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Nov 25 2011

Why I am an atheist – Mark Gisleson

As a child I was a devout Lutheran. I studied my catechism lessons and the Bible. We had good pastors who explained that Genesis should not be taken literally, and that science and the Bible were completely compatible.

Then I got to high school. It was the late ’60s and the church started taking back what it had taught me. It was OK to kill. Wealth meant God loved you. Women were only deserving of respect if they played their roles and didn’t make a fuss. Ditto minorities.

Leaving the church made me stronger, and the church weaker.

The church is very weak now, yet I’ve never felt better.

I don’t miss God at all. Any of them.

Mark Gisleson
United States

14 comments

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  1. 1
    Human Ape

    We had good pastors who explained that Genesis should not be taken literally,

    Ken Ham, the famous science denier and child abuser, is correct. If children are not brainwashed to believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis, they are likely to become normal, without the Christian disease.

    Ken Ham’s problem is when his victims go to universities they will figure out Mr. Ham is a know-nothing idiot and they will throw out the Christian death cult anyway.

  2. 2
    Gary Hill

    Short and sweet Mark, I enjoyed that.

    Especially the line “leaving the church made me stronger, and the church weaker”.

  3. 3
    Monado, FCD

    Mark, that’s a great story. Funny how often in our teens we start seeing how institutions don’t live up to what we thought of them. Keep going, keep getting stronger.

  4. 4
    Dhorvath, OM

    Very well put. I too love your line about stronger and weaker.

  5. 5
    JD

    Wealth meant that God loved you?

    Not according to Jesus.

  6. 6
    Igakusei

    Ken Ham’s problem is when his victims go to universities they will figure out Mr. Ham is a know-nothing idiot and they will throw out the Christian death cult anyway.

    Often, yes. And this worked quite spectacularly on me. But I personally know three senior biology Ph.D candidates who are still largely creationist as a result of their indoctrination. They’re rather hesitant to defend the young-Earth view, but they’re all too eager to throw Discovery Institute arguments around all day.

  7. 7
    Epinephrine

    Wealth meant that God loved you?

    Not according to Jesus.

    Oh, the wealth thing? That’s clearly a metaphor or something. The parts they agree with are literal, though.

    Russell’s Teapot on wealth

  8. 8
    cyberCMDR

    Great essay. My experiences with the Catholic Church during the 70′s was a bit different. I went to a university run by the Jesuits, and the Jebbies taught us to question everything (including religion). Biology was taught with evolution as its central principle, philosophy classes discussed logical fallacies, and religion was not pushed. I didn’t really start questioning religion until later when I encountered “Are you saved?” fundamentalists and realized how many people in our culture flatly refused to acknowledge evolution as a valid concept.

    I hope the questioning everything tradition has held up at that university. These days the Catholic Church seems to be retrenching into its old positions, perhaps because it has lost so much legitimacy over scandals and sees an increasingly secular Europe. Note: I am not defending the Church, just fondly remembering college years at a great institution.

  9. 9
    grumpyoldfart

    It was the late ’60s and the church started taking back what it had taught me.

    I remember those days. The “God is Dead” movement was getting stronger and the churches panicked. They called for a “return to fundamentals” and finished up with Falwell, Robertson and Ham. (They never saw that coming).

  10. 10
    Bronze Dog

    Add me to the list of people who, as a teen, experienced the perception of the church taking back all the civilized morality it taught. One of the big things that got me to stop going was a Sunday school teacher who stuck to the position that non-Christians were all going to an eternal Hell when I confronted him about it after class. It didn’t help that part of the in-class lesson involved reading some glurge that included the bigoted idea that non-Christians were deficient in their ability to forgive.

    Yeah, so much for the idea of treating everyone as individuals, the wrongness of genocide (I’d argue that torturing a group for eternity is worse than merely killing them. If that’s permissible, so is genocide), and the worst part was that somehow, I was supposed to be able to find eternal bliss in heaven despite knowing that those people are being purposelessly tortured forever with no way out. Add on the layer that they’re being tortured for the humble act of doubt or the universally human act of being fooled, as if those were crimes on par with murder.

    On the topic of genocide, no points for guessing which deemphasized part of the Bible I ended up reading during my falling out with Christianity.

  11. 11
    Steve

    My only quibble with this article would be the statement ‘as a child I was a devout Lutheran’. As a child I struggled to be a devout anything; it wasn’t until my early teens I became a devout catholic, which only helped to expose in my mind the farce that the roman catholic church actually was. To reiterate, ‘there’s no such thing as a catholic child’.

  12. 12
    Denny Lynch

    We share a parallel path to rationality. Nice job.

  13. 13
    cosmoinsolocco

    “It was OK to kill.”

    Not to be confused with the trauma a ‘Nam vet felt. This puke was hiding behind some skirt, guarantee it.

  14. 14
    Hillary Rettig

    >Leaving the church made me stronger, and the church weaker.

    succinct!

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