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Why I am an atheist – Ric Baker

I am an atheist because I got lucky. My luck came in two forms: good parents and an education in critical thinking. First, my parents had a large hand in developing my atheism. No, please don’t think that my parents “indoctrinated” me into atheism like religious parents indoctrinate their children into their superstitions. In fact, the opposite is true. My parents protected me from indoctrination. Like almost all people raised in the United States, I was reared in a relatively religious community and was surrounded by believers. Now, having grown up in the North East, my community was not nearly as rabidly religious as some, but I still felt the pressure to conform to religion as a child and felt the fear of damnation. But when others would try to indoctrinate me, my parents would subtly counteract it by explaining that what they were telling me was not THE way to believe but merely one among many ways that people believe. By simply exposing me to other religions and beliefs, I was able to see that none was more rational or believable than any other.

I was also naturally intellectually curious, and I always loved reading From a young age, I devoured every book I could get my hands on. This trend continues to this day and led to my being thoroughly educated in critical thinking and philosophy. In fact, I received an MA in Philosophy with a specialty in critical thinking. Anyone who has not been indoctrinated, who knows something about critical thinking, and who has read widely is bound, in my opinion, to come to become an atheist. And thus I did. My atheism is indeed deeply rational and scientific, but I do recognize that I was lucky to reach this conclusion based on the preparation I was given in my childhood.

Ric Baker
United States

Comments

  1. ManOutOfTime says

    And that really is the key: childhood indoctrination, or, In your case, the fortuitous lack thereof.

  2. shannonmurphy says

    My parents sent me to bible school nearly every summer, but never to the same one. Several of them were a lot of fun and really great. Some of them were fun and filled with super nice people who hated the people in the other church.
    By the time I reached college, I was pretty sure that anyone who thought they’d found the one true way was delusional.
    of course, I tend to apply that to my own atheism too, so I’m prepared to be proved wrong.

  3. says

    Well, I was taught Teh Turth.

    But the way in which it was protected from questioning, while anything else was supposed to stand up to the evidence, sort of clued me in to what was going on.

    That was subjugated for a while, though, as I tried to “get right with God,” and thus rather liked how creationism showed up evolution. And then one day, actually as I was thinking how pathetic evolution and deep time geology were, I realized that scientists must have damned well heard all of those objections, and probably had answers. I knew then that I had to find those answers and fairly consider them.

    Religion didn’t last long after that, even though I strongly felt the desire to have life after death. Well, if you can’t, believing in it does no good.

    Glen DAvidson

  4. Ric says

    You guys make good point. There are certainly alternate ways to arrive at the same destination.

  5. hoverfrog says

    I don’t believe in luck. The circumstances of birth and geography may not be consciously decided but they aren’t the product of some sort of cosmic lottery machine either.

  6. DaveG says

    I like Glen’s comments.

    When I’m not annoyed by Believers, I just pity them as they they twist and torture their own minds into some compliant form and cut themselves off from the delight of the infinite beauty of our world. It’s a form of self-abuse that I’m uneternally grateful to be free of.

    The irony is we have the luxury of doubting these twits. Imagine if it (say, Xtianity) was really true. What worthy Creator of the World would invent such a glorious realm, put us there for a short while, then doom us to an eternity of genuflection and ennui?

  7. says

    My parents protected me from indoctrination.

    My parents made absolutely sure I wasn’t protected from indoctrination. They sent me to a religious school for nine years, kindergarten thru 8th grade, where I learned nothing about science and everything about the dead Jeebus.

    It’s fair to say my youth was wasted, but perhaps I can better appreciate being normal (AKA atheist) than people who were spared the brainwashing.

    When I was about ready to take some tests before entering a public high school, my 8th grade teacher, an ugly nun, warned us “Oh, by the way, you might not do too good in the science test because we didn’t teach that subject.”

    My public high school was in a wealthy community and it was rated as one of the best 50 high schools in the United States. Despite that reputation my incompetent high school biology teacher never once mentioned the word evolution or anything about it. I graduated from that high school never having heard the word evolution in my entire life. Really. This was in 1963, long before the internet and everyone I knew never mentioned the subject.

  8. says

    Human Ape, I’m confused. Why was it relevant that the nun was, in your opinion, ugly? Or did you mean this as a comment on her personality rather than her physical appearance?

  9. says

    You were indeed fortunate to be spared indoctrination. I feel that many people don’t realize the force that it can have on young minds. Not everyone thinks their way out after childhood reality-warping. Congratulations on a reasoned and reasonable conclusion.

  10. JohnnieCanuck says

    Human Ape, if you think about it, you’ll probably agree that misogyny is another one of the things they were pushing at you, besides theism and guilt, sexual and otherwise.

    Now, you can expect an Inquisition. Got a comfy chair handy?

  11. Midnight Rambler says

    JohnnieCanuck, it’s what Human Ape is most known for, and has a long history of here.

  12. Midnight Rambler says

    Back on topic, I actually do know someone who was, in a sense, “indoctrinated into atheism” – his parents specifically taught him that there is no god, rather than to be a freethinker like the way Ric describes. And oddly enough, he can sound weirdly similar to theists when religion comes up, only arguing from the other side. He is, however, the only person I’ve ever met like that.

  13. says

    I’m currently 31 years old and have been an atheist since my mid to late 20’s. I have to say I’m jealous of Ric. My family is very religious and I know this will always be between us for the rest of our lives.

    I don’t know how many times I wished I had been born into a secular family that promoted curiosity & critical thinking. Whenever I get together with my parents and my sister and her family we have a good time by simply not talking about politics or religion. For once I would like to laugh with them at the fundamentalists that think the world is 6000 years old instead of knowing it is my own family I hold in such low regard.

  14. says

    Well, it seems that one of Vox’s toadies has taken to analyzing these articles. As you can guess, his speculations (scroll to 11/5/11 10:22 AM) are not flattering:

    PZ Meyers recently asked his readers to submit their “reasons for being an Atheist”. He is now publishing a paper a day written by Atheists who have submitted their reasons. I have taken each of those, as they came out, and done an analysis of their reasons, looking first for reasons based in logic, and then for the other reasons they list. These analyses are at my blog: atheism-analyzed.blogspot.com

    The most common reason so far is “freedom”. They are free from external ethical control, and free from the grounding of their thought processes in absolutes: “freethought”. They make only superficial claims to science, logic and rational thought, but they present exactly no logic. Some do refer to evilgod or evilbible or other anti-ecclesiastic arguments, but most have rejected authority in their late childhoods and are reveling in their total freedom.

    One just knew they’d have to play the “intellectual” eh?

  15. hotshoe says

    I’m currently 31 years old and have been an atheist since my mid to late 20′s. I have to say I’m jealous of Ric. My family is very religious and I know this will always be between us for the rest of our lives.

    I don’t know how many times I wished I had been born into a secular family that promoted curiosity & critical thinking. Whenever I get together with my parents and my sister and her family we have a good time by simply not talking about politics or religion. For once I would like to laugh with them at the fundamentalists that think the world is 6000 years old instead of knowing it is my own family I hold in such low regard.

    Sorry, Brent. I know you can feel pretty terrible having to shut out so much of their lives from yours.

    You’ve got a lot of company with other escaped fundies among the Horde, but I don’t think there’s any real advice for how to handle it.

    By the way, have you written one of the “Why I am an atheist” ? Did I miss it? I figure you’ve got an interesting story to tell …

  16. Randall Morrison says

    Ric, I am interested in your claim that your atheism is “scientific”.

    I have had atheists tell me that in their view all existence, life, mind, and reason itself can be “explained” as a product of mindless forces. (What I am saying here would not apply to someone who sees atheism as simply “lack of belief”…but that is a different argument)

    So, IF you believe that mindless forces or processess explain all existence…at least in principle…then your atheism is UNFALSIFIABLE.

    There is NO proof…even in principle (say, a miralce you witnessed) that would serve to Falsify your atheism. The proof could always be “explained” as a product…in principle…of some combination of the actions of mindless forces.

    Hence, if your athesim is UNFALSIFIABLE it is not SCIENTIFIC.

  17. Ric says

    Randall, I meant that my atheism is scientific in two ways: 1) It is based on scientific evidence that natural processes are sufficient to explain what we see. 2) It is based on the lack of evidence for any sort of god, i.e. the null hypothesis. BTW, I can read without you throwing in crazy-person capitalization.

    Oh, and Vox Day can suck my dick.

  18. Adrian says

    Congratulations on having good parents my friend! Lucky me I also got responsible folks. I got to read by the age of 4 and ever since I’ve read more books that I can remember. From Nietzche to Douglas Adams to the Gospels. I was never forced into any religion even when yes i come from a christian home. My point is I believe deeply in God and I got there after much much thinking and reading. Maybe I’m dead wrong (we wont know until we can’t come to prove it or…not come at all) but my point is there’s a lot (not millions but a lot) of well educated believers. And you’re going to hell
    For this!!!!!… No you most likely wont I just thougt it would be mandatory in a post from someone who believes. Good day to you!