Why I am an atheist – Ben Ehrmann

I suspect that there are a variety of origins and influences that flowered our reasoning processes or otherwise led us to connect with our sense of rational thinking, and by extension, to our atheism.

For me, the seeds were started in early youth; a fascination with how things work, a desire for understanding, a love for experimentation, tinkering and measurement,… a burgeoning appreciation of science as a tool for discovery and truth, an envy and respect for all the groundbreaking scientists with their efforts and trials throughout history, as well as a strong respect I had for my older brother whom I looked up to for his extensive reading and desire to know what is ‘real’ in the world, especially its mysteries.

Much of what I’ve seen over the past three decades has been disconcerting, as youth seemingly lack a desire to be instilled and inspired with the wonder of science and the freedom of rational thought.

There are some freethinkers (and theists of various persuasions) feel a desire to ‘coexist’ (as the artistically clever bumper sticker expresses) with others of different beliefs, or simply feel that the dogmas inherent in the belief systems of others are just not ‘on the radar’ and don’t pose much in the way of cultural or intellectual threat. Personally, I started to get a worried sense about the shift in cultural and social attitudes as we entered the 1980’s and began, as a country, a gradual ‘creep’ to the political right, with its associated disregard for–even hostility toward– certain areas of education (especially science), art ( with a penchant for censorship), media ( the ‘ liberal “elite” ‘). Some, like Newt Gingrich and others, lament the ‘decline’ of Western culture and values, as they ironically fail to pay even lip service to some of the foundational blocks of Western culture–free thought, logic and reason– while espousing and defending the virtues of the religiously devout (which they themselves often conveniently ignore). Yes, religion is an essential tool in the toolbox of the political right; manipulating and harnessing the dogmas of the devout for political gain (and presumably personal gain), reciprocally, as the vociferous devout among us flex the political muscle of right wing politicians to further their narrow, religiously ideological agendas.

These issues are central to my disdain for religious belief and many of its practitioners, stemming strongly from this insidious marriage of religious belief and political power and the danger it poses. Increasing religious influence in our political systems presents a potential for long range threat to the material and social structures of our national and international cultures, with its most corrosive influence on the most essential tool for cultural advancement and continuing understanding of the universe we’re immersed in: the minds of future generations and how they evaluate, discover and accept what is real,… and what is reliable about how we explore our world.

I believe this corrosion needs to be widely understood, exposed and actively countered in the United States in particular. It’s hopeful to see there are many notables with influence and reputation in the scientific, philosophical and educational communities who are standing up and working hard to build a strong front. I certainly hope to continue to learn, understand and support, in my own way and time, what may turn out to be a new Enlightenment,..or perhaps a Re-Enlightenment.

Ben Ehrmann


  1. says

    I see what we’re living in as part of the original Enlightenment. It took us several hundred years to get into a medieval, Abrahamic-religious mindset and it’s going to take several hundred years to get out of it. There’s bound to be push back against liberal Enlightenment values along the way, but we’re progressing despite the conservative regressives’ desire to force society back into a pluto-theocratic patriarchy.

  2. nemistenem says

    For a second there, I thought BART Ehrmann had come out and was now a confirmed atheist. I always enjoy these posts, see a parts of my own journey into and back out of the world of belief in gods and the supernatural in many of them. My own story would sound similar but so much less eloquent. Maybe someday…

  3. kreativekaos says

    KreativeKaos/Ben Ehrmann:

    Thanks all, for the kind words and the insightful comments.
    I agree: it’s very interesting and insightful to read the many accounts of the driving factors that lead one to an atheist/agnostic/ freethought position.


    Yeah, I understand about the name similarity, but no (known) relation, though I have heard about Bart and his research a number of years ago.

    If anyone wants to, you go to the Center for Inquiry site and dig into their library of ‘Point of Inquiry’ podcast/interviews to come across a great number of interesting discussions, a few of which touch on Bart Ehrmann’s research (among others) in Christian historicity.

    ibis3@ #2:

    Yes, I agree that it’s likely to take quite some time, like you say, on the order of centuries yet, to effectively break free of the religious/supernatural dogma that–even in the 21st century– still dominates large parts of the world. I just hope we can as a society survive the adolescence of our Enlightenment beginnings.