I’m an atheist because there is nothing else I can be.
My parents are both British scientists. I was born in Africa because my father was doing postdoc work on, I believe, giraffe respiratory physiology (we have pictures of him standing on a ladder holding a mask over a giraffe’s nose) but spent my first seven years living in England. While I was aware of religion and churches because, well, in Oxford it is difficult to go thirty feet without banging into a church of some description, it never really occurred to me that the people who attended those churches did so because they believed in a god. I didn’t even truly understand that both my grandmothers were believers. Church to me meant Nativity scenes, ringing bells, those little palm-leaf crosses, the smell of brass polish and damp and lilies, cross-stitched kneelers, worn carvings of various saints, and (most fascinating of all) graveyards with all sorts of interesting headstones and tombs in them.
We moved to America when I was seven, and have lived here ever since. I’m thirty-one and I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that people, many of whom are otherwise quite sane and sensible and have advanced degrees, actually believe that a god exists–let alone that that god a) requires people to live up to an impossible standard, b) damns them to hell for not living up to this impossible standard, and then c) creates and murders an avatar of himself to “redeem” everyone from the artificial damnation he himself invented. I can understand the idea of wanting to shift responsibility for oneself and one’s decisions to a greater authority, but the Big Three Abrahamic god is such an insecure, reactionary, vicious, cruel, irrational, demanding, and untrustworthy entity that I fail to see why anyone would give (H)im the time of day.
My parents never told me that there was no god; they just never suggested to me that there was one, and therefore I grew up without the need to believe in one. Without, in fact, the ability to believe in one. Sometimes I think it’d be easier, in a country as overwhelmingly christian as the US, to be able to believe in their god to the point where I was no longer cross with the vast majority of the population for subscribing to such a bloody stupid concept. Proselytizers I’ve come across have said “you just have to have faith” that a god exists, but how? I can say “I believe in the Great God Om and His holy horns” or “I believe in Ahura-Mazda” or “I believe that the Republican Party is not a conclave of viciously misogynistic homophobes who hate the idea of anyone anywhere having a good time,” but I can’t actually follow through on any of those statements.
Most of the time I don’t discuss my atheism with people other than my close friends (or the internet) because it always comes down to the fact that yes, I do think religion is not only stupid but actively poisonous, that continuing to give tacit approval to this limited and illogical worldview hinders humanity’s development as an intelligent species, and that people who are clever and educated and literate enough to understand the scientific method damn well ought to discard fairytales and embrace reality. This is not a popular viewpoint and rarely leads to constructive discussion so much as “so you’re calling my (father, mother, doctor, academic advisor, etc) stupid for being a Christian/Jew/Muslim?”
I’m calling your authority figure intellectually dishonest. Which may on some levels be worse.