My Life as an Atheist

While I was growing up, religion was not a common topic among my family. We celebrated Christmas, Easter and every other major holiday, but they were separate from any religious associations. In fact, for a long while, I just assumed my family was Christian because that’s what everyone else in my school was. But, at the same time, I was confused because my family didn’t go to church or have any religious symbols in our house. As I grew older, religion was only mentioned in the context of crazy people. As in, "be careful what you say around so-and-so, they’re a Jesus nut".

But I didn’t formulate my beliefs based on my parents’ lack of religion. It actually started via those loveable holiday characters. In my young mind, there were tiers of believability for the holidays. The tooth fairy was the easiest to debunk, largely because she frequently forgot to come the same night I lost my tooth. It could be days, or even weeks, before she finally remembered to jam quarters in that old film container under my pillow. But, despite my realization about the tooth fairy’s non-existence, I felt that the ‘bigger’ holiday characters were still real.

The Easter bunny was the next one to fall, probably because the holiday wasn’t as well advertised as Christmas. Santa was still 'too big to fail' and I was confident he existed, even though the others clearly didn’t. I’m not sure why I thought of these characters in this manner. One would think that when one is disproved, they would all be disproved, but that wasn’t the case with me. And it was this system of gradual realization that led to my first atheist thought. All these magical beings didn’t exist, despite how widespread they were and despite how many people believed in them, so did that mean that God also didn’t exist? He’s above Santa on the believability scale, but clearly that scale was flawed. And, since my parents put no emphasis on religion, I just went ahead and formed the conclusion that God, too, was fictitious.

I didn’t think that this realization was radical in any way, nor did I picture it becoming a problem until one of my more religious friends told me, rather bluntly, that I was going to hell because I didn’t attend church. While I was rarely confronted in such a way, it was clear to me that everyone around me, in this small conservative town, was religious. My way of thinking was not only rare, but frowned upon. It then became my mission, as a teenager, to rebel against my hometown’s religiousness by openly denouncing Christianity every chance I got.

I was, and still am, a very reserved person, so I didn’t exactly rattle cages, but there were a number of people who weren’t happy with my views. My opinion was created based on that tier of fictional characters. But, it was also reinforced by a desire to rebel and a love of astronomy, which provided plenty of evidence for fantastic things, none of which were God. However, as I went to college, I decided to soften my approach to the whole thing and started telling people I was an agnostic. If evidence of god were to present itself, then I’d be willing to believe. This belief system was surprisingly more acceptable because it didn’t dismiss the idea of god, but instead took the position of a passive observer.

It wasn’t until later in college, when I began to study puritan literature, that I once again found myself faced with atheism. So much of the documentation of early America is filled with religious stories that are used to not only educate people, but terrify them into obeying the law. Religion was used as a tool, with a story that was changed and adapted to any given situation. Therefore, the Christianity of today is significantly different than Christianity one, two or three centuries ago. How can God be both wrathful and merciful? How can he be the hero and the villain? How can he be all powerful and yet all absent?

When I described this, and my own personal beliefs, to my girlfriend (now my wife) she pointed out how much more of an atheist I was than an agnostic. It was then that I realized there was sufficient evidence, for me, that God did not exist. It was no longer based on a teenager’s desire to rebel or scientific evidence that I couldn’t possibly comprehend. But rather, it was based on an understanding of human beings. Our flawed memories and tendencies towards embellishment. Our inadequate recording system over the ages, and our lust for stories of intrigue and interest. It was as if a light bulb had turned on in my head, finally uniting all of my previous conclusions and I realized that I truly was an atheist.

But, I want to be clear that this was not a choice. I didn’t decide to be an atheist. If I had a chance to go to heaven, and live in bliss with loved ones, I would probably take it. A godless existence is full of wonders, but it does limit your time to enjoy them. But becoming an atheist is the same as becoming a Christian; it’s an understanding that’s ingrained in your being that you can no sooner change than you can change how tall you are or what color eyes you have. Sure you can cover it up and lie to everyone around you, but that doesn’t change who you are on the inside.

And this is where I am struggling as an adult. To me, being an atheist is just part of who I am, and yet I’ve been confronted by situations where I must justify this. It’s almost like I have to justify why I have brown hair. Telling people I was born this way isn’t an acceptable answer and I find myself being drawn into got-ya style situations where the purpose is to trip me up and, in some way, get me to admit there is a god. But there is more to it than this.

There is an episode of 30 Days where an atheist lives with a Christian family for a month to help the two parties better understand each other. One of the statistics presented at the beginning of the episode was that atheists were the least trusted group of Americans, below every other religion and minority. Not only did I suddenly realize that I was part of a minority, but I also realized that people would inherently not trust me if I told them I was an atheist. This was completely baffling to me since I had spent my entire life trying to do things right and generally be a good person. The idea that a religious association could make someone more or less trustworthy, regardless of their actions, was kind of infuriating.

I also discovered that a lot of religious people are very confused about where an atheist’s sense of morals comes from. The only thing I can think of in response is, where don’t morals come from? I was raised just like most middle-class American children. I got punished when I did something wrong. I was educated about the dangers of violence and drug abuse. I saw the effects of law breaking and lives lived in poor health. I was bombarded constantly with one moral after another, it’s impossible to think that none of them stuck just because I was an atheist. Though I suppose one might then ask, as an adult, if I believe there is no divine purpose to life, why not break the law? The obvious answer to that is that I don’t want to die, nor do I want to waste my life in jail. I want what everyone else wants; love, happiness and a sense of stability in my life. Therefore, I’m going to pursue the same avenues of success as anyone else. As someone who believes there is no afterlife, it makes this life that much more important to live right.

The resistance to my beliefs, in my adult life, has encouraged me to not mention my atheism at all. I wrote an article not too long ago about literature, atheism and god. In it, I talked about wanting to donate to a religious organization that is helping the community, but being worried about how they might react if they were to learn my true beliefs. There aren’t any atheist organizations around my area doing the same thing, and atheist 'religions', like humanism, are still very new and unrepresented. So where can I go to speak with like minded people?

I haven’t actually found an answer to that, though I do find myself hanging out on the atheism and agnosticism Q&A forums here on HubPages. I find that I enjoy discussing it and answering questions about my beliefs. Mine are not the same as all other atheists, but I feel like I should take pride in them. We are encouraged to love who we are, but it is hard to do that when part of who you are is looked down on, by your peers, or viewed as a personal attack just by mentioning it. If I tell you I’m an atheist, it doesn’t mean I think you’re stupid for believing in God. I’ve long since come to understand that these things are just part of us and can’t be changed, so we should spend less time arguing about it and more time accepting everyone else’s viewpoints. But the reason that I wrote this hub is just to get all of this off my chest. I wish to discuss atheism openly, because the first step towards co-existence is understanding.

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Comments 37 comments

Sunny2o0o profile image

Sunny2o0o 5 years ago from USA

A well-written, well thought-out Hub. I think part of the problem concerning the fact that atheists' don't tend to have a place to discuss their beliefs with other like-minded individuals is that lack of uniformity among atheists as a group. When you belong to a particular religion, typically your belief in god is accompanied by several other related values and beliefs about how life should be lived. The only thing that unites atheists, on the other hand, is that they don't believe in the existence of deities. There's a lot less commonality to use as a basis for a lasting relationship.


Thought-Provoking 5 years ago

This is an interesting Hub, very well written. I understand what you mean, although i am not an atheist. I too struggle with believing in God, But i mean i questioned even atheism when i got to that point, I didn't stop there, I looked to many directions on the whole matter, I mean science, philosophy, and religion, everything. Through it all i got a lot of information and through that information, I came up with my belief, and I'm not done yet either. I still read a lot of science, and these atheistic materialistic beliefs are always around science. But I've always had an open mind. In the end i realize, we all have something that differs us to see things differently. I mean if you went through all of my experiences, and the way I speculated things, you might still come out an atheist, same if i went through your experiences. That's why at this point in life, I do believe in God, the afterlife, because of what i've been shown, and mainly the way i tend to be open minded to view things and the way i see things. but i don't identify myself a christian anymore that much either. That's why i would never condemn an atheist, i realize atheist are human beings just like me, just because they don't believe in God, definitly does not mean they're going into hell. Just because I'm an theist doesn't mean I would ever say that to you or any other atheist. It's all about love, and living a certain way that makes you happy and benefits you and others, and is not hurting anybody. A lot of Christians i know feel this way too, so trust me not every christian is like the Christians you meant, nor any other religious person for that matter. I am happy for you, good hub.


NathanielZhu profile image

NathanielZhu 5 years ago from Virginia Beach

Great hub. My story is rather different from yours since I was raised as a Christian. I found atheism through depression during which I began to question everything. It's hard for a person perfectly content with their life to change their beliefs especially religious in which everything good is attributed to the God.


Rusty C. Adore profile image

Rusty C. Adore 5 years ago from Michigan

A great hub. It's very brave of you to put your feelings out there for everyone to read, especially considering there will be people who might not approve of your opinions on this subject matter. I must say, you were a very observant and logically thinking child. :) Your parents raised a smart kid!


cooldad profile image

cooldad 5 years ago from Florida

Thanks for sharing your personal story, very well written. I too have struggled with my atheism, in the context of how I can talk about it with people around me. It's not easy. I look forward to reading more of your hubs.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

I agree with much of what you say. I was raised Christian and lost my belief in the angry biblical God, much to the chagrin of my family.

Today I'm a Buddhist, which I've found the most civilized of religions, but I can understand being an atheist. It's hard to believe in the God idea. Don't worry about what others think. Follow your own path.

Rob


Cromper 5 years ago

Excelent hub! Very much like my upbringing.

It's quite depressing to hear how atheism is a dirty word over the pond (in the world's dominant nation) when I can quite openly declare my position here in the UK (and most of Europe) without even a raised eyebrow.

Like you, I am an atheist because of what I have personally experienced in my life, and not because of what I have been told to believe. At the same time, your atheism is probably different to mine, and that is why we don't form alliances and write a rule book based on our atheistic opinions.

Thought-Provoking,

Science is not an alien language. Anyone can do it! By backing away from science you are demonstrating either fear, or idleness.

You cannot dismiss science with the word 'God'. You have to put in a bit more effort.


Thought-Provoking 5 years ago

Cromper I'm not sure what you mean, I don't see how I said anything that specifically made you think and what you are saying right now. I never said i backed away from science, I merely said i looked towards all things to make sense of what i was searching. Although sometimes i did exhibit some fear that maybe I would be proved wrong of my current holding, I never hesitated, I'm not being bias, if that's what you implying


Cromper 5 years ago

Thought-Provoking,

What I mean is you speak of science as if it's "them and me", or some kind of untouchable property. We can all be scientists.

"I still read a lot of science, and these atheistic materialistic beliefs are always around science."

Perfectly correct. I can't see any problem with that. Why should I?


Thought-Provoking 5 years ago

I'm not talking about science itself as "Them and Me", I'm talking about when it comes down to certain points and theories in science itself, there are going to be "them and Me", science is not fully dominated Materialism, and there are survival ism and other forms of thinking in science. Since I intend to study quantum mechanics when i get into college. I'm going to be a scientist. If i saw science altogether as "Them and Me". Then i would not want to be a scientist at all, now would I. You misconstrue what i meant. "I still read a lot of science, and these atheistic materialistic beliefs are always around science." I never said there was a problem with that, and see that i said they are around science, I never said they were science.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 5 years ago from United States Author

Sunny2o0o - It's true. When I watched that episode of 30 days I found myself disagreeing with the answers the atheist was giving to the christian family. It wasn't because I thought her answers were wrong, I just had different ones. I definitely think that's something religious followers don't understand about atheists; we aren't united against god, we just all happen to have that one belief in common. More likely than not, we all have wildly different reasons as to why we came to that conclusion. Thanks for the comment!

Thought-Provoking - There is definitely a difference between a religious person asking me to explain my beliefs because they're interested to learn about me, versus asking me to prove my atheism. I'm not a poster child for the belief, so I'm not going to speak on its behalf, but I will state my personal beliefs when asked. It's good to know that there are theists out there that will accept this as something valid rather than something that needs changing. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

NathanielZhu - There is a tendency, for the religious, to give God credit for the good things that happen, and to give him the benefit of the doubt when bad things happen. So you're right when you say that those who are content with their lives will be less likely to question an existence of God. For those of us with hardships, it can sometimes force us into a realization in one direction or the other. Some people dive further into religion as a means of support and others abandon it like restraints that have been holding them down. It's a fascinating field. Thanks for the comment!


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 5 years ago from United States Author

Rusty - Thank you for the compliment. I was apprehensive about what sort of reactions I might get for this hub, but those who have read it have been very supportive!

cooldad - I think the hardest thing about talking with others, concerning atheism, is that the simple act of stating 'I'm an atheist' is seen as a personal attack to someone who believes in God. That's why I've tried very hard, lately, to tell people that I would love to believe in a deity, I just can't. Thanks for the comment!

Robwrite - I'm glad you mentioned Buddhism because it is the perfect example of a religion that isn't based on a deity. Many people assume that Buddha is the god of Buddhism, when in reality, he is merely an important figure that reached enlightenment, and the religion emphasizes the importance of personal strength. I feel this is important because atheists could actually belong to a religion (like Buddhism) as long as it doesn't claim the existence of a god of some sort. Atheism isn't the rejection of all religion, it's just the disbelief in a deity, therefore we could still belong to a religion. Thanks for the comment!

Cromper - You're right that our versions of atheism are probably different, which is one of the reasons I wish to discuss it. I want to know how other people reached the conclusions they did and I want to do so in an open forum. Some parts of the U.S. are more accepting of this idea than others. I just happen to live in a very conservative town. So it really depends on geography to find like minded citizens. Thanks for the comment!


AntonOfTheNorth profile image

AntonOfTheNorth 5 years ago from The Land Up Over

Good Hub. Hearing someone's personal story is the best part of these debates. The context is everything. The 'why' is so much more interesting.

"How can God be both wrathful and merciful? How can he be the hero and the villain? How can he be all powerful and yet all absent?"

Only because humans are busy trying to interpret the actions of a creator as though the creator (if there is one) were human.

If there is a creator, and bad things happen to you, it must be that the creator is angry. Enter the old testament.

Except we now know that the causes of bad things can all be traced to humans or natural events. Exit the old testament. Enter something else.

This is the course followed by every philospophy, every religion and every science. See something. Try to explain it. When new knowledge comes along or new ideas are added, come up with a new explanation.

Religion just isn't as good at it as science is, since it seems to be about tradition rather than discovery.

Thanks for writing

cheers


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 5 years ago from United States Author

AntonOfTheNorth - Context is especially crucial when the bible is used as a weapon (for example, against homosexuality). Knowing how to interpret the bible is arguably the most important lesson to remember. And you're right that both religion and science are a means to answer the questions we know so little about so they will continue to adapt as time goes by. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!


purp-drag913 profile image

purp-drag913 4 years ago from West Michigan, USA.

Your argument is logical and concise. On behalf of my Christian brothers and sisters, I can only apologise for the way you were treated. And since the basis of My faith is believing without seeing, I can't argue the other side as logically. Yet, I do believe that Christianity and science do blend; I just don't know how. But I will read, I will think, and I will pray. God bless you.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States Author

purp-drag913 - I'm fortunate enough that I haven't had as bad of an experience as some other atheists, and I try my hardest not to be the kind of atheist that looks down on those who do believe. We can't change each other, so our goal should be to peacefully co-exist. Thanks for the comment!


gryphin423 profile image

gryphin423 4 years ago from Florida

I felt like I was reading my life story there for a minute. You are so right when you say it is easier to just say you are an agnostic. It does seem to make people feel more comfortable. And others do want to try to trip you up and go ah-ha! See, you're wrong and the rest of us are right, I'm going to heaven, blah blah. Your hub completely resonated with me. Thanks so much for sharing!


Brian Burton profile image

Brian Burton 4 years ago

Very interesting article and I really enjoyed the part on the order of events: tooth fairy, easter bunny, and so on.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States Author

gryphin423 - Since many religious people use the phrase 'finding god' I'm assuming that they view agnostics as people who just haven't found him yet. Where as atheists, they view as people who 'reject' god. Which isn't really accurate. You can't reject something you never believed existed. To reject god would imply that we've met him and decided that he wasn't right for us. Thanks for the comment!

Brian Burton - Thank you for the comment! It surprises me that religious families don't think the santa/easter bunnny/tooth fairy are bad examples for their children to follow. If you teach them that these magical beings are fictional, then how can you justify saying god isn't?


ValL profile image

ValL 4 years ago from UK

I think there is a philosophy that you might be interested in as an atheist (I've been an atheist since a teenager). Humanism is a philosophy where the truth about life is sought through science, but more importantly, it is believed people have a responsibility to live an ethical life, not to obtain any rewards or avoid punishments in an afterlife, but simply because that is the right way to live and the way that causes less suffering to others. "Followers" of this philosophy are greatly concerned about all different types of moral issues, in their efforts to live a meaningful and compassionate life. I only discovered this philosophy myself a few years ago but there are groups that meet up in certain cities so at least there can be some sense of belonging to something and connecting with other like-minded people, which those of us who aren't religious and don't go to church lose out on. I'd recommend anyone check them out - there is an American Humanist Association. Now when some people ask me what my religion is, I often say "Humanist".


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States Author

ValL - I'll have to look into humanism. One of the most frustrating aspects of being an atheist is the assumption that we have no sense of morals. It's good to see that there is belief system in place that is not deity based, that stresses the importance of living a healthy, productive life. Thanks for the comment and the information!


Paladin_ profile image

Paladin_ 4 years ago from Michigan, USA

I always enjoy reading about the experiences of other atheists, and thank you for sharing yours. It's heartening to know that there are more of us every day.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States Author

Paladin_ - You're welcome; I also enjoy hearing the stories of others in my situation. Thanks for the comment!


izettl profile image

izettl 4 years ago from The Great Northwest

It seems you've found what you need to within yourself. My argument against atheists and even christians are guilty of this, is they find religion or no religion because of text in a book (or Bible) or because of other people. Once I got away from the way other people thought or what the Bible or any literature stated then I was left with myself and thats where I found the answers...true to myself. You seem to have come to your conclusions the same route- first examining the people around you, then literature, and now within yourself. Only difference is we came to different conclusions and I find nothing wrong with that. I just find it sad when those that believe or don't believe find it through people or text. It's a subject largely personal and one should reach their beliefs that way as well. Good hub! no...GREAT!


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States Author

izettl - I definitely agree that finding ones true beliefs involves researching in more than one area. If one isolates themselves to strictly scientific, or strictly religious texts, it won't be as easy for them to step back and look at the greater picture. And personal reflection and realization can be even more difficult when the staples of a family or a community can be strongly pushing the individual in one specific direction. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!


Kathryn Stratford profile image

Kathryn Stratford 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

This is the best article I have ever seen on this subject, and I can identify with it! Thanks for sharing this.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 3 years ago from United States Author

Kathryn Stratford - Thank you for the compliment and the comment!


Kathryn Stratford profile image

Kathryn Stratford 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

I shared this with my boyfriend. He thinks it is very well-written, with good points. And you're welcome.


G-Man60 profile image

G-Man60 3 years ago from Southampton

A well written article with which I can relate.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 3 years ago from United States Author

G-Man60 - Thank you for the compliment and the comment!


ReasonablyLogical profile image

ReasonablyLogical 3 years ago from USA

Well written and very personal. I relate to just about 95% of your experiences, and find a great deal of irony in labeling minorities. I believe, despite political efforts, that we are not a minority, there are only a few millions Jews! Most "agnostic" people I know simply do not spend time contemplating these questions, therefore they fall under the category of "non-religious" instead of atheist. I believe through education and the rights of women we will someday soon be considered a prominent force in society, and I look forward to voting for our first openly Atheistic presidential candidate. I really enjoyed this hub and took a few notes as well. Keep it up!


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 3 years ago from United States Author

ReasonablyLogical - I definitely agree that there are more atheists out there than people realize. It's kind of a taboo subject right now, so if you're the kind of person who doesn't want to cause conflict, you're more likely to just say nothing, or be non-committal, when someone asks. My hope is that a time will come when being an atheist isn't taboo, and other people who have unvoiced doubts will feel comfortable voicing them. Thank you for the thoughtful comment!


Darrell Roberts profile image

Darrell Roberts 3 years ago

This was a great hub. I am not an atheist, but I love and respect people as they are. I think there is some truth in what you say, being an atheist or believer is part of who you are until you find a reason to change, and that goes both ways.

I do not say this often but I left Christian Science because I was afraid of the "Bible God". I went and joined the Hare Krishna because their view of God connected with me well. I also like the fact that there is reincarnation, so I have more than one life to get it right.

It is too bad that some people think because you do not believe in God you are a bad person, that is so unfair. I just wanted you guys to know that there are many of us people of faith who will love you just for being you and could respect you opinions.

Best wishes


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 3 years ago from United States Author

Darrell Roberts - Thank you for the thoughtful comment! I wholeheartedly believe that coexistence between beliefs starts with mutual respect and understanding. There will always be disagreements, but ultimately we're all living on this world together, so we should try to make it as peaceful as possible.


Darrell Roberts profile image

Darrell Roberts 3 years ago

Well said


Say Yes To Life profile image

Say Yes To Life 14 months ago from Big Island of Hawaii

Great hub! I am a former devout Christian who has recently turned agnostic, because I inadvertently joined a cult and, upon leaving, discovered way too many parallels between basic cult practices and Christianity - the main one being you do not question what is taught.

I would like to add a few facts, if I may.

1) regarding morality, the laws of cause and effect apply to everyone, regardless of their religion or degree of their devotion to it. All religions seek to explain the world and how best to live in it. Some, like Confucianism, don't require belief in an all-powerful deity. In other words, it is an atheist religion!

2) Atheists have the lowest divorce rates in the US. That's because they know it's all up to them to make the marriage work. Guess who has the highest? Non-denominational Christians! That is because of the pressure to marry, coupled with lack of sex / relationship knowledge.

3) Some atheists believe in an afterlife. Buddhism is another religion that doesn't require belief in God; they believe in reincarnation.

Thank you for this thought provoking hub.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 14 months ago from United States Author

Say Yes To Life - Those are some great additions! I often point out the Buddhism one too because people tend to assume that Buddha is a deity. My mother converted later in life and she follows a denomination that doesn't put emphasis on Buddha at all. Learning about different religions is one of the best ways to adopt tolerance and understanding. Thanks for the comment!

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