Why I am an atheist – Doug Mackie

I rumbled Santa and religion before I was 6 and I really thought until I got to high school that everyone knew both were tosh but just Yes, Virginia pretended for kids.

I thank my parents for *never* mentioning *anything* to do with religion. I think they had faith of some sort but they were determined that I should make up my own mind.

I have no idea if *any* of my teachers were religious and I thank them for their profound professionalism. It honestly never occurred to me that people really believed any of that stuff when the things in my school and local library books were so much cooler.

I am atheist because I was allowed to make up my own mind. This was one of the many advantages of growing up during the 70’s in New Zealand.

Doug Mackie
New Zealand


  1. says

    I have no idea if *any* of my teachers were religious and I thank them for their profound professionalism.

    You should also thank goodness you weren’t born and raised in Idiot America’s Bible Belt.

  2. pooder says

    My Santa-religion connection was similar: ‘In about eighth grade, I remember listening to Mr Jones explaining bible stories in Sunday School, and thinking “It’s exactly like the Santa stories; next he’s going to tell us that it’s what they say to the little kids, but now that we’re nearly grown up, he will tell us that they’re just stories.” . . . but he never did.’

    Tha’s from my WIAAA email submitted to PZ for publication — happening soon, I hope.

  3. HaggisForBrains says

    Interesting to hear this from a country (which I love) which frequently refers to itself as “Godzone”. I’m pleased to see that the inhabitants don’t take that moniker too seriously.

    I love NZ because it’s like Scotland with good weather ;-)

  4. Random Mutant says

    Haggisforbrains, the Godzone moniker refers to it being God’s Own country, as in it’s where god would like to live. If I see him, I’ll let you know. Nothing as yet.

  5. HaggisForBrains says

    @ RM #4

    I won’t hold my breath. If he doesn’t have the good sense to turn up in NZ, he won’t be turning up anywhere.

  6. says

    Doug, that’s exactly my experience growing up in NZ through the 70’s and 80’s.

    Pretty ironic that a country referred to as ‘Godzone’ adn with a national anthem entitled “God of Nations” appears to be the easiest to be atheist in.

    The only issues I have had have been from the Scout Association, but in the scheme of things, they’re neither here nor there.

  7. sw says

    Yeah, I’ve never liked the “Godzone” thing, but I always figured it was said in more of a quazi-pantheistic kind of way. What seems to be meant is “look how natural and beautiful it is”.

  8. dougmackie says

    In my experience ‘godzown’ is only used non-ironically* by boomers and older.

    Yes, we certainly could improve things here. I am NOT saying our politicians are sane but few politicians openly express faith and fewer openly use that faith as basis for policy. This makes it easy – even for people of faith – to judge politicians by their policies alone.

    *This term will be explained for ‘merkins in a future post. (It may take more than one post).

  9. troybmason says

    Doug, your post made me think about my childhood in New Zealand. My experience was exactly the same. I can’t ever remember a teacher ever mentioning their religion. Oh no, that’s right there was one science teacher in high school, a pretty decent guy really, he confessed to having problems with evolution because he was a christian. The response from the class was I recall a couple of minutes of hysterical laughter.

    The God’s own thing which gradually morphed into Godzone, was always a bit pantheistic wasn’t it? Sort of home of the gods like Mount Olympus or something. Probably as many interpretations as there are of the bible.

    I live in Australia now, a country considered fairly godless in comparison to most of the world. But NZ makes Aus look like the bible belt in comparison. Politicians here are quite willing to flaunt their christianity in search of votes. I suspect that would cost you as many votes as it would get you in NZ.


  10. karamea says

    I grew up in rural NZ as well (1980s-1990s). Although the area was nominally Christian, most of our neighbours were farmers, and I think they had better things to do with their time then sit in church. People might bother to turn up for Xmas or Easter, and we sung carols at primary school, but it was all pretty weak. I only ever went to church about twice as a child, and I think those were because my grandma was visiting.

    I was also reading about Maori legends at the same time as I was reading Christian ones, and frankly, the bible stories don’t come off so good. Māui beat up the sun, he could totally take Jesus in a fight.

    The few people I knew or was aware of as a child who were strongly religious were all pretty weird – like the Brethren students who couldn’t talk to us and weren’t allowed to go to sex-ed classes.

    I was never directly told not to believe in god, but I think the way in which we were raised made it nearly inevitable (none of my siblings are at all religious).

    I can’t imagine any NZ politicians would want to be noisy about their religion, given how poorly Christian parties tend to do in elections, and that was before Graham Capill (almost a cliche: rails against homosexuality and the breakdown of morals in society, and is then convicted of raping children).

  11. says

    Thanks for sharing, Doug. With minor differences, not at all unlike my own childhood growing up first in Columbia, SC then moving to Houston, Texas in the 1980s. I attended a very laid back Presbyterian Church whose pastor reminded me of Mister Rogers…very light on theology, very much emphasizing the point of just being a good person every day, etc. Looking back I wonder if he wasn’t perhaps a closet atheist himself. Once he left our congregation to become a counselor for drug addictions, I lost interest in church attendance, and when I realized people actually took the stories seriously, I found that laughable.

    When I hit puberty and discovered how anti-sex and anti-human religion really is about human sexuality, I shifted from being an “apathetic atheist” to being more firmly anti-theist.

    Santa I debunked when I found the hidden “stash” of toys in my parents’ closets. ;-) Nothing like direct evidence, eh?

  12. andrewbroome says

    Ha. Reading this I thought “That sounds familiar, wonder if he’s a Kiwi?”