.

  212. #212 Chris O'Neill
    February 26, 2008

    LisaJ:

    Probably the greatest thing that held my back from really deciding that I no longer believed in god was the feeling that a belief in god gave life purpose.

    People who make this argument don’t seem to realize that wanting life to have “purpose” (or “meaning” or any other thing they would like) does not amount to proof that God exists. It might be nice if God existed to give your life “purpose” but if it didn’t, well, tough.

  213. #213 Sinbad
    February 26, 2008

    #179: “I agree that what we commonly refer to as free will is illusionary, as is our related concept of a subjective “I” in its popular form, but how does immaterialism help? As far as I can tell for the conception of free will that you are talking about (as exercised by a subjective “I”) you require some blob of inherent ‘youness’ that makes decisions and then tugs at various neurons to express them physically.

    This is a decent point and where I am most concerned about my conclusions.

    I can think of no coherent manner in which we can make decisions without a process, if that is true then how can there be free will when, no matter how opaque that process might be, we cannot go outside it?

    I see two alternatives. One is to rely on abstract notions (e.g., “no magical thinking”) while permitting no evidence to contradict them. The other is to get beyong personal credulity (“how can there be…”) based upon the evidence. I think the evidence of personal experience and introspection together with experimental data (e.g., Schwartz, The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, which shows how immaterial thought alone alters physical brain states in OCD patients) points toward my view of things. But I concede that the evidence isn’t conclusive and that I could be wrong.

    #185: “Can you actually show that these are new ideas, and not just retreads or synthesis of old ideas?

    This is an interesting point too, but the truly great thinkers with truly great ideas (e.g., Newton, Bach, Joyce, Darwin) were so utterly “outside the box” that I think their ideas were truly new, though not uninfluenced. It too is an arguable point however.

    The only thing that can create a new idea is actually observing something new. This means the mind is not the author of the new idea, the new thing is.

    What do you think (for example) Bach and Einstein observed that gave them the basis for changing the world (since in your view they didn’t create anything)?

    Hi there Sinbad. I’m an atheist. And an artist. And a composer. I must be doing these things without a creative imagination.

    The smell of straw is overwhelming.

  214. #214 christiantheatheist
    February 26, 2008

    Wow. I bet you I could write my deconversion story using only quotes from previous deconversion stories. The pastor giving you license to be an atheist is particularly accurate.

    I was unexposed to religion until a funeral when I was just shy of four. Even that was too late; I asked what the ‘t’ at the front of the church was (My mother had, to her eventual chagrin, taught me to read before teaching me anything about God or religion). So I went because family wanted me to go, not because I really believed. God and Santa were firmly in the same category for me.

  215. #215 Kseniya
    February 26, 2008

    This is a decent point and where I am most concerned about my conclusions.

    A statement like this is why I’d never slap Sinbad with the lazy catch-all “troll” label.

    which shows how immaterial thought alone alters physical brain states in OCD patients

    But they are not “immaterial” in the sense that you intend! They are interpretations of biochemical processes! You persist in confusing the abstract with the ethereal! They ARE brain-states!

  216. #216 Kyle W.
    February 26, 2008

    Gilmore said:

    Please understand that I say this as an atheist:
    It’s much harder to have this argument work for you if your father was himself a fundamentalist minister — who also worked his ass off 7 days a week building a church, doing funerals and weddings, counselling married couples, visiting the sick and dying (believers or not), writing sermons, arbitrating squabbling church board members, directing the choir, etc. If that wasn’t a job I’d hate to see how busy a real job would have kept him. And if he was a bloodsucker he wasn’t very good at it; we lived on government cheese and powdered milk and wore hand-me-downs.
    On the other hand, he really did teach and preach that if you didn’t accept a real actual Jesus into your real actual soul, you were going to a real actual Hell. Eventually I realized he was just wrong about all that. But I’m pretty sure he was sincerely wrong.

    Amen. I, also a non-believer, spent the ages of 8 to 13 in a church where the pastor was a (and perhaps the only) sincere believer. He was on call to members and non-members alike 24 hours a day, and spent most of his time out visiting the sick and dying — particularly those in nursing homes that had no family to visit, organizing benefits for individuals suffering from cancer or other diseases and couldn’t afford medical care, and basically spent all his waking hours away from his family, tirelessly helping others. He didn’t just go beat these people over the head with his bible, either — he displayed a genuine concern for those around him. His job was beyond a ‘full-time’ job, more like an ‘all-the-time’ job and his family suffered for it. The church brought in huge offerings at every service and although most of that was spent on building bigger and better church facilities, the board of deacons (of whom my father was a member) attempted to give him a raise from the $25,000 he was being paid to $40,000 but he refused it year after year. In fact, on the 5th anniversary of his ministry, they bought a new Ford truck and brought it to his house. He thanked them, then kindly asked them to return it — he was content with his mid-80′s Nissan. He wasn’t in it for the money, and he certainly wasn’t in it to propagate religion for the sake of control. When I stopped going to church at age 13, he would come by weekly just to see how I was doing. He never pressured religion on me during those visits, he was simply visiting like an old friend. He’s a good man, and I do still occasionally speak with him.

    That being said, all those positive things could’ve be done from a secular standpoint that didn’t require him to teach children that their friends would go to the “very real place” called hell and be “tortured for eternity.”

    My point in this post is simply to point out that not everything about the church is bad — mainly just the ‘god’ parts. Of course, if you subtract those, you don’t have much of a ‘church’ left.

  217. #217 Dave Eaton
    February 26, 2008

    Chris O’Neill-

    I don’t think LisaJ was offering this as an argument or proof, but rather as a description of her mental state. It’s kind of an internal ‘argument from adverse consequences’, and I have seen full-throated secularists indulge in the same kind of thing. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of watching a friend’s marriage fall to pieces, you have likely seen people believing all sorts of crazy stuff in the face of obvious evidence to the contrary. Some of deconversion is like this. Sometime, you just can’t believe that the person you loved so deeply didn’t love you back (or exist…)

    I admire the candor of a lot of the people here, and have enjoyed the deconversion stories. Some have had a hard time, and I understand this. Some, I suspect, are indulging in a little more-atheist-than-thou bravado, which I don’t begrudge, but frankly, the fact that you looked into your cereal bowl at 4 years old and realized that there is no god is not generally useful to the majority of people who did grow up fairly steeped in religion. Freedom from all the nonsense is more elusive than that for a lot of us, and the fact that it was come by through such struggle makes it more precious to me. Tough talk about how you never needed it is not so impressive. You grew up lucky.

    Neither is this “Buck up, suck up, and shut the fuck up!” sort of attitude. People have deep emotional currents in them binding them to religion. It is my sincere belief that they would generally be better off without the hocus-pocus, but it’s going to require help for some people to climb down. If you don’t want to help, fine. But don’t keep barking around the base of the tree, and then lament the fact that the cat won’t come down.

  218. #218 spaceP
    February 26, 2008

    Sinbad:

    “I see two alternatives. One is to rely on abstract notions (e.g., “no magical thinking”) while permitting no evidence to contradict them.”

    Well it could just be that the universe is incoherent to us, but if that is the case then all arguments about reality are pointless. Certainly the concept of a soul would be as meaningless as the concept of brain states equating to mental states. The truth would be something that could never make sense (at some level of analysis) in an incoherent universe.

    “The other is to get beyong personal credulity (“how can there be…”) based upon the evidence. I think the evidence of personal experience and introspection together with experimental data (e.g., Schwartz, The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, which shows how immaterial thought alone alters physical brain states in OCD patients) points toward my view of things. But I concede that the evidence isn’t conclusive and that I could be wrong”

    Surely personal experience would be the same whether we had free will or just the illusion of free will?

    I’m not familiar with the book you mention, how was immaterial thought shown to be active as opposed to brain activity? This would be a very interesting result.

  219. #219 Sinbad
    February 26, 2008

    A statement like this is why I’d never slap Sinbad with the lazy catch-all ‘troll’ label.

    Thank you. Of course, I’ve been called much worse by much better than here (so to speak). A law school professor (much later Clinton’s Solicitor General) enjoyed calling on me (regularly) when he needed a contrarian opinion….

    But they are not ‘immaterial’ in the sense that you intend! They are interpretations of biochemical processes! You persist in confusing the abstract with the ethereal!

    I could be but I don’t think so. As I read it, OCD patients who concentrate really hard can in fact change their brains and help their condition. That isn’t just an “interpretation of biochemical processes” I don’t think, though I may be misunderstanding you.

  220. #220 Sinbad
    February 26, 2008

    Well it could just be that the universe is incoherent to us, but if that is the case then all arguments about reality are pointless. Certainly the concept of a soul would be as meaningless as the concept of brain states equating to mental states. The truth would be something that could never make sense (at some level of analysis) in an incoherent universe.

    That’s true, but a YEC could say much the same thing. Indeed, for those (like Flanagan) who essentially concede that our experience of volition is wrong 24/7, I ask how science (utterly dependent upon our sense experiences for observational data) can be deemed remotely coherent.

    Surely personal experience would be the same whether we had free will or just the illusion of free will?

    The experience would be the same (I assume), but evolution suggests (at a minimum) that our sense experiences and impressions, while not infallible, are generally reliable.

  221. #221 Tulse
    February 26, 2008

    Those who believe that these essentially and utterly human sense-experiences are illusions (of grandeur), as materialism demands, ought to have the intellectual honesty to admit as much and give up the pablum of alleged freedom and responsibility.

    Unless you can show how any immaterial account will give you these things, you’re in the same boat as well, pal. As has been pointed out several times already, God won’t get you freedom.

  222. #222 christiantheatheist
    February 26, 2008

    Oh, and a sincere second (or third, or however many it is on) on the “Pastors work their ass off” comments. My mother is a secretary for a large mainline church, and the only two who put in longer hours than she does are the pastors.

    I’m sure there are still sinecure pastoral positions out there, but not in my observation.

  223. #223 Randy
    February 26, 2008

    “I feel a little inferior because he made up his mind about it very quickly, while it took me years to ease my way out of the nonsense.”

    That’s inspiring to read, PZ. I’m a relative newcomer to Pharyngula, and just assumed you’ve always been a godless liberal. I make the liberal target easily, but have been weening myself off the theism teat for years. I just haven’t been able to completely shrug off the old beliefs, even when I think about them critically and clearly see how non-nonsensical they are. Seeing that it took you a while gives me hope that I can clear my mind eventually, even if it takes me longer.

  224. #224 Sinbad
    February 26, 2008

    Unless you can show how any immaterial account will give you these things, you’re in the same boat as well, pal.

    Not exactly.

    Materialism precludes freedom philosophically and logically — cause and effect are relentless in a closed system. You’re correct that an immaterial account (to this point) can’t show how we get freedom. However, (a) the evidence suggests we do indeed have it, and (b) as the Behe example shows, whining that one can’t see how something happens when the evidence suggests it has happened is a loser’s bet.

  225. #225 spaceP
    February 26, 2008

    Sinbad:

    “That’s true, but a YEC could say much the same thing.”

    I would say that YEC is coherent, or some version of it could be made to coherent, as long as you disregard the empirical data. My main point was that if the universe is incoherent then a statement like “nothing is false” would be a true statement and a false statement at the same time. No form of enquiry would be meaningful.

    “Indeed, for those (like Flanagan) who essentially concede that our experience of volition is wrong 24/7, I ask how science (utterly dependent upon our sense experiences for observational data) can be deemed remotely coherent.

    “Surely personal experience would be the same whether we had free will or just the illusion of free will?”

    The experience would be the same (I assume), but evolution suggests (at a minimum) that our sense experiences and impressions, while not infallible, are generally reliable.”

    We depend on our sense data to do science, but I don’t see how we require libertarian free will for the scientific method to work. Activities such as abstracting patterns of behaviour from observed data can be done without free will in the common usage of the term. It is true that science also requires creative thinking, but couldn’t creativity be something like colliding metaphors together and trying to match the result with what is observed? I don’t say that this is necessarily what happens, just that I think it is possible to account for creativity without free will.

    I think our sense experiences only have to roughly correspond with reality for the most part in most circumstances and then only with the small part of the sensory landscape we can perceive. The way we think of our internal states can be anything as long as it leads to reproduction. It might be that instinctive dualism is useful without being true. Or it may be a by-product of our level of self-awareness. Either way I don’t think personal experience of subjectivity is a reliable guide to reality in the same way our senses are.

  226. #226 Jaycubed
    February 26, 2008

    What I found far more interesting than Ricky’s awakening story is his assertion concerning the ratios of christians/atheists in prison/society. Such a claim about such a statistically significant relationship requires some backing data.

    Here it is (thanks to Adviser Moppet @ gods4suckers.net for reference):

    http://www.holysmoke.org/icr-pri.htm

  227. #227 Tulse
    February 26, 2008

    Materialism precludes freedom philosophically and logically — cause and effect are relentless in a closed system. You’re correct that an immaterial account (to this point) can’t show how we get freedom.

    No, you missed the point — immaterial accounts have exactly the same problem. If the universe is created by an immaterial, omniscient, omnipotent god, then there simply is no logical possibility of freedom.

  228. #228 Sinbad
    February 26, 2008

    #223: “I would say that YEC is coherent, or some version of it could be made to coherent, as long as you disregard the empirical data.

    Yup. I object on theological grounds too. A YEC makes God out to be charlatan (to borrow Ken Miller’s phrase).

    My main point was that if the universe is incoherent then a statement like “nothing is false” would be a true statement and a false statement at the same time. No form of enquiry would be meaningful.

    If you’re sufficiently interested in this area of inquiry, you might pick up George Johnson’s Fire in the Mind.

    We depend on our sense data to do science, but I don’t see how we require libertarian free will for the scientific method to work.

    That’s not the connection I’m making. Our sense data says “Free will!” Very loudly in fact. If our sense data is utterly wrong on this point (as I think materialism demands), then science itself is suspect (incoherent even) because it is completely dependent upon sense data for observational input.

    The way we think of our internal states can be anything as long as it leads to reproduction.

    True enough, but operating under false assumptions causes its own set of (very big) problems, suggesting that evolution itself supports the idea of the reliability of our senses, at least generally.

    Either way I don’t think personal experience of subjectivity is a reliable guide to reality in the same way our senses are.

    You may be right, but I am continually struck but the fact that those things which we see as dintinguishing us as most human — intention, purpose, meaning, will, responsibility, and so on — are more and more deemed impossible by science. There’s a major disconnect there somewhere, whichever starting assumptions one accepts.

    #225: “No, you missed the point….

    Don’t be so sure.

    …immaterial accounts have exactly the same problem.

    Many do, but not all.

    If the universe is created by an immaterial, omniscient, omnipotent god, then there simply is no logical possibility of freedom.

    As traditionally rendered, yes. But religious people can also adjust what they think and believe based upon evidence. Proponents of concepts like Open Theism try to meet this problem head on.

  229. #229 spaceP
    February 26, 2008

    Sinbad:

    “That’s not the connection I’m making. Our sense data says “Free will!” Very loudly in fact. If our sense data is utterly wrong on this point (as I think materialism demands), then science itself is suspect (incoherent even) because it is completely dependent upon sense data for observational input.”

    Is it really our sense data that tells us we have free will? It seems more like an assumption, a feeling that we choose what we do unencumbered by a physical process. I wonder what would it feel like to not have free will? Could we even tell?

    “True enough, but operating under false assumptions causes its own set of (very big) problems, suggesting that evolution itself supports the idea of the reliability of our senses, at least generally.”

    False assumptions about the exterior objective world would be likely be maladaptive, I don’t think false assumptions about our interior states would be so visible to selection.

    We feel that our thinking is, mostly, unconstrained. But maybe that is because as one brain state causes the next we cannot be in yet another brain state that corresponds to a concious observation of this process.

    Imagine you are on a train, but you don’t know what a train is. From the outside it is easy to see the rails, but if you could never ever be outside of that train, indeed had no concept of the outside of that train, isn’t it possible you would imagine the train was choosing never to hit the cliffs?

    “You may be right, but I am continually struck but the fact that those things which we see as dintinguishing us as most human — intention, purpose, meaning, will, responsibility, and so on — are more and more deemed impossible by science. There’s a major disconnect there somewhere, whichever starting assumptions one accepts.”

    I think purpose and meaning are where you find it. Love, say, may be electrochemical but it is still real.

  230. #230 Tulse
    February 26, 2008

    Our sense data says “Free will!” Very loudly in fact. If our sense data is utterly wrong on this point (as I think materialism demands), then science itself is suspect (incoherent even) because it is completely dependent upon sense data for observational input.

    “You sometimes see a vase and at other times two faces, so physics must be wrong!” Our susceptibility to sensory illusions is hardly a limit on science, and I know of no theological school of thought that argues that absolutely all of our sense data are veridical, so this point is profoundly silly.

    Proponents of concepts like Open Theism try to meet this problem head on.

    Right, by essentially declaring that their god is not omniscient. In other words, by handwaving. And by getting rid of the Christian god.

    And, to be clear, even if god is not omniscient, all that does at best is remove one limitation to the mere possibility of free will in a supernatural system — it still does not provide any explanation. I can declare that free will exists because flying green monkeys help me pull on my neurons in a particular way, but that is no more of an explanation.

  231. #231 spaceP
    February 26, 2008

    Alteration for clarity…

    Imagine you are on a train, but you don’t know what a train is. From the outside it is easy to see the rails, but if you could never ever be outside of that train, indeed had no concept of being able to be outside of that train, isn’t it possible you would imagine the train was choosing never to hit the cliffs?

    Also purpose and meaning are where you find them, rather than ‘it’.

  232. #232 Zarquon
    February 26, 2008

    You may be right, but I am continually struck but the fact that those things which we see as dintinguishing us as most human — intention, purpose, meaning, will, responsibility, and so on — are more and more deemed impossible by science. There’s a major disconnect there somewhere, whichever starting assumptions one accepts.

    Yeah. the pre-scientific definitions of those terms you use are inadequate.
    Duh.

  233. #233 Kagehi
    February 26, 2008

    but I am continually struck but the fact that those things which we see as dintinguishing us as most human — intention, purpose, meaning, will, responsibility, and so on

    Well, yes and no… Yes in the sense that ultimately they are derived from the state of mind at the time, which is derived entirely materially, but no, in the sense that, for practical purposes, since we cannot define that state 100% precisely, they represent convenient standards on which to describe things. The more complex things get, the more we are forces, based on limited data, to make “approximations”. All of those words are approximations, which are based on the observation that, in general, people seem to behave in a way that suggests they have the “option” of making more than one choice. Since we have no way to determine precisely what choices where actually available, or how they one they did choose was derived, we are stuck using the approximations to make guesses, and will likely continue to be for 99.999% of the people we meet, even if we reach a point where we can hook up “one” person to a machine that can read the entire state *they* have.

    Besides, the OCD thing you bring up is a bad argument. Its like insisting that my PC can’t suspend all other applications to instead run a virus scanner, or some such, even when there are means built into its OS to do that. Yes, OCD people could concentrate on changing their mental state and do so, its part of how the brain works, depending on what you demand it *do* at any given moment. You can also hook the same brain up to flight sims, model trains, etc., and teach yourself to guide the plane, or power the train, by creating new neural maps that generate the right “states” to cause the result. The more you do it, the easier it gets. That is just due to the plasticity of the brain and its ability to deemphasize some pathways, enhance others, or create entirely new ones, when needing to deal with new inputs. Some of that we can do ourselves, because we are doing it 24/7 anyway, some of it requires the brain to react to new inputs, then remap to use them, like how brain interactions for the cheek will “remap” themselves to use neurons that where connected to a missing arm, because the brain re-uses the cluster, rather than just throwing them out, but with the consequence that other systems don’t change their inputs, so still *think* they are dealing with a phantom limb.

    Put simply, what you think it immaterial thoughts effecting the “state” of the brain are not such, but are rather simply training the brain to deemphasize *some* pathways, while increasing activities in others. If ones goal was to increase the OCD, I am sure you could do that too, up to a point anyway. These guys sound like the one trying to prove telepathy by measuring light flashes between cells to look for coherent information. If you start with unprovable hypothesis, like “immaterial” forces, its not hard to find things that are misunderstood (either by you, or others) and complicated enough to claim you have found evidence of it. But that sort of thing belongs on the ghastly, “Search of Truth”, or, “Ghost Hunters”, shows, or what ever the first one is called on the Sci-Fi channel, complete with idiots using night vision systems screaming at things that the cameras oddly *never* record and running away yelling, “Did you see it! It came right at me!” Somehow, no matter how long they do thing, they *never* quite manage to come up with anything more than fuzzy blobs which they arbitrarily claim, “look like they have purpose”, lots of shots of them spooking themselves over stuff that never appears on camera, stories of people that claim to have witnessed the same stuff, and readings using EM detectors that could just as easily be reading the presence of old, and hidden, wiring in the fracking walls.

    The OCD thing is the same stuff. “We can’t show you the ‘invisible’ thing that is making it happen, and we refuse to use any of the dozens of material explanations for what is going on, so it *must* be a result of invisible forces making the brain do stuff it wouldn’t do without those invisible things, which we can’t actually detect, measure or examine. Ta-da!”

    I am not impressed, but I am sure they can get a special about it made to the Discovery Channel, given that they manage to show stuff on there all the time that belongs on the local paranormal and conspiracy channel all the time, while claiming to be science oriented. Heh, maybe chemtrails are somehow involved too, what do you think? lol

  234. #234 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2008

    That’s not the connection I’m making. Our sense data says “Free will!” Very loudly in fact. If our sense data is utterly wrong on this point (as I think materialism demands), then science itself is suspect (incoherent even) because it is completely dependent upon sense data for observational input.

    of course it has nothing to do with personal perception, right cap’t Stupid?

    here, try this on for size:

    “Our sense data says “the world is flat” Very loudly in fact. If our sense data is utterly wrong on this point (as I think materialism demands), then science itself is suspect (incoherent even) because it is completely dependent upon sense data for observational input.”

    now, does your statement still make sense to you with this minor change?

    why not?

  235. #235 Sinbad
    February 26, 2008

    Is it really our sense data that tells us we have free will? It seems more like an assumption, a feeling that we choose what we do unencumbered by a physical process. I wonder what would it feel like to not have free will? Could we even tell?

    I think it’s decidedly more than an assumption. I regularly react (or start to react) to something “on instinct.” Sometimes I consciously override that instinct to make a different decision (for example, I don’t scream at my kids). I expect that’s the free will/no free will “feeling” you’re looking for.

    False assumptions about the exterior objective world would be likely be maladaptive, I don’t think false assumptions about our interior states would be so visible to selection.

    I don’t see why you assume that. Our feelings of hunger are internal, for example.

    We feel that our thinking is, mostly, unconstrained. But maybe that is because as one brain state causes the next we cannot be in yet another brain state that corresponds to a concious observation of this process.

    I agree that that’s possible.

    Imagine you are on a train, but you don’t know what a train is. From the outside it is easy to see the rails, but if you could never ever be outside of that train, indeed had no concept of being able to be outside of that train, isn’t it possible you would imagine the train was choosing never to hit the cliffs?

    It’s possible, but not very likely were I the engineer of the train.

    I think purpose and meaning are where you find it. Love, say, may be electrochemical but it is still real.

    Once again I see a mixture. Sometimes we “know” that the electrochemical response isn’t a good thing.

    You sometimes see a vase and at other times two faces, so physics must be wrong!’ Our susceptibility to sensory illusions is hardly a limit on science, and I know of no theological school of thought that argues that absolutely all of our sense data are veridical, so this point is profoundly silly.

    Straw man. Evolution teaches that our senses are generally accurate, not infallible. With respect to your vase/two faces example, the distinction between an instance of sensory error and all-the-time sensory error is obvious and to ignore that distinction is profoundly silly.

    Right, by essentially declaring that their god is not omniscient. In other words, by handwaving. And by getting rid of the Christian god.

    Science is predicated on the idea that one’s views should be subject to the data. When Christians do the same thing you claim handwaving; I see adaptation. It’s why Christianity has survived for two centuries and continues to thrive.

    I can declare that free will exists because flying green monkeys help me pull on my neurons in a particular way, but that is no more of an explanation.

    As noted previously, Behe also favors the you can’t explain how so I can ignore the evidence approach. I think it a loser’s bet.

    Yeah. the pre-scientific definitions of those terms you use are inadequate. Duh.

    Would you care to share a scientific definition of one’s will.

  236. #236 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2008

    Science is predicated on the idea that one’s views should be subject to the data. When Christians do the same thing you claim handwaving; I see adaptation. It’s why Christianity has survived for two centuries and continues to thrive.

    actually, what you see is xians making shit up, which hardly even qualifies as hand waving.

    Why xianity survives has nothing at all to do with empirical verification of non-existent data.

    It has everything to do with how cults like Scientology survive.

    Do you know how Scientology maintains itself, and in fact keeps growing?

    do you?

    if so, turn that introspection on yourself. if not, suggest you spend some time looking at it, and find the parallels.

    add on to that the influence that early peers have on forming behavior, and you will have all the elements that maintain religion.

    none of it having anything to do with empirical observation.

    you’re so confused about what you believe and why, it’s almost amusing.

  237. #237 spaceP
    February 26, 2008

    Sinbad:

    “I think it’s decidedly more than an assumption. I regularly react (or start to react) to something “on instinct.” Sometimes I consciously override that instinct to make a different decision (for example, I don’t scream at my kids). I expect that’s the free will/no free will “feeling” you’re looking for.”

    Isn’t it possible that your instinct and your concious overriding come from the same march of brain states? For instance your kids may be playing up in an aggravating fashion which activates a pre-cognitive aggression response in your brain. This aggression response goes through an appropriate response filter built out of previous experience. The result is the concious thought of “don’t yell at them” along with not yelling them.

    “I don’t see why you assume that. Our feelings of hunger are internal, for example.”

    Our feelings of hunger come from sense data, I don’t see what sense is telling us we have free will. Surely the notion of free will is an abstraction, not an observation?

  238. #238 Ranson
    February 26, 2008

    There’s so much good going on here and stories of change. Like someone else said, you can probably piece my story together by shaking these all together.

    Nonetheless, I covered it here a while back.

  239. #239 Jaycubed
    February 26, 2008

    “Would you care to share a scientific definition of one’s will.
    Posted by: Sinbad”

    Will – Any fantasy concerning future action which leads to action/behavior by a brain-owning organism.

    Fantasy – Any thought about future or past external events or about another organism’s thoughts. Any interpretation of events. (ie. The vast majority of human thought is fantasy. All plans are fantasy.)

    Thought – One of the many processes that the brain performs; in particular, processes which the brain-owning organism is aware of.

    It should be noted that fantasies can be quite useful if they quantitatively correspond to external events. The fantasy of Evolution has a strong positive correspondence to external reality in not only biology, but also cosmology & geology: the fantasy of Creationism has a strong negative correspondence to external reality in those areas. The positive correspondence of Evolution to reality continues to grow with the increase of quantitative evidence, especially because the process of the Science fantasy (of which evolution is a part) is self-correcting.
    .

  240. #240 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2008

    Self correcting fantasy?

    sounds like my adventures in dating.

  241. #241 trrll
    February 26, 2008

    As a child, I considered Santa to be the best empirical evidence for religion. I mean, all of the stuff they said in church sounded pretty unlikely, but if Santa can manage to deliver toys to all of the kids in one night, which was obviously physically impossible, then magic exists and all bets are off, so maybe all of that implausible stuff in the Bible could be true as well. And I had tangible evidence of Santa–the presents (there was the troubling observation that Santa seemed to follow slightly different procedures in different kids’ homes, but I managed to dismiss that).

    But then I read Dr. Spock (I had this notion that if my parents were using this book to decide how to raise me, then I needed to know what was in it). Imagine my shock when I got to the chapter on what to tell your kids about Santa. There went the only empirical evidence I had for the supernatural…

  242. #242 Monado, FCD
    February 26, 2008

    Ricky Gervais, is interviewed this hour by George Stroumboulopoulos tonight on CBC Television’s The Hour. It’s also possible to watch online.

  243. #243 SteveG
    February 26, 2008

    Hi PZ, it looks like I’m not the only surprised about your comment on you taking a few years to think your way out of the nonsense – perhaps that’s a topic for another blog post or six? I’m the same way. I was actually raised in a very fundamentalist Christian denomination. My father was a minister (retired now). I was a young earth creationist. As I began studying science in college, it was an astronomy course I took after which I finally realized how impossible it was for young earth creationism to be correct. It was during that course that it dawned on me how unequivocal it was that we’re literally witnessing this distant past that young earth creationists say doesn’t exist, whether a hundred thousand years ago or a hundred million years ago, we’re looking at it. That was in early 1980. That was just the beginning. It took about four years, but it was in early 1984 that I realized that my thinking had developed into atheism. That’s not something I intended or planned for, it just happened in the natural course of my rationally investigating my own religious beliefs.

  244. #244 Tulse
    February 26, 2008

    Science is predicated on the idea that one’s views should be subject to the data. When Christians do the same thing you claim handwaving; I see adaptation.

    First of all, “Open Theism” isn’t responding to “data”, since there is no such thing in theology — it is responding to the blatant logical contradictions in contemporary theology by courting other contradictions.

    And it is not “adaptation” to throw out the defining feature of a belief — it is surrender. If you dump omniscience, as Open Theism does, then not only have you dumped a core belief of Christianity, but you also of necessity dump omnipotence (since an entity can hardly be all-powerful and not be able to know everything). So we go from an omnipotent, omniscience being to one that is just powerful and knows a lot. And frankly, once you’re there, you don’t really have a god that is fundamentally distinguishable from just a very very powerful space alien. If a god is bound by some physical laws (as a less-than-omnipotent being must be), then it’s really no different fundamentally from other, less “supernatural” entities. And you’ve pretty much given away the ball game.

    So no, you still can’t have free will and a god that is worth worshipping. Again, postulating a god doesn’t get you what you want.

  245. #245 Kseniya
    February 26, 2008

    All plans are fantasy

    And it came to me then that every plan
    Is a tiny prayer to father time
    As I stared at my shoes in the ICU
    That reeked of piss and 409
    And I rationed my breaths as I said to myself
    That I’ve already taken too much today
    As each descending peak on the LCD
    Took you a little farther away from me
    Away from me

    Ben Gibbard

  246. #246 Chris O'Neill
    February 27, 2008

    Dave Eaton:

    People have deep emotional currents in them binding them to religion. It is my sincere belief that they would generally be better off without the hocus-pocus, but it’s going to require help for some people to climb down.

    I didn’t quite get the part where you started, “Here’s how you help these people…”.

    I’m sorry I pointed out how boring it is to hear people argue: “I believe in God because he gives my life meaning”, but I’ve never heard anyone point this out before. Maybe I shouldn’t state flaws in anyone’s thinking in case they “require help”.

  247. #247 Stephen Wells
    February 27, 2008

    I’m very confident that all of my mental activities, including those labelled “creativity” and “free will” and so on, are ultimately attributable to various deterministic and stochastic material processes occuring in my brain, in the same way that I’m very confident that everything that happens in the Atlantic is ultimately attributable to various deterministic and stochastic processes among water molecules.

    Since actually performing the said reduction is utterly impractical, probably impossible in principle, and entirely pointless, I’m not going to worry about it too much.

    Let’s all just bear in mind that there is no magic man in your head who does the thinking for you.

  248. #248 Monado, FCD
    February 27, 2008

    Stephen, may I repeat your statement on my blog? It’s very well said and ties in nicely with what I’m reading just now, Jacob Bronowski’s The Identity of Man,

  249. #249 Monado, FCD
    February 27, 2008

    and, PZ, don’t feel slow compared to Ricky Gervais. He didn’t reason it out: he just perceived that he was being lied to, using his childhood survival skills of reading adult emotions and intent.

  250. #250 Monado, FCD
    February 27, 2008

    Malcolm said [#25],

    My mother was horrified when she walked in on my brother and I discussing it. She sent us to Sunday school every week until I was 10. Then the priest asked her to either stop us from asking questions, or not to send us any more.

    That’s freakin’ hilarious! They just want us to sit down and shut up.

  251. #251 Monado, FCD
    February 27, 2008

    I’m a bit surprised that no one has mentioned Comparative Religion as a pryer-loose of religious conviction. At twelve I was sincerely proud to be confirmed and responsible for my own faith. In high school, we studied other religions. It was odd to hear of all the strange beliefs that no one would credit unless they’d been told them since babyhood and everyone else appeared to believe them. That was enough to start me thinking about my unthinking acceptance. It was a long, slow process, though. Every news medium treated the historicity of Jesus as a sacred cow, never stating that there’s no hard evidence he ever existed and considerable textual evidence that his biography was added to scriptures long after the deaths of the apostles. When that became speakable, I was enlightened. However, for years I hid behind “agnostic.” These forums (and recent books) are helping me to come out… but I am settling for the wishy-washy (or tactful) “not religious” because of family constraints.

    Few of my friends or relatives are openly religious. It’s kind of a non-topic.

  252. #252 Stephen Wells
    February 27, 2008

    Monado- sure, just credit me :)

  253. #253 Monado, FCD
    February 27, 2008

    Thanks!

    Incidentally, we have a case up in British Columbia where a man says, “God told me to kill my daughter” (so he did). Comments to the article include, “Belief in God is a mwnral illnesss,”

  254. #254 Carlie
    February 28, 2008

    Kseniya, I didn’t know that song, so I just looked it up and sat here thinking how touching it was, and how I’d be mulling it over for quite awhile. Then next I checked my email, and had a note from a student saying that one of her friends committed suicide yesterday. I’m sure there’s a point in there somewhere, but right now all I can think of is yeah. Fuck.

  255. #255 tus
    March 7, 2008

    i dont remember how long it took me…i remember the events going up to it.
    i was a rather entheusiastic christian, i believed the bible totaly. and i loved science. so i sought to prove, scientifically, that god existed, by applying all that i knew of science (which at around 6th grade was nothing to impressive..though it was better than anyone my age, and some people the age i am now..(21)) so i applied all i knew of physics, astrophysics, biology, chemistry, and such to interpretation of the bible, and also to include the other religious books in the idea that they may be variants on the same source.
    being of course a fan of the scientific process i had to of course acknowlege the possibility that god simply DIDNT exist…so i began with that, the idea god didnt exist and sought to prove that he DID. well i failed quite misserably, whats more the more i searched the more reality and the bible seemed to NOT jive…at all…the events of how things happened in reality and in the bible discribe two totaly different sequences of events, so i fell back to the null hypothesis, that god didnt exist. naturally i still didnt take that totaly, i found that what i found was only proof the bible was wrong, and of course i took the null hypothesis tentatively, that is to say there most likely isnt a god, but im going to keep searching til i can find his ass…then he has some explaining to do. and so i searched and searched and searched..i wasnt just searching for myself, i was searching…perhaps for the same reason most people search for the truth…recognition…i wanted to be the kid who found some new scientific truth, so it wasnt just for me to enjoy alone, i wanted to share it if i found it.

    naturally i didnt identify myself as atheist, at the time it was something of a dirty word, plus many had me quite convinced that it was just the same as having a religion…so i took agnostic. i think i gave up trying to find a god at some point, religion after religion, just didnt fit reality, then was when i gave up on religions..but it seems giving up on a god was much harder, i gave up the search…forgot the premise of the search long ago, fell into agnosticism. and it was just recently i was reminded of the null hypothesis and reminded of how i sought out so long ago, then i remembered, i couldnt find a god, i couldnt prove he existed…and i didnt NEED to prove he didnt (some people had me quite convinced i did)
    so now i say it with no reservations, i am an atheist.

    well thats my story…it didnt take too long to give up on the bible, but it took much longer to give up on a god. (though i gave up on heaven and hell with the bible..i think actually before that…they were just too ridiculous of a concept)

  256. #256 terrorcrawler
    March 31, 2008

    I was raised a Christian but my parents had a hard time getting me to church. I figured Sundays were fun days not for bloody fairy tales. I tried quite hard to become a born again Christian in my late teens due to renewed family pressure in the form of a demented faith-suffering, god-bothering, step-mother. I failed dismally. The preacher could never explain to my satisfation why his particular religion was the one and only path to god, didn’t other religions make these claims too? I realised I was just too sceptical and too cynical to take any religion seriously. I did not really think of myself as an atheist until reading Dawkins’ God Delusion. I am now quite happy being a heathen and letting my children know they should treat any answers to the big questions scientifically. I would like to see religious indoctrination outlawed in all schools the world over.

    I’m with Ricky on the subjects of pizza and beer!

    Anyone else note the absence of Muslims losing their faith?

  257. #257 Ichthyic
    September 28, 2008

    just resurrecting this thread for Architeuthis.

    *ping*

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