I am a long time reader of your blog. It has introduced me to many new concepts regarding feminism and atheism and has helped me greatly to shape the way I view my atheism today as well as my political/social stance and support for feminism. Thank you for these insights and for the time you take to run this blog. As part of my thanks, I have provided my story below for how and why I became an atheist.
I was raised in a Lutheran family in Winona, Mn. Our family attended church every Sunday, but we never talked about our religion around the house. A few years before my confirmation classes commenced I decided to read the bible. I found it obtuse, abstruse, ambiguous, contradictory, unnecessarily repetitive, and with a tendency to prattle on over irrelevant details. When I was 13 and attending confirmation, I started asking some serious questions. None of my confirmation teachers answered my questions to my satisfaction and it became pretty clear to me that our confirmation courses were less about exploration of our faith and more about indoctrination.
I started to have my doubts about religion and I didn’t know how to take my family’s silence on the matter. Was their silence an affirmation that religion was highly suspect, or was religion just too personal of a subject to broach? I sensed that I would not get clear answers at home.
For me, high school history, anthropology, and sociology were the first courses and sources of knowledge to expose religion as a sham. At the time I never even considered science as a path for leaving religion or that religion and science were naturally opposed to each other. By the time I was 16, I considered myself an atheist and really had no doubts about the matter. But the strangest thing was occurring; as I explored the subject with my closest friends, the people whom I believed thought most like myself, I found that they considered themselves believers. I was floored. Why was I alone in thinking that religion was a hoax?
In college I studied Physics and, although I do not work in a laboratory, I consider myself a scientist. In college I started to learn how science and religion are not compatible and I finally started to meet some atheist friends. Since leaving college it has been harder to come across other atheists. Coming out, on some occasions, has been costly and painful. I even had one boss tell me that my problem was that I was, “…a goddamn atheist”. I don’t think he recognized his own irony.
My family found out about my atheism by accident and I know that they are uncomfortable with it. It turns out their silence was not an affirmation of religion’s ludicrousness. I now have my own children. I try to let them know that we can talk about any subject in the house (sex, religion, politics, sexual orientation, etc.) at any level they desire. I don’t want them to spend years wondering what their parents think. Even more importantly, I encourage them to read, study and investigate so they can form their own, informed opinions over such matters.
The online atheist community has been a great source of comfort to me. It has offered me an opportunity to be introspective about my atheism and has helped my perspective on the matter to grow and evolve. I no longer feel so isolated. Your blog, and the works of others from Richard Dawkins to Rebecca Watson, is important to atheists out there like me who have been unable to find support in our local communities.