Why I am an atheist – Scott Taylor

The story of my current atheism and rationalism begins when I was a child; I was raised with no mention of religion and I still do not know my mother’s religious or irreligious views, I was thus left unexposed to any religion which was stated as fact for my early life. Even when I began primary school I did not know a thing about Christianity or any of the other major religions of the world today. In fact the first religion I had any understanding of was the polytheistic religion of the ancient Egyptians. This knowledge was the first time I had encountered religion; it is also worthwhile noting that I cannot quite remember what exactly I thought of it outside of the various gods looked “cool”. I learned a great deal about ancient Middle Eastern history and in particular Egypt from a wonderful set of children’s history books which my school library possessed. I read and reread continuously; absolutely enthralled by both the literary and visual content of these books. However I digress.

I was first exposed to a religion treated as though it were fact as opposed to simply a cultural belief of past times by ancient peoples (like the ancient and long defunct religions were detailed in the books in persistently read) when I was either 8 and a half or 9 years old through what was in my primary school called R.E (Which stood I believe for religious education); a program which when I and my brothers went to school ran and essentially taught you the main events detailed in the bible (Both Old and New Testament). I cannot remember what my initial thoughts were and it is unlikely that I had any of significance due to my complete ignorance of all religion with some exceptions. I cannot remember exactly what was taught during the first lesson of this class however during the second lesson the old woman who taught R.E told the story of Noah’s Flood, according to this absurd story only eight people existed in the world at 2400 BC or thereabouts. I did not quite understand how this was possible because the existence of the Egyptians and Sumeria and other neighboring states definitely had more than eight people because otherwise how were there empires existing at that time and even being formed shortly after this date. This realization lead me to interrupt and state that it’s not possible for there to only be eight people left in the world because Egypt and Sumeria had lots of people. I was politely told that in order to speak I must raise my hand and wait my turn, I thus did so and was promptly ignored which prompted me to interrupt and ask the same question/statement. This generally defiance lead my regular teacher to ask me to either stop being rude or leave. I refused and said I wanted to know the answer to my question. This ultimately lead me to end up outside in the bag area for the duration of the lesson and for the weekly lessons as I refused to not interrupt and ask “rude” questions. This first experience of religion left what was undoubtedly a bad impression and lead me to formulate the opinion that R.E was a dumb class with no point; the motivation for this view mainly being spite from her refusal to let me point out that there wasn’t eight people in the world at any point around 2400 BC.

This general disagreement with R.E lead me to end up being excluded for the several years which this program ran due to the fact that I persistently complained about the various absurdities which became more obvious as I grew older and my knowledge of history increased. By this point I was around 11-12 years old and was an agnostic (Although I didn’t know the word to describe myself at the time) having thought about the idea of a god I couldn’t think of any good reasons for one even though I couldn’t think of any really against either since I had never read anything on the subject and my opinions on the matter at this point in my life were based on nothing more than my own thoughts. My skepticism of not only the bible which had been present since I had first learnt of it continued and grew greater as I entered my teens. By the time I was around 13 I had decided that there was no need for a god and that it is beyond unreasonably improbable for a theistic god such as that of Christianity to exist given the bible’s superb rate of managing to detail supposedly huge events that never occurred as well as the numerous paradoxes and problems that result from this god supposedly being benevolent, omnipotent and omniscient. Furthermore I decided in my early teenage years that any god is neither needed for the world to exist nor is it likely as nothing in this world that we have observed is impossible without a deity.

This view and my atheism holds stronger than ever now several years after I first came to the idea that I am an atheist. Reason and logic compel me to disavow the theistic god’s of our world’s major religions on the basis of the paradoxes and problems raised by their qualities such as in the case of Yahweh; a benevolent being who created a system in which souls are supposedly created WITH the knowledge of this being that they will commit acts which will get then sent unto a place of eternal torture? Which benevolent being creates a system of such barbarity that is akin to Hitler breeding Jews simply so that the SS could kill them? Additionally the extraordinary track record of failure on material matters that are testable by science that is possessed by all major religions that make claims in regards to the material world (and only world); the supposedly flawless and ever-truthful fairy tale known as the Qur’an says a great flood occurred yet this did not happen nor did the great exodus of the Jews from Egypt as detailed in the Old Testament.

Even a deistic god falls in the face of reason for the absence of any reason or necessity for such a being and the burden of proof alone are more than enough to fell such an idea and quite frankly there is nothing more beautiful and spectacular than the wonder of nature and a world so beautiful and grand; nothing greater than not living in fear of cosmic tyrants or eternal torment but simply living for ourselves and those we love today in the magic of reality.

Scott Taylor

Why I am an atheist – Kirsten Seymour

I grew up in a largely secular household. Although I was christened in the Anglican church, my exposure to religious ideas was limited to a children’s book of bible stories (from my grandmother), occasional visits to church (when my parents were out of town and I had to stay with gran), and a week every summer spent at church camp. The bible stories I treated just as that – even from an early age, I recognized them as stories only. My occasional church visits I found entirely boring and I don’t remember ever actually listening to anything that was said.

Church camp was probably the most influential religious experience I had. I should say that I only ever went to church camp because there was always a week in the summer where my mom went out of town and my dad worked and my parents thought it would be best to send me off to camp with other kids. There were very few (if any) live-in summer camps in our area that weren’t run by churches, and my parents were of the opinion that a week of religion wouldn’t kill me. For the most part they were right. There was the one summer where a scheduling conflict forced them to send me to a Pentecostal camp instead of the Anglican camp that I usually went to. Pentecostal camp featured 4 hours of church every day, which included adults speaking in tongues and performing “miracles” on demand, and lots of kids with their hands in the air, crying (literally) for Jesus. I remember being bitter that I wasn’t allowed to listen to my new Natalie Cole cassette tape because it wasn’t about God. I found that camp creepy, and my mom was pretty shocked by the stories I told when I came home. Needless to say, I never went there again. The Anglican camp was better. There was always some sort of short service each day (usually held outside in a little clearing in the forest), but for the most part we played games, sang songs, swam in the ocean and did normal kid stuff. I enjoyed camp, and it gave me the impression that believing in God wasn’t all that bad. I enjoyed the camaraderie with other kids and the feeling that we were all a part of something.

In all my life, I don’t remember ever having a fervent belief in God. I thought it was tradition to be a part of a religion, but I didn’t realize that you had to actually believe in it. As a teenager, I started to philosophize on religion and what I really believed. At first, I came up with the argument that “god” or “gods” were present in all societies around the world, so maybe there was something to it. But I didn’t think that any one religion had it right. I guess this was my phase of “spirituality” where I thought there might be some higher being, but I couldn’t subscribe to any one belief system. In university, I spent a weekend at a friend’s house and devoured the book “Conversations with God”, which is written on the premise that the author is actually able to communicate with God, and God explains why there are all these contradictions in the world – why babies die, why some parts of the world experience extreme poverty and suffering while others were relatively prosperous, why God doesn’t show himself. I thought the book made some sense, and I remember thinking that if there was a God, I’d like to think that he’d be practical and merciful like the author of that book explained. Of course, I realized that the book didn’t jive with any religious doctrine that I knew of, so I was back to thinking that there might be something out there, but no religion had it right.

I think that my “spirituality” dissolved gradually through university as I strengthened my science muscles. I took a class as an elective towards the end of my B.Sc. that focused on society and the environment. The class was full of hippies and “spiritual” folks who had an idealistic view that “alternative reasoning” could solve all the world’s problems – I would have fit right in during high school. In the course, I heard the argument all the time that “if we just let go of our western ideals and ways of thinking and take a holistic approach to environmental management, we’ll save the environment”. Nobody ever explained what that meant. Meanwhile, I’d spent 2 summers as a research assistant investigating how land use affected fish populations in different regions of the province, and finding that the “doom and gloom” opinion that most environmentalists had regarding logging and the environment didn’t apply to all ecosystems. I was thinking critically, investigating claims, and finding that science had more answers to everything. I think it was around this time that I ditched the idea of a god entirely. In the same way that I couldn’t envision how “non-Western thinking” could solve the world’s environmental problems, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of a man in the sky, responsible for everything, meting out vengeance on anyone who didn’t blindly believe in his glory. Even “spirituality” seemed silly and childish – I was fed up with woo, “alternative thinking”, eastern/western reasoning, etc.. In the end, it all comes down to facts, and the fact is that no higher being has ever presented me with a single reason to believe he exists.

I’m still an environmentalist, but instead of standing in a cutblock, smoking weed and chained to a tree, I’m actively involved in the science that goes towards managing environment effectively for everyone. And instead of hanging out in a coffee shop discussing god, spirituality, and the driving force behind nature, I’m discussing with everyone who will listen the reasons why I’m an atheist.

Kirsten Seymour

Why I am an atheist – Dave

Because a bar mitzvah’s timing coincides with, what was at least for me, the age I began to think.

Born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1968 to a fairly liberal Jewish family I accepted God’s reality, not out of fear like many, but because my parents gave me no reason not to trust them. I attended a Jewish school and learned all the nice parts of the Torah.

At my ten year mark, my recently divorced mother took me to live in Liverpool, England where she’s found love in a new husband. This is when she started getting more serious about her faith. I attended a new Jewish school and regular services at an orthodox synagogue. Jewish studies, like math, and yes, even biology was more tiresome than anything else; I was more interested in playing with Lego and Action Man.

For my twelfth birthday I got a year’s worth of bar mitzvah lessons. I had to go over to a local rabbi’s kitchen once a week to practice singing the Torah passage that I’d be reciting a year later when I officially became a man. Months go by and I see some of my friends go through their ceremonies. I’m paying more attention than ever before because I’m nervous. I’m not looking forward to having to perform in front of a crowd, and I hadn’t discovered the courage found in booze yet. I began noticing that the congregation wasn’t filled with worshippers, but rather with braggarts, opportunists and xenophobes disguised as worshippers. The women on the separate, upper balcony were always wearing new outfits with matching hats and purses and very few of them paid any attention to the service. The men, between seemingly sincere head bobbing prayerful moments talked about their businesses, their cars, and how awful those damn ‘Muslims’, ‘Christians’ or whoever the villains of the day in the Jewish press were. I notice also that the boys who were turning thirteen before me weren’t changing. They weren’t becoming more mature, more responsible?

Meanwhile, every Wednesday, over at the rabbi’s house I sat and read and re-read the same passage with him over and over while his well meaning wife fussed over me with stale biscuits and weak, cold tea. It was during these sessions that I began to actually think about all this, to look up at the empty sky and ask questions.

How would reading a passage I hardly understood transform me into a man?

Who was this God that I’d been told so much about, and why did he no longer perform these miracles he was so famous for?

How are the people that hang out at the synagogue on Saturdays better than anyone else?

That was the clincher.

So I’m told not to trust the kids that moved down the street because they’re Arabs, or not to speak to those kids on the other side of the beach when I was on vacation because they’re Germans.

Apparently I belong to the ‘chosen people.’

It made no sense.

It took just a few weeks of internal turmoil before I accepted that my parents and all who came before were basically well meaning but deluded and poisoned.
I kept my new found atheism mostly to myself at first, only casually bringing up the conversation with friends to test the waters. I came out to my mother in my late teens and got pretty much the same reaction that my gay friends got from their parents. “It’s s phase, you’ll get over it.”

I didn’t become militant about it until I left high school, but that was when I’d landed in Texas for University so it felt a lot like pissing up-wind but that was ok, the girls loved my accent. For most of my 20s and part of my 30s I’ve felt that the opportunity for a global awakening and a better society through the unshackling of the religious mind via the spread of scepticism leading to atheism was too fleeting to ponder as there just weren’t enough people making an impact. Until recently I had little hope.

Now I’m ever so grateful because along came the internet, yourself, the four horsemen and this growing movement. I’m not expecting Americans or Afghans to tear down all their churches or mosques quite yet, but I have hope. I’m connecting with friends from high school who tell me they’ve recently dropped their Judaism. These would be the people who thought I was just being rebellious as a teenager.

Thanks you for being part of something great PZ, please keep chipping away at the bastards.


Oh … and ok, I admit, I think biology is pretty fucking cool after all.

Why I am an atheist – Sara Mallory

I grew up in a nominally Christian home. My parents took us to a United church for a few years when I was very young. Every Sunday we were expected to put money in an envelope as a donation. I like to think that my parents stopped going to church because of the constant requirement for donations. After we stopped attending church we never really discussed religion. I never questioned it, I never knew there were other religions, and I never knew atheism was an option. I live in Canada and we don’t wear our religion on our sleeves for the most part, so I was never exposed to anything outside of that early childhood experience in church. I went to a Catholic highschool, mainly because it was close to my house and the uniform made dressing on a daily basis easy for me. I always felt silly attending the monthly masses and saying the lord’s prayer. It was like wearing an uncomfortable pair of pants. I felt awkward and ridiculous.

Enter the internet. This was back in the day when blogs were scarce and websites were hosted on geocities. It was through the internet that I discovered paganism. I thought this was the coolest religion ever. Everything about it appealed to me, the connection with nature, the “magic”, and all of the accessories. I bought lots of books (which I still own if anyone wants to buy them off me!), printed off lots of spells from websites, and bought various knickknacks. But yet again I felt awkward and ridiculous performing the various rites. I was so disappointed, I tried and tried for years to make it all work. I thought believing in something was the default position. Everyone (or so I thought) believed in something. Why couldn’t I?

Enter the internet yet again. Surprisingly I still believed that something was wrong with me up until quite recently. In my late 20s I joined a website called Ravelry. This website is mainly about knitting, but has forums for pretty much every topic. It was on this website that first encountered truly scary religious people. I was shocked at what some people believed. How could people be so hateful? But it was also through this website that I met the people that debated with these scary religious people, and it was through them that I discovered the Atheist and Agnostic Crafters group. For the first time in my life I discovered that it was OK to not be religious. You can imagine the relief I felt to discover I wasn’t abnormal.

So, for me, it was never about the science. I’ve always loved science and it never occurred to me that religion and science were related in anyway. It was simply discovering that it is OK to not be religious, and then take the next step from there to Atheism. It’s been a wonderful experience for me. I have gained an even greater fascination and appreciation of how wonderful the universe is.

Sara Mallory

Why I am an atheist – Jim Mader

During my weekly jaunt to the grocery store, I was standing outside looking at all the fresh produce. Veggies and fruits arranged in slanted baskets with brilliant colors of red apples, yellow grapefruits, green peppers, orange…..oranges. A sight for the eyes. It kind of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.

Picking through the star fruit and kiwi’s (I’m making fruit salsa today) I hear a voice from behind me. The words are slurred and full of saliva. “R’s” are pronounced “W”, and “S’s” are “Th’s”. It’s the voice of a mentally handicapped man. He’s every bit of forty years old. (my age) His left arm curled to his chest, hand clenched around what appears to be one of those Beenie Babies.

“Hello, a-aa-Apple Man.” He says to me while wiping his chin with the back of his hand. “You lookin’ for apples?”

“Yes, and some other fruit.” I responded. “What are you going to get.”

“I’m going to b-bb-buy a sucker. Cherry. They have the b-bb–best cherry suckers in the whoooole world!” the handicapped man-child says with excitement.

“They DO?” I say, “Well, I’ll have to buy one and try it.”

“Y-yy-you s-ss-should….they cost 205 dollars! Mom gives me the money.”

“Awesome!” I exclaim. “Where’s your mom now?”

“S-ss-she had a t-tt-tumor on her head and died.”
At this point, I realize that this man-child is a ward of the state. Too “young in the mind” to hold a job or live on his own without assistance. This simple minded man is alone. He is most definitely frustrated. And I feel like in a way, we are one. I think about this in a brief moment of silence. Man-child notices.
“W-ww-watcha thinking about, Apple Man?”

“I like you.” I tell him in an attempt to help him feel ‘normal’ (how many of us are actually ‘normal’?) what are you doing after you buy the sucker?”

“G-gg-gonna go walk to Scoreboards and water the flowers. They give me ONE DOLLAR for every pot!” Man-boy announces with the pride of someone with a high paying job.
“A dollar, huh? That’s good money if you ask me. Listen, I want you to help me pick out some fruit. Can you do that?’

“S-ss-sure, Apple Man. I can do that. But it’ll cost you a d-dd-dollar.”

This man-boy is fucking smarter than I thought. “I’ll tell you what. You pick me out a coupe of really red apples, one green one, and a pear and I’ll give you FIVE dollars.”

“FIVE DOLLARS?!?!? You must be a d-dd-doctor!”

His saying this as though I had some sort of high profile employment reminded me of my own children when they would look under the grass of their Easter baskets to find the money the bunny left them (An old tradition of ours) Back then a QUARTER was treasure. With a quarter, my children thought they could buy anything their grubby little hands could point at.

“No,” I say. “I’m a carpenter.”

“L-ll-like Jesus!” he observes.

(He doesn’t realize the irony in this assessment.) “Yeah, like Jesus.” I affirm.

I hand Man-Boy a couple of bags and tell him to make sure the red apples go into one bag and the green in another. He asks me what to do with the pear, and I tell him to get it last and that we didn’t need a bag. He hands me his Beenie Baby and walks over to the racks of fruit.

One by one, Man-Boy picks up an apple, carefully examines it, smells it. He turns it left. Right. Upside down. Man-Boy holds it up to me for approval and I nod. “That’s a FINE apple. We’ll take it.” Gleefully, he places it in the bag and grabs another, examining it, smelling it, etc. Each piece of fruit he selects, he holds sup for me to give a nod. A few have obvious bruises on them and are rejected.

“It’s ok, little apple, someone hungrier than Apple Man will buy you.” he says as he delicately places the bruised apple at the top of the slanted basket so someone (in his mind) would be sure to select it first. Even an inanimate object holds some sort of importance to him. Maybe he’s just smart enough to know what rejection really means.
After all of our fruit is picked. (I ended up letting him select the rest of the ingredients–pineapple, mango, strawberries, a lime, a jalepeno pepper and a few stalks of cilantro) I ask him if he wants to push my cart into the store so I could pay. This seems to make him feel very important, and again I am reminded how my children used to fight over who could push the cart in the grocery store.

At the register, Man-Boy places each bag of fruit onto the belt with the care of a surgeon. Each item is weighed, and my total comes to around $20 or so. I can see the display where the best cherry suckers are and I tell Man-Boy I’d gladly pay for his sucker.

“Thanks, Apple Man.” He says.

I think about how his life must have been. I think about how his mother was probably his only care-giver up until she died from that damn tumor “on her head.” I wonder how he manages to go on from day to day. But I realize, he doesn’t know any better. To him, relying on the kindness of others and the care of probably some sort of nurse is just a part of everyday life. I wonder what it must be like to merely EXIST.

I realize that this simple man’s face brightens every time he smiles. Even with his crooked teeth that are a result of his swollen tongue. The Man-Boy is full of light. He doesn’t “merely EXIST.” the Man-Boy LIVES. He inspires. (Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog)

I tell him to meet me outside, and that I’ll give him another dollar if he loads the bags into my truck. As soon as I see he has left the building to wait for me, I grab EVERY FUCKING CHERRY SUCKER that the store had and buy them. I tell the cashier to please place them in a separate bag. At least thirty of them. All the sticks poking through the plastic bag and it looks like some sort of giant Jack.

Outside, Man-Boy waits by my truck, and when I push the cart to him, he immediately loads each bag into the be of my pick-up.

When he finishes, I hand him five dollars and say “Thank you.”

Man-Boy is no idiot. He holds out his hand and says, “You o-oo-owe me another dollar for l-ll-loading your truck.”

Fucker is a businessman. I hand him the extra dollar I promised, and say, “Hey, you forgot about your sucker.”

He holds out his hand and I place the handles around his outstretched wrist.

“THANKS APPLE MAN!!!” He shouts and runs away like he just robbed a bank.

And off he went to where ever Man-Boys live and I’m pretty sure, that at this minute, he’s sitting on the floor counting and recounting his cherry suckers. The “b-bb-best” fucking Cherry suckers in the whole world.

What does this little story have to do with “why I am an Atheist?” When I was growing up in a Catholic home, we were told repeatedly that in order to ensure our place in Heaven, we had to do good because “God is watching.” After my father died, I began to question everything. The “Doing good because God is watching” was what stood out to me the most. WHY should I only do good because I am constantly being judged? I should be good for goodness’ sake.

If the God I was raised to believe in was all-loving, why do we suffer? Why do the helpless lose someone close to something as horrible as a brain tumor?

If I pray for something and it is not received, then why did Jesus say, “You have not because you ask not?”

If God GAVE us free will and expects us to use it, why would I be condemned to hell for not believing in him? (He would understand that I “freely” used his gift to come up with my own conclusions.) These were the thoughts of a child. In adulthood, once I actually began to enjoy reading, the lack of anything concrete in evidence of a deity and the science backing reality, pushed me further and further away from the desert god of my father. It’s not just the science behind reality, it’s the lack of anything outside that science that guides MY “free will” to be a better person for myself, my children, and perfect strangers I meet along my life’s path.

To “be good for God” has no meaning for me. I am good because I am a Human being who knows how to BE Human.

Jim Mader
United States

Why I am an atheist – Peter Wagenaar

I’m an atheist because I see no reason not to be. There is no compelling evidence for the existence of God(s) – and an awful lot to the contrary. Added to which, I don’t need “God” – whatever that really means – to validate the life I have now. Its worth is also not dependent on a future eternal after-party at what you once described so beautifully as a “Disneyland in the sky for dead people”.

I’ve often joked that after 2000+ years and any number of ‘second coming’ predictions, we can safely assume that Jesus is a ‘no show’. But maybe the following innocent comment from my three-year-old niece shows up the sheer ridiculousness of religious belief better than any lengthy treatise I might write: “Why do we have to pray? Doesn’t Jesus have a phone?”

Peter Wagenaar
South Africa

Why I am an atheist – Sophie Davis

Am I an atheist? I guess I am, I have never defined myself and put it in a box, but I guess when an opportunity arises… I am a non believer, that’s to say my thoughts are justified by evidence and theory that, to the best of my knowledge explains the truth. As a child I believed in Santa and the tooth fairy and God. .. Not because of my parents, who are distinctly non-religious. I believed, simply because I thought ‘why not?’ Perhaps I wouldn’t have ever known about God was it not for my Church of England schooling, where prayer and bible studies were a common occurrence. As I grew and with it my curious mind, I began to ask why? And How? And what is the evidence for this? My parents never pressured me to be an atheist but instead encouraged me to question and take nothing for granted. As I questioned the less convinced I became and in the blink of an eye my religious phase was over and in its place a much more long lasting love that has lasted to this day. Science, one great adventure that will take a lifetime to learn.

I will always remember a conversation I had with a Mormon at University, out on one of their recruiting missions. He asked me ‘do you pray?’ I replied ‘no’ to which he said ‘How do you know what God has planned for you? And what the point of your life on earth is?’ I explained to him that I did not long for an inherent purpose to my life and any purpose made would be my own. I told him I was a scientist and that understanding everything in life from the behaviour on animals to the orbit of the planets was my life’s work, and that from each piece of knowledge I gained I found great contentment in life. After a little pause he told me he was happy for me. I felt great sadness, that he would not appreciate the great contentment found in the facts of science and nature and instead would lead a life in fear of God.

I live my life knowing it’s the only one I will have and I live it to the full. I guess that makes me lucky, lucky not to be indoctrinated into a way of life or follow unquestioningly something that is taken on blind faith. I love to live and I live to love. Through great chance this planet has come into existence. Through great chance this planet has evolved to sustain life, through great chance I was one of the millions of possibilities my parent’s genes would mix to make me. Through great chance I was born into a family that does not practice brain washing. By great CHOICE I became an atheist, and that makes me…. one of the lucky ones.

Sophie Davis
United Kingdom

Why I am an atheist – Robert Light

I’m an atheist because I was born that way.

My parents were not church-goers, but I was christened in the local Church of England, because that’s what my family did. My mother, in particular, was quite happy for me to be given enough information about the church to “make up my own mind”. When I was old enough, I went to Sunday School. I don’t remember particularly liking it or disliking it, but I didn’t have to go too many times before my parents let me stop.

I remember being given a illustrated book of Bible stories when I was about 8 or 9. I liked the stories, and read them a few times. But all the time, I had this feeling that said: “But it’s not true. It’s just made up. Why would people believe in this?”

When I got to be a teenager, I had a small Pascal-style crisis of faith (not that I had heard of Pascal, of course). I wondered to myself about what would happen if I was wrong. If there was a God, and I did not worship Him, I would go to hell. Hell was pretty scary. So I considered going to church and going through all the right motions. But I couldn’t. I figured that I just plain didn’t believe, and if a God existed, he would see through any pretend worship. So I decided to just go ahead living without God – because what else could I do?

I worried less and less about it, but it took me until my early twenties until I finally got rid of the last vestiges of doubt. That happened when I was speaking with an atheist guy I worked with about life after death. He brought up the topic of religious belief in the afterlife, and I jokingly said something about “just in case they’re right”. He looked at me and said, “No – they’re wrong.”

Something clicked when he said that, and I realised that of course “they” are wrong and “we” are right.

Now, I can back up my feelings with all sorts of logic and rationality, and lots of information that I have learned at Pharyngula and through the writing of Dawkins, Hitchens and so on. But I still think that I was just plain born as a non-believer.

Robert Light

Why I am an atheist – Kristen G

When I was 13 years old and still interested in being a good
Presbyterian, I came across a few issues with my Bible that no one was
willing to discuss with me. I kept finding lines telling me that I was
inferior to men, that I should submit to their instructions and
desires, that I should accept and learn from my father’s or my
husband’s punishments, like a child should from its parents and a
slave should from its master. I told my youth group leader I could
never tolerate that, that no man would ever be the boss of me and
would certainly never punish me. If I ever got married it would be as
an equal partner in a loving, mutually-respectful pairing, and I would
file for divorce at the first inkling that my husband thought our
family had a hierarchy. He tried to pull the same old bullshit that
you hear again and again–yes, wives are to submit to their husbands
and men are the default heads of households, but husbands are required
to love their wives as Jesus loved the church, so see, it’s all fair.
Moreover, in the rearing of children it is necessary for someone to
have the final say in any decision, so see, you need your husband to
be in charge. I refused to accept that–I would never worship my
husband as the church worshipped Jesus, and didn’t think having a
willy justified the overturning of my own decisions–particularly if
my decision was better. I was eventually told “well too bad, that’s
God’s will,” to which I retorted “well I’m terribly sorry but God is

The realization that many religious rules were written for the express
purpose of repressing me unclouded my vision regarding the church.
After the credibility of their central text collapsed it was then
really only a matter of time before the rest of my mind found peace
and sense in atheism. I was doused in religion from infancy, and a
good deal of the bullshit regarding omniscient beings reading my every
thought had already taken hold. It was hard to shake free of this
Thoughtcrime training, and led me to feeling unhinged for many years.
I’m sure many would-be rationalists have eventually caved under the
nagging sensation that Santa Claus is reading along and does not
approve of what you’re thinking. Religion is brain damage, a type of
forced schizophrenia–church leaders carefully insert another voice in
your head to constantly judge you against their bizarre rubric. A
voice which can be difficult to silence until you learn that it is not
your conscience or the voice of God–it is a result of brainwashing,
and it should be a crime.

I met with plenty of resistance on my way out of religion–from
screaming matches with my mother to physical abuse from my father to
other children shunning me for my views on evolution, women’s rights
and contraception (this was South Carolina in the 90’s, after all). I
had always been an astronomy geek, and when I pointed out in school
that the mere existence of other galaxies pretty much debunked the
whole “our group of our species on our planet was created specially by
the master of the whole universe in his image” bupkis, I discovered
just what it feels like to be alone.

Even now, getting toward twenty years later, relations with my family
are strained. I moved to London in 2009, after spending an Erasmus
year in Canterbury in 2004 and discovering just how happy and sane
secular British society is compared to where I grew up. I’m engaged to
a man who never had to fight his way out of theism, something I’ve
always envied. He wasn’t rebelling or atheistic to be cool, as there
was no familial or cultural precedent for him to rebel against. The
issue just never came up. In his company (and country) I stopped
hearing the garbage, stopped having to fight for quiet from the
hate-based tribalism that chokes rational thought and prevents peace
among cultures. When my fiancé’s aunt asked if there were any nice
halls or historic buildings in our borough for us to get married in I
felt positively dizzy with happiness–no one assumed we were going to
a church, and no one expected us to do it “just to keep up
appearances”. For the first time, here in the UK, I’m not living a

I am free and it feels wonderful.

Ms. Kristen G

Why I am an atheist – Julia

For the first twelve years of my life, my mother frantically tried to bring me up in her Baptist church. She was elated that one of the first words I learnt to spell was “Jesus” at age 2. My father (who I found out to be an atheist last year) is a pilot and would conveniently bring me on fishing trips every few Sundays. It struck me as odd that he never had to go to church, but I didn’t really ask about it.

It wasn’t very long until I started questioning. When I was 5, my Sunday School teacher “disproved” the big bang by throwing a bunch of hard plastic animal toys into a plastic bag and shaking them up together. “See?” he said. “Everything is the exact same as when it went into the bag. This means that the only way the universe could have started was through god!”

Well, I was 5. It was the ’90s. I was irrevocably in love with Bill Nye. I told my Sunday School teacher that actually, no, he had done nothing to increase the entropy inside the bag, and how on earth can you perform nuclear changes by banging a bunch of polymers together?!

This would mark the first time I embarrassed my mother in church. I’m sure it wasn’t the last. There was so much they taught that just never made sense to me—How can everyone in heaven be happy if they know people they love are in hell? Why didn’t this all-powerful god hint to my aunt who died of rare duodenal cancer that she should get an endoscopy earlier? Moreso, why is this god such a jerk in general? Why is every religion “right”? What if religion is a farce and I waste my entire life—all that I have to live—following obscene rules instead of doing what I want? Why do these people say that without god, they would just be out raping and murdering all day? And why on earth do my Sunday School teachers keep telling me I’m going to burn in hell for listening to Queen?

By the time I was about 12, I didn’t have to go to church anymore. Whether news of my questions reached my mother and she decided I was too much of an embarrassment, or she decided that if church and years of bible camp couldn’t sway my mind, nothing would, I don’t know. I’m now involved in an atheist club in my university where I’m studying biochemistry—a combination she’s not pleased with, but has learned to accept.

So, why am I an atheist? Bill Nye helped me how to think and introduced me to science before my anyone else did. My childhood curiosity refused to take “Goddidit” as an answer. My amazement for the universe and how it works grows each year, and I refuse to stop at such superficial answers and instead look for the elegance of what truly goes on. I’m an atheist because I’ve always been an atheist, and can’t imagine being limited by believing in magical sky fairies.