My Struggle with Belief

Submitted by august on Tue, 2006-04-04 11:25.
This article originally appeared as part of SSA eNews No. 10 – My Struggle with Disbelief, Part 2.
This article was written by Edwin Kagin, legal director for American Atheists. He responded to the prompt: Tell us about your struggles with disbelief.
Dear Editors,
A far better title would be “My Struggle with Belief.” “Disbelief” is not really the right word for the topic you presented. Quit being cute. Disbelief in what? You editors are really asking why the respondent doesn’t believe in god, aren’t you now? “Disbelief” is refusal to believe or absence of belief. Like such is somehow a bad thing or something.
Now here’s the way it is. I, just like you and everyone else who has ever lived, was born an Atheist. The problems come from all of the god stuff that is poured into small heads, like mine and yours, by using punishment and rewards to make little children believe nonsense that is not true. Amazingly, kids grow up believing in the god or gods of their fathers (and mothers—we must not let political correctness fall down a person hole). Thus, children in Albuquerque or Kalamazoo, or even Saskatoon, believe in Jesus, not Brahma or Oden. And it is unlikely that a child in Katmandu would grow up believing in Jesus.
The issue put should be, “My Struggle with Belief.”
The best reason not to believe in a god, or gods, is because there is no reason to believe in a god or gods. Belief is the disease. Information and critical thinking (like kids get at Camp Quest) are the antidotes.
I believe in lots of things. More or less. I believe this computer is not going to blow up this afternoon and take out half a block with me at the epicenter. I believe that my beloved Helen will not stab me with a large knife while I am composing this. And so on. But these beliefs are based on information and past experiences. There are good reasons to believe them, and one could become very anxious, or psychotic, if one did not have certain operational beliefs such as these. Of course some believers are very anxious, or psychotic, but that requires a different analysis.
Sadly, a child unfortunate enough to be infected with religion is taught to believe the world operates in ways other than it does. Magical ways. And this leads to messed up kids. An innocent little person is shamelessly lied to about Santa Clause, about where babies come from, about why there are people, and about why Grandma is so still in her coffin. Thus they are conditioned to acid beliefs that score their minds. Fortunately, it is a condition from which recovery is possible. People can get over it.
My father was a Presbyterian minister. I know all about the bible and the god stuff because of twelve years of perfect Sunday School attendance. I don’t believe in it because of twelve years of perfect Sunday School attendance.
I struggled with belief and I won.
Yes, people can get out of the hole of belief.
But the first thing they have to do is to stop digging.
This article originally appeared as part of SSA eNews No. 10 – My Struggle with Disbelief, Part 2.


  1. rapiddominance says

    I have absolutely no idea how the ‘Born Atheist Argument’ continues to survive.

    Its not that its inherently right or wrong. Its that its an insignificant waste of breath.

    We’re all born illiterate, right? Yet, most theists and all atheists would agree that children should learn to read.

    But then, we’re all born non-smokers. Once again, only in reverse, most theists and all atheists would agree that its better for kids not to start smoking.

    Whether its reading, smoking, or religious belief, its all about the nature of the activity itself and how it affects both the practitioneer and those who surround him/her.

    That said, I know it must be frustrating for atheists when theists, in various ways, overlook entirely the well being of the people around them because they’re so engulfed in ‘religious practice’. It seems to me, a theists, that people often do the most insidious deeds in the name of religion. But I’ve also noticed that these same people tend to squirm and do everything they can to avoid any scrutiny or critism of their own character or practices.

    You use a phrase a lot, “Those who are frequently wrong but are never uncertain”.


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