Why I am an atheist – Andrea

“I’m an atheist. I know that can be hard for some people to understand sometimes. But I’ll give you my background and perhaps it will shed some light. It is true that some atheists have had bad experiences with churches. I was one of them, but my atheism grew from that after much contemplation and research.

I’m 45 years old and female. I grew up in a very rural area in western Pennsylvania, on a small dairy farm. I was within walking distance of most of my relatives.

We all went to the local Presbyterian church. It’s a lovely country church. My grandma was always with the other “ladies” in the one pew. My parents ran the youth group a couple years, and I was in choir, Sunday School and I even taught Bible School. There were quite a few others my age in the church so it was nice.

One year, another local church burnt down. My congregation invited them to join us in our church. I believe they were Methodists but we were close enough that there should have been no problems. But there was, of course. I was in my early teens and watched the whole thing. One of the ladies from my congregation said that God had spoke to her in her garden and said that the church should be abandoned and a new one built. The church split over this. People were so nasty to each other. Even to a young girl, this was ridiculous. I couldn’t understand how God could let this happen. It didn’t help that my friends’ parents were on opposite sides of things. Of course, all sides were sure that they were “good” Christians, and God sure didn’t seem inclined to show one or the other side that they were wrong.

I prayed to God to let me understand. There was no response and things got worse. The new church was built and those from the new church “removed” e.g. stole the antique communion set and an antique ceiling lamp from the old church. They also took the regular communion set. This went on for several years and I was more and more confused. I finally ended up reading the entire Bible, looking for some answers “from the horse’s mouth” as it were, and because my father didn’t think I could (I read voraciously). I read it and found that it was full of contradictions and acts I found horrible but that were evidently okay to God. I couldn’t understand how God who was also Jesus, and who I sang “Jesus loves the little children” to, could be like this. Sending people to hell for no more than not knowing about him? What of all the children? What about all the animals and people killed during the flood and the attack upon Sodom and Gomorrah? Why were people being damned for the sins of two people when those sins weren’t their own? And weirder, why does Romans 9 indicate that no one has a choice to believe, and people are damed just for the heck of it? I recommend everyone to read their holy book and really see what they profess to believe.

I used to pray every night. I prayed to ask God to protect everything I cared about and even things I didn’t care about, but were “good” things, like starving people, hostages(it was the 80s), etc. Since I read that God was such a contradiction, I stopped praying. And nothing changed. Things weren’t any better or worse, and I didn’t feel like I failed if something did go “wrong”. I no longer felt that I had to supplicate God for every little thing. I started reading more about other religions and even tried some others, still searching for something. I came to the realization that all religions are false because their deities do nothing. I realized that any good that occurred in the world was because of people, not some supernatural force.

So, now I’m an atheist. I have a job where I help people. I contribute to charities that I find worthy. I’m married to a perfectly wonderful man. My parents are still the good people they have always been, though they do not often go to church because people *still*, more than 30 years later, are being stupid about things. I do not fear some deity in the sky and do not need a carrot or stick to “make” me act good. I just am and I’m happy about that.



  1. cry4turtles says

    Hello Andrea. I too grew up in Western PA in the 70s and 80s. I loved your story. Mine was a bit different. My upbringing was refreshingly secular, with only occasional allusions to religion. In Ambridge High school, I was quite unaware of any religious affiliations of my classmates. I graduated in 82. Did you attend public school? If so, were your experiences there as secular as mine?

  2. says

    Enjoyed your article Andrea. I also started a “no prayer and let’s see what happens” experiment four years ago. As with you, nothing changed in my life. Great things still happened and bad things still happened at the same ratio. Then, a few years later, things change. More good things were happening in my life because instead of focusing on prayer, I was focused on actually doing things to better my life.

  3. Forrest Phelps says

    I especially liked:

    “I do not fear some deity in the sky and do not need a carrot or stick to “make” me act good. I just am and I’m happy about that.”

  4. James Stuby says

    I grew up in western PA also, as a Presbyterian. (My essay is here.) I’m sorry your parents still go to church considering the fiasco. Mine do too. I’m moved by your essay, nice job.

  5. thewhollynone says

    “any good that occurred in the world was because of people not some supernatural force,” and there you have it. The religious folks really dislike us humanists because that philosophy makes religion and its priests useless and unnecessary. I haven’t made it a practice to read many of these “Why I am an Atheist” posts, but I really enjoyed yours, Andrea. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

    And I am glad that life is going happily and well for you. Me, too, even at 75.

  6. louis14 says

    Like thewhollynone I don’t read many of these ‘Why I’m an atheist’ essays, but happened to read yours Andrea, and enjoyed it – thank you. I didn’t know about Romans 9 (which I have now read). It does seem that Paul was very clear on that point.

    As someone who grew up in an atheist household, I admit to being confused as to what happens in Bible classes. So many ex-believers say they lost their faith through sitting down and reading the Bible for themselves. It seems to produce a lot of happy results!

  7. sunsangnim says

    I also grew up in Western Pennsylvania, in Lawrence County. It was a fairly religious area. Also not a particularly tolerant area…my 10th grade history teacher used to joke (or was he serious?) about being in the KKK. I also remember Klan marches in nearby Butler (this was in the late 90s).

    Although it’s nice to visit, I’m glad I don’t live there anymore.

  8. hexidecima says

    hi folks, this is Andrea. glad you liked my post and thank you, PZ, for posting it. To answer a few questions, yes my public school (I’m from Clarion County) was quite secular. This was long before idiots tried to get creationism in like in Dover, PA. I do recall some anti-catholic sentiments in there though. My folks rarely if ever go to church anymore. They still believe but I think out of habit and some fear since they are getting older. I have a relative in the state police and last they said, the KKK was still in western PA, specifically Venango County.