Why I am an atheist – Cody Feldman

I grew up in a town in southeastern Idaho. Where Mormons outnumber the “real Christians”. I was raised a Methodist, and we always made fun of the Mormons but I never looked at my own beliefs to think that maybe they are as unwarranted as the Mormons. At the age of 19 my father died of esophageal cancer and I still believed. I believed that God was real and Jesus was real but he didn’t do anything to help. His days of miracles were over.

I went away to a community college in Kansas and friends there were believers. I wanted to know what they knew so I tried to wash away my beliefs and start fresh. I started listening to other people’s beliefs and enrolled in a class titled “Biblical Archeology”. Hoping that it would help solidify my beliefs in the historical accuracy of the bible and then I could start to accept the words of the bible.

I am not the outspoken person I am today, another benefit of my atheism. So I sat in class and listened. I tried to take it all in even though 99% of everything the instructor said made no sense. I wanted the class to show me what was found in the archeological records and then show how that is related to the bible. Instead the class showed what the bible said and then desperately searched for something that could possibly be related to it. The final straw was a piece of wood found in China that was said to be part of the Ark. A quick internet search showed it to be a forgery.

Out went the bible and in came a flood of authors. Hitchens, Dawkins, Krauss, Coyne, and soon to be P. Zed. I am going back to school and majoring in Ecology. Thanks to just a little bit of critical thinking and a nudge from the god believers themselves. And I thank every atheist author and blogger that always had things for me read or listen to so that I didn’t have to use more than reason to figure out what was going on in the world.

Cody Feldman
Idaho, United States


  1. says

    Thanks for that Cody, and fellow Methodist indoctrinate. My mind was fogging up watching a movie in confirmation class about the Trinity. WTF I kept asking myself. We mostly blew off the God stuff from Sunday school on up. Sadly, I’ll bet most people in my classes attend church today. I guess they think they’re grown up now.
    Those authors you mentioned weren’t writing when I was young, but Carl Sagan was there with his Cosmos series on PBS.

  2. stormen_per says

    These posts are a fantastic read for the insight it provides. It’s all so different from what we see in my country, and this is really the only place where I see things like this.

  3. mikelemieux says

    Thanks for that, Cody. I too was raised Methodist in southern Idaho (or as I like to call it, northern northern Utah). I also took an inordinately long time to realize that the crazy-ass Mormons were no crazier than my own Christian doctrine, such was my cognitive dissonance at the time.

    Best decision I ever made was getting the hell out and going to college (not far geographically, but far enough intellectually). Being exposed to a greater range of ideas — as well as the beginnings of the internet! — was the catalyst that eventually resulted in my deconversion (and probably also my drift from de facto conservative to solidly liberal). The Gnu Atheist books and blogs helped seal the deal, although much later.

    Thanks for posting these stories, PZ!

  4. Tom Clark says

    You went to a community college in Kansas? I’m at a community college in Kansas RIGHT NOW.

  5. Steve Kukula says

    There used to be a website for atheists in this area but it died. Maybe it’s time to start another. Who knew SE Idaho was a hotbed of infidels?

  6. Lowell says

    Another Atheist from Idaho Checking in! Thanks for that Cody. Making me feel less alone in the world =)

  7. JohnB says

    Hello from another Southeastern Idaho atheist (albeit raised Catholic). I’m on the other side of the state now where the Bronco fans aggravate me more than the Mormons ever did.

  8. idahogie says

    Great story, Cody. I’m in Idaho, too. Not only Idaho, but SE Idaho. Are you still here?

    A friend and I just started an atheist group for our town: The Atheist Society of Idaho Falls. Or … AS IF for short. We’ve got a FB group and a couple social gatherings under our belts. But we’re having a good time. If you’re in the area …

  9. stewartt1982 says

    I’m not terribly familiar with how community colleges work in the US (I’m Canadian), but why are they teaching a course on Biblical Archaeology using “facts” that would be better suited for a class taught in an evangelical church basement? Is there no standards at all on what can be taught (such as presenting an easily disproved forgery as “fact”)?

  10. Morejello says

    Another SE ID aethist checking in! I agree with JohnB, Broncos fans are entirely more annoying than mormons.

  11. joe321 says

    Thanks for sharing your experiences Cody. And as a Canadian, I really appreciate reading something by an American who pronounces the last letter of the alphabet zed!

  12. One Hand Clapping says

    I feel I should clarify a little: I’m not in SE ID, rather Boise. Idaho born and raised, though! I am also a fan of the Broncos, but don’t hold that against me.

  13. Sean Boyd says

    Nice one, Cody. Many people, when confronted with evidence, don’t question their unreasoned beliefs, but you did. That’s a good thing.

  14. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Broncos fans are entirely more annoying than mormons.

    You guys don’t know when you have it easy. Try growing up in Wisconsin and being uninterested in feetsball altogether. You think the Broncos fans are annoying but they’ve got nothing on Packers fans. :-þ

  15. Emily says

    Hey! I went to a four-year school in Kansas that at times seemed to be a glorified community college. :) I would try to play “guess the Kansan Christian Community College” (assuming the Christian thing because of the Biblical Archeology class, but maybe I shouldn’t assume), but there are so many of them, it would take all day. Kudos to you for coming to your senses!

  16. says

    Great entry, Cody.

    It reminds me of a guy in my atheist group that said: “Atheism is inevitable when you read ‘other’ books.”

    Meaning either secular books or books you don’t find at Christian bookstores. A Christian bookstore is a literal bubble of confirmation biases. That’s why they have them, otherwise people would just go to Barnes & Noble. Although, B&N doesn’t have the vast selection of Bible cozies.

  17. Samantha Vimes, Chalkboard Monitor says

    Community college generally means a 2-year state school, either to prepare one for a transfer to a 4 year university, saving money, or to get on associate degrees or certificates for specific professions like Dental Hygienist. I suspect that a state school had a Bible-based course because it was a politically popular thing to do.

  18. says

    ‘Tis Himself, OM #19

    Try growing up in Wisconsin and being uninterested in feetsball altogether.

    I don’t have to try, I did and do. Totally uninterested, too. Of course, I believe everybody has the right to be interested if they choose. But if someone were born in, say, Illinois, wouldn’t it be be much more likely that they would prefer Bears over the MeatPackers?
    Go MeatPackers!

  19. Cody aka Feykaald says

    Wow, never thought there were so many from Idaho that were in this community. Thanks all for the feedback. I am still in Idaho. Currently attending Idaho State University. Oh and the Community College I went to was Garden City Community College. It is in western Kansas. And the class was passed off as a history class. There was no proselytizing but I guess if you are in Kansas and take the class you are most likely a believer anyway.

    @idahogie, whats the facebook page? I would like to join and hit up a social event with ya and make some new friends.

  20. thunderbird5 says

    I’m a lifelong atheist: I was sent to stand outside the classroom when I was 7 for being the only one to raise my hand when, having raised her suspicions by questioning the historical truth of some bullshit bible story, the teacher asked the class “Who doesn’t believe in God?” She called me out to the front and asked me who then created the world – I was temporarily flummoxed but rallied and replied: “Scientists”.

    So tis very interesting to me to read about the formerly-religious’ and their choice of and reactions to their New Reading (I started with Attenborough’s book tie-in to the BBC “Life On Earth series in 1980 and then went on to Steven Jay Gould). Its exhilarating to discover how they research and present the scientific and historical facts and then marshall them so well against the claptrap and tired-out tropes; but I am always wanting to hear the thoughts from those who began reading this stuff when coming out of the religious mental fug they were (usually) raised in.

    Anyway, good for you, Cody – you clearly have got some good equipment between your ears.