Why I am an atheist – Joreth InnKeeper

A Deconversion Story Of A Non-Converted

What bad thing happened to you to make you hate god so much?

Well, besides the fact that it is impossible for me to “hate” something that I think of as a fictional character in a particularly poorly written collection of essays, nothing. I’ve led a pretty charmed life. My monogamous parents got married after my mother graduated high school and they’ve been married ever since. They’re still together and they still love each other. I had a younger sister, I grew up in the suburbs, got good grades in school, had great teachers, a best friend, and a dog. I went to private school for high school and got accepted to the college of my choice. I started dating when I was 16, but I had “boyfriends” as early as 13. I wasn’t abused, I wasn’t beaten, my parents loved each other and they loved us kids, I had both sets of grandparents until I was an adult, I had aunts and uncles and cousins to grow up with, I went to church every Sunday and I sang in the choir in high school as well edited the church paper and was a youth group leader.

There was really nothing very exceptionally wrong about my life at all. It wasn’t all roses and candy either. I had all the usual troubles that middle-class kids do who happen to grow up in one of the wealthiest nations in the world in one of the best economies in its history. I got bullied, but no more than many other kids at my school and I also had friends who stuck up for me. I struggled in some of my classes, but way less than most kids and I pulled a 3.33 GPA throughout my scholastic career. I wasn’t particularly gifted at sports, but I wasn’t the last to get chosen for teams either, and I even took home a couple of ribbons and trophies. I argued with my parents and got grounded and spanked but mostly I had a pretty good relationship with them and I consider my parents to be people I can talk to and people I can trust. I had extended family die, mostly people I didn’t know very well, and I had pets and even a couple of good friends in my own age group die, but everyone faces death at some point in their lives, and I was old enough to understand death by the time anyone close to me died.

I just never believed in god.

Oh, to be sure, I did believe in all kinds of wacky things growing up. Some of those wacky things didn’t get dispelled until well into my 20s. But I just never believed in a personal, sentient god who could be personified or who cared about me in particular. I desperately wished there was one, but I didn’t believe there was. I suppose, since I believed in Santa Claus, there must have been a time that I believed it when I was told there was a god, but I lost that belief so early and so non-traumatically that I have no memory of ever having believed in a god. In fact, my lost belief in Santa was far more traumatic (that’s a story of how I started on the path to skepticism, but that’s a tale for another time).

I do happen to remember the day I stopped believing in the church as an institution of good, though. I can’t tell you how old I was, except that it was prior to 4th grade. The only reason I know that is because we switched churches when we moved during the summer between 3rd and 4th grade, and my memory of leaving the church is associated with the layout of our first church, and the second church was very different in appearance.

Also, prior to 4th grade and that move, I was a frequent visitor at the public library. It was in walking distance of our house, and my babysitter’s house, so I went often, but was too far to walk after the move, so I didn’t go much again until I got a car. Normally, a kid my age had a child’s library card, that restricted us to a certain limit on books and kept us out of the adult book section. But I had actually read everything in the kids section and I got a special dispensation to have an adult library card. That upped my limit to 25 books checked out at one time (which I always had maxed out) and introduced me to Stephen King and Dean Koontz. One of the reasons why I wanted the adult card was because I had completely exhausted all the children’s “scary” books, including one old tome of classic scary stories that exposed me to Edgar Allen Poe. When the librarian learned that, not only had I read all the Poe in the library I could find, but I wasn’t scared and I understood it, she let me check out the adult horror.

This is related, I swear.

I remember sitting in the pew in church sometime prior to 4th grade and we had reached the part in the service of the Responsorials – that’s the part where the priest says a line and the congretation says a scripted line back to him in response:

Priest: “Lift up your hearts”
Congretation: “We lift them up to the Lord”
Priest: “Give thanks to the Lord our God”
Congretation: “It is right to give Him thanks and praise”

So there I was, sitting in the pew, dozing off, waiting for the next round of songs (the only part of mass that I liked), when I heard the responsorial. Of course, I’d heard it before – I’d been hearing it every weekend for my entire life. But for some reason, that week it occurred to me that the congregation sounded just like a Stephen King novel. I looked up, and everyone was reciting the same words, in the same monotone, with the same glazed look on their faces as if they weren’t even aware of what they were saying. No, I didn’t become convinced that I had just woken up to Attack Of The Body Snatchers, but the comparison to a mind-stealing horror story was very clear and distinct in my mind that day. It was that last line that really did it: “it is right to give Him thanks and praise” – how creepy is that?

When I was in first grade, I devoured the Ramona Quimby books, and continued to do so until I reached the end of the series. In the first or second book, Ramona goes to first grade and learns to sing the national anthem. She was so proud of herself to be like her big sister, whom she idolized! In the song, Ramona falls for a mondegreen, which is where you mistake the lyrics to a song for something else. “Excuse me while I kiss this guy” is the most often cited mondegreen, for Jimi Hendrix’ lyric “excuse me while I kiss the sky”.

Anyway, Ramona thinks the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner include “dawnzer lee light”, which she thinks is some sort of lamp, instead of “dawn’s early light”. In her haste to prove what a big girl she is and what she learned in school that day, she suggests to her sister that she turn on the dawnzer when her sister complains that night is falling and it’s getting dark in the house. When her sister has no idea what she’s talking about, Ramona gets all puffed up with self-importance that she knows something her smart big sister doesn’t know. When it all comes out where the miscommunication is, Ramona is mortified and humiliated.

That story always stuck with me. I hate being wrong, so I don’t like to make very many declarative statements without checking and double checking. So, back to being in 1st grade, where we learned the Pledge of Allegiance. We were taught the Pledge by rote, without being explained what we were pledging to. I don’t even think anyone bothered to explain what a “pledge” itself was, nor what “allegiance” was. So, with the story of Ramona in the back of my brain, in 1st grade I decided that I did not understand this thing called the Pledge of Allegiance, and I could not, in good conscience, recite it until I understood what it meant rather than just parroting back the appropriate sounds. How did I know I wasn’t saying “dawnzer lee light” somewhere when I was supposed to be saying “dawns early light”? Because of that, I have never pledged my allegiance, although I can recite it the way I can recite many song lyrics and movie lines.

Fast forward to that day in church with the zombie-robot responsorials. I thought that no one in that church really understood what they were saying. Maybe they knew what the words all meant, but they didn’t sound like they meant them. And if the grownups were all just saying things by rote, then how could I possibly understand what I was saying? With a precedent already set, I decided that I couldn’t recite any more church stuff until, not only did I understand the meanings of the words, but until I fully and whole-heartedly believed in what I was saying.

And that was the last time I ever said a recitation in church again. The older I got, and the more I understood the meanings of the words, the less belief in those words I had and the more disgust I had in the church itself, for its apparent hypocrisy and attempted dominion over its congregation, including contradictory and outright immoral teachings. That was sometime before fourth grade. But I continued to attend church with my family (I really loved the music and I looked forward to the doughnut and orange juice every week), and I voluntarily joined another church in high school to sing in the choir. While in the choir, I volunteered to perform on special occasions when the priest felt a “play” was better than just him reading from the book, and I also volunteered to edit their paper and to lead the youth ministry. All without believing in any gods, and all with the priest and the entire choir aware of my lack of belief.

There was no scandal in my church that I ever knew about – no priest raping kids, no hidden love child, no gay “luggage boy”, no embezzelment. The priests were kind and compassionate and forgiving and funny and approachable, the choir and the congregation was tolerant and friendly, and the youth ministry even specifically sought me out to give the safe sex class (I was already studying marriage counseling by then and had quite an extensive education on human sexuality, which my priest knew, and it was felt that the younger kids would listen to an older teen more readily than an adult, so I gave comprehensive sex ed to my youth group – none of this abstinence-only shit).

I wasn’t the only atheist at church either. In fact, I wasn’t the only atheist in my choir. But we sang our songs and went on retreats and ministered to the other youth and engaged in philosophical debate with each other with all the fervor and arrogance of teenagers and college students. Nothing bad ever happened with relation to church or god, and nothing really bad ever happened in general to make me blame a god or get angry about it. I just never believed, and as I got more exposure to the doctrine, I stopped having faith in the goodness of the institution too.

Then, much later, came rational skepticism. Only then did my anger develop – not anger at a god I never believed in, but anger at the people, anger at the so-called “messengers” of a made-up character, anger at the hypocrisy, anger at the lies, anger at the deception, anger on behalf of all those harmed in the name of religion. I might be an “angry atheist”, but my anger is entirely for people – people who cause war and death and famine and illness and poverty by peddling nonsense about a character that even a 4th grader could tell was a badly written fiction.

Joreth InnKeeper
United States


  1. Mark Baker says

    You’re far from the only person I’ve heard of who has joined a church just in order to sing in the choir. Apart from bell-ringers, who seem even more likely to be atheists, the choir seems to be the only place in church you’re likely to find non-believers (at least in a generally non-religious society like the UK).

    Which makes the “preaching to the choir” saying rather silly, doesn’t it?

  2. eddyline says

    Very well written, and gave me a strange alternate meaning for that responsorial: it genuinely sounds as if the priest is training his acolytes how to correctly perform a human sacrifice to their deity: “Okay, now, lift up your hearts, like this…”

  3. says

    You are clearly a genius.

    I wish I had thought like you. I wish it so fervently when I read about guys like you, and like Christopher Hitchens, who never fell for the God myth even as children. It would have saved me 20 years.

  4. says

    That was a very enjoyable read. Thanks for sharing, Joreth.


    Church is like going to the gym: Sit on a bike, get zombified by a TV, and 45 minutes later you leave with a vainglorious, smug look on your face for having accomplished nothing.

  5. says

    I had to attend a couple of Catholic funeral masses in January, and they’ve changed a lot of the responsorial stuff. It was pretty funny to see how many people (in what on the surface seems like a very religious extended family) were finding out about the changes for the first time.

    Very nice post.

  6. yankonamac says

    Hi Joreth,

    That was remarkable–Ramona Quimby had the same impact on me as a kid! Not only the ‘dawnzer lee light’ section, but (and I believe it was a Ramona book–it’s been so long!) a point when she gives her father a gift, a model piano made of Genuine Lucite. She’s very proud of this fact and announces it to him before asking a family member what exactly Genuine Lucite is. Naturally, she’s disheartened to learn it is a type of plastic. I think one of the legacies of the Ramona books is that their readers are more likely to ask what something is, what’s in it, and what it means before they sing its praises (or sing along).

    The odd thing about the pledge of allegiance, though, is that if you don’t stop and think about the words, it is complete nonsense and has no impact on your level of patriotism. If you don’t really know what the words allegiance, republic, indivisible or liberty mean, then it’s an empty sentiment. It’s just noise. Do you think the fact that you can recite it in your sleep have any impact on how you think? (Genuine curiosity, not rhetoric.)

    A delightful read, in any case. Thanks for sharing!

  7. fmitchell says

    Hah, I too thought “Lift up your hearts.”/”We lift them up to the Lord.” sounded like some grisly Aztec ritual, even when I still (sort of) believed. I assumed a steady diet of Poe and Lovecraft as a child fueled that train of thought, but I’m glad someone else hopped on that train.

  8. says

    I’ve led a pretty charmed life.

    That’s nice for a change. Other Why I am an atheist posts have sometimes been a bit disgusting.

    Very interesting story brilliantly written. Many thanks.

  9. jaybee says

    Heh, I often had the similar thoughts during the responsorial in the Catholic church I attended growing up. It always sounded like a den of zombies.

    I was a good boy and never skipped church, even if I was going to a late mass by myself, and I never skipped CCD. On occasion there were optional masses that we’d attend as a family, and I had to attend those too. I finally got out of those by needling my parents for stopping by the store to pick up a carton of cigarettes after going to the mass for the blessing of the throats (yes, that is what it is really called).

    The last laugh was on me, though. My mom died of lung cancer, not throat cancer. I guess she was right after all; the blessing of the throats must have worked.

  10. says

    You don’t play well with others, humanape. Do not ever comment on a “Why I am an atheist” thread ever again, or you will be banned.

  11. Psych-Oh says

    What a great read! We have a lot in common. Stephen King was a giant influence on my moving into skepticism (also around 4th grade), and later, Kurt Vonnegut. Church vs. Children of the Corn… it is all the same kind of weird.

  12. Dick the Damned says

    PZ, maybe i’m missing an in-joke here, or something obvious that eludes me, but what’s wrong with humanape’s post?

    I do admit that i did a double-take with it, but the second time around, i agreed that Joreth’s experiences were generally ‘nice’, & others have had some pretty darned ‘disgusting’ treatment.

  13. says

    @yankonamac (7)

    “The odd thing about the pledge of allegiance, though, is that if you don’t stop and think about the words, it is complete nonsense and has no impact on your level of patriotism. If you don’t really know what the words allegiance, republic, indivisible or liberty mean, then it’s an empty sentiment. It’s just noise. Do you think the fact that you can recite it in your sleep have any impact on how you think? (Genuine curiosity, not rhetoric.)”

    I had to pledge allegiance to the “Kingdom of Jesus Christ” at my school, so I’ve given this some thought. I’m convinced it does make some difference. There’s evidence (cited in Robert Cialdini’s “Influence”) that humans have an incredibly strong desire to act consistently with their past words. I think that once children learn what they have been saying, they are more likely to accept those ideas uncritically. Of course, a few may have a violently adverse reaction (and wind up on skeptic forums!).

    In short, whatever limited understanding children have of the pledge, they get the idea that American is a Good Thing.

  14. julietdefarge says

    You have never pledged allegiance? Le gasp! So, if you don’t mind me asking, how many times have you sold state secrets or taken up arms against the US?

  15. yankonamac says

    Interesting point, Johnnyscaramanga. Thanks. After I posted I was immediately reminded of Huxley’s “62,400 repetitions equals one truth” from Brave New World, which continued to help put me off religion and all its tactics. The nightmare brigade using lawsuits for the purpose of shoving their nonsense into schools at earlier and earlier points, to use peer pressure, repetition, food and bright colours to ensnare the squishy minds of the world’s most mentally malleable, to make themselves a part of kids’ thought processes before they know how to defend themselves from it…it’s sick. It’s obviously, irrefutably and intentionally exploitation of children.

    I had a conversation with my husband the other day about pledges and repetition and such–he grew up in London and never had anything like that. His school had no pledges, no memorization of speeches and the preamble to the Constitution, no marching band or empasis in the evenings on joining a dance ensemble, ROTC, or drill team. They were not encouraged to fall into step, to repeat until perfect some pointless sequence of movements or words, or even to be anywhere near the school after classes ended. There were some clubs, sports and study groups, but never endured any pressure to perfectly synchronize with his classmates. I can’t even hear music without walking in time with the beat.

  16. jorethinnkeeper says

    Thank you everyone, for the compliments. I’ll try to address all the questions and I’ll try to check back here for comments made after this.

    Mark Baker: “Which makes the “preaching to the choir” saying rather silly, doesn’t it?” Yes, that’s why the original saying was, I believe, “preaching to the converted” and it got changed somewhere along the line to “choir”. I wish I had a citation for that, but I’m pretty sure that the Scopes Monkey Choir podcast addressed it early on.

    jonnyscaramanga: Don’t give me too much credit. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said I believed all sorts of wacky things besides god. In fact, I probably underplayed it quite a bit. I have another essay on The Day I Lost My Magic Powers, which I wrote shortly after this essay: http://joreth.livejournal.com/258140.html Frankly, it’s embarrassing. But even being able to hold contradictory beliefs in a single head doesn’t mean we can hold ALL beliefs at once, so I just happened to have been lucky enough to miss out on the god-belief, but I had my share of woo.

    myeck waters: I believe you that they have changed some of the responsorials, but I also think that each church does it just a little differently anyway. I’ve attended some Catholic weddings/funerals where the responsorials were different, or even left out, but then I went back to my old church after college to see my old choir, & it was the same. I think it depends on the priest or the diocese or, hell, with the religious it could be anything!

    yankonamac: I think I agree with jonnyscaramanga that beating recitations into people/kids’ heads by rote can have an influence even if they don’t fully understand the words at the time they learn it. I don’t have any citations, but I do have some vague feeling of having read something on the power of living up to your own words. Something about cognitive dissonance and needing to validate what you say. But, at the time, I wasn’t thinking of anything like that when I decided never to recite things I didn’t understand, I was just thinking that I didn’t want to lie and I didn’t want my words used against me, so if I never said words I didn’t understand, then I couldn’t be held responsible for those words when I didn’t understand them. I also, as I said with the Ramona story, didn’t want to be wrong.

    But, as to whether knowing the Pledge even though I never “pledged” (meaning, I never *meant* what I was reciting the way we don’t necessarily mean what we say when we sing a song or recite Shakespeare), I don’t know that I can say if it has affected me or not because I don’t have a control-me to see what I would be like if I had never learned it, or if I had only learned it later and missed out on the deeply ingrained memorization. I know that I value most of the principles this nation was founded on and it’s that value that makes me so frustrated with politics & government now that I’m old enough to understand what’s going on. But I also don’t hold any particular attachment to the US other than the fact that I currently live here & have no real way of moving elsewhere. I don’t think I would mind living anywhere that had the kind of weather I prefer & the kind of government that lived up to the principles I hold dear in the Constitution. I’m not so much as attached to the US as I am to the *ideas* on which it was founded.

    julietdefarge: “how many times have you sold state secrets or taken up arms against the US?” Every day, it’s how I make my living :-D Seriously though, I know it’s shocking, but as you probably know by the nature of the phrasing in your question, one doesn’t have to pledge allegiance to a flawed government in order to choose to be a responsible citizen or to be a coward enough to want to live more than one wants to mount a losing battle against a well-funded military. Of course, I believe in the idea of the people rising up against governments that are harming its people, but personally, if it can be done with words instead of bullets, I think I’d like to try that tactic first.

    Much like I don’t need a deity to tell me how to be “moral”, I also don’t need a pledge to tell me how to be a responsible citizen. In both cases, all I really need is empathy and some critical thinking skills to direct that empathy.

  17. JohnnyAl says

    Haha! The zombie-like, Pavlovian responses are classic to watch in the Catholic church. Years ago, when I used to go with my wife, the priest was reading the gospel and read something like, “…and Jesus said ‘Peace be with you.'” Almost instantly, 3/4 of the congregation said “And also with you,” even though they weren’t supposed to.

    I almost ran to my car to get the doggie treats…

  18. says

    Having had the pleasure of meeting and working with Joreth on a number of occasions, I can confidently say that she is even more awesome in real life than she is online. Awesome to see your story published to a wider audience.

  19. generallerong says

    Dick #13 – just guessing, but being airily derogatory about accounts of pain and suffering (“a bit disgusting”), and complimentary about someone who’s had the good luck to live a comparatively pleasant life so far (“nice,” “brilliantly written”), shows a psychopathic lack of understanding and empathy. Here’s someone who’s so-o-o-o dainty that they’re merely “a bit” disgusted about appalling accounts that would outrage and disgust a baboon.

    Humanape needs to leave off the “human” part…and most likely the “ape” part, too. No need to insult the apes.

    That said, Joreth’s account is an interesting read of a skeptical mind in action, and it made me wonder if being an atheist were actually a social option, how many would emerge from under the social cloak of religion.

  20. jorethinnkeeper says

    generallerong: I also often wonder how many would choose certain paths if only those paths were open to them (and not paths they had to break themselves by tramping through a jungle with a pocket knife, surrounded by deadly plants & animals wanting to make them the next meal).

    I have chosen several paths that I didn’t know where paths, certainly not paths that I was told were options for me, simply because that’s the way I was. I’m just that strong-willed to do what seemed obvious to me was “natural” without waiting for anyone to give me permission to do it. That, and I live in a society & time that gives me the luxury of making these choices without hanging or stoning being the automatic end-result.

    I didn’t know any atheists growing up and I didn’t know that atheism was even an option. But I didn’t believe in the god I was told existed, so that was that. There was never any question about being a theist, I wasn’t one so therefore I couldn’t be one and it didn’t matter if I was the only one.

    But I know a lot of people struggle to believe because they don’t know there are any other options, and a lot of people pretend to believe because they don’t know there are places for them to be non-believers. I wonder how many of us there would be if atheism was just another option and if there were no other social repercussions to choosing atheism other than choosing to do *anything* your parents don’t do, like not taking over the family business or being the doctor or lawyer your mom thinks you should be.

    There might be family strife for choosing a different religion (or none at all), but there’s no real social structure for making everyone be doctors, and there’s no support for parents preventing their children from finding out that professions other than “farmer” exist. So if choosing a religion/non-religion was more like choosing a profession, maybe with a “which religion should you go into” day at school with everyone represented, and a general air of “this is your choice, here are your options” supported by society, I suspect that we would have, not just a larger number of outspoken atheists, but probably a much bigger population of people who just didn’t care or think about religion from either direction.

  21. pipenta says

    Heh. My parents made me attend catechism classes which would have been offensive, had they not been so astonishingly BORING. So when they came around asking if anyone wanted to try out for the choir and that practice happened to be at the same time as catechism class, I jumped at the chance.

    The choir performed at mass, but at that tender age I was forced to go anyway. But the people in the choir didn’t seem to be religious at all and I was the only kid who had signed up. They left me alone. It was delightful. So, instead of paying attention to the mass, I could just sit on the floor out of sight up there in the balcony, and read the cheap science fiction paperbacks I adored, only standing up when it was time to sing.

  22. Dick the Damned says

    generallerong #20 – in this sort of forum, with responses that are more conversational than expositive, the comments don’t appear to me to be out of place, particularly when there are different styles of English in use. For instance, “…have sometimes been a bit disgusting.” could be British understatement.

    But maybe humanape has a history on this forum that i’m not aware of? Anyway, thanks for your comments.

  23. Arkady says

    Heh, thinking of mondegreens, we had a school prayer at my Infants school (ages 5-7, Church of England). No-one ever bothered to teach us the words so after a few years someone finally realised that it sounded so odd because we’d all picked it up phonetically during assemblies as a string of meaningless syllables! Pity I can’t remember it any more…

  24. 'Tis Himself says

    In case anyone cares, the term “mondegreen” comes from an essay “The Death of Lady Mondegreen” by Sylvia Wright. There’s a 17th Century Scottish ballad “The Bonny Earl o’ Moray” (Child Ballad No. 181) which has a verse:

    Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
    Oh where have ye been?
    They have slain the Earl o’ Moray
    And laid him on the green.

    Wright misheard the last two lines as:

    They have slain the Earl o’ Moray
    And Lady Mondegreen.

    Here’s Old Blind Dogs singing “The Bonny Earl of Moray”:

  25. katkinkate says

    I loved the choir. I left the church soon after they cancelled it because too many choir-members got married and moved away. As most of those moving were friends and I didn’t even have choir any more, I left the church. I had nothing left to stay for.

  26. Jem says

    I don’t live in the states, so no pledge of allegiance, but my public high school did have a litany we had to recite which included the phrase ‘O, Lord’ in every line. I recited it like a long string of meaningless words, never feeling any obligation to believe what I was saying or even think about it.
    Until my last year of high school, when I refused to say it. Nobody noticed my silent protest though so that was that. In hindsight I wish I’d mad I complaint, too late now.

  27. echidna says

    Thanks for your story. It’s funny how that feeling of connection works: I too had a maxed out adult library card at 8.

    Dick the Damned,
    Human Ape has indeed a bit of a history. As an Aussie, where understatement just underscores the seriousness of what you are talking about, “a bit disgusting” actually comes off worse than flippant.
    Human ape is rating the stories on how pleasant they are; not how powerful, or truthful. The ones he is being derogatory about are the ones where people have written bravely.

  28. Azuma Hazuki says

    My sister is an extremely loud anti-theist, and she loves choir singing (also sings at the local Hindu temple, which made my brain squeak a bit…). It’s weird; you’d think any unbeliever would be very quickly removed from such membership.

  29. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    Boredom played a huge part in my leaving the church at age 8 or 9 (I don’t remember which) – almost entirely because I’d just acquired a Rubik’s Snake and found playing with that to be a far better use of my time.

    My mother realised the futility of trying to force me to go, and that was that. But the interesting thing is that I never, even at the age, believed any of it – and never realised until years later that there might be people who genuinely did.

  30. FossilFishy says

    I love how your story belies the whole “mad at god” trope Joreth. Beautifully told and compelling, thanks. And I highly recommend that people should read the story in the link you provided at #17.

    To anyone wondering why humanape has been warned take a look at this comment. Xe does indeed have a history here.

  31. frank says


    Thanks for your story.

    “It is right to give Him thanks and praise.”

    At some point in high school, I recognized the creepiness of this line, and I stopped saying it at Mass. At the time, I often attended 7:00 am weekday Mass alone before going to school. And at that time, I still wanted to go to seminary to become a priest. It wasn’t until late in my period as a University student that I realized I was an atheist.

    That one line in the RCC Mass was the beginning of a long transition. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who found it deeply disturbing.

  32. sockeyesalman says

    Re: “Why I am an atheist”

    I just wish this blog or another similar to it existed 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 years ago. The variety of atheist testimonials help alot.

    I wonder how many people have submitted their experiences?

  33. Dick the Damned says

    Echidna #29, thanks for that. I didn’t know about humanape’s history – i don’t have time to read all the comments & mostly just skim through them. (I don’t know how PZ can possibly cope with this blog as well as all his other commitments!)

  34. jorethinnkeeper says


    I’m one of those “angry atheists”, especially online. But, the thing of it is, I’m generally angry online because online is where I go to vent. It’s kind of a safe place to be angry, because, most of the time, I’m not going to get punched in the nose for what I say here, mainly because the people I piss off don’t know where I live. And I’m generally angry for a good reason. And I’m sick and tired of people dismissing my complaints simply on the basis that I’m angry.

    For some reason, it’s easy for people to ignore the complaint when the person making the complaint is upset. Especially if the angry complainer is female. But if I say it nicely, it gets ignored too. So I’m angry, and I show it, because I’m trying to make a point.

    But when I get angry about religion, I get “why are you so angry at god, what do you think he ever did to you?”, which, of course, is just another dismissive, derailing tactic. And I have to spend all my time now defending my anger and deflecting stupid red herrings about being mad at a figment of someone else’s imagination.

    So I wrote this in a fit if pique to address the question once and for all. If “god” never did anything “bad” to me, or people using his name never hurt me, and I’m STILL angry about something, maybe there’s a reason for that, and maybe people ought to pay attention.

    If nothing ever pushed me away from the church and I just don’t believe because it’s nonsense, not because there was some bad guy besmirching the good name of the religion, then maybe, just maybe, the religion isn’t substantial enough to catch and hold my belief and attention on its own merits. If it doesn’t even need a Bad Guy to turn me away, it must be pretty flimsy all on its own.

    Theists want to know what happened to me to turn me away, because they can’t imagine just not believing. So I’m telling them that, their limited imagination aside, I just don’t believe. I can’t be secretly believing because, to be mad at god, you have to believe he exists. I can’t be just hiding or hurting, and finding the right balm to soothe my soul will bring me back to the fold. I just, simply, don’t believe.

    In fact, it has been my own observation that, the more bad things that happen in a person’s life, the more likely they are TO believe. Maybe that’s confirmation bias, and almost certainly I have a non-representative sample. But the happiest people I know are non-believers, none of whom had any sort of bad thing to make them “hate” any gods. The myths just don’t stand up to scrutiny, and, instead, actually make a good case against religions as being institutions of good.

    I’m glad to hear others were bothered by the responsorials too. And thank you, everyone, for the continued compliments.