How to become an atheist?

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  • #26
Chi Meson
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To OP,

A fantastic monologue was made by Julia Sweeny (a former SNL cast member, and actress from such great movies as Pulp Fiction, and Beethoven IV) called "Letting Go of God."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtIyx687ytk" the first 15 minutes. Getting the audiobook is worth it.
 
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  • #27
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You didn't get my point - it was that the well-to-do in power have no desire for intelligent masses which would be harder to control.
I understand what you're saying. Yes, the USA has a generally ignorant and easily manipulable population. And yes, it's in the best interests of those who would manipulate the population to maintain the status quo. However, I don't know how one might quantify and compare the USA and European countries wrt this.

If the incidence of atheism or secularism is actually higher in European countries, then what do you think this is due to?
 
  • #28
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I was raised by a very devout Roman Catholic mother and by the age of 8 decided that it was all a bunch of nonsense made up by men, by the age of 11 I told my mother I could no longer go to church and told her why. Luckily she agreed with my decision and I never had to go to church again.

A true atheist doesn't care about religion, they just dismiss it as nonsense. They don't sit around thinking about it. The "atheist" websites where people can go and talk about it, I think is ridiculous, except in the case of the OP where it wouldn't be to talk about being atheist but perhaps as a means of talking about people in your life that go crazy when you tell them you don't buy into religion anymore.

If you need a support group to tell you that you are atheist, you're not atheist, you're confused.
 
  • #29
DaveC426913
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I was raised by a very devout Roman Catholic mother and by the age of 8 decided that it was all a bunch of nonsense made up by men, by the age of 11 I told my mother I could no longer go to church and told her why. Luckily she agreed with my decision and I never had to go to church again.

...

If you need a support group to tell you that you are atheist, you're not atheist, you're confused.
Either that, or you simply weren't so extremely fortunate as to have an authority/loved one who is understanding enough to let you come through it without tortuous anguish.

'twould that we were all so lucky as you, we'd be all so well-adjusted.
 
  • #30
Evo
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Either that, or you simply weren't so extremely fortunate as to have an authority/loved one who is understanding enough to let you come through it without tortuous anguish.

'twould that we were all so lucky as you, we'd be all so well-adjusted.
If you want to talk about family/friends that won't accept the fact that you don't believe in religion, that's one thing, that's dealing with *THEIR* problems and how they affect you.

If you aren't sure and need to talk to people ablout it, then you aren't atheist, you're confused and looking for people to support you. Maybe ultimately you will make the decision, but true atheists don't need anyone to tell them they are right, they already know (in their opinion). Same thing as people that persuade others to believe in a religion. I personally don't like either, but I realize not everyone can make a decision without the support of others.

And yes, at age 11, mn mother could have made my life hell if she wanted. It would not have changed my mind, it would just have made me deal with it until I could legally leave home. I am really lucky that no one in my family felt that imposing their beliefs on me was right. My mother continued to be a devout Catholic, my grandmother (father's mother) conmtinued to be a devout Methodist, my dad was atheist and they all respected each other even though they all had different beliefs. They never discussed it. My mother's religion was the default religion. and it was always a positive thing, never crazy, just a true belief on her part. We hated our father, he was a terrible father. All four of her children became atheist.
 
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  • #31
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This was on PBS a while back. "A Brief History of Disbelief" with Jonathan Miller.


I think the whole series is at YouTube.
 
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  • #32
Hurkyl
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You came to the right forums. :smile: I'd guess that a majority of the contributors here at PF are atheists/agnostics.
Do note, however, that this is physics forums, not atheist forums.

Site policy is to remain neutral on religious topics -- any other policy leads to much trouble, and is not the intended focus of this site anyways.

Most people simply don't mention their religious beliefs here, so I don't think we have any real basis to make such an estimation. (though I do estimate we tend to get more atheistic proselytizing than any other variety)
 
  • #33
Integral
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Wow, I was not aware that I had missed a epic of early teens. That is coming out as an atheist.

But then I did not realize until a year ago that I was an atheist.

My family history is full of cultism, my fathers family were pioneer 7th day Adventist, my mothers pioneer Mormon. With a family history of "escaping" religion neither my father or mother pushed it. As a child I with my brother and sister were sent down the street to a Sunday school were we learned the bible stories. Mom and Dad never attended the church, I think they sent us just for some peace in the house. Somewhere in my tweens my parents discovered a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in the area this finally gave a name to what they were looking for. They began attending fellowship meeting but never made us attend. So like turbo and Astronuc I was brought up UU. Which to me means, no baggage.

I have never considered myself an atheist, I simply do not adhere to the dogma of any known religion. Recent discussions with a fellow PFer has made me aware that I may qualify as an atheist.
 
  • #34
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ThomasT said:
If the incidence of atheism or secularism is actually higher in European countries, then what do you think this is due to?

If anything, i'd say keeping religion so strong in the US would be a distraction of the attention from more pressing problems. What was the purpose of the 10 years of gay marriage legalisation drama over there? Or the BJ drama of your president Bill Clinton? Such issues aren't totally comprehensible to people from other countries. I regard them more as distraction than anything else, as manupulations are rampant in all countries( and i am skeptical by nature).

I can't speak of all of Europe(though i've been to just about every country within it), but here in Bulgaria the few people who you'd generally refer to as religious, their beliefs would be more like superstion - voodoo, premonitions, aliens, etc. The communists stamped out all religions and during the Soviet era education was compulsory for everyone. People saw they could live without a religion, and now churches are more like the reserved domain of the poor and stupid, which is a shame because at some point good education will become unbearable for everyone(as is over there) and a lot of people will probably fall for religions. That's my personal opinion.

Edit: Would you say that there is some sort of a religious propaganda going on over there? Just wondering.
 
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  • #35
Astronuc
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Try and talk it over with your parents. Tell them that you are questioning things, and don't know why you should believe x, y or z. They may talk to you about why they believe in such things, which you will either agree with or not. If not, then you should just tell them why.
@OP - follow cristo's advice, and talk to one's parents, family and friends.

Being 'religious' or being atheist is not an all-or-nothing proposition. One need not abandon or reject the moral and ethical principals when one decides one is an atheist as opposed to a theist. And on is certainly not abandoning or rejecting one's parents, family or friends, just because one is questioning previous beliefs or deciding that oneself is an atheist.

I was raised in a Methodist household. My father and his father were Methodist ministers, but my siblings, cousins, and aunts and uncles have a diverse background. I left the Methodist church early on - after I was confirmed for my mother's sake. I studied all religions. I found common ground in ethical and moral principles.

When my wife and I had kids, we decided to participate in a religious environment and Methodist or Presbyterian would have been the default if we had not found UU. We became members of the UUA, which we support for their humanitarian and community work. My wife and I have our own beliefs about Life, the Universe and Everything it.

Whether or not a god or gods exist is not something that I personally worry about - and that does not preclude practicing ethical and moral principles, which are common to all religions/cultures/ societies.
 
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  • #36
Moonbear
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?


It seems you have twisted your religion to suit the concepts of science. Why did you abandon religion if it did not contradict anything scientific?
You seem to think there are only two things in the world, science and religion. I didn't leave religion because of contradictions with science, I left religion because it did nothing for me, and I didn't care for contradictions within its own practice. Science is my career, not my belief system nor my personality. To claim it is anything else is to turn science into a religion, which it is not.

Edit: By the way, I'm not atheist, I'm more agnostic. My experience is that a lot of people, including scientists, turn to religion or beliefs in deities, mostly as a coping strategy when they are trying to deal with loss or grief and situations that science doesn't address and can't help them with. For example, a coworker's wife was just recently diagnosed with a relapse of cancer, metastasized to two locations (at least...they may find more when they open her up). They are taking her to another state to get the best surgeons and oncologists they can get to treat her. Nonetheless, we know that even when everything is done right, there are still risks of surgery that are beyond the control of the surgeons and anesthesiologists, and there is no guarantee that the chemotherapy will work. I don't think it's unreasonable or makes my colleague less of a scientist that he sent an email to those of us who work most closely with him asking us to keep his wife in our thoughts and prayers. I won't be the one doing the praying, I don't personally think there's any point to it, but if it comforts them, I would certainly not criticize someone else for doing it nor them for desiring it.
 
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  • #37
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You came to the right forums. :smile: I'd guess that a majority of the contributors here at PF are atheists/agnostics.
You're probably right. I wonder: does this make me the forum's token evangelical Christian physicist? :smile:
 
  • #38
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If the incidence of atheism or secularism is actually higher in European countries, then what do you think this is due to?
At a tentative guess: people came to the US and set up churches in a "secular" society - one that was neutral as regards religion. They set up the churches and then went to them without any problems or crisis.

At the time the first settlers were arriving the North America, there were wars of religion, persecutions and terror in Europe on religious grounds. Then up to a hundred years ago there was still a big very tense debate over the role of the official church in each state, in education and marriage law and other things. The Germans referred to it as the Kulturkampf, but it happened almost everywhere. Eventually people just got sick of it all. Then you have communism, which knocked religion hard in most Eastern European countries.

The USA has never had a "state religion", so it never had the desire to break free from it.
 
  • #39
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A true atheist doesn't care about religion, they just dismiss it as nonsense. They don't sit around thinking about it. The "atheist" websites where people can go and talk about it, I think is ridiculous, except in the case of the OP where it wouldn't be to talk about being atheist but perhaps as a means of talking about people in your life that go crazy when you tell them you don't buy into religion anymore.
A true atheist doesn't care about god, but they can and do care about religion, since so many people make their personal/political choices based on religion, so it does have a very real impact on atheists' lives. Most "atheist" websites, are devoted to the http://www.talkorigins.org/" [Broken]. They also serve (as you point out) for people to have a place to vent about religions impacts on their own life (I don't really understand how you say they're "ridiculous", and then go on to say "but they serve this one purpose").

Another goal of the "new atheist" movement is to let others who reject religion know that they're not alone, and that they don't have to be afraid to speak up. For many people (I'm thinking JWs, Mormons, and similar), while they do go out and proselytize frequently, they are actively discouraged from socializing outside their religion. This means they have no friends, family, or in many cases (home-schooled children) even casual aquaintances outside of their religion. Outspoken atheists give people like this another option, let them know that just because some narrow minded people close to them may shut them out for their belief, they won't spend their entire life alone because of it. Cutting people off from outside contact and then instilling the fear of being rejected by everyone you know is one method that cults use to retain members. (Some) Religions use the same basic tactic, just not quite as strict. Atheist websites serve to counter this effort.


To the OP: As others have pointed out, you are already an atheist (assuming that you disbelieve gods). This is not an active choice you make, rather it's a conclusion that you come to based on your experiences/the evidence you've been exposed to. As no one here knows your parents or how they may react, it's hard to give specific advice for you. If you're confident that your parents will be ok with it, just mention to them that you don't believe in their religion anymore, and you'd rather not go to church with them anymore. If you're confident that you're parents will make your life (proverbial) hell for it, then it might be best to go along with them while you live with them, and then tell them once you've moved out and they can't make your life so difficult. If you're in college/university, look around on campus and see if there is a secular/atheist student group where you could meet other people who share your feelings about religion. Feel free to send me a pm if you want some help finding one one your campus/in your city.

On the other hand, not everyone feels strongly enough about it to become such an outspoken atheist, so you may be more comfortable just keeping it to yourself. A great thing about being atheist is that you have no obligations to behave in a certain way. You can be as loud or quiet about it as you want, and there's no magical punishment after you die :D.
 
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  • #40
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Senex01 said:
At a tentative guess: people came to the US and set up churches in a "secular" society - one that was neutral as regards religion. They set up the churches and then went to them without any problems or crisis.

At the time the first settlers were arriving the North America, there were wars of religion, persecutions and terror in Europe on religious grounds. Then up to a hundred years ago there was still a big very tense debate over the role of the official church in each state, in education and marriage law and other things. The Germans referred to it as the Kulturkampf, but it happened almost everywhere. Eventually people just got sick of it all. Then you have communism, which knocked religion hard in most Eastern European countries.

The USA has never had a "state religion", so it never had the desire to break free from it.

Do most Americans believe the bible to be an allegory? Because the difference between a literal read and an allegory is as strong as the difference between a chair and an electrical chair.

Why does Al-Quaeda label the US 'infidels', when most are believers(supposing allah and god are one and the same entity)? Is simply typing "Al Quaeda" going to attract attention to this thread from employees at the CIA?
 
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  • #41
Astronuc
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At a tentative guess: people came to the US and set up churches in a "secular" society - one that was neutral as regards religion. They set up the churches and then went to them without any problems or crisis.

At the time the first settlers were arriving the North America, there were wars of religion, persecutions and terror in Europe on religious grounds. Then up to a hundred years ago there was still a big very tense debate over the role of the official church in each state, in education and marriage law and other things. The Germans referred to it as the Kulturkampf, but it happened almost everywhere. Eventually people just got sick of it all. Then you have communism, which knocked religion hard in most Eastern European countries.

The USA has never had a "state religion", so it never had the desire to break free from it.
The immigrants from England and other nations came with a variety of religious backgrounds, and in some cases there was persecution in the US colonies. Most people came to the US for economic reasons, while a minority of groups came for religious reasons. One needs to look into the migration patterns from England (particularly from western England), and Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and other European nations.

I'll have to find it, but one of my history books talks about the fact that heresy was a capital crime, punishable by death, in one (Virginia, IIRC) or more of the American colonies.
 
  • #42
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Do most Americans believe the bible to be an allegory? Because the difference between a literal read and an allegory is as strong as the difference between a chair and an electrical chair.
It seems that all the religious people I've met have selectively chosen to interpret some parts as literal and other parts not (individually)...but they all take a good deal of it literally.
 
  • #43
DaveC426913
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A true atheist doesn't care about religion, they just dismiss it as nonsense...
A true atheist doesn't care about god, but they can and do care about religion...
Wait, my master hasn't taught me the progressive levels of atheism. Who do I have to beat in barehanded combat to become a true atheist?

:rolleyes:
 
  • #44
Evo
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Wait, my master hasn't taught me the progressive levels of atheism. Who do I have to beat in barehanded combat to become a true atheist?

:rolleyes:
A true atheist doesn't care about god, but they can and do care about religion,
I absolutely disagree with this. An atheist plain and simple just does not believe in a diety, they do NOT care about religion. If you want to debate religion, then you have an interest in religion, that has NOTHING to do with believing in supernatural dieties. Please do not confuse the two.
 
  • #45
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I have never considered myself an atheist, I simply do not adhere to the dogma of any known religion. Recent discussions with a fellow PFer has made me aware that I may qualify as an atheist.
Probably, but there are 3 classifications you might fall into:

If you believe there are no god(s), then you are atheist. Obviously, atheism is not a religion.

If you do not believe in any particular religion, but you think the idea of god(s) is not unreasonable, then you're agnostic (eg, unsure). This also is not a religion.

If you do not believe in human-like gods, but you do believe in an omniscient, omnipresent force in the universe, and that humans were created to fill some special role, then you are "spiritual."
 
  • #46
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I absolutely disagree with this. An atheist plain and simple just does not believe in a diety, they do NOT care about religion. If you want to debate religion, then you have an interest in religion, that has NOTHING to do with believing in supernatural dieties. Please do not confuse the two.
Which part do you disagree with? That atheists don't care about (what they consider to be) imaginary beings? Or that they can and do (I suppose I should have said "often do") care about religion? Even in the OP here, he said that he's developing an aversion to religions in general, so there is at least some level of "caring" there. Do you mean to say that they do not necessarily care about religion? If so, then I agree. Or do you mean to say that every atheist absolutely does not care about religion?

Also please point out where I have confused wanting to debate religion with believing in supernatural deities (or dieties, for those who want to magically lose weight, hehe)?
 
  • #47
Evo
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Wait, my master hasn't taught me the progressive levels of atheism. Who do I have to beat in barehanded combat to become a true atheist?

:rolleyes:
A true atheist doesn't care about god, but they can and do care about religion,
I absolutely disagree with this, unless it's as meaningless as saying an evangelical christian cares about debating Hindus. An atheist plain and simple just does not believe in a diety. If you want to debate religion, that has NOTHING to do with not believing in supernatural dieties. Please do not confuse the two.
 
  • #48
lisab
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I absolutely disagree with this. An atheist plain and simple just does not believe in a diety, they do NOT care about religion. If you want to debate religion, then you have an interest in religion, that has NOTHING to do with believing in supernatural dieties. Please do not confuse the two.
That's exactly right. It's hard for religious people to comprehend the absence of religion.
 
  • #49
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Which part do you disagree with? ... Do you mean to say that they do not necessarily care about religion? If so, then I agree.
That is clearly what Evo meant. And if you agree, then it is in blatant contradiction to your previous post, in which you stated that a person who does not care about other religions is not really an atheist. Perhaps you are overcoming a language barrier, but that is what you said.
 
  • #50
So you can respect other theist's point of view, rest assured that atheism is not respected.

If you say you are an atheist in some public place, or at work even, then you will likely be subjected to prejudice. Where as all religions in this country are pretty much respected. Atheism is not. Even gays managed to get more respect. Why can't atheists?
Perhaps it depends on where you are but where I live gay people aren't allowed to get married, they are occasionally beaten up or harassed, and quite often are made fun of and derided to the point that "homo" and "fag" are terms used to insult people. Where I come from atheists go through none of this. In the areas I have heard of where atheists may have similar things happen to them gay people are often treated far far worse. Would you mind letting me know where this curious place you live is that gay people are such respected members of the community when compared to atheists?

I think that alot of the way people feel atheists are treated is not very real. Perhaps I am wrong though. Has anyone here been beaten half or near to death for being an atheist? Maybe known someone who has? Read a few news stories about such incidents? I don't doubt that it may have happened, I just doubt that it is very common at all. I don't remember anyone in school making fun of atheists and they'll make fun of you for anything in grade school and high school. I can't say I have heard many people accusing others of being atheists. I can't say I have heard anything worse than "he is lost/confused" when religious people refer to atheists. The only non-theists I have heard anyone complain about are the vocal in your face ones. I'm sure we can all respect that though since most of us have certainly found ourselves annoyed by the vocal in your face theists right?

Perhaps my lack of experience here comes from never having felt the need to step forward and announce my beliefs to the world. Never feeling that I really needed to let my parents or anyone else know just what I thought of their ideas and beliefs. I was never 'hurt' or pushed around or made to subjugate myself to any religion and so never felt the necessity to lash out. I really don't get it.

Do most Americans believe the bible to be an allegory? Because the difference between a literal read and an allegory is as strong as the difference between a chair and an electrical chair.

Why does Al-Quaeda label the US 'infidels', when most are believers(supposing allah and god are one and the same entity)? Is simply typing "Al Quaeda" going to attract attention to this thread from employees at the CIA?
While the place I live is relatively liberal in comparison to other places in the US most of the christians I have met are more or less christians in name. They follow their religion because that is what they know and grew up with and if you asked them what they thought of the bible they would probably say its mostly just a collection of stories to teach morals. Most of the people I have met think that those who interpret the bible literally are nuts. They pretty much believe in god and see little difference between religions other than tradition and adhere to their own because of tradition rather than any belief that it is more 'right' than another.

And the likelihood that this thread will get the notice of the CIA or any other agency for the mere mention of Al Qaeda is virtually non-existent.
 

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