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Sep 27 2012

Why I am an atheist – Steve

It’s probably a sign that you’re doomed to be a heathen when your initial conception of God was not the Gandalf-looking dude from the “Creation of Adam”, but the Fairy Godmother from “Cinderella.” It was easy for me as a child to buy into fictional characters being real. The brief time that I did go to church, and claim to feel something there like angels in the rafters or whatever, was also at about the same time that I was looking for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in sewer grates. Yep, The Almighty, and four mutated terrapins named after renaissance artists were equally plausible to me.

I wish I could say that I was precocious in my understanding, and that I knew, knew, there was no God, or that I had an incredibly skeptical mind for a kindergartner, but it didn’t work that way. It just sort of fell away over time like the other broken fantasies of my childhood. Maybe it was because I had never really been indoctrinated into it. The concept floated around in my head like any other aspect of culture that verged on the fantastic. It just never took hold of me. I wasn’t concerned that I’d be punished when I died at some unknown date in the future. I was more worried about the earthly and very real punishments from parents and authority figures.

I very briefly attended church when I was a kid. It was odd because initially, we didn’t go. No one in my family really did. We usually spent Sundays at my grandmother’s and we were quite happy about it. But I think my mom’s Catholic upbringing (and consequent Catholic Guilt) switched on and she had us start going. Not for long,mind you. We very quickly grew bored and irritated with the mass and those depressing dirges they would sing. I also didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to get one of the crackers.* I would learn later the reason why, but still. That’s not really the point though.  I think what caused us to stop going was because it separated us from our family. We would miss out-of-town relatives, or precious time with those who wouldn’t be around much longer.  Churchgoers can talk about the sense of community it fosters, the “City of God” and all that, but if you’re from a family that really doesn’t do church, then it isolates you more. We left, and save for the occasional Christmas Mass that I did out of love and respect for my mother, we never looked back.

    

*I was hungry and the service was long. Also six years old.

The things that mattered were the values that were instilled in me. My parents taught me to be a good person for the sake of it. I try not to harm others because I don’t want that done to me. It was never about feeling good, or knowing that was what God wanted me to do. It’s about being responsible and decent members of society. People have a tendency to conflate what is ‘right’ and what is ‘good’. I rather suspect that there are a lot of  people who think their religion is right, and so think they’re good and anybody isn’t ‘right” isn’t “good”. But there’s so much general bastardry in human history that it’s fair to say it’s encoded into our DNA. Being good doesn’t mean you’re religious, and being religious doesn’t mean you’re good. It always comes down to the individual and how they choose to act.

Steve
United States

3 comments

  1. 1
    Nick Gotts

    I try not to harm others because I don’t want that done to me. – Steve

    That’s not a bad reason, but a better one is because they don’t want that done to them.

  2. 2
    okeydoke

    Yeah, the concept of god and the not very convincing Jesus story never did it for me either as a kid. I guess the catholic kind of indoctrination over here in Europe(Germany to be exact) is rather mild compared to the american yahoo cults but it exists and was very pervasive when i went to school. There was compulsory weekly church services(although only for one grade leading up to communion) and school classes on religion(all the way up to senior classes and even at vocational schools if you were registered as either catholic or protestant). I did not exactly resent it but neither did i care all that much for it. I just went with it and had a “Yeah, sure, whatever.” mindset. I guess there was a reason we never got handed a full copy of the bible to read for ourselves. Not even for the classes. All we got was selected xeroxed excerpts for the teacher to pontificate about. Christian religion seems to be dieing a slow inevitable death over here since the Age of Enlightenment began. The pews are nearly empty and it is my hope that the churches will soon lose the rest of their privileges(many billions of taxpayer subsidies for one).

  3. 3
    leonpeyre

    Yep, The Almighty, and four mutated terrapins named after renaissance artists were equally plausible to me.

    Same here. Then again, I suppose most of us would agree with you on that.

    Congratulations on not getting sucked into Catholicism. I kept out too, mostly thanks to my parents. (Like you, we briefly went to Mass briefly as well, but my Dad tells me we stopped going because all the local church ever seemed interested in was what was coming back in the collection plate. I guess that was an eye-opener for a couple who grew up in the Fifties and had always vaguely taken the religious package for granted.)

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