I was born into a Texan Catholic family. Growing up outside of Washington, D.C. I was raised to believe in God, but no real emphasis was placed on attendance of church, nor on the catechism. Despite my parents’ backgrounds they were very rational people, and encouraged my love of science from a young age. My father studied Chemical Engineering at university before changing tack when he realised that he preferred Law, but he always held out hope that I would go into the sciences when I was old enough to choose for myself. I recall a conversation I had with him when I was very young wherein he casually explained that he had been browbeaten into an engineering discipline in lieu of a pure (and I am not using this as a value term, purely as a demarcation) science, and had he gone into Chemistry or Physics he would probably still be in one of those fields today.
Little was made of religion as I grew. We went to church on Christmas Eve and on Easter, but other than that we rarely attended, and the spectre of formal mass ended up as a niggling anxiety in the back of my mind as we approached any high holy day. I think my parents were also put-off by the diocese in which we lived: it was conservative to the point of ridiculousness. Every sermon, including ones during Christmas Mass, were about the evils of abortion, and copious amounts of effluvium and brimstone were applied in the priest’s rhetoric. My family were not impressed, and soon we didn’t even attend mass at all.
This soon changed when my mother went to a funeral service at a local Episcopalian church. The setting was lovely, the parishioners were friendly, and the officiant, Father John (a pseudonym), was a kind and scholarly man. We soon began to attend every weekend, and for a time I enjoyed it. This caused quite a disturbance in the rest of the family; one of my aunts was especially perturbed and said she would “pray for us” to return to their flock. Soon came the time to become confirmed in the faith, and for my part I wanted to because of the community. Every weekend I would sit with the other children my age and we would speak with John about the foundations of the faith. I would regularly ask questions and John, to his credit, would answer honestly. If he didn’t know the answer he would ask for a week to go and read on the subject, and if he still had no answer the next week he would honestly say that he didn’t know. It was John and his attitude that led me to think for a while that I would like to go into the ministry. A lifetime of scholarly contemplation and caring for members of the community? Sign me up.
I was confirmed in the faith, and for a short time I participated in the community until, like all good church officials, John was eventually sent on a mission to Africa. I eagerly looked forward to the next father to arrive. I assumed too much of him, though: he was as obsessed with the evils of abortion and sin as any Catholic priest I had heard. It was at this point that I was turned off of Christian denominations.
I eventually started attending a Unitarian Universalist church, a further step on my path to atheism, and enjoyed my time there immensely. The tapestries were double helices, the youth group was filled with politically-minded young people advocating social justice, and the sex education was superb — a wonderful counter to the state-mandated abstinence-only education.
I began to realise, though, that I didn’t believe in all the things that a Christian of any description is meant to believe. I don’t believe that the world was created in seven days, I don’t believe in original sin, I don’t believe in the transubstantiation, I don’t believe in the divinity — or existence — of Jesus, and I found that I don’t even believe in god(s). I eventually told my parents of my realisation, and, despite a few tense conversations at first, they accepted my decision.
I’m now living in the UK working on my PhD in Physics, and I feel very comfortable about my choices; they’re logical and based off of my own thinking, though I will admit that reading several texts on the subject and Pharyngula has greatly helped in my explorations. My life is my own, my choices are my own, and I will not subjugate my curiosity, nor my logical facilities, to believe in something that’s always been of dubious value, anyway.
I am an atheist because I choose to be free of fear, lies, and dogma.