Atheists/Non-Believers, when did you come to this realization?

Just recently I volunteered to be interviewed at a university by someone who was doing a study of people that had drifted away from religion. Aka non-believers.
It was during this interview that the interviewer asked me when it was that I came to the realization that there were no gods.
That really got me thinking as I had never given it much thought until that moment.

So here is the result of my thoughts and her drawing information out of me that afternoon in the university cafeteria…

I am a baby-boomer.
During my childhood in the early and mid-50’s, I was subjected to constant military stories, movies, comic books, etc., mostly based on the Second World War, but also the Korean War. So of course the games my friends and I played mostly revolved around war.
So I grew up with a fascination of war, not really knowing the horrible consequences of it.
During this time, my parents had always gone to church every Sunday. They took my along too, but I never really found it interesting enough to jump into religion. Instead, religion in the form of going to church every Sunday was just part of the weekly routine.

Then the 60’s came and the news stories of the day concentrated on the Cold War. I was somewhat aware of nuclear war and what it could mean, but my thoughts never went very far.

When I reached my mid-teens, along came Vietnam. But being a Canadian, our country was not involved. I still took an strong interest in it, especially when a couple of brothers in my town move to the US and volunteered.
That got me thinking so I took a trip down to California and looked into it. Fortunately, I met a girl in L. A. who had just had her boy friend drafted and she convinced me to stay. I looked a little into working there, but eventually moved back to Canada, still with a keen interest in this war.

Not too many years later (or was it months), we were getting deluged with anti-war news and that’s when I slowly but surely started to see the other side. The anti-war side.

That got me thinking even more about war and I dug deeply into statistics of the number of war dead and casualties.

Russia alone lost upwards of 20,000,000 dead. OMFG. How could that be. And along with those are the million of others lost in WWII. And then there’s all the other wars and the millions just kept adding up.

How could a God have allowed so many innocent people to die? Tens of millions have died ever since mankind found himself on this Earth. People keep believing and more people keep dying.

So that’s what did it to me. I had never really given much thought to religion, or the existence of gods or why I didn’t believe in gods up until then, but when I started thinking about it, the existence of any god just did not make any sense.

So I guess you could say the Vietnam war was the catalyst that allowed me to realize that gods and religion are only a figment of our imagination.

So, how about the rest of you? How did you come to the realization that there are no gods?

Moderator Action

Since this is basically an informal poll of personal experiences, let’s move it to IMHO.

Moving thread from General Questions to In My Humble Opinion.

There was a small amount of religion in my early childhood. It’s difficult now to recall but as best I can there were real things like family, house, garden and kindergarten, and there were fairytale things which encompassed family things (like God, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy) and book things like bible stories and children’s fantasies.

I don’t recall ever going through the dichotomy that many seem to, where at some point Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and children’s fantasy stories become recognised as “not real” and God and bible stories become in some way “real”.

Although neither of my parents are religious, they did offload us to one of our very church-going grandmas on the weekends, so I grew up believing. Then, one day, my paternal grandmother talked to me about those nasty atheists, and I was flabbergasted: *“whoa, people who don’t believe in God. That’s so sad.” *But then, a couple of days later it dawned on me… “Wait. that’s an OPTION?”.

And thus it began the faith crisis of a not very bright nine year old.

I never really believed. I was taught Sunday school and went to church up until I was nine or so but never really internalized that there was some deity that could be called upon to break physical laws based on my pleadings. I just went because it was what one did. I found church boring and of no relevance.
I never drifted away from god… I was never there. I came to realize I was different in belief than what my peers proported to believe around 12 or 13.

I’ve mentioned before… When I was quite young, I asked a handful of VERY naive questions about God. My even more naive grade-school classmates, not having answers, beat the shit out of me.

That made it impossible for me ever to follow any organized religion. I saw the catastrophic disconnect between “Love your neighbor” and “Take that. And that. And that.”

If that’s what religion drove people to be like, I reject it.

My more educated acceptance of atheism follows the fact that religious belief requires faith. There is no proof of it. Miracles aren’t attested, and revelations are purely personal.

Also…there are a lot of different religions, all contradicting each other. (Even within Christianity, there are absolutely irreconcilable differences in doctrines.) So since 95% of them have to be wrong…what’s stopping them all from being wrong?

Also…y’know, as kids do, I actually did try praying to God. You can guess the answer. (“Heaven is closed at this time. Please call back during working hours, and we aren’t going to tell you when those are. Thank you for your patience.”)

Also…much like “facilitated communication,” those people who said they received personal revelations from Jesus or the Virgin Mary never actually bring anything verifiable. No one prays, and gets a map to buried treasure. They only get platitudes. “God is perfect love” and never “The lotto numbers are 2, 5, 27, 39, 47, and 58.”

The whole structure is not based on anything anyone can see. This is why the “Invisible Pink Unicorn” riff is so poisonous: it’s exactly accurate.

tl, dr: bad Christians and no evidence.

My mother was thoroughly conventional and thought we should go to church, and also we could enjoy the social aspect. My father wasn’t interested at all. Our compromise was that us two kids went to Sunday school every week until we were confirmed at age 13* (this was a bland Methodist church) and the family only went to church a couple of times a year (Easter, and maybe something else, but not Christmas).

So after going through Sunday school, memorizing the 10 Commandments (Mommy, what is “adultery?” ::crickets:: ) and stuff, and hearing a few sermons over the years from our less-than-dynamic pastor, I concluded that I didn’t believe in God at age 13, shortly after being confirmed (no connection, really, they just happened around the same time). Further study in philosophy over the next few years only confirmed my conclusions.

*I only realized much later that having both kids out of the house for a couple of hours once a week gave them a little “us” time that they probably didn’t have any other time. I had the bedroom next to theirs, and if they had ever knocked knees when I was there, I’m sure I would have heard it.

TL-DR version - age 13.

My mother happened to be close friends with the minister’s daughter so she was a regular visitor to his home, and she learned he was a tyrant who treated his wife and daughters poorly. Then his wife died tragically young, and within mere weeks he remarried - to the housekeeper. She says “Tell me there wasn’t already something going on there”.

Mum sat in church week after week, listening but unable to believe what she was hearing, and it made her feel bad and wrong. She was surrounded by people who believed, so why couldn’t she?

Then, over time, she started looking at the other people in the church with her. People who, all week, were nasty and unchristian and yet sat there on Sundays in their best clothes, looking like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.

And all those things came together in her head and she realised “None of them believe! It’s all just for show! None of these people actually believe in any of it!”. She felt angry at all the time she’d spent in anxiety over her own lack of faith, and all the time she’d wasting thinking there was something wrong with her. She stopped going to church and never looked back.

During my childhood, no mention was ever made of religion but when my school offered religious education classes, mum permitted me to go so I could make up my own mind. I went through a period in my mid-late teens where I really wanted to believe because it would have been nice to have faith like that, but it was all lip service. I never for a second could feel any truth in religion, or muster up any belief. By the time I was 20, I was certain that there was no God, or even if there was a Creator then it was an impersonal, distant thing that had no knowledge or care or influence in the mundane little lives it had brought into being, which is much the same thing. I didn’t need a big moment of revelation because I never had any belief to begin with.

Sometimes people accuse me of being angry at God. I’m amused. How can you be angry at something that doesn’t exist? I get angry with religious believers and religions that try to impose their beliefs into my life, but I can’t feel anger at a God I’ve never believed in.

not as complicated I’m afraid.

I can’t ever remember believing, It always seemed to me something that* other* people believed. I did read voraciously as a kid about natural sciences and I can’t recall ever having a god-shaped gap in my knowledge. As I grew older I’ve never come across a problematic argument for which a god or gods is a solution.

As a very young child I was watching Hercules cartoons and reading stories about Greek and Roman gods. I knew that some of them were pretty much the same god with a Greek name and a Roman name. I also knew about the Norse gods. I also knew that they were all just stories from long ago and far away.

I never thought the Christian god was anything different: just stories from long ago and far away.

But my family had me go thru my 1st communion and I went to CCD classes for a couple of years. That was boring and frustrating for me and when I was 9 or 10 I was able to present a good argument to discontinue and my parents agreed.

Neither of my parents were religious (mom was a lapsed Protestant, dad was atheist), so it was never a big thing when I was growing up (religion was never used as an answer to any of my questions). The town I grew up in, though, was about 90% Irish and Italian, so pretty much all of my friends and neighbors were Catholic. I think since I knew I didn’t do the same things as the Catholic and Jewish kids, I must therefore be Protestant by default.

Freshman year in college, I was on a date with a girl who was hardcore fundie. When I described my beliefs to her, her response was just a flat “you’re not Christian.” Since this comment didn’t bother me in the least, I figured it might be true. I spent that night reading the Gospel of John and by morning I was a regret-free atheist.

The girl and I are still friends some 20 years later, btw.

My mom is pretty religious and I was raised Catholic, I actually believed when I was younger, sometime between 7th and 8th grade, after I started looking more closely at the world around me, I just stopped believing.

Age 14, attending a Jesuit high school. That’ll do it to anyone with a brain.

Prior to age 14, I believed in God in a magical thinking frame of mind and accepted His existence as fact, without question. In junior high, we studied Greek mythology and I noticed similarities between what was being taught to be a myth and what I was being told was factual in Sunday school. Obviously, someone was wrong and for the first time, I began asking myself questions about religion, God’s existence, etc. I can’t say it was a moment of epiphany but it did change my religious acceptance into more analytical thought and gradually led me to become an atheist.

As a young child I didn’t give a god much thought, but in my early teen years began attending a Pentecostal church (at the insistence of my grandmother). It was an interesting few months, until I found myself speaking in tongues one afternoon, and very quickly realised it was a ‘magic trick’ that the Elders in the church used to con the congregation.

Since then, a rabid atheist. Well, not rabid, I actually don’t give a tinker’s cuss who you worship or why. Nunnamybiznis.

Just don’t try to convert me or engage me in SERIOUS theological discussion and we’ll get along famously. :slight_smile:

I was raised by two parents who both lost their faith at an early age, around 12-13 as descibed above, so I was raised an atheist. This had the paradoxical effect that I turned out much less anti-religious than them, since I didn’t have to forcibly break with a system of belief and tradition. By now, my knowledge of the Bible is far better than theirs. I was in a position to read it cover to cover for the good stories, without being hampered by the oppressive interpretations they were brought up with. I guess it takes at least two generations to be really freed from it. Having said that: I may not believe the Bible at face value, but I am very aware that my cultural background is still largely Judeo-Christian, with only small additions of Enlightenment and modern Scientific reasoning.

My parents never talked much about religion. My dad was raised Protestant or Presbyterian (one of the “P” religions) and my mom was Jewish. Not much overlap, I guess.

Very early on I figured out there was no Easter bunny; it just didn’t make any sense. Likewise Santa. But I played along for my little brother and sister.

Talk I heard about giant arks full of animals, parting seas, omnipotent beings, etc likewise did not seem rational. I was a very rational child. From a very early age the easter bunny, santa, god, and Mister Rodgers’ Henrietta Pussycat were all clearly make believe.

A belief in gods just never took with me.

Pretty much the same as above. Didn’t really take with the idea of religion, mostly because I was interested in science, and at a young age saw the conflicts looming.

Also, I remember one particular Sunday school lesson about how evil athiests were. How they hated God and needed to be stopped at all costs. I went home, thought about all of that, and pretty much decided to quit church.

Raised as proper catlick, I’d say it started about the time I realized my cock could be choked. But it took about 5y to realize that the bible is just another book of fairy-tales. FTW, I am not atheist, just nonreligious. Calling me agnostic with 95% of realizing there is greater being above me would be just fine. People, we are different and we evolve.