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Oct 12 2011

Why I am an atheist – Gwen

Simple. I read the bible. At 11. After reading through Norse, Roman, Egyptian and Greek mythology. I recognized they were the same. My mother was ecstatic, My father not so much. Oh, and I am African American. My mother was an atheist, and so are my children…they also came there with some guidance, but of their own volition.

Gwen
California

24 comments

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  1. 1
    John Morales

    You were smarter than I was, at that age, Gwen.

    (Probably still are! :) )

  2. 2
    Athena_Tam

    lololol, same here, growing up I had a children’s Illustrated bible (old testament) and a children’s illustrated book of mythology, my parents may or may not have planned that. Personally I preferred the book of mythology.

  3. 3
    EvoMonkey

    Ironically, the Bible is frequently the best tool for dismantling faith and leaving Christianity. Now I know why the nuns who taught me in grade school discouraged reading the Bible in its entirety.

  4. 4
    Pauline in UK

    That’s why I became an atheist too. I read the bible from cover to cover. At 13. All that cruelty, hatred, misogyny and bloodletting, all that acting out on the voices in the head, could only be the product of some seriously sick minds. When people write that kind of stuff today we try to take care of them and heal them, or at least try to persuade them to take their meds so they don’t kill anyone, and hope they can find some fulfilment and happiness in life. Well, over here in UK we try, and often fail but we do try; I’m not so sure about the USA, from what I read online.

    My parents never read the bible; if they had I’m sure they’d never have let me read it… the horror… the horror…

  5. 5
    rowdy

    I remember feeling ripped off after I read the Bible. Fresh from Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, I thought “our” mythology was pathetic. Leviticus followed by Numbers was just torturous. I grooved on parts of Daniel and Revelations, though.

  6. 6
    Marcus Ranum

    Yay for Gwen!! I followed the same path, myself: “comparative religion” makes it pretty obvious that religion is an artifact. That’s why I strongly support teaching religion in schools. In the history department.

  7. 7
    Tom Clark

    Yay! This one is really uplifting.

  8. 8
    ManOutOfTime

    Concise! Yay, Gwen!

  9. 9
    Yellow Thursday

    This is similar to my story. I was raised Catholic, but the stories I heard at mass were so similar to the fairy tales and folk stories that I was also raised with, that I thought of them the same way. My illustrated childrens’ Bible sat on the same shelf as my book of Grimm’s fairy tales and books of folk tales. Then, when I was 12, it “clicked” and I realized the Bible stories were supposed to be true. So I started reading the Bible in earnest and discovered that the things I’d heard in mass and CCD were only part of the story. I found inconsistencies and atrocies in the Bible. Still, I thought if I studied the Bible long enough and prayed really hard that I could figure out the truth about God. During this time, my father died. I asked how a loving God could take this father and husband away from his family who needed him. I decided that God was not what I had been raised to believe he was, but I still believed. I started reading about other religions and other gods. That was the final nail in the coffin of my belief. I called myself an agnostic for a while, until I came across the proper definitions of “agnostic” and “atheist,” and I’ve accepted the label “atheist” ever since. My philosophy has grown and (I think) matured over the years, but the gist of it continues: I remain unconvinced that any god(s) exist. In addition, I no longer hold onto the hope that I might someday be convinced, since I am now of the opinion that, if a god does exist, he’s either incompetent or sadistic. Or both.

  10. 10
    Steve LaBonne

    I’m yet another with a similar story at a similar age (like Yellow Thursday, I was raised Catholic). Once the thought occurred to me that Christian mythology was no different from any other, that was it.

  11. 11
    pelamun

    even Japanese mythology has similarities to the Greek one. I think there have been studies that you find similarities that could be explained due to cultural contact all the way from Europe to Asia. Don’t remember any sources right now, besides the obvious Roman imitation of Greek mythology (IIRC, Roman mythology prior to the conquest of Greece was much less hashed out, or at least not written down that explicitly)

  12. 12
    Stonyground

    I was already an atheist when I read the Bible all the way through. It was a surprise to find that the Jewish God was the bad guy and not Satan. It also brought back a childhood memory of older relatives being so prissy that they were upset by a modern (in the sixties) translation that used the rather vulgar word ‘pregnant’ rather than some euphemism such as ‘with child’. I know now that these folk were utterly ignorant of the Bible which is so packed with obcenities that it would make them gasp with horror had they actually read it.

    I can remember reading how Dan Barker read out nasty passages from a KJV Bible on a radio show and had Christians calling in and asking what Bible he was reading.

  13. 13
    RedStateAtheist

    That’s pretty impressive to have read the Bible at 11 years old. I can’t even say for sure whether or not I’d be ok with my 11 year old child reading it, due to some of the socially objectionable content.

    I’m [CENSORED] years old, and I still haven’t gotten through it completely. A lot of theists have told me that there’s no way I can be an atheist since I haven’t read the Bible completely.

    Of course, I don’t need to walk into a wasps’ nest to know I don’t like being stung, either.

  14. 14
    Species8472

    I read the bible at 10 or 11 as well. I started on page 1 and was shocked and horrified when I got to all the cruelty the good god commanded his people to do.

    I am glad now that it’s all mythology anyway, not even a historic account. The great old powerful nation of Israel never even existed. They just made it up!

  15. 15
    Duth Olec

    Best reason. “I am an atheist because I actually read the dang Bible.”
    I need to read it someday. Just so when I write up the mythology of the universe I’m writing about I can mock it every step of the way.

  16. 16
    CJO

    Don’t remember any sources right now, besides the obvious Roman imitation of Greek mythology (IIRC, Roman mythology prior to the conquest of Greece was much less hashed out, or at least not written down that explicitly)

    This is a common misunderstanding. First, there was a trend toward universalism in the pagan religions of the Mediterranean in general, beginning in the Hellenistic era and continuing through the Greco-Roman period, so that, for instance, Osiris was identified with Dionysios and Cybele with Demeter, etc. This clearly went on between the Greek and Roman pantheon, but the misconception is that these cross-identifications were un-problematic or a reflection of shared provenance going back into antiquity.

    The identification of Jupiter with Zeus is a relatively straightforward one, but, to a Roman, having conquered the formerly Greek world, the attitude was that if the Greeks were pleased to claim that they had been worshipping Jupiter all along in the guise of Zeus, fine. But the converse, that Jupiter was “really” Zeus, or an aspect of Zeus, the view of some Greek elites, was perverse and blasphemous to Romans. In general, foreign gods were acceptable at Rome precisely because they were conquered gods, brought to the city, as it were, it fetters.

    Additionally, many of the identifications between the pantheons were facile, based only on a general similarity in portfolio. The Roman gods were, in fact, pretty well “hashed out” and many were of ancient Italian provenance. Roman divinities were always first and foremost concerned with culture and civic life, as opposed to the traditional Greek gods, who were in a sense wilder, more closely identified with unpredictable natural forces. Two clear examples will suffice. Posiedon and Neptune were in no sense “the same god.” While Posiedon was your traditional God of the Sea, as well as of weather and geological phenomena like earthquakes, Neptune was the guarantor of the beneficial uses of water for the protection and furtherance of civilization, like irrigation and fire suppression. Likewise Mars and Ares point up the deep differences between Roman and Greek culture generally. For the Greeks, war, and by extension, Ares, was a force of chaos, an irruption of strife into an otherwise orderly and composed cosmos. But, for Romans, Mars was an agent of order. War was a way of life, and its function was peace, the peace of Roman hegemony. Mars was the means by which the superiority and stability of Roman culture was imposed on the rest of the world.

  17. 17
    victorharris

    Hi Mom!!!

  18. 18
    Thomas Lawson

    Nice one, Gwen.

    I read the Bible when I was 32 years old, but I read it like an 11-year-old. I giggled when God told Moses that he could not see his face – only his “back parts.” It still makes me giggle.

  19. 19
    Hazuki

    Are all of you me? @_@

  20. 20
    pelamun

    CJO,

    thanks. I was aware that it was not a 1:1 resemblance… Also thanks for making clear that the pre-Greek pantheon was indeed hashed out well, I guess Latin class was wrong (not that they ever dwelt too long on such subjects) I didn’t mean to indicate a shared provenance, but rather a mutual contact situation, at least that’s what I remember was indicated by cultural anthropologists. The Japanese pantheon has interesting features, like a trickster god, a god of war etc

    The thing about defeated gods becoming part of the pantheon is interesting, because this is exactly how it happened in Japan. A clan would have a clan deity, and if it was defeated by another clan, it would become a minor deity. Amaterasu was simply the clan deity of the clan that supposedly unified Japan in mythical times (actually there is no evidence up to the 29th emperor), so she became the highest deity in the Japanese pantheon.

  21. 21
    Cosmic Snark

    A lot of theists have told me that there’s no way I can be an atheist since I haven’t read the Bible completely.

    I’ve had Christer fanatics tell me that there’s no way I can be a true atheist without knowing every little thing in the universe, because only when one has complete knowledge of the universe (and can discount God in every subatomic particle) can one make an intelligent decision to become an atheist.

    Of course, when I turn their argument against them with regards to their theism, I get “But we have the Bible, so we don’t have to know everything in the universe in order to believe. We already know the Truth because of God’s Word”.

    Oy.

  22. 22
    CJO

    pelamun,
    I didn’t mean to indicate a shared provenance, but rather a mutual contact situation

    That’s certainly not entirely wrong: Rome was quasi-Hellenized by the time they achieved dominance over Italy and were beginning to expand around the Mediterranean. So there was definitely plenty of contact early on. All of what I was talking about tends to be obscured in brief treatments in books of mythology and Latin classes and the like, because there certainly was a lot of assimilation in literary sources like Ovid. The mistake there, though, is thinking that because, say, statues of Neptune in the Greco-Roman period took on Posiedon’s look with the trident and all, or because Romans enjoyed the fanciful tales of the exploits of the Olympians as much as the Greeks did, then this must mean that the religions were “the same”. The error is that the literary and artistic representations were in any way central to the actual cultic practices associated with each deity. Roman ritual and practice was largely native Italian in origin, and the cultural and civic emphasis I was talking about was its distinguishing feature.

    But it is correct to say that what we think of as Classical Mythology was primarily Greek in origin and adopted by the Romans, as well as that the specifically Roman mythology of origins was pretty much a mish-mash; for instance, nobody seems to have lost much sleep over the fact that the city had two entirely independent foundation narratives: the story of Romulus and Remus, and Aeneas after the Trojan War. Roman traditions and practices in this sort of thing were remarkably fluid.

  23. 23
    HaggisForBrains

    Reading the bible is certainly the best way to become an atheist – for those of you struggling with it, I can recommend the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/index.htm. It has lots of helpful advice on interpretation ;-).

  24. 24
    Seamus Ruah

    This is very close to my experience, except it was our UCC youth minister who encouraged me to read and compare. It took me a bit longer to become an atheist, it can be hard to shake childhood indoctrination.

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