Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Why I Am An Atheist #22: Robin

Boston Atheists member Robin writes:

My atheism story: I don't have a conversion story because I was brought up with no religion whatsoever. There was no discussion and the idea of God never came up. My mother had been brought up Catholic but after reflecting on all the senseless things the church believed, especially the misogyny, she decided that she couldn't put her own daughters through that. I think it all started with the fact that at the time, the church would not let girls serve at the altar, and she thought that was silly because she would have been the best altar kid ever. She doesn't think that religion has anything to do with gender.
Despite this, she did send me to Sunday school at a non-denominational protestant church down the street from where we lived so that I might have an awareness of what religion is about, kind of like a survey course, because she didn't want me to be culturally ignorant. I also went to Mass with my Catholic grandparents occasionally. At no time, however, did my mother say I should believe. We never talked about religion. (I do know that she has watched the original "Star Trek" when it first came out in 1966 and continues to watch its many incarnations, if that's any suggestion of her belief system.)

Nonetheless, I thought maybe I should believe, like a lot of people, because it seemed like there might be some merits, and I liked being in churches, especially big old musty ones with large stained glass windows and booming pipe organs, but I could never make sense of it. I recall one Sunday school class in the 4th grade when they were teaching the idea that God is everywhere--omnipresent, about which I asked, "If God is everywhere, why do we need church?" The instructor didn't have a reply that made sense. I said, "Well, I don't believe in God anyway." Even in the 4th grade, religion wasn't adding up. None of it. It seemed to me to be a bunch of unconnected, very odd stories from this book written in a strange form of English which meant nothing to me, even when people tried to explain them. I thought the Abraham story was just wacky (how does this show that God is good, exactly?), and the Cain and Abel situation could have been resolved with a little diplomacy. And I didn't get Roman history at all, so the whole crucifixion thing made no sense, that it wasn't really about belief at all and one guy taking the fall for everyone when in fact, it was all political. And the resurrection? Well, maybe he wasn't really dead and was just in a coma or something and the people at the time had no way to know. Then I thought if they didn't know any better at the time, then what else didn't they know about? I never believed that the earth was created in 6 literal days as we know them. The characters in the Bible just behaved stupidly and there didn't seem to be any good examples to emulate. It was all about Not Being Bad but there was no Good to counteract it so no one really knew what Good is. I was a rational, logical child and none of it made sense and no one telling me that there's this imaginary paternalistic figure to punish me when I did some imaginary wrong thing was going to deter that. I especially didn't believe in fairy tales and stopped believing in Santa at the age of 6. (No, I wasn't traumatized; I was mildly perturbed with my parents for duping me about Santa's existence, actually.)

As I got older, maybe in junior high school, especially with respect to Christianity and all these various Christian groups each claiming they have The One Way to Salvation, I thought, well, which one would be correct? What gave one person more religious authority over another or made one point of view more valid than another? Anyone could make this stuff up and be their own religion, which is when I really decided that it was all made up. I also thought that if there were a God, he'd have better things to do than to micromanage every human that ever existed. Fortunately, my entire extended family is non-religious, so as a non-believer, I don't have to worry about family relations. After reading some of the other stories, I thought that I almost have it too easy with my non-belief. I also wonder if my atheism has as much to do with my upbringing as someone's devout religious belief because my environment supported non-belief more than religion.


This post is part of a series, in which members of the Boston secular community explain how they came to the decision to identify as atheists. To read more posts in the series, click here. To submit your own story, email