Sometimes I feel like I’m not a “true atheist” because I never drank the cool aide to begin with, and I did not have to go through the conversion process that most atheists identify with.
Growing up in the Bible belt you were always surrounded by Christian dogma.
I was fortunate in that my parents didn’t try to force religion on me, they said they believed in god but it was rarely discussed around the house. I can only remember one time that we went to church, and that was because there was a traveling “Fire and Brimstone” preacher everyone was talking about that they wanted to see. I vaguely remember it.
My first real experience with religion, I was around 10 years old, and my next door neighbor a cute girl whom I had a crush on was trying to get me to come to her church, she said I needed to be saved by Jesus. I asked how she knew if God was real, and I’ll never forget the look of fear on her face, as if I had just said something extremely offensive.
She warned me not to say it again because God might hear me.
She then said I would go to hell for questioning his existence. It was the first time that I had heard that and it struck me as quite odd.
Her reaction made it clear that God was someone to be feared. That had not occurred to me before that moment.
I asked if I’m a good person why he would send me to hell just for not believing in him. Until then I was under the assumption that he was a kind and understanding God? She refused to discuss it any more and covered her ears.
Up until then I had made several attempts to read the bible but often gave up after a few minutes. I loved to read but it was just too hard to understand with all those thee’s and thou’s. I suppose that’s why they send children to bible school, to make it easier to comprehend and easier to indoctrinate them.
Anyway I was in love, so I went to church with her and her family that Sunday. They were having some kind of special weekend and all the children were encouraged to bring their friends to be saved by Jesus.
There was a huge tent setup in the parking lot with hundreds of folding chairs and a big stage at one end. There was a small carnival set up outside as well. I must confess I was more interested in the carnival; the sermon was just the price to pay for enjoying the carnival.
I sat through the sermon and towards the end they called all of us newcomers/outsiders down to the stage to accept Jesus into our hearts. They had us kneel down in front of the stage while they said some prayers.
When it was over they gave us all a bible and we returned to our chairs.
As I was sitting down one of the kids behind me decided to pull a prank and pulled my chair out, fell right on my ass, sure didn’t see that coming. In retrospect I suspect he was jealous because I was sitting next to the girl he also had a crush on.
I was embarrassed and humiliated so I got up and punched him thus making myself the center of attention. And of course it made me look like the villain.
Here was this outsider attacking a member of their congregation. It was a big scene. To further add to my humiliation the Pastor had me come down and sit in the front row for the remainder of the sermon.
On the ride home my friend asked me if I felt better after having been saved.
Still stinging from the chair incident, I told her the truth, I didn’t feel any different and that I would not be returning to her church.
Her parents wouldn’t let her come over to my house after that day.
And that was my first experience with religion.
I’ve always had a strong sense of right and wrong, most things were usually black and white.
Treat others as you would like to be treated. I guess my parents must have taught me that somewhere along the way during my childhood. Feeling empathy for other humans and animals seemed to come naturally to me.
Growing up in S.E. Iowa you are pretty much surrounded by religion. We lived outside of a small town with a population of 100. It had 1 bar, 1 gas station, a post office and 6 churches.
All through out my teens I usually just told people I was a Christian just to fit in.
Only my close friends new I was a nonbeliever. I never called myself an atheist because of the stigmatism that was quite evident in my community.
After High school I started using the label that I was agnostic.
I moved to Denver when I was 20. In the 22 years that I lived there I don’t recall anyone asking about my religion. I only remember meeting one person who would admit to being an atheist. Most people would say they were christian or catholic even though they never went to church.
There was this one incident; I would sometimes do some freelance work for a guy who was a 7th day Adventist. We got into an argument once when he refused to let me work on a Saturday because it was against his religion.
He wanted me to come out and work on Sunday instead. I told him it was against my religion, because on Sundays I attended the church of the NFL, I told him I didn’t like him forcing his religion on me. I probably would have worked but it was football season. Anyway I felt I had to make my point. He never called me to work with him again.
I love life and I am thankful that I get to exist in this awesome and amazing world. I will never let religion take credit for that.
All children are born atheists, it’s our responsibility to shield and protect them from religious cult indoctrination…at least until they are old enough to think rationally and critically for themselves!