Agnostics / Atheists Only

Just wondering how many agnotics/atheists have a Catholic background.

I’m agnostic and not entirely happy about it–I don’t fit in w/ anyone around me. My neighbors, friends, family, co-workers, etc. are all Christians.

I want to know WTF happened to make me this way and WHY I can’t just ‘believe.’

I am looking for a scapegoat. Is it something in my Catholic upbringing? Did my church fail in some way?

I suspect that I just rebelled against the Church’s teachings and guidelines, but other religions are as strict or stricter, aren’t they? Do other religions lose as many devotees?

Please post your religious upbringing/background to help me sort things out. Whether it is or is not Catholic, was there a specific event that changed your beliefs or did you just slide into it?

I was raised Catholic; not sure why, since my dad seems rather non-religious to me, and my mom was raised Lutheran. They probably just settled on Catholicism for us kids for convenience, since that was what was available in our neighborhood.

I always had my doubts. I went to a Catholic high school, which really only made things worse; I kept thinking, “Does it really make God happy for us to repeat the same damn prayers over and over and over?” My skepticism peaked when Brother George, the school disciplinarian, performed what he called a “liturgical dance” at a mass at school. That was one of the goofiest examples of religious nincompoopery I’ve witnessed firsthand.

By college, I had started calling myself a “non-practicing Christian”, until I finally came to realize that I had power over my own beliefs (college can do that to a person). The ethics class I took as a sophomore motivated me to start calling myself an atheist, change my major to philosophy, and start hassling the faithful whenever I could.

I’ve mellowed a lot since then, but I’m still baffled at the appeal of Catholicism. Listen up, you religeratti: not every single thing that feels good is a sin, m’kay? Loosen up.

I suspect that adherents of most major religions either never had their belief systems questioned at all, or they feel so comforted by the Almighty Father that they prefer not to ask the hard questions. I can respect the former more than the latter; it’s one thing to never have had your beliefs challenged, but quite another to bury your head in the sand and pretend that everything’s fine when the challenges to faith come a-knockin’.

Cheer up, shhh zzz, I bet you’re not as alone as you think you are. There are an awful lot of us closet atheists out there…

I’m also from a (fairly secular) Catholic background, but I can’t say there was any major rebellion or soul-searching involved. Few of the ideas I heard at church struck me as particularly likely or reasonable; after a while it dawned on me that I didn’t believe them at all.

I’m not comfortable admitting this to most of my relatives, or to my colleagues or students, having discovered the hard way that most people will take it as a personal attack on their beliefs if I say I’m an atheist. I hope someday things will change. At the moment I’m not holding my breath (as far as the United States is concerned, anyway).

Atheist here. Been to church about 6 times in my entire life. Never had a real religious upbringing.

I’m another “fallen Catholic.” I was always skeptical, even as a young child. I remember in 4th grade CCD the young, progressive priest came in and talked to us about how Noah’s Ark was not to be taken literally. There were probably other things he talked about, but that’s the only thing I remember. I was already leaning heavily towards atheism at age 9, and frankly this got me thinking a lot more about things and helped push me over the edge. By the time I was 10 or so it was a done deal. I remember thinking about omniscience and free will when I was very young, and though I did not think about it in those terms, I saw the contradiction early on.

It was more traumatic for me to find out there was no Santa Clause than it was for me to realize I didn’t believe in any god.

Several of my atheist friends are former Catholics, but some are former Protestants, some are non-religious Jews, and one is a former Jehovah’s Witness.

My father is Catholic, but my mother is Buddhist. Neither of them are devout practitioners of their religions, so rather than force me to pick one or the other, they let me decide on my own. Christianity never appealed to me because I couldn’t believe in a God that would send my own mother to Hell for not believing in Jesus. I found Buddhism more appealing, but the skeptical side of me had a hard time accepting the idea of reincarnation. In the end I decided that hey, none of us really knows what the true nature of God is, or even if there is one, which I guess makes me an agnostic.

I’m an atheist. My background is Jewish, but neither of my parents are religious. They didn’t raise me to be an atheist; it was just that religion was never really mentioned in our house. I don’t believe in a god or an afterlife and I never have.

When I was in elementary school, other children would ask me what my religion was, and when I told them I didn’t have one they were shocked. Now I’m in high school, and obviously atheism and agnosticism are far more commonplace.

I don’t regret not having any sort of religious upbringing. I can’t remember ever setting foot inside a synagogue aside my friends’ Bar Mitzvahs, and I know next to nothing about Judaism, but there’s no void in my life that religion would fill. I consider myself fortunate that my parents didn’t force a belief on me when I didn’t feel I needed one. They encouraged me to do whatever I wanted and left every option open to me; if I woke up tomorrow and decided to become a Shi’ite Muslim, they would be fine with it.

The best part is, if I’m wrong, I don’t even have to go to hell!

Former Lutheran here. Mother forced getting confirmed and it made me feel there was something wrong with the way I felt about what they were telling me. I mean, when people make you feel like what you think is wrong, then you know that’s not the religion for you. I just never saw a reason how we could know or not. I never saw a purpose in looking for what the answer was until I was meant to know.
I’m going to raise my kids secularly. I don’t see a point in making them believe something they don’t want to believe.

I am an agnostic with a somewhat Catholic background. My father is a fallen away Catholic, and I was baptized in a Catholic hospital as an infant when I was close to death. I always thought the rites and beliefs, and the statuary and the insides of some of the old churches, were quite beautiful, and would like to have been able to have that comfort of believing. But alas, that belief phase passed with childhood and now I content myself with not knowing. I believe if we were supposed to truly know about life beyond this life, we would. I just intend to try to lead the best life I know how to lead, by doing as little harm as possible, and maybe some good.

Atheist/Agnostic here. Depends on the day. Was Christianed after birth. Wen to Bible camps over the summer(I lived in a small town in rural NJ, what else was there to do?). Aside from that, little church activity for me. My parents get on me for a lack of religious faith, but its hypocritical of them, since they arent very religious.

I seem to have a believe of different things, but none of them seem to match any given religion.

I suspect the OP has a point about there being something in the Catholic faith, especially post-Vatican II, that leads toward agnosticism or atheism. To paraphrase John Mahoney in “She’s the One”, you don’t have to believe in God to be a good Catholic :wink:

I was raised Catholic, and was an altar boy for many years; our parish had these really cool hippie priests, and when they were reassigned, I left, since they were the only reason I’d stayed with the church so long. I realized at a rather early age that the church didn’t hold the answers for me, but put up with it because most of the people who represented the church to me (the priests, nuns, and CCD teachers) were cool.

Anyway, back to my point. Most of the Catholics I know in my age group (mid-late 30s) are agnostics or atheists now; even those who wouldn’t categorize themselves that way rarely go to Mass. Not that it matters though – I was at a Catholic wedding last March (my first Mass in many years), and I could still recite all the prayers from memory. I suspect that most lapsed Catholics could probably do likewise, fitting right in as though they’d never left.

Having lived in metro Atlanta the last 7 years or so, I get the feeling that the locals are probably more comfortable with atheists than Catholics; Bob Jones and his ilk are popular in some of the more fundamentalist congregations here.

I was brought up Jewish. My father is a rabbi, and he has forced religion down my house all my life. I have learned that Judaism is nothing more than a series of restrictions and I have not been able to find any logic behind it. I grew to resent religion in general. I’m not sure if I’m atheist or agnostic, but I don’t see why a “god figure” would care what we eat or what we do with our weekends.

I am agnostic, raised strictly Catholic. I went to Catholic school for 2 years, was baptized and confirmed and all that nonsense. Two Holy Communions, forced to confess every week, took Theology classes.

I’ve always rebelled against religion. It never made sense to me, and never will. I don’t understand how people can blindly put their faith into some paradigm created thousands of years ago. And why must people go to hell for not confessing if they are better, more moral and spiritual, than me?

If I had to align myself with one religion, it would be Buddhism. I have known, spent time with, and correspond with two Buddhist monks who truly opened my mind. Reincarnation makes the most sense to me (especially since I was past-life regressed last year). I meditate regularly and it brings me incredible peace of mind.

Anyway, to accept any one theory as truth seems extreme to me. No one religion is right or wrong. Atheists are not wrong. We simply have different ways of recognizing or addressing what we consider the divine. I will never comprehend how worked up, angry and violent people become over religion.

The writings of Emerson and Whitman also reflect my ideas of natural religion. I can see divine everyday in nature. That matters much more to me than words put to paper several millenia before I was even born.

Try thinking of it as a gift. Have you read Plato’s “Simile of the Cave”? Or the poem about it by Stephen Dunn in his collected works? Appreciate the ability to look below the surface of such matters. I find my belief that other deities, other gods and countless other spiritual possibilities and worlds exit far more freeing that mindless devotion.

Hope that helped.


This one belongs in the Great Debates, so off we go! :slight_smile:

I was raised Catholic, my mother is Catholic, my late father was Lutheran. I always hated going to church, maybe that’s what started everything. I remember not liking church at all even before I started having doubts. I really don’t know if my agnosticism is just an outcropping of my hating church. Knowing me the way I do, I doubt it was any serious thinking on the subject.

Apropos of nothing, I mentioned to a coworker from Argentina that I was a “recovering Catholic.” She was shocked, and then said she’d heard the expression in Argentina, and I was the first person who she heard use that phrase in the US. (She’s been a citizen for over 20 years.) So it looks like this may be a worldwide problem.

Raised Catholic.

Last generation of altar boys to memorize the Mass in Latin.

Wanted to be a priest as a kid.

Never missed a Mass on Sunday/Holy Day of Obligation until well into graduate school.

Now I count myself an agnostic.

It’s the kind of thing that builds for a long time. When my Baltimore Catechism had a section proclaiming that it was incorrect to hol that Buddha was a God, I found myself thinking “But even most Buddhists don’t believe that.” It also cautioned againt accepting Science as the Chief Teacher of Truth. But, although there were some very savvy nuns teaching my parochial school, the ones that taught science obviously didn’t know anything.(“A mosquito causes malari by laying eggs in your body”. I swear they tried to teach us that.) I learned very early on to ignore the science classes in grammar school. But it also made me think that, if Science isn’t the Chief Teacher of Truth, the local religious personnel were even farther from being the Chief Teachers of Truth. Everything would have to be evaluated on a case by case basis. When they got to the part about The Existence of God being provable, I knew that I would have to think things ut myself, and not rely on The Baltimore Catechism.
Many year of this reslted in my conviction that belief in the Ctholic Faith, or in any Christian Faith, demanded that I believe things for which there was no proof, and no compelling reason to believe. When I ultimately realized that I didn’t really believe many of these things, I recognized that I was, in fact, agnostic. I felt that I did not actively believe that these were NOT true, so I was not an atheist. I’d never heard the distinction etween “hard” and “soft” atheists until it came up on this board recently, but it looks like another attemt by the atheists to define me nto their camp. I say I’m an agnostic, and I’m sticking to that.

I was brought up Jewish and heterosexual.

Now I’m an atheist and gay.

For decades, it never occurred to me that my philosophical evolution and my sexual orientation had anything to do with each other. But in retrospect, both journeys have involved ability/willingness to think for myself and explore the road less traveled. When you stop following the herd in one aspect of your life, it might change your perspective in other areas as well.

Shorter answer: If you’re surrounded by more conventional people, maybe you’re simply smarter than they are.

Raised Methodist. It was pretty laid back. I realized I was an atheist when I was 12, but continued to attend church sporatically until I was 17 or so, to make my mother happy.

My mother was Catholicish. She had a lot of problems with some tenets of the faith, though, and never pushed it on me. I did go to Catholic school through grammar school, but I think the idea there was more for me to get a better education than was available in the local public schools than any attempt to get me religious instruction.

At any rate, I was never particularly enamored of what I saw. Truth was secondary to belief in the dogmas: conscious rationalization, willful ignorance, and blithe dismissal were the standard mechanisms for dealing with uncomfortable questions or facts. I wouldn’t have put it in those terms in grammar school, obviously, but I was aware on some level that these psychological missteps were being actively encouraged in religious class while at the same time being underscored as errors in everything else (and a lot of Catholic schools are indeed really excellent in other areas). Cognitive dissonance sets in; I saw a lot of people resolve it by putting religion in a special, priviliged category. One not subject to the human errors that plague other fields: “No, no, you don’t understand. It doesn’t have to make sense - these are gospel truths!” My own resolution was somewhat different, obviously.

So I guess I was never terribly Catholic on the inside, though on the outside I say I’m an apostate RC who is now atheist.

My background is Jewish, but my family has never been religious. The only times I’ve been in a cynagogue were my three cousins bar mitzfahs. We never really talked about religion at all in my house, and when I was in high school I started teaching myself. I found neopaganism very appealing, but I still didn’t like the idea of a deity (even though most neopagan traditions view it as representational instead of actual) so eventually in college I decided I was an atheist, and that I really like Taoism (which has a lot of parallels to neopaganism, but that’s a whole 'nother thread.)