Atheists/apathetics: What's kept you from truly Believing?

Now that we’ve got threads for those who’ve lost or changed their faith, and for those who’ve kept and maintained their faith, I figured we ought to have one for those who never really had any faith and don’t see any reason to have one now.

Given that religion, in all its forms, is a fairly ubiquitous phenomenon in society, I would find it hard to believe that anyone could claim lack of faith due to lack of exposure.

So: was it upbringing, rebellion, apathy, none of the preceding? :slight_smile:

I don’t expect the stories here to be quite as dramatic as those in the other two threads, but maybe (hopefully) someone will surprise me!

(I’ll come back with my own story later.)

Do we live-and-let-live agnostics count? We’re neither atheist nor apathetic.

For me it’s been what I hope is simple humility - the six pounds of gray jelly which are all we have to think with, barely evolved from that of apes, just might not be up to the task of understanding all of the mysteries of the universe and creation, you know? We pride ourselves on our knowledge and our accomplishments, but all we have to compare them with is ourselves. We can claim to know, we can even believe we know, but in all honesty, we can never be sure.

It follows that organized religions which do claim to have simple, pat answers, and which do insist that I believe some old folk tales as actual truth, and that all the others simply have it wrong no matter how well they mean, don’t have any attraction for me either. There’s certainly a sense of community in all the best senses in a congregation or a faith, and those are admirable and helpful things. The teachings they choose to follow certainly often do inspire their adherents to do many good things for others, at least usually. They’ve been too often used to demand the deaths or suppression of nonbelievers, though, for me to embrace any of that stuff myself.

But you don’t need that to be similarly motivated. The knowledge that we’re all going to die someday, and meanwhile we all have to find ways to live together as best we can, is enough. And perhaps that’s pretty much all the great prophets have really said, despite the claptrap that their followers and successors have laid on top of it and have demanded obeisance to.

So maybe I’m just a Unitarian who doesn’t realize it yet. :smiley:

Well, as a child I went through the usual CoE experience that someone growing up in England, going through the public school system, and taking part in the Scouts (don’t know about today or other people, but my branch of the Scouts had mandatory Christian services at least once a month). However, I don’t think any of it really sunk in; certainly at the age of say, seven I was POSITIVE that there was a God (of the big-beard-in-the-sky) variety, but by, say, 13, I was completely atheist. I guess I never really found any evidence for God, plus the lack of any real religous vigour in either my household or my church may have helped (parents are very lapsed Catholics, and Anglican churchs are really more social gatherings than deeply religous institutions). Had I been brought up, say, Pentecostal, I might well have kept my faith until my mid-teens.

Around the age of 15 or so, the really ridiculous aspects of Christianity began to sink in, however (not helped by a few fundamentalist aquaintances, including one Creationist), and I really started to not believe in earnest. I suppose it was then that I became a “practising” Atheist, rather than one born simply of apathy and lack of exposure to genuine religous feeling (not to knock any Anglicans on the board, but most of those I know are of the tea-and-biscuits variety)- by that I mean an atheist due to philosophical conviction. I don’t want to derail this into a debate about the existence of God, so I’ll just leave it as saying that I have never seen a convincing argument for either the existence of God or of a Christian god.

I noticed that most of my friends went through a similar experience about that age, either becoming Atheists, staunchly religous in their already-practised faith (Confirmation, whatever) or converting. Make of it what you will.

Mm, agnosticism doesn’t imply we don’t care.

Anyway, I do “truly Believe”; I believe that it is impossible for us to say with certainty that a god/life force/invisible pink unicorn doesn’t exist. There is no way to prove that nothing like that exists; on that i’m as adamant as any religious or strongly athiest person.

On the other hand, I believe it is possible to prove they do exist, but it would be very, very difficult to do so, and that that would require their direct co-operation, something which doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.

So I suppose what’s keeping me from believing is the Gods themselves. Tricky bastards. :wink:

This thread is really more appropriate for me than the apostate thread.

The biggest thing for me is simply the complete lack of evidence, not only for gods, but for any supernatural phenomena at all. I’ve also never been shown that there is any necessity for God. There is nothing we’ve ever found in the universe which requires magic or a “creator” to explain it. To me that makes God superfluous.

A lesser component for me is the painfully human nature of all religious scripture, but I think that does more to discredit specific those specific religious doctrines than to discredit theistic belief per se.

What’s kept me from believing is the fact that I have a brain, and know how to use it. Same thing that keeps me from believing in a flat earth and unicorns.

None of the preceeding, probably with little bits of upbringing and rebellion. What’s kept me from believing is the fact that it’s just not in my personality to do so. Once I worked out what skepticism was, I realized that was pretty much my natural state. I’m not a fan of faith generally speaking, so why have faith in religion? I can’t overstate the “brain” thing either. I understand why people believe, but none of the stuff makes any sense to me.

Nothing has kept me from believing. Rather, there has been nothing to make me think there is any reason to do so.

In the end, confronted with all the reasons why there is no reason to believe that there is a god, most any religious person comes to say something along the lines of, “But I can feel that there is something more out there. That someone is watching over me, steering the world.” But, I don’t have that feeling so from there all there is, is all the evidence to show that there is no reason to think that there is a god. If anything there is far more evidence to show that gods are the creation of man.

And as I have said in times previous, even if he or they were to show up and show prove their existence somehow, it would still be a big “Good for you.” If he exists, he gave me free will, and at the moment I’m busy exercising that. If he/they wanted me to care they lucked out by choosing not to make it innate to do so.

So, only contrary evidence, no “magical feeling”, and no interest equals not a lot of urge to follow up. And so it goes.

I can remember being a very little kid and wondering what in the world was wrong with me. Everyone seemed to take for granted that God is real. It wasn’t until many years later that I met people who argued against the existence of God in any shape or form, not just the Judeo-Christian god.
I never could get in to that way of thinking because I always took for granted that God wasn’t real. It’s never occured to me that I might be wrong about this, and I don’t care for arguments about “right or wrong” in this context anyway.
Imagine a place where there is no religion, no gods, nothing. It’s not even a regret because there is nothing to regret. That’s my little world. God’s not even an afterthought because God doesn’t enter my worldview. Never has, probably never will.

I was brought up in a Christian house, though it wasn’t very devout. I honestly don’t know why I think this way.

I’ll echo those comments. That pretty much hits the nail on the head for me. I believe that no one – not me, not you, not the Pope, has any more idea of what’s out there than anyone else. And all religions were founded by humans.

It’s not that I don’t believe – it’s just that I’ve resigned myself to the idea that I’ll never know. At least not in this lifetime. :wink:

There’s that, too. I agree that the world we have is indistinguishable from one in which no God plays an active role. If one exists, there’s no evidence for it that doesn’t have a more mundane, logical reason. That’s said with complete respect for the countless believers who really have changed their lives by adopting their beliefs and acting upon them - but I still can’t see where their actions are caused by anyone but themselves.

The age-old question about why God allows evil to exist, or the one about why kind people die just as young as hating people, seem to have a more-likely answer than “Because he’s testing us” or “It’s not for us to know”. As I said above, the world is indistinguishable from one where God simply plays no role. And if He doesn’t care about me, why should I care about Him/Her/It/Whatever?

My family wasn’t very religious. We tried a few different churches when I was growing up (Methodist, Unitarian, Presbyterian) but my parents never found one they liked and so we never went regularly. It just never was a significant part of our lives.

When I was a teenager I started thinking hard about what I really believed. Most of my friends were born-again Christians, so I was exposed to a lot of Christian teaching, but it just didn’t make any sense to me. It just seemed very made-up and arbitrary. The more I read and learned about Christianity and other religions the more skeptical I became. People have believed in so many different kinds of gods and supernatural beings down through the ages! Hundreds of them. Thousands of them.

So just by logic alone you can prove that virtually all religions must be false. Jesus and Ganesh and Tetzcatlipoca can’t all be real. At least two of them must be imaginary. Which means that even if one religion is true the vast majority of people throughout human history have been dead wrong in their religious beliefs.

Given that most religions are false, how do you pick the true one? You can’t go by the fervor of a religion’s followers. Everyone believes their religion must be the true one! You’re only option is to use some sort of objective evidence. But there is no objective evidence.

That’s why I’m an atheist. Most religions are wrong and their followers are deluded. There may be a true religion out there, but there’s no evidence for it. Odds are, they’re all false then.

I went through a brief period of devout belief at the age of 13, and then passed out of it.

I’d love to have faith. But I can’t for several reasons. One is that there is, as several people have said, no more compelling evidence for the truth of one religion than there is for any other, including many that are not practiced in the world anymore, such as the Greek pantheon. There’s nothing in the way of evidence for any of them, except for personal testimony in the form of sacred writings. Two is that we, as humans, have so much reason to want there to be a god, starting with the inability/unwillingness to envision our own lack of existence (i.e. death). Three, if God exists and takes a day-to-day and personal interest in human lives, the morality there is such that it’s unworthy of worship.

And last, it doesn’t answer anything. It’s no easier to understand an eternal and infinite god than it is to understand an eternal and infinite universe. There’s always the “OK, but then how did THAT happen?” as in “OK, who created God and/or what came before God?” In short, it doesn’t provide any answers.

It was this last that caused me to become largely apathetic about both religion and philosophy. Those questions can never be answered satisfactorily, and thinking about them simply causes my mind to boggle. I don’t need extra help in that respect!

I have no reason to believe there is. There is no evidence that believing or not believing has any impact on the world one way or the other. The world is a complicated place, but there’s no reason to think that believing in magic changes that fact. Believers and non-believers alike will experience the same joys and disappointments, and in the end we all die alone.

Wow, what a depressing thread.

Looks *liberating * to me. YMOV.

As others have said, the lack of evidence that there’s anything to believe in, and the ample evidence that belief without proof gets people into trouble. (For more on the latter point, see my posts in this thread.)

On the other hand, I will readily admit to one Belief: that there are intelligent life forms someplace out there in the universe. I have no concrete basis for holding this belief, beyond knowing about the incomprehensible vastness of the cosmos and feeling that it’s vanishingly unlikely that in all that space biology and evolution would not have produced other intelligent entities. They’re probably thousands of lightyears away, and it will be millennia before there’s any reasonable hope of making some sort of contact; they aren’t “among us” now. Again, I’ll concede that this is nothing more a belief based on limited knowledge and mostly feeling, and I cannot responsibly assert that I “know” there are advanced extraterrestrial civilizations out there. Still, I bring it up because I think it has a lot in common with the yearning that gives rise to religious belief; the big difference is, I’m not about to go blow up buildings or anything if people disagree with me. :slight_smile:

Would you care to explain that? I’m happy to have it, and once in a while you’ll catch me saying “being an atheist is the best thing that ever happened to me.” I don’t say it a lot because I think it sounds a little ridiculous and snobby, but there’s truth to it; the rest of my personality is in some ways centered around it.

Ditto to that. What continually amazes me are the people who willingly believe the unsubstantiated, often contradictory, and frequently hypocritical things espoused by their religion of choice without stopping to ask themselves, “Hey, this doesn’t make sense…”

Your Mileage Outta Vary? :confused: