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How did you become non-religious?

Nov 21 2008
So, should I call this a testamonial?

Hey! This is great. I’d love to categorize all the responses to describe the demographics/ philosophical paths represented here. Interesting stuff.

I’m a little surprised I’ve never written this down before; surely, I’ve been outlining such an essay in my head for decades. Being terribly disorganized and longwinded, I’ll attempt to just frame a couple key points and avoid the “It all started when Father Mike said…” and “Grandmother made us attend the Latin Mass…” angles.

I became agnostic when I became psychologically developed enough to have abstract thoughts around age 11. I was born a skeptic and viewed the existence of heaven and hell and of a creator whose mysterious existence is unquestionable as problematically irrational. The church's black-and-white interpretation of ethical issues and the contrasting moral relativism of people's actions was another wake-up call for me. And, having never gained any particular philosophical comforts from religion, I was not compelled to go out of my way to rationalize the existence of a god.

That being said, I have to attribute my atheism to my father who, regardless of his philosophical or theological tendencies, once declared himself agnostic and thereby made the philosophical option available to me. As mine was in fact a deeply religious, if liberal, Catholic family, I cannot say that I would have seen the areligious path to be an option until a much later age. And, because my brain is or was wired to embrace religious, cultural, racial principles dogmatically, I have to wonder how I might have evolved philosophically had my father not put that one little idea in my head.

Throughout my adolescence and teens I enjoyed both mocking peoples’ religions and conversing (often debating) about religion. After years of mocking anyone who thought their god could somehow be rationalized into existence, or who chose to believe as a precaution against hellish punishment for heresy, or who was scared of the philosophical consequences (having to make one’s own decisions about right and wrong) of godlessness, or who simply didn’t care to think, I realized quite abruptly at about the age of 19 that I was already and atheist and should call my self such.

Nevertheless, I strongly embrace Christian philosophy—specifically, the Golden Rule. But, I view it as common sense, not as a deity's decree. I presume that “Do unto others…” was a simple rule of thumb that was taught by mothers and kindergarten teachers since we crawled out of the slime and started travelling in packs. I view four of the Ten Commandments as common sense rules we need to follow to get along in civil society, five as theological authoritarianism, and the remaining one as the fundamental principal that maintains familial and tribal hierarchy. I fundamentally embrace the four, and I embrace the one in cases where it’s not stupid. The five? If I need to be scared or bullied into believing something, that's all the more reason not to believe it. This sort of rational decomposition of religious law formed the foundation of my moral principles by the age of fifteen. Having educated myself a bit on philosophy and anthropology, my views have become more developed, but they remain fundamentally unchanged at age 38.

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