Amanda Became an Atheist

(Original Post)

I did not grow up in a religious household. My mom and dad were raised Catholic and both hated organized religion because of that. I was never baptized. I was even born out of wedlock (gasp!).

Despite all of this, I was not raised as an atheist or agnostic. I had a vague notion of belief in a god that came in large part from my maternal grandmother. My mom once told me she thought one or the other of my grandmothers was going to kidnap my siblings and me and get us baptized.

I lived with belief in a vague idea of a god for the first 11 years or so of my life. Reading became my passion, and, looking back, I realize I read children’s versions of Bible stories in much the same way as I read fairy tales like Cinderella, with no particular reverence for them (more reverence for Cinderella because she got to be a princess). I do not think my child self ever believed in the Christian god.

I did believe there was a god, a male god, who was looking out for me. Until I started praying, that is. I prayed like I saw children pray on television starting around the time that my parents split up, which was a traumatic event for my ten-year-old self. I never noticed any change from praying. I did not really feel comforted. Nothing bad happened to change my opinion on the existence of god, but I started to feel like it was pointless to pray. In fact, I felt a bit silly and realized I was talking to myself – no one else was listening.

My mom always did her best to teach my siblings and me to think for ourselves. I think, even at a young age, this had a profound effect on my thought processes. I did not feel bound to any particular set of ideas.

Phillip Pullman broke the last chain, so to speak. I was skeptical of religion, but reading his Dark Materials trilogy (which I received as a gift on my 12th birthday) really made me think. A lot. It’s not that the book itself encourages atheism, but it certainly encourages thought about society and about what people believe. It also encourages thought about the many, many possibilities and the incredible amount of self-obsession that Christianity encourages in terms of making people think they and their religion are the center of the universe.

Anyway, the Dark Materials made me think, “The story in these books makes more sense the the religious stories I have heard.” I may have known about evolution at this point, I can’t really recall when I first learned about it. But it wasn’t scientific ideas that convinced me that there was no god and no higher power. Instead it was thinking for myself and critically examining (as much as an 12-year-old is capable of that) my surroundings and the world that I live in.

I label myself an atheist, but the principles of freethought are extremely important to me. I would not change a thing about my religious education. I do not think it’s right to teach your child to be an atheist or a Christian or a Muslim, etc. That I was allowed to decide for myself is, I think, absolutely ideal.

10 thoughts on “Amanda Became an Atheist

  1. Thats exactly how I feel right now.

    Nothing bad happened to change my opinion on the existence of god, but I started to feel like it was pointless to pray. In fact, I felt a bit silly and realized I was talking to myself – no one else was listening.

    (This is one of the emotionally/mentally disturbing things I’m finding about my faith now.) But I’m still reading, praying, and THINKING about my faith on which direction is truth.

    • Donald Miller says:

      No need to be disturbed over it. Just figure out what makes you be the best person you can be and shoot for that. I suppose there’s always room for a smigjun of religion in anyone’s life. Just as long as one doesn’t let it ruin their life. I can honestly report that the most messed up people I ever met were the most religious ones. Formally religious, if you know what I mean. The ones who were spiritual were usually okay.

      I hope that bit of unsolicited advice helps, some.

  2. Krezgirl says:

    I think what started me on the path away from my religion was reading Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at age 11. It took a few year’s to percolate, but it planted the seeds. I think if my parents had realized the effect it would have on me, they never would have let me read it.

  3. More and more people these days (in my opinion) are finally feeling free enough to admit they are atheists. Statistically, atheists numbers are increasing phenomenally. I think it is cool that you are putting your thoughts out there and giving people an opportunity for a public conversation.

  4. Chris says:

    Hi Amanda,

    I feel as if my personal experience parallels yours quite a bit- except in reverse!

    I grew up in a nominally Catholic family- a culturally Italian Catholic family I should say. I rejected Christianity and theism in my early adolescence. Surely, no self-respecting aspiring intellectual could possibly believe in God. My view was essentially a-theist : without belief in an anthropomorphic celestial potentate who cares about human happiness. However……. ontological naturalism was a pill that I just couldn’t swallow. So I became a denizen of a metaphysical no-man’s land, and consequently , an arch-postmodernist. But as hard as I tried, I was just unable to keep repeating the open minded mantras of relativism and eventually metaphysics re-appeared on my radar screen. In the end, atheo-materialism was a worldview that simply became untenable for me.


  5. Chris says:

    I just read through a few of your posts- I can see that.

    All snark aside. I’m really interested in how you became an atheist. I get the sense that the process started when your prayers weren’t answered as a child. You then went on to embrace “free thought”. You see, for me, thinking moved me away from atheism.

    • This reminds me of, “Did you pray for something and God didn’t give you what you wanted so stopped believing He existed?”

      No. That is an incredibly stupid suggestion. “You get the sense” from where? Did you rationally analyze that? Or are you using your feelings to get these senses? Do you have any idea how insulting the suggestion that I stopped believing because my “prayers weren’t answered as a child” is? You may as well just say, “I get the sense that you stopped believing because you were incredibly petulant and immature as a child.” Guess what! Faith and maturity don’t go hand in hand. My lack of faith doesn’t mean I’m mad at any gods or that I didn’t get what I wanted as a kid.

      I prayed very little a a child. When I did pray, I was asking for the safety of my family. Well, my family is still safe. Prayer had very little to do with my realization that there is no god and no higher power in the universe. That was a process mostly dependent on books that made me consider the ideas put forth by religion. I was agnostic at first as I realized first that theistic religions are all pretty ridiculous for many, many reasons. When people tell me that thinking moved them toward belief, I wonder what kind of thinking they could possibly have been doing.

      As for the question I quoted above, here’s how I answered:

      I find it rather disturbing that these comments all tend toward, “Are you an adult acting like a petulant child because god didn’t give you everything you wanted?” This is a stupid question. You may as well just ask if the writer (of the original post) is really immature. Just for the record, faith and maturity don’t go hand in hand. I prayed for stuff until I realized I was talking to myself. It’s not that I didn’t get what I wanted – I was praying for the safety of others and they’re all still doing just fine. It’s just that there was no difference between the control (not praying) and praying.

      It’s from this post, although I’m not sure you should read it.

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