The First Time You Wrote About Your Atheism… June 7, 2011

The First Time You Wrote About Your Atheism…

I became an atheist when I was 14. I remember writing something on both sides of a piece of notebook paper explaining why I lost faith in a god — the first time I had written those thoughts down anywhere — and then asking a friend to read it while we sat in the Green Room during one of our school’s plays. I don’t have that piece of paper anymore (maybe it’s hiding somewhere in my old room), but I think it was some random stream-of-consciousness explanation about why religion just didn’t make any sense. I don’t even remember the friend’s reaction, only that it wasn’t as scary as I expected it would be. I was relieved.

You can imagine how impressed I am after reading an essay that Reilly, a home-schooled 13-year-old, wrote about why he, too, doesn’t believe in a god:

… We all got up, one at a time, and recited our verse. I was getting a little weirded out, when the first man came around and started answering our questions about God. When it was my friend’s turn for question time, his one question was “Where is the proof?”. I gave a little smile when I heard this, but that smile quickly faded at the response. “The proof is the Bible, the word of God” So the proof of God, is something God said? That was the moment when I fully became an atheist.

So, in conclusion, Atheism really doesn’t affect my life that much. Many people talk about how depressed they would be if they were an atheist, but I feel quite the opposite. I feel like I lead a great life. And I do lead a great life, because I feel like I do (This, unlike proof of god, is an acceptable use of circular logic). I don’t lead a good life because of what I believe, but because of my actions.

It’s an excellent piece for someone so young, but the last sentence is really the kicker 🙂 (There’s also an entertaining excerpt dealing with zombies.)

To those of you who became atheists at a young age, do you have any of artifacts from that time? A diary entry? A note? An email?

If you don’t mind sharing, it’d be interesting to hear your thoughts from that time!

(via The Blessed Atheist Bible Study)

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  • Robert L.

    I used to be somewhat of an agnostic, leaning towards the “there is no God but there might be an afterlife” side. After listening to logical arguments on why we shouldn’t believe in an afterlife or supernatural happenings, I gradually evolved into an atheist. It wasn’t a single moment, but a long period of time.

  • Vanessa

    The only thing I can remember is in 11th grade English class. We had vocabulary and spelling tests (yes, in 11th grade) and one week one of the words was “agnostic.” The definition my teacher gave was: One who does not care about the existence of God. I got really upset, because I had considered myself agnostic. I was mad because I knew I cared very deeply about the question of whether God existed or not. I had spent a lot of time thinking about it. In retrospect, I suppose I should thank my teacher, because after that day, I really started thinking more about it and that’s when I actually decided that I didn’t believe.

  • Chris M.

    I remember when I started having atheist thoughts. I was about 7 years old at the time. Now I’m 16, atheist and I still remember exactly what I said.
    I was in the car with my mother, and after some silent thinking, I turned to her and said “Mom, if God holds the earth in his hands, where does God stand?”
    That’s when I started being an atheist.

  • Colt

    I can’t remember when I first realized I was an atheist. I remember being a little kid and thinking, “How did people finally reach the conclusion that there is just one god?” Clearly they’d come to it somehow and I just assumed (being 7 or so) that there was some evidence no one would tell me about. I also remember being told very authoritatively by a teacher that the reason the oil lasted for eight days (Hanukkah story) wasn’t because the flame burned up the one-day worth of oil and then just existed for 7 more days–noooo, the very intelligent flame burned up one-eighth of the oil per day. Again, wee me was like, “Wait, how do you know that?” Too bad I only thought it instead of saying it!

    I finally started speaking up a little when I was 13 and getting ready to do my Bat Mitzvah. Even though by then I knew it was all batshit crazy, it was important to my parents and the party afterward would be awesome. So I had to go in for this meeting with the rabbi, and the first thing I said was, “You should probably know I’m an atheist.” To his credit he was not fazed at all (the parents, who are cool now, were kiiinda mortified.) The rabbi seemed way more bothered by my answer to a scenario he put to me later (If you could only save one being from a sinking boat, a human stranger or your dog, Angel, who would it be? I of course answered Angel! Still would today.) I was definitely hoping for more of a reaction, haha.

    Gradually I started reading more and more about atheism and why religion was almost certainly wrong, and now I wish I’d read it earlier, because I could have asked some really tough questions to relieve the awful slog of boredom that was Hebrew school!

  • Ashley

    I don’t have any piece of writing or anything, but I do remember the time when I knew there wasn’t a god. My mom comes from a rather large Irish Catholic family, so we had gone to church until about the time I was in 4th grade, mostly because of a falling out my parents had with some people at the church. I don’t really know all the details, but all I know is that we stopped going, and never went to another church.
    I remember hating church, mainly because a long Catholic sermon is interesting to no child, and CCD was way too much like school, which I also hated. I specifically remember someone saying during a sermon that this church was a house that god built, and at the end talking about a church fundraiser for repairs to the building. In my head I remember thinking well a being that lives in the sky couldn’t have made this building, otherwise how come he doesn’t fix it?

  • CassvilleAtheist

    I remember writing a poem about my disbelief when I was 12, which later got into the hands of someone that was fairly religious.

  • Steve

    Strictly speaking, someone who doesn’t care about gods would be an apatheist

  • Gilbertgrills

    All through primary school, saying prayer before school started, before and after lunch, at the end of school too, this never felt right. My peers just went along with it while I felt an urge not too. I wouldn’t bow my head,I wouldn’t recite the lines either, I would be scowled out by prowling teachers but there was nothing they could do.

    Even at 7 years old I knew I was an atheist. But I wasn’t fully indoctrinated from birth like too many kids are these days. At least I had a chance, alot don’t, from fear of punishment.

  • Tyro

    The earliest I can remember thinking about the issue was just after my first cat died. I was about 10 or 12 and it was the first time I really thought about what it meant to be alive and dead. I thought about what an afterlife might be and what I knew of brains and life which, given my age, wasn’t all that much. Even still the afterlife idea just sounded more and more insane the more I thought about it. I knew personalities and memories arose from the brain but the brain was most definitely destroyed. I tried to think if there was anything non-physical which could survive but every important facet of life was covered and determined by our fleshy, squishable bodies. The whole idea seemed like an absurd magic story and even then I couldn’t imagine how or why anyone would believe. That was when I realized that I definitely didn’t believe.

  • Silent Service

    I don’t think there was a single point where I realized I did not believe in God or gods. I wasn’t heavily indoctrinated as a child but I did have to go to Sunday school up till about around the 5th grade. I just slowly lost any belief in the same way that I realized over time that there was no Santa. It wasn’t really traumatic or shocking nor was it uplifting or a relief. It just was.

    Over the years I tried to believe in order to fit in but found myself unable to reject reality in favor of a warm fuzzy feeling that some cosmic entity was watching out for me. I just found it creepy that people want to have a cosmic babysitter all their lives. Most of the people I’ve known my whole life (and most that I dated) all believed in God.

    I didn’t start writing about my non-belief until I started to comment first on PZ’s blog and then here. It is a great relief to finally be able to openly express my non-belief. There’s someplace in the world where I can speak my mind and not have three dozen people trying to save my soul from dangerous thoughts. Thanks for being here Hemant.

    P.S. It’s also great to be able to talk openly about who I am as well as what I believe. Not all LGBT people are non-believers. Too many are desperately clinging to belief for some reason.

  • Rich Wilson

    I very clearly remember my first atheist thought. I was 4, and it occurred to me that giant talking mice and ducks were not real. So I asked my mom about it, and she said, no, they’re people in costumes. Then I said, so, the easter bunny isn’t real either, or santa clause. She was a bit taken aback by that, but it was a rhetorical question.

    My mother bounced around eastern spiritualism and native american ‘great spirit’, but was pretty scornful of Christianity while I was at home. After I left home, she (and my younger sister) became Christian. I’m not sure exactly why or in what order.

    I did spend some time as a cultural pagan, and would have to say I was less skeptical in my 20s than I am now in my 40s, but at my core I’ve never believed in ‘God’.

  • Jon Peterson

    I wish there was something I could share… but I was raised without the influence of religion and (whether through childish ignorance or willful separation by my parents) I don’t recall ever being introduced to the concept until I was in Jr. High… at which point I was confident enough in myself to never feel the need to make a statement about it (with me, unlike with you, nothing changed so what would there be to say?)

    I was never closeted either. I was introduced to religion by a friend, and when I told them straight off that it made no sense to me, and broke all the rules of logic to believe what they do… and it just never occurred to me at that age that maybe it might be something that people hide. And of course once the cat’s out of the bag…

    So I got used to it, and now it would just feel silly to try and mask who I am. Especially now that I’ve seen just how many of us are out there, and how the world is changing towards (it’s nowhere near, but it’s moving that way) atheists finally being treated and respected on an equal level with theists. Now is the time to be out of the closet and stand up.

    /rambling tangent

  • SisyphusRocks

    The first time I remember writing anything down, my Junior year in HS, I asked myself “Did God create man in his image, or did man create god in his image?”
    I don’t know if I heard it somewhere, read it somewhere or made it up. I just remember asking myself and then asking others on a debate team bus trip (including my Catholic girlfriend, who is now agnostic/atheist, 16 years later)

  • Adam

    For as long as I can remember, I have had the weird hobby of writing essays. When I was about 14 years old I wrote an essay on the logical fallibility of the idea of omnipotence. Through writing it, I came to the same conclusion (though I didn’t know it then) of Epicurus. Omnipotence and Omniscience are logically contradictory and ultimately defeat themselves. That was when I really stopped believing in God. But I never really had anyone else read that.

    Then I picked up Satanism in high school, and in a creative writing class I point-by-point tore down Christianity by comparison with Satanism. Part of the class was that each assignment was passed around to each student to read and critique. Surprisingly, I still had friends and was never bullied/picked on for that.

  • Emily

    oh, I’m gonna go a’digging through the old notebooks right now. How exciting. I haven’t done this in years 😛

  • todwith1d

    5-10: maybe there is a prime mover but I doubt it. knew the bible was complete crap

    10-15: too busy chasing girls but agnostic leaning atheist.

    15-18: total atheism at this point. rarely came up but was totally honest when asked

    18-21: took several religions of man classes in college to understand the history. learned that, indeed, the bible is complete crap


    21-44: be a good guy, be open about my beliefs, financially support strategic causes (education, etc), help advance our cause

  • mouse

    I find it really interesting how the kid who wrote that essay talks about the fact that a bunch of his friends are religious and he helps with some of their religious charities sometimes. It reminds me of how, when you ask most people under 20 about LGBT issues, they are so open and accepting and, frankly, a little confused about the discrimination that LGBT people face. Makes me think that the up and coming generations might be moving to a place where people of faith and my fellow non-believers can just kind of exist next to each other without it being a big deal for most. Nifty.

    I can’t pinpoint exactly when I became an atheist. I kind of remember moving away from Christianity but I wasn’t particularly devout or anything anyway and neither was my mom (she’s not exactly a christian either, she’s sort of a “all religions have it a little right and a little wrong” type, with a side of “wormhole aliens rather than an actual deity” for spice).

    THinking back, I think I had doubts since early childhood but just sort of went with the flow (prayers before bedtime always FELT like I was talking to an imaginary friend). I know I started questioning my sort-of fundie grandma (fundie beliefs essentially but she didn’t agree with the whole idea of organized religion for a bunch of reasons, as fundies go she was actually pretty cool) on some of the big stuff at about 9 or 10. And I went through a fun new agey wiccan phase in my late teens and early 20s (that started with some American Indian stuff). And then it all kind of morphed to where I’m at now.

    I consider myself an apathetic agnostic atheist with a side of (don’t know, don’t care, don’t think it can be known either way, still don’t care) ignostic for my own spice (think the question itself as well as the answer is irrelevant).

  • Pickle

    I think I was around 10 or so when I first started questioning my family’s religion. (southern Baptist.)I remember my grandmother saying that people who don’t believe in god were going to hell. I asked her “What about the people who have never heard of god?” She said that they still go to hell. So I asked her “What about those people’s children? Would the little kids who don’t know go to hell too?” Her answer was the same.
    I was mortified and thought that was cruel and unfair. I never liked the religion after that, although it took me 20 more years to be fully atheist. I experimented with different beliefs and religions during that time (including my own form of christianity) but I never went back to being a Baptist.

  • Emily

    It seems I was 13 the first time I wrote that there is no god, in an extremely strange short story about a guy who’d been transported to another dimension to live inside a gigantic ethereal being that happened to speak English and have a similar cultural memory while also being too old to believe in gods. Cool shit.

    an excerpt:

    “There is no God.”
    “So now you attack my faith?”
    “Because a war is being fought over who has the strongest invisible friend.”

    (I’m pretty sure this was very soon after I finished reading the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman and that is what I was referencing)

    It later addresses many of the hypocrisies of religion and of the nature of the Christian deity. What a weird little kid I was. I don’t remember when I first started thinking atheist-esque things, but it was probably when I got yelled at for drawing goatees on Jesus in my children’s Bible when I was 6 😛

  • I can remember writing essays to myself on several occasions in an attempt to make sense of my doubts and questions. I don’t think they exist anymore. Although my parents have been known to hoard things we kids did/made throughout our years growing up. So maybe they’re in a shoe box somewhere in their basement.

  • I am 34. I was raised in a Christian household but had considered myself to be agnostic for years. At some point in the past year or so, after reading and thinking about it a lot, I realized that I’m an atheist. I first wrote about it here, in my homeschooling blog, in April of this year.

  • Shit, I don’t think I probably knew what atheism was at 13. I was a precocious child and had an interest in politics early (4th, 5th grade), but I never paid much mind to religion (I was raised Catholic and it was like water to a fish). When I finally did think about religion on my own, around 15 or 16, I reacted against Catholicism in favor of Evangelical flair. Then I studied theology in uni and came back to Catholicism, until I ultimately left religion behind. Can’t imagine what my life would have been like had I been an atheist at 13.

  • I stopped calling myself a Hindu around about aged 7. In 1992, Hindus went on a massive riot claiming that a mosque in Ayodhya was sited over the birthplace of the Avatar of Vishnu, Rama. This resulted in the mosque being torn down by an angry mob with nothing more than brute manpower. The mob then went on a killing spree killing muslims solely for believing in another god. I refused to be associated with them but I still prayed. Refusing to call myself a Hindu was a protest against their behaviour.

    When I was nearly 15 I went to Ayodhya with my parents for a pilgrimage. I was searched thoroughly and waited in queue with thousands of other devotees. 4 hours later we reached the shrine, the thing which hindus were fighting for. Inside was a poorly made hand painted doll.

    It hit me that people died just because of a doll. That Vishnu himself stated that it didn’t matter what you prayed to as long as you prayed. It was eye opening to realise that thousands of people suffered because people believed that magic would occur if you prayed hard enough.

  • I was always an atheist, I just never became anything else in the interim.

    My parents tried to take me to church as a little kid, but it just never stuck with me and I resisted immensely. One of the earliest issues I had with it had nothing to do with religion – the church sunday school room reeked of paste. You know, the kiddy glue that came in a big tub? I can’t stand it, and the whole room stunk of it, so I definitely didn’t want to be there.

    Beyond that, I spent the rest of the week learning about all the cool things that were out there. How the earth goes around the sun and people have walked on the moon and that there used to be giant dinosaurs walking around millions of years ago.

    Then I went to sunday school and they told me to believe that the sun went around the earth, that heaven is above it, and that everything was made 6,000 years agos. And no dinosaurs. And no proof. Just “Trust us. This old book says so.” Tyrannosauruses were always much cooler to me than Jesus.

    Then I started asking why I should believe this ancient baloney book but we all “knew” that the Greek myths were just stories and fabrications. Why should one set of 2,000 year old stories be considered true and another not? Boy, they really don’t like it when you ask that at sunday school.

    I hated the fact that 6 days out of the week, I was told and saw and learned that Man (the species) is simply amazing. Our ingenuity, creativity, everything that we do and can accomplish. Then, somebody else tries to tell me that we’re insignificant and should bow before their invisible friend in the sky and just trust them that it’s real. It didn’t take.

    After a while, my parents just stopped making me go, then they stopped going themselves. I like to think that I had a hand in that, but I dunno.

    This heretical belief that humans are the greatest thing in the universe and that I should be proud to be one of them was completely anathema to those boobs. So we never got along and I’ve always been just me in the universe. But I’m cool with that.

  • Ibis

    I was never “properly” indoctrinated into any religion (though baptised and later confirmed into Catholicism). My father died when I was eight and though people would say he was looking down on me from heaven I don’t recall internalising that belief really. Religion to me was something I occasionally visited as a tourist. I didn’t believe in God, but I didn’t disbelieve either. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, sometimes attending Catholic schools, sometimes public schools. Around the age of 11, I got confirmed because I was in the Catholic school, but it was all theatre to me. I liked the ritual stuff and put in my name to be an altar girl (for whatever reason that didn’t end up happening), but it was no different in kind to me than being a Girl Guide or taking riding lessons.

    As soon as I started to learn about Christianity, I rejected it deliberately. Early on, my first objection was the doctrines about animals and the earth. In my grade 9 religion class, I and a couple of other people argued with the teacher about how if humans had souls, so did animals. That it wouldn’t be fair for humans to be able to go to heaven but not dolphins or dogs. Our little group of objectors called ourselves “The Atheist Society” as a joke and countered the dogma whenever we felt it was unjust.

    At the same time though, I was beginning to believe that there was a God–I was developing into a pantheist. I came to the conclusion that all religions were man-made “paths up the same mountain” and investigated all the major ones, finally settling on neoPaganism in my late teens and twenties. In my early thirties, I fell away from practising the religion due to reasons other than belief or lack of it, but being solitary again opened the door to more critical analysis about the premises of those foundational beliefs I still held. It’s only now in the past few years that I’ve come full circle, back to being, for all intents and purposes, an atheist.

  • Angela

    I don’t remember my exact age when I realized I didn’t believe in God. I think I was 13 or 14 (maybe even 12). I didn’t write anything down but I remember telling my mom. We were in the kitchen and I just told her that I didn’t believe in God. I said I wasn’t going to tell my grandmother because she would be horrified.

    My family wasn’t very religious so it wasn’t a big deal. I found out later my mom herself had doubts, so she didn’t push religion.

    My thought process in becoming an atheist was that different civilizations all through history believed in many different gods, so what made “our” god so special? Plus, a lot of the things they used gods to explain could now be explained with science, so why bother with god(s) anymore?

  • I’m a 2nd generation atheist but grew up in a fairly religious community. I learned early to keep my thoughts to myself while at school. Although in high-school, a friend of mine and I got atheist tee-shirts made and wore them to school one day. It caused quite a stir. His said “Atheists Unite”. Being a prankster, mine said “I swear to God I’m an atheist”. I have no idea where that tee-shirt is now some 30 years later.

  • jenea

    I definitely wrote a bit of a manifesto when I was about 14. I felt like I needed to explain to my (very devout) father where I was coming from. I think growing up I expected that Jesus would be like Santa Claus–eventually I would be let in on the secret that everyone was just pretending to believe, because it was so obviously not true. But that day never came.

    I have been trying to track down the manifesto, which might be on a floppy disk somewhere. Wish I had it! All I can remember for sure is that I talked about how the “God of the gaps” argument was flawed (although I remember I called it “placing God at the edge of our understanding”). I also made the case that religions are contradictory; not all of them can be right, but all of them can be wrong!

  • 5-10: I was thinking about evolution (yep, a little young for that). I tried to ignore the obvious theological issues.
    10-13:I started a blog, about evolution, I went into a catholic high school I had to confront it, and I did, on the internet and my first formal writing about it is here, I investigated it on websites like this first though.
    Ummm… I’m still thirteen so that is it. I think that is my only writing on it incept in little comments such as this and links to material on the subject. I also had a discussion in a separate page that has been destroyed in a freak saving accident.

  • I wrote an article on an Australian website about my early experiences with Atheism – at the age of 6:

  • Lauren

    My family never went to church, so I grew up as an atheist in spirit because I was never presented with a religion. I didn’t know that’s what I was, I had an inkling in middle school, but the first time I wrote something about it was freshman year of high school. I had just finished The God Delusion and Atheist Universe back to back (first atheist books ever, I hid them from my mom under my mattress). At the same time, my English teacher had given us an assignment for an opinion piece. I wrote about how atheists are generally misunderstood because people like to demonize what they don’t understand. It was a pretty wishy washy piece, looking back on it. I had just recently plunged into the atheist blog world, so my opinions weren’t as strong as they are now. But it’s sort of fitting, because now I’m a junior and I wrote my Common Application college essay about a small incident in elementary school that contributed to my atheism.

    This blog actually helped me write that first essay freshman year because this was the first atheist blog I ever read, and I kind of used it to help me not chicken out of writing my essay. I thought, “If Hemant can write a public blog about it, I can write a stupid essay that only my teacher will read about it.” 🙂

  • I wasn’t young; I was 26.

  • Annie

    @William- wow! Impressive blog. Thanks for the link.

    I’ve enjoyed all of your stories and recounts. I am the product of 12 years of Catholic school, and always felt there was something wrong with me because I didn’t buy into any of the stories.

    My first memory of consciously not believing in a god or gods was when I was about 8-9. I would lie in bed, picture myself flying through the vastness of the universe and wondering, ‘When I die, what happens forever and ever and ever and ever…’ With each passing ‘ever’ I imagined myself going farther into space. Even with an active imagination, I couldn’t picture a heaven, or any other kind of stopping point. Ironically, once I really thought that when I die, I’m just dead, I was relieved. (And I wasn’t even a bad kid).

  • Thorny

    I was born an Atheist, My parent were not religious and even though i went to a church of england school at the age of 3 which here is young enough to start doing prayers and listening to bible verses in school, i never believed it and so did the rest of my class (about 30 of us) from my entire primary school when i was there (about 120) i only knew 5 religious people that said they believe in god, the rest of us regarded it as just stories and a few agnostic.

  • Kari

    I went to an evangelical Pentecostal church until I was about 11. But when I was 9, I was at a Jesus Camp and everyone was rolling around on the floor speaking in “tongues” (AKA: Gibberish). I just sat there thinking “Are we gonna do this talent show thing or what?” That’s when I knew I wasn’t Xtian. I fancied myself a pagan in high school, but I didn’t believe in a single all-knowing, all-seeing creator. Shortly after high school I was just like “F@#$ it, I’m an atheist.”

  • I reached atheism at about the age of six. I resisted having to go to church with my Catholic mother, especially since there was one part of the service where the priest would say ‘let us give thanks to the Lord our God’ and the whole congregation would reply, in sync, ‘It is right to give him thanks and praise.’ Which, to a six-year-old, sounds like everyone’s been bloody hypnotised and brainwashed. It was too close to real-life mind control for me to feel comfortable with any of it.

  • weasels

    I have been born in a bathist family. the difference is my mother and father were very focus on the good things you could take from Christianity. I know as a child I could never really pay attention in church and part of me felt strange for me to believe. during around middle school me and my friend would commonly visit each others house, and I remember we had long winded rants on various topics. religion was my friends favorite, he was already an atheist.

    the more we talked about it the more I realized that nothing in religion made any sense to me logically. One day during high school that friend gave me a book, he knew I was on the wall for the longest time. the book was entitled the atheist universe. the book was a proving point for me, and really helped me open my eye’s. at the age of 15 I was sure of I did not believe in any god. eventually my family found out…which was heart breaking because, while i was not punished or hated for it and still accepted, it hurt to know that in some way I was letting my parents down, whom I still love to this day. It hurt even more that my dad (due to depression medicine) forgot that i was atheist…so a second time I felt like I hurt him. none of this will change my standpoint though, as i know i can lead a good life as a person, just like Reilly has discovered.

  • Courtney

    Neither of my parents are religious–Dad is almost certainly an atheist and I think my mom would probably call herself agnostic? Weirdly, this was not something we really talked about at home.

    However, they did send me to church (Assembly of God, yikes) with the people next door, vacation bible school and Baptist pre-school. Also, one of the first books I can remember my father giving me was a children’s bible, which I read cover to cover. I can’t recall if I ever took any of these things super seriously, but I have a very strong memory of the girl next door trying to explain the trinity to me and my internal reaction being one of, “Are you kidding me? That’s ridiculous.” I was probably 6 or 7 at the time.

    From then on, I think theism was out the window for me, though I continued to attend church fairly often until was 11 or so.

  • I read the bible at the end of middle school and my freshman year of high school I had to write a personal essay about any random topic, and I wrote about 12 pages about why I think “god” is silly, why saying he’s silly shouldn’t be such a touchy subject, and why I felt religion was a bad thing. I somehow incorporated public bathrooms, as I recall…
    I got a C and the teacher requested I abstain from reading it aloud like everyone else, haha

  • Zac

    Why didn’t you post the zombie excerpt?
    I became an atheist at what I now calculate was the age of six. So I suppose I was an early bloomer or something. I had never really thought about my belief in God before a particular set of events I remember quite well.
    In year 2 (Grade 2 to Americans) we had RE classes as part of the curriculum. They were completely optional, but the parents made the decision. In one particular class, the teacher was telling us about the weather. She told us that thunder was God moving his furniture and lightning was him dropping and breaking a vase. Unfortunately for my faith, we were looking at weather in class the next week. As the teacher explained what lightning actually was, I got kind of confused. So I asked her about what the RE teacher said. And my teacher told me that she had been lying to me. This shook me. Why would she lie? Why did she want me to think that? So this train of thought continued until eventually I was an atheist.
    I went to the RE classes for the rest of the year, but when next year rolled around and it was time to opt-in/out of the classes, I told my parents I didn’t want to go. I can’t remember how they reacted but I do know that I never went to RE again.

  • BibleBeltAtheist

    For me there actually was a moment at which I completely let go of religion. After being a strict, fervent, fundamentalist Christian until I was 16, I had a conversation on the phone (one of many) with one of my friends who was an atheist. I don’t remember the exact words said, but it truely occured to me during our conversation that I had no faith left to hold onto and I broke down into tears on the phone.

    That night I basically panicked and was in a completely different world than those around me. I ignored everyone, zoning out and focusing all my attention on the reality of the god-less world. I couldn’t sleep. The next day I felt a weight lifted off my weary shoulders, and I realized my new freedom. My teen-angsty mind decided to burn my very well read bible in the back yard with a whole gallon of gasoline, whose absense my dad certainly noticed later.

    I also wrote a long list of things that would remind me of why there was no rational reason to believe in god should I ever “back-slide” and re-convert, but I remember not being able to find it and being so paranoid that my mother had found it and read it and would kill me one day (or herself from sadness) but neither ever happened luckily.

  • Daniel

    It was probably religious education that led me to atheism as well. My parents were disgruntled, semi-apathetic Catholics so I wasn’t raised in a normally religious household, but I did attend Mass regularly as a small child. Mass is a fairly non-religious experience when you’re five and have no idea what is going on though. You spend most of the time figuring out sit/stand/kneel. (The only lasting effect of my childhood Mass exposure seems to be a fondness for the scent of incense.) My first real exposure to religion was going to CCD (Catholic religious education) one night a week starting when I was about seven. And I remember the cartoon color drawing that they used to explain the Resurrection. Women are standing in front of a cave with the stone rolled away. So, the teacher explained the the tomb was empty and that Jesus appeared again three days later. And I sat there and thought “Hold on a sec. She actually expects me to believe that this happened, not in a story, but for real.” I went home and told my mother that I just didn’t believe any of it and that I didn’t want to go anymore. My mother said “Just go to class and get your First Communion and you don’t have to ever go to CCD or church again. So, I did the class, took First (and Last) Communion and that was it. We never went to church again. My parents would sometimes go individually on their own, but they never took either me or my siblings again.

    I knew I wasn’t a Christian from the day I heard the Resurrection story in CCD, but I didn’t know I was an atheist until I came across Russell’s “Why I Am Not a Christian” in the local library. I remember reading the sentence, “I think all the great religions of the world—Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and Communism—both untrue and harmful.” It was the first time I had encountered someone else who believed what I did. I wish there had been SSA groups when I was in school. The only atheists I knew until college were in books.

  • I remember when I was about 10 or 11 years old, I would ask my Grandmother questions about god and our religion (Catholic) and she was unable to give me satisfactory answers. Eventually I was enrolled into this program called Released Time. It really opened my eyes to how ridiculous the whole thing was. I would constantly ask questions about god and all I got was to take it on faith, and read the bible. I’d ask questions about Revelations and they’d tell my that I shouldn’t read that until I was old enough to understand it.

    It was just one great big scam. I mean it was great to get out of school early on Fridays and one of my best friends went too. Another bonus was that a girl I liked went to it too, but honestly the whole thing just made me realize how Jesus and god were as real as Santa Claus and The Easter Bunny.

    But hey, free pizza, praise the lord!

  • Chelsea

    The first time I wrote about my atheism was only a few months ago, when I was up at 2 A.M. working on a philosophy paper. I abandoned the paper and wrote my own philosophy instead, about my deconversion. I called it “How Atheism Prepared Me For Death.” I’m certain it needs some revision but I’m pretty proud of it.
    However, it could never have the same amount of charm as something that a 13-year-old wrote. 😀

  • I’ve never believed in gods so I’ve always been an atheist. It didn’t come up in conversation at home and I’m pretty sure that I would not even have a concept of gods without those busybody believers insisting that I be told. As it is I still struggle to understand what they are talking about when they say “god” as the concept seems pretty devoid of meaning to me.

  • TiltedHorizon

    As a child I suffered with night terrors and nightmares. They started when I was around 12 after I realized that god’s punishment was often inflicted on children. The idea that god could so ruthlessly and arbitrarily punish me for any sin my parents may commit left me feeling helpless and tortured with fear that followed me into slumber. The effect on my life was so profound that I eventually had to repeat the school year and seek counseling. With time I eventually got over this fear but the damage was done. I could no longer look at the bible with innocent eyes.

    It would be another decade before I would see myself as Atheist but that was the genesis moment, like looking at the first frame in a motion picture action scene, where I started to turn my back on faith.

  • I grew up atheist, so religion was foreign and completely irrelevant to my life as a child. Atheism was just normal to me, and I wouldn’t have thought to write about the fact that I didn’t believe in any gods. In all the diaries and journals I kept growing up, I think the first mention of religion is in the one I kept during eighth grade. The summer after middle school, I went to Mormon summer camp with a friend. That was my first experience of being immersed in a religious setting for an extended period of time, and I did write about how strange it was. But nowhere in those entries do I mention the fact that I’m an atheist. It’s just sort of a given.

    Here’s an excerpt:

    Sunday, July 28th, 1991. Well here I am at Camp Liahona. It is a Mormon camp so they do some really strange things like folding their arms when they pray. Camp is fine, I guess, personally I think there is more religion than other things around here. They pray when they raise the flag, breakfast, lunch, dinner, lower the flag, at campfire and at bedtime. Plus they sing songs that I just hum to since I don’t know the words.

    Despite that rather lackluster description, I did actually have a fun time at camp. The girls and the counselors were nice, and no one tried to convert me while I was there. I did tell them that I wasn’t Mormon, and it didn’t seem to be a problem. I can’t remember if I told people I was an atheist. Probably not. My friend knew I didn’t believe, but I don’t recall getting into theological discussions with anyone else while I was there, and there wouldn’t have been any other reason for me to mention it. I was more interested in having fun, and I dealt with the religious aspects by being a quiet observer.

  • Anna

    I remember asking my mom when I was about 12 if I would become religious when I got older because I just didn’t get it or care about it. She assured me I would, but she was wrong. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I started saying I am an atheist, but if I had grown up during the internet age it probably would have happened much soon.

    I still carry a quote in my wallet from Mother Teresa which I think explains best what is wrong with christianity and why I feel secular humanism is a much better moral path:

    “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped bu the suffering of the poor people.”

  • My first thoughts that my god belief was wrong was when I was 13. We were studying ancient religions in history class, and the thought, “If none of these gods are real, what makes the Christian god special?” That’s when I stopped caring about God, but didn’t call myself an atheist. I only began calling myself that when I was 17. Now I’m 20, and openly advocate atheism over theism. Or as I like to call it, “reality over fantasy.” Not easy while living the most religious state in the US, but some people are actually willing to listen to what I have to say.

  • I applied to be a minister around 1992, when I was 22. I was accepted by then university, but not by the church. I think they, perhaps, saw some doubt even then!

    I read “The Selfish Gene” around 1997, which kicked my brain into reality mode! 🙂

    The first time I wrote anything publicly was actually in the following blog post only 3 months ago:

    Loosing my humanity?

    Only a small post and focusing on one small issue, bur a big step for me.

    I suppose, changing my facebook religious views to Atheist at around the same time, where every person I know would see it, was another big step.

    A few theists I know have had discussions with me, some a little heated, but they have, as yet, to demonstrate anything that comes anywhere close to being considered evidence for any deity, never mind a specific one!

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