Why I am an atheist – W.P.

How did I become an atheist? I grew up in a traditional Protestant family; went to Sunday school weekly. I could just never buy the silly stories I was fed every week. A talking, burning bush? A world-wide flood? (they hadn’t even discovered the western hemisphere yet!) A virgin birth? Wine to water or walking on water? By the time I was a teen, I was very skeptical. Then I was introduced to R.W. Emerson. His essays and his ties to transcendentalism showed me that I wasn’t the only one uncomfortable with traditional Christianity (too bad I’d never heard of Robert Green-Ingersoll until just a few years ago). Well, then I went off to college to study biology, archaeology, paleontology and the like. I added some courses on the Bible and the Humanities for good measure. That darn critical thinking just pounded those last nails into the coffin of my Christian upbringing.

I met and married a very secular guy (outdoors, with a J.P.) and now we have 3 little secular humanist tots. I discuss religion with them but steer them toward the path of science and constant questioning. Will they run off and join a cult someday, or worse–becomes Mormons?? Maybe…”god”, I hope not.

United States


  1. says

    Your story makes me think of an important point.

    In many ways, fundamentalism is easier to leave than some “softer” forms of Christianity. The things that make fundamentalism hard to leave are
    1) It discourages critical thinking so strongly, and makes its adherents feel guilty for doing so.
    2) It tends to treat those who leave, or who are thinking of leaving, incredibly abusively.

    That said, if you *do* start thinking critically, in spite of their efforts to stop you, what fundamentalism teaches is, as you point out, ludicrous. If you subject it to any scrutiny at all, it’s like squashing a moth.

    More “sophisticated” forms of Christianity, which can still involve harmful beliefs, isn’t quite so transparently false.

  2. RFW says

    One of the best things you can do to vaccinate your young ‘uns against religion is to regale them with myths from Greece, Rome, Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, Japan, Australian aborigines, Mayas, Aztecs, Incas, American Indians both north and south, the Scientologists, and so on.

    In such a context, it’s very hard to take xtian myths seriously. I attribute my own disbelief to having become familiar with classical mythology at a young age.

    And encourage those kids to read, read, read, including books far beyond their putative reading level and on topics not normally thought of as suitable for children.

  3. Cephas Borg says

    Thanks, WP!

    I also only found Robert Green Ingersoll recently, and I wish I’d read him decades ago, when I really needed the confidence to push. I don’t agree with every perspective he wrote, but it’s such a shame he isn’t better known to potential religious escapees!

    And I loved his discussion of Moses, that was the first time I realised it was most likely all a giant hoax – Egypt, the technicolour dreamcoat, the raining frogs; and saddest of all, the painting of the doorposts as a kind of “badge” so god’s angel wouldn’t kill their kids. ‘Course, that also means the bitter herbs (and most of the rest of jewish Saturdays’ rituals) are completely bogus. But who will tell them? Not me!

    On the subject of kids, I’m not qualified; but my sister’s kids were all brought up as atheists, and independently they’ve all decided to become Catholics; principally because the only school in the area is a Catholic school – and they get thrown a HUGE party in their name when they step aboard. So you do have to watch your kids closely and well, if they get enough peer pressure and the promise of treats.