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How did you become non-religious?

May 2 2009
Becoming an Atheist

Becoming an atheist.

I became an atheist at about age 14.

I grew up attending St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Springfield, MA where I was an alter boy and attended Sunday school. At about age 14 we moved to Westfield, MA and attended the Church of the Atonement.

My mother grew up in the Christian Science Church and left the Christian Scientists when her mother died due to lack of proper medical care. An early minor operation on her motherís thyroid would have saved her, but they prayed for a cure and real medical treatment came too late.

My father was a Roman Catholic. When my parents married in 1940 my fatherís mother and two of his sisters would not attend the wedding as they were not married in a Roman Catholic Church. Religious intolerance did not come just from the Catholic side of the family. The Christian Scientists in the family felt as strongly about the Catholics. My mother never totally forgave her in-laws or the Catholic Church for what happened at her wedding. When my sister and I were old enough to safely escape the clutches of the Catholic Church, she allowed a Catholic priest to bless their marriage. This allowed my father to go back to receiving Church sacraments. He had been denied sacraments such as communion because he had been married outside of the Catholic Church. The Church did not recognize my parentís marriage until finally blessed by a catholic priest. I guess they thought my sister and I were bastards until then.

With this rich religious family history there is little wonder I became an atheist at an early age. Religion caused of a lot of misery in my family.

Even at age 10 or 12, I just could not take religion seriously. As an alter boy I thought about what were doing as a show. Every Sunday morning the show must go on.

At about age 14 I started thinking about how a belief in God just did not make any sense. Is God a piece of cloud floating around in the sky? How could billions of people end up in heaven? What do they look like when they are dead? How is what priests do on the alter here any different than what witch doctors are doing in Africa?

Leaving the Episcopal Church at 14 was hard on my parents and me to. I never really bought the basic concept. I did not go from believer to atheist, but from doubter to atheist. I really liked the Episcopal Church and still do. The people are great and for the most part, very progressive. I also love the service and music. You canít beat Christmas Eve at an Episcopal Cathedral with choir, brass and organ. I still love going to see Handleís messiah at the Handle and Hayden Society in Boston. But I could not continue going to church when I simply did not believe in the basis of whole thing. Iím sure there are millions of people who attend religious services every week while not really believing in the basic concept concept.

Bad news, here is no God, there is no life after death.

Two books I found helpful are: Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell and The True Believer by Eric Hoffer.

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