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From: "Rocky"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Some reading material
Date: January 01, 2004 1:12 AM

Here's a bit about me and my atheism:

I was raised a Baptist, but was never particularly devout. I went through a short period as a "born-again" Christian, but eventually came to the personal realization that the God of Christianity probably did not exist. The camel-back-breaking straw grew out of many conversations I had with a loose co-worker, an atheist -- primarily concerning the "problem of evil".

I began to refer to myself as an agnostic and gave the subject little thought for years. It took a protracted e-mail debate with a proselytizing, born-again Christian on the subjects of "evolution versus creationism" and "arguments for the existence of God" to solidify my lack of belief. As a side benefit, my research for the debate uncovered a "label" that applied almost perfectly -- Secular Humanist. I don't agree with all the tenets of Humanism (I'm pro-choice and a firm believer in the death penalty, for example), but the rest mirrors my personal philosophy very closely. "Freethinker" is another term with which I identify closely.

I've enjoyed debates, discussions, and "arguments" about religion. It has never been my specific intention to diminish the faith of those with whom I discuss it. I feel that any increase in knowledge and understanding is a "good" thing, and a successful argument can only serve to broaden, define, and bolster one's beliefs. Any type of blind faith is a bad thing.

Take care,
Rocky

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From: [unsigned]
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: January 01, 2004 10:16 AM

I began to doubt in the existence of a deity when I was about 9 years old. I had a friend of strict Baptist parents who would often "witness the good news," and he told me that I was going to burn in Hell if I didn't accept Jesus. He invited me to his church, and while in Sunday school, I was asked various questions on the Bible. I was "interrogated" by the Sunday school staff, and when they found out that I had not been baptized, they freaked. Yes, I was going to burn in Hell and so were my parents! The teachers even called my parents and chastised them for their irresponsibility. The thing that confused me the most, was the fact that since my family did not go to church, they were considered more evil than my friend's parents who beat the tar out of him when my friend didn't clean his room.

The older I got, the more I became interested in science and history. The very concept of God began to elude me. When my senior year of high school rolled around, I became very critical. I also began experimenting with different schools of thought which helped me to further my abhorrence. I would tune in to televangelists and laugh at their drivel and realize the sadness of the people who actually believed this trite BS. I was pissed at these so-called "men of god," who squeezed every cent out of those poor folks so they could "buy" their salvation. Nice fleet of limousines! What a beautiful twenty-room mansion on the hill! Spare no pity on the fool. Take him for everything he's worth.

When I was in my early twenties, I was into philosophy. I was fascinated with the concept of questions without answers. It led me to eastern religions, which I admired for a short time, but they still had little effect. Although, that does not go without saying that many of these thinkers had many a great thing to say.

There are profound and meaningful morals in all religious texts, but it's bogged down by irrational dogma which prevents me from having any relationship with any of them. The very concept of "GOD" is a pill I cannot swallow. I find it to be a lie. I feel that through experience, the more one understands the nature of things, the more one questions the existence of some higher power.

I feel that religion will slowly slip away through time. An afterthought of the human race, (if we don't destroy each other first because of it) we will move beyond the crutches of past mythologies and learn to truly stand erect.

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From: "Troy"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: January 08, 2004 5:29 PM

I remember the exact moment I lost my faith and took an atheist point of view toward things. First of all, I have thirteen years of private Catholic schooling -- not exactly an unbiased learning environment. I was on a retreat, and the teachers were trying to prove or demonstrate the "power" of God.

They were holding kid's arms and having them think of something sad. It turned out to be hard for the kids to resist. Then, the teachers would do it again, but have them think of God. Suddenly the kids were able to easily resist the restriction of the teachers. Then, I was only fifteen at the time, but I studied enough science to know that what they were demonstrating had nothing to do with God, and everything to do with the concept of muscle memory. It was a hoax, or as I like to call it, a flat out lie. It hit me, if religious people would lie about this, what was to stop them from lying about everything? To me, right then, the Church and religion in general had lost all credibility.

I'm nineteen now, my entire family sees me as the guy who "just doesn't get it." I can't remember the last time they called me by my name and not atheist. For Christmas, they blackmailed me into going to church. I sat there the entire time, respectful, but obviously not interested. Of course, afterward, I got a lecture on respect for not taking communion. To me, this is really what religion is: in one word -- anger.

So why am I an atheist? I've never had an atheist group tell me I'm not worthy, ask me for money, or impose rules of morality on me. But most importantly, I never heard an atheist lie to gain support. Which is more than I can say for Catholicism.

Troy

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From: "Lawrence Thompson"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: January 10, 2004 12:24 PM

Being in the Military, I started to see a similarity between reading the Bible and reading the regulation. When I retired from the Army, I realized that I didn't have to live according to the regulation. Somehow, I figured out that the "other regulation" no longer applied to me well.

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From: "Raymond Minton"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: January 16, 2004 8:35 PM

Hello, I thought I would add my De-Conversion story to the long list, but it is less De-Conversion than revelation. I had been an agnostic and a skeptic of biblical literalism since my early thirties. With time, and a chance to observe the appalling outrages of the world, I became a full-blown atheist. But, in point of fact, atheism is both emotional and cerebral. Since the universe is explicable in purely natural terms, there is no need to invoke the supernatural to explain it. That renders the concept of God superfluous. We have made God in our own image, and all the rituals, intolerance, outrages, and wars have been for naught. My idea of utopia is one I know I'll never see -- a humanist universe where people love one another as they claim to love God.

Sincerely,
Raymond Minton.

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From: "Anisha Narayan"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: January 27, 2004 4:21 AM

My story begins when I was about twelve or thirteen years old (as far as I can remember). I am from a Hindu, Indian family, but not very religious. We never went to the temple or attended any functions. (As much as I thank my parents for being that way, they beg to differ at times.)

It was when I started studying science in school that I began to wonder if "God", "supernatural or divine power" as some may call it, did exist. Since then, I always challenged Hindu beliefs of the existence of many gods and I eventually stopped believing in them by the time I was fifteen.

As I grew older, I decided to learn about other religions, particularly Christianity, since most of my friends were Catholic. There would constantly be clashes of opinions since I doubted their beliefs. They would say, "How can you not believe in God?" or "YOU ARE THE DEVIL!" etc. When a Catholic friend of mine read from the Bible (and I do not quote) they said that the day that Jesus would come alive from the dead, he would eliminate all those who were not Roman Catholics from the face of the earth. It struck me then that if God loved everyone and created everyone, then why would he (or she, for which there's no proof for that matter) kill them all? Also, if Christians believed in one god, why would there be so many different sects under Christianity? Why would there be so many religions? If God was kind and loved all people equally, why would he test people by making them attend masses and prayer meetings, go for pilgrimages, sacrifice themselves, hurt themselves, kill others, all for him? In the name of God and religion, people kill each other which is seen in the world today between Hindus and Muslims, Jews and Christians, rich and poor countries, castes, untouchables, superstition, hypocrisy, etc. It saddens me!

When I was seventeen, I became an undergraduate student of Life Sciences. Learning about the facts of life strengthened by atheist beliefs, and my arguments against theism too. Then I became a postgraduate student of Reproductive Sciences. There, I was learning the wonderful process of birth and the workings of the environment. A theist told me that it is just "God's way of pushing you off track so that you would come back and realize that he is the ultimate creator". Needless to say, science won me over.

Since then, I have achieved happiness, because I always given credit to myself for my hard work; and I tell people that it is not God who led me to where I am, but MY sincere efforts!

Telling my parents was never a problem (and I thank them for that), as long as I worked hard and truthfully towards my goals and ambitions. It did make me feel better that two other members of my family were atheists as well!

I believe that no god exists, and instead of people living in the dream world of theism, we should come together and work towards preventing wars, saving animals, and stop hurting the environment on to which we came into being.

Anisha Narayan

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From: "John Mills"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Date: February 05, 2004

Greetings!

I am happy to say that I had no religion to deconvert from. My parents took me to church exactly one time, to have me baptized in the family's Lutheran tradition. They did this mostly to appear "normal" to the rest of the family.

My mother considered herself a non-denominational Christian, but seems to be a deist. My father was always very dodgy about what he believed, but also seemed to be a deist. They agreed early on that it was wrong to force any kind of religious belief upon an unsuspecting child, and for that I am eternally grateful. When we were old enough to notice that we didn't go to church (like so many of our friends), they gave us a couple of things to say should the subject of "so, what religion are you?" should ever come up.

1. "I'm non-denominational." This works well on other kids who don't know big words.
2. "That's none of your business." It's a bit snippy, but still good.

When they considered us to be old enough to make our own spiritual decisions, they made it quite clear that we could attend any church we wanted to, with their full support. We were told, "you pick the church, and we'll be glad to go with you." My younger sister attended a Lutheran church for a while, but didn't last too long. I think I stopped believing in God around the same time I figured there was no Santa Claus.

By the time I was a teenager, I was watching TV preachers for laughs. My teen years I discovered and fell in love with amateur astronomy. Spending cold nights looking through my telescope in the back yard was the only spiritual experience I ever needed. I quickly came to the conclusion that the god my friends worshipped was simply too small and insignificant to have created the universe that I glimpsed on those nights of wonder and discovery.

When I got to college, I experienced the thrill of preachers and student Christian groups trying to suck me in to the evil vortex of their world. Their arguments and preaching fell on deaf ears, and it was around this time I realized what a gift my parents had given to me. These spiritual vultures would prey upon unsuspecting young adults and play upon the fears instilled by the years of religious indoctrination most of them had been through. It was pretty common from what I'd seen that these kids would rebel against authority and stop going to church during their teenage years, yet the programming was still there, waiting for the "Christian Fellowship" people to access it and start the exploitation all over again.

I had no such programming, and it confounded these preachers to no end! I was never taught to fear any god or any consequence of not believing. As such, any appeal to fear crashed uselessly against my secular upbringing. Watching these preachers prey upon my friends, screw with their emotions, and exploit their fears just to gain another "born again" chum made me sick to my stomach, and forever cemented my lack of belief in any god.

Thank you for your site,

John Mills

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From: "Devin"
To: "Positive Atheism"
Date: February 06, 2004

"It is said that the truth will make men free. Truth alone has never set men free. It is the wonderful element of DOUBT that does so. Otherwise the doorway through which truth passes would be forever closed, impervious to even the most strenuous poundings of a thousand Lucifers."

Anton LeVey
-- The Satanic Bible

I de-converted because Christianity has done irreparable damage to my psyche. I was a largely healthy kid living in an idyllic little California town prior to when I got one of those Bibles handed to me outside school so many years ago, but that was then and this is now. I became convinced of the infallibility of the Bible and reluctantly accepted Jesus Christ because I was afraid I would be destroyed in Hell. "Fear him who can kill the body AND soul" or something like that. I saw Satan everywhere within my mind and became convinced because I lived in liberal Southern California that the world was turning into the second Sodom and Gomorrah and that the End Times and the lake of fire were soon at hand. Things got worse when I read that horror show The Final Battle by the same fundamentalist guy who wrote The Late Great Planet Earth. Fortunately for me I don't remember his name.

Of course the timing couldn't have better for this kind of insanity. It was the year 1999. Who knew what in the hell was about to happen on the eve of New Years Eve? Me and an equally brainwashed friend fell in with the lunacy of the times and became kind of like Survivalists. We believed firmly that the world was going to come to a crashing apocalyptic end and we were organizing plans to deal with the hordes that surely would rise after the Rapture. (We didn't EVER imagine ourselves as being a part of the Rapture. We were too sinful and would surely have to pass through the Tribulations first.) We trained in martial arts, stockpiled food and without much luck, we tried to recruit a deranged gun nut to back us since we were sixteen and couldn't buy guns legally (we almost got shot for it too). We foresaw the gangs taking power in the city as soon as the rule of law would come crashing down on January 1, 2000, the battle for the city would begin. Our plan was to get firearms from the sporting goods store in the Mall in the 2000 anarchy and then begin building our personal post apocalyptic empire. We would start small, recruit people, battle the heathen gang members and then head on to the Middle East to fight Satan himself in Armageddon. Of course I had doubts and hated every day that I lived that life, but at that point, I was too much of a coward to go with them.

Yeah, sounds pretty weird on paper, but it was a lot weirder to live it. A lot of the thoughts I had then didn't make sense either, but I figured it was better to live in this insanity rather then the run the risk of being wrong and be put to the torch. It was here that I began to hate the Christian concept of God. What the hell was his problem anyways? Why did he so insist on inflicting torture upon a race of mortals completely powerless against his bullying? I started to think of him as a sadistic ten-year-old boy pulling the wings off of flies.

Then, halfway through spring semester, I moved away to the desert wasteland I now inhabit (the price of living in SoCal growing too high for my dad) and this was the beginning of the slow end of my fundamentalism. I came back to SoCal for New Years Eve 2000 and anticipated the end of the world come midnight. Then news started coming in saying that half the world had passed into 2000 without any incident. At midnight the loudest fireworks display I've ever heard roared over Santa Barbara, it was so loud that I thought for a few seconds that it was the trumpet of Gabriel and that all the Armageddon prophecies were about to come true, but it was just fireworks.

But it didn't die there, it just weakened a little. Fundamentalism did not give me up easily. In my new town, I made an effort to try to normalize myself as I was getting tired of being picked on for having weird beliefs (in retrospect, a lot of people were probably scared of the madness that was almost dripping from me in '99) and I wanted to be liked. So I created a whole new image, joined the team and cleaned up my appearance a bit, all of which helped my self-esteem, but also helped keep my religious zealotry alive. There were quite a bit of religious references made in football practice and before games, we always had this big team prayer thing. I can remember that I believed in what was being said then as truth, though I was no actively longer inspired by talk of God.

There were still a few moments of terror though. Like stumbling across a website that supposedly gave "a guided tour of Hell" and other uber nutjob sites like that. But my renewed zealotry did not hold for long. I grew angry and mean. I didn't disbelieve in God's existence, but I no longer supported Him. I hated God with every fiber of my body, mind and soul. He was a cosmic sized bully teasing me every chance He got, toying with me until one day the cat would grow tired of playing with the mouse and eat it. God became my enemy. I loathed God so much that I decided even if He existed I would not serve Him, for He burned people alive and would someday destroy our whole world save for a handful of selected assholes like Farawell and Robinson.

The hate towards the Punisher in the sky was the best thing that ever happened to me in terms of mental health. I took the plunge and decided that if God hated me for the sinful nature He created me with in the first place, then I was going on to the other side. I bought the Satanic Bible and read it in one sitting. I never felt so healthy and happy in all my life. I also learned that devil worship does not exist from this, as the Satanic Church says that people should worship themselves and not some imaginary God being. It also introduced me into the simple truth "If God is real, then why do so many horrific things happen?" Christians are always saying we're being tested and that makes me mad. Once again, God is the mean hyperactive boy pulling the wings off of the tiny fly.

Finally came wisdom. I learned about science, I read philosophy. All of the things that I had feared before liberated my mind. I have come to the conclusion that if God does exist, then it is completely indifferent to our plight. I now only think of God as an abstract creator of things, even though I no longer even believe in that; I only think of the creator aspect because of the mystery of how we got here in the first place. But the idea of a personal god is ultimately pure egotism. It is saying, that in spite of all scientific evidence that human beings have found, the Earth is still the center of the entire vast universe, a kind of return to the geocentrism (if you will) fought against by heroic scientists of the past.

Even if it was true I wouldn't submit. Bullies and thugs have to be stood up to also. And if Jerry Farawell is God's ideal man, then I want nothing to do with God.

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From: "William Tozier"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: February 18, 2004 3:38 PM

I tried to be a Christian (Methodist), but I always was a skeptic. The most common answer I would get on my questions was it's all in the Bible! At 74, (with the reinforcement of the Internet) I came out of the closet and admitted to my family and close friends that I am an atheist. I wanted them to know I sent this letter expressing my feelings and I feel good about it now!

God did not write the Bible. Man wrote it approximately 100 years after Jesus was on earth. It's mans recollections, and you know what happens to a story after its been told about the third time. You can't recognize it's the same story!

There are more than 25 Christian religions because none of them can agree on the story --Why? Not to mention all the other religions in the world that have their own holy book. I was born Christian, though no fault of my own. I could have been born Arab or Muslin.

Let's say you were starting with a clear head to determine what religion you want to follow (if any). Someone tells you that there is an invisible God, who lives in an invisible Heaven. Each person has an invisible human soul, and that 2000 years ago, that invisible God sent part of himself (he's actually three entities -- Father, Son and Holy Ghost) to earth as a human being named Jesus. Jesus got here by having his virgin mother impregnated without sexual intercourse. Then, Jesus died on a cross to "wash away" all the sins of humankind, but he didn't stay dead. Three days later, he rose from death and ascended into an invisible Heaven to rejoin his Father (Self?). We must believe in him and must worship the Tribune God so that we can also go to that invisible Heaven to be with God after we have died. But you can only read about these incredible things in a book called The Holy Bible, which just so happens to be written by many men, no women because they were not recognized as equals. This Holy Bible also contains scores of thousands of words describing bloody barbaric massacres and it teaches that women are inferior to men, blacks were born to serve whites and snakes can talk.

I think that there is some explaining in order? You must give me more than "Just believe it on FAITH." Why should I believe such an implausible, improbable tale? Don't be afraid to think or reason! It's the FEAR FACTOR in religion (i.e. If you don't believe in everything that's in the Bible you are going to Hell.) What a story, what a story! If you can't make someone believe you, just scare the hell out of them. I would rather believe in fairy tales like Santa Clause, he is kinder and less vicious! I couldn't help but become an atheist. It was the product of studying, questioning, reasoning and observation that led me to lose the fear of not believing!

William Tozier

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From: "Dustin Martinez"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: March 02, 2004 8:22 PM

Agnosticism is the easiest pitfall for a disbeliever to fall into. Of course, it IS a pitfall. Agnosticism, while logically sound because it makes no claims, sometimes borders upon the absurd.

For example, if you present an agnostic with the idea of an immaterial flying elephant in the sky who produces rain and eats clouds, they will accept this ridiculous claim as a possibility. Because they cannot disprove the immaterial flying elephant (as it resides in the immaterial realm), they admit that it is a possibility.

Of course, I became an atheist when I realized that agnostics are simply morons who do not understand the concept of writing off possibilities that are of no consequence.

For example, if something can NEVER be observed or comprehended, there is NO reason to posit its existence. Why would you say something exists if you can't understand WHAT IT IS? How could you even SAY it exists if you can never comprehend it or grasp it? Agnostics are willing to give the theist the benefit of the doubt, and accept that it is possible for something that they cannot comprehend to exist. That's fine, but why do such a thing? To use our brains to our fullest, we must consider ONLY the things that we CAN observe, to waste our time on unobservable immaterial bullshit is only a fool's guessing game.

The agnostic assumes that the atheist asserts this: There is evidence that God does not exist.

As an atheist, I do not assert such a thing. My assertion looks more like this: There is no evidence that God exists. There is also no evidence that God doesn't exist. In fact, all evidence for such a being is nonexistent by the being's very nature. It can't be observed rationally. It TRANSCENDS human knowledge. Because it is something we can never grasp, I assume that it does not exist. Why should I assume something exists if I can never understand what it is?

The problem with agnosticism, then, is that it makes no assertions. It accepts virtually anything as a possibility. As a line of thinking, it is a very shallow philosophy. Just as there may very well be a God, there may very well be leprechauns or unicorns or Vishnu or floating elephants in the sky. Frankly, I find a mode of belief that opens its mind to absurdity, almost to the point of accepting contradictions as possibilities, to be absolutely ridiculous.

And that is why I am not an agnostic.

As for why I'm not a Christian, that should be obvious: I don't believe in purple flying elephants, so why the fuck would I believe in God? A belief in God is even more incoherent than a belief in flying elephants, if I must say so myself.

Dustin Martinez

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From: "John PM Chappell"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: March 08, 2004 11:38 AM

Hi!

I only recently found your site, but I am increasingly relying on it for tracking down quotes that I know I have heard, but cannot place, and arguments I cannot fully recall or eloquently recite. My story has no sudden "deconversion event," but I felt it was worth telling.

I was born in Elgin, Moray (Scotland) in 1976. My father is a nominal member of the Church of England, however I cannot remember being in a church unless someone had married or died. My mother is a "lapsed" Roman Catholic who starts attending regularly again every so often, until events mean she finds it too much of a bother. I myself was baptized into the CoE, but attended Roman Catholic schools, first in India, then back in England. At the age of seven, I declared my intention to become Roman Catholic, much to the annoyance of my father's family and to the obvious delight of my maternal grandmother, a traditional Irish Catholic.

Things made sense to me until I was about thirteen and changed schools. I ran into some little troubles before that for being too inquisitive about such things as "magic" and other religions, but my faith was steadfast. Then I found myself at a Public School (Private British school with a certain reputation and status) run by Benedictine monks. These people, logically, should have been the very paragons of Christianity, but reality was harshly different. At least one was atheist, several were homosexual and many were outright indifferent to other human beings, even sadistic. I was bullied by my supposed peers because of my academic abilities (jealousy I assume) and lack of interest in sport, aside from an occasional game of Rugby. It forced me to reassess everything I'd learned to that point and it also led me to drink heavily, smoke and become very depressed. I left at sixteen because I could not take anymore and had been suspended several times for dealing out retribution to my bullies and being caught drinking. I was then led to go to a college local to my parents, where I discovered girls, the occult and "Born Again" Christianity. I went through a phase where I "converted" to several religions and was involved in occult practices for a while. Until about 18 months after starting, I began to become a regular member of the "Born Again" crowd.

In due time, I "saw the light" and spent the next few years as a Christian, attending events and detailing how everything in my life had led me to God. But when I got to University, I'd already diverged from accepted teachings. I couldn't accept that homosexuality was inherently evil. I was not prepared to believe that a two-day-old foetus was somehow sentient and thus had a soul. I did not really accept any longer that people who dabble in the occult are possessed by demons and so on. University taught me a great deal and when I left, I was very much in a denomination of one, but still considered myself essentially Christian.

The final drift came as I researched the history of Jesus Christ himself. I discovered that it is very likely that he went to Kashmir and died there, never having died on the cross at all. I already knew about the big differences between the "Jerusalem Church" and Paul's ideas, so I sat and thought and finally I said to myself: "There is no way he was divine. Why am I clinging to anything of this rubbish? There is no real evidence for any kind of God at all. I don't rely on the supernatural for assistance in my daily life. What am I pretending to be Christian for?" Suddenly I felt free, finally, to just be me. Secure in the knowledge that my actions are not being recorded for some arbitrary judgment.

These days, I just get on with my life. I try to make people think about their own beliefs, but I don't proselytize; after all, that was something I despised even when I was supposedly a believer. I can honestly say I am happier now than I have ever been, and although it is not due to my "deconversion" itself, it is the realization that has played a significant part in me being happier with who I am.

John PM Chappell

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From: "Owen Swerkstrom"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: March 10, 2004 12:35 PM

I consider myself very lucky to have been raised as of no certain religion. My mother was raised Lutheran, my father Catholic, but both had independently come into their own worldviews, to have their own take on spirituality. They consider themselves Unitarian, and every once in a while, they took my sister and myself to a Unitarian church while we were growing up.

I was already agnostic and very undecided about a lot of things by the time I started grade school. Early on, I wondered why we pledged allegiance to our one nation "under god." I took some flack for my voiced lack of convictions in the middle years, and was generally just "one of those weird people" in high school. In college, I took some philosophy courses and wound up minoring in the subject. I learned how to collect my thoughts and examine my beliefs -- or lack thereof. I learned how to exchange ideas meaningfully with other people who were willing and able to do so. I met a more diverse collection of friends, people of various faiths, people of no faith, homosexuals, and all sorts of great people I'd never had a chance to encounter before. The better informed we are, the better we can think for ourselves. By the time the Twin Towers fell in New York, I had decided that neither religion, organized nor personal, nor spirituality of any nature had anything positive to offer me.

If I don't know how a clock works, I might guess that a gremlin inside is turning the hands; however, if I take it apart and find springs and gears at work, even if I don't figure out 100% how they operate, it's safe to drop the gremlin hypothesis. Even the greatest minds of our time don't yet know completely how the clockwork of the universe operates, but we've uncovered so much mechanism (atomic structure, evolution, physics) that the God hypothesis just feels absurd and entirely unnecessary.

As a side note, my sister has become a sort of vague Christian -- not with any strict or organized sect, but as a personal collection of beliefs she's come across and embraced on her own. That's fantastic. I hope that one day I'm able to raise kids of my own in such a way that they too think for themselves.

I recently stumbled across this Positive Atheists website and though my deconversion wasn't very dramatic or sudden, thought I'd share it anyway.

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From: "Derek"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: March 12, 2004 7:43 PM

Hi, my name is Derek. I am 17, turning 18 in a month, and I would like to say that I love your website. I'm here to say something you presumably don't hear very often. I have eternally been an atheist, even in grade school, although at the time I didn't know it.

See, the funny thing was that when I went to elementary school from grades one to five, I didn't even know what religion was or was not. Then, one sunny summer day, my folks told me we were moving to a community near us. The bad part was that I had to leave school and my friends there. But the worst was yet to come!

When the first school day finally came it, was horrible. For the first time in my life, someone told me that I am not in control of my own life. You want to know who is? This goof-ball God who lives up in the sky with a bunch of other goofy looking people that have wings.

I thought the children from this school were just trying to be mean to the new kid, so I asked the teacher and she said it's true. (I did not know what to do!) I thought the whole school had gone mad!! I told my mom about it and she, for the very first time, explained religion to me. I told her that 95 percent of people are crazy. Then, she just had to tell a sixth grader that she believes in God too. I did not talk to her about religion for a week after that.

Eventually, the schoolteachers started to ask why I did not stand up for prayer. I said that prayer is crazy and you have all been brainwashed into it -- and you will never take me alive! So they sent me to the office for disturbing the class!! Ever since then, I have been aware that I am an atheist. Ever since then I have had to fight for my religious freedom not to believe in a god.

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From: [unsigned]
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: March 20, 2004 2:02 PM

Here in San Diego, I grew up Catholic till above the age of fifteen. I went to church every Sunday with my mom, brothers, and sister while my dad was out with a friend or out to breakfast. I always had a "splinter in my mind" when it came to believing that everything they told us was true. It was a good way to control people. There were other reasons, too.

When I was fifteen, I grew fond of George Carlin, which caused me to doubt more and more of what I had been told to follow so blindly. Later, when I realized what fundamentalism does to people, I moved to Alabama and finally came to terms with myself and admitted that I was an agnostic. To my surprise, I had found out my dad was agnostic as the years went on.

Since then, I've been reading your website every day, along with a few others, while reading many books on Darwin and such. Some people tell me I can't be happy without Jesus -- but I am!

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From: "Justin Walsh"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: March 20, 2004 3:52 PM

Hi.

I am 64, I'm self-educated (used children's encyclopedias), I have Attention Deficit Disorder, I'm dyslexic, slightly autistic, and ignorant. All this, the cause of a "third world" upbringing in a first world country: Australia. In spite of that, a strong Catholic influence in my formative years instilled in me an obsessive and concentrated focus. I was also given added strength by the simple stories (many religious) from those encyclopedias. It was not intelligence, for I was diagnosed unfit for any skill. I possessed simple rat cunning and a "Peter Pan" imagination. I guess you can say there are millions more like me around the world and we're growing exponentially. It's called Third World Syndrome and is caused by poverty and neglect. Charitable connections set me on the path to entrepreneurial (to enter and take) success, and by following a careful mentor trail, I entered the computer industry and kept rising, without a single qualification. What I have just described is the path of a potential petty criminal to a professional corporate one. One single thing saved me from going down that path. That was a good will and a strong moral conviction, which I got from those simple children's books and fabulous children's stories. I so believed in them. I really wanted to do what Santa does, "enter and give." But to do that, one needed to be a qualified expert, not a mere experienced one.

So, in my early thirties, and with the world at my feet, so to speak, I met a couch Marxist. It was as though I had just begun a celebration at the top of a mountain when suddenly the clouds parted and another huge mountain towered above me still. At last, there was somewhere for my "giving" obsession to go. Here, I had found an atheist religion. I was in for another shock. I began my journey down that mountain, determined to climb the other mountain. On the way down, I saw the misery which somehow I had missed on the way up. So by the time I reached the bottom, I was not convinced that climbing that other mountain would bring me the relief I so desperately sought. In the meantime, I had married with three very small children. What could I give them? Now I was a further disabled. How can I help them? Must they endure the same fate as myself? I felt so guilty and remorseful. I had no belief system to give them. Those two mountains were actually the Positive World of Capitalism and Communism, two sides of the same coin, and both proto-religiously obsessed with destroying the other, like Cain did Able. Laying the two sides before me on a table, I tried to understand what it was I was looking at. I had read that Mendeleev had used this technique to discover the Periodic Table. Raised in one religion and believing in another? I tried to work out the reason for the paradox. If belief did not exist, then why is it that every rational creature believes in something? My attitude to each was distinctly religious because of the "ism" tacked on the end of each. But it was the aggression I needed to draw on to defend the meaningless dogma, which troubled me. In frustration, I yelled "Reason why hast thou forsaken me?" The penny dropped: the clue lays in reason itself: "God's" the one and only gift to rational creatures.

I traced the developments of these two religions to the Abrahamic fork in the road. They were both socialisms: one Local and the other Global. I then realized I was in the middle of a huge extended family squabble, with each protagonist striking a moral position and refusing to budge. It was a mere squabble which has been going on since Adam and Eve. It was not as the positivists declare "a stolen concept" It was "a concept abused." The abuser is reason itself. I am now a satisfied agnostic. I thank my Aboriginal friend for my newfound tolerance.

Justin Walsh

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From: "Katie Hagen"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: March 24, 2004 8:32 PM

Hey there!

I was raised a Christian and one of my earliest memories is of me at about age five telling my mom that I wanted to accept Jesus into my heart. Funny how things turn out. I went to church when my dad made me, but I had faith in God. I didn't even realize that there were people out there who didn't believe in God, I was just raised that way. When someone in my high school wrote an article for our school newspaper talking about how she was an atheist, I automatically thought she was a bad person. Again, funny how things turn out.

My senior year of high school I took what turned out to be a very enlightening speech class. We had a debate about Creation vs. Evolution and after sitting there and listening to my peers deliver speeches about creation I just thought, "This doesn't make any sense, it's just too easy." That was the beginning.

The summer after I graduated high school, I became very depressed and most of it was because I was thinking about death too much. I was thinking about Heaven and pondering how long forever really was. I decided that I didn't want to exist forever. I couldn't understand why we were even living if the goal was just to die and exist forever in Heaven or Hell. If we were meant to be with God in Heaven, then why were we even here in the first place? I didn't want to live my life with the intention of going somewhere when I die. I wanted to live my life and not worry about something watching and judging me. I've only been an atheist for about a year now but it's been a good thing for me.

Katie

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From: "David Thompson"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: March 25, 2004 8:28 PM

Hmmm. How to begin.

My parents sent the four of us kids to Sunday school to get us out of their hair for a couple hours -- the cheap way (put your quarter in the bowl and color the pictures!) Eventually I was sold on the whole religion deal, asking Mom and Dad to join us at church. I was the good kid, but my brother and sisters were Hell on wheels. They stole money from the bowl and skipped church to go to the movies. At eight years old, I cried and walked up the aisle to be born again.

The church gave me a Bible of my own and I went home proud. I did all I could to show my siblings the error of their ways, and this time begged Mom and Dad to join me at church. My father had no time to even discuss it, claiming he was an atheist, and my mother had too much to do between her job, raising the family, and keeping up the house.

Ironically, I got my first clue when the church gave me a Bible. Even at eight years old I could not swallow the crap in the Bible, though I tried and tried. Soon I began to ask for clarification from the Reverends, teachers, and even the friends who attended church with me. (I guess I expected someone to explain away my common sense!) I tried to read that Bible and understand it -- but it was no use!

The contents of the Bible actually turned me away from Christianity, and religion for that matter, though I spent the better part of the next twenty-five years giving credit to "Jesus or God" for the good and bad happenings in my life. Some part of me was always assuming that at some point in my life the light would go off in my head. I somehow thought that when this happened, I'd understand why the Bible could be filled with fallacies, and yet so many (especially Americans) can believe such utter nonsense.

During these twenty-five years, I read more books than I can even remember, attempting to not be persuaded by any of them. I just tried to listen to other points of view. These were not all Christian books, by the way, because L. Ron Hubbard's "Dianetics," comes to mind.

After a bout with alcoholism and my second failed marriage, I remained single for one-and-one-half years, just trying to get to know myself. And boy did I get to know myself! No booze, no drugs, just me and my brain. It was a very lonely time, as I was traveling for a living. However, I did learn to forgive myself for my shortcomings as a husband, as a parent, and as a person.

After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I ended up in a church once again. I was 2,000 miles away from home and needed to be somewhere. It helped me calm down on the day of the attacks, so I made a decision to renew my acquaintance with Christianity during the service. (Somehow I always knew I would end up back in church.)

I felt I was now ready for another relationship and prayed to God to send me a "good church-going" woman. Not two weeks went by and I met my wife, giving all the credit to God. It was perfect: my wife had the same prayer answered without haste as mine was. She is not only a church going gal, but a singer in a gospel band.

I still had all my original concerns, but thought for sure if anybody could help me understand, it would be her. I jumped right in head first, acting as roadie for the band. I did everything I could for the group and for the Lord, meeting tons of people along the way -- backwoods teachings you would expect to hear in a John Grisham novel. She quotes the Bible daily to absurdity. I didn't sleep or think straight for a couple of days after the truth hit me. I expected argument and maybe even divorce from my wife, but her faith turned out to be of no substance and her common sense as honed as mine. Together we feel like we have been mislead, lied to, abandoned. We are having a terrible time adjusting to the realization that "Jesus or God" do not exist. We have no trouble believing this; it's just about adjusting our habits and such.

Since that day, we have had even more long talks about the Abyss and have grown even closer. It's funny how our having given false credit or blame to God had taken away credit and credibility for our own actions. We are still debating what to tell the kids. Her thirteen-year-old daughter is now part of the group, and is actively pursuing a Gospel music career. I do not want the children to have the same feelings I had a couple of months ago when I woke up. My wife is still working it out in her mind.

Every day now I see things that are so clear I can't believe it! I wanted so much to believe in God that I ignored so many obvious signs. It doesn't make me doubt my own intelligence; it just illustrates the longing for approval or support from someone else. Even from a made-up God!

I didn't mean for this to be so lengthy, but I think writing it was therapeutic. I am still struggling; I have been talking to God in my mind my entire life. Now I realize I was talking to myself, and got myself through all of my struggles with my own tenacity and courage. I look forward to the coming years and expanding my horizons. I have an open mind, but I won't be taken again.

I appreciate reading the experiences of other thoughtful people. Thank you for this medium.

David Thompson

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From: "Audrey"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Epiphany
Date: March 26, 2004 3:05 PM

I was raised Christian by a fundamentalist mother and more skeptical father. I am twenty-seven now. I went to church every Sunday as long as I lived with my parents. I accepted Jesus as my savior when I was old enough to fear Hell. In middle school, I was very zealous about the faith, and went to the church youth group regularly. I was convinced that to be a good Christian, I ought to become a missionary and devote my life to spreading the word of God. I wanted to go on a mission and spread the word, but I was a shy and timid person, and public speaking terrified me. My parents couldn't afford to send me on a mission, even through the relatively cheap programs offered by the church. I prayed hard for God to take away the shyness so I could at least preach to my friends and serve the Lord that way, but that never happened.

In high school, I gradually started to question more, but did not get satisfactory answers. My prayers for clarity and a stronger faith went unanswered. Why would God let my faith slip? That was the question that haunted me for years. Why would he abandon large swathes of people in other parts of the world in favor of a chosen few? I figured this was a test from God, but I was failing.

By my senior year in high school, I was not sure I was a true believer, but I continued to attend church and tried desperately to convince myself it was true, and that if I could just generate stronger faith, it would all be okay. I prayed daily. I avoided sin and temptation. I went to church youth groups with my Christian friends. But, I also read more, thought more, and questioned more. The skepticism crept in, despite my best attempts to build my faith and surround myself with faithful people. I got baptized at Easter my senior year in high school, but by then I had less faith than ever.

I went to a Catholic college for a few years because it offered the best financial aid package. I took World Religion as a freshman and I could not but wonder at how God would let so many people go to Hell because they were not Christians. I also wondered whether I had chosen the right religion. Christianity didn't seem to stand out in either being the oldest, most recent, or largest faith.

Then I took Judeo-Christian Culture my sophomore year (taught by a nun, no less) and that class convinced me that there was no god. I had asked the question (I can't remember what prompted me to ask it now), "but isn't the Bible the inspired word of God?" The teacher shouted out that the Bible was not the inspired word of God, that it was fallible, and reflected the prejudices of the writers and their time. She had fire in her eyes when she shouted it, directed at me particularly. I remember my hair was blown back, stood on end, and I shuddered in my chair. But that really clicked with me and convinced me, that since even a nun could believe such a thing, then the Bible could not possibly be true. It was no different than the religions of the past that had fallen by the wayside and are now regarded as interesting, but untrue myths.

"But you've just got to have faith," she went on to say. I was losing it fast at that point. She had faith, and I didn't. That was the only way she could explain it. Even then, I went on to write an A+ explanation paper on Jesus and the gentiles, and made sure I concluded that one just needed to have faith and God would respond with his saving grace, even though I didn't believe that for an instant. God had abandoned me and would not give me true faith, even though I pleaded and prayed daily. I couldn't manufacture faith from inside myself anymore. I didn't feel the fires of faith like I had in middle school. I felt God had abandoned me to certain doom and I could not figure out why or what purpose it would serve. It didn't seem to me like God had a need to abandon a potentially loyal servant who desperately wanted to be on the side of righteousness and goodness and do the will of God.

A few days later I sat down and made myself admit that I was not a Christian and there was no god. I had resisted doing it for so long, even though the idea had entered my mind a few times in the last year. I repeated it to myself a few times, more boldly, and it was just like people often say about their conversion to Christianity. It felt like a burden was lifted from my shoulders. The world brightened. I felt relief and joy and peace. I found that feeling astonishing. It was the feeling I'd always hoped for in Christianity, the feeling that I was supposed to have had by surrendering to Jesus, and here it came by abandoning faith. I savored the moment. I remember it so clearly. I ought to have marked the anniversary. Now all I can recall is that it was in November 1996.

That was my epiphany, my moment of clarity. I know what my Christian friends would say about this. They would say I was never really a Christian at all. It is an illogical way to brush it off. I find it amusing that some Christian groups cannot admit that there are a large number of ex-Christians out there. It doesn't fit with the pattern of salvation that they believe in.

Audrey

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From: "Chris"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: March 27, 2004 1:10 AM

Salutations!

My deconversion story goes back a long way. I was raised in a Roman Catholic household. I attended Mass weekly and still go to a private Catholic school. I was extremely devout. I attended all of the mandatory masses, many of the additional services (Holy Thursday, for example), and was an altar server. I did worry about some things -- why other religions were not considered "true" -- was it really just because we'd conquered them? -- but these did not get in the way of my faith.

Though my faith dropped, I never questioned my beliefs until freshman year of high school. One of my courses, a religious studies course, focused on the Old Testament. I had never read the Old Testament before this. Where was the loving God I had been brought up with? Why did these great prophets seem like nothing more than raving street corner lunatics? What was up with this racial supremacy?

This led to a serious questioning of what I believed, and why I believed it. My first step was to reject Christianity. I didn't know it at the time, but I was essentially a Deist. I was not ready to reject the notion of a god yet. After more questioning, and realizing that the only reason I had any need for a god in my world was because I had been brought up with a god, I became an atheist.

I can't put a specific date on my deconversion, since it was an extremely gradual process, but it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I began to appreciate life for life, not worrying endlessly at night whether I was good enough for Heaven, or if I would be cast into the eternal lake of fire. There was nothing to worry about!

To end this story, I'd like to thank the Catholic Church, its schools, and the Bible. Without these, there is no way I would have become an atheist.

Chris

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From: "Kevin Saldanha"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: March 29, 2004 12:12 PM

As a recent de-convert of a few months, let me tell you my story.

About two years ago, while going through a spiritual high in my life, I picked up a book entitled "Essential Spirituality" by Roger Walsh. Before that, I was overweight, aging (45 at the time) and "spinning my wheels" personally while my professional and family life were going great. I felt there had to be more to life than what I was experiencing, and a few weeks after that fateful Tuesday of morning of September 11, 2001, I decided that I had to find out more about the meaning of my life.

I joined a weight loss group in Toronto (http://www.weightloss4men.com) and was getting my life together, when I felt a desire to join a Catholic men's charitable organization -- the Knights of Columbus. Up to that time, I had been a conscientious Roman Catholic of Indian origin having been brought up in the faith by a devout mother and a religiously bitter father, who had left the Jesuit's seminary out of disgust for their demands of blind obedience. (Goa was one of the Portuguese conquests that saw a large number of converts from Hinduism when Christianity was introduced several hundred years ago. It is the resting place of the body of St. Francis Xavier.)

Through my interaction with the Knights, I was involved with the Papal visit to Toronto during the World Youth Day celebrations and felt that I could get no closer to Heaven than being in the presence of the Pope. However, I was also exposed to the "business of the church" -- I had been a member of the building committee for a new Roman Catholic church in Mississauga and was involved with fund-raising through the Knights which gave me a different perspective on the internal workings of the Church. At the same time, I was doing other reading on evolution and having a professional interest in animals (I am a veterinarian) and their welfare (I decided to become a vegetarian for health reasons and saw the other side of the their plight as a reformed meat-eater). I came to the conclusion that we are not much different from them except for the size and complexity of our brains, which allow us to think abstract thoughts and create a god for ourselves.

That was the beginning of a soul-searching journey which resulted in my publicly acknowledging that I had no interest in an external, omnipotent, power that was just a figment of our imaginations. I was more interested in following an ethical life. Roger Walsh taught me how I could do this without having to believe in anything other than the here and now. His book contains exercises to enhance the practices of seven main virtues that have been the basic tenets of all the world's great religions. However, over time, the organized religions have lost that value between the rituals and dogma and no longer help their adherents see "the light."

The more I read about other organizations like the humanists, skeptics and atheists, the more I am convinced that I am on the right path this time.

Thank you for allowing me to air these views publicly.

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From: [unsigned]
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: March 29, 2004 9:56 PM

Growing up, my family never forced Christianity on me, although I was baptized as a child and attended Church sporadically, usually on important holidays or when family members were ill. (This was more tradition in my family rather than faith.) As a kid, I believed in God and all that, but when I started to get to middle school, I started to question religion. I began to read National Geographic as well as other books and magazines dealing with dinosaurs, animals, Neanderthals and the like. That's when I started to really drift. At first, I would go along with everyone and say that I believed in God even though I didn't; Peer pressure and lack of confidence, I guess. But once I got to high school, I got fed up and decided to challenge people's beliefs.

I remember one time, I was arguing with about eight to nine Christians in the library and I asked, "If God created the world in seven days, why are there dinosaur fossils?" They all had different answers; the worst was when one guy said that people made up fossils to discredit religion. He also told me he was going to beat my ass. I thought this was funny and sad. Most people have been so brainwashed, they come up with crazy stories and ideas to cover up religion's many inconsistencies. Religion is a crutch. Religion was (and still is) a way for people to give life more meaning, as well give them something to look forward to after death.

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From: "A.W."
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: April 21, 2003 2:04 PM

When I was thirteen (I'm fifteen now) I went to a Christian camp. It was a children's camp with hiking, campfires, talking to God and praying. I've been there three times. Every time I came back, for weeks after, I would be adamant about church -- going and praying every night. Then, like clockwork, each time I would gently regress in my praying. Not on purpose, mind you, but I would forget to pray or become uninterested in church. Each year this happened until I finally looked at my repetition and wondered how a true believer could fall out of a religion. I thought about that, and then I realized that I didn't believe in God.

My grandparents took me to church throughout my childhood, yet I did not believe. I was devastated and lost, but as much as I tried, I couldn't believe in God. It took a long time and some research, but I came to terms with myself and I am now a proud atheist.

I'd like to add -- to the theists out there -- that I've never pressed my religious beliefs on anybody. I've supported and informed those who have asked, but wouldn't try to persuade theists. I think doing that would be rude. (Hint, hint!)

Sincerely,
A.W.

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