Why I am an atheist – Patrick Kelley

I was raised alternately in general Protestant and Lutheran churches, and my parents can’t be blamed for a lack of trying.  I can’t claim ignorance, so I’m among the worst of the damned in the eyes of some.  I started out believing, right up until I got a less than satisfactory answer to the doctrine of ignorance and original sin and salvation.  I came from an abusive home, and obsessed over fairness since punishment in my home was often disproportionate and arbitrary.  It was at that moment I recognised God as he’d been described as an abusive parent.  I could not believe that such a being as my stepfather ran the universe, or rather one so apparently powerless as my mother stood by and allowed suffering and death.  I was eight.  This was the beginning of my doubts.  I realized that the people claiming to know God’s will were like me claiming to know when I’d be yanked out of bed over a dirty dish, or yelled at for literally doing nothing. Whatever there was, they had no idea when it would act or why.   

My doubts continued as I watched first Carl Sagan talk about how large and grand the universe really was.  So much more than the pamphlet of Genesis.  And watching the Amazing Randi on Johnny Carson taught me critical thinking and how easily we can deceive ourselves.  So by the time I was thirteen, and had been through Catholic school for a year, having given it every opportunity, I realized that religion’s primary answer was not one of comfort, but rather “stop asking questions.”

It was the final straw.  I realized my greatest joys had come from researching problems and learning things when I started wondering and asking questions.  Every religion – every one – eventually took refuge behind the same curtain as the wizard, yelling not to look, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. The greatest sin of every religion is doubt, also known as blasphemy or apostasy.  This is why I am an atheist.  Because I don’t want my children’s future artificially constrained by people who, like me as a child, mistakenly believe they can influence something by ritual behavior and understanding transgression.  I would rather they have a future when inquiry isn’t punished or artificially constrained and where ignorance isn’t lauded as a virtue and simultaneously promised punishment with an eternity of damnation. 

Patrick Kelley


  1. says

    “The greatest sin of every religion is doubt” — and the greatest virtue is always obedience. Blind, unquestioning obedience, to whatever the authoritarians tell you. Just look at the conflict between the nuns and bishops in the Catholic church right now.

  2. Tâlib Alttaawiil (طالب التاويل) says

    excellent post.

    god as an abusive parent, & simultaneously impotent. very true.

  3. Azuma Hazuki says

    You said a mouthful there. Especially the bit about an abusive parent. I also grew up, though to a far lower extent than you did, with an abusive parent, so the constant gaslighting and emotional abuse of religion actually felt normal.

    You also raise the point that Yahweh is impotent, another interesting observation, and one that squares well with most abusive people: impotence of some kind or another. They rage. They are angry. They take out their mediocrity or worse on others still weaker than they are.

  4. Brian says

    I realized that religion’s primary answer was not one of comfort, but rather “stop asking questions.”

    Nail. On the head. That’s what you just hit.

  5. stonyground says

    The point about not asking questions made me think of Victorian atheist Charles Bradlaugh. Had he gone to a church that had a more intelligent vicar, he might have become a vicar himself and, considering his intelligence, risen quite high within the Anglican Church. When he took confirmation classes he took the whole thing very seriously, avidly studying the New Testament. Of course he then found that the NT was full of absurdities and contradictions. When he asked the vicar to explain these problems, the vicar, unable to, flew into a rage and denounced him as being the spawn of the devil.

    Bradlaugh went on to found the National Secular Society, which is politically active to this day, and to become Britain’s first openly atheist MP. For his entire life he was a thorn in the side of the Anglican Church. Along with Annie Besant, he successfully campaigned to have information about contraception made freely available to the masses.