Why I am an atheist – Ian Pulsford

I am an atheist for many reasons but I think the one that possibly sealed it from a young age happened one Sunday when I was a child.  The sunday school “teacher” asked all the kids present to write down the initials of the person who was their best friend on a piece of paper.  One by one we were asked to read out what they had written and one by one each and every one read out J C.  It happened that there was one girl there with the initials J C.

“Wow, she’s popular” I thought.  It came my time and I read out “T E”, my best friend at school at the time.  It seems J C was a different J C.  The sunday school teacher suggested that surely Jesus Christ was my best friend and to think of all the things he had done for me.

I probably looked a bit dubious as I nodded.  Anyway I spent some time after trying to think of all the things that J C had done for me and I could not think of any.  Thank you Mr sunday school teacher for helping me to begin thinking critically about religious faith.

I doubt I was in danger of becoming religious anyway, my father loved to argue with the Jehovah’s Witnesses when they came to the door.  My mother, who is private in her religious beliefs, only dragged us to church to please her mother.  I did spend a lot of time pondering the possibility of gods and called myself agnostic for a long time (in the original sense coined by Thomas Huxley).  I held off calling myself atheist because I had been reading advocates in newsgroups declaring with certainty that god didn’t exist.  To me that was as illogical as declaring that god did exist.  Hence why I settled on agnosticism for a while, not being able to “know”.  Eventually it just came down to probabilities and the realisation that atheism is simply a lack of belief in god(s).  And the multitude of other reasons… nonsense stories obviously concocted by humans, terrible persecutions carried out, ridiculous stretches of reality, laughable contradictions, etc.

Ian Pulsford


  1. says

    Well, if all people reflected truthfully an honestly on what JC really did for them, christianity would go the way of the Dodo pretty fast. Very nice story.

  2. WhiteHatLurker says

    I wonder how many of the “J.C.”s were actually for that girl in the group.

  3. a3kr0n says

    I remember in my Methodist Sunday school a substitute “teacher” was there one week and was ranting about repenting our sins or we’d go to Hell. You know, the Original Sin. I thought he was crazy because my mom and dad never mentioned that. How can I be at fault for something someone else did?
    Ironic story: Right now I’m sitting in an old nunnery with a Catholic school across the street, and a Catholic church behind me while I volunteer at the (now) homeless shelter run by a Catholic hospital. I wish it was run by A+

  4. Ogvorbis: faucibus desultor singulari says

    Maybe they all meant “Jimmy Carter” was their best friend?

  5. DLC says

    my mother’s initials were J.C. . . .
    I always knew all the things she did for me, and I was always thankful for them. I had no idea she was that important to all of Ian’s classmates in Sunday SchoolLiar’s Club.

  6. stonyground says

    It is interesting how often inept Sunday School teachers feature in these stories. I presume that what they were getting at was the idea that Jesus died for your sins. If they hadn’t managed to get this idea into the kids’ heads by this point then I suppose that they would find it a bit baffling. As I see it, Jesus can’t die for my sins unless he actually stays dead. Being dead between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning doesn’t really count. He was officially supposed to be dead for three days and three nights and couldn’t even get that right.

  7. tbp1 says

    @7. Yep. If the whole Jesus story is true, then not only did Jesus not really die, nobody really dies, ever.

    And while being flogged and crucified is pretty horrible, it’s a long way from uniquely horrible. The Romans executed thousands in that manner, and of course, Christians have a long history of torturing people over theological disputes. Many, many victims of the Inquisition suffered far longer and far worse than flogging and crucifixion.

    And of course, according to the myth, Jesus is now reigning in glory at the right hand of God (who is also himself, whatever that’s supposed to mean). I’ve pointed this out many times to believers, and asked exactly what WAS this sacrifice they keep talking about, and never gotten a coherent answer (I suspect because there isn’t one).

    As someone said, “Jesus had a really bad weekend for your sins.”

  8. says

    As someone said, “Jesus had a really bad weekend for your sins.”

    Brilliant, I am borrowing this.
    Sunday school does seem to prod the critical thinkers into questioning the whole religion thing. It did for me, on the few occasions my mom could drag me out of bed early sunday morning.

  9. robinjohnson says

    Nice story. It’s horrible that Sunday-school teachers can feel good about making kids feel bad for having a human best friend.

    It’s also weird that you can still be regarded as “private in your religious beliefs” if you expose children to indoctrination for the sake of avoiding a family argument.

  10. andyo says

    Fuck, it didn’t even have to be such a bad weekend. You’d have to be a pretty dumb omnipotent god to actually suffer. You just have to make people believe you suffered.

  11. gordona says

    Ah yes, My parents used to get my grandfather to drag us all off to Sunday school. Didn’t do much good but once I got a bit older I did wonder about their motivation for a kid-free Sunday morning. Probably the only positive use for religion I have come across.

  12. edmundog says

    My best friend when I was a kid was Joe Campbell, so I’d have done fine. And his family were Presbyterians, so they weren’t even at the same church. Scot free.

  13. flapjack says

    In fairness, JC was instrumental to me when it came to re-examining my faith- and by JC I mean John Cleese [and the rest of the Monty Python team]

  14. says

    we had the same exact reason for being reluctant to call ourselves atheist, down to almost the same wording (my why I am an atheist essay was published months ago), and it is a common misconception that I still find in many people today, with whom I tend to argue vigorously :)

    Thank you for sharing your story

  15. julietdefarge says

    I guess it’s no wonder that so many people think Christ is Jesus’ last name.