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Dan F
  • Dan F
  • Jacksonville, OR
  • United States

TEDCRED 50+

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What prompted you to become an atheist?

How did it happen, all at once, or in steps? Was it a departure from how you were raised? Is this position firm, and if so why? Do you think atheism deserves more credit and respect regarding legal matters and other aspects of government? Agnostics are also invited to comment.

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    Marc M

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    Dec 8 2011: I was born to a family that had members who were Muslim and Christian, and both sides tried to teach me about the Bible and the Quran. I recall that as a child my friends and I went to see Mickey Mouse in Fantasia, and as he became a wizard and began to do his magic, I looked at my friends and thought about Genesis ... but more on that later.

    As I became an adult I became fascinated by Carl Sagan's Cosmos, and began to study astronomy, evolution, and medicine. I got a chance to work with people with Alzheimer's disease and realized how a simple protein buildup can rob us of memories we hold so dear. The idea of an after life assumes that we take our memories with us in our "soul" but the reality is that the odds of that happening are so miniscule that only having faith in magic could make it so.

    I guess looking back that was my "red pill". An awakening to the reality, that we are just hairless monkeys in a small rock that circulates a flicker of light. Somewhere along the line we became self-aware and began to fantasize about our beginnings and the meaning of life. Developing religion was just part of growing up. As the human race becomes more intelligent we have began to dispel myths. We can now study about the Romans and the Greeks and know that their beliefs were just mythology. And I know that some day, and it might take thousands of years, we will study about our current world religions the same way, but most of us are not ready yet.

    That is why I am not a militant Atheist, I know that for many people religion gives them stability, purpose, and hope. I recently went to a born again ceremony and listened to the priest give his sermon. There was a sense of innocence in that room, almost like my childhood friends watching Fantasia once again, trying desperately to grab on to a magical father who will help them in their everyday lives, and will be there with them for eternity. I don't need that crutch I'm just grateful to have been born and to have lived.
    • Dan F 50+

      • +1
      Dec 8 2011: Nice personal perspective that likely connects with many in the audience.
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    Dec 10 2011: The realization that both good and evil can be explained in terms of human nature.

    Demons are not needed to explain why someone can torture a prisioner in a cell. Psychology and human nature provide a clear explanation (see the Milgram experiment).

    On the other hand I have met many good people that do not require a religion or the concept of god to be good. Good moral values and ethic can exist thanks to traits that humans and mammals evolved in order to survive in groups. (yes some can argue that even if we don't know, it is the hand of god behind these good moral values and ethics, but since it is an invisible drive, i could also argue that the tooth fairy is behind them and it would be impossible to refute)

    So when i understood that good and evil can be explained (and in the case of good, pursued) without the need of religion or faith in a deity, i decided to stick with the human explanation

    cheers
  • Dec 10 2011: When I was young I wanted a new bicycle.I prayed every night for one.Then I was told that god did not work that way.
    So I stole a bicycle and prayed for forgiveness.
  • Dec 5 2011: ... each other in a manner befitting their seared-in beliefs, but without becoming a danger to the remainder of Humanity because of their collective death wishes. As I said, excepting the absolute loonies, I don't care what people believe.
    Until, that is, those people (or sub-groups thereof) start trying to shove their beliefs down my Atheist throat.
    Whether the "shoving" is done by trying to convert me up close and personal, or it is done by trying to get laws passed which would remove, or in any way restrict, diminish or limit the rights guaranteed to all of us by the Constitution and the Bill Of Rights. Then I have major problems with those people and their fervent need to force anyone and everyone "into the fold". There are many schools in America that teach Creationism alongside evolution, or that have to stipulate that while they are required to teach Darwinian Evolution it should be viewed as simply another theory which may be wrong.
    That a single school in the U.S. was just considering teaching creationism would be worrisome. But that so many actually DO so is,to me at least, quite astonishing, shameful, embarrassing, foolhardy, and extremely worrisome for the future of our Country. This reality can be laid at the feet of the Republican Party and other right wing extremist groups
    (yes, I do love that phrase, but only because its true), which are very successfully continuing their political strategy of divide and conquer, at the feet of the moderate Religious population which should be screaming to Heaven about this absurd anti-science movement, and at the feet of the millions that DO believe Darwin's Theory of Evolution, but that do not vote, for their sloth and indifference which is turning this Country into one of increasing ignorance and intolerance.
    Sadly, I often wonder what happened to the courage of my fellow Americans. Were we not once a People that brooked no stupidity, that strove to eliminate ignorance? Perhaps these were just fictions like god
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    Nov 30 2011: God told me to.
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    Nov 29 2011: I wasn't raised in religion, so I never believed in God, but I had many superstitions that I invented as a child.
    This lasted untill I was about 15. I never really believed in my superstitions but I pretended that I did, since it was fun and allowed me to live in a more interesting world.
    When I was 15 I began reading many science books. And I realised how interesting the world actually was. Also, I was inspired by scientists, by their creative minds, their free spirit.

    So I tend to confuse science with atheism, since my whole philosophy is based on the scientific method and the rejection of intellectual laziness.
  • Dec 5 2011: Hello Folks,
    I am what some call a "recovering Catholic", but I am an Atheist, and with regard to the separation of church and State, I'm certain I'd be considered a rather Militant Atheist by those that believe in gods. In my earlier years I was being raised in a strict catholic home. When I was very young I believed whole heartedly in the dogma I was taught. This is probably true for 99% of the population regardless of the particular set of beliefs being "taught".
    Then, as I started attending school (St. Francis Xavier Catholic School), I began the long path that inexorably led to my becoming an Atheist. The mistake the school made, in my case at least, was an improper striking of the balance between relatively objective education and the standard indoctrination of guilt and terror that is still the hallmark of a "solid" catholic schooling and upbringing.
    In short, I eventually became able to think independently and for myself.
    I found the logical flaws in Religion to numerous to mention. First in catholicism and eventually all religions.
    Mind you, this took more than fifteen years to come to fruition, the catholic clergy are experts in the terrorizing of young children, as must be the teachers of ANY enduring religious denomination. Along with the logical flaws were my own observations of members of the catholic clerical hierarchy, my own "strict catholic" parents, and many other family members and friends of the family. And my main observation was this: THEY lived in a "Do-As-I-Say, NOT as-I-DO" universe. Because hypocrisy wasn't taught to me until I was in a Public Middle School, it wasn't until then that I realized what was going on, and my beliefs began to rapidly erode.
    Now, I have no problem with individuals that have a need to believe in some invisible god, goddess, or almighty platypus, with some obvious exceptions. The fanatical fundamentalists from within America and without, need to be rounded up and brought together to slaughter ...Continued...
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    Dec 4 2011: I was raised christian and believed and felt that I had some intuitive connection to some higher form of existence or order and I believed that all the way up until college. In college becoming a philosophy major caused me to be much more cautious about labeling and defining things that aren't really perceptual and therefor, can't really be considered logical, including propositions of the ontological argument as well as other metaphysical issues. However, just as I find it hard to accept that there is a clear cut definition and existence of the Christian 'God,' I also find it difficult to believe that the universe lacks some form of being or order that religion is used to connect to. It may not be a separate, supreme, all-powerful entity as depicted in Christianity but I think that there is some human need to connect to something meaningful subjectively through ritual and differing forms of meditation like prayer.

    That's why I could never be a Christian but never be an atheist. They both seem too extreme to me and prone to dogmatism. I believe the problem could just be a problem of mislabeling or misunderstanding spirituality's subjective nature.
  • Dec 1 2011: When I was young, my Catholic parents and family liked to pray, and told me to do nightly prayers, etc.

    Problem was, I never felt anything, and never felt the need to find out why I couldn't feel anything through prayer. There was never any connection to anything. It all seemed pointless from that point on. I actually identified with Atheism in Catholic High School. I saw that even Priests could doubt their faith sometimes, and it all just fit with the way i'd thought for a long time. Thankfully my parents weren't too crazy about it and I never had to go to bible school or anything. Whew. The religious retreat near the end of high school was slightly awkward though. I "came out" to some peers and teachers there, which felt great because it was a retreat about honesty and acceptance. It was also sort of funny to see them try to support me without saying "God Bless You" or something, but some of them just did that anyway.

    So that's how it happened for me. I never felt anything from prayer, and learned about Atheism in High School because that's the only time religion ever really came up.