And you may tell yourself “This is NOT my beautiful house.”
October 19, 2009 § 15 Comments
Atheism is a lack of faith in the divine, the unproven and the supernatural. It means “the absence of belief in the existence of deities.” But each person who identifies themselves as an atheist has arrived at this conclusion via a different pathway.
One of the common misconceptions about atheists is that we are all bitter about something, angry at God, angry at the church, or that something happened to make us swing away from religion. Another is that we are simply being atheists to “get back” at our parents, or society, and that with the proper theistic influences we can be “steered back into the path of righteousness.” This is the case with some, but for the majority of people, the path to atheism is much more gradual, or there was no path at all.
My path to atheism is rather unremarkable. I never really believed in God. My parents never pushed religion onto me, although they did identify themselves as Protestants, at least when filling in forms or the census. I went to Sunday school a couple of times, one with puppets praising Jesus and spouting about God. I liked it! Puppets are cool! But the messages, though I remember them, never really resonated with me. I also, once, visited the church that my grandmother used to attend. And while it was quite a beautiful place, that’s all it was for me. This was all while we were still living in the USA.
Once we moved to Australia, there was really no religious influence on me, my parents I believe were secretly happy to be away from their own families’ religious beliefs. My parents always taught me to ask questions, and never to believe everything I heard or read.
In my teen years, I was never an anarchist, although at one stage I did reject medicine and politics in favour of Punk Rock and crystal meditation (yes I was an advocate of “alternative” medicines and therapies including reiki, crystal gazing, and was fascinated by the occult). While this didn’t last too long, it was formative in my beliefs as an atheist. I identified myself as a believer alternative lifestyles. I still carry some of this today, as I still reject a lot of what is commonly called “mainstream”.
Flash forward to my years in University. I studied Fine Arts, mostly painting and drawing. Art History was one of my favourite subjects. It’s interesting how Art History is informed by History in general, it walks hand in hand, as it is created by the religious and political climates of the time. The history of art is a great documentation of the history of religion; not just the amazing things that were inspired by religion (see The Renaissance and The Romantic era art), but also the atrocities carried out in the name of religion (see The Crusades, Henry VIII). This was not news to me, and I’m not going to blame religion for all the evils of the world, but this learning simply reinforced how I felt. At this time I identified myself as an Agnostic with Atheistic tendencies.
Today, I am atheist, but I might hold off on telling you what that means for another post.
Other people’s accounts and stories are quite different from mine. In October this year, I posted this to Twitter:
“Can I please ask atheists these questions: ‘How did you become an atheist? When did you realise you were an atheist?'”
23 people replied. The responses are as varied as are the people who answered. There were several whose answers were similar to my story, but some answers were common:
- “I was born atheist, as we all are.”
- “Religion didn’t make any sense.”
- “My understanding of the natural world leaves no room for God.”
Some stories are individual tales, where an action or moment was a trigger to return that person to atheism, or a moment of realisation:
My path to atheism came via Woody Allen books (thinking) and a college education (observing), including a class on stellar astronomy (perspective.) My understanding of the way nature works lead me to see that there is balance in the universe. For every action, etc. etc. Systems don’t work when they aren’t in balance. Which suggests that if there’s pure love, “Benevolent Creator Being,” there must be pure evil, “Malevolent Destructive Being.” But even in the Bible, Satan is subservient to Christ and God. He’s even subservient to some dude in a polyester leisure suit with a book of ancient Aramaic folk tales! Which means that system is waaaaay out of whack. And unsustainable. Once I started looking at the world more closely, I came to see that there’s no evidence of an active presence of a Benevolent Creator Being working on behalf of its so called “creation.” I saw no reason to believe in (God), for there is no evidence that it exists. – @TheSecularist
I fell into a coma as a kid. When I came out of it my belief was just gone, like I had always been a non-believer. I don’t have an explanation for it. I figure some wiring must have shorted out (or lit back up) in my brain. – @CS999
Became atheist at about 13ish. Thought Catholicism was stupid from about 6 ie Limbo purgatory hell etc because religion didn’t make sense – also had finger amputated when I was 9 & it didn’t grow back despite parents prayers – @ladymidnight
But what all these stories do have in common is either a realisation or prevalence of reason, a moment or understanding that, using reason, intelligence and knowledge, there can be no deities. If one has a true desire to seek out truth, there can be no other outcome.
To quote my last article, “the only single thing that ties atheists together, is their lack of belief in God or gods. The definition says nothing about what choices individual atheists make. Just like in every walk of life there are good and bad people, no matter what their backgrounds, religious, moral, ethical belief systems, or lack thereof.”
Many thanks to all the people who answered my question on Twitter. Your responses were great, and I appreciate you taking the time to share, in particular: @JezuzFree, @wiseguyeddie, @puckman, @Jayseecosta, @Mrgr8, @ladymidnight, @andreasoverland, @Atheist_Girl_15, @Bruceeverett, @infinite_life, @_struct, @Synthaetica, @LaBrujaRoja, @MusiCaller, @TheSecularist, @thecameronclark, @CS999, @blueblazes, @Glier, @will0whisp, @TheEmperfect, and @george_good. Follow these good people.