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mazingerz88's avatar

How does a religious person become an aetheist?

Asked by mazingerz88 (18445 points ) December 12th, 2012

In your own case, what were the circumstances involved, the duration upon which, one day, you realized you have just become an agnostic or an aetheist from being someone who was devotedly religious?

I’m assuming religious people did not come to this, walking away from heartfelt beliefs quite that easily.

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47 Answers

janbb's avatar

I jsut realized that the idea of God made no sense. It was a gradual process as I grew up and not traumatic but then, I was never very religious to begin with.

psyonicpanda's avatar

By listening to reason and understanding logic.
1+1=2
We know this as fact.
2+2= God
We know this as faith.

digitalimpression's avatar

It’s easier to be an atheist. It means everything is dumb luck and they don’t have to be accountable to anyone for anything save other like-minded individuals. Mankind has a long history of taking the easy road.

Judi's avatar

As a Christian, I think it’s a “God thing” that my son decided he was an atheist AFTER my faith evolved to a place where I am no longer worried about him suffering hell fire and brimstone his entire eternity.
I think for him, being bipolar, faith turned into religiosity that spiraled into a crazy place. It is easier for him to stay stable if he removes faith from the mix.
I’m so glad this happened now and not 5 years ago. I would have been a basket case. Now I understand it and am good with it. (I don’t think her believes me though since he was raised pretty fundamentalist.)

mazingerz88's avatar

@janbb If I may, what was it about the idea that made no sense?

janbb's avatar

@mazingerz88 I generally don’t answer religious questions because I see no need to delve into it or believe that anyone will change anybody else’s feelings. Nor do I want to. I will just say that the scientific/random explanations for causation in the universe seem more logical to me than the idea of a creator. That does not mean I am not an ethical person and I do believe in striving for self-knowledge and self-improvement.

psyonicpanda's avatar

@mazingerz88 I know it started for me when I was but a wee child going to a catholic private school and nobody could answer the question why? Why is it that I should dedicate my life to something that has no physical substance, that has been corrupted by thousands of years interrpretations, and why the heck am I eating this guy and drinking his blood?
The typical answer was because ” our Faith tells us so” that is not and answer that can dictate the life in which I choose to live.

ucme's avatar

Harvey Keitel’s character in From Dusk til Dawn flirted with this anomaly, him being a preacher & his wife dying young, his faith was shaken for a while. Until fucked up vampires from hell needed holy water splashing onto their wretched souls, that’s all I got.

DominicX's avatar

@digitalimpression For me, believing in God is the easy road: not worrying about explanations because “God did it”, not worrying about what may happen because “God will take care of it.” Not worrying about your actions’ consequences because you have faith, and that means you’re going to heaven.

To me, religion was created to fill in the blanks: explain things that cannot be explained, keep people in line, and give meaning to people’s lives. Since I don’t need religion for those things, I don’t consider myself a believer.

What turned me off of Christianity in particular was mainly the idea that Hell was the main motivation behind belief. It’s all about “saving from Hell”—that’s the motivation for all conversions. The idea that the millions of people in the world who follow different religions, no matter how much their religion gives them hope, meaning, peace, and comfort; these people are choosing eternal damnation by not following Christianity. God gives us the faculties to doubt his existence or choose other religions, and then we are punished eternally for those faculties. I don’t think Christianity should take precedence over other religions just because it has one of the harshest punishments for not believing. Pascal’s Wager can, for all intents and purposes, go to hell :)

KNOWITALL's avatar

I flirted with the idea for several years in my early 20’s, I was learning a lot about people, the world and studying other religions, so I questioned my faith. I had heard a lot of people saying Christians were brainwashed idiots, etc…so I really thought about it.

What I realized, was that for me personally, I find comfort and peace in my religion (Catholic) and since religion is based on faith, I simply chose to believe. I can pray at any time and release my problems to God and it literally feels like 100 lbs is lifted off my shoulders.

If there’s no God, Jesus, or Holy Spirit, what harm comes from the mass ‘delusion’? None.

If there is a God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, I’m not risking eternal damnation, hellfire or whatever Satan has in mind.

So either way, I consider myself as winning. :) Everyone needs something to believe in if you ask me, and religion is also part of our moral compass.

Like the American Indians who had never heard of God or Jesus, they still worshipped nature and the Great Spirit, they still had leaders to help them with morality and questions.

I’ve also experienced a few things that show me personally the hand of God in my life, so yeah, I believe after all my time questioning.

Seek's avatar

I realised that my literalist interpretation of the Bible was not sustainable, due to the contradictions present in the work itself. This led to my questioning the accuracy of any part of the Bible as a basis for life choices, as one could use either side of a contradictory statement, and both would be a Bible-based choice.

Then, I questioned what reason I have for believing in the god of the Bible if there’s nothing but the unreliable source of the Bible itself for evidence.

Then I questioned what reason I have for believing in any god over any other at all.

For a while, I played with Pascal’s Wager – better to believe and be wrong than not believe and be wrong. But that doesn’t make sense, unless your gamble happens to include the correct real god (what if it was Viracocha all the time?!?). And ultimately, I found truth to be more important than that warmfuzzy feeling that religion was supposed to give you.

So I have to deal with my own problems. So what? I had to deal with them anyway. Now I have more drive to actually solve them, rather than just wishing them away.

syz's avatar

It’s easier to be religious. It means everything is God’s will and they don’t have to be accountable to anyone for anything save other like-minded individuals. Mankind has a long history of taking the easy road.

Ron_C's avatar

Believe it or not, when I was a young teen, I considered entering the priesthood. The problem with that is that there is the complete bible to be read and considered plus you must study the laws and traditions of your church.

I did this and the more I learned the closer I came to becoming an atheist. It is my experience that there is a greater chance of an atheist knowing and understanding a religion than an ordinary parishioner. Now that I understand what is required of a Catholic, it is impossible for me to believe in that religion or for me to force that religion on my children.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@syz If you think it’s easy to live a moral or Christian-based life in these times, I would have to STRONGLY disagree. Is it easier to pick up a Bible that so many people dismiss as ‘stories’ instead of a beer at the bar with your pals? How is that easier, seriously?

Also, why would you think that because I believe in God and can release my problems into His hands, that I’m/ we’re not accountable?
We still have to work, pay bills, live through each day, and all that, the same as you. Perhaps as you would drink a beer or smoke a fatty, we may instead lay our burdens at His feet.

I certainly don’t want to antagonize or anything here, but some of these answers are amazingly demeaning.

(Warm fuzzy feeling, Seek? Isn’t that a good thing? This from someone who posted a question about the negative effect cult members had on her life?

Who wouldn’t want to know the truth instead of blind belief…but until some GOD reveals themselves as the ONE TRUE GOD we still only have faith.)

Seek's avatar

As I said – the warm feeling might be nice, but that doesn’t make it true. It might bring comfort to believe we’ll revisit our dead loved ones, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. People spend so much time preparing for the afterlife that they forget to live this life. And I used to be one of them.

DominicX's avatar

@KNOWITALL I think @syz was responding to digitalimpression’s comment that being an atheist is the “easy way out”. If it’s rude to say it about theists, why wouldn’t it be the same to say it about atheists? And this is a question about why people rejected religion. You’re going to see some stuff you don’t like. Not everyone sees the world the way you do and just because your worldview works for you doesn’t mean it works for others.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Um no, he said it’s easier to be religious…I don’t see that at all and I’m in the frickin bible belt, ya know?!

I guess because Christians aren’t supposed to judge each other, I tend to find all judgement wrong because we’re all faulty humans, so yeah, I’ll leave ya’ll to it.

@Seek_Kolinahr The warm feelings don’t fill my bank account or gas tank or make my husband healthy, but yes it brings comfort.

DigitalBlue's avatar

I realized at a young age that although the god of the Bible was possible, it was improbable. I was about 12 when I started having questions that I couldn’t find the answers to, and I was scolded by the church and by my grandparents for even asking. Even at 12 I felt like it was just completely nonsensical. I started exploring other religions, none of which offered me answers or fulfillment, and none that I could really find it in my heart to believe. Atheism gave me that. I don’t have to try to believe it, I just believe it. It makes sense (to me.)

Seek's avatar

Being comforted wasn’t enough for me.

flutherother's avatar

If your concept of religion conflicts with your experience of reality something will give eventually. I went to Sunday school as a kid but the ideas of religion they tried to instil never sunk in with me. I was never religious to begin with and having no religion to reject I never became a serious atheist either.

rojo's avatar

While wearing red slippers, click your heels together three times while chanting “There’s no Pope in Rome, There’s no Pope in Rome, There’s no Pope in Rome”

(well it worked for me)

problemlikemaria's avatar

I was raised in church, but as I got into high school I just sort of looked around and realized there was no particular reason I believed what I believed. Being too old to go on blind faith anymore, I sort of slowly turned to agnosticism.
Since then, however, I have become a Christian again. I did some reading and found a couple of arguments for Christianity that I felt were stronger than those I had read against it. I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to find truth as best they can through reasoning.

Seek's avatar

Oh! I just realised the question specifically asked the duration of time it took between questioning faith and “becoming an atheist”.

About two years. Maybe closer to three. There were a lot of prayer sessions, Bible studies, and soul searches involved in my ultimate apostasy.

ninjacolin's avatar

I was a super devout christian. I loved every minute of it and still have many fond memories of my confidence and the sense of blessing that I received from living that way.

I’ll save you the story though and I’ll tell you, in hindsight, what the process was like:

A) I learned what the Scientific Method was all about: demonstrability of claims.
B) I realized that evolution was a demonstrable and practical theory.
C) I realized that the Garden of Eden story as well as many other biblical claims were utterly non-demonstrable (aka. unscientific) and required my belief not based on any good evidence but rather on my personal decree (aka. faith) that they must be true, in the same way that a gambler would blow on dice and decree that there must be some significant effect on their roll. I still don’t feel that I have the proper authority to decree things as real in that sense.
D) Without the foundation of the Garden of Eden story I came to realize that a lot of other important bible themes including the ones pertaining to Christ, were essentially baseless.
E) I lost confidence in any baseless beliefs I held on mere faith.

That’s about it. At present, I consider my conversion to be the abolition of all my superstitious beliefs. Instead, I rely on demonstrable conclusions; things that can be backed up by “good” evidence.

amujinx's avatar

While there was some other things going on that caused me to question my faith, the real swing that flipped me was actually reading the Bible.

YARNLADY's avatar

I was raised in a very religious family. My grandfather and several of my uncles were ministers. I saw relatives around me “feeling” the presence of God and having mysterious religious experiences, but I never felt a thing.

I read the Bible on my own, and the other books the Mormons believe in, but they didn’t make sense to me. I asked lots of questions but the answer was always “We don’t understand God’s ways”.

Since I didn’t accept that as a valid answer, I tried various other churches. When I got kicked out of one Bible class, they finally told me the truth. I don’t have any faith.

OK, so that cleared it all up.

Rarebear's avatar

In my case, it was simply a gradual road of becoming a hard science based skeptic.

tranquilsea's avatar

I was a late comer to faith. I liked the church I started attending and started reading the bible from cover to cover. There were too many odd things about what I read and no one could give me straight answers. We moved and tried to find another church but we couldn’t find one that we liked. This coincided with my 2nd go-through of the bible and my reading of the Pauline Conspiracy on a comparative religion site. I backed out of the faith then. I’m agnostic now like I was before.

whitenoise's avatar

@KNOWITALL
There are many many different faiths… What if you are wrong and one of the other faiths’ God is the one you should have chosen? One of these jealous nasty Gods? (Like the one from the first testament?) then that God may actually punish you for having been Catholic.

Pascal’s wager is based on the weak premise that you are either right as a a christian or right as an atheist. Maybe you shoul become Islamic, (who view themselves to be the ‘upgraded’ Christians.). That may make even more sense in hedging your after life odds.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL I think what is meant by being religious is easier, is that the individual does not need to question or think, they are followers. I don’t mean that religious people never question or think for themselves, but the most devout basically accept the rules and teachings of their religion, whether it makes logical sense or not.

Silence04's avatar

When I came to the conclusion that there was no possible way santa clause could be real, I started questioning other outrageous fairy tales. Boom, agnostic!

Shippy's avatar

I find my whole experience odd, maybe even freaky. I was raised by Atheists. In fact believing in Jesus you got a firm wack across the face. I was nearly once thrown out of the house for believing.

My parents were what I would call ‘progressive’ thinkers. Which is strange since they died recently and were both near 80.

But as a family and before I was born they traveled a lot. This led my father becoming interested in Buddhism and Tao. He used to say “if” there was a God, then Muslims had a better slant on it. As in Jesus was a prophet no more.

I had so many experiences of God as a child and as an adult that I started to believe this caused so much friction at home.

My mom had a brain injury and was in a coma for ages, and when she came round she was very religious, much to my father consternation. This lead to her talking constantly about Jesus and faith and would drive the old man dilly.

I have little faith, I don’t get fuzzy feelings from it. But I do know some peace from the Word. When I am terribly anxious I do find comfort. But I wouldn’t use me as a model Christian or anything of the sort. I just know what I have experienced. And it wasn’t from teaching or indoctrination, since I was banned and forbidden to attend churches etc.

In fact my father was very mocking of it all. Sometimes putting on an American accent and saying things like “Yeah Jesus gonna help ya!”. (He had lived in America and Canada) so maybe got it from there !!

augustlan's avatar

It started when I read the bible straight through in 6th grade and realized it didn’t make sense and was full of contradictions. I went back and forth a couple of times in my life, from believer to agnostic to deist to agnostic again and finally to atheist.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

It started for me when I was 13, and first noticed a flaw in the teachings of Christianity. However I accepted that I couldn’t possibly understand every detail of Christian beliefs, so I conveniently ignored it. Over the next few years, this would become a pattern – noticing a problem, then ignoring it as insignificant. Finally when I was 17, I realised how many problems I had been ignoring, and how little sense my beliefs made. So I threw myself into learning all I could about religious teachings, and tried to form a solid basis for belief.

I began to realise the futility of my attempts when I was 18, and started to call myself an atheist. Three and a half years later, I rarely consider religious issues. My arguments are not as robust as they once were, and I do not remember all the angles I developed in my quest for truth. But honestly, I no longer care.

For me, the truth is thus: The existence of a deity has no bearing on my life. I seek to live honourably irrespective of religious or mystic teachings. I will continue to do so whether there be many gods, one god, or none. It makes no difference. Therefore such beliefs are of no use to me, and the possibility of a deity existing is of so little consequence that I can readily discard it.

glacial's avatar

For me, it began with nagging doubt caused by inconsistencies in the bible (homosexuality being a sin, for example – that makes no sense to me whatsoever). I see this Epicurus quote re-posted here a lot, and it basically describes my journey to atheism, which took several years:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

Though, for me, the final straw was the idea that god could be all-powerful and all-seeing, yet not aware or not interested. At that point, I realized that if there was a god, it didn’t particularly matter to me. But logically, I simply can’t believe that there is one. The idea seems nonsensical or childish to me now.

Hey, @digitalimpression, if becoming an atheist out of sheer laziness isn’t your own personal experience, maybe you shouldn’t be telling everyone here that that is how it happens. Because it isn’t my experience, and I don’t know any other atheists with that experience either. That is quite an ugly judgment on your part.

KNOWITALL's avatar

It’s very interesting to me that so many of you have ‘believed’ in the past and others never have. It’s only natural to question everything as you grow up and older with a larger knowledge base and life experiences.

For me, my belief system contradicts my religious beliefs in a few ways. I am a firm believer that homosexuality is a natural occurance at birth rather than a choice. That being said, most Christians in my world, stand firm on the biblical stand that homosexuality is wrong and that I am not a good Christian for believing as I do, and opening my heart and my religion to them.

To those people I say, if God is Love, and we are all His children regardless of our beliefs, then He would tell me to love my neighbor as myself regardless of any ‘sins’ or non-compliance with traditional Christian beliefs.

I also have a few other beliefs that don’t mesh, like attending a church regularly to fellowship with other Christians. They seriously annoy me when they’re judgemental or get into your personal business, so I just won’t do it. Plus a lot of churches are good and filled with good people, but others seem to run a church exactly like a for-profit business, which to me is a sin.

My life hasn’t been fantastic, I’ve faced a lot of challenges, and still am. My belief that God has a purpose for all of this is what keeps me going with a smile on my face through adversity, and to me, even if it’s just ‘warm and fuzzy feelings’ to some of you, it works. What keeps you all going through your tough times?

janbb's avatar

@KNOWITALL

In no particular order:

My sons
My friends
Nature
Books
Art and films
The idea that I will find a loving partner at some point
and…
a growing sense of my own worth.

Paradox25's avatar

Knowledge of how things work. Education kills dogma.

tranquilsea's avatar

What has kept me going through rough times has been an awesomely supportive husband, family and friends. Having a good support system is key. And I’ve been through some awful circumstances.

digitalimpression's avatar

@DominicX You’ve pretty much laid out the standard answer and you’re obviously supported by like-minded people. I don’t fault you for it, but I disagree with nearly 100% of it.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Okay, see, most of you are relying heavily on family….I just don’t have that.

My dad’s a jerk and has never been in my life, my uncles and aunts all moved away out of state and to other countries. I only have my mom, my husband and a few cousins I’m not really close to, and due to some trust issues I don’t have a lot of really close friends….so maybe that makes me cling to my faith more instead of people.

People disappoint you, God or the idea of God, does not. :) Interesting, thanks!!

Seek's avatar

@KNOWITALL What keeps me going through adversity without religion?

As a teenager, I struggled (as many teens do) with a “big D” Depression that went undiagnosed because my parents didn’t believe in mental health care. If it drives the point home further, my sister is an undiagnosed dyslexic, and my brother got kicked out of the Army when they diagnosed him Bipolar with suicidal tendencies.

At that time, when I wasn’t actually within the walls of the church, I used escapism fantasy to “get away” from my home life. Since I didn’t have friends (within the church I was too “weird”, outside the church I was… well, the good little church-girl who wasn’t allowed to do anything), I played D&D (mostly alone), wrote stories… It was a way to be free inside my own mind and in my books, to have adventures that a life basically sequestered in my bedroom did not allow me to have.

The pastor, my stepfather’s brother, found out about my novel writing. All of a sudden there was a month-long series of sermons about how witchcraft was infecting our children through games and novels. Of course this needed to be stopped. And as a Sunday School teacher and youth leader, I was expected to be the first to step up and give up the “fantasy worlds”.

All of a sudden, my coping mechanism was gone. Feeling a sort of withdrawal from it, I asked for a meeting with the pastor and his wife, to discuss ways to get around the loss I was feeling. They didn’t even take me seriously. Of course, these people never had a serious hobby ripped right out from under them, so they had no idea what it was like. “Just get over it. It’s not that big a deal”. Ok. You just told me that my goal in life – to become a published novelist – will anger God and send me to hell. Not only am I losing a hobby and the only method I have to be happy in my daily life, but I have to redesign my entire life plan – the college I want to attend, the major I’ll focus on (Science? out. Writing? out. Guess I’ll just go to Bible school and get my “Mrs. degree”.)

And this was all five or six years before I started questioning whether God was real.

I suppose to answer your question, I haven’t felt a great amount of adversity since I left religion. Most of the battles I’ve fought have been within the religion itself, trying to reconcile real life with the insanity that is Biblical Fundamentalism. But when I do have a hard day, and I need a break from it all, I don’t need to feel guilty about picking up a cheesy novel and a cup of coffee and escaping reality for an hour or so.

ninjacolin's avatar

@KNOWITALL, I gotta say I’ve never liked that question. It presupposes that you need something to “keep you going” it presupposes dependency.

Honestly, nothing “keeps” me going. What was suppose to stop me? No one has stabbed me or shot me dead.. So what else is there to do but move forward!

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Since that’s what I do, escape for coffee and a book, I can’t say that’s wrong in any way of course- lol!!

Do you think that all the negative feelings about religion stem from those childhood experiences with the pastor? It seems like they focused on hemming you in to me…booooo.

@ninjacolin Everyone has a motivator/ motivation of some sort, whether it’s money, recognition, etc…, I was just curious, no offense intended. I was just curious because my motivation ties into my religion, so if you have no religion then what. A lot of people can give up on life, trust me, or bow out of life by being hermits or mean as heck…that kind of thing.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL So many people I know talk about leaning on God, knowing He is always there for them. Since I was raised without God, that just was never an option for me. Focusing on what’s good in my life and things I love to see, do, experience make me want to live, want to keep experiencing. It gets better as I get older. I read something about that recently, how the brain changes as we age, and that the centers of our brain that focus on bad experiences are much more active when we are young, and then it changes as we move into our 40’s and older. I have the blue skies, sunshine, my husband, my girlfriends, and helping others. My family is very small also, so I can identify with that. For me, I can’t feel God’s presence to be able to say it is worth living because God is there, somewhere. It isn’t tangible enough for me, but it works for some people, and if it works that is fine with me. Maybe in a way God is ourselves? God is within us, our own strength to continue and believe things will get better when they are difficult.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie Perhaps that is so. Interesting about the brain…probably because by the time we’re in our 40’s life starts slapping you around anyway…lol

God isn’t tangible enough, I hear that a lot actually. I live in my head a lot and did a lot as a child, too, so maybe that thought never occurred to me, that God wasn’t there. Everyone I’m around in my area is a Christian or a total heathen….haha!

I like that, God is within ourselves… I keep going back to the Native American Indians as a religious and spiritual people who worshipped long before the Bible or Jesus was ever brought to them. It’s really interesting to me.

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