General Question

JLeslie's avatar

How many of the atheists on this site were raised atheist?

Asked by JLeslie (54599points) June 28th, 2009

Do you think there is a difference between people who were raised atheist and those who “converted?” In most religions they say the converts are the most religious.

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35 Answers

Jayne's avatar

I wasn’t raised religious, so I defaulted to atheism.

tinyfaery's avatar

I was raised by born again Christians, but I did not convert to atheism. Mainly because atheism isn’t a set of beliefs or faiths, it’s the lack thereof. I didn’t convert any beliefs, I never had any in the first place. As a child I was taught to believe, but when I was able to discern for myself, I no longer believed or followed as I was taught.

I have never met anyone raised in the absence of religion. Maybe the next generation.

AstroChuck's avatar

I was raised to be a freethinker, not to be atheist. That just came naturally.

filmfann's avatar

Atheists deny they have parents.

tadpole's avatar

if you are raised a certain way and you never seriously look beyond it…would this not make you devoted but not particularly curious in the mental sense…..

if you change your beliefs you can be said to be intellectually curious, and then possibly devoted too?

as regards atheism however i see a lot of intellect, but no desire to be devoted…..i’m not sure i know what that means though….i personally have always had a belief of some sorts and my intellect grows less important to me…

someone who converts can be said to be intellectually “devoted” because he has questioned and found an answer…..i suppose a convert to atheism is particularly intellectually devoted….but i don’t see any religious zeal here because i am a believer and to me all paths do lead to god…

ragingloli's avatar

In East Germany born and raised
my parents didn’t talk about religion all of the days.

They didn’t care about religion and thus were atheists.
But I was not raised atheist in the sense that my parents taught me that there is no God,
I was raised atheist in the sense that they did not teach me that there is one.
The intellectual basis for being one came later from my own thoughts.

@filmfann yeah that’s right, I have no parents. I was constructed by the Borg.

JLeslie's avatar

I was raised atheist, although I am Jewish. I know very few people who were raised atheist, I’m sure we will see more in the next generation and someone mentioned above. I actually believe atheism is a “belief system” My father and I argue about this. It does not even occur to me to look or ask God for something. I do use language like, “why is God punishing me?” when bad things happen, but I do not at all believe that type of punishment actually exists, it is just using an expression.

jackfright's avatar

makes sense to me, when you consider the simple fact that “converts” are often converts by choice, as opposed to a belief system pushed onto them by parents.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Most parents who don’t believe in a god, don’t make a point of reinforcing that there is no god as a means of raising their kids. I know some parents do raise their kids like this but that’s anti-religon more than atheism.

Have fun at school Jimmy! Remember, there is no God!

So the idea of being “raised atheist” seems paradoxical.

As a response to your question, I had religion crammed down my throat for most of my juvenile life and decided that Chistianity wasn’t for me.

JLeslie's avatar

@ragingloli Interesting how you seperated being taught there is no God and just a simple lack of conversation about God and religion. My father actually did not believe in God and passed that on to me I guess. Although, he is more fervent in his argument that there is no God, I don’t feel like I need to convince anybody I am right. Heck, I could be wrong :).

RareDenver's avatar

My mother was a Christian and my father is Atheist. I was a believer until I was maybe 9 or 10. I wasn’t raised either way really, I guess I had all my questioned answered by two people with differing viewpoints and was taught to come to my own conclusions.

Nially_Bob's avatar

I was raised a roman catholic to an extent. My mother is a catholic, genuinely believes in the christian God and the main principles by which catholics are expected to live by but has not been to church or played any part in organised religion for many years. My father on the other hand is agnostic, though having spent much of his life amongst the troubles in Northern Ireland I have always felt he simply became tired of religion.
As I stated, I myself was raised a roman catholic to an extent, I attended a catholic primary school and secondary school, attended regular masses at said schools (though admittedly they were mandatory), received my confirmation etc. However, I have never in my life felt I was religious. Now I am not implying that I was so superior in intelligence to other children that I could disagree with religion, quite the opposite actually, I was entirely oblivious to it. For example when saying the ‘our father’ prayer in school I assumed for years that we were referring to my actual biological father. When singing hymns I was never too certain what we were singing about and spent most of the time talking to my friends during. Additionally (despite the assumptions made about the roman catholic denomination) in my schools religion wasn’t particularly forced on the pupils, we were taught evolution and the big bang theory, it was explained to us that there are other religions and even the local school vicar agreed with many scientific teachings. Basically my point is that during the period in my life where I would have lacked the cognitive capabilities to deny religion I was ignorant to it so accordingly as I entered my adolescence the jump to atheism was incredibly simple.
How I later became an agnostic (as I have been for some years now) is another story.
Forgive my ramblings but I always feel the need to explain in detail how I was raised in this regard.

Jeruba's avatar

I couldn’t answer how many. But speaking only for myself, I was raised terribly Christian. I started to question those teachings at the age of 13 and balked completely at 16. It was all a theological matter to me, too—it wasn’t that I wanted to do ‘forbidden’ things. Those came much later, and forbiddenness wasn’t the issue.

To me atheism is a belief, not a lack of one. I am not without beliefs. I am without belief in something that others call God, and I am also a believer in the nonexistence of such a being, every bit as much as I am a believer in the nonexistence as divine entities of Amon-Ra, Tammuz, Zeus, Jupiter, Thor, and all their brothers and sisters.

I’ve raised my own children as honestly as I know how, which meant not teaching them anything I didn’t believe myself. We treated Santa and the Tooth Fairy as games that are fun to play, but I would never make a single assertion that “Santa is ~~” or “the Tooth Fairy will ~~.” I simply would not lie to them at all. They seem to have managed very nicely without those deceptions.

I also taught them not to mess with other people’s beliefs.

whitenoise's avatar

I was raised by my mother. She is agnostic and raised me in the same way. In an attempt to turn me into a free thinker, she told me a lot about other people’s religions and to respect others, regardless of their religious beliefs. Strictly therefore, I wasn’t raised an atheist,but my mother did indicate she thought it highly unlikely that a god existed. Personally, I loved the biblical stories she read out to me, although I preferred Greek mythology.

Nowadays, I consider myself an atheist. I feel the implication of an omnipotent omniscient being that created us and guides our live is a denial of the strong human spirit that comes with our being: a strong social, ethical animal. It is also a denial of logic. Furthermore, religions are very potent in creating feelings of in-group vs out-group. That’s the last the world needs now: we need to consider the world one.

Since I was raised I have run into so many ethical and moral objections to religion, that I consider raising your child in a religion as a form of child abuse: denying the child free thought and basic humanity. I now have two children and I raise them with atheist viewpoints. When they ask me about whether God exists I tell them: Yes, he does. He exists in the minds and beliefs of people. just like fairy tales and elves.

DrBill's avatar

I was raised by non-believers and became a Christian on my own.

jazzjeppe's avatar

@DrBill Me too, but my Christianity turned out to be a phase. Left it after three years. The best damn thing I’ve done ever :)

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

Catholic school for 9 years, church three times a week until I was in highschool… yeah… pretty much been “all jesus’d out”

Ivan's avatar

My parents pretty much allowed me to believe whatever I wished.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I was raised Baptist, but I did not ‘convert’ to atheism. I came to be atheist through a lifelong journey of study and research of all religious teachings. There was no conversion at all. I have gone one step farther than atheism by inventing my own religion and following it. Ever heard of Evelynism?

JLeslie's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra I have always wanted to create my own religion…great tax breaks. I use “convert” in quotes because I don’t think anyone does a formal conversion to atheism, but since that is the word that is used when people accept other religions I took liberty to use it.

JLeslie's avatar

@ragingloli I guess since you were constructed by the Borg you feel very comfortable being part of the fluther “collective” :). One day when Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the world comes to fruition there will only be talk of religion in regard to its historical significance and there will be peace in the world.

SecondGlance's avatar

Raised in a religious family (but not overly devout or crazy). Sunday school as kids, then regular church every Sunday when a bit older. In my teens I realized it was all way too preposterous, then began a fascinating look at other world religions. That helped me see the broad similarities in all the cultures of the world, all seeking to explain the world around them thousands of years ago, using stories. It’s an interesting insight into our need to both control our surroundings (and each other), and to feel like we belong to something bigger than ourselves.

Jayne's avatar

Small gripe: why, when I said exactly the same thing as @AstroChuck, did he get 6 GAs while I got none? Nor did @Ivan, actually.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@JLeslie I didn’t invent my own religion for the tax breaks; I invented it to have something to reply to the JW and Mormons when they come to my door and want to convert me to their myths.

I read about every other religion out there, and saw that most of them were full of outrageous BS, and decided to one up them all. My religion is even more outrageous than Scientology, Mormonism and Bahai combined.

And the best thing about my religion is it doesn’t matter if you believe in Evelyn or not. Evelyn doesn’t care, she is more concerned with puns and laughing at fart jokes. Although, she does tell me that people who pray to her are likely to get either the exact opposite of what they ask for, or a great big honkin’ boil on their ass! depends on her mood. :-P

JLeslie's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra I was kidding about the tax breaks :). Recently one of my girlfriends had someone come to her door and ask if she wanted a copy of the new testament, and she replied “no thanks, I have a copy of the old one,” and shut the door. Love that.

MrItty's avatar

“Converting” means to make an informed decision to reject one system of beliefs you hold in favor for a new set of beliefs.

To be “raised” a certain religion means that your parents tell you, while you are a child, “this is how it is”. It does not mean that you have make a critical analysis of the beliefs and decided it is right and true.

I find it hard to accept the idea that a child can “convert”, as a child did not make the decision to believe as his/her parents believed in the first place.

I was raised Roman Catholic. By the time I was 10 or 11, I started questioning why we believed these things, and realizing the inherent contradictions and improvabilities. I decided that Catholicism (supernaturalism in general, actually) was not logical and therefore not true. Does that mean I “converted” from Catholicism to Atheism? No. It is simply the first set of beliefs I’ve held on my own, not decided upon by my parents.

MrItty's avatar

@Jayne your answers are not the same. You said you defaulted to atheism simply because you had no other religion. That to me implies the “Weak Atheism” definition – the non-belief in god, rather than belief in the lack of god.

@AstroChuck said he was raised “a freethinker” and that due to thinking, Atheism came “naturally”. That to me implies he actively decided upon Atheism, on his own, as a direct result of his analysis.

I agree that your answers are similar – they’re both short and they both have an end result of “atheism” – but they are not basically the same, no.

Jayne's avatar

@MrItty; no, I actively believe that there is no god; strong atheism. My point, and I believe AC’s point, was that since we were not raised with any set position on the subject, we came to believe that there is none, because without being conditioned to the idea, it is preposterous. Neither of us were told what to believe, so we both took the rational route of believing in the non-existence of God. I see no difference between saying that atheism is the default position (me), and that it is the natural position (AC). And by saying that I was not raised religious, and directly implying that I was not raised atheist, I left no option but “freethinker”, unless you take the position that my parents might have raised me to hold no beliefs for myself (which is rather nonsensical). So the first halves of both statements means “raised freethinker”, and the second halves mean “we chose atheism because it is the natural/rational/default position. Thus, no difference. But this is not an important debate; maybe I’m just a poor communicator.

benjaminlevi's avatar

No one ever told me what to believe. Atheism just seemed more logical.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I was raised christian, but was always a very inquisitive curious child. In sunday school i always asked a lot of questions, many times they werent able to answer these questions and just replied with because thats how it is or how god made it. This was never a good enough answer for me, as i got older and started thinking more about my belief system i came to realizing atheism was the way to go :P

Cardinal's avatar

Godless swine!

MrItty's avatar

@Jayne I’ve explained to you how your answers were dissimilar enough to lead people to give him GA and not you. You don’t have to accept my explanation. You can, if you choose, decide to believe that it’s actually a giant conspiracy against you. That’s your call, and I really don’t feel any particular need to argue the point with you.

El_Cadejo's avatar

i think it was the “freethinker” bit personally that caused all the GAs

Jayne's avatar

@MrItty; hence my statement that this is not an important debate, and also that I may have communicated my point poorly. I really did mean that. I am also aware that there is no conspiracy against me, just as I am aware (we both are, probably) that people will tend to show appreciation more readily to someone with as good and familiar a reputation (and deservedly so) as AstroChuck. I was merely expressing a note of annoyance and a little bit of amusement about this fact. The only reason I bothered to argue my point with you was that you did not present your comment as ‘reasons people saw your comments as different’, but as ‘reasons they are different’. I therefore disagreed with you, so I argued my point. I know very well that the two comments could be read as different; you don’t have to explain that to me, and you definitely don’t have to be rude and condescending. Believe it or not, I was not tearing about my hair, tears welling out of my eyes at the injustice, oh the cruel injustice of it all. I was playing tennis. All I was doing here was making an observation and then defending that observation.

letsgostillers's avatar

I was also raised with the absence of religion. my father would not allow us to be exposed to any belief system as children, but my born again grandma would try to sneak it in… and obviously I had some exposure from other kids at school.

Funny outcome is that I am still an atheist, but my sister is a fervent Christian. I have cousins that were raised Jewish and one is an atheist and the other converted to Christianity. So, I don’t think it matters too much on how you are raised. You form your own opinions as an adult since that is now socially acceptable.

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