September 2007

Comment: Hi, I love your site.
I’ve read several accounts here that describe people’s “conversion”, for lack of a better word, to atheism, but I’ve not seen many that share my experiences, so I just wanted to share my story.

I was raised atheist. Usually when I say this people don’t believe me; they say that I m wrong, that I was raised, rather, nonreligious or agnostic, and they dispute whether it is possible to be raised as an atheist. No, my parents didn’t tell me directly “there is no god”, but they never tried to explain the opposite, either. Religion never entered into my daily life, and I reacted to the news that some people believe in an omnipotent and omniscient deity who lives in the sky sort of the same way I d respond to things like “Some people like to eat blood sausage” and “Some people believe in supply-side economics”: good for you, but I m not joining you in that. Some people go to churches every week and listen to a long speech and ask God for help. Whatever floats your boat; I d rather stay home and read a book. (That one was sort of like “Some people like to spend several hours on end watching sweaty guys run up and down a big field”. I don’t watch sports.)

I used to use the terms atheist and agnostic interchangeably, because religion wasn’t a subject in which I had sufficient interest that I would spend a lot of time thinking about it. When I read Douglas Adams’s The Salmon of Doubt, however, I eventually decided to start going entirely by atheist. (Perhaps I shouldn’t admit that I get my theology from the creator of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but I, well, do.) I didn’t bring my copy to college with me, so I can’t quote it directly, but I remember, at least, his response to people who call themselves agnostic just in case there is a God who will send them to hell: “If God were impressed by that kind of Clintonian hair-splitting, I would choose not to worship him anyway. The same goes for gods who would punish people for intellectual honesty.”

Adams also said that humans saying that the Earth fits us so well that it must have been created for us is like a pool of water saying that the hole it’s in fits it really amazingly well; someone must have carved it out just for it. I don’t really want to get into a long discussion about complexity arising from simplicity and disorder at the fundamental level, because that’s not really the point right now (and I’m certainly not an expert), but for all the doubters of evolution out there, I just want you to know that I’ve studied this sort of thing a lot, I m a freshman chemistry major, and it all makes perfect sense to me, without needing an omniscient being to start it all. We don’t believe all of evolutionary theory a priori.

I think I’ve wandered off topic a bit, but if you’re willing to tolerate my rambling a little longer, I have a few more things to say. Apparently I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never really been harassed about my lack of religion or for not saying the Pledge of Allegiance or anything like that. Mostly when my religious acquaintances find out that I m atheist, they either say some variation of “your life must be so empty without the light of God”, or they say something about there being no morality without a god and then make fun of me for being’vegetarian. On the first one, I’ve heard more often than I can count “Don’t you want to believe that there’s something beyond THIS?” Then they wave their arms vaguely to indicate the universe. My response is, “Is THIS not enough for you?” I d personally rather believe that I have only this one life, and try to make the most of it, and have a good time. That’s why there can be morality without a deity to define it for us: just be nice and try not to make life difficult for everyone else.

Anyway, that’s my thing. And I don’t really care what everyone else thinks, because although I enjoy a rigorous debate once in a while, I m quite happy as I am and see no reason to change my mind about my nonreligion. And no, I don’t think atheism is a religion. If any of you want to say you’re a religious atheist, fine, but I find it irritating to be harassed about labels when atheists aren’t a homogenous group with a defined set of beliefs or nonbeliefs and fixed rules about anything. My opinion is that you can call yourself whatever you damn well please, and I’ll let it go if you will. That goes for everyone.

So, I m done now, and thank you for listening to my ramblings; I was going to go on about other stuff, like evolutionary psychology and Kohlberg’s moral stages and possibly Star Trek, but I know that I don’t really read long and meandering posts all the time, so I ll curb it here.

Thanks, and keep the site going!

If you were raised without religion, then you were raised atheist. That’s pretty much the definition of the word. It’s surprising to me that anyone would argue the point.

I’m glad that you haven’t had much difficulty on account of your atheism. One point that I probably don’t make enough is that there is no reason for atheists to look for arguments or seek to convert people (as opposed to some religious people who are required by their beliefs to “testify”). If you’re not interested in religion, then you’re not interested in religion, and — as you point out — atheism isn’t a religion.

If you decide later to “go on about other stuff,” feel free to write. Particularly if it’s about Star Trek.

Posted on September 24, 2007 at 1:22 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Dealing with religious folks

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