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Atheism and Me

I don't go into deep topics much, but this is a topic that's been floating around a while. My Twitter feed has several Atheists and we've had some interesting discussion. I can't really say I have a light bulb moment exactly, but more of a series of events over several years culminating before this journal began. I think it started the summer between third and fourth grade. I'd just been removed from Episcopal school and was preparing to enter public school, yet now my parents were discussing church on Sundays, something we never did when I was little. My mom took us to church alone explaining that my dad didn't want to go. Well nosy little me, I wanted to know why. I think I was given some BS answer about his work week was too long, but I knew that wasn't it. He was there for major holidays, baptism and confirmations, but never regular weeks.

Next major flash point was seventh grade, probably spring, when I made my mother justify my attendance at Sunday School. I was bored and hating services without choir (no youth choir until after I graduated). Most would say that was typical of preteens, but I think my mom was beginning to get a clue as while in most areas, the religious minority was Jews, in Augusta is was a combination of Muslims and Hindus. Many of whom were my friends. They were good people and I couldn't see them going to Hell for not believing in Christ. Later as high school started I ended up with an Atheist friend. The conversations she and I had with the Hindus, Muslims, and Christians led to me thinking Hell was non-existent there by meaning Heaven was too. However, I didn't know what that meant regarding an afterlife. Despite not making me go to church in eight or ninth grade, my mother put pressure on me to go to youth group. While I'll never know given that those were the kids that teased me in elementary school. In ninth grade, the youth minister started calling trying to get me to come too. The fights I had with my mom should've told her something. Then there was tenth grade, when I signed up for confirmation classes to get Mom and Sarah off my case. During those classes, I realized that valuing works more than faith was a problem. I got confirmed anyway, told Mom it was basically to cover my ass if I ever wanted to get married there. Then there was senior year of high school when European History started with six weeks of theology, including the realization that best I could call myself was a Deist. After that, I finished my acolyting duties begrudgingly and graduated.

I'm really not sure when Deist became Atheist. I took 3 Religion classes in college: Ethics, US History, and South Asian. This lead to a greater understanding of religion in general. However, I think all of these were after the Episcopal Church drama of 2003. That year New Hampshire wanted to ordain a gay bishop, Gene Robinson. I was in support of it as were the voting members of my church's clergy. The congregation was not. However, despite the arguments I had in my parents' office that summer, the last straw came from the University chaplain. I'd gone to a service in February 2003 because the football coach I adored was giving a homily. That had led to me continuing to follow church events as the Robinson vote loomed in August. In June or July, I found a homophobic letter from the chaplain that I showed my mother. She was as appalled as I was and backed my decision to leave the church over this. After this, I took the aforementioned religion classes in junior and senior year. Somewhere in those classes, I became an Atheist. However, it was cemented ironically, summer of 2004, at the YMCA camp I attended as a kid and teen. As I was in the outdoor chapel with the gorgeous view I realized this no longer felt right. I haven't been to a service that wasn't for a wedding or funeral since. And to be honest, the first Christmas I skipped a service.

Unfortunately, my grandparents weren't there that year and I think that's the only reason I got to skip. My mom won't tell them and wants me not to, but I did tell my grandmother I no longer go to church when she suggested I use that as a way to look for a job. None of the rest of my extended family knows though that I know of. I've only recently found out that my dad considers himself a Christian and yet doesn't believe in God, and claims not to since the day he found out Santa wasn't real at six. How that works, I have no idea. I'm guessing maybe because he didn't lie at a confirmation. Anyway, ask whatever you want.


Your parents sound interesting and pretty open-minded and that makes me happy for you! (Well, you didn't mention MUCH conflict with them, at least.) <3 If you come out to the rest of your family, tell us what happens. That's an incredibly brave thing to do and I hope it goes well for you.

Edited at 2011-08-24 07:05 am (UTC)
They are super open-minded. My sister's BFF had a different coming out on Christmas Day a few years ago. As for my extended fam, they'll learn as they need too, see what I did with grandma.
Thanks for sharing your story. Having been occasionally forced to go to a Methodist Sunday school as a child is about as far as I can relate. The last memory I have of church was about six or seven years old sitting in the pews on an Easter Sunday daydreaming that one day I'd have a house that big. Thankfully, my mom realized I wasn't having any part of it and simply stopped taking us. Since then both she and my father have "seen the light" and followed me happily into non-belief.

I've no doubt dealing with a family of believers is the hardest part of making the transition, although it sounds like your mom and dad are not averse to discussing it with you. My best advice is to assure yourself of your new found conviction by reading Harris and Dawkins, and watching the highly compelling arguments for rationality by Christopher Hitchens all available on YouTube. Pat Condell is another somewhat insightful man whose written a couple of books and has some very thought provoking, yet entertaining vids on youtube.

Two of my favorites, if you'd like to jump right in =)...Pat Condell:

Just a sampling of arguments from the astoundingly brilliant Christopher Hitchens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQorzOS-F6w

...and most definitely rent Religulous. No one uncovers the hypocrisy & silliness of blind belief with more humor than Maher. =)

You're welcome, thanks for the links and authors. Yeah basically telling your parents that their wusses and/or full of it isn't easy. Fortunately, my mom's not uber Christian and my dad well, he could've made my teen years much easier.

I don't think parents should force their kids to go to church. I know when they are young, the parents tote them to church, but until kids are old enough to chooce their own religion or none at all, why force religion on them? No, I'm not a parent nor do I plan to be, so I'm probably not the best person to be doling out advice.

I feel a lot of religions are filled with hate, predjuice and homophobia. My Mom will get on me at times about prayer and having religion in my life, but I just haven't heard a compelling argument as to why. Just because you don't attend church that doesn't make you a bad person.
Exactly and tbh I lost respect for her when I realized how much how other people viewed her played into her expectations of me.