A Question For Atheists.

(249 Posts)
DioneTheDiabolist Tue 26-Mar-13 21:09:49

When and how did you decide that you didn't believe in god?

Trills Tue 26-Mar-13 21:15:42

You make it sound as if believing in God is that default state of mind.

That's not the case for everyone. Not everyone is brought up to assume that God exists.

My person story. My parents were not particularly religious, but they are also not particularly inclined to think about things very hard. They probably tick the "Church of England" box on the census because "that's what you do".

I spent some time trying to be a Christian at university. I stopped when I realised that no matter how much I would like there to be a God, and no matter how much I thought I would probably be a kinder person if I thought there was, I hadn't at any point thought that God was real the same way whales are real or Bill Clinton is real or the Sahara desert is real (all things that I have never seen but strongly believe exist).

I also disagreed with the opinions of a number of people on what God would be like or approve of, but that's not a reason to doubt the existence of a God, just a reason to doubt the validity of those who claim to speak for him.

BikeRunSki Tue 26-Mar-13 21:16:54

Catholic school, age 6.
In a spectacular bit of timetabling, we did cavemen and the Garden of Eden on the same day. I noticed the discrepancy and asked my dad. He said "Well some people believe this, other people believe this..." and we talked about the various options of creation/evolution. I went with the science. Ended up with a degree in Geology and Physics.

Trills Tue 26-Mar-13 21:17:12

Now I would call myself an agnostic atheist.

I believe that we cannot know that God does not exist, but that there is no good reason to think that it does, and especially no good reason to think that any particular existing religion has a good handle on what it would be like or would want if it did exist.

hermioneweasley Tue 26-Mar-13 21:18:25

Reading the God Delusion.

I was brought up catholic and knew it was complete bullshit even as a child.

Refused to go to Mass from 13. Got removed from R.E. at 15 for daring to challenge the utter bollocks we were being taught.

All babies are born atheist. No-one is born with a belief in a higher power. Religion is an insidious curse inflicted on innocent minds by their deluded parents.

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 26-Mar-13 21:22:11

Apologies Trill, I do not think that belief is a default state. I phrased my question as I did because most people, especially 30/40 years ago, subscribe to some form of religion. Even if it's just for the hatch, match, despatch ceremonies. After I had hit post I realized my mistake.blush

Thurlow Tue 26-Mar-13 21:23:06

There was no 'decision'. It wasn't as if I was breaking away from any pre-held beliefs about God. There was no revelation.

It just never made sense to me as a child, and as I got older I was able to understand better how I felt. To me, to concept that there is some form of ultimate power/intelligence who created and manages everything is utterly illogical. The more I read about it - books like The God Delusion, for example - the more my opinions became set.

Can I ask back if you believe that believing in some form of god is the default position?

Pascha Tue 26-Mar-13 21:24:48

I consider myself athiest. I don't know of a time when I was anything other. I have no belief, and don't consider the possibility of belief. My parents went to church, I went to sunday school, it was all just stories to me.

mrsbungle Tue 26-Mar-13 21:25:07

I've never believed, even as a child. I thought it didn't make any sense at all.

I have a catholic mother, so was brought up with her desperately hoping that I would believe. Gave it a try when I was a teen but just couldn't reconcile it, something just doesn't sit right.

That's not to say that I don't think there are plenty of good things about religion, I have thought on several occasions that it would be quite useful to believe! I just can't make myself feel something that I don't feel.

Wigeon Tue 26-Mar-13 21:26:24

I have never believed in God. It's the same answer to a question such as "when and how did you decide that you were not a Hindu". Well, I just never was and I still am not. I have probably got a bit more certain about my atheism over time, but possibly just moved a bit along the continuum from agnostic to atheist.

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 26-Mar-13 21:27:38

Hermione, what were your thoughts regarding god before you read The God Delusion?

technodad Tue 26-Mar-13 21:31:15

I was born not believing in god, and can not remember ever being given an argument that was convincing (despite various tax except institutions trying). I even voluntarily went to church to try to work out what it was all about.

My first memory of actively being aware of other people believing was at primary school when were we all made to worship. My first memory of thinking that I didn't believe in something that others seemed to believe in is probably when I was about 7 years old, when I would get very upset and couldn't sleep because I didn't like the idea of infinite nothingness once I die. Of course I didn't realise that being dead, I wouldn't be aware of it grin.

My first memory of the fact that their are different religions were from when some kids in my primary school bullied the JW kids for bring different. I liked the JW kids (because they were nice kids) so I found that very confusing.

kissmyheathenass Tue 26-Mar-13 21:31:21

Religion was not a part of my life at all despite being raised c of e. Then in my 40s I started thinking more critically, read the god delusion and discovered the wonderful Christopher hitchens. I consider religious belief to be insane and ridiculous. Now I am vehemently opposed to religion and its hypocrisies and I consider myself an antithiest. My children are raised as atheists though very gently so.

technodad Tue 26-Mar-13 21:32:03

I never believed in the great spaghetti monster either by the way.

kissmyheathenass Tue 26-Mar-13 21:33:52

Dione, I would assume anyone reading the god delusion to be veering towards athiesm. I tried to pass it onto a Christian friend and was met with a glare and a change of subject!

LadyKinbote Tue 26-Mar-13 21:34:39

I believed very briefly aged five because I was told Bible stories at school as if they were real, but just learnt to differentiate between different types of stories as I got older. (Didn't mean that to sound quite as snarky as it came out!). Why do you ask?

Startail Tue 26-Mar-13 21:49:27

My DDad is an evangelical atheist so I guess I was always brought up not to believe in God.

First time I remember I was at infant school probably Y2.
CofE school, Cannon came once a year to ask bible questions, have class a certificate went away.

However, my class mates were a bit in awe of him and no one would put their hands up. So I answered 90% of the questions, so he'd go away and we could do something more interesting.

I was a bit blush at him giving me a certificate all to myself, since even at 7 I didn't believe a word of it.

Greatly amused my mum who stuck the certificate in my scrap book.

thecapitalsunited Tue 26-Mar-13 22:01:38

I've never believed in any gods as I was brought up atheist.

bringonyourwreckingball Tue 26-Mar-13 22:09:07

I just never believed, parents were not church goers and school was fairly neutral so why would I ? And my experience of religious education at school was pretty toxic as 2 separate teachers told me my Disabled sister brought it on herself

At primary school. I was sent to catholic schools against my wishes until I was 16. Annoyingly, my mum now realises she was wrong as is an atheist herself!

narmada Tue 26-Mar-13 22:14:19

It was never the default option for me, being religious or believing in God, I mean. Mum and Dad are apathetic about religion although my mum would probably describe herself as broadly Christian. I am not really sure she believes in God though...

My own atheism was firmly cemented in my late 20s when I worked alongside a born-again Christian. We got on like a house on fire, but we had lots of long chats and I found it really hard to empathise with her religious thinking. She wanted absolute certainty and an outside authority who could be relied upon to provide the last word, morally; I absolutely did not. For me it's nothing to do with not believing in a supernatural being, and everything to do with not believing in a 'higher moral authority' IYSWIM.

Gone off on one there a bit, sorry smile

marthastew Tue 26-Mar-13 22:15:06

I have never believed in god/s. I was raised as an athiest.

HesterShaw Tue 26-Mar-13 22:17:04

After a fervent stage in my teens, I mainly assumed there had to be some kind of deity. I would pray when I remembered to do, but disliked organised religion and the set responses you get in Anglican churches. I also disliked the extremeness of more evangelical Christianity. I was brought up in a casually Christian house, though my family were never churchgoers.

Over the last couple of years I have gradually come to realise there is no God. It didn't happen suddenly, but now I am definite. It's a relief. It's a relief to know that the bad things in the world are not caused by a vengeful deity seeking to punish us, but are often caused by bad luck and physics. And I now find myself getting offended sometimes by the assumption that religious people have that people are no good unless they believe in God - that they are incapable of goodness, kindness and thoughtfulness.

HesterShaw Tue 26-Mar-13 22:18:11

And I have never read any Dawkins or anything.

I enjoyed Philip Pullman though!

While I was in primary school I didn't really know faith was optional. I went through phases of voluntarily going to church and sunday school, and I didn't really consider that Christianity might not have it right until I was 12 or 13. When I thought about it properly I realised that there was no God-shaped gap in my scientific knowledge of the universe, and that was it for me.

nancy75 Tue 26-Mar-13 22:21:48

About the same time I stopped believing in father Christmas. God was never really a thing in our house, it was just something that got mentioned in assembly at school.

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 26-Mar-13 22:26:07

LadyKinbote, I ask because I am interested in the answers. I wanted to see what, if anything, was similar to me becoming an atheist, although I am no longer one. I also asked in the hope of engaging atheists who do not post here and to start a thread about atheism that talks about non-belief for it's own sake and not just as a reaction to the faith of others.

Kissmyheathenass, can you explain what it is to be raised CofE, yet not have religion as part of your life at all?

mikey9 Tue 26-Mar-13 22:28:42

Similar to many - I now find the assumption in the OP wrong. I was raised without any real religion but Cub Scouts involved "Church Parade" and you were docked points on Monday if your six didn't have a good turnout.....we also had to tidy the graveyard weeds (more points there).
Never really gave it much thought - managed a couple of trips to "Sunday School" but no pessure from parents there either.

When left home - thankfully fell in with thankfully questioning groups for late teens early 20s - including believers (which has led to some enlightening conversations about "belief"....)

Now with own kids I am struggling with "Celebrating" Christmas and Easter and the Beavers "Promise" to (their) God, however don't want the kids to stand out so am letting it go and will educate our boys instead to make their own decisions when they have plenty of information on the range of views out there.........

sweetkitty Tue 26-Mar-13 22:31:05

Around about 15 when I learned about human evolution.

My DC are being raised RC, it's a struggle at times .

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 26-Mar-13 22:32:05

Bunny and Technodad you say that babies are born atheist. How do you know this?

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 26-Mar-13 22:36:00

Sweetkitty, that sounds very difficult.sad Why did you decide to raise your DCs in the catholic faith and how do you deal with that?

HesterShaw Tue 26-Mar-13 22:36:22

Why on earth would a baby have any conception of God?

badguider Tue 26-Mar-13 22:38:35

I was brought up catholic but was pretty much a secret agnostic from as young as i can remember. I had a nice church and community and went through the motions till university (though stopped going to mass weekly at about 15 when i got a weekend job).
I arrived at university still going along to church easter, christmas etc. though not really believing, went through an 'i believe in something' phase then studied philosophy and by second year i was sure i was atheist and don't believe in any higher power.
I was a little bit nervous about saying it out loud except to one or two friends I studied philosophy with until after uni when I met more people who were happy to say they are atheist and understood the feeling i have that morality has nothing to do with belief in a god of any sort.

Now I feel able to articulate my lack of belief and confident in my stance on most things moral, ethical and relating to death and religion but that didn't come till I was in my 30s.

MaterFacit Tue 26-Mar-13 22:41:05

There has never been a point where I have believed.

Sunnywithshowers Tue 26-Mar-13 22:42:58

I went to church as a child, but didn't 'feel' like the other kids. I dropped out.

I was agnostic for years, until a dear friend killed herself. My then boyfriend, a Catholic, told me that I should 'pray that God forgives her'. That was it for me.

tangledupinpoo Tue 26-Mar-13 22:43:33

Can't remember one single lightbulb moment. My father had a catholic upbringing, my mother agnostic and I went to a 'high church' Church of England school, so God figured a lot. I remember believing then (say, under 14 yrs). It was more an accumulation of thoughts over the years, the increasing evidence (as it seemed to me) that the universe, and we, had come about without a 'prime mover'.

The tipping point was reading Genome, by Matt Ridley. I am not a scientist, so learning about the complexity of our DNA made it impossible for me to believe that we had been designed. Have also read Dawkins' God Delusion, although I dislike his need to tear down faith quite so aggressively. Unlike him, I think humans are essentially tribal, and if we weren't killing each other over religion, we would find something else to do it over.

I also have a couple of 'actively' Christian friends. A huge part of me envies the comforts of their faith. I also love Christian music and find churches peaceful and good to sit in and think. But really really wanting something to be true, doesn't make it true in my head, so I just can't get there (to belief).

I also don't think that religion has the monopoly on morality, far from it.

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 26-Mar-13 22:43:54

Hester, I have no idea what babies do or don't believe. I am asking those who have made a statement to the fact how they know.

How do I know this?

Belief in gods is a learned behaviour.

If you put a newborn baby in a room alone and let him grow up in that room alone with no outside influence do you think he'd believe in God? Or Allah? Or Xenu?

Of course he wouldn't. Religion is an accident of birth. The only reason children can be said to subscribe to any religion is because it's thrust upon them by their parents.

Shitty parenting 101.

technodad Tue 26-Mar-13 22:48:02

How do I know that babies are born with no prior knowledge of any concepts made up by other humans in the world?

Well, it can be scientifically proven using FMRI scans of a babies brain. If you were to show them any spiritual reference (or read them the bible etc), you will not get a cognitive response difference to showing them a lump of cheese.

You will no doubt tell me that they are connected to god in a different non-measurable way, to which my response would be "oh grow up"!

technodad Tue 26-Mar-13 22:48:36

Easter got their first - good answer

BlissfullyIgnorant Tue 26-Mar-13 22:49:24

There's a long process of recognising more and more every day that evidence outweighs faith: there is no hard evidence that anything written in the bible is true, but there is mounting evidence from scientific research every day of such things as the 'miracle' of life and the way it reproduces, and that the universe is by far much older than the few thousand years the holy books claim. Religious people also tend to cherry pick - its bad to be gay but fine to wear polycotton and its ok to indulge in such sinful abominations as moules frites or prawn cocktail as long as you love god unconditionally and despise and deride those who don't.

HesterShaw Tue 26-Mar-13 22:51:16

Yes, I am asking as well. Why would a baby have any concept of God? A baby is so intent on eating and growing and sleeping, we have no memories of being babies. It stands to reason that there is no way a baby would have any concept of something it can't see or hear.

I agree with easterbunny. You wouldn't think of the Christian religion and all its ridiculous complexities for yourself unless someone taught it to you. Same for Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and other organised religion.

Viviennemary Tue 26-Mar-13 22:51:39

I do still consider myself a Christian. But in the last few years I have thought quite a lot that it is really so so unlikely that there is a God. I'm not an atheist yet but a very strong doubter.

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 26-Mar-13 22:53:18

Bunny, to my knowledge, this has never been done. So is it something that you know or something that you believe?

HesterShaw Tue 26-Mar-13 22:56:56

I would know it in the same way as I know Paris is the capital of France.

But then a die-hard Christian would say the same about the existence of God.

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 26-Mar-13 22:57:23

Technodad, I have no intention of saying any such thing. As I said above, I don't know what babies do or do not believe. Do you know of studies regarding MRI scans of baby's response to cheese, bibles or anysuch?

SucksToBeMe Tue 26-Mar-13 22:59:55

Your not at all like your user name would suggest Blissfullyignorant!

I shall quote you next time my born again Christian father shoves his beliefs down my throat!

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 26-Mar-13 23:00:10

Hester that Paris is the capital of France is an easily provable fact. I am asking what proof there is for a newborn's belief or lack thereof, as stated by some posters.

technodad Tue 26-Mar-13 23:03:13

I have no idea if such studies have been done. But any idiot knows the results before even doing the research.

noblegiraffe Tue 26-Mar-13 23:05:26

I was raised catholic (Irish!) and believed quite scarily fervently. Then I remember sitting in church aged about 12 and realising there was nothing there, it was an empty room. And all the prayers were one way and there was nothing coming back.
I really wanted to believe, went through all the motions, dutifully attended church. I went to a catholic school and atheism wasn't discussed. My mum would have not accepted me not going to church. I got to university and my first boyfriend was an atheist. That's when I found out it was ok not to believe in god.

HesterShaw Tue 26-Mar-13 23:05:39

There is no proof that newborns are aware of God because there have been no studies into it. OK.

There have been no studies into whether pandas are aware of the teachings of Chairman Mao either as far as I am aware.

I remember as a kid thinking 'But this is just ridiculous' on more than one occasion: I went to a church-linked primary which involved a lot of arse-achingly tedious Going To Church, and a lot of the stuff talked about then seemed irrelevant or boring and 'God does it/say your prayers' never seemed an acceptable answer to questions. Because I'm in my late 40s and British, I grew up with a sort of default-C-of-E background, with weddings and funerals generally taking place in church and, even into early adulthood I would sometimes go to Midnight Mass with my parents purely for the music. I went through a bit of a woo-phase in my late teens (tarot cards and Wicca) but even that tended to seem a bit silly a lot of the time. Now it all just seems a bit daft and unimportant and implausible: what I resent about religions is the power they insist on trying to exercise over everyone else's life.

kissmyheathenass Tue 26-Mar-13 23:08:56

To answer your earlier question Dione, I was raised to say prayers at bedtime and go to Sunday school. I abandoned those practices when I was around the age of 9 . religion never really had a place in my life after that. I married in a reg office and didn't have my dcs christened.I never gave it a second thought. Something must have been lurking in my mind though as I was compelled to read the God Delusion, then Beyond Belief by David Yallop and god is Not great by hitchens. By the time I had read those, I totally and unequivocally despised the church and all that it stood for.

ChippingInIsEggceptional Tue 26-Mar-13 23:10:02

Have you got an article or a paper you need to write?

Right around the time I realised that Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny and The tooth Fairy and the Wizard Of Oz were not real. Also ideas thrust upon us by parents/popular culture.. Far more nicer figures than the all-powerful, all-seeing, all-punishing "God".

Had further run-ins with Billy Graham when he toured Britain. Some very religious friends took me to see a live screening of one of his sermon things (I would call it a recruitment drive) and I was absolutely horrified by all these seemingly sane people around me who suddenly got up and declared themselves to be suddenly feeling the presence of God. I just suddenly recognised religion for what it was - a way to brainwash and control people through fear.

The final straw was attending a Catholic baptism of a nephew. The priest was banging on about how all unbaptised babies go to purgatory but how this one's soul had now been claimed by Mother Mary so HE was alright. Made me realise at that exact point that I was absolutely right not to have christened/baptised my own children (for relatives' sake).

Inertia Tue 26-Mar-13 23:18:11

Which god?

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 26-Mar-13 23:22:34

Thankfully Chipping I do not have any paper or article to write.grin I am not currently in study, I'm just interested for the reasons given my earlier post.

elQuintoConyo Tue 26-Mar-13 23:24:42

I didn't have religion forced on me contact with religion until I was 11, by which time I couldn't get an answer to any of my questions in class. In fact, the teacher (school vicar) thought I was taking the piss, I wasn't, I was truly curious, and I spent an hour each Thursday after PE in the headmistress's office. I had a special chair!

I do remember winning pass the parcel at primary school and crying my way home as I had won a 'Jesus book'!

You either have faith or you don't and I'm not a lost lamb because of it.

DH is lapsed Catholic and we live in a Catholic country, he's trying to persuade me to baptise DS... hmm

LadyLech Tue 26-Mar-13 23:30:57

I stopped believing when I did my theology degree.

We used to joke and call it the atheist factory, as we all trotted in good little Christians, and left raging atheists. I went to a religious college too!

I was brought up being told that the bible was a story book. Nothing more, nothing less. I have never had belief of any kind. I would always be respectful of other peoples beliefs in real life. But inside, I can't help but feel amazed that so many people can confidently call a strange sect crazy and yet accept mainstream religion as perfectly believable.

I struggle to identify as an athiest how someone could think Scientology madness but Catholicism correct. In my mind one is no more believable or likely than the other.

Dh is not exactly a believer but is happy to say he is sitting on the fence until judgement day. He takes great pleasure in telling people that I am a fundamental athiest and would combust merely waljing past a house of god! It is not true, I would never openly pull anyone up on their beliefs. It just annoys me that my views aren't quietly respected. I have been called to question by aquaintances as to why I wouldn't send ds to a church school or beavers. I wouldn't dream of giving anyone a hard time about why the choose a religious school so I don't see why me choosing not to should matter either.

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 26-Mar-13 23:40:18

Thecapitalsunited did you ever question your atheism once you discovered that others believed?

Hester what do you mean by "a fervent stage" in your teens and did you ever believe that the bad things in the world were caused by a vengeful deity as opposed to nature and bad people?

fortyplus Tue 26-Mar-13 23:43:22

OP when I was 5 I believed in Father Christmas, ghosts, fairies (especially the tooth fairy) and God. Oh... and I wouldn't walk under ladders, either.

My dad stumbled around rather heavily one year delivering the presents and that pretty much put paid to all my superstitious beliefs.

BlissfullyIgnorant Tue 26-Mar-13 23:48:25

Thanks, Sucks. Must think about changing my name - you're the second person in almost a year to tell me I'm anything but grin

Look at it all with common sense - it's not hard...

Religious fundamentalists like to attack non-believers with knives, bullets, bombs and even stones. Atheist fundamentalists write.

Some believe we are all made in god's image, so is it male or female? What colour is it? Is it hairy or bald? Does it have a missing or deformed limb? Does it have a perfectly symmetrical face or a nose that points slightly left? If we are made in god's image and god is perfection, where is my penis and why did DH's have to have a bit chopped off to make him perfect? Surely, if he's in god's image, he wouldn't have had a foreskin in the first place? Why are so many children (especially in very religious countries/communities) born with severe deformities and disabilities? What god has a parasitic twin? (Think yet another hideous modern day 'Victorian freak show' tv programme on C4)

Of course, I can answer that last one - the reason so many babies born into religious sects suffer disabilities is because those sects advocate marrying 'in' and forbid marrying 'out', sometimes to the point of carrying out so-called 'honour killings' to preserve what can only be seen as racial purity. When cousins marry cousins, they may perpetuate the sect, but they also create birth defects. There - I said it. The devout may be able to trace their ancestral religious purity back for generations but at what cost to their descendants' futures? Pray all you like, but only science will help.

Genesis says god created two sources of light; the sun for the day and the moon for the night. This is plainly crap - the moon acts as a reflector, it's not a light source. It doesn't get any better the more you get into it, either. What kind of god makes a bat (mammal) and calls it a bird (bird)? If you can't be naffed with arcane bible language, read The Brick Testament, which is simply superb. Google for it, and enjoy (especially Leviticus!)

IndigoBarbie Tue 26-Mar-13 23:49:50

Apologies OP: I might be jumping in here, (obviously) but if god does or doesn't exist could never probably be quantifiable/proven in our lifetimes.

Will we get to the end and realise we wasted such a time arguing about the existence that when we find out the answer it will be too late to realise; we are all human, we all feel love, we all feel pain. We all lived our lives as best we could, but yet allowed ourselves to be dictated to and divided from others - just because of our beliefs (whatever they may be)

<runs and hides now......> I love everyone xxx

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 26-Mar-13 23:52:02

To Fortyplus and the others who believed in god when they believed in Santa and the toothfairy and then didn't believe, did you ditch all these beliefs at the same time? I kind of understand that belief in FC and stuff goes away when you discover that it is your parents who provide the gifts and cash. No adults believe in these, but quite a few believe in a god. What difference did this make? If any?

Ladylech what do you think it was in your studies in theology that ended your belief?

DadOnIce Tue 26-Mar-13 23:54:19

No great decision, no great single moment of revelation. I was brought up soundly C of E, very trad "English country village" Christianity. Went to church but found it all a bit boring really. Got into the happy-clappy scene for a while, tried to enjoy it, thought this might be more my "kind" of church. Like Trills above, spent time at university "trying" to be a Christian. But it was a bit like a gay person trying to have heterosexual relationships - it always forced and fake.

I eventually admitted that it just never really made sense to me, and it took until my young adulthood - probably about 23 or 24 - before I really admitted to myself that there was no substance to the belief. Since then, I've simply consolidated my position by insisting that there has to be at least some evidence for anything people want me to believe in.

University was actually a great training-ground for this kind of sceptical belief. I did a course which encouraged you to mistrust opinions, back up your ideas with quotes, compare and contrast sources. Good solid stuff. Anyone daring to base an easy on one single critic's belief, or one single text, would be roundly upbraided. It continually amazes me that there are people who went through the same processes as me and emerged still believing in a 3000-year-old myth system.

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 26-Mar-13 23:56:01

Indigo, I didn't start this thread to argue whether or not god exists. Christ knows there are already enough threads here doing just that. On the contrary, I think lack of belief is interesting in it's own right.

recall Tue 26-Mar-13 23:57:16

It wasn't a decision…just never have…why would I ?

This question is like asking someone "when and how did you decide you didn't believe in Fairies ?" confused

It is quite a loaded question too, suggests that not believing in God makes one a deviant.

Booyhoo Wed 27-Mar-13 00:03:52

i think i always thought of it as make believe in the same way i knew story books weren't real. i remember sitting in primary school aged about 8 hearing the stories from the bible and then one time a classmate referred to something out of one of the stories as if it had actually happened and i remember being really confused and thinking "wait, those stories actually happened?". i'm not really sure if i convincec myself one way or the other after that but i know when i got to about 11/12 i realised that no, it wasn't real. it was made up just like santa/tooth fairy etc. i really struggled in (catholic) secondary school with how everyone else seemed to unquestioningly (sp?) accept what was being read/told to us by teachers. i couldn't understand how/why no-one else was sitting with a confused face like me. i still feel like that now TBH.

happybubblebrain Wed 27-Mar-13 00:06:48

My parents, grandparents and most people I know are atheists. I have nearly always been one. I've had brief periods in my life when religious friends would talk to me about God and I'd want to believe what they believed, but within a short time I'd realise I was just fooling myself and I'd have to accept the truth again. I'm completely open to believing in something and if there was ever any evidence that a God existed I would, but in 40 years of my life there hasn't been. I have to believe what I see, hear, feel.

I think most religious people must know deep down that God is pretty unlikely.

I was one of the ones who mentioned Santa and God. It was the realisation that it was possible for adults to tell you things that are not true as if they are fact. It's quite a blow, that, to a child who is assured that adults know best about everything and that telling lies is wrong! Also - Things that you chose to quietly ignore about Santa before, for example, because it defies logic, for fear of not getting any presents - it makes you explore other things which you don't quite "buy". Because there is now the possibility that it is based on an untruth or a myth.

nooka Wed 27-Mar-13 00:12:52

I was brought up Catholic (although my mother is CoE), went to church every week, Catholic primary school, had first holy communion etc. My secondary school was CoE aligned and I went to catechism classes and was confirmed. During most of that time I didn't really think about it much. Church was a chore that we did as a family and being a Christian was a bit of a default. The only time I positively chose to go to church was when I went to boarding school for sixth form, so that's probably th only time I'd say I really had a belief.

Then I had a difficult time in my year out, and prayed for help/support. Realised that there was nothing there, and have never believed since. Mostly I am apathetic toward religion, but sometimes I am quite strongly anti-theist.

Fundamentally I think religion, and in particular religious authority are quite dangerous.Which is interesting because not only are my parents quite religious but my sister and BIL are ordained.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 00:16:53

That's really interesting Curly. How did you feel when you realised that the adults in your life had lied to you? Did it have any other consequences?

I ask because I cannot remember a time when I did believe in FC and the tooth fairy? That's not to say I didn't ever believe in FC, it's just that I cannot remember having done so and by the time my teeth fell out I already knew my folks were responsible for the 10p under my pillow. I was a light sleeper.grin

When I was 12 and old enough to stand up to my nan and tell her than no I wasn't going to let her force me to go to church every Sunday, (and relished the though of future Sunday lie ins). That the Catholic church was an absolute farce, and that there couldn't possibly be a God if his supposed messengers here on earth liked to abuse and rape children. angry She didn't speak to me for 2 months after that.

It pisses me off that both my mum and dad (non believers from when I was about 4) both wouldn't challenge her and let her bully my sister and me to go to church. I've brought both my dds up with no faith so they can make their own decisions about God. They know that I don't believe in God, that daddy does, but doesn't practice it (he's more of a Buddhist) and if they want to believe then that is fine.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 00:23:04

Aw Techno, I was really looking forward to finding out the results of what babies think in MRI scanners. You are such a tease.grin You are also mixing up knowledge with belief or assumption.

Creeping Wed 27-Mar-13 00:29:56

I never liked organised religion; too many wars fought on behalf of them, too restrictive, unfair to and intolerant of certain demographics. What kind of a God would allow that? My believing mum's answer was that humans made a mess of it, not God. So I concluded that personal faith might still be a good thing, offering hope and comfort and an incentive to do good, but the institutionalisation into catholics/protestants/moslims/jewish/etc sucked. I was about 14 or so and didn't want to go to church anymore.

Then I heard how the bible came to be assembled, that there are stories that didn't make it into the final version. That nailed it for me. The bible is a completely arbitrary collection of stories, not the word of God at all. I was about 18.

technodad Wed 27-Mar-13 06:44:41


I posted a genuine scientific theory with my suggestion for how my theory might be tested.

It is quite easy to take my "belief" and turn it into "fact" using the scientific method (and some expensive kit).

If the results were contrary to my theory I would adjust the theory to suit and continue testing until I have a theory which was repeatably provable via test.

This is unlike a religious belief in all regards, since a belief wouldn't be changed despite the evidence proving contrary to the belief.

I really wanted to believe.

i could see how faith gave some people that extra boost in life & got them through hard times. When I had a breakdown at 17 (after years of bullying) I tried really hard to 'get into it' but the more I tried the more it seemed so unlikely to be true.

Life is too random & quite obviously just a sequence of events. Anything not 'random' is just luck & coincidence.

Also, it comes across as a book to scare people into being 'good' by using the fear of hell/purgatory.

Anyway, I read the God Delusion when I was about 20 and that was the nail in the coffin!

sashh Wed 27-Mar-13 07:08:25

Some time in my RC schools. It was quite gradual for me. We didn't go to church often and I was shocked to find out some people go every week.

It was as if we were role playing, I just thought it was what you did like putting a stocking up for santa when you are 20 and everyone pretends.

EauRouge Wed 27-Mar-13 07:19:00

I'm another that wanted to believe. I was brought up C of E (high church) and both my parents are heavily involved in the church. When I was a child I really believed. As a teenager I sort of dipped in and out of it.

In my early twenties I really tried to get back into it but I had so many questions. All the suffering in the world- if god is omnipotent then why doesn't he intervene? If he isn't omnipotent then why bother worshipping him? If some parts of the bible are metaphors (the creation story being one) then how do you know which parts are literal and which parts are metaphorical? Why are some parts ignored completely and others emphasised?

There are only two possible answers to all my questions: 'god works in mysterious ways' or 'none of it's true'. I went with the latter. It felt like that moment in the morning when you first put your glasses on, everything suddenly went into focus.

I don't see myself as 'lacking faith', I don't think I'm missing out on anything. I feel like I'm finally satisfied with the way life works and how I view the world. The only down side is that I'm slightly in the closet, my family would be gutted if they found out I'm an atheist. I don't pretend to be religious and I don't go to church, we just don't talk about it.

^ also, realizing I could get through things by having faith in myself, rather than a god/gods helped cement my views.

I also have a very internal locus of control (so I believe that I'm in control of my own destiny, pretty much) which makes it quite hard to follow a religion of any sort.

I think if you have an external locus of control it had to be easier to believe , as it fits in with your general outlook on life much more neatly.

CoteDAzur Wed 27-Mar-13 07:28:23

Like so many others on here, I never believed. The whole God & religion package always sounded stupid. Some of my earliest memories are of asking people why they think there is a God and marvelling at their lack of proper answers.

I also think that too much is bad is done in the name of god(s), which is beyond wrong when it's not even something we can prove.

Yes, it does some good but at the end of the day that's the cold truth about it.

Also the belief that " There is no such thing as a Christian child: only a child of Christian parents " .

MrsBucketxx Wed 27-Mar-13 07:43:31

I think several things,

I realised prayer did nothing, reading the god delusion, my brothers death, sitting In church listening to teaching I was dead against (turning the other cheak wft) the zombie like brain washing of it all, the historical contradictions of earths history.

so many things, the bible (or any other holy book) to me is to keep people in check to behave. non of this points to the existance of god.

Mapal Wed 27-Mar-13 08:48:03

I just don't believe that grown up intelligent people really believe. I think they all just want to believe. And I think they're all thinking they are the only ones who don't really believe and are trying to be like the others in their community when really deep down everyone just feels the same.
And I think the atheists are just the ones brave enough to be honest about what deep down, everyone knows is true.

Mapal Wed 27-Mar-13 09:06:15

Sorry that just doesn't answer your question at all I'm in a strange mood this morning.

Anyway, I don't think people decide they don't believe in god. I think the normal state is not believing in god, then people get taught about god at some point in their life and then decide they believe in god. They may then decide later on that actually they don't believe in god, these are folk who could answer your question properly I suppose.

I was never taught to believe in god so have never believed. It's as simple as that. I wasn't christened, we never went to church, I knew the most famous stories (ie Christmas!) as stories, was never told they were true. And reading the God Delusion just made me brave enough to put the name of atheist to it. It's a shame that in these modern times it is only just becoming OK to call yourself an atheist!! We have been oppressed for so many years!

Oh dear, told you I was in a strange mood.

badguider Wed 27-Mar-13 09:25:24

The other thing that helped my atheism was more and more exposure to other religions. I didn't grow up in a very multicultural are or go to a multicultural uni so if have been 21 before I had a lot if exposure to Islam Hinduism and Judaism and then travelled to India and Sikkim and Buddhist areas then japan and shintoism. The more I saw the more I couldn't possibly pick one religion and they can't all be right!

badguider Wed 27-Mar-13 09:27:45

I started to see god and religion as a thing cultures preform to bind them together into communities and I saw my own upbringing in that light too.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 09:34:42

Techno, a thought or hypothesis which has not been tested is not a genuine scientific theory, no matter how much you wish it to be.

GooseyLoosey Wed 27-Mar-13 09:37:36

I too was brought up in a Sunday school culture and went every week for many years. It never had any resonance for me. I did not decide that I did not believe in God, I just found none of it convincing and therefore my default of non-belief continues.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 09:39:25

To those of you who say that learning about evolution lead to your becoming atheists, were you taught creationism as scientific fact?

EndoplasmicReticulum Wed 27-Mar-13 09:39:50

That question is backwards for me, too - I didn't stop believing, I never believed in the first place. I come from an atheist family, and the best efforts of the school system did nothing to change my mind.

Takver Wed 27-Mar-13 09:46:52

I would say I don't believe in a Christian god for the same reason that I don't believe in Zeus, Thor, Diana the Huntress or any other god.

TBH I wouldn't even bother calling myself an atheist - its a bit like saying 'I'm not a believer in Valhalla' - religion has just never played any part in my life.

I think that in practice a very large proportion of the UK population is with me on this one, and its why there is so little outcry about compulsory CofE religion in schools, people just see it as a bit like fairy tales. So even if they do think 'oh yeah, they've got a point' when someone complains, they don't care enough to do anything about it.

MolotovCocktail Wed 27-Mar-13 10:05:32

I wouldn't call myself an atheist because I believe that there is so

However, I do not believe that there is the God who exists in Christian, or other monotheistic religions. This is because things happen that should not happen - awful things. If this God is truly benevolent, they wouldn't happen. God wouldn't test people in this way. If this was the case, God would be at best uncaring, at worst cruel.

God is. God does. (I think that God is a force which I am calling God here for ease of convenience.)

There is no consciousness to it. No reason. It doesn't ask for anything. God is the cosmos. God is nature.

MostlyLovingLurchers Wed 27-Mar-13 10:19:11

I grew up with a non-conformist mother and a Jewish father who converted to Catholicism. It gave me a great interest in religion but certainly no faith - even as a small child it was obvious that they couldn't all be true. I could never be a brownie because i wouldn't swear the oath to god (or to the queen for that matter!). I did try to embrace catholicism later on when i was having a difficult time but it was quite apparent i was just looking for emotional support rather than having any real faith. Even my priest agreed that it probably wasn't for me.

From my early teens i identified as a pagan, but within a short space of time i stopped seeing gods and goddesses as literal entities and saw them instead as aspects of nature and ourselves. After this all the rituals seemed a bit silly and pointless. I think i probably fully embraced atheism while studying A level RE. I still identify as pagan as i do believe that there is an interconectedness between all living things, but i don't believe there is any supernatural deity behind it.

slug Wed 27-Mar-13 10:26:02

I was brought up in a Catholic family but remember clearly working out before I went to school that it was less coherently put together than many of the story books I read (I was a scarily precocious child). Of my many, many siblings I think only one now still attends a church of any kind and that may have more to do with the fact her FIL is the pastor than any real belief.

It would be nice to have belief. I can see how a sense of certainty can be comforting and less scary than feeling adrift in a world where you have to work it all out for yourself. However, I studied Religions at university and the more I studied the more the patterns of social control across all religions became clear. And then I discovered neuro psychology and, once I learned how the human brain can be artificially stimulated to create a religious experience, there no longer seemed to me to be any vestige of an excuse for hanging onto religion as a social construct.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 10:44:54

Slug what age are you talking about? 3-4 years old or 10-11 years old?

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 10:47:12

Mapal, are you saying that you think believers aren't intelligent or that they're lying?shock

Mapal Wed 27-Mar-13 10:55:38

I think that they think that their religious peers all have faith & believe etc, but I think that they themselves don't really and are just following along & trying to be part of it because they want to be like that too. But deep down I think they feel it's all pretend but don't want to feel like that.
So, I think EVERYONE feels like that, but the individual thinks it's just them.

I know how this sounds, it's awful of me I'll admit it. But it's what I think, apologies if you don't like it and I understand if lots disagree. I still think I'm right though.

Mapal Wed 27-Mar-13 10:56:29

P.S. I do not think that they are either unintelligent or lying. I think they are trying very hard actually.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 11:01:49

Have you ever known anyone of faith who is not trying to fit in with their peers? For example people who have converted from one religion to another or who suddenly acquires faith?

GetOeuf Wed 27-Mar-13 11:07:20

This doesn't seem like a debate, just one person asking increasingly tiresome questions. No wonder people think you are writing an article.

GetOeuf Wed 27-Mar-13 11:08:38

What do you think OP?

What is your personal thought on this?

Mapal Wed 27-Mar-13 11:08:40

My MIL converted to catholicism when she married my FIL and her parents were very unhappy about it. But I think that was about rebelling against fitting in with her parents, and be able to fit in with her new husband and his family.
Other than that I don't know anyone who has either switched or suddenly found a new faith, but I would assume anyone who does comes into a new 'community' of people that enable that switch or new faith.

HesterShaw Wed 27-Mar-13 11:10:20

Mapal, that was how I felt at the age of 14 or so. I'd got in with a very happy clappy Baptist chapel who all looked serene and beauteous and said they had the Lord in their heart. I tried to have the Lord in my heart as well, even though I didn't feel any different after I'd asked him in. All along there was a little nagging voice saying "This is probably all made up." I heard someone talking in "tongues" once - I just stared at hum, unwillingly thinking, he's making it up as he goes along! And when I was 15, after me praying hard every night that she would recover and believing that he would save her, my friend died of cancer, in agony. She was 13 years old. I knew deep down then, there was no god, but even so, it took me until my late twenties to admit it. Belief is based just on fear and superstition.

slug Wed 27-Mar-13 11:10:23

Dione, I was 4. Father Christmas, Tooth Fairy, God. None made sense at that age.

piprabbit Wed 27-Mar-13 11:12:53

I was brought up in a church-attending Christian family, so I was introduced to the bible, prayer etc. I don't recall ever actually believing any of it but it was interesting and quite enjoyable.
However when I was 5yo my younger sister died and the church and it's members treated my parents terribly in a time they needed support. As a result my mother completely lost her faith and we stopped our involvement with the church. So from that stage I had no external 'encouragement' to believe.
Since then, I have seen and heard nothing which leads me to believe that there is anything to believe in. There are however, any number of reasons to be very wary of influence on organised religion. So I try and steer clear.

AnitaKnightSavesTheWorld Wed 27-Mar-13 11:13:38

I'm not sure I can answer exactly. I'm not sure I ever really believed. I can remember becoming a bit sceptical at around 10 or 11 - before that, I'd just been told and 'accepted' (as a young child does) the primary school teachings of a kindly god, with a big white beard sitting on a cloud in heaven.

Throughout teenage years I became very sceptical - it just seemed to me a very 'convenient' answer to all the questions we human beings couldn't answer - but that scientific discovery was making clearer to us. The more I thought about it, the less likely it seemed to me that there was one all-powerful creator - and this was the one true god whereas Thor, Zeus etc weren't (anymore).

I suppose really in late teen years/university years it was various different things - I recognise faith as a comfort to other people, but I just didn't get it. I can appreciate the wonders of nature, the universe, love, etc without needing to believe in a deity.

I remember a friend of mine once saying "is it more likely that god created man or that man created god?" and that says it all to me.

OP did you ask because you genuinely want to know? grin

ChippingInIsEggceptional Wed 27-Mar-13 11:14:25

Whatever article or paper you need to write - at least be honest about it.

DadOnIce Wed 27-Mar-13 11:17:43

I could believe in "God" if it was just a name people give to creation, to nature, or just a metaphor, if you like, for some creative act of the collective human imagination. But that isn't what 99% of the Christians I have met would want me to believe in. I'm afraid when we get into things like prayer being answered I just eventually lose my patience and have to point them towards theories of confirmation bias and so on.

Plus, even if I could be made to believe in this thing called "god" - a huge mountain to climb - why on earth would I want to "worship" it? Why would I be bothered enough to get up early on Sunday and go to a draughty building and listen to a lot of tedious stuff and smile and shake hands with a lot of old ladies in hats, rather than stay in bed with DW and eat breakfast and read the paper, or go to the park with DS? It just says nothing to me about my life. It's a bit like golf - I cannot imagine for the life of me why anybody would want to do it, and would need to be made to do it at gunpoint. (But golf does at least exist, and the world isn't full of golf evangelists telling me my soul will be saved if I take it up...)

HarrietSchulenberg Wed 27-Mar-13 11:17:44

I never did. Parents went to church as it was socially expected in those days but I remember being very small (5ish) and thinking that it was all a story. It was actually before I worked out that Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy weren't real either (sorry folks, but it's true).

Mapal Wed 27-Mar-13 11:20:27

Gosh Hester how very sad about your friend.

The way you describe feeling at church is how I reckon loads more people feel than actually admit it.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 11:30:23

Getoeuf I never intended for this thread to be a debate. I wanted to start a discussion about atheism. It followed some posts on another thread from atheists who didn't post in this section as they didn't like the way atheism was often just used to bash people of faith, as opposed to just being what it was.

As for me, I never really believed as a child. I tried, but it wasn't there so when I was about 12 I stopped pretending. My school were fine about my lack of faith although RE was compulsory, my dad didn't believe but agreed with my mum that I should attend church, or at least leave the house and be in the vicinity of a churchgrin until I was 16. Then I stopped going. I got faith in my late 20s. One minute it wasn't there, the next it was. It was a shock I can tell you. But it wasn't religion.

So that's my story. No paper to write, no desire to convert anyone, or start a is no god better than a god bunfight, just an interest. I also thought it would be nice to have a conversation with atheists that was not just about their reaction to people of faith.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 11:37:33

BTW I have noticed some mistrust and suspicion regarding my motives starting this thread. Do you think that perhaps this comes about because when atheists start threads here, many if them do so in order to rubbish the beliefs of others?

HesterShaw Wed 27-Mar-13 11:48:57

I don't see learning RE as being incompatible with having no faith. I did RE until GCSE as an agnostic.

DadOnIce Wed 27-Mar-13 11:51:01

Atheists never start threads here, Dione.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 11:53:52

Nor do I Hester, but I went to Catholic school (and it was many quite a few years ago) where all the girls were baptized etc. Strangely, or maybe not, out of 100+ girls in my year, only two finished school with their faith in tact. The rest became Athiest or agnostic.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 11:54:58

What do you mean DadonIce?confused

narmada Wed 27-Mar-13 11:56:42

What faith did you get Dione [intrigued]

leniwhite Wed 27-Mar-13 12:37:23

I was brought up being told my Dad would burn in hell and struggled with the concept of deity from then onwards. In my teens I had a broken family life and had a lot of mental health issues which led to me getting sucked into an evangelical church that had split away from the church I was raised in and that did a lot of jolly music etc (music is my passion). It was basically escapism and a feeling of needing a surrogate 'family'.

It was when people started telling me that being gay was sinful etc that I came to my senses and realised I was there for reasons other than actually believing in god.

Since then I've become an outspoken atheist and I feel very strongly that I should speak out against teaching children 'facts' with no scientific or evidential basis whatsoever, because many children will just grow up to believe what their parents impress upon them, no matter how far fetched.

My religious friends constantly question how I can 'live without hope and morality', which I just find a crazy notion. I wish human nature could be such that we don't require a deity to have hope or live in a moral way - that to me would be true freedom.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 12:51:33

I got my faith Narmada. I keep typing that sentence, get no further, delete it, re-read your post and re-type that sentence. Which is annoying. The only thing I can compare that moment to is when you look at phosphorescent rocks and then black light comes on. Everything is the same, it's just that you see something you didn't see before. I didn't start believing in creationism. I didn't become anti-choice regarding abortion. I didn't rush to church. I did go to the library. It triggered a million questions in me and I wanted answers.

I'm sorry I can't be clearer.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 12:54:47

Leniwhite, I would find that so difficult. In what way are these people your friends?

Waspie Wed 27-Mar-13 13:02:35

I have always been an atheist. I can remember being very young - maybe four or five and being told about heaven at school. I spent ages trying to fathom out how a heaven could work - how would it be segregated? How could family members find each other if just their souls are up there? Where is it? I thought of the size it must be to hold every person how had ever died.

I thought about this for ages and eventually came to the conclusion that it can't possibly work so can't be real.

I believed in Father Christmas for longer than I believed in God smile

noblegiraffe Wed 27-Mar-13 13:11:29

I've seen Derren Brown do tricks on atheists that make them suddenly believe in a higher power, (and then undo them again).

I remember when I was about 15 reading a Paul McKenna book about hypnosis, and how hypnotism was getting someone into a mental state where they are more suggestible. He went through the usual techniques and described how one of the quickest and flashiest ways to achieve this state was to push someone over onto their back. The sudden altered perception from being on the floor looking up made some people more suggestible.

Then I was watching a programme, Louis Theroux perhaps where he was at one of those high powered evangelist style churches. The preacher was 'infusing people with the holy spirit' by knocking them over onto their backs. They were already in a suggestible state from the highly charged atmosphere and genuinely believed they felt the Holy Spirit enter them.

When Derren was converting his atheists, I noted that for some of them, he also knocked them over.

I think this sort of hypnotic suggestion comes into religious experiences a lot. I don't think people are pretending to feel these things, I think they genuinely do. I just think they are very mistaken as to the source.

leniwhite Wed 27-Mar-13 13:19:42

Dione - it does make me despair because they're all intelligent and have reasoning minds. Most either were brought up within their religion or turned to it after some sort of life trauma. I don't mind explaining exactly how I manage (!) to live without needing a higher power to force me to live morally and how actually I find it very freeing to know after I die it'll be exactly as it was before I was born. A few have told me that it's made them think about their beliefs slightly differently actually.

I think it would make the world a much better place if people could learn to be responsible rather than putting everything on to a deity.

leniwhite Wed 27-Mar-13 13:24:16

And by that I mean they should be able to reason out that morality and religion are not mutually exclusive

GetOeuf Wed 27-Mar-13 13:26:00

fair enough.

Just plenty of annoying people start threads on here to have a chat which goes to inform an article.

I have no axe to grind - I am very happily an atheist, and cannot remember believing, other than really enjoying going to Sunday School as a child and having a good sing song. I still like strolling around churches now - they are lovely places to sit and think.

But I can't get over that place in my head which convinces me that of course there isn't a god. It just seems, and always has seemed, utterly preposterous.

I can see how faith gives others comfort and happiness, and I don't feel bereft in that I have no faith at all. I don't need the idea of an afterlife to make this one more palatable.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 13:26:39

I agree Leni and I commend your patience.smile

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 13:28:32

Chippingin, if you think that this thread us anything other than I have said, please report it to MN rather than accuse me of being dishonest.

leniwhite Wed 27-Mar-13 13:30:34

Noble I think the same, and there are also questions for me around how, if people with neurological damage can lack the capability to believe in a god, can it be the only way to be. That goes back to the thing about babies being born without belief. I've spent 6 years studying psychology and once you realise just how biologically based much of our behaviour is, and how many of the things that used to be thought of as 'religious experiences' can be traced directly to our biology and chemical make up, it makes you wonder

backonlybriefly99 Wed 27-Mar-13 14:57:00

I assumed god must exist as a child since people mentioned him around me and spoke of people going to heaven & hell. We went to Sunday school as kids - mostly to get us out of the house I think smile

I quite liked some of the hymns, but I didn't give it much thought until I was given a bible. I read it like I did the little child's encyclopaedia I was given and when it didn't make sense I asked people about it. The answers were like those you get when you ask how Santa gets down such a small chimney. I kept studying it and making notes until I was sure it made no sense. Not just no sense in the larger world, but no sense internally.

Just in my experience people who are not priests/vicars etc seem not to read the whole bible. They tend to read inspirational passages. Reading it all it seems inevitable that I'd discount it.

About the default position. It seems impossible that babies can be born Christian, Baptist, Muslim or Mormon. How could that work? They could possibly be born ready to believe that something powerful and caring existed to protect and guide them. If so they would be correct. They are called parents. At some point in their development most children feel an urge to make their own decisions.

DadOnIce Wed 27-Mar-13 15:13:28

Dione - what I mean is that you said (or asked if) atheists come here to start threads and "kick off". I've never seen any such thing. I've only ever seen atheists weighing into threads started by believers - either about the nature of religion, or god, or threads like yours specifically asking atheists for an opinion. I can't recall the last time I saw a thread started by an atheist in P-R-S. In general, atheists don't go looking for a fight.

DadOnIce Wed 27-Mar-13 15:22:48

leniwhite - I find that sad too. Religious people have said it to me as well - in a slightly pitying way. I try to point out that I am able to lead a moral life without a god. That I commit offences as often as I want to - which is precisely not at all. I find it quite worrying that they, on the other hand, need to have God watching them like a stern headmaster. Are they implying that, without his baleful gaze, they'd be off gleefully raping and murdering?...

Like GetOeuf I find the idea of a god quite preposterous, and I get quite irritated when asked to "prove" there isn't one. Quite apart from this being logically impossible, I shouldn't have to - it's the person making the extraordinary claim who should have to prove it, or at the very least provide evidence. But for them, their belief has become some normalised that they don't, interestingly, see it as an extraordinary claim at all.

Blu Wed 27-Mar-13 15:29:05

I don't think I ever did really believe in god.

I was brought up as a fairly regular attender of the Methodist church, and did Sunday School, and mothering sunday and all the rituals and paraphanalia, and I entered into a feeling of a sort of shared collusion that 'this is the story we all tell each other and talk about' but I never really felt on any deep level that there was actually 'god'.

By the age of about 9 or 10 I had thought about it consciously and decided there definitely was not, a view that has been added to as I grew.

Well I have started threads in the past, eg about how anyone could reconcile being a feminist with being an active member of any of the Abrahamic cults.

Actually, getting back on topic, I think my revelatory moment was about birds. I would have been about 7, a year or two before we got any sex education, and I wanted to know about How Birds Got Married. EG, to my understanding at that age, you couldn't have a baby unless you were married, so how did birds manage it? I think someone told me that God dealt with it and that just sounded entirely ridiculous to me.

GetOeuf Wed 27-Mar-13 17:12:59

I find it quite sad that religious people seem to think that goes hand in hand with having a moral code. I find it perfectly possible to be a good person without the idea of god looming over me.

I also would find no comfort in going to heaven/hell, or any kind of afterlife. I am very happy with the notion that when I am dead that's it, turn into worm fodder or whatever, and whatever kind of afterlife I have is only in the memories of others - and if I am a good person more people will remember me fondly. I don't need to have a god or any faith for that.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 17:48:08

Quite a few atheists start threads here. Not all do to kick off, but some do. There are some running currently DadonIce.

Atheists have as much right as the superstitious to start threads in this section. It's called philosophy/religion/woobollocks, which means it's open to the rational as well. And everyone is at liberty to ignore threads that are either of no relevance to them or which they think are 'goady' or might expose them to people who don't agree with them.

DadOnIce Wed 27-Mar-13 18:55:46

Just an observation that I hardly ever see atheist-started threads, that's all. But maybe the originator is not always clear from the title.

thecapitalsunited Wed 27-Mar-13 19:54:13

Dione, you asked me somewhere up thread whether I questioned my atheism as I grew up. I read a lot about various religions as a teen but nothing really struck a chord with me. In fact quite the opposite, I actually find it quite bizarre that people can believe in a god because it has never been part of my life.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Wed 27-Mar-13 20:27:23

About the default position. It seems impossible that babies can be born Christian, Baptist, Muslim or Mormon. How could that work? They could possibly be born ready to believe that something powerful and caring existed to protect and guide them. If so they would be correct. They are called parents. At some point in their development most children feel an urge to make their own decisions.

I completely agree, it's actually an evolved trait certainly in humans and in a large proportion of other animals for young to intrinsically trust their parents because it's beneficial for survival to lean on their experience until such time as they are ready to go it alone. A side effect of this trait is that children will tend to trust any authority figure they come in contact with, so when sent to Sunday School, for example, it is very easy for the messages to be transmitted as fact and ingrained at an early age and this becomes deeply seated in the mind of the child.

As for the original question, I don't ever remember believing that god did exist and I'm not sure why I ever would have. I'd ask when did you decide that you didn't believe that Spot the Dog existed, or the Billy Goats Gruff, or Cinderella? For me, the stories I heard from the bible or other affiliated publications were just that, stories. I really don't understand why any child would ever take them as anything more plausible than that unless they were taught as historical fact, which, regardless of my personal beliefs in the truth of them, I don't agree they should be taught in that manner.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 20:29:37

I think the irritation that you feel when believers question your morality is the same as the irritation they feel when some atheists question their intelligence. Neither intelligence nor morality are the sole preserve of one group.

narmada Wed 27-Mar-13 20:41:07

No I understand your explanation of your faith dione. Did it come out of nowhere? at a significant time of your life? I just cannot imagine that ever happeni g to me...but then I am not ever so imaginative grin

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 21:52:00

It did come out of nowhere. There was nothing at all significant going on in my life, no sorrow, no joy, just a weekday afternoon. I was in the living room of the house I was renting at the time, so I wasn't even in a particularly inspirational location.grin

narmada Wed 27-Mar-13 22:12:40

What a shock. Did you wonder if you'd had some sort of cerebral...event?? Hope don't take that the wrong way, but I can imagine myself thinking that, if I were in your shoes ...

I hope you find your answers in your reading. At least no danger of your life being boring grin

fortyplus Wed 27-Mar-13 23:06:33

DioneTheDiabolist I can't really remember the sequence that these childhood beliefs fell by the wayside. I do remember walking home from primary school (but in those days I walked home from age 5) and thinking that I didn't believe in God but worrying that if He did exist would he mind that I didn't?! As an adult atheist I hold the same view - I don't believe in a supreme being, but if there is one I'm sure he/she/it wouldn't give a hoot whether people believed in them or not! A supreme being with an ego wouldn't be right, would it? grin

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 27-Mar-13 23:17:14

Totally. When I "came out" to some friends that was one of the first things they suggested, once they realised I wasn't taking the piss. A few years later I had an MRI scan on my brain. I mentioned it (called it an episode so they wouldn't think I was a mental time waster) and asked if they would check, but it all came back clear.

Don't worry about me taking offense, it's nothing I didn't get from my mates at the time.grin

noblegiraffe Wed 27-Mar-13 23:28:40

So you were sitting at home and suddenly felt like there was a god?

DioneTheDiabolist Thu 28-Mar-13 00:21:18

As I say, it raised more questions than it provided answers. I suppose if it was that important to god, she'd give it to everyone. So I, personally have come to the conclusion that belief isn't important. However I could be wrong, so if there are Pearly Gates manned by Peter, I don't expect that "Dione said it will be alright" will help.blush grin

Anyway, this isn't a thread about my personal belief, it's about atheism and I don't want to derail.

DioneTheDiabolist Thu 28-Mar-13 00:23:55

I wasn't sitting, I was walking in from the kitchen. It really couldn't have been more mundane.

monsterchild Thu 28-Mar-13 00:57:41

Before the age of 13. though I tried really hard when I was about 15, however, it just didn't happen. But I did learn a lot more about myself, and realized that there is more in this world than my philosophy can imagine.

LineRunner Thu 28-Mar-13 01:16:38

I was brought up a fairly strict religion (methodist) and I really want to believe, but I guess I never have because none of it actually makes sense. I think I struggled with 'God' even back in Sunday School.

I realise that any comfort of religion I might look for these days is simply the comfort of childhood memories.

On the whole, Dawkins is right.

CoteDAzur Thu 28-Mar-13 07:17:31

"I think the irritation that you feel when believers question your morality is the same as the irritation they feel when some atheists question their intelligence. Neither"

They might be just as irritated but injustifiably so.

Wishing to be a good person and not wanting to kill people are completely unrelated to the question of whether an intelligent being created the universe.

On the other hand, completely believing in stuff for which there is no proof does appear to be a sign of intellectual shortcomings.

(Having said that, I know several intelligent people with unshakeable faith. In their case, the faith has been indoctrinated into them at a very early age, before they developed critical faculties)

CoteDAzur Thu 28-Mar-13 07:18:15

Unjustifiably, even.

nooka Thu 28-Mar-13 14:46:54

The very religious in my family are all highly intelligent and all had their moment of 'enlightenment' as adults (all at university I believe).

Although to me their deep faith is inexplicable I don't doubt their intelligence, and as none of them have ever commented negatively on my morality I've no problem there. Although the 'no faith' position to me is an intelligent one, I don't conflate the two as I don't think that atheists are necessarily more intelligent than the religious.

Faith is a conviction not a rational choice, and using rational tools to try and understand it doesn't work terribly well (excluding interesting thinking about why humans have faith, or what is going on in the brain during religious experiences).

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Thu 28-Mar-13 18:52:49

It's perhaps wrong to assign a lack of intelligence to religion, and in fact the first response every time it's implied is "I know religious people who are very intelligent". But you can definitely assign a lack of rational thinking, the two aren't necessarily linked. You could have a stoutly religious person kick your arse at Trivial Pursuit but that doesn't mean they can't also believe in their imaginary friend without evidence for its existence.

I think I have always been an atheist, although had a brief wobble while working at a Catholic school (I think because I was a bit unhappy at the time and was sort of fascinated by the trappings of Catholicism, which I hadn't really encountered much before).
I have become more strongly atheist in recent years, and can understand the tendency for atheists to feel like questioning the intelligence of believers. But the thing is, there are certainly believers who absolutely are very intelligent. And if you go back a century or more, then most intelligent people were believers.

Catchingmockingbirds Thu 28-Mar-13 21:15:08

I was in primary school, probably about 10 yrs old. It didn't just happen overnight, but the idea of God existing just sounded more ridiculous to me every day and then finally I decided there wasn't any part of me that could believe in any of it. 15 years later I'm still firmly an athiest.

DioneTheDiabolist Thu 28-Mar-13 21:30:50

Cote, are you saying that you think the effects of religion on the reasoning ability of your friends was negated because religious indoctrination occurred in very early life?confused

It can be quite hard to shake off the irrational prejudices we aquire in early life. If we were brought up by racists, no matter how well educated we later become, it can take a long while to shake off completely the residual unease we might feel around members of an ethnic group we were brought up to believe are alien/dangerous/untrustworthy. We generally learn to keep such little niggles to ourselves and to behave like decent, polite, sensible people in company, though. It could be the same with those indoctrinated about imaginary friends: knowing and seeing that it's a crock of shit might not always get rid of lurking fears and/or comforting habits.

Equally, those brought up as non-religious might find it hard to let go of the idea of believers being foolish or stupid, even though they have probably met many believers who aren't.

DadOnIce Thu 28-Mar-13 23:42:59

I've met a great many believers who are very intelligent. And I know full well that the last Archbishop of Canterbury spoke goodness knows how many languages, just to give one example. But it is possible to be highly intelligent and still have a completely irrational belief in stuff. I'm sure there are very clever people with PhDs and so on who believe in alien abduction, to choose just one example...

Yes exactly. So however deluded I find belief in a deity, I don't think it is ok to imply that someone has a reduced IQ just because they believe in a god. People can have all sorts of reasons for believing in all sorts of things. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with intelligence.

I am genuinely very surprised that people who are atheists think that people of faith are less intelligent than them? Is this because we believe in something we cannot prove beyond all reasonable doubt? What exactly can you really prove? Is this because our faith does not make sense? What exactly makes sense in this world. The things most of us would say we can really prove are things like our love for our kids or spouses etc (I am guessing, more so than the more basic stuff like my back door leads into my garden) and the things that make most sense to many of us (I am guessing - well to me at least) are the love of family and friends. Again, not sure how exactly we can prove all that.

Being a Christian makes you more positive and more healthy ...(I also think it is true) and I don't want to be argumentative at all, I am just really surprised that anyone thinks because someone had a capacity for spiritual faith it diminishes their mental intellect.


HesterShaw Fri 29-Mar-13 00:59:02

One of the most intelligent people I know, who has a degree in genetics, is also a Methodist minister.

HesterShaw Fri 29-Mar-13 00:59:14

Sorry that should say PhD

noblegiraffe Fri 29-Mar-13 01:10:47

I suppose one reason that atheists might suspect Christians as being less intelligent is that the Bible is obviously a bit dodgy, yet is taken as a valid historical record of events that quite frankly require better evidence than that presented before being remotely believable.

If you haven't had some sort of revelatory experience filling you with faith and the Bible is what you've got to go on, it's really not very convincing. Or a nice book, even.

noblegiraffe that is a good point.

IMHO I think it depends how literally people are taking the Bible.

The Bible is history, poetry, song, revelation and dreams.

noblegiraffe you say it is not very nice and I expect you are thinking of bits that are full of violence etc. And that is true there are some bits that are shocking, and I would not say as a Christian I was advocating doing violence! In fact I know some Christian pacifists.

But there are also some beautiful bits in the Bible, about love and care and justice.

I take your point though, I guess it needs skill to interpret the Bible or any book like that and that is where the disagreements come in. The experience that individuals have of God can help them to interpret it.

LuisGarcia Fri 29-Mar-13 02:41:21

I take your point though, I guess it needs skill to interpret the Bible or any book like that and that is where the disagreements come in.

I don't think that was noblegiraffes point at all.

Maybe you are right LuisGarcia. - noblegiraffe said "If you haven't had some sort of revelatory experience filling you with faith and the Bible is what you've got to go on, it's really not very convincing. Or a nice book, even. "

I said "I take your point though, I guess it needs skill to interpret the Bible or any book like that and that is where the disagreements come in. The experience that individuals have of God can help them to interpret it. "

I thought Noblegiraffe meant if you have just a book and no experience then it is just a book and I said about having experience as a way of interpritting it. But I do see your point. Maybe I got that wrong.

Sorry Noblegirrafe if I misinterpreted or misrepresented you.

nooka Fri 29-Mar-13 05:31:54

Most Christians pick and choose very carefully what they select from the Bible as guidance. And they really need to as some parts of the Old Testament are quite horrific. Not just because they are violent but because they advocate actions that most would consider completely 'unchristian' in particular a large amount of rape and enslavement in the 'historical' part, but also some really quite unpleasant commands.

I was very surprised when we were planning readings for my father's funeral and the priest spoke very openly about readings with sections omitted because they jarred with modern sensibilities.

It has always surprised me that when the early church decided on canon they left in so much of the Old Testament as it fits so poorly with the 'love thy neighbour as thyself' or 'suffer the little children to come unto me' type ethos of the New Testament. The Old Testament god is really quite deeply scary. Or as Richard Dwarkins apparently has said:

'The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.'

OneLieIn Fri 29-Mar-13 05:45:46

I decided when I was about 18 and started feminist studies and started to question....
Why is god a man?
Why do people refer to a him?
Why do people hold up the fact that the only prominent female is a virgin in the bible?

And then other religions....
Why are religions so exclusive? Why do they use language and activities that exclude others?
Why are values not as important? Surely being kind is more important than believing in a religion?
Why do people hide behind religion as a justification for violence, hatred and aggression?

I just started to question and the answers weren't very appealing

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Fri 29-Mar-13 07:25:42

I take your point though, I guess it needs skill to interpret the Bible or any book like that and that is where the disagreements come in. The experience that individuals have of God can help them to interpret it.

It certainly takes a vivid imagination to interpret the Bible. That fact that it's almost impossible to find two people in the world who interpret it in the same way should really tell you something.

The amount of actual historical fact in the Bible is dubious, but that which there is tends to refer to places rather than people. But there is no clear way to determine which parts should be taken as literal and which as merely 'guidance' or whatever you wish to call it. Because of this, it is impossible to argue against a Bible-ist because when you question a chapter or verse you always get back "it's not supposed to be taken literally". Well for the record, there are several verses which I've heard different people tell me are both literal and not literal, so forgive me if my conclusion is that the whole thing is a load of bollocks.

Telling me that you have to also have an experience to really understand the book is even worse. I'd rather stick with the books that actually convey their message without relying on me having to hallucinate to understand them. I wonder how many people who have never heard of the bible (or any other religious text) have had a strange experience and then said, "Hey, I met this God fella and he told me to read his book". No, people think that they have 'religious' experiences because they want to believe and they want to feel like God has touched them in some way. I'm not saying these people didn't have strange experiences, or vivid dreams, or thought they felt something or saw something, who hasn't had things like that happen, but to just jump to the conclusion that it must be Jesus reaching out is ludicrous. So whilst I don't want to say that this demonstrates a lack of intelligence, it certainly demonstrates a lack of rational thought.

Religionists seem to think it is intelligence that is questioned by atheists. It isn't, it's rationale.

nooka Exactly why the books that are in the Bible are in, is something I can't really explain except that God guided those people to put together the canon and I suppose my answer would have to be, if you would like an answer which maybe not, that they aren't meant to be taken literally, but they have something to tell us about human history and I know that some of it is history, but I agree some is not, it is poetry, dreams, songs etc. I can certainly understand why many of the things that are written can be seen as offensive.

OneLieIn I am not trying to convince you of anything but just for the record I am a feminist and a Christian. I don't think God is a man. I know that we use the term 'he' but that (for me at least) is to be distinct for 'it' not to be distinct form 'she'. There are lots of women in the Bible but you are right there are more men. The Bible was written down by people so I believe it has been influenced by people, I do not believe it was dictated word for word from God to people, if you see what I mean.

I guess Pedro that that is why I speak about experience, I really don't want to upset or rattle anyone's cage, it is very hard to explain something personal, like explaining why I love my husband or like eating Chinese red bean cake when no one I know does! I have had an experience of God, and a relationship with Jesus for 30 years; I look at the Bible in the light of that experience. Just as I would read a love letter from my husband (when I used to get them and that was a long time ago!) in the light of the relationship I have with my husband. And when I see a red bean cake I think yum because I like to eat them. I know it is not a perfect analogy at all; I am just trying to explain.

In some ways it seems pointless to do so because I can see how much many people feel my view on life is wrong and part of me doesn't feel that anything I can say will make much sense, but I guess I did not want to appear cowardly and just post and then disappear.

You have been very helpful in explaining to me why some atheists are very hostile to religion and God etc and to Christians. I mean that genuinely I did not understand why people felt so strongly. I can totally understand people not believing in God. I also feel in some ways that this type of discussion where one person posts, then another then someone else and someone takes offence and someone else mentions something etc etc makes it very hard to really understand what is behind people's thoughts and to connect with people. I feel if we were having this chat over a coffee or a glass of wine we would all feel much open to the discussion and connecting more on a personal level. I'm not explaining that well I guess it feels quite hostile, like I am lobbing my views like custard pies out of a trench and then retreating! It is only my desire to learn what makes others tick and to share what makes me tick. I am going away now for Easter and so may not get a chance to post for a day or two, if i do not may I wish you the peace of this Friday, not Good Friday, just any old Friday. wink

By the way, what I just posted....by "You have been very helpful in explaining to me why some atheists are very hostile to religion and God etc and to Christians." I mean all of you who have posted. Thank you for taking the time to reply to my posts. I wish I could explain my self better.

noblegiraffe Fri 29-Mar-13 12:13:04

I'll clarify my Bible point. I'm an atheist who has been told a few times by Christians to read the Bible with an open mind and that this would help me become a Christian.

I've read the Bible (my Bible knowledge is quite good from a religious upbringing), and rather than bringing me closer to God, it has left me questioning what people see in it that they would recommend others read it as a path to belief. People often mention the Old Testament as a turn-off but that can be thought of as rules for a primitive society, Jesus moves us away from that etc. Things that really got me were in the New Testament. Jesus refusing to help a Canaanite woman as she wasn't Jewish until she said that even dogs get scraps under the table. That's not nice, however you look at it. And in Acts, there's the bit where the husband and wife sell their own land and don't give all of the money to Peter and say they have. Because of this they both drop down dead. That obviously never happened, so why is it in the Bible? To threaten people to give all their money to the church? It's some sort of warning isn't it, and again, not a nice one. Those bits particularly jarred with me.

If you already have faith, then I suppose it helps you gloss over those bits or look on them more kindly (greyhound what you said here about reading a love letter makes sense). I don't think of it in terms of giving you skills to interpret the Bible, more rose-tinted spectacles.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Fri 29-Mar-13 13:31:20

Well put, noble. Definitely enough content in the Bible that pretty much anyone can find enough stuff which fits with their already existing world view (e.g. If you are against homosexuality, there's bits to support that, or if not, then there's bits to support that too) and enough poetic licence to ignore or 'interpret' the other bits which are less agreeable to the individual.

On top of that, there are enough different denominations of Christianity that you can find one which fits well enough with how you like to read the bible pretty much anything from literalists to atheists.

In fact, when you think about it like that, the bible and the various churches are exactly as you'd expect them to be if they were based on man made fiction. It doesn't matter how much faith you have or which bits of the story you want to believe are true, there'll be a church waiting to take your annual fees or your loose change. It's possibly one of the greatest triumphs of human entrepreneurialism (if that's a word!)

Yes, it would be hard to make up a religion from scratch right now with more inconsistencies, loopholes and versions than the bible has.
Presumably it is pretty obvious how religions first started. Primitive man invented them to explain the world around him. Then over the centuries, across the world,loads of religions come and go and then along comes Christianity, which is apparently for some reason the first and only one that's 'true' (according to a dodgy, inconsistent book written by a load of random blokes donkeys' years after Jesus' lifetime). Really?
The only reason anyone can give for believing this is 'faith' - which is surely shorthand for 'I have decided I want to believe this' (because I am lonely/afraid of death/was brought up by Christians/fancy a new direction in my life/feel really guilty about something/want to appear good and pious/am pretending to believe because I think the church community is a Good Thing. Surely not because it is actually really true.

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 29-Mar-13 17:13:22

Not for me it isn't.

nooka Fri 29-Mar-13 21:26:31

italiangreyhound it's precisely the idea that god guided anyone to include all those terrible verses about how he commanded genocide, infanticide, rape and pillage that makes me think that if god was in any way real he would also be very terrible. As a set of myths however they fit right in with a lot of other ancient traditions of vengeful irrational gods who made life pretty awful for their followers and their enemies alike. A way to explain why life was nasty for many really.

The religious members of my family do the 'god lives by different rules' 'bible is all about interpretation' etc and it just means that we can't ever talk about anything to do with faith/religion because we have no common ground to share really. I approach life from a human standpoint and they approach it from a religious one.

Thing is, a lot of people who have the 'woo gene' (there does appear to be some sort of genetic component to whether or not you are prepared to believe in nonsense stuff for which there is no proof) and find that they need or want some sort of 'spirituality' in their lives don't subscribe to the mainstream bullshit because they can't cope with the patriarchal aspects/the racism/the misogyny/the homophobia. So they trot off and cobble together something from a different set of myths that suits them - usually some sort of panthieism eg Wicca or 'Native American' stuff (please note, I am not intending to be rude about Native Americans and their mythology, just about the modern-day hippies who appropriate bits of it and generally get most of it wrong). So my question is: if you want to believe in gods, why can't you pick nice ones?

CoteDAzur Sat 30-Mar-13 20:30:39

"Faith is a conviction not a rational choice"

How else are we supposed to be convinced of anything, if not through a rational and logical process? Abrahamic God hypothesis has no proof whatsoever and is hence not convincing. Therefore, we are not convinced and it is difficult to think of the ones who are convinced by these tales as terribly intelligent.

CoteDAzur Sat 30-Mar-13 20:31:59

"if you want to believe in gods, why can't you pick nice ones?"

They can't, because they have been indoctrinated at an early age into accepting their parents' mythology as The Truth.

Rosieres Sat 30-Mar-13 20:41:46

Ah, the religion is indoctrination from a young age gambit. Sadly it doesn't always work out like that. I'm a Christian, I chose to be one when I was an adult after a childhood without religion. As much by rational inquiry as by faith conviction.

And I know several atheists who were raised that way by their parents and who have not challenged the assumptions they were brought up with.

SGB - I think you are seriously overplaying the racism/misogyny/homophobia etc. in mainstream Christianity. How many churches have you been to in the last five or ten years, and how many people did you get to know well in those churches? If the answer to these is very few and very few then I would query where you are getting your evidence from. The media? My own parish church is racially mixed, generationally mixed, has both genders fully involved and is no more homophobic than society in general. Perhaps I was lucky in stumbling across it. Do tell me where your first hand evidence is from, so I can avoid those congregations.

CoteDAzur Sat 30-Mar-13 21:01:56

Nobody said it always works out that way. However, it is my answer to SGB' question "If they want to believe in Gods, why can't they choose nice ones?".

If you have another answer, let's hear it.

While we are at it, I would also like to hear what you mean by "rational inquiry" though which you have found God as an adult, since by definition it means we should all be able to come to the same answer if only we follow your logic.

noblegiraffe Sat 30-Mar-13 21:16:16

Rosieres, do you think it's a coincidence that rational enquiry led you to adopt the majority religion of this country? (assuming you are in Uk).

Rosieres Sat 30-Mar-13 22:10:16

I wouldn't assert that one person's rational inquiry will lead everyone to the same answer. It certainly isn't the case in many academic disciplines - philosophers are very good at being rational while coming to completely different conclusions. Much reasoning will also be based on reflecting on your experiences, which vary from person to person.

But without going into extremely long posts, the reason why I believe that there being a God is more likely than there not is based on the following grounds:

1) The fact that something (i.e. the universe) exists rather than doesn't exist, particularly as it seems that the universe had a start point (going from not-existing to existing). In short, the cosmological argument.

2) My take on the nature of ethics, that we all pretty much operate assuming that at least some ethics exists in an objective sense, i.e. some actions are good or bad no matter how human brains perceive them. I haven't met anyone yet who can consistently maintain the view that all ethics are merely subjective, usually if I posit coming round and burning their house down they tell me that would be wrong, even if I sincerely believed it to be morally neutral and could persuade a majority in society to back me. If there is such a thing as objective ethics (and we all pretty much live as if there were) we have to ask ourselves the ontological question of where such ethics come from, particularly if they are rooted outside human brains. The most obvious solution is that there is some external entity (because that would satisfy the objective criterion) which is intelligent (in order to make a decision on the rightness or wrongness of an action) and which is concerned enough about how we act to make such a decision (why else would it impose such objective ethics on us?). Which coincides with aspects of the theistic interpretation of God. Note that I do not say that this argument backs up any particular Christian or other religious set of ethics. Just that if you have at least one ethical stance which holds no matter how human beings perceive it (i.e. is objective) then you have to explain how that comes about.

3) From a specifically Christian point of view, and quite apt given that tomorrow is Easter, is the argument that the existence and expansion of the early church is best explained by the first disciples sincerely believing that Jesus was resurrected. In brief, those who followed Jesus saw him killed, which should have been the end of the movement. But they went on to take the message that he had risen and took that out far and wide from Jerusalem. They held this view in spite of persecution, they held it even though some were executed for believing it. So you can be pretty sure that they really believed it. But the early church was a nuisance for the Roman and Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. If they wanted to stop the early church dead in its tracks they would have produced a dead body and said "here is your Messiah, time to go home". From my delving into the evidence the most reasonable account of why the early church was so energised is that something happened that convinced the disciples that Jesus had risen, and no one was able to provide any counter evidence, even though many people would have wanted to. This is basically a historical argument, rather than a philosophical one.

4) The experiental point has to be brought in. I, like many Christians, will speak of having a sense of God in my life. I know that this is highly subjective, and it is not something I would use to try and persuade someone else, and I certainly wouldn't use this to try and force Christian thinking into the public sphere (e.g. through laws on specific issues). In fact, I probably wouldn't try and force Christianity on others through public institutions anyway, but particularly not with a subjective argument such as the experiential. But in many other areas of our life we take our intuitions and personal exeriences and they drive our decisions, and I believe it is valid to do so here. For example, when I chose to get married I was acting on a hunch that my DP was someone I would want to share my life with for the rest of our days. I couldn't logically prove that that was the case. The question of marrying or not is outside the realm of scientific method (I could have said to DP that I would need to spend a few decades with some randomly selected control partners first, just to check my hypothesis, but I don't think it would have gone down too well!). But some questions are important in life and need to be handled with the best evidence and intuitions that we have available. Deciding to marry someone is one, deciding to follow a faith is another. We won't necessarily make a perfect choice, one that has been 100% indubitably proven, but that doesn't mean we should make no choice at all. Rather we make the best choice that we can at the time, and be gentle and respectful to others who choose differently to us.

5) Another factor was thinking about the ontological nature of God, particularly reflecting on the work of the philosopher Paul Tillich. Tillich argued that God was not one object amongst many in the universe, who could be added to the set of all possible things. Rather God was the ground of being, that which created the possibility of things to exist. So all the arguments about celestial teapots or flying spaghetti monsters miss the point - that's not the sort of thing I am talking about when I talk about God (although I accept that many Christians do, and end up tied in knots as a result). As the ground of being, God is in the capacity for all things to exist. Therefore God (as defined in this way) is necessary for existence, rather than one object that potentially exists. I don't agree with everything Tillich says, but I think he is on to something to challenge us about what we think we are talking about when we use the word "God".

6) One final influence would be that I recognise that my philosophy has to be open-ended. This might be a post-modern reaction against closed systems of knowledge which assume everything can be neatly boxed up and understood in their entirety. I would not be able to make the bold, perhaps arrogant, statement that my understanding of the world and existence was total and complete, and therefore anything occuring outside my system of understanding was by definition wrong. I remain committed to the ongoing exploration of what is real and true, whether through science, the humanities, philosophy, theology, personal experience or whatever. I believe that in encountering the truth I am somehow experiencing more of the nature of God. I think it is good theology to humbly accept that we cannot contain God within our limited mental capacity, and therefore whatever we say about God has to be temporary, provisional and come with warning labels. That said, Kierkegaard had something to say about the importance of making a decision on the evidence that you have, a "leap of faith" as he put it, and that just drily analysing and dissecting will only get you so far in life. And so I recognised that it was possible to make a commitment of faith, while having to keep an open mind because we will always encounter more data that will challenge, support, confound, twist and enlarge that faith as we go through life. And it is an ongoing, open process. I believe Andre Gide once wrote "Respect those who search for truth, doubt those who find it" (I paraphrase from memory, but I hope it illustrates my point).

So, to try and sum up on what was a much longer post than I intended... the world exists, whatever is involved in it existing is something that I understand as God. We live as though ethics were objective, and that implies something external to ourselves to guarantee them, again pointing towards something a bit like many theistic accounts of God. While we could argue all day about particular historical accounts from the 1st Century CE, the passion and dynamism of the early church cannot be refuted, along with the inability of hostile authorities to contain it. Something drove those early disciples, which (for me) points to the likelihood of the resurrection account having something about it. I also have internal, subjective experiences which orient me towards a theistic outlook. They may not orient you that way, but your experiences are yours and mine are mine, and we should respect that. We also need to be very careful about what we mean when we throw the word "God" around, because what you think I mean and what I think you mean may not be the same thing. And finally, there needs to be some agreement on whether our understanding of truth has to remain open-ended or can be a closed system. If you subscribe to an open-ended system (as I do) then you leave open the possibility that there is more out there than you currently understand, and you need to be committed to listening to others (who are a potential source of greater understanding of that truth) and have humility to acknowledge that you could be wrong.

I hope that shows something of the journey I have been on in moving into faith and believing in God. There is a lot more to it that I have written here, and the above is the more intellectual/academic aspect of it. I suppose to really understand how people believe you have to walk in their shoes, and not just work through a series of logical propositions.

All the best,


Rosieres Sat 30-Mar-13 22:14:29

Noblegiraffe - I recognise the importance of committing to a particular faith and the benefits that derive from it. I acknowledge that if I was born in Sri Lanka I would probably be a Buddhist. I don't see any contradiction there. I do not believe that my Christianity negates the sincerity of another persons faith, rather I see difference as an opportunity for growth. Point 6 in my overlong post replying to Cote DAzur hopefully explains this.

And in case anyone asks, yes I have studied faiths other than Christianity. But being a Christian is a lot easier in the UK (43 churches in my town, no Buddhist temples or Muslim mosques), and the Christian tradition is big enough for me to walk my journey within, while respecting others who follow a different path.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sat 30-Mar-13 22:53:00

Sounds like you are Christian for convenience, but actually what you believe does not tie in with Christianity as otherwise you would believe in God as an entity who answers prayers rather than a force for facilitating stuff in the world.

I think what's happened here is one of two things. Either you DO believe in a prayer answering god and you've adjusted your account of your beliefs for this debate because you think it's a stronger argument, or you do not believe in a prayer answering god, therefore not Christian, but you want to feel like you belong somewhere which is why you came to faith later in life.

noblegiraffe Sat 30-Mar-13 23:04:29

Interesting post, Rosieres - I have grappled with the same questions that you raise and yet I remain an atheist! Point 3 is one in particular I have spent a lot of time on.

One thing that confused me about your point 2 was the house burning example. If I believe that you burning my house down is wrong, but you and the majority believe that it is morally neutral, then isn't that ethically subjective? Depending on whose house?

I'm more agnostic than atheist (though I find the existence of a deity to be highly unlikely). And I never believed in a God, it always seemed unnatural to believe in it to me. Spent a long time trying to figure out where my beliefs fitted wrt religion. Until I realised I could never be a part of a religion which believed in some almighty creator.

LizzyDay Sat 30-Mar-13 23:26:03

Roseries - when you say:
"I don't agree with everything Tillich says, but I think he is on to something to challenge us about what we think we are talking about when we use the word "God"."

I think you sum up a lot of the problem that atheists have with religion. God as a concept isn't something that any two Christians (or people of any other faith probably) would experience or understand to be the same thing, if they even claimed to have any proper understanding of what 'god' was at all.

Unless of course some human comes along and clearly 'defines and explains' it (which is impossible) and gets everyone to agree with them.

So what possible moral authority can such a nebulous concept have?

LizzyDay Sat 30-Mar-13 23:28:16

I think a lot of what we understand to be 'human ethics' is simply pragmatic behaviour evolved from living in societal groups. Don't shit on your neighbour's doorstep, especially if he's bigger than you.

tilder Sat 30-Mar-13 23:28:18

Am not sure I ever really believed. I just went along with it until I had the confidence to.say thanks but no thanks.

Sometimes I do envy the serenity it seems to bring to people's lives. Then I come back to reality and am glad I don't inhabit that kind of world.

Human ethics largely boil down to 'do as you would be done by'. It is obvious why this inclination would be an advantageous behavioural trait for a social species (and is not limited to humans).

Rosieres: Well, duh. Every human society has come up with rules about it being a bad idea to burn your neighbour's house down, which surely suggests to a rational mind that EVERYONE KNOWS that burning other people's houses down is naughty. And counter-evolutionary.Houses are useful and should not, on the whole, be burned down. Only human beings are basicaly a bit tribal, so all the myth systems and superstitions they have come up with tend to include a clause about it being OK to burn the enemy's houses down. Because the enemy don't have the same imaginary friend. At least people who decide to burn their enemies' houses down for non-superstitious reaons are honest about it.

nooka I don't know why the exact books in the Bible were included. There could be theories I could put forward ranging from because God wanted them all in there to some of them are there by mistake etc. I also don't think they need to be taken literally.

It is unlikely to make a lot of sense or be of much interest but this website might be of interest just in that it tries to put some perspective onto the genocide discussion. I am not saying I agree with it, I am just offering it to anyone who is interested. I am not attempting to convert you to my way of thinking or trying to defend God, I don't think God needs me to defend him/her. I just think as you mentioned me in your post I would reply. grin


Just to clarify, although I am sure many do not need this, many Christians are kind and loving and are not in favour of violence or genocide etc. I am aware there are many bigoted and confrontational Christians and I don't feel it is right for us all to be tarred with the same brush. I am not asking for special treatment, I just would rather be veiwed for my own actions rather than those who are preofessing the same religion as me but are behaving very differently.

Solidgoldbrass I wonder which religions would be consdered 'nice' by people who do not believe in God at all. I do totally get where you are coming from.

I chose to become a Christian, I was not brought up as one. My experience of my faith is that it has helped me to be more caring and compassionate. For me, my faith is nice, that is not to say I will agree with all Christians, or that I think all Christians will be nice. But I do belive Jesus is nice and if I did not I woudl struggle to follow him.

Lizzyday you said "God as a concept isn't something that any two Christians (or people of any other faith probably) would experience or understand to be the same thing, if they even claimed to have any proper understanding of what 'god' was at all."

To anwer that, if I may, from a Christian perspective, I would say that certainly I do have an understanding of God and I am seeking to increase my understanding of God.

Even thinking about life from the perspective of athiests is helping me to refine my understanding of God, so thank you for that.

I would say that no two people are the same, we are all unique, and we all experince life uniquely to us. Yet in spite of that uniqueness we learn to love each other, our families, our spouse/partner etc, to care for people quite far away who we may never even meet, and so to co-exist.

I often wonder if people see the same blue, that I see when I look at (for example) the mumsnet banner, or the same red of the flag of Japan etc. When we listen to music do we hear it the same as others, we will never know. Yet can we together enjoy music, enjoy colours etc, I would say yes. Amd I think that although there are huge differences in the way that Christians perceive God for many of us there is something that links us together.

I know for me that the idea of 'by your fruits you shall know them' sorry that is a Bible quote but I can't think what the right way to say it in an idiom would be! But basically, when I meet loving kind people who know Jesus I feel a connection. If I met someone filled with hate and anger who claimed to know Jesus I would not feel that connection. And I know, because I have been around someone like that, and I felt it was very sad indeed. I am not sure if I am making sense, it's late! smile

But I wanted to reply, because as a Christian I spend a lot of time connecting with God and I connect with other Christians even though we do not agree on every single point of belief.

Oh, my apologies, I've just realised this thread is really A question for athiets. I do hope no one minds me posting my views on here and it is not my intention to offend anyone. smile

Rosieres Sun 31-Mar-13 08:37:00

Pedro - I am not a Christian for convenience, but by conviction. You seem to want all Christians (all 1.7 billion of them) to be exactly the same. Well, there is variation between individual Christians. But you can't say "explain why you believe in God", and when someone does say "but you don't fit my pre-conceived idea of what a Christian is, so I'm going to say you're not one". It's a bit "no true Scotsmans" fallacy. I am a Christian, and I have my reasons for believing in God - quite reasonable ones (at least to my mind).

LizzyDay - I hope my proviso that the search for truth is open-ended deals with the concern that the concept of God is nebulous. If I could neatly describe and contain the concept of God that concept would, by definition, be less than God. Note also that I recognise that the ongoing and open-ended nature of truth commits us to listen to one another and not to try and compel others to abandon their views in favour of our own. The most we can do is represent our understanding of what is true.

SGB - you havn't answered my question about where you gather your data from religion on. I'l ask again - how many churches have you been into in the last 5 or 10 years, particularly when there has been a service on, and how many Christians in those churches did you take the time to talk to in depth about how their faith really worked. If you are going to accuse a body of people of racism I am interested to know how you drew that conclusion.

As to the argument from objective ethics, and some of the responses here, I will try and get back to that later. I have to get the kids ready for church.

Best wishes,


PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 31-Mar-13 08:55:33

You seem to want all Christians (all 1.7 billion of them) to be exactly the same.

Not at all, but one of the fundamental things about Christianity is the concept of a prayer answering god. To liken that to two Scotsmen is preposterous. It would be more like saying "I'm a stamp collector but I don't like stamps so I go swimming instead"..... Not a stamp collector then.

If you don't believe in a prayer answering god then the majority of the bible is fiction to you, so how can you possibly call yourself a Christian?

seeker Sun 31-Mar-13 08:56:26

If belief is innate then presumably sometimes a baby would grow up in a different faith to their parents?

I am childishly amused at this idea. blush

racmun Sun 31-Mar-13 09:04:38

I was bought up with a catholic father and a Christian mother - both non practicing. I have a very vague recollection if going to Sunday School once and when I asked my mum about that was due to pressure from my Dad's parents although it was only once.

Anyway I've never really thought about God or Religion I've never had any interest and never thought I need a faith - although I don't really get what that means I'm just not bothered

However that's not to say I'm not a hypocrite the outstanding school near us is a CofE school which you have to attend etc to get you child in. So we thought we'd go along, which from looking at 3/4 of the congregation (trying to actively participate and impress the vicar) is I'm sure the only reason they were there.

Anyway we lasted 2 services. I stood there and couldn't to be honest believe what I was hearing. I really felt as though it was a form brain washing. For me there are far too many questions raised by religion and not enough answers.

If other people want to believe and find comfort in it then that is up to them I just don't.

ByTheWay1 Sun 31-Mar-13 09:18:20

I was brought up by Catholic parents and pretended to believe for their sake for most of my childhood.. I have never believed.

I felt sad as a child that I just didn't "get" it.........

Rosieres Sun 31-Mar-13 09:18:30

Pedro, you seem to have made the leap from God as ground of being, rather than one object amongst many, to the nature of prayer, and your conclusions don't follow with logical necessity.

But I do believe in prayer, althgouh I should point out that Christians vary in their approach to prayer. Some would say that prayer is largely about the person praying opening themselves up to God so that they can change. So if I pray for the poor, I am not asking for God to change their circumstances, I am asking God to change me so that I will go and change their circumstances.

Others would say that God always answers prayers, but get round the problem of suffering and unanswered prayer by saying that sometimes God answers in ways we don't understand. I'm not entirely convinced here.

My own approach is that prayer is about changing the person who prays. I also believe that it is logically possible for God to intervene in response to some prayers while not breaching the limits set by the philosophical problem of suffering. It's a fairly nuanced position that I don't have time to go into here. But I do believe in prayer in those terms.

But I don't think you are in a position to say who is and isn't a Christian. If someone comes along who challenges your idea of what a Christian is you can either expand your concept of "Christian" to include them, or bury your head in the sand so you can stick with your strawman understanding of Christianity.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 31-Mar-13 09:59:00

The bible teaches god as an entity to which you pray and worship, he even sent himself to earth to be resurrected on a slightly different day each year depending on the solar and lunar movements so to take a position where you don't believe in this entity is to not believe the religion. Why are you so scared of just believing what you believe without the grotesque weight of a church behind you.

It's such a shame that some people don't really understand what it is they are following and get convinced that they are part of a religion which they really are not.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 31-Mar-13 10:06:35

If someone comes along who challenges your idea of what a Christian is you can either expand your concept of "Christian" to include them, or bury your head in the sand so you can stick with your strawman understanding of Christianity.

That's farcical. If someone came along and challenged my understanding of what it is to be a Christian by asking me to include their belief that garden fairies eat the pimples off their face at night and this entitles them to strangle children outside the local school (and yes I'm being extreme to make a point) I would certainly NOT expand my understanding of Christianity to include them.

The point is that it is the resolve of the RELIGIOUS to just roll over and believe things people tell them. I don't do that. I like to think about things properly. I think you are deluded with your own understanding of Christianity or at the very least, the church has told you that you are a Christian so you keep going back and putting your change in the collection pot.

EllieArroway Sun 31-Mar-13 12:45:57

Babies ARE born atheists - of course they are. Theism is an active belief in some god or another, and no one is brought into the world actively believing anything. They need to be taught.

I had quite a religious childhood - the first 10 years was overwhelmingly Catholic (first communion etc) then I went to a CofE boarding school with daily prayers, church on Sunday, grace before meals etc. But I never believed a single word of it - I don't know why. I just didn't.

Yet again the distinction needs to be made between the atheist attitude to beliefs as opposed to the believers themselves.

I have been knocking around too long to think that all believers are stupid. It's not that simple and it's manifestly not true. Although I do think that education plays a part - there is a tendency certainly that the more educated a person is, the greater the likelihood of atheism. This is borne out by several studies in case anyone wants to shout at me about that. (And yes, I do know there are lots of people with PhDs who are Christian & Muslim - I'm talking about tendencies and averages).

Having said that - I do think the beliefs themselves are pretty stupid. And the fact that they can only be supported by very flawed and completely wrong attempts at logic proves that. There are NO good reasons to believe in any god, not a single one. And when you have no reason to believe that something is true then that belief becomes, by definition, unreasonable.

I think that the idea of a universe creating being, the one who supposedly devised evolution & quantum mechanics, came up with a plan that involved sacrificing himself to himself to save us from himself is sheer lunacy. I can't imagine why anybody sensible could possibly believe such a thing and I would indeed say that such a belief is stupid - how can it be anything else? It flies in the face of common sense, quite apart for their being no evidence at all to support it.

But am I allowed to say that? No. I get called an ignorant bigot. Strangely, I don't get called these things if I say that horoscopes, homeopathy, psychics or ghosts are ridiculous - the most anyone says then is; "Oh well, that's your opinion". End of discussion.

But DARE to point out the inconsistencies and nonsense of religious belief and I'm a nasty piece of work, how dare I insult people like that?

I am long past caring. Religion HURTS people, every day all over the world. Over 90% of all terrorist attacks have a religious basis; young children are being murdered for being "witches" in Africa; gay people are being persecuted and murdered; girls are being forced into marriage; babies of both sexes are having their genitals mutilated; vulnerable Africans are being lied to about AIDS and prevented from being able to limit the amount of children they have; women are being treated as second class citizens; important science is being retarded; children are being taught bullshit in science lessons - I could go on. The point is this is ALL because of some religion or another.

Do I think that the liberal, middle class Christians of this country are responsible? No. But all the time you are shouting at people like me for pointing out the horrors of the RELIGION YOU SUBSCRIBE TO you are preventing the kinds of discussions that we need to be having as a species in order to stop this kind of thing.

With your hurt feelings & determination to take offence you are providing cover for the fundamentalists of your own religion to carry out the kind of atrocities I've just described - and that makes you complicit whether you like it or not.

Do I have respect for "faith"? No. It's intellectual cowardice, an excuse that believers have concocted that allows them to believe things that make little sense.

Do I have respect for the rights of the faithful to have faith? Sure. Freedom of mind & thought is important. Same as I respect the rights of astrology fans to read their horoscopes every day. Not my business & I couldn't care less - until it starts to hurt people, as religion is doing.

Hope this has finally gotten through. I am fucking sick to death of being called names when I have NEVER, not a single solitary time been rude about the intellectual capacity of people on these threads I've just thought it. I have addressed the beliefs and only the beliefs and been careful to do so. It's not my problem if you lack the emotional maturity to separate yourselves from the beliefs you hold.

Rosieres Sun 31-Mar-13 13:27:12

Pedro - you are entitled to have your ideas of what a Christian should be, but you are not the final arbiter. I am a Christian - I absolutely am a Christian. I have huge experience of different Christians and I know what I am. I worked for 6 years in an Anglican diocese, alongside high church anglo-catholics, low church evangelicals and modernist liberals. I have studied theology at degree level, alongside people of different faiths and none. I have been to a large, ecumenical christian festival every August for the last 20 years and listened to religious speakers from all around the world. And I am licenced as a Reader in the C of E, where I work among a diverse congregation of over 150 week by week. I'm saying all this to show that I have come across an awful lot of Christians, and I know there is a lot of diversity in the Christian population.

If you were to say "Christians believe X, and you don't, so you can't be a Christian" it may be that you are incorrect in trying to pigeonhole Christians to fit your expectations. If you think I am deluded in my understanding of Christianity, I would like to hear where you have gained your understanding of what Christians should be. I would be interested to hear what you base your views on, and how broad a base of evidence you draw on. Because if you are serious in claiming you think for yourself, and not just accept a one dimensional view on limited evidence, I would be interested to see how you have done so in this instance. I wouldn't accuse you, as you have me, of just rolling over and accepting what you are told. Again, if you think that all religious people do that, I must tell you that you are wrong. Some might, so do some atheists, but in my experience most Christians have asked all sorts of questions in their time and their faith has evolved in all sorts of ways as a result. But I prefer to base my conclusions on experience, actually meeting people and talking to them, and not on my presumptions about how I think people ought to be.

I hope you can see that there is more Christianity, and people who call themselves Christians, than perhaps you assume. We don't all fit into neat boxes.

EllieArroway Sun 31-Mar-13 14:15:32

There are 33,000 different denominations of Christianity alone - so quite who decides who is a true Christian and who is not is anyone's guess.

I've heard that, in order to call yourself a Christian, all you have to believe is that the resurrection happened.

Since there's not the slightest shred of evidence that this ever happened, or ever could, then ALL Christianity is based on "faith" - a long, long way from the assertion that it's based on some kind of evidence. It isn't. And can't be - because there is none.

twentythirteen Sun 31-Mar-13 14:27:03

Going back to your original question. I was raised by parents who believe in god, one in a going to church way and the other is rebellious but believes. Everyone in my family has some relationship with faith. I was praying alone in my room at the age of 9 or 10 and stopped mid sentence with the realisation god does not exist. It seems I knew it as clearly as you believe you found god. I'm telling you this but I won't carry on with the thread because I do not respect religious beliefs as much as I do scientific understandings.

EllieArroway I was very moved by what you wrote. I think you might be surprised to know that you have more in common (please do not take offence) with soem Christians than you might expect! smile. I too am horrified by all the evil committed in the name of relgion or God. I totally disagree with the pressure put on people not to use birth control or condoms etc and many more things you mention. I know a Christian lady fighting aginst female genital mutilation. I just wanted to say that even though we may very much disagree on God, there are many things we may agree on and I wanted to say how much I support you for saying this even if we disagree I totally agree that the things you mention do need talking about and as Christians I belive (those of us who are, I mean) that we should not be so easily offended and instead we should look to the bigger picture. I am faily sure it is not so much the faith that is the problem (in teh context of what you describe) but how it affects the lives of people. I hope that makes sense and I really do not want to cause offense, I recognise this thread is asking Athiests what they believe, but I did just want to respond to you Ellie.

DioneTheDiabolist Sun 31-Mar-13 16:37:52

Twentythirteen, please don't go. I know that this thread has gone slightly off the original topic, but it was meant to be atheism and your experience of it. I find the similarities between our experiences really interesting.

Was it a big moment for you? Did you tell your family?

EllieArroway Sun 31-Mar-13 18:06:46

Italian I know. Most Christians would agree with me, because most Christians (and Muslims) are decent people distressed by suffering in the world.

The point is that crying "bigot" whenever someone tries to address the BELIEFS (like Dione, the OP has done more than once) themselves means that nobody who isn't brave feels that they want to discuss the issue at all.

I'm brave - and I know that I'm not a bigot, ignorant, closed minded or nasty. It's just that I can't summon up the same respect for the BELIEFS that I can for the BELIEVERS. And I'm not prepared to lie and pretend that I can or do.

As Johann Hari put it...."I respect you too much to respect your ridiculous beliefs".

It doesn't work both ways, noticeably. I wouldn't care a monkey's cuss if someone insulted the beliefs of atheists (although they'd have a job since we only share the lack of one particular belief) - I'd be delighted. I'm always, always happy to have the opportunity to make my case. I wouldn't take it as a slight at all.

But religious people are emotionally attached to their beliefs, which makes it impossible to have a sensible discussion without them all getting huffy & calling me names.

EllieArroway Sun 31-Mar-13 18:11:17

And - to stress, it's this "offence" that is providing cover for the actions of the fundamentalists. If "nice people" should be tip-toeing around the issue on a live and let live basis, then who is there who will start pointing out that: "No, the Bible is NOT the word of the Lord and shouldn't be used as justification for torturing Nigerian children or shooting abortion doctors"?

Just nasty shits like me.

And Dawkins.
And Harris.
And Hitchens.
and so on.....I am in good company at least.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 31-Mar-13 18:29:11

Ellie, I'm so glad you've managed to put into words how I've been feeling too without sounding like you're just making an off the cuff 'offensive' comment.

The people likely to be on Mumsnet are, of course, the 'moderately' religious, so of course they will distance themselves from the extremist terrorists, but I don't think they realise that by propping up their chosen faith from the bottom it allows the extremists to hide behind the perceived 'goodness' of the religion to carry out the most horrific acts known to man. They probably also don't realise that it's not just moderates and extremists, but that there are a whole range of types in between, some of whom are prepared to execute their beliefs with unacceptable force or prejudice. Often these are also just 'normal' members of society.

weblette Sun 31-Mar-13 18:43:50

My personal view?
I was Catholic by tradition, went to youth club, even became a Eucharistic minister, never really questioned things.
Our youth group had a new leader, someone who had 'taken to Christ'. Happened to be someone who had bullied me so severely as a teen I was suicidal. But hey, he had said sorry to God so everything was ok....
I spent a week at 'Spring Harvest' where everyone told me it was how I chose to accept God or not, frankly I realised for my sanity I had to get away from the constant self-denial and delusion.
Now as an avowed atheist I know I can do things, question things, accept things on my own terms.

Ellie I am not offended by your views. I know you don't need to know that but you said 'all' in your post and I wanted you to know that some Christians are able to listen to these debates without being offended.

I wish you peace and am sorry you have been so frustrated and insulted by discussions.

Yes, we Christians can be very attached to our beliefs. I know that a lot of Christians do work for justice and so although I am aware some do a great deal of evil in the name of God, some also do good.

I am going to bow out of discussions because I am aware that many others have things to say but I wanted you to know that I am sorry for the frustrations you express.

DioneTheDiabolist Sun 31-Mar-13 20:19:28

Ellie, when on this thread did I call you a bigot?confused.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 31-Mar-13 21:26:01

Actually Dione, Ellie never said it was on this thread or that it was directed at her.

DioneTheDiabolist Sun 31-Mar-13 22:53:31

Well I have no fear of calling it when I see it and I am sure that it was dealt with on the thread, at the time.smile

SisyphusDad Mon 01-Apr-13 00:21:31

Age about 6, when the Vicar came to our C of E Primary School and said something like "I think there's something special about Church schools", and I thought "Who on earth are you? I've never seen you before." And, for what it's worth, I never saw him again.

EllieArroway Mon 01-Apr-13 01:42:42

Dione Not on this thread, but you have in the past. It was when I pointed out that Christian beliefs make no sense. You'd been trying to insist otherwise. I disengaged at that point because I know that when people start slinging those kinds of insults about that I have won (and I usually do). I also spent an unfortunate amount of time trying to explain to you an analogy after you thought I'd accused all Christians of having drink problems, ffs.

My secularism is a more important part of who I am than my atheism. I strongly, strongly believe that each and everyone of us has the absolute right to believe whatever they like and worship whoever they like. We only get one life, and Muslims & Christians et al must have the freedom to spend that life how they wish. That's important to me. Of course, my right not to have other people's beliefs imposed on me is equally important & secularism is the only way to cover all bases.

So, being called a bigot by someone who clearly has no real conception of what the word means pisses me off A LOT.

But this does not mean that I feel the slightest compunction in refusing to afford religion more respect than it has ever deserved. This idea that it's ring fenced & you can't be critical because you'll hurt people's feelings is exactly why fundamentalism is flourishing all over the world. People take offence over other people's opinions and WE ALLOW IT! Why?

Italian I'm sorry if I said "all" Christians. I didn't mean all. I could reel off the names of several MN Christians who are more than happy to get involved in a debate, and don't automatically get offended. But I have also been called a nasty troll (quite recently), ignorant, closed minded, bigoted (as we've seen) and various other pleasantries from loving Christians.

But to address your actual question, Dione - I never "discovered" I was an atheist. It's not on an equal footing with "finding God".

I agree with Sam Harris completely: "Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs".

It's not a belief in itself - it's simply the position of those of us unconvinced by theistic arguments. When did you discover you were an aleprechaunist?

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 01-Apr-13 13:52:32

Oh yes Ellie, I vaguely remember that thread Ellie, however my earlier post still stands. I call bigotry when I see it and it is dealt with at the time in the thread. If you feel otherwise, please feel free to resurrect the thread your talking about. After all, it is the holiday for it wink.

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 01-Apr-13 13:53:24

Oops one too many Ellies in that sentence. Apologies.blush

IsBella Mon 01-Apr-13 14:04:08

Teens when I realised that the patriarchal religions all used their concept of God to ensure that controlling women by physical violence could be kept to a minimum - if men can control us by psychological and emotional violence instead, that's an awful lot more efficient and effective and builds in a continuation of male control.

Also I just found it incredibly convenient that this male god had facilitated the horrific male violence against women and horrific violence of the rich and powerful against the poor and powerless for centuries. I don't see why a deity would do that and came to the conclusion that men had invented him for their own nefarious ends.

EllieArroway Mon 01-Apr-13 15:11:29

I call bigotry when I see it Then perhaps you might care to familiarise yourself with what the word actually means first and do us both a favour. (You'll find it somewhere after "analogy" in the dictionary).

Should I start calling thick-as-too-short planks when I, personally, see it too? Or is that just offensive? I mean - I can call what I see too, right?

msrisotto Mon 01-Apr-13 15:26:59

I was brought up CofE and was always resistant to going to church on Sundays. Went to a church school too. During RE class, I argued and questioned a lot, I was brought up to have a good debate over the dinner table. grin. It was here that the answers I got during RE did not convince me that a god exists.

When I got married at 25 we actually started going to church to become eligible to get married there. I took the opportunity to read the bible which cemented my atheism. I had to get married in a church though. When I mentioned as a kid that i wasn't a believer, my parents said they were "disappointed" in me. My mum cried when I said we were considering a non religious do, and I only then realised that the songs and language which I had grown up with we're not allowed in non religious ceremonies. What were we supposed to sing? The Beatles? All historical readings are religious, this is my history too. I am a cultural Christian and whilst I am atheist, I do not wish to emancipate myself from my own childhood and family. I will therefore celebrate religious occasions like Christmas and Easter with family because to be honest, that is what it is about for us - family, not god.

msrisotto Mon 01-Apr-13 15:27:25

Were not we're

EllieArroway Mon 01-Apr-13 15:34:38

When I mentioned as a kid that i wasn't a believer, my parents said they were "disappointed" in me That's awful and really saddens me.

I went to a wedding at a country house about a year ago and everyone sang "Bring Me Sunshine" instead of a hymn. I thought it would be cringe worthy and naff, but it really worked. The words are perfect for a marriage.

Gabaccia Mon 01-Apr-13 15:39:18

It was never a decision I had to make. I have never believed in any god or anything supernatural, even though I went to a C of E school with prayers and lots of Christianity talk. I barely even believed in Father Xmas when I was little. I certainly don't remember ever believing in him, even though my parents kept up the pretense for us (which I did enjoy).

Sunnywithshowers Mon 01-Apr-13 15:40:11

mrsrisotto I know what you mean about being a cultural Christian. Although I'm an atheist, I will take part in carol services, religious weddings and so on because it's part of my history. And what's not to love about carol singing? [bugbrin]

There is something comforting about the familiarity of a church service - the Lord's prayer and so on.

My best friend killed herself some years ago. My then boyfriend was hideously unsupportive, and told me that I should pray to God to forgive her (he was a Catholic). We used to go to mass as we were planning to marry and he wanted a church wedding. The priest was wonderful, and gave a mass in her name a few weeks later. I went there with some friends - it was lovely to have the value of her life acknowledged by other people.

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 01-Apr-13 15:49:30

Ellie, if you now have a problems with my use of the words bigotry and analogy, on a thread we were on months(?) ago, please post it on that thread. It's not great form to bring it onto another thread.

msrisotto Mon 01-Apr-13 15:53:21

Bring me sunshine is cute, I did actually consider it but it was the theme tune of a group for patients I was running at the time so would have been a bit odd.

We had I vow to the my country and make me a channel of your peace. Beautiful songs. I did feel conflicted about this but as I said before, these hymns are a huge part of my childhood. I sang them at school with my friends and at church with my family. Everyone I know knows these songs which I kind of like actually. Can't make myself believe though.

EllieArroway Mon 01-Apr-13 16:26:57

Ellie, if you now have a problems with my use of the words bigotry and analogy, on a thread we were on months(?) ago, please post it on that thread. It's not great form to bring it onto another thread


I don't think it's good form to insult people in such a disgusting way when they merely point out that a particular belief is unreasonable or makes no sense.

So, consider us quits.

I think I made my point pretty well.

I love "Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace", Msrisotto. Was my favourite one at school.

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 01-Apr-13 16:34:39


nenevomito Mon 01-Apr-13 16:36:56

I've never believed in any god, so its not like I realised that there wasn't one. I'd never been at the point where I believed in one in the first place.

I have a theology degree as I was interested in religion as an academic subject. After studying religions for 4 years under and post graduate, I came to the following conclusion: The message of all religions is "don't be a dick to other people". The rest of the stuff is just decoration and flounces. As I can manage not to be a dick to other people without religious belief, its superfluous to me.

Phineyj Mon 01-Apr-13 16:41:55

Aged about 5, in school assembly. No particular reason but having grown up in an atheist household I expect the frequent references to God on starting at school made me think about it.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Mon 01-Apr-13 16:49:09

At my own wedding we had Pachelbel's Canon played by my brother on guitar as DW came down the aisle and my own home recorded rendition of White Wedding by Billy Idol to play us out. Nobody sung anything, don't really know why you'd need them to.

EllieArroway Mon 01-Apr-13 19:15:40


I'm sitting here feeling very uncomfortable at the moment with an awareness of having been quite unfair to you - a bit of a shit bag, really. Doing exactly the kind of thing I hate other people doing to me. I stand by what I said, but I think a personal attack regarding something said on another thread is not on.

I will PM an apology, but I think a little public one is in order.

msrisotto Mon 01-Apr-13 20:18:20

Well the incoming and outgoing music isn't usually sung to Pedro. Non religious ceremonies can be very short and traditional ceremonies that I'm used to involve singing as well as readings. Anyway, this is a side issue to the main topic of the thread.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Mon 01-Apr-13 20:35:49

We had readings as well (non religious, obviously), just not singing. I think the attendees would all have found singing quite odd to be honest.

CoteDAzur Mon 01-Apr-13 22:01:59

Rosieres - I would like to answer your 6-point "rational inquiry" through which you have found God:

(1) "Universe exists and seems to have a starting point" doesn't mean it must be deliberately created by a conscious and intelligent entity.

(2) "Ethics in an objective sense , originated in God" doesn't sound like a rational enquiry at all to me. Ethics are the moral concerns of man, and are hence meaningless without man. Besides, ethics have changed/evolved over time, and people from different cultures can even have different ethical values. So clearly, there are no objective ethical values, external, immutable, and "given" to mankind by a deity.

(3) "Disciples clearly believed Jesus was resurrected, so he must have been" Err, sorry, but this is not even logical, let alone a "rational inquiry".

(4) I read this several times and can't say what you think is particularly rational about it. So you have a sense of God in your life. Good for you, but how is that in any way part of this rational inquiry you said brought you to finding God?

(5) There is no "ontological nature of God". There is an ontological argument for the existence of God which makes very little sense to me, personally. Maybe you would like to explain why you think it is rational and convincing.
Your "God is the ground of being, the capacity for all things to exist" sounds like you think God = the fabric of space/time. However, since God has created the universe, he needs to be separate from it (unless you want to argue that God created Himself, hence the universe created itself, which is not very Christian afaik). Anyway, what is your source of information? (Not speculation from some philosopher).

(6) It is good that you accept you don't know everything, but again can't see how this is supposed to be a rational inquiry that brings us to find God.

DuelingFanjo Mon 01-Apr-13 22:09:10

To answer the OP, I didn't have a god to reject in the first place. I was raised without one. So I didn't ever have to decide that I didn't believe in a God, I just didn't know about them. I wouldn't use the word atheist to describe myself, I am without religion and like ll babies I was born without religion rather than being born atheist. The word atheist is just a lazy way of trying to make religious people understand. It's a label.

Rosieres Tue 02-Apr-13 15:14:46

Cote, thanks for replying. My points were very much in shorthand form, but there to show that not all who believe in God do so "because that was what they were taught when they were young". We all have different reasons for different things, and those reasons make real sense to us, even if they are not always intelligible to others. To understand where a person is coming from can take time, and while I may not have made my points crystal clear here, and I wonder whether you are really interested in exploring why people believe. If you paused and thought a bit about some of the things I have said (and read them through, instead of racing to dismiss them as it seems you have) we could start an interesting and open conversation on this. But only if that's what you want. I appreciate that some people have had it with religion and just want to push it away from themselves as far as they can, and that requires dismissing religious people as easily as possible. If that's where you're at then I accept that, and any discussion we might have has as much chance as openly discussing ideas with the most conservative religious fundamentalist. If, on the other hand, you are genuinely curious let me know and I will persist.

Best wishes,


DioneTheDiabolist Wed 03-Apr-13 15:00:36

Apology accepted Ellie.smile

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