Monthly Archives: December 2013

My family and I are from San Antonio, Texas.  Please publish my posting.  My Preferred name can be used.

Over the years we’ve been involved in a few Christian churches ranging from the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Baptist Church, as well as the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. Ultimately we found ourselves flustered with all Christian churches and found ourselves fairly closely in line with the beliefs and values espoused by the Unitarian Universalists. We also came to the realization that we were frustrated and discouraged with most any religious organization or association and moved away from any church or association.

We have issues with atheism and agnosticism, since those terms infer negative or undefined views. We began exploring other views and ran across Humanists and Free Thought philosophies. Interestingly Free Thought movements within the United States evolved into the Unitarian Universalist Association. The definition for Humanism from the American Humanist Association is “Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.” Again a negative perspective (without theism and other supernatural beliefs) instead of focusing more on the positive. We feel like we relate to some of the Humanists views such as “Secular Humanism is a life stance that focuses on the way human beings can lead good, happy and functional lives.” The problem we have is that we don’t necessarily feel we need a church or association to help us lead the life we aspire to. That’s my question. Why do I need to be labeled? Is that for my benefit, or for others?

I guess becoming an atheist started when I was little, I just didn’t know it at the time. I was too young to understand, so I just went with what I was told.

All my family is Christian, my aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings, mother and father. They are all Christian, some more religious than others.

When I started school I was sent to a Catholic school until first grade. I moved many times to different schools which opened me up to different ideas and helped me become the accepting person I am today. From a to a public school, to a private school, to a different public school, then back to the first public school. Finally, to the public school I go to now, I have been at since sixth grade. I am in tenth grade now.

I developed a logical way of thinking over time. So as I grew older and went to church, I would always ask many questions on what was being preached in the church and taught in sunday school. As a child none of the answers seemed to make sense but I just said “okay” and went with it. Even now they don’t seem to make sense.

One question that went through my mind was, “If god is the nicest being in the universe why would he send people to hell. Even if they have never heard of him and have done nothing wrong?”
I would always end up with the same answer, “God sends them signs so they can see that he is there.” For me I have never seen signs of this god except a person telling me he is there and telling me that the bible is all I need. To me this is not a sign. It’s just something someone says and the bible is just a story made by a person like everyone else.

What really pushed me was when I went back to my first public school. I was bullied and I was an outcast. The people I called friends pushed me away and I was alone. People said, “Pray to god, stay faithful, ask for forgiveness, you’ll be happy and god will help you be happy.” I prayed to god for love and to find someone outside of my family that would care, but nothing and nobody came. I was alone the whole time and it changed me. I was not a kind person for a long time. I stayed in the dark and did not take care of myself. I felt I was not worth it. By believing in a god I was only being hurt. I prayed when I could have done something to make life better for myself.

I was frightened of the idea of being alone when I moved to the school I am in now. But this is where I was told of the idea of an atheist, and where I came out as one. I have many friends and people accept me as an atheist. I became a better person and found myself. The mean person I was is gone and a nice person replaced it. I didn’t need god to do it. I just had to do it myself. People do look at me weird and judge me. But I’m not them and I don’t worry. I have the people I need in my life. I have a friend for life. She is Christian but she doesn’t judge me. She likes things with crosses and I don’t. So she told me to look at them as lower case T’s. I have an amazing boyfriend who is also an atheist. We have been dating for almost a year and he has very much opened me up to being an atheist and not letting what other people think get in the way of what I want for myself. My family did reject me when I came out. My mom wanted to force me to church and youth group. Any of the holidays my family celebrated they wanted to exclude me from. My mother even told me I had no love, was not caring and was a terrible person just because I believed in no higher being. I was able to rise above this and think better of myself, rather than what she thinks. Mean spirited people are all over the world and these people are also in every religion. I am not one of them.

Why am I atheistically inclined ?

During World War 2 my father was serving in the army and I was enrolled, at the age of 5, at the only pre-school available, one run by a sect of the Roman Catholic church.

Family legend told me I had been christened in the Prestbyterian faith. What faith a pre 6 year old has is still beyond me.

At this pre-school my fate was sealed by a simple error by my mother in sending me to ‘kindy’ (short for kindergarten) as we called it, with a meat filled sandwich for mid-morning recess ‘play lunch’, shock/horror, on a FRIDAY. In those days it was considered sinful and wicked or something to eat meat on a Friday. Years later this prohibition was repealed and meat on Friday became religously acceptable. Go figure?

I was dragged out in front of the class, my pants were pulled down, this was in the days before small boys owned underpants and I was beaten, bare backside in front of a mixed class, with a wooden ruler, by a floor length black robed Irish nun. This raised bruises etc I have been told. I was then deported to the adjacent church to repent my sins, damned if I knew how, and to wait till the school session was over. If I recall correctly I was also supposed to ‘confess’, again I did not have a clue.

Needless to say I did not return to pre-school but hung out till the next year when I was old enough to go to the local State Government run non-sectarian school.

At this school we suffered ‘scripture’ every week which was conducted by religious people of the local Protestant faiths. As I remember nearly all of the children had to attend these sessions with the notable exception of a couple of Jewish and Indian sub-continent or something children of wartime refugees. We did so envy them.

Now my uncle was a pastoralist and a former headmaster. He mentioned ‘in-breeding’ on occasion and the perils it caused the stock.

At ‘scripture’ one day the local Presbyterian pastor was carrying on about Adam & Eve and also Noah and the Cain & Abel legend when I covered my juvenile self with glory by questioning the probability of incest and the perils of inbreeding plus the impossibility of a human race, as he made no mention of any available female companions for said boys.

Talk about bringing a tempest down on my, about 10 year old head. I was cast out, never to return, and wound up with the ‘heathens’ in the library to the envy of my mates, most of whom did not have the guts or ignorance to do the same.

To this day I have not seen any reason to back away from my beliefs and adopt these illogical religious stupidities.

In a lot of ways I think coming out of religion for me was the typical progression of curious and academically minded kids raised in a loving and reasonably permissive home. My parents are fundamentalists, creationists, tee-totallers and extremely active in their church, but I wasn’t completely sheltered as you might expect someone raised in that environment to be. They encouraged us to doubt, genuinely confident that Christianity is true and right and congruent with reality. They really seemed to expect that a reasonable person who earnestly seeks the truth will unavoidably end up believing exactly what they do, so to them Christianity was the one religion that could feel free to allow its followers to freely doubt their beliefs.

So I read. I read my bible, to be sure, and I read some apologetic literature, and I read tons of fiction. I loved reading, I loved learning, and I loved to think through and discuss what I found out through the world of books. I suspect that, in the internet age, a child like that is bound to at least escape fundamentalism, if not their religion entirely.

I was still thoroughly devout when I graduated high-school, and decided to do a year of bible-school while I considered my career options. At that point in my life, a bible school is the last place I would’ve expected to plant real seeds of cognitive dissonance, but knowing what I know now about biblical scholarship, it makes complete sense. It was quite a conservative and fundamentalist school, but even so, they presented the scholarly opinion on a number of issues, and even the more conservative scholars can’t respectably represent fundamentalism within academia.

Sometimes, we were even presented with certain (significantly de-fanged) atheist arguments in order to prepare us for when we would encounter them outside our little Christian bubble. Despite my eagerness to be convinced by the Christian responses, I couldn’t help being underwhelmed by many of them.

Then I went to University.

I did a broad Arts degree, and though it hasn’t really done much for me career-wise yet, I’m glad I made that choice and don’t hesitate to recommend it. I can point to a few courses that were particularly poignant in my deconversion process – anthropology, philosophy of mind, ethics – but at least as important as any of these was the general sharpening of my reasoning, research, and critical thinking skills. I learned how to properly make and analyze arguments, and how to get to real knowledge and assign appropriate confidence levels to my beliefs.

I look at my escape from religion as a triumph of curiosity and education. I am grateful to all of my teachers, including my parents, for encouraging my love of learning and pursuit of knowledge.

I’ve seen many people describe crises of faith and destabilizing moments or periods in their transition out of their childhood religion, but it wasn’t like that for me. It was a gradual erosion of particular beliefs thanks to an accumulation of new knowledge with a firm epistemic basis rather than faith.

I didn’t embrace the “atheist” label until after graduating with my degree from Grant MacEwan University. I came across r/atheism on reddit and began to dive into the information and discussions I found there. I’ve since become more anti-theist and unashamedly vocal about it in conversations online and in person. I never announced it to my family exactly, but it became clear to them all over the course of a number of conversations. My mother was particularly disappointed and we got into some spirited discussions, but I was never really concerned about my relationship with my family being badly impacted. It has been affected, no doubt, but I always knew we loved each other enough that they could look past even this difference of opinion.

My anti-theism is only a single facet of my life right now, mostly expressed through my Twitter account. You can find me @BlakeSeidler actively seeking out conversations with believers and fellow atheists about various philosophical, ethical, or political matters. My efforts are disproportionately directed at theists I encounter who seem to be at some stage of the journey I went through myself. I try to avoid being antagonistic, but I think there’s room for various approaches in the battle against the virus that is faith.

To all my fellow deconverts, I hope you take the pursuit of knowledge seriously, enjoy the freedom of living without a celestial overlord, and never forget…

you’re not alone.