Though the title sounds like one of an informational pamphlet, I intend to provide you with my personal reasons for being an atheist. I’m sure everyone has a different story, and I would love for you to comment with your personal reasons for not believing in the beyond.
I was raised in a household devoid of politics, sports, and religion. For that, I am infinitely thankful as it allowed me to grow in each area without any internal pressure from my family. It will be very hard to raise my children the same way since I am undoubtedly more active in all areas, but if I had to choose one to allow my children to grow in personally, it would be religion. After all, sports teams rise and fall in popularity, politics changes with the times, but religion deals with long-term issues.
I never prayed as a child. Bedtime prayers were never part of my nightly routine. Mealtime blessings were also absent from my day. The only time I was exposed to religion was when I would occasionally attend a vacation bible school with a friend from school. I don’t remember praying there either, but I do remember being incredibly bored. Coloring pictures of arks and watching puppet shows about Abraham were not sources of interest to me at that age, nor are they today. Throughout my entire youth, I can say I probably only ever attended church a dozen or so times. Some say had I attended church regularly, my views on the almighty might be different. I’m sure they might be. If I attended Klan meetings every week, I’m sure I would loathe everything that wasn’t white and Christian. That’s the power of weekly indoctrination.
For the majority of my youth, I never sought a higher being. That changed briefly in high school. I started my sophomore year of high school in Tennessee. A church on every other street corner, a bible thumper screaming of doomsday on the rest, and billboards with quotes from God himself were all warning signs that I was not in Illinois anymore. I didn’t have any pressure from my friends to come to church, because none of them knew that I found the idea of God laughable.
Girlfriends were the source of contention. One attended a pentecostal church which I attended ONCE. That night was one of the scariest of my life. I sat there shifting my eyes back and forth for signs of anyone carrying in a box of snakes. I had my exits chosen. One song that was sung that night involved seven different verses each with a different day of the week. You were supposed to stand up on the day of the week on which you were saved. I thought I had escaped this one by just not raising my hand. Oh no. They were watching. They noticed that my hand didn’t go up at all. I was approached after the service by the preacher. She asked me if I was saved. I told her that I was not. She then asked if she could pray for me. I said yes. After all, at this point in my life, I had come to think that there was something wrong with me for not believing in God. I thought that I had missed some important milestone in my life. So as that woman and a handful of members of the congregation stood around me and asked God to reveal himself to me in the way he knew was best for me, I closed my eyes, forgot the creepiness of the night, and opened my heart to whatever may come. Nothing came.
I don’t remember what day of the week it was; I can’t really pin the date down at all. I gave up on God. If he existed, he would have revealed himself to me by now, but the truth was that I knew what I had always thought. God was a fairy tale. The proverbial “opiate of the masses” created by the ruling class thousands of years ago with the sole purpose of keeping the uneducated lower class in check. What a fantastic document to go along with it as well. The Bible, chock full of miracles, magic, and mayhem has become the only multi-author, ancient text to be quoted in almost every conversation in the South.
I kept quiet about my beliefs. After what I had heard some of my friends say about atheism, I knew that it would be socially detrimental for me to make known my disbelief in the figure that almost everyone I knew held so dear. I grew accustomed to my closet. It was lonely, but it was safe. I remained socially accepted, and my views were not challenged. Even to this day, I have to keep quiet about this subject in certain social circles. Living in a highly conservative and largely unaccepting area of the Deep South, I have to withhold certain things in the interest of success.
I used to keep it quiet so that I wouldn’t alienate my friends, but then I said “Bump that!” No true friend would shun me for being an atheist. Though it has cost me a few relationships and a friends along the way, the friends I have are open-minded and great conversation partners.
If you are holding back your beliefs from friends, family, acquaintances, etc., please find a way that is comfortable for you, and share your thoughts. Someone will always be there to support you. I’m here. Comment. I’ll listen.
3 thoughts on “Why Atheism?”
Thought I would share my atheism timeline:
Grew up in a not particularly religious family in a somewhat religious part of the country. Parents dutifully took us to Sunday school and said prayers at dinner. I doodled on the church bulletins and my favorite part was breakfast at McDonald’s afterward.
Moved to Colorado; for whatever reason our parents stopped taking us to church. Religion was not a big deal among my friends so I never really thought about it. Then one day, one of the girls in our tight-knit group of four “found religion” and sent us a form letter explaining why she could no longer be our friend. She disappeared off the map; the other two are my best friends to this day. Hmm…friends or jesus…tough decision. Around this time I started to become skeptical of religion, but didn’t really have the words for what I believed.
Went off to college, realized that there are atheists in the world! I finally had people to talk to who felt like me. It was amazing. One day sophomore year, happened to mention to my parents over the phone that I don’t believe in God. Not like a big shocking confession, just in passing during some conversation about who knows what. I might as well have said I was pregnant and moving to Cuba with my crack-smoking boyfriend, because the reaction I got was one of sheer shock and disappointment. I don’t even remember what was said (“I thought we raised you better” may have been used) but I will never, ever forget that feeling…like I was an embarrassment to my family. They’re better about it now, but sometimes I can still sense that they are uncomfortable, I guess because it’s taboo. If anything, that incident made me even more vocal…now I want people to know that they know an atheist, and yes she is a very genuine and moral person, and no she does not worship the devil.
2006: This may be the first year ever that we don’t go to church on Xmas. I go along with it because of Grandma, and I will again, but I’d really rather not. The issues I have with religion have become clear to me this year in a way they’ve never been before, and I don’t know if I can go watch the absurdity of a church service without collapsing in a fit of hysterical laughter (which will most certainly get me kicked out, or worse, prayed for). Maybe it’s time to think up a new Xmas Eve tradition. Mario Kart anyone?
I started this comment a few weeks ago and then never finished it. I am extremely amused at how many parallels there are between my story and Andrea’s:
Funny enough, weekly indoctrination isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
From baptism until age 9, I attended church regularly. I went to Sunday school. I recited prayers at mealtimes. And yet here I sit, devoid of any belief in a higher being.
During those regular hours of church attendance, I didn’t feel anything special, even though everyone told me I should. I was never consumed or touched by the power of God. My sister and I entertained ourselves by coloring on church bulletins. We looked forward to going across the street to McDonald’s afterward.
During Sunday school, my favorite part was the free cookies. I didn’t see the point of most of the exercises. I spent most of it starting off into space.
Mealtime prayer was nothing more than a chore. I felt thankful to my parents for putting the food on my plate, not to some inivisible man in the sky. When asked to recite the prayer, I regularly chose the shortest one.
When we moved to Colorado, my parents couldn’t find a good church, so they gave up. I felt no personal sense of loss. I guess they figured we were Christian enough for the time being.
I had never really been into the whole religion thing in the first place, so I found this lack of church a welcome reprieve. Plus I got to sleep in on Sundays for the first time ever.
For a while, I didn’t really concern myself with religion. I didn’t actively pray or think about God, nor did I question his existence. I was apathetic for many years. Not wanting to be taboo, I defined myself as agnostic. It seemed a safe choice.
In high school, I went to a youth group retreat with a friend. I felt like I was in a cult. People kept touching me and praying for me. They made me write a message to God in the sky with a sparkler. They thought I was strange for not owning a Bible. I felt completely out of place.
Other than that incident, I didn’t really concern myself much with religion. Most of my friends were Catholic, but they didn’t talk about it much beyond complaining about people from their church. I was extremely annoyed by Andrea’s friends that tried to argue that there are dinosaurs in the Bible.
In college I moved to the buckle of the Bible belt. I kept my mouth shut about my beliefs. I went to Church on Easter, thinking maybe something would change. A friend sent me a book that tries to “scientifically” prove creation. I engaged in a number of religious discussions. All any of it did was further convince me that there’s nothing out there but matter and energy. I kept my agnostic label though.
Last year, during a conversation with Andrea, the following exchange happened:
Me: I guess I call myself agnostic because even though I don’t believe in God, I know that I can’t prove that I’m right.
Andrea: So, you don’t believe there is a God?
Me: I’d say it might be possible. Anything is possible. But no, I don’t believe it personally.
Andrea: Megan, that makes you an atheist.
Me: Oh, ok. Cool.
Since then, I have realized that being an athiest in the South is not that big of a deal. I know a few other people who are, and my religious friends don’t really care one way or the other. Nobody has tried to convert me, and I have not yet been chased by an angry lynch mob. All in all, things are good.
Also: Not sure my parents have realized it yet. They will stumble upon it eventually I am sure.
And I’m not gonna be sad about skipping church this year. I just liked going because I get to sing and play with fire.
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