I am an atheist because I am a feminist. I think that statement is self-explanatory but others have been stumped by it so let me elaborate.
When I was young, my parents sent us (my siblings and I) to Catholic school. We weren’t a terribly devout family, but the Catholic school was very close by and, technically, we were Catholic so off we went.
Given our age, my classmates and I were on the cusp of modernization. The Church was moving towards a softer, gentler Catholicism. But, our priests were old and we still got the old lessons. So, when I was 8 yrs old and preparing for 1st Confession, Father Tim informed the girls (in a special lesson that we were seperated from the boys to receive) about the punishments of Eve. Not only were we responsible for the Fall of Man from His Perfect StateTM but we (as in “all women for all time”) would have to pay for it also. In particular, we would have to pay for it by submitting to the authority of our fathers, brothers and, someday, husbands and sons. The feminist in me revolted and in a moment of clarity where I may have actually exclaimed: “Eureka!” (It’s hard to tell since all I could hear was the blood rushing in my ears, maybe I yelled “Bullshit”) I knew that he was lying.
I told him so as well. There are few things in this world that an 8 yr old is certain of but I was certain of these things. First, I knew that I was smarter than my brother and the likelihood that I would ever submit to his will was right up there with pigs producing beef (experience has held up my childhood hypothesis). Also, I knew that sons damn well submitted to the will of their mothers, if they knew what was good for them. Plus, lots of women don’t get married and even those who do marry don’t universally submit to their spouses, so that rules out husbands. And, as for the will of our fathers… Well, every child (male or female) submitted to the will of its father, there was nothing special about girls in that case.
I was promptly sent to the hallway by my teacher to consider my insubordination for the remainder of Christian Living. This was a bad move on the teacher’s part as it gave me time to think and my moment of clarity blossomed. If Father Tim was lying about Eve, what else was he lying about (other than the fact that he was sexually assaulting altar boys regularly – a fact that didn’t come out until I was in my 20s)?
Once I asked that question and started to examine the claims of the Church, it was only a matter of time before I was a full-out atheist. Although I rejected Catholicism at first (because I didn’t know enough about other religions to accept/deny them) ultimately I realized it was the existence of god that I was rejecting. I didn’t really give religion any thought in high school (in Canada in the 1980s, religion was only discussed as a strange phenomena of a by-gone age) and it wasn’t until I took a university course in Philosophy in Religion that I seriously thought about faith and the existence of a supernatural world. That’s when I realized the interconnections between the Abrahamic faiths and how equally spurious their claims were.
So, by the time I was 20 yrs old, I had considered the question and decided that I was an atheist. But ultimately, what sent me down that road was my feminism. And I’m still a feminist now – and an atheist, trade unionist and social justice activist.