Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why I Am An Atheist #7: Deb

Boston Atheists member Deb writes:

My story is not very interesting.  I never believed.  I was baptized, went to Episcopalian Sunday School more often than not from Kindergarten to being "confirmed" in high school.  I knew there were lots of other similar things no one really believed in or liked to do, but went along with anyways in order to stay civilized - like Santa Claus, or going to swim meets.

Religions and rituals from other countries and cultures were taught in school in terms of their value to a people to work through and stick together around big life events (marriage, death), understand their relationship to nature, establish the odd moral guideline.  Not as something I might believe myself.  I figured Christianity was the one I was born into, no one really believed all that nonsense anymore, but stuck to it for community, rituals, moral guidance.

I was horrified the day I realized, at age 19, that other people believed.  People at church, maybe even my parents and brother.  I made half-hearted attempts at learning more, investigating other beliefs off and on through young adulthood, but couldn't work up much of a compelling interest.  I worried that the misunderstanding and disbelief could be my own shortcoming.  Just like being really shy and bad at sports.

Mentioning my lack of belief among friends, colleagues and family seemed an egregious faux pas, so I pretty much never discussed it with anyone. Not that I felt like I was hiding a big secret, it just doesn't really come up in conversation.  Even with my husband, we're both atheists but never bothered to talk about it for many years.  

Don't get me wrong, I had contempt for fundamentalist/evangelical religious people from early on and this can usually be discussed in mixed company.  I've always admired philosophy, civic virtues and all that secular good stuff.  I never saw secular values as what set me apart, only my lack of belief.

I owe gaining an identity as an atheist to Kurt Vonnegut, and paying attention to the inspiring efforts of the American Humanist Association, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, People for the American Way, American Atheists and many others.  So thanks folks.  It's a relief to be able to say I'm an atheist and know all of these groups have got my back and then some.


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