Asking former Christian Atheists

I believed in God when I was very young, because my mother told me he was there, and why would she lie to me? I didn’t really buy into it, though. I clearly remember a couple of instances where I openly questioned inconsistencies in what I was being told.

Her dad died a couple of years before I was born, and her mother remarried to one of his college friends. My mom never liked the guy. Husband #2 then died when I was four or five. When I was maybe seven or eight years old, I asked my mom how the whole heaven thing would work out when my grandmother died, what with two husbands up there waiting for her. It was genuine curiosity on my part. She got mad at me, and I didn’t get an answer. Later in life I realized that she probably was caught off guard, and her anger probably came from not wanting to think that heaven would be anything other than her mother and father together for all eternity - she didn’t want to think about the second husband having any part of it.

I used to hate being dragged off to church every Sunday. I thought it was a complete waste of time. The weekend was only two days long, and here I was being forced to waste half of one of those days going to that stupid church. I also hated dressing up (which has never really changed), so it was a double-whammy. At some point before I was a teenager, I questioned why we had to go to church. If God supposedly knows everything and can read our minds, then he knows how we feel about him, so why do we need to go to church and prove it? And at the very least, why would he care how we dress? I believe the answer was something along the lines of “because that’s how it is, now get your butt in the car.”

(I’ve never really been sure where my father stands. He’s always gone to church, and so on. But I’ve always suspected he’s just been going along with the story for my mother’s sake. It’s not worth asking about.)

Anyway, once I got into my teenage years, I realized it was ok to think it was all a bunch of hooey. And, that Mom hadn’t deliberately been lying to me; she was telling me this stuff because she believed it to be true. There was no emotional anything about it; it was just a realization of the truth.

At age 6 I couldn’t reconcile the fact that dinosaurs existed before people and yet they completely left them out of the creation story. The skepticism gradually built from there and I think I was full blown atheist when my freshman year of college a Catholic priest teaching a religion class basically said, yeah, it’s all bullshit. His argument was religion is valuable and necessary, even if the technical and historical aspects are probably mostly untrue. And I get that. Some people need the hocus pocus to confirm their morality.

I was 13 or so, and I recall some distress over it, although I do not recall specifically why. Perhaps it was realizing there is no heavenly afterlife.

16ish? Disappointing, really. I wanted there to be something, but whatever it was, it wasn’t anything like organized religion.

Former Mormon here. Probably 25 by the time I was convinced the Church wasn’t true, and I’ve been vacillating being being atheist or agnostic ever since. The hardest thing for me to let go of is Christ, and even though I don’t really believe, I don’t want to not believe. It is a beautiful story to me.

I do not have any organized religion. The Mormon church basically teaches that if they aren’t true, none of them are, and that kind of stuck with me.

Any reason you can’t just focus on emulating Jesus the Guy, without all the supernatural nonsense? You know, be excellent to everyone, follow the just rules, don’t persecute/prosecute the rule breakers (but have a go at determined a-holes), etc. …?

I don’t consider myself a “full-blown atheist”, nor was I ever really a committed Christian, so my experience may not be what OP is looking for, but here goes.

There wasn’t any particular point or dividing line in my life that I can think of. My father was a-religious, and, I think, an atheist - we never discussed it. My mother was a devout Lutheran. She took me and my sister to church every Sunday and on holidays, and I went to Sunday school when I was very young. I remember that I kind of liked the singing and looking at the architecture in church, but otherwise I found it boring. I don’t know that I ever specifically thought of myself as a “Christian”, per se, but I did vaguely believe in the Bible and some sort of deity which had inspired it. My mother and her family were “liberal” Christians, so there was a lot of discussions over which parts of the Bible were literally true. I think their consensus was that most of the New Testament probably was literally true, most of the Old Testament was probably divinely-inspired allegory, and I absorbed those beliefs and attitudes.

As I got older and more independent, I just sort of…drifted away. By the time I was 12 or so, I had stopped going to church. Certainly by the time I was in college at 17, I didn’t take the Bible seriously as anything other than a cultural/literary work. Also by that time, my belief in any sort of deity was just kind of fading away. I remember finding some aspects of Islam and even more so the Baha’i faith attractive, but not enough for me to seriously consider converting. I think by the time I graduated, my belief in any sort of divinity had pretty much faded away.

There was never any reverse Saul on the road to Damascus moment for me. And I still don’t take a firm stance that there is no God. I think I was in college when I first encountered a quote attributed to Pierre-Simon Laplace regarding the existence of God, “I have no need of that hypothesis.” That pretty much summed up my attitude at the time and still now.

[Chef, from South Park] 17 [/Chef, from South Park]

I was raised Methodist, but more out of habit rather than a firm level of belief. By the time I graduated from high school, I realized that the whole Christian god thing didn’t make any sense. But I still believed that life, consciousness and existence were too unlikely to have occurred by chance without divine intervention.

Then probably shortly before I turned 20, I was working a temp summer job as a landscaper and reading “A brief history of time” on my lunch break, I came across the Anthropic principl. Thought “Well that explains that” and so with the last niggling barrier removed went on with my life as an atheist.

I generally follow the golden rule. I don’t believe the bible to be completely worthless, and to be honest, I think there are people out there that just plain NEED religion. Anybody that asks “if there is no God, why be good?” NEEDS religion. IMHO, of course.

Mine was a slow drift away from about 14 y.o. on. I went to a bunch of different services and as I delved deeper into comparative religion in school I came to realise that Organized Christian Religion didn’t have the answers I sought. I looked into Buddhist and Taoist thought and they seemed to make a lot more sense to me; in that doing good things now pays dividends and you don’t have a Get Out of Jail Free card after doing a lifetime of shitty things to your fellow humans just by having a deathbed conversion.
I did have a minor existential crisis once I understood that This, right now, is all you get. All the things you are disappear when you die. It took me until my thirties to reconcile that.

Even when I was a little kid, I could buy the basic moral concepts, but the Bible tales seemed no more believable than the Roman, Greek, or Norse myths. If we reject those older myths, how come we still do Wodin’s Day and Thor’s Day every week?

I was 14 when I asked my Sunday School teacher if there was any evidence of God (I’d already read the Gospels by then.)

He said “No, it’s a matter of faith.”

Since I didn’t have any faith, I realised I was an atheist.

I was raised in a religious (Mormon) household, but honestly I don’t recall ever believing. By all accounts I was never interested and never engaged in religious practices except when told to, at which point I’d do so in a rote manner. I spent most of the time while at church reading fiction books unrelated to religion.

I still attended church and meetings and such until I was, oh, I think ninteen or so, entirely because I thought I was required to. (Back when I was a kid I refused to go once, and they locked me in a bathroom for the duration to ensure I would have as little fun in their absence as possible.) At one point my mom pointed out as I was about to leave for church (to go sit in the halls reading) that I didn’t have to go. So I didn’t. And that was the end of that - to the degree it hadn’t ended years before.

For me, that’s a hard question. I was raised Christian. My mom took me to church (my dad didn’t usually go once I got older) but for as long as I can remember, I never really grokked the whole God thing. I felt a little envious of others who seemed to just “get” faith, who believed and seemed to be a part of the church community, but I struggled with the idea from the time I was a fairly young child.

I didn’t really come out and admit it to myself until I was much older, though–probably in my thirties before I finally just owned up to not believing in God. So many bits of Christianity just seemed wrong or pointless to me (not the least of which was its views on women, which I wanted no part of) so I finally just said, “Nope, this isn’t for me.” It was quite liberating.

I wouldn’t call myself an “atheist,” though. More of an agnostic.

I suppose I was lucky enough to be raised in a relatively apathetic environment when it came to religion. As I said, I have Christian family. Nominally, I suppose. My father’s side were Catholics and they are every bit the Catholics you think they are - cafeteria-type. Jesus this and Jesus that and an insistence on grace at meals, but not exactly straight up moral people. EXCEPT MY GRANDMOTHER! THE WOMAN WAS A SAINT! I digress. My father told me that he lost his faith, for the most part, early when the local priests would show up to their dirt hovel in their brand new Cadillacs for their tithing, which my grandparents would gladly fork over before serving a big bowl of chicken feet soup for my dad and his siblings.

My mother’s family were nominally Lutheran as in church regularly, every Easter and Christmas. Grace was, “Good Food, Good Meat, Good God, Let’s Eat.” I remember being baptized when I was maybe five or six, but I don’t remember which family side kicked that off. The only thing I remember about it is that “baptized,” sounded a lot like “hypnotized,” and I was terrified to have to do it. I thought it was going to hurt or something. Seriously, I remember being very upset about it - it’s an indelible memory.

The apathy came when we moved to a small town in Maine in which every single family was Catholic. They had catechism classes in mainstream public schools, right after history and before recess. I was able to be excused from it once I clued my parents into it. I had no idea what was going on. I was really baffled, mostly at the fact that all my other classmates seemed to already know what was going on and it may as well all have been Game of Thrones to me. I was completely in the dark. There was really no talk of religion around our house outside of your general cultural touchstones, “I pray to God we win – God love you, you’re a scamp – God, if you get me out of this one, I’ll never drink again,” that kind of stuff. And there was really no place to worship even if we wanted to anyway so it was all pretty much moot.

So, like I said, it just never took with me. I never remember ever just buying it. I always had questions. A big one when I was young - which I never really had reconciled for me until much later - was the conflict between Adam and Eve and dinosaurs. I literally could not wrap my brain how they fit in with each other.

Now, when I matured a little and I could see the reality of what religion is and what it is all about I was relieved that it never had its hooks in me.

I was raised in the fundamentalist “Church of Christ”, but I read widely at an early age, and never really bought into the weird “Bible-is-literally-true” mindset. No real reason to believe in any god – science explains things much better!

I continued going to church for a ridiculously-long time, anyway.

About 20 and in college. As a kid I went to a Catholic church and attended a Catholic high school (St. Michael’s in Santa Fe, NM) for grades 7-12. After I graduated, I started calling myself a “non-practicing Christian”, until I took a philosophy class in college, realized that being an atheist was an option, and gave up on Christianity entirely.

Looking back, there were plenty of signs much earlier on that Christianity wasn’t for me. I remember being in church, around age 7 or 8, repeating one of the same prayers we repeated every Sunday, and thinking, “Does it really make God happy for us to say the same stuff over and over?” Similarly, in 7th grade, I got in trouble with one of my teachers: we did Our Father-type prayers before every class, which got old for me quick, and I was rolling my eyes while reciting it for the 6th time that day.

Finally admitting that there is no God was very liberating. I wasn’t suddenly an awful hellbound sinner; I was the same old me, but I was free from this burden that felt like I had been lying to myself, and I no longer had to. I got very anti-religion for a good spell, but eventually I mellowed, and now I pretty much feel that everyone’s entitled to their superstition; believe whatever makes you happy, just don’t get in my face about it. I stand and recite the pledge of allegiance when I have to, but I keep quiet for the “under God” part.

I’m also doing my best to not push my kids into anything and let them find their own way. I bought the oldest Torqueling a kids’ Bible when she expressed an interest in reading it, and when she asked about church, I took her to one (and I didn’t even burst into flames when I walked in). I think she’s leaning in my direction, because she’s a science-minded kid and she’s a major daddy’s girl, but time will tell.

I read a lot of mythology in my early teen years. As soon as I learned there were gods, I figured out that there was no GOD. I was about 15.

On top of that, I used to ask a lot of questions in Sunday School. I asked one Sunday School teacher whether Christianity and evolution were compatible, and he said, “I don’t see how a Christian can really accept evolution.”

Then another time, I asked whether Jews would go to heaven, and the SS teacher said, “If they have been given the opportunity to accept Jesus and choose not to, then their goose is cooked” (words to that effect). My best friend was Jewish, so at that point I said to myself, “This is nonsense,” and it was about then I stopped having an interest in any of it.

I was about 7 or 8 when I first noticed something that I (much later) heard George Carlin articulate very well. God is all knowing, all powerful… and needs your money. The closer the person’s connection to God, the more that person needed money. It seemed to me that the minister should just ask God to provide for the church rather than ask the parishioners to donate their Christmas money.

It was like drawing a bright red line on a map to an X labelled “There Is No God”. I didn’t understand how the adults in the room, whom I otherwise respected, were unable to make the connection. To this day, I can think of no more blatant, straight forward indictment of the whole affair.

How did this realization make me feel? Well, baffled, really. It still doesn’t really make any sense to me at all how it has gone on for so long.