How would you explain why you’re an atheist?

I believe I wrote one post, a long time ago, asking readers to recount their journey to nonbelief. That, I thought, would not only help us get to know each other, but to appreciate the diversity of ways that people either embraced atheism from the outset, or did so while leaving their faith.

Today, though, I have a different question, one that came from a hypothesis I floated two days ago: is anybody  an atheist for reasons other than lack of evidence for God or evidence against the idea of God (e.g., the existence of undeserved evil)? In other words, is your nonbelief grounded on evidence or the lack thereof?

I’d like to know the answer to this, for in truth I can’t see any other reasons for rejecting God. So here I pose a simple question to readers, which I’d appreciate your answering. It’s this:

If you were asked explain to someone, say an open-minded person you’d just met, why you’re an atheist, and were limited to at most three sentences, what would you say?

I’ve given my own answer before, but as always I’ll answer the question here. It’s this: “I realized at age 17 that there was not a whit of evidence for anything I’d ever been told about God, and abandoned the idea within a few minutes of that realization.”

Your turn.


  1. Griff
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Why would I not be an atheist?

    • rickflick
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      Naturally, the burden of proof is on someone making the claim that a god or gods exist.

  2. Adam
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    The existence of God were never proven to me.

  3. Merilee
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Ditto Jerry except maybe age 12 or so.

  4. Ivans
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Happily raised to think critically, I never took a “journey to nonbelief”. Blind faith is frowned upon where I come from.

    • DireLobo
      Posted August 2, 2016 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      Same here, no journey – my parents made it clear from my earliest memories that they didn’t believe in god, but they liked being part of a community and they felt deeply attached to their culture and history, especially right after the Holocost. They made me go through the motions, I even had a bar mitzvah, but god was never part of it for my family, or me. No journey, that’s how its always been.

  5. Stephen Barnard
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Atheism is the default position. Until I see convincing evidence otherwise, I’m sticking to it. In addition, the multitude of contradictory and often antagonistic religions, together with the fact that nearly all religious people remain in the religion they were brought up with, is strong evidence against theism.

  6. toniclark2014
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    I don’t believe in any supernatural beings — ghosts, goblins, fairies, elves, angels, devils, gods, or goddesses. I’ve never seen evidence for any of them.

  7. SA Gould
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    If god is real he’s a sociopath or an absentee landlord. Neither interests me.

  8. Cathy Ross
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    In my youth I realised praying didn’t work. I heard about the Protestants and Catholics killing each other in Ireland and I remember being totally stunned when I learnt there were other religions – people believed in different things?!. It just didn’t make sense.

  9. BobTerrace
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    My three simple reasons:

    1. I see no evidence of any deity.

    2. I see quite a bit of wrong/evil perpetrated by those who profess to believe in deities.

    3. There is little in common and many contradictions between and within various religions.

    • Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      But is #2 a reason to reject belief in God?

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        On purely pragmatic grounds, that believing in God encourages religion with the adverse consequences mentioned by Bob.


      • BobTerrace
        Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

        If people who are fascists do wrong, is that a reason to reject fascism? I say yes.

        • Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:48 am | Permalink

          What if the wrong that the fascists did was running a red light and killing a pedestrian?

          If we want to point to bad acts as a reason to reject a claim, we need to demonstrate a causal relationship between the claim and the bad acts.

        • rickflick
          Posted August 1, 2016 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

          But, no matter how much wrong is done by fascists, you cannot deny that it exists.

          • Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

            Yes; that’s an even better point than the one I made.

      • slandermonkey
        Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        Point 2, lots of evil in the world, is a strong piece of evidence against the existence of a good deity. As almost all the larger religions profess a good deity it follows that they are wrong.

        For the acts of people some religions invoke freedom of will, but just as good parents don’t let their children play on a busy highway at night dressed in black, a good deity would have to intervene when evil acts are committed.

        Then there are all the ‘acts of god’ like earth quakes and tsunami. The 1755 Lisbon Earthquake is a famous example of a disaster that caused much philosophical discussion, and many people to become atheists.

        • Ralph esposito
          Posted August 2, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

          Who determines what evil is?

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      It could be a malicious God … unless I’m missing something… oh I see – the believers themselves – an endless regress is setting up here I think…

  10. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I did not receive the full frontal propaganda of religion when I was small and was therefore, allowed to decide that question on my own, thank g*d. So, while growing up and since, I never discovered anything to reasonably dispute non belief and plenty to confirm it.

    • Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

      I’m jealous of all you people raised without religion. My life is full of wasted time.

  11. Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Pretty much like Jerry, even same age — just before leaving high school and mainly due to things I read. Kazantzakis was a step along the way, and existentialist reading in following years helped out a lot — more Camus than Sartre. In spite of its flaws, I really dig Le mythe de Sysiphe.

  12. vnectar
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    I realized when I was 25 (after being agnostic for 10 years) that people who believe in God *feel* their belief. Those who I’m close to that have faith clearly have an emotional connection to it, and even when I was a kid and believed in God (because I was told to), I felt nothing. I don’t think one can truly believe in a God without feeling something, and I never have.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      That condition – emotional feeling or connection and the lack thereof,is likely part of the reason for many atheists. I think the experts would call it being honest with yourself.

      • darrelle
        Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        I’ve long thought it has something to do with a need for a strong authority figure in order to feel personally secure. I think the emotional connection you mention is often based on that. I think a lot of people have such a need. Others don’t. I’m not suggesting this is the answer to why religion is so pervasive, just that it is a significant factor.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:57 am | Permalink

          Yes, and the reverse, as vnectar calls it, feeling nothing is part of being an atheist.

    • Jan
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      I can totally relate to this state of non-feeling. I remember when I was about 10 telling my mom that I didn’t want to go to Sunday school anymore because I just could not relate to the message being conveyed there. When people describe to me the “spiritual” connection that they feel to whatever god they pray to, I just do not understand. I have never felt anything like that.

    • Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

      I can also relate. I remember feeling ashamed that all my peers seemed to be able to “bear their testimonies” (a mormon term), while I had to make stuff up to fit in.

      • Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        (By “make stuff up” I mean invent stories about how I “felt the spirit” or whatever.$

    • frednotfaith2
      Posted September 22, 2016 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

      Mine was a gradual journey. My parents weren’t outwardly very religious when I was a child, although my mother became far more religious after about she converted to Catholicism at age 55 (my stepdad was raised Catholic, excommunicated for divorcing his first wife after she left him but rejoined after he got that marriage annulled — about 36 years later) Mom’s father was a Baptist preacher who died when she was 10.
      But as to the specific question, I just find no rational reason to believe in any god as the existence of a deity is not supported by any valid evidence and it seems far more likely to me that humans invented all their various gods than that any god exists and created anything. Frankly, I find all religions absurd.

  13. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    The lack of evidence. To elaborate, the lack of evidence falls into two broad categories. (1) The permitted existence of evil and tragedy, as well as good fortune, which happens to the pious and non-pious alike. There is no hint of evidence for a caring & intervening god. Theodicy is dead. (2) The explanatory power of science shows convincingly that what we know about life, the universe, and everything is the result of natural causes. There is no need to hypothesize some sort of pitiless and indifferent god that started it all & occasionally twiddles the knobs.

  14. Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Neither of my parents was at all religious, and my mother’s father was a lifelong admirer of Robert Green Ingersoll, the Great Agnostic. So I grew up in a household that paid no particular heed to any theistic belief. Religion, my sisters and I understood, was something other people might become involved with, and that was all right–but it wasn’t for us.

  15. Hassan Ali
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Here are my three sentences: (a) The arguments presented to justify belief in God (both by natural theology and reformed epistemology) are quite weak. (b) The religion I was raised in, as well as other Abrahamic religions, make claims about the nature of reality that are thoroughly incompatible with our prevalent (scientific) worldview. (c) The traditional notion of faith is morally repugnant.

  16. alexandra moffat
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    No evidence. And I was lucky enough to have parents who did not need religion – a father who was brought up Unitarian, a mum who was brought up high church Episcapalian, taught me the Lord’s Prayer and gave up – both became well lapsed. And an education that exposed us to reason & science.

    (Am 88 and only get stronger in my atheism).

  17. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    What about pointing out – as Dawkins did and got credit for – how everyone is an atheist about every god except theirs – not the answer you’re looking for? That’s where I’d start, if put on the spot.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      Also the Ricky Gervais idea of being a non-skier, being a non-golfer – why not? I suppose there are lots of reasons, perhaps not being offered the opportunity … different question maybe….

      • Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

        Yes, different question. I share Sam Harris’ sentiment that “atheist” is at best an unnecessary term and at worst playing into the theist’s hand. We don’t explicitly identify non-astrologers because it doesn’t make sense to identify someone as a person who rejects obvious nonsense along with almost everyone else in the world. If we were to start identifying people as non-astrologers it would grant legitimacy to astrology that it doesn’t deserve.

        • Wunold
          Posted August 2, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

          I like Dawkins relativising the term “atheist” by pointing at many other a-somethings all of us could be called: afairyists, aleprechaunists, ahobgoblinists, athorists…

          I myself use the term when appropriate. In contrast to a theist, I may call myself an atheist. In contrast to gnostic atheists, I may call myself an agnostic atheist. In other contexts, I may use other labels like humanist, skeptic, naturalist, consequentialist, bicyclist, 🙂 and so on, to position myself in the respective system of concepts.

          • Posted August 2, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink

            Yes, the word has a pragmatic utility, and I use it for that reason, but I still don’t like it.

  18. Arno Matthias
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    I totally agree with those who said that the question is not “why are you an atheist?” but “why is anyone a believer?” It’s a mistake to think that the word god means/denotes/stands for anything at all, and then to ask people if they believe that concept. When someone asks “do you believe in god?” the correct answer isn’t “no”, but “what do you mean by ‘god’?”

    • Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Also agree. While it does not directly answer Jerry’s question, I find that a good place to start such a discussion is “Which god?” It is discombobulating to the questioner when one points out the problems with god found in scriptures and in their carrying out the commands of god. I am also fond of throwing a curve by saying “I do not believe in belief” and tell them that I do not need to hear the words of what a person believes – I can pretty much tell what they believe by the life they live.

      • Arno Matthias
        Posted August 1, 2016 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        You’re right, it’s not an answer to Jerry’s question, but that’s because the question is bad.

  19. Marc-Olivier Blondin
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Many were theists and found themselves to be incapable of accepting a theist god, so they choose to be deist instead. Before going atheist, I believe many were deist. So a similar question would be : why going from theist to deist?

    I think one good element is the existence of hell combine with the existence of people we dearly love is incompatible : how can a loving God can take those people to hell? Hence, rejection of this kind of god.

    Hence, deism. And there, they think more profoundly about why theist is not a good intellectual position and they’ll see the lack of evidence for it.

    But they’ll still think a vague god is real. Which remind me of John Locke, who said something like this : only obscurity can protect what is absurd.

    An obscur God who do not really intervene with the world is easy to deal with (no hell, the creation in itself is a miracle, so everything is a miracle…)and to defend.

    “Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity. For the crowd believes that if it cannot see to the bottom of something it must be profound. It is so timid and dislikes going into the water”

    Friedrich Nietzsche

    • Marc-Olivier Blondin
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Oh, I didn’t respond to the question.

      I never believed in God, because it didn’t fit with the vision I had of the world. So we can say that I was never convinced of the existence of any kind of supernatural entity. My parents are atheist (dad) and maybe deist (mom) – but she kept quiet about it. And I’m from Canada.

      « I think supernatural beliefs work so well because they seem plausible. And they seem plausible because they fit with what we want to believe and already think is possible. […] Ideas and beliefs may be transmitted, but only those that resonate with what we think is possible take hold and make sense. […] Ideas have to fit with what we already know. Otherwise, they do not make sense. »

      Supersense, de Bruce M. Hood, p. 8

    • Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

      Those are both great quotations.

  20. Zibeeb
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    I was taught 8 different religions at school and they all contradicted each other, which made clear they are all nonsense

    • Dave
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      They mustn’t have taught you the one, true one!

    • jardino
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 5:50 am | Permalink

      That is probably the best reason for teaching comparative religion in primary schools.

  21. Tanja
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    It always just seemed obvious to me that the whole concept of God was man made. No supreme being would create things they way they are, all messy and poorly thought-out. It was clear to me men made God to suit the world we live in, and not the other way around.

  22. Larry Moran
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    I never believed in any gods. I’ve never seen any reason to believe in any of the gods.

  23. Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    I came to atheism through studying science, which steadily chipped away all the reasons I had for believing in a god, until the only thing left was wishful thinking, which eventually I gave up.

  24. Lenny
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    There is no good reason for God to conceal himself from the universe. If there existed a all-powerful, all-loving God who wanted to have a relationship with humanity, then his existence would be plainly known, like the existence of the sun. What makes me an atheist is the very fact that we even bother to ask if God exists.

  25. carpevita
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I always harbored many doubts, however I felt that I could not identify as an atheist as I didn’t really look. So I did and was met with multitudes of nebulous gods lurking in the fissures of doubt. Now I feel more confident that the perceived supernatural are merely delusions of the masses.

  26. Janet
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    I am an atheist because as a fervently religious teenager who felt she should become a missionary, a question suddenly popped into my head: why would a god create all those people over there who believe the wrong things and then make people over here have to go and change their minds? This type of questioning brought down the whole house of cards.

    • Dave
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      🙂 Good question. It’d take me two minutes to dig up three Xians who could rationalize it for you. Of course, the rationalizations would all be different. But then, they’ve had many centuries to make stuff up.

  27. Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I would respond like so:

    ”Seriously, who believes in any god these days unless they have been indoctrinated?
    There is absolutely no evidence and besides, the god you worship, Yahweh, was a man-made Canaanite deity who once had a wife!”

  28. bluemaas
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I loved things scientific from my weest years; things steeped in Christianity, however, just never meshed inside my brain with what I was (fortunately) learning in science.

    In my teenage and early adult years, the whole of worldwide religions’ patriarchal repressions against humans who were female ones of any age, and particularly as re females’ virginities and fertilities in almost all of these religions, became ragingly obvious and impossible to explain away … … except by their manmade – ness.

    At my age of 42 and suddenly one afternoon, my father at his age of 70 finally came out to me; and along then at that very same unburdening of his with his admittance that, throughout nearly all of their lives, my mother, my (only) brother, my favorite uncle, my favorite male cousin (that uncle’s kiddo) and all other of the close – to – me male relatives were all atheists (although appearing TO ALL in their communities as abiding and steadfast Christians !), this revelation, overnight, crystallized for me that any religion with its various gods existed everywhere at all because of, and only because of, the overwhelming determinedness of this specific piece of the patriarchy.

    Voilà, … … atheist.

  29. Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    The earth and universe are very old, but humans were supposedly what creation is all about.

    The fact that it took God almost all of the 13.7 billion years to make us makes me wonder what he possibly could have been doing all of this time.

    In light of this, it doesn’t make sense that [Christian] theology is correct; therefore, it isn’t plausible that God exists at all.

  30. µ
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Utilitarian reasoning, at age 18 in my case.

    It seemed far far easier to be wrong about anything regarding religion, than to be right. Whereas there were other schemata that had far more practical, immediate value, like science, including evolution explaining the origin and diversity of life.

    I also didn’t like how I had been manipulated as a child by my church (I taught Sunday school from age 14-18). Too much make-belief for what is good for children

  31. Angela
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I was raised by agnostics who encouraged me to learn and think for myself. Studying history, especially the history of religion, set me on the road to agnostisism. Then my love and study of science showed me there is no evidence for any supernatural beings. Thus, I became an atheist as a teenager and haven’t seen any reason to change my mind since.

  32. Hassan Ali
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    But if I were talking to what you would call on this website a “Sophisticated Theologian”, then my response would be as follows: I am an atheist because I do not agree with the use of the word God to refer to the numinous, or pleroma, or the beyond, or whatever conceptual tool you want to use to achieve the state of kenosis or fana. Because “God” has a lot of unwanted anthropomorphic and religious baggage.

    • Hassan Ali
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      Sorry, this is an addendum to my comment (#15) above.

    • reasonshark
      Posted August 2, 2016 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      I have, as far as I can remember, always been an atheist for every version of “deity”, and for the same reasons I’ve always been an a-gryphonist: lack of evidence and sound arguments for the affirmative claim. Even the most philosophical and “sophisticated” of the arguments for at least one deity are either based on baseless premises or straight-up non-sequiturs. I see no epistemological reason to take religious claims any more seriously than any other made-up and/or mistaken belief.

    • reasonshark
      Posted August 2, 2016 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      I agree strongly. Co-opting a religious word for perfectly secular concepts always strikes me as an obvious act of desperation. They so badly want credibility that they’ll leech it off others. It’s why I don’t just regard religion as intellectually untenable, but as practically contemptible.

  33. John R
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    When I was young I constantly tried to make sense of the reality described by my religion. The only thing that resolved all my questions was the realization that it was made up. Cobbled together by a bunch of dumb humans.

  34. Dragon
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    If gods existed as most religions posit, we would see clear evidence; prayer would work, people imbued with the holy spirit would be nicer than those of no or other religion, the faithful would be protected from accidents, the righteous would be rewarded rather than con artists like Peter Popoff, etc. All that expected evidence is lacking. I am an atheist not only because of insufficient evidence in the existence of a god, but because every evidence we should see is completely absent.

    • Posted August 2, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Dragon’s remark is what my first stage was like, too.

      My second stage came after reading Scriven’s arguments in _Primary Philosophy_ about the “would a six year old intervene here?” and realized this is a better argument from evil than I’d ever seen previously. I still think so.

      My third was realizing that the big bang was an origin only of something local, and there’s also reason to suppose anything creating such a thing has any initial conditions obliterated. So there’s no god in any useful sense possible. (Thanks to the late Vic Stenger on the latter point.)

  35. Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Stumbling over discrepancies as Teenager. Understanding the danger of religious faith, looking and not finding evidence for god. Drowing a conclusion.

  36. Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    A commenter here stated that people “feel” their beliefs, I happen to agree to extent in regards to religion. This belief is trained as well as felt. I was one of the trained. I was trained to believe that there was one gawd, he was all loving and perfect, and you would burn forever if you believed otherwise. Then I saw that the majority of the world would burn (the majority said that all the others would burn also) because they weren’t trained as I. Then the training broke down, and I being mildly rational, saw that I had been duped, conned, and conditioned. Then when I looked again, I saw nothing staring back, just a pale reflection of all the other stories of gawds, faeries, daemons, jinns, warlocks, you know facets of humanity.

    End of the story. Since age eleven.

    • Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

      Yes. Learning about competing and incompatible religions should be enough to start anyone down the path that leads to atheism.

  37. Matt
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    At the age of 17 and in a clique of religious peers, I noticed that nobody was taking responsibility for their own actions. It was either Gods will, or the Devil did it.
    This wore thin with me and annoyed the hell out of me. That’s when I realised that religion is no more than narcissism.
    More importantly, I actually started to read up on things that had always confused me ((evolution etc) and that was that!

  38. Monika
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    My journey into atheism started early, I remember being at the children’s service and hearing about the story of Cain and Abel, I wondered how Cain could find a wife elsewhere when god had created everyone in the garden of Eden. I asked the pastor about it, I don’t remember what he said, but I wasn’t convinced. I guess I filed it under weird stuff grown-ups do and say.
    Later as a teen I sung in choir, that ment every other Sunday I was in church. At that time I kept asking myself: Do I believe it? My answer changed (evolved I guess) from “guess so” to “dunno” to “no”.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      “I guess I filed it under weird stuff grown-ups do and say.”

      As a child I was never a theist. It just seemed dumb to me. I remember seeing adults sometimes talking god talk or saying a prayer at dinner, and wondering – if it’s so dumb, are these adults in on some big joke? Are they really just saying stuff out of tradition? They cannot be serious, right?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 1, 2016 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

        I thought, because the time between Christmas & Easter was mere months & Jesus died in his 30s, that Jesus grew into an adult really fast. I figured it made about as much sense as the rest of the Jesus story. Sadly, I though this well into my late teens at least.

  39. blair mitchell
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I am a black man i am gay it does not benefit me!

  40. Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I am more an Apathist because to be honest with you, I really don’t care. People should be free to believe what they wish . . . but their belief shouldn’t be allowed to infringe on other people!

    • darrelle
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      I don’t mean to suggest that I think all nonbelievers should be activists or anything remotely like that, but. Peoples beliefs will always impact other people around them. There just isn’t any way around that. It is just a matter of degrees of impact and degrees of separation.

      I know quite a few very kind, decent people who are not overtly religious and definitely don’t impose their religious beliefs on others in any direct way, but who will almost certainly vote for Trump because when it comes down to it he is the representative of the party that has pandered to religious belief for decades. And they believe it. This kind of thing affects me in a significant way.

      • Posted August 1, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        Is it too late to organize a write-in capability for this year’s election? The two choices from the two main parties are . . . unpalatable, to say the least.

      • rickflick
        Posted August 1, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        I agree. I pretty much have to care. It means a lot for me and for the future of human civilization. I want to see religions eventually fade away. The whole world would work so much better as a community if it was like Scandinavia in that regard. I contribute to secular causes and vote to steer society in the right direction.

  41. Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I’m an atheist because I hate God. Or is it because I want to be free to be hedonistic?

    I’m sure it must be one of those.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink


    • Posted August 1, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      I thought it was because someone at your church insulted you.

  42. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Careful about using “reasons” – someone inevitably will distinguish plain reasons from good reasons. I do it too, so, you know…

  43. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I will admit I find being an atheist very convenient. I don’t have to waste precious time in churches bored out of my mind. I can watch porn without feeling guilty. I don’t have to feel vaguely guilty and morally obligated because Jesus died for my sins. I don’t even have to try to convince myself to believe the improbable/incredible stuff in the Bible.

    If I were to do a sort of Pascal-like weighing of the pros and cons, I would say that, in probabilistic terms, the religionists would have to produce a hell of a lot stronger evidence in order to make it worth putting up with all the nonsense I listed in my paragraph above.

    So I’m an atheist for 100% pure logical reasons and also for 100% selfish reasons. They both lead to the same conclusion.


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      But to answer directly, I think I was always a doubter, I felt vaguely guilty at not really believing what we were told in Sunday School, till at about the age of 12 I realised that, if it wasn’t true (as I suspected), then IT DIDN’T MATTER that I didn’t believe it. I still remember the feeling of relief. It really was an epiphany.


      • Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

        I wish I would’ve gotten to the “it didn’t matter” realization sooner.

  44. Ann German
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    The existence of a “God” makes no sense. I too believe in the “default” position. And, as I heard a woman say one time, “asking me to talk about the existence of God is kind of like watching my sister have sex . . . I would just as soon not.”

  45. Craw
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    My Sunday school teacher led us in catechism: “Do we understand? No. Do we believe? Yes.”
    Not me lady.

  46. Himanshu Sekhar
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    If you analyse the reasons advanced by theists it is simply misleading.The universe had not been created by GOD.It is the product of evolution.The talk of Atma is buckwas.It is the chemical reaction inside the brain that produces intelligence and consiousness etc.To believe in a super power for adressing worries and expecting relief is another thing.In fact GOD is the creation of man to make simple the complicated puzzles of life.

  47. Stephen
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I was raised in a small rural Georgia town in a community of fundamentalists where the church was the center of the universe. When I went away to school (to become a minister!) the gap between the way I had been taught the world was, and the way I experienced the world became so great I could no longer straddle it even with determined effort. When I admitted to myself I no longer believed that Jesus was resurrected from the dead I stopped calling myself a Christian; when I realized that I no longer believed that a god existed I started calling myself an atheist.

  48. Geoff Toscano
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Without gods the world becomes much simpler to understand.

  49. Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I used to believe in God, or at least I think I did, when I was a kid. I always hated going to church though; luckily I only had to go when we visited my grandparents – so only a few times a year.

    I don’t think I made a sudden transition. I think that when I was young and gullible, I believed. Then I spent many years not even considering it. Then at some point when I was (I suppose) in my late teens, I suddenly realised that the whole thing was preposterous.

    So a little bit like one of the TV shows you used to love as a kid, then didn’t watch for 20 years, then happened upon a re-run and realised, “Actually, this is shit.”

  50. largeswope
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Religion is looking externally for answers,”what is god’s plan?”, a supernatural solution. Atheism is accepting it is only us, humans, who must forge ahead the best we can. It gives us freedom to grow, evolve and create the world we want to live in.

  51. Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    1. God is an incoherent / tautological idea–it’s sometimes just gibberish, and simple bullshit at all other times.

    2. No amount of evidence can be enough to back up a theory if said theory is bullshit.

    3. See #1.

    Example: If I heard a voice from the sky saying “I am the LORD!”, I would think I heard *something*, but I would conclude it wasn’t god, since god is nonsense. First, they (theists) have to come up with a coherent idea of what they’re talking about, and *then* we can look for evidence for their position. Same as everyone else.

    I was more detailed about these ideas here:

    View story at

  52. G. McNett
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Certainly lack of evidence is at the top. I’d also add that belief-based claims are so contradictory to reality, and the nature of such beliefs are better explained by other hypotheses. Finally, as I began to realize that at best, a belief in any deity lacks any real necessity. These three realizations slowly convinced me to be much more comfortable in my own lack of belief. So 1) lack of evidence, 2) inherently contradictory claims and better explanations for the nature of belief, and 3) lack of necessity.

  53. darrelle
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I think you have it right Jerry. It is difficult to conceive of any reason for not believing in gods that doesn’t reduce down to a lack of good evidence.

    My explanation? No evidence for any gods. Gobs of evidence everywhere you look refuting the claims of every religion. I can’t really think of a third that doesn’t fit into one of those two.

    In general terms it really is that simple.

  54. Galand
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Religion requires faith and thus the abdication of one’s capability to use reason. I did not like that and became an atheist.

  55. Michael Ball
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    In addition to lack of evidence and evidence against derived from science, I also object to the conceptional framework of religion when it come to matters of relevance to the natural world. The notion of deciding the answer, and then trying to find evidence to support it (even in the face of counter evidence, or better more plausible axioms/explanations) is profoundly unscientific … Outside of its relevance (in so far as it exists) to the physical world (in so far as the dichotomy exists) I also find no need to justify morality objectively in a theological framework. I’m happy with the FACT that ethics/morals evolve with the Zeitgeist. However I feel that the ideal of minimizing harm/suffering (subject to constraints) is approaching the status of objectively valid. In short, wherever it might be claimed that religion has some virtue, I personally find it either unnecessary or that exists a perfectly valid alternative (that lacks the huge existential speculation).

  56. GBJames
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    As for me, I don’t believe in things that can’t be coherently defined.

  57. Robert Bray
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    When a boy of twelve,
    I put together a crude telescope,
    a three-inch reflector. . .
    and looked up at the sky. . .

    My mother sent me to church,
    mostly for sound social reasons,
    a respectable protestant christian church,

    where I looked in. . .

    and looked away. . .

    and never back. . .

    but always up. . . .

  58. dabertini
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    I love the line: “Absence of evidence is evidence of absence.” From FVF.

    • Posted August 2, 2016 at 12:36 am | Permalink

      Which is, of course, the inversion of a common theistic trope. The “is” version theists propound is valid as long as it is reasonable not to expect any evidence of the claim. For instance, just because I’ve never seen my friend’s Canadian girlfriend doesn’t mean she can’t possibly exist. But an interventionist god? There *should* be all sorts of observable evidence that such an entity exists, eg, prayer that works, but there isn’t. Which goes to show something.

  59. Rick Flak
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Dude. The stories, the nuns, the other believers… no thanks.

  60. strongforce
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Epistemic responsibility. I am morally obliged to require evidence for my beliefs. Each person acts in the world either beneficially or deleteriously, their actions informed by their beliefs. Having a strong regard for the epistemic quality of ones beliefs leads one to more certain knowledge of reality, and therefore a greater chance to actually affect the good. The God hypothesis does not pass this test and therefore should be rejected on ethical grounds.

    • Vaal
      Posted August 2, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      I agree!

  61. Geoffrey Howe
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Three sentences, eh? That’s barely enough for two premises and a conclusion, which is all I need.

    “God is all-powerful, or at least very powerful.”

    “God wants me to know he exists.”

    “God has failed to convince me that he exists, therefore either P1 or P2 must be false”

    Okay, so I cheated and snuck P3 into the conclusion. 😛

    • Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      I like it. Of course, you’re just being sinfully stubborn and rebellious…

    • Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink


    • Posted August 2, 2016 at 12:41 am | Permalink

      I would bet most theists would quickly admit that P2 is false. What god wants, according to them, is for you to come to the conclusion that he exists, not just believe in him because he magically forced you.

  62. Bob L
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I grew up in a moderately Catholic environment which took me a long time to shed (probably still doing that subconciously). Lots of reading about various religeous traditions and the obvious disparities helped me realize eventually that they were just stories. I came to realize that unless I was god there was no possible way for me to properly conceive a god – trying was a waste of time. So I just got on with my life.

  63. Sastra
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    The existence of God is a smaller hypothesis within a larger question: is reality fundamentally natural (mind comes from matter) or supernatural (matter comes from mind)? The evidence for the theory of naturalism is strong, and the case for supernaturalism weak. There are also good natural explanations for why why so many people could believe in supernaturalism even if it’s not true.

    Shorter answer: method, method, method.

    • Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:25 am | Permalink


    • Sastra
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      Oh, my background: I used to be Spiritual, Not Religious.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted August 1, 2016 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        AAARGH – not that!

        • Sastra
          Posted August 1, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

          I accept your reply in a nonjudgmental spirit of transcendental love.

          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted August 1, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

            AAARGH! 😀 😀

    • Vaal
      Posted August 2, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      “Shorter answer: method, method, method.”

      Yep, that sums up my position as well.

  64. peepuk
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I believe physical-ism is true, doesn’t mix well with a believe in God.

  65. Mark Reaume
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I grew up in a Roman Catholic household, when I was about 12 years old I started questioning the articles of faith since they just didn’t seem right to me. I read the bible from beginning to end for the first time around then and I decided that it was a collection of stories that primitive versions of ourselves told each other. Religions came along and codified these stories.

    The lack of evidence to support the biblical claims and evidence that disconfirms their claims came later for me and only confirmed my growing unbelief.

    • Mark Reaume
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      …and if I’m being honest (which I think I am) this process of de-conversion took me about 7-8 years and it took place entirely in my own head since I wasn’t comfortable talking to my family about it.

      It was only several decades later when I realized that one of my brothers went through the same ordeal.

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      Something similar with me, raised as an Anglican. It was failing to make sense of ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son to die upon the cross for our sins’ (plus a complete lack of any experience of my personal God) which turned me into an atheist.

      To this day, though I’m now much more knowledgeable about all religions’ epistemological problems, the nonsensicality of central Christian doctrines – original sin and salvation through vicarious atonement – would alone stop me from being a Christian.

      • Kiwi Dave
        Posted August 1, 2016 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        And since we are allowed three sentences I should have added to doctrinal implausibility and lack of evidence the inability of gods to resolve questions of morality and life purposes.

  66. Jeremy Tarone
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    At some point I realized there were many religions and assertions of God, all of them said they are the One True Religion, and none of them could show why they had the truth and the others didn’t. At least beyond the usual spurious interpretations of the Bible or other scriptures.

    I lumped god myths with myths of fairies, leprechauns and unicorns. Truth be told I really didn’t think about God and religion much at all, and it wasn’t until I became involved with Fidonet and Usenet in my mid twenties that I realized some of my own beliefs had poor foundations.

  67. Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I think it’s perfectly legitimate to reject a *particular* god on the basis of contradictions in his character (rather than a lack of evidence for his existence). For example, you could say of Jehovah, “I’m sorry, but a god who orders his people to commit genocide simply couldn’t be the all-loving creator of the universe.” However, I think you’re probably right that the only legitimate basis for categorically rejecting gods in general is the lack of evidence.

    Now here are my three sentences:

    I became an atheist when I stopped depending solely on the writings of Christian apologists to buttress my faith and finally gave a fair hearing to secular perspectives on history, philosophy, and science. I eventually realized that the open-minded study of any of these three subjects leads inevitably to the conclusion that the traditional notions of God just aren’t plausible. I would have been willing to continue believing if I had seen strong evidence that a particular god was at work in the world (by performing miracles, for example), but I saw no such evidence.

  68. mfdempsey1946
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I was born into and raised in a non-fanatical Catholic family and so became a serious but non-fanatical Catholic, to the point of choosing, from age 14 to age 19, for the Catholic priesthood (this was done during the 1950s but no longer is, I believe).

    Exposed to pretty much only the Catholic vision of human life, I began to become aware of extreme evil during my teens, via learning about World War II and the Nazi atrocities (significantly through William L. Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” — a huge best-seller during the early Sixteis and the first hardcover book that I chose to buy with money I had earned myself. This information starkly contrasted with the Catholic insistence that God was, besides All-Knowing, also All-Loving, yet He (the capital letter was mandatory then) let all this happen, which was blamed on human free will that He gave us.

    After leaving the seminary at age 19, I gradually became aware of other perspectives on life that were not necessarily evil the way that Catholicism portrayed them. Among these was atheism. During the Sixties, many abandoned the main-line religions only to adopt others (Buddhism was popular) or try to create their own, sometimes with dire consequences (Scientology, Jim Jones, etc.). I went the other way, little by little concluding that it was necessary to abandon not only Catholicism but also the concepts of religion/God in any form (though it took me years to become comfortable with identifying myself via the word atheist). Finally, one Sunday during Mass, while a priest was delivering a sermon or reciting prayers, I heard a kind of voice in my mind that was saying, “Why are you here? You know you don’t believe in this stuff anymore.” I had to reply mentally, “That’s true. I don’t.” So I stood up and left in the middle of the Mass. Haven’t returned or wanted to return to church since except for some weddings and funerals of people I knew or as a tourist.

    Cheated outrageously, I know — three rather long paragraphs instead of three sentences. Well, at least I no longer have to be concerned about the reaction of Sky Daddy to this and my other infractions.

  69. Joe Savant
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I was an ordained minister that loved the idea of an all powerful, loving God. However, I came to realize that the only evidence for God was in the pages of The Bible and any confirmation of that evidence could be attributed to fallacious reasoning. I am an atheist because there is no verifiable evidence for the supernatural being plausible.

  70. Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Background: Mother excommunicated for marrying a non-practicing Methodist before Vatican II. I was “raised” a Catholic. Last ritual I underwent, beyond worshipping the Mother-Goddess, The “Virgin” Mary,was “First Holy Communion.” When, at age 5 or 6, I began undergoing catechism in preparation for first communion, I kept asking the nuns “why” do we think this, “why” do we do this, “who” decided to teach this? I recall clearly resenting the fact they wanted to stop me from asking questions. Been that way all my life. When I don’t get answers, I go looking. I did have a mystical experience inside that beautiful church building, with the Latin mass, the ritual, so much beauty! But I was taught to expect it…and as a natural artist, the beauty inhabited my emotions. I get the same response now looking through telescopes, walking in the woods, experiencing the sublime through an accident of nature’s composition or from the grandeur and terror of reality.

    10 years later, Dad, feeling guilty about screwing around, joined the WWCG under the tyranny of Herbert Armstrong. From around 16 to 20, I attended, studied the teachings, went to its premier college in Pasadena, witnessed clod-hand the corruption, decided that depending on interpretation, it could make an interesting science-fiction story, if it had any science. Further, it reminded me of Stalinism, with everyone conveniently forgetting prophecies HWA had pronounce when they never happened. Even the !3@%^*& Bible says not to believe false prophets! Most (not all people shunned me when I pointed this out.

    Also, they did not like my asking penetrating questions about scripture, upon which they claimed everything was based. I began to realize that language and cultural context, archeology and supporting historical documents were crucial in beginning to understand what the writers meant when they wrote what they wrote…and really, how germane would their ideas be for us today? Finally, I saw it was a scam based on fear.
    1. People seek a “Higher Power”: mine is objective reality.
    2. If any given scripture is the foundation of a belief-system, and it does not withstand rational inquiry, then it is nothing more than literature with historical interest (and even so, the historical interest is present only given its impact on human affairs): The Western testaments Old and New, the hateful gibberish of the Q’oran, the fanciful flights of imagination in the earlier Mediterranean belief-systems, and the story-telling of the HIndus, etc., offer a kind of entertainment, but do not offer insight into the nature of reality. LONG SENTENCE!
    3. And, what Matt said resonated with me. I wanted to be free and to be free means taking personal responsibility (making amends when wrong, paying the debts, emotional or material: religion (like politics) is just a dishonest way of worming out of personal responsibility by blaming Satan or God or both.

    It was the 70s. I read Ayn Rand and (philosophically naive) quickly grasped
    that epistemology(how do you know what you know) was fundamental, and everything clicked into place! Thus my slogan is: “Reason and Science: They WORK!”

  71. Myles Lawrence
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I’ve never believed in god but it’s because of the internet and the “new atheists” that I now call my non belief atheism.

  72. Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    “…I can’t see any other reasons for rejecting God.”

    I’m sure others have made this point, but in addition to there being *no* good evidence for the existence of god, I’d say there *is* quite a lot of evidence for god being an invention of humanity. The claims are 1) too parochial, and 2) obviously confected to manipulate human psychology.

    • Posted August 4, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      (1) “too local, too provincial” — Richard Feynman


      • Posted August 4, 2016 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

        One could do worse than to reinvent a wheel originally invented by Feynman.

        (Although I’d guess he didn’t *originally* invent it, either.)

  73. Dominic
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    My lack of belief is based promarily on thinking the idea of god is absurd. It makes no sense of the iniverse as far as I can see. I cannot even be sure what evidence would convince me that there were a god. I should add, I see no problem in believing that there might be a god that is not good. I have probably said here before that I do not hold with the majority views on ‘evil’ & ‘good’…

    • Dominic
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      promerily? oops – primarily!

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted August 1, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

        That would be the iniverse inverting your typing.

        • Dominic
          Posted August 3, 2016 at 4:51 am | Permalink


  74. Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I am not superstitious in the least, never have been.

    or, depending on whether is is curiosity or challenge;

    If god created adam and eve and they had four sons, where did the women come from that those sons married?

    ^^ Always my answers

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

      Either Adam & Eve also had four daughters (who didn’t rate a mention in patriarchal society), or they all married Eve.

      Interestingly incestuous, either way. [vbeg]


  75. Reginald Le Sueur
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Hello Jerry, Let me say how much I enjoy WEIT and admire you for standing up for reason; you are the American counterpart to our own Richard Dawkins;But i expect you know that already!It is not quite so bad a problem here in Jersey (Channel islands U.K.), and the U.K generally as in the US,- but still bad enough.My credentials are that I am a retired general medical practitioner, and a member of the National Secular Society  and British Humanist Association and a member of U3A (Jersey) and Convenor of a U3A Philosophy group;–so defending Atheism is one of my chief interests.There are a number of responses one can give to the question you pose: Three sentences,–starting with the ones you mention: 1.  No evidence for, and lots of evidence against.  There should be evidence given God’s ubiquity throughout the Old Testament,and his alleged omniscience with respect to all our personal details; eg numbers of hairs on head etc.  Deus Absconditas,–the Absent God. 2. Natural Evil–earthquakes, diseases etc. God is dumb,—literally, and stupid as well. Can he ride a bicycle?-No?  I can,–perhaps everyone should be worshipping me! 3. The ineffectiveness of Prayer; the resemblance of the Judaeo-Christian God to pagan gods in his dying and resurrecting habits; the preposterous claim of a disembodied Mind,-which has no logical or empirical precedent. I could write an essay , but that’s all i can say in three sentences. Regards,  Reg

  76. Kevin
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    This is our existence. We share it together. We have uncovered what we know about the universe only through science. The creation myths purported by all religions have failed to produce a useful explanation for anything.

  77. Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    You know, it also occurs to me that I was profoundly troubled about something that happened to our family.

    1. First born of my parents, still-birth of Sheila, 30 days after our date: Why no inducement of labor by the doctor? Baby fully formed, nothing wrong, just in the womb too long!
    2. Second child: Georgie. Small southern, rural hospital. (Same) doctor induces birth, leaves for a cocktail party, rare snow, can’t get back. Breach birth comes in, two interns only, they give Mom a shot and cross her legs so to attend breach birth. Georgie’s umbilical cord cuts off oxygen, damages his brain. Life in a wheelchair, Mom taking care of him at home (into her 70s) most of his life.

    I was born 7 years later, probably an accident. This was a central question for me: How could such a senseless accident occur, if there is a god to prevent it? I came to realize it was up to on each of us as individuals, as his family, to bring meaning and any goodness to what had happened to him, there was nothing to extract from the event except we should have sued that doctor.

    In other words, stuff happens, good and bad. Mourn it, turn it around into something good, deal with it. God can’t make any difference. Just do the next right thing.

  78. Leo Glenn
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Beyond a complete lack of evidence, I would say that I have never encountered a single good reason, philosophical or otherwise, to think that such a being exists, and, by contrast, an abundance of reasons to think that belief in a god or gods is a purely human phenomenon.

  79. Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I was raised atheist, and nothing I have encountered has made me doubt my atheism.

  80. Albert Habichdobinge
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Origin of the human species. There is obviously no god involved.

  81. Bernhard
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I’m an atheist not only because there is no evidence for a supernatural being but also because it is so obvious that God is a human invention – from the needs He satisfies to the attributes that are ascribed to Him.

  82. nwalsh
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    My interest in science late in life probably turned things around for me. The four horsemen and this website certainly opened my eyes as well.
    Something I’ve been thinking of lately: About the time of Jesus china had a population of some 60 million. What was god doing messing around with a bunch of goat herders in a much more sparsely (I believe) populated area?

  83. naomifein
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    When I was 10 or so, I decided to run a test for god. I put a key into a drawer and pushed it to one side. I made a sort of pact with this unknown character (my family wasn’t so much atheist as just not anything except intellectual): I would pray every night for a week, on my knees, etc., with whatever language I’d derived from literature–I certainly wasn’t picking up any at home. (I suspect “Jane Eyre” had something to do with the language.) And if there were a god, he had to demonstrate his existence by moving the key to the other side of the drawer.
    He didn’t. That was it for me.
    I should say that I never had a sense of the ineffable, before or after that experiment. For that, I bless my parents every day of my life.

  84. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    I walked away from the Church when I walked out the back door of chapel one Sunday morning at age 14, after a parish priest gave a sermon railing against communist infiltration of the civil rights movement.

    But I had left “belief” behind even before that, I think. Oh, I suppose I maintained an inchoate belief in belief up until then, believing that I should believe, the way others around me in church and parochial school seemed to believe. But the whole thing had an air of make-believe about it for me, so let’s chalk it up to the lack of evidence. I never believed in Santa, or the Easter bunny, or the tooth-fairy either — though I played along with the ruse when the folks stuffed Xmas stockings, or put chocolates and eggs in baskets, or left a little gelt under the pillow after swiping expired baby incisors.

    • Richard
      Posted August 2, 2016 at 5:43 am | Permalink

      I have a great-nephew who is not the brighest of kids, but when he was twelve or so he asked my sister (his grandmother) whether she believed in God.

      She replied “No, not really”, and asked why he had asked. He said that his parents had told him about the tooth fairy, and that wasn’t true; and they had told him about the Easter bunny, and that wasn’t true; and they had told him about Santa, and that wasn’t true; and now they were telling him about God.

      Even kids have a BS detector!

      • Posted August 2, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        That’s why early education is so vital – we can either encourage the growth of that “organ” or let it atrophy or worse, stunt it.

        I have a saying: “reason begins at home” – as far as I can tell it is often (but not always) too late once formal school starts.

  85. Bill Stobie
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    No necessity.
    No plausibility.
    And, crucially, no evidence.

    • drakodoc
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      Well said!

    • Posted August 4, 2016 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      Very succinct.

      “That about wraps it up for God.”


  86. Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    When I was around 7, a relative gave me a children’s bible. I quickly read it, realized it didn’t make any sense, and stopped believing in god. As I learned more and more about the universe, the god hypothesis made even less sense.

  87. Patric k
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Grandmother passed away and couldn’t rationalize why God, the creator, would take a life. The seed of doubt towards religion began to grow, especially when I took a class on evolution in junior college. Ever since then the natural order has made the most sense to me.

  88. Ralph
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    I grew up in a strict Penetcostal home, and most of my family are still very religious. My wife is actually the admin at her church, and runs a religious charity aimed at school age children. I actually really enjoyed church, and think there’s something to be said for the social side of religion even though I no longer believe in any sort of afterlife or god.

    There were a number of things that led me towards atheism. Working alongside a number of gay and lesbian people who were some the loveliest human beings ever didn’t gel with the idea of a god who thought they were an abomination. Other friends who were Wiccans and Satanists challenged my beliefs with questions that made more logical sense than the platitudes offered on Sundays by our pastors. And finally, Dawkin’s book “The Greatest Show on Earth”, showed me what an elegant and comprehensive idea evolution was, and compared with Genesis there was no contest as to what was real and what was myth. I had been to a seminar with Ken Ham where he made a fairly convincing argument that the whole of the bible rested on the literal Genesis, so when my belief in that crumbled, and original sin was placed firmly in the category of myth and allegory – well, that was that. There didn’t seem to be much more value in tithing 10% of my income and wasting my Sundays in church, so I just stopped going.

  89. Steve Gerrard
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    One piece of evidence against gods is the profound lack of agreement in human societies regarding gods. Greek gods, Egyptian gods, Roman gods, Incan gods, Mayan gods, Hindu gods, Norse gods, Abrahamic gods. Such a muddle!

  90. Dianne Leonard
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I started questioning my parents’ Catholic faith at about age 9, when I realized that, in confession, I was confessing “sins” that I hadn’t committed. The next step was realizing, when reading mythology, that the Catholic church was lying to me, just as I was lying to them. Then I began to read scriptures from many religions, until by age 16 I was a thorough-going atheist, with sufficient knowledge of scriptures to combat the faithful. (I might add that, despite my parents’ best efforts, all 6 of us siblings are atheists of one stripe or another.)

  91. mdeschane
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I was raised Catholic. When I left home at 18 I quit, no epiphanies or deep thought just didn’t see any need for believing in anything. Since then I have grown more to believe in non-belief. Call me an atheist if you need to put a label on it, I don’t care.

    A question I sometimes kick around is: “Why are there smart people that believe in gods?”

    • drakodoc
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      Great question. One obvious answer would be that they are indoctrinated as children. However, that does not explains why they keep being believers. I see at least two possible answers: 1) they have never spent time thinking critically and deeply about the subject or 2) they have compelling social or economic incentives forcing them into a sort of cognitive dissonance.

  92. Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Religion started out as a means to explain natural phenomena that couldn’t be explained otherwise and became a tool for controlling and manipulating populations. Once the purpose of religion and lack of evidence for any type of god sunk in – it took a few years to completely let go – I became an atheist.

  93. Frank Bath
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    1. My parents weren’t religious, though one was expected to be a believer at school. C of E.
    2. As I got into my own reading I saw no argument for god stood up. I was an unthinking agnostic,
    3. Until I watched the jihadis force people to jump to their deaths from the twin towers. Now a militant atheist.

    • Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      “As I got into my own reading I saw no argument for god stood up. I was an unthinking agnostic”

      That was me before The God Delusion.

      After I read that book, my thoughts on religion were fully crystallized in my mind and there was no going back. No more soft spot for religion (hangover from youth in a church).

  94. Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    When I studied hypnosis and realized that a good hypnotist can induce a “religious experience” and connect it to belief in anything.

    • Posted August 4, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      Ah, that reminds me of a hypothesis I’ve suggested here before, that the is a connection between susceptibility to hypnosis and religious belief. I’d really like to see that tested.


  95. Mehul Shah
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    1 – I want to learn what’s true, whatever it looks like.

    2 – Beliefs not grounded in truth, may give a sense of security in the short run, but in the long run, they inevitably come in conflict with each other and with reality, and destroy the very security being sought.

    • Mehul Shah
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      i.e. Religious belief is both untrue and incoherent.

  96. Thomson, James A. (Andy) (jat4m)
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    The discussion in Presbyterian confirmation class about predestination made no sense to even a gullible teenager. A naïve boy thought the obvious extension of the concept was, “Why would you worship a God who predestined human misery?” Then, the suffering of quite ill people, especially children, witnessed as a medical student in a university hospital, was the kiss of death to God. There was no God. And, if there was, he deserved to be hated, not loved.

    Andy Thomson

    J. A. Thomson, Jr., M.D.

  97. d3zd3z
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I had a long and painful exit from religious belief. Although many things pressed me to keep thinking about it, what moved me to unbelief was realizing and accepting that the mind is what the brain does. At this point, the idea of the afterlife fell apart, and without that, there wasn’t any reason to continue believing the rest.

  98. Claudia Baker
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I am slightly envious of the people here who were raised atheist or with no religion.

    It took me so long to “recover” from being raised catholic. The indoctrination was thorough and I had to go through many stages before being able to let go of the notion of g*d.

    Now, just like a smoker who has quit smoking, I am a royal pain in the ass when anyone brings up the topic of g*d or religion.

    I usually don’t even bother with the “where’s your proof?” stuff, and go straight to “what a bunch of bull”.

    It wasn’t till I read Christopher Hitchens, where he called it child abuse to raise kids with religion that I was able to fully appreciate what had been done to me.

    I will never forget the feeling the day I knew I was free of “belief”. It was like being born again, if you will forgive the comparison. Haha

    • Posted August 4, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      I’m glad I stopped going to church when I did, then, before I was confirmed; I didn’t feel “indoctrinated” and drifted away from Christianity altogether during my high-school years. I guess I was a vaguely deistic or pantheistic agnostic through uni and for many years after. It was only via arguing with creationists on Twi**er and from there discovering gnu atheism that I realised that not only was there no evidence for any theistic god but also the evidence pointed to a purely naturalistic cosmos.


  99. Paul S
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    This is the explanation I use, edited to three sentences.

    Growing up I had never been exposed to religion, nor had I been to a religious service save funerals and weddings, and I on those occasions I didn’t understand or care what the priest was talking about.
    I had no idea, until I was in my twenties, that people actually believed in god.
    I find the entire concept silly.

  100. Panza
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Because a benevolent God is incompatible with natural selection of sentient beings.

  101. Dennis King
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Why would anyone exposed to the discipline of rational thought ever believe in a spirit world of any kind. Religionists choose to remain in a state of arrested inquiry. Faith and dogma halt the pursuit of truth.

  102. Don
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    When I was about 14 I was convinced by a preacher at a sermon that I needed to accept Jesus into my heart and I would have an immediate change of life. When nothing happened I began to think and eventually investigate my beliefs. It took a while but eventually I realized that there was simply no reliable evidence for any of it.

  103. Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    The good Christian God I learned about cannot possibly be true. (Babies suffer without sinning. Animals suffer, and the world works in such a way that this suffering is inevitable. If omniscient God set up this world, God is at least as evil as good.) Study of comparative religion acquainted me with images of God that could be true (e.g. Vishnu floating in the milky ocean, dreaming the world) but my belief or disbelief in such ideas is of no importance at all. We can understand the world well without reference to God; God is an unnecessary hypothesis unsupported by evidence.

  104. anthonyherbert2014
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I began to realise in my teens that religion seemed to me absurd and its claims very improbable.
    I never really then thought much about religion again for many years until I was much older.
    I am now 71 and over the last 20 years or so, due to mainly reading articles from the sciences, I am convinced my atheism and humanism is an honest and correct position. Books by Anthony Grayling, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss and similar have only reinforced my views.

  105. Christopher Bonds
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I guess with me it’s lack of evidence. So that raises the question, if there’s no evidence, why do people believe in God? Either they somehow override the fact there’s no evidence, or else they say there IS evidence.

  106. Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    1) I really wanted to believe and thought for a time I did.
    2) Others have mentioned “testing” through prayer, etc, not once in 25 years did I have an answered prayer or a religious feeling/experience.
    3) Being unable to believe, as a matter of personal integrity I felt I had to admit it publicly and leave the ministry.

    I was a semi sophisticated theologian and among the christian community it was unanimous that I wasn’t “doing it” right.
    So, ironically speaking, I can’t be a member of a club who would have me.

  107. Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    I grew up with God as the creator and overseer of good and evil. As I learned more about the universe, God had to change to fit my growing world view. Eventually God became so thin, that it became transparent, and ultimately discarded as unnecessary since there was no evidence that he was ever there at all.

  108. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Laplace (allegedly) said it best: “I have no need of that hypothesis.”

    The world makes more sense without a god than with one.

    • Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Wonderfully succinct! You could just use the second sentence.

  109. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I became an atheist when I realized there is no evidence for religious magic. But today I am a skeptic because I managed to develop simple tests that – always arguably, of course – reject it. By now I have a handful of independent tests, and the result was that magic failed all of them.

    [3 sentences by the book. But if asked “what tests” I would describe tests such as thermodynamics of closed systems, quantum field physics of the vacuum, cosmology as a system, et cetera. Either qualitatively -thermodynamics exist so no magic – or quantitatively – knowing > 4000 chemical reaction’s (say) enthalpy allows for a 3 sigma yes/no binomial test of energy closure.]

  110. Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    My parents never said anything about god to me when I was a child, so I never gained the impression that the word means anything.

    (Not quite true. When I was four or five my mother said that God is love and wherever there is love, there is god. It made no more sense to me than it does anyone else, but I was under no pressure to pretend it did.)

  111. Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I went college and learned, among other things, philosophy, anthropology, psychology, and epistemology. In my third year, a psychology professor assigned us Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape and Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene, and after reading those books, there was no longer a place in my worldview for the stories I was taught in church. Later, that professor taught us the definitions of Theist, Agnostic, and Atheist and had us raise our hands to indicate what we were, and at that moment I knew I was an atheist.

  112. Mark
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    My “epiphany” came in church! Christmas Eve no less. Had become indifferent about religion prior to that night, but accompanied my dear Mom to the mass and listened to the priest rail against other religions / extol Catholicism … without any good argument for his position. Right then & there I said that’s it, this is f**ked. I think God Delusion came out shortly after, picked it up in an airport & didn’t put it down during a transAtlantic flight. I had a lot of thoughts thereafter back to my catholic high school education. No regrets, the priests there were for the most part decent people (luckily no incidents ever reported of sexual misconduct, though there was one guy who was definitely gay, but I digress), they were even pretty cool with the skeptical questions but their response (“ours is not to know all” bla bla) I now recognize as a lazy cop out.

    • Dianne Leonard
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      Funny how sometimes insights happen in church. (Not the ones they want, however.) The Christmas after my 19th birthday, I was in church with my 5 siblings and parental units, all in one pew. I turned to my next-youngest sister and whispered, “I don’t believe any of this.” “Me neither,” she whispered back. I said, “Pass it on and pass it back.” 5 minutes later I had my answer. None of my siblings believed, from Dan, age 11 to me, age 19. The only one who said, “I’m not sure,” was my youngest brother age 9. My mom was giving me nasty looks for my whispering. My parents had brought us all to the University Newman Center for mass (a “liberal” Catholic parish), because they knew I’d kick up a fuss about going to the conservative church they usually attended. But still no good. To this day, despite my parents’ trying, all 6 of us are one sort of atheist or another.

  113. tsbardella
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Religeon is not nessasary and gods are nessasary to religeon. I am a better person without religeous entanglements. I am free from religeon’s gods and I am better able to understand my self as I relate to the world.

  114. Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    No convincing evidence for any supernatural beings, any kind, anywhere.

    The world does and has swarmed with religions, which are contradictory; and which, if they were actually referring to a reality “out there” somewhere, would be expected to converge on the correct knowledge of that thing(s) out there — but they haven’t, they are randomly diverse.

    The “world” (reality, the universe) looks exactly as one would expect for the (actual) case of no supernatural beings: Just nature and the laws of physics.

    (I stretched the three-sentence rule with run-ons; but I wanted to make the three points.)

  115. Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    It’s funny, I was talking to my wife about similar things the other day and she told me about the questions she kept asking in Sunday school, when she was young (even as young as 4 or 5).

    Every one of those well-known questions, she asked it (e.g., where did Adam & Eve’s sons’ wives come from? Why will people who have never heard of Jesus go to Hell? etc., etc.)

    Eventually, they asked her parents not to bring her to Sunday school anymore. No wonder I married her! 🙂

  116. Sven
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Whenever someone asks me why, I ask if they want the short answer or the long answer.

    The short answer is “Because I grew up. I don’t believe in unicorns or dragons or faeries or angels or demons or gods, all for largely the same reasons.”

  117. tpo
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    In addition to lack of evidence….

    The concept of God does not solve the “problem” of creation.

    In other words, who (or what) created God?

  118. Martin Knowles
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    To introduce the supernatural into any explanation of natural phenomena exponentially complicates things and renders such magical phenomena even more unlikely.

  119. Mike
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m an atheist because I understand how plainly obvious evolution is, how it works–the randomness of it. I understand the size and indifference of the universe, our insignificance in it, and how we are part of this planet, not *on* it. These truths negate a creator, certainly a personal one.

  120. Gareth
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I was born an atheist, and was never indoctrinated into any particular religion. Over the years my curiosity has wandered, but never once did it occur to me that I needed to believe in one particular deity, or subscribe exclusively to just one of the hundreds of religions around the world.

  121. Eduardo
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I was born to atheist parents and raised in a very secular society (in Uruguay, which has the highest percentage of atheists in the Americas). By the age of 7 or 8 I started wondering about that curious god thing other kids would sometimes talk about and it struck me as so silly and absurd. At about the same time I started to be fascinated by the similarities I saw in some animals like cats (we had one) and humans with tigers and orangs in the zoo and developed an interest in evolution.

    • Posted August 2, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Assuming you’re correct about Uruguay, any idea why? What is different there?

      • Eduardo
        Posted August 2, 2016 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

        Statistics consistently show Uruguay at the top:
        As for the why: historical circumstances and reasons. Some started arising even before independence (1825). But the main events happened during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, particularly during the presidency of José Batlle y Ordóñez, a liberal atheist leader. The profile of the culture carries on till present. Our preceding president was openly atheist (and so is a much more relevant celebrity in the country: our national soccer team coach). I could expand but it would take space and time. The Pew Research Center noted the following on one of their polls:
        Religion in Uruguay
        On many questions in the survey, Uruguay is an outlier, far and away Latin America’s most secular country. Fully 37% of Uruguayans say that they have no particular religion or are atheist or agnostic. In no other Latin American country surveyed do the religiously unaffiliated make up even 20% of the population.
        Laicidad, or the separation of religion and the state, has a long history in Uruguay. In 1861, the government nationalized cemeteries across the country, breaking their affiliations with churches. Soon after, the government prohibited churches from having a role in public education or issuing marriage certificates. Secularization continued in the 20th century: A new constitution enshrined the separation of religion from public life, references to God were removed from the parliamentary oath and religious references were dropped from the names of cities and villages.
        Today, Uruguay has by far the lowest levels of religious commitment among the countries polled. Fewer than a third of Uruguayans (28%) say that religion is very important in their lives; in no other country surveyed do fewer than four-in-ten people say this. Relatively few Uruguayans say they pray daily (29%) or attend religious services weekly (13%). In neighboring Brazil, by contrast, 61% of adults say they pray daily, and 45% report attending services at least once a week.

  122. William Bill Fish
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Raised in a fundamentalist (Exclusive Brethren). To become a member I was required to accept Jesus Christ as my Saviour. I never did as I was shy and didn’t want to speak in public and I also thought it was silly and didn’t really believe it or for that matter care about it.

    I was ADD. Never paid attention and wasn’t interested in what they were talking about. Went to meetings 3 times on Sunday for an hour to an 11/2 hours. I had difficulty sitting still of course and was punished regularly for not paying attention and being disruptive. As I remember it most Sunday evenings was strap time, 20 on each hand with a belt. Eventually that stopped as my Father realized it was not effective and never had been. There were meetings on Monday night, sometimes Tuesday night, Thursday night and two day meetings on weekends with 2 sessions on Saturday and 3 on Sunday. On long weekends there were 3 day meetings, 2 sessions on Sat, 3 Sun and 2 on Monday. Torture for me with my ADD. Always punished after those.

    I was inundated with religion. Breakfast bible reading and prayer, dinner bible reading and prater and before bed my Father would read and pray again. He never tried to get me to speak or read the bible, perhaps he knew I wouldn’t do it.

    By the time I was 16 my father was becoming more insistent and my defense was to clam up and not answer any questions or make any comments. When members came from other congregations someone would always try to ‘Save’ me. No matter what they did I would not speak. Eventually they’d give up.

    The next tactic, to ‘save’ me was fear. I can remember the morning and evening prayers at home when my Father and older brother would pray that god would take me rather than being ‘lost’ to the world. That didn’t work so they took it to the congregation and other members would pray that god would take me. One afternoon there were some members from another congregation who gave it their best shot. One started asking me questions and when I wouldn’t answer, he said to my brother “You’re his brother, You make him talk!” As soon as he said make, I got up and left. My brother followed me to the door. I hit the door knob, it was one of those that locked when it was pushed in and the door wouldn’t open. My brother grabbed me by the shoulder and said “You can’t get out of here” I was about to hit him and my Mother, the only one with any common sense came and told my brother to let me go. That was the last time I went to any meetings. I was eventually asked to leave home as well. Met a girl when I was 16, 1961 and we are still together. She also had problems with an abusive alcoholic Father. We supported each other!

    I’m not an intellectual and I didn’t become an atheist through any awakening of reason, it was circumstance. I never paid attention to what was going on. When they started praying for god to take me, I’d say to myself, of course, “Okay big guy take your best shot!” I must have been an atheist to challenge god like that! Although for a little while I was waiting for something to happen. When it didn’t it confirmed to me there was no god.

    I have since taken a much closer look at religion and don’t understand how anyone can believe 4000 year old goat herders’ writings vs verifiable evidence from modern science.

    • nwalsh
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      William, your family sound very much like JW’S, disowning for not believing their tripe.

  123. Posted August 1, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    In all honesty, what other reason could there be that would be rational? I’ve skimmed the other comments and it seems like a lack of acceptable evidence is almost always the case for someone to be atheist.

    For me, I just never believed. It never made sense to me. I kind of went along with it, but even during my days in PSR/CCD (raised in a Catholic home) I was the kid asking how all the animals fit on Noah ark, and how did he get the lions to not eat all the other animals. But any time I tried to make sense of how this “guy” up in space could have made everything and created miracles happen and always knew what we were doing and watched over us could allow bad stuff to happen, or never answered when I ask him stuff, and never seemed to actually be anywhere doing anything…

  124. Michael
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    In addition to there not being any evidence for a god(s) and in some cases, evidence AGAINST a god(s), just think of the striking life changes that would inevitably come with belief. If you’re Catholic for example, perhaps you’ll be persuaded to a life of celibacy due to an almost paranoid fear of sin. After all, why do anything half way? If this stuff is true, might as well try your best to punish yourself the most and deprive yourself from good food, drink, sex, etc..

    I suppose it’s not the worst price to pay for eternal bliss, but that eternal bliss doesn’t even sound too blissful. Not by my current standards anyway. I wouldn’t want to live a life like that.

    This certainly isn’t the best reason for not believing. That’s why I chose to write “in addition to the lack of evidence”, because there could always be a god-like figure out there that is incompatible with the way you want to live your life. But it also certainly comes with negative consequences for following the so-called “rules” this god or gods want you to live by. That would be a very difficult change for me.

    Also, I think Christians think this is the ONLY reason we atheists don’t convert. I think mostly they are oblivious to the lack of evidence or evidence against, and so they just assume we all want to sin or live a life of hedonism. Well, it sure beats a life of repression.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

      +1 on that

      (If I did convert, I would make a very bad i.e. substandard Christian 🙂


  125. Posted August 1, 2016 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    The god concept seems incoherent to me. Supernatural, to my mind, is a synonym for fictional. Almost everything that was once considered supernatural has been explained naturally. There’s no reason to think that the trend will not continue to the point where “almost everything” will just be replaced by “everything”.

    I just finished reading “The Black Cloud” by Fred Hoyle. In it the alien life form states: “By and large, conventional religion, as many humans accept it, is illogical in its attempt to conceive of entities lying outside the universe. Since the universe comprises everything, it is evident that nothing can lie outside it. The idea of a “god” creating the universe is a mechanistic absurdity clearly derived from the making of machines by men.”

  126. toni
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    god revealed to me that he didn’t exist.

  127. Dimitris Klaras
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    My parents were not religious. I remember my father even telling me that we humans came from the sea. Fishes that make it to the land. But at the same time accepted religion as a fact of life. At school I liked a lot old testament stories (as I liked Hollywood movies) and believed in God because the big guys told me so and must knew better than I do. When I was 12-13yo prayed to God to increase my school grades. He didn’t! So I threw him out of the window like a broken toy. Still I considered myself an orthodox Christian until 40yo. Until a politically ambitious fanatic became Archbishop. This was the end.

    I don’t like to name myself an Atheist. This implies that God is still in the center (as it was in older times) and I name myself against. I my mind already I live in a place without religion.

  128. Chuck
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I was lucky in my Buddhist practice to experience the lack of any persistent existence of myself, leading me to understand the transient nature of “self.” Continued study in Neuroscience related to the subject of “self” creation helped me understand how we create our notion of “self”.

    A Belief in a persistent absolute creator could not withstand that personal awareness. Although my early logical inclination was to discount religious proclamations on god, this meditative experience of no-self, delivered me from any possible notion of god.

    It is easy to discount the god notion when one understands how humans come to see themselves as “souls” steeped in permanence. God is partly an extension of that belief.

  129. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    My answer is similar. I looked for evidence of god and found none. Things we don’t understand are often, in time, explained by science and it is through science that we owe our healthy existence, modern world and prosperity, not god.

  130. Posted August 1, 2016 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    As an amateur astronomer (since I was a kid) and citizen scientist (for the past two decades), the misologistic and vengeful character of the god depicted in the bible seemed wholly incompatible with the explainable magnificence and yet pitiless indifference I observed in nature.

  131. Posted August 1, 2016 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    A supreme being is the keystone of an authoritarian hierarchic society. So while you can turn either way philosophically, this unwarranted authoritarianism seems to me a sufficient reason to reject it. I don’t believe in gods the same way I don’t believe in inequality.

  132. Rick Twyman
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Only three sentences makes it difficult but:-
    1: I assume that you are coming from a Christian starting point and that you agree that Christianity lives or dies by the ‘evidence’ that is in the Bible.
    2: I find so much in the OT that is clearly false (Genesis, Exodus etc) and repulsive and much in the NT that is literally incredible (unrecorded slaughtered of the innocents, saints rising from their graves etc) coupled with the general incoherence of the main idea of a benign omnipotent being ( theodicy?) that there is no call to believe.
    3: Naturalism seems sensible and resolves so many difficulties for example living on a still cooling planet seems a better way of coming to terms with the odd tsunami than disapproval of our genital habits.
    Over to you, theist.

  133. gluonspring
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Evidence. The world just makes more sense without the God hypothesis than it does with it. I grew up religious but over time contrary evidence, first with specific doctrines (e.g. global flood, creationism), and eventually with even broader conceptions of God, piled up until it just wasn’t tenable for me. I tried for maybe ten years to stay religious despite what my head was telling me, but ultimately it didn’t work.

    I’ve heard of people rejecting God because of theodicy or some such, but I’ve always been able to accept the idea that if there is a God, that God might be an asshole or worse. So I’ve never been even the slightest bit moved by theodicy except in the sense that it highlights the incoherence of certain religious doctrines. That is, theodicy arguments show the poverty of certain religious beliefs, but say nothing about the God hypothesis generally.

  134. Posted August 1, 2016 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    It never occurred to me to believe in God–that was something other people did, for reasons I never fully understood other than they were expected to do so.

    I just thought going to church or Sunday school was a quaint tradition my grandparents engaged in and some of my classmates were made to do.

    Imagine my surprise to learn (around age 50!) that being an atheist made me a member of a small and often vilified minority!

  135. Posted August 1, 2016 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I’ve yet to encounter a coherent definition for what gods are supposed to be.

    All definitions fall into one of two categories: entities who can do really impressive stuff we can’t understand, or entities who can do stuff that’s actually impossible.

    The former means modern children with smartphones would be gods to anybody who lived a century ago.

    The latter is incoherent; if something is allegedly impossible, but that something is actually demonstrated, then that something wasn’t really impossible after all — and we’re back to kids with smartphones. But if it’s truly impossible, then even the gods can’t do it…so why mention it in the first place?

    Then, on top of it all, Epicurus recognized centuries before the invention of Christianity that there aren’t any powerful moral agents operating in the human sphere, else we’d have evidence that they were mitigating evil. Even those kids with smartphones can mitigate evil by calling 9-1-1, yet no gods in all of history have ever demonstrated even that little bit of power and / or compassion. Even if some super-powerful beasties exist somewhere, they don’t do anything here on Earth.



    • Arno Matthias
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and notice that saying “my god is something that has the following powers: …” is not a definition at all, because it says nothing about what this god *is*. It doesn’t help to say ‘entity’, ‘being’, ‘power’ etc.

    • Posted August 1, 2016 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      I don’t really have a problem with the first definition, but of course it is really clear that that kind of god is not anywhere to be seen.

      One type that may be missing from your comment is the mysterious ground of all being god. The problem with that one is that there is no particular reason why it should be called god (with all the baggage that carries) as opposed to something like quantum fluctuations.

      • Posted August 1, 2016 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        The God of Ground Round does the impossible by Grounding the Ungrounded or what-not. It’s pure Aristotle — from nothing only comes nothing, so you need a magical special Something to break the unbreakable chain. And the incoherency in this case is especially transparent, because the Grounder itself doesn’t need to be Grounded, thereby destroying the initial premise that everything needs to be Grounded.

        That, or else, as you observe, it’s simply the laws of physics and / or Sagan’s Cosmos, and reifying it is kinda silly.

        Mind you, there’s nothing worng with a bit of silliness now and again; the only problem is when you take your silliness more and / or less seriously than is appropriate. That is…the willing suspension of disbelief is an essential part of what it means to be human, but ya gotta recognize when the curtains come down, too….




        • Merilee
          Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

          What about the god of roast beast?

          • Posted August 2, 2016 at 7:12 am | Permalink

            Or the God of Beer. He’s the man.

            • Posted August 2, 2016 at 9:42 am | Permalink

              …beer can chicken…?



              • Posted August 2, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

                It can! I’ve sen it do it …

  136. dooosp
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    A child dies from starvation like every 5 seconds. Free will has fat chance against nature and nurture. Seems odd to have the complexities of biological chemistry, everything from gutural bacteria to light sensitive cells in our eyes, yet this is all either unnecessary or duplicated in the afterlife. Nobody seems to be complaining about their free will not letting them fly by will power alone, or conjure objects out of nothing by magic. Yet, when suggesting maybe god could tone down our desires to do bad stuff it’s suddenly a full-on-attack on our free will. Mourning, sorrow, the feeling of loss when someone loved dies, some us never become the same person again, seems like a cruel thing to do to a person if death isn’t final.

    Lastly, I’d rather start a new life all over again, with a new body and mind, than living for eternity. Which kinda is true, as long as new people are born, of course none of them will be “me”, but then if it were “me” then I wouldn’t really have a new mind… err..

  137. Posted August 1, 2016 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I would say something like:

    “There is ample evidence *against* the existence of every man-made version of a god or gods, the ones appearing in every organized religion. And there is zero evidence for the existence of some kind of generic or ‘first-causes’ god. I am an atheist for the same reason that you don’t believe a sentient star who likes to be called ‘Bob’ will spontaneously materialize in your toilet next Monday.”

  138. stuartcoyle
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    I’m trained in the scientific method, which has proven itself to be a very good way of understanding the world. Using that method shows that there is no evidence to support the hypothesis that any deity or deities exist.

    or more simply:

    I could see that religion was a ridiculous idea at the age of 12 when I asked a religious education teacher difficult questions about dinosaurs, and got thrown out of class for my trouble rather than any sane answers.

  139. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    By about age 10, I had noticed that many people from my peers in Sunday School (lutheran) to pillers of the adult church community used their religion-based “moral high ground” to bully people. This lead me to think about the problem of evil, then the similarity between the content of the Bible and Grimm’s fairy tales. It didn’t take long from there to realize that it was all bullshit.

  140. Rodrigo Küfner
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Because it’s the natural position. I mean, everyone is born an atheist… I just never enjoyed the taste nor could I see the supposed health benefits of the BS my culture tried to forcefeed me.

  141. Posted August 1, 2016 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Two possible answers:

    1. Because I was raised as an unbeliever – not dogmatically so, but let’s be honest, I have no idea how I would have turned out with religious parents.

    2. Once considering the question rationally, it ultimately comes down to a “best fit to the data” situation. Not so much lack of evidence full stop, but given what we know about the size and characteristics of the universe, deep time, evolution, etc., deities just don’t fit in there.

  142. kelskye
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    I find the concept of God unbelievable. If taken literally, claims about God violate what we know about how the world works. If the concept is “saved” by retreating to metaphor, the concept becomes ungrounded and thus literally meaningless.

  143. Posted August 1, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    At the age of 12 I determined that my future life would not be influenced by superstition and gobbledegook in all its forms.

  144. Zado
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    I am one of those people who, in the words of Blaise Pascal, are “so made that they cannot believe.” As a child, in church, I contemplated the idea of a creative deity and found it utterly unnatural and bizarre. I didn’t actually consider or call myself an atheist until I was 20, but I always was one, even before I thought in terms of evidence and argument.

  145. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    As a youth I looked around me at the other churchgoers and the vicar and realised that none of them acted as if there was an all-knowing all-powerful god everywhere.

  146. Posted August 1, 2016 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Were there any evidence for a god, belief would not be necessary. So, the practice of believing in a god (or having faith) has little to do with the reality. I’m an atheist because I find no value in the exercise of belief in the supernatural. All the better angels of human nature (empathy, compassion, humility, propriety, chivalry, charity, perseverance, diligence, reason, etc…) can be cultivated without having to project these qualities onto an idealized being.

    • Merilee
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:29 pm | Permalink


  147. Andrea Kenner
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I lost my belief in a “loving” god when I realized that a loving god would not have allowed the suffering I saw all around me, in both people and animals. After that, the pieces fell into place. I began to question everything I had been taught and saw no evidence for any of it.

  148. Posted August 1, 2016 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I feel there are almost two questions here; how did you become an atheist (assuming you were something else for a time), and why are you still an atheist?

    To the first question I would say that I became an atheist when I realized religion had nothing to offer me. That is, I either rejected, or had no need for, its creation stories (myths), its historical stories (legends), its sense of morality (outdated), its miracle claims (false), its community (non-accepting), its traditions (pointless) and its supernatural claims – heaven, hell and God (no logical support let alone evidentiary support). Once I realized this I left religion.

    If the question was why do I remain an atheist, there are also many reasons since religion is many things, but like most people here it boils down to the absence of any supporting evidence.

  149. Steve Brooks
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    I became an atheist because I could not accept the idea that new-born children in a South American jungle would be sent to hell simply because they did not know about Jesus.

  150. Dave
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    I have to admit, I had it easy. For whatever reason, I just never believed any of it and stated that to myself for the first time when I was 8 years old. So, I guess not seeing any reason to believe it (evidence) was implicit in that. However, I became aware later that those claiming gawd and spouting off about religion had no idea what they were talking about, which didn’t do a thing to convince me of their side.

    • Dave
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      I suppose I should also admit that being told I have to kowtow to or worship someone or something rubs me the wrong way and always has and that may have played just as much a role as anything else. Rebellion is one of the few things that come to me almost effortlessly.

  151. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Among the unexpected responses to such a question is what Mehdi Hassan said – paraphrased – it’s not interesting to him is god exists or not. As if whether something is true or not doesn’t matter. I got that from an Oxford Union debate he was in.

    Another thought – I have read about atheist Hindus on Wikipedia. Can’t remember what led me down that rabbit hole…

  152. Posted August 1, 2016 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to claim rationality as the cause of my being an atheist, but it is more related to feelings, dreams and the evidence of religious believers unable to truly live their beliefs. Perhaps, I can claim rationality in the perception of how irrational the religious beliefs of others seem to me.

    Following are two “poems” I wrote years ago that convey some of my experiences:


    Please attend this supplicant
    who can no longer believe.
    Prayers lie lifeless about my head,
    a congregation of desiccated words,
    shorn of faith they are powerless
    to wend their way anywhere.
    An urge to kneel chokes me with fear
    that one more word will bury me
    in years of stillborn prayers.
    Leave me in peace to journey on alone.


    In my dream, that morning,
    I didn’t go to Sunday School
    and was late for church.
    As I stood out front,
    my brother and a friend
    left the building. I went through
    the front doors to the auditorium:
    no one was there. So, I walked
    through the pastor’s office
    back into, what used to be,
    Sunday School classrooms.
    I found myself onstage, behind
    the minister at the pulpit,
    facing the entire congregation.
    All of them shouted at me,
    “Go back! Go back! Get out!”
    They wildly waved their arms.
    It was exceedingly clear that
    I was in the wrong place,
    I shouldn‘t be there. So, I turn
    back the way I’d come:
    through office, auditorium,
    and out the front doors.
    As I step into the bright sunlight
    on the sidewalk out front,
    the church roof caves in.

    In addition to feelings and dreams, over the years I have read many, many books about mythologies, Gods and religions, evolution, etc. that have added to my atheism. I am comfortable living my “truth” and not trying to force it on anyone else.

  153. Ken Pidcock
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    It is inconceivable that any god in whose image we were made would reward credulity or condemn skepticism. They are, respectively, the weakness and strength of being human. For me, personally, it was the realization that Mark 16:16 is morally reprehensible.

  154. Gregory
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Not only is there a lack of evidence for the existence for any god, it’s also obvious how they were in fact made up by ancient people.

  155. merh
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    During high school, I was at church, bored with the sermon, and I started thinking about a claim I’d heard that ‘virgin’ was a mistranslation of ‘maiden’ and how I wanted to hear a sermon on that – was that true, what was the evidence for/against it. And then it dawned on me that the problem for me wasn’t the lack of evidence, it was worse than that: no one cared that there was no evidence. Evidence was never a deciding factor. And I was done with religion from then on.

    • Posted August 2, 2016 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      haha love it.

      I had a similar experience while in high school albeit, probably, more gradual. This time in my life coincided with reading Philip Pullman’s -The Golden Compass-, which helped me along the process towards atheism.

  156. Posted August 1, 2016 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Second president Bush made me sick to be a fellow Chritian. The hypocrisy sent me through the spiritual but not religious faze. I then read a Bart Ehrman book. Already knew about Ingersoll, and that lead to Hitch, Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, etc.

  157. Posted August 1, 2016 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    3 sentences? You bet I’ll use all 3.

    1) I came to the conclusion that Catholicism–and even Christianity in general–has so many contradictions that it can’t possibly be true.
    2) I realized that the conviction I felt towards my religion was just as strong as the conviction felt by people in other faiths, and understood that this means my feelings that my religion was correct did not mean that it was, since the religions of the world contradict each other and can’t all be correct.
    3) I realized there wasn’t evidence to support belief in a deity of any kind, and without evidence, I would be just going off a feeling, which to me was not enough to believe anymore.

  158. Darren Schirmer
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Throughout the bible, God (supposedly the unfathomable genius that created the universe) is described as angry, jealous, vengeful, loving, intolerant, merciful, murderous and in some cases even fallible. Finally at age 30 (oh, the power of indoctrination) I realised that these are traits of humans and that this God was created in the image of superstitious, frightened, ignorant Homo sapiens. Following this realisation, everything made sense and the floodgates of reason were flung wide open.

  159. keith cook + / -
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    Why indeed,
    science explained away any doubts that religion had anything useful to say about existence and the universe.
    In a personal experience of realisation that was profound (for instance, with the way the solar system works and the earths relationship with the sun) it was about facts and not something culturally made up that do not lie or discriminate, no matter who you are or your own journey to them.
    It is the same for everyone and everything, they are not your facts or mine.

  160. Posted August 1, 2016 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Another person raised Catholic here. I started drifting away when I attended (Catholic) high school, but didn’t let myself see it at first. Drifted further away in college, but I figured my problem was with the Catholic church. Attended a Protestant church for a couple of years after that. Finally realized my problem was with Christianity, and ultimately religion in general.

    I didn’t quite realize it, but I’d suffered from lifelong depression. That finally got treated when I reached a breaking point in my early 30s. That really opened my mind up to realizing how much BS I could absorb, and started me on the road to critical thinking. All vestiges of religious belief fell soon after.

    To sum up: I’m an atheist because there is no convincing evidence for any gods. Period. I simply had to wait until my mind was working properly to realize this.

  161. Estragon
    Posted August 2, 2016 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    When I was a young lad of about 10 or 11 years of age (I’m 79 now) I went to Sunday school at the local Christian church. One Sunday the lesson was about heaven and I remember the teacher showing us a picture of Jesus standing on a cloud and on each side of him was an angel hovering nearby. Later that day or a few days later I started wondering why no one had ever seen heaven. If it’s up in the sky, why hadn’t an airline pilot or an astronomer spotted it? I decided that it must be up there (everyone says it is) so it must be invisible. As the weeks passed by and I went to more Sunday school lessons, I came to the conclusion that not only is heaven invisible, but so are hell, God, Satan and angels.

    My Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word myth as “3: a person or thing having only an imaginary or unverifiable existence”.

    So, to answer your question Jerry, if someone were to ask me, “Why are you an atheist?” I would rephrase their question as follows, “Do you mean, why don’t I believe in God?” They would reply, “Yes”. I would then say, “Because he is a myth!” That answer would most likely precipitate a spirited debate which I would thoroughly enjoy!

  162. lonefreethinkers
    Posted August 2, 2016 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    I would tell them, home sapiens are incredibly imaginative, this imagination allows us to believe in fictional entities, but for some we are living in an objective reality !

  163. ploubere
    Posted August 2, 2016 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    If asked, I would say that I have not been convinced of the claims of any religion. There are some 40,000 different ones on the menu, and they all contradict each other, but none of them offer any evidence to support their claims. So no sale.

  164. Posted August 2, 2016 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    I am an atheist due to the following logical conclusion. Since there are many religions, the praised faithful in one group is by definition a despicable infidel for all the rest. Who is right and who is wrong? The only plausible answer is all are wrong.

  165. Gort Too
    Posted August 2, 2016 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    I quit believing in god when I was 7 and found out the truth about Santa Claus. Another magical being who lives up in the sky and does impossible things, I didn’t think so. Seventy years latter and I have seen nothing that would indicate that realization I had a a child was wrong.

  166. Posted August 2, 2016 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    I do not tend to call myself an atheist but just someone who does not subscribe to unsubstantiated claims.

    GIVEN the claim that a non-human intelligent intentional agency is responsible for the creation and/or ongoing maintenance of our universe is devoid of any arguments, evidence, data or reasoning that substantiates it, I therefore do not subscribe to that claim.

    Atheism therefore is not my worldview or what I am, but a result of my world view and what I am.

    There that is three sentences 🙂

  167. Susan Davies
    Posted August 2, 2016 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    I was brought up a catholic and remained a believer until I learned about science. Now I’m a scarred-for-life recovering catholic. It took a while but I came to the reasoning that, because human beings are self-aware, they don’t want to die so they created a g*d that would give them eternal life. The priests then realised how they could control the people with fear and introduced the devil and hell.

    Going to catholic schools introduced me to the nasty, vicious nuns, who lied to and abused their charges. They taught us that babies who die without baptism can’t go to heaven; that my best friend’s parents were going to hell because, being Methodists, they were not really married so were living in sin. I could not figure out how a loving g*d would do any of that.

    Then we learned about the blood-soaked crusades and witch-hunting. It’s ok to murder and rape if they are not christians. And, of course, “G*d’s on our side”. How can this be?

    But I think what really did it for me was the misogyny, I really can’t think of any religion that doesn’t hate women. Why would any loving g*d create women, then direct that they should be treated worse than animals? And that they should be barred from the priesthood? As a female I got no believable answers to those questions.

    Add to that the vast numbers of paedophiles in the priesthood of all religions and you just think, if there was a g*d she would just press the delete button.
    No sane, rational person would still believe in a higher power if they were able to open their mind and consider it; unfortunately, when you’ve been inculcated from birth your mind has been stolen.

  168. Tumara Baap
    Posted August 2, 2016 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    In three sentences? I’d never do it. If you are a believer, you very likely have certain inflexible assumptions about the term atheist. When I think of someone from the Ming dynasty, a Mughal subject, a Catholic, or a Muslim, I make an earnest effort to describe them correctly, understand their mindset, and realize that the cognitive tools and metaphors they employ to make sense their world maybe distinctly different from mine. It is not easy.
    However, not once, not even fucking once, has there been an instance where someone who is a Christian or Muslim has professed confidence in their faith and has yet been able to describe “atheist” and get it right. Not even by the supposedly open minded types. Not even by a literate guest being interviewed on Ira Flattow’s Science Friday nor by the Uber liberal Thom Hartmann. It usually goes like this: an atheist is someone who is absolutely certain there is not a God. They are at the other end of the crazy spectrum; the flip side of the religious fundu. The agnostics seem a little nicer. They are not quite as dewy eyed sure.
    Whenever I do broach my secularism, I get the person behind something we can all rally behind: If you don’t fully understand anything, it does not mean you may pull stuff from where-the-sun-don’t-shine. If that sounds reasonable, the standard to apply is not to believe in anything unless there is evidence for it. If there is, we can get into verification thresholds and parsimony of explanations. But please please don’t make shit up. And from there I continue…

    • Posted August 2, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      That bothers me, too. There are many misconceptions about what atheism is, from thinking that not going to church regularly was one’s “atheism phase”, to thinking that atheism is, as you mentioned, a claim to absolute certainty that there are no gods.

      Those are both wrong, as are all the other kinds of misconceptions. However, if we think of atheism as the rejection of theistic claims, and if we acknowledge that many theistic claims can be demonstrated to be objectively false, then I think it’s entirely legitimate to say one can be pretty certain about one’s atheism. It’s not as if the scales don’t tip significantly in favor of atheism.

  169. Posted August 2, 2016 at 3:23 am | Permalink

    Because since a child I observed injustice and much human sufferings around me for a benevolent God to exist. In addition to that, I noticed that religion always has stories which sound so unreal like fairy tales they can’t be true. Reading my Dad’s book on the history of philosophy also helped me develop logical thinking.

  170. Larry
    Posted August 2, 2016 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    The simple explanation of why I did not come to believe in gods/god is three-fold:
    1) I did not feel “touched” or whatever that emotional thing is that religionists feel, unlike say, the emotional feeling I got from music;
    2) Western religion seemed very boring to me;
    3) It did not explain things to me – that is, I was unconvinced – whereas science explained things and was and is incredibly interesting.

    In short, I could not relate to religion emotionally or intellectually, and therefore the god(s) concept had no traction.

  171. Mike
    Posted August 2, 2016 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Lack of evidence,and the existence of parasitic horrors, that, if there was a God he was a Sadist and doesn’t deserve anyones worship. I also like the phrase attributed to Diderot the eighteenth century French philosopher “If you want me to believe in God, you must let me touch Him”

  172. Posted August 2, 2016 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I started out as an Evangelical, 7-day creationist, born again Christian. My beliefs started falling away as what I encountered in the world didn’t actually line up with anything I’d been taught to believe. Some nebulous kind of god who didn’t interact with us in any meaningful way could have stuck around in my belief system, but one day I realized I didn’t believe in that either and I found so much peace and emotional stability because of it.

  173. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 2, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Another thought about this question : although it can be dealt with in very sophisticated terms, as shown by the comments – and which I am all for – at the core I think it is making a mountain out of a molehill. I think religion at its core is not about an intellectually elaborate commitment, but originally about appealing to base, impulsive feelings and fears. … easy to go off on a tangent, sorry… also can’t sit still in front of the keyboard very long….

  174. Posted August 2, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    The explanation “all deities are pretend” seems more parsimonious than “all deities (except the one currently popular in the cultural context in which I was, by chance, born) are pretend.”

  175. Vaal
    Posted August 2, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    My short answer:

    Of these two propositions concerning God an religion:

    1. God made people.

    2. People made God.

    …then #2 makes is a far more parsimonious, sensible fit for the evidence.

    That simple switch from 1. to 2. is what brings forth that sense of “a view being suddenly made clear” and “the world actually making sense” that the de-converted enjoy.

  176. JB2
    Posted August 2, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I was a skeptical little kid (maybe it was the influence of Mad Magazine?). And the idea of God/Heaven/Eternal life, along with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, just seemed too good to be true, as well as very unlikely. I was convinced of this at about as early an age as one can be said to hold beliefs – probably seven or eight.

  177. J. Quinton
    Posted August 2, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Something that can be used to explain everything, even mutually exclusive outcomes, explains nothing.

  178. Posted August 2, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    To me, not accepting a deity is much more interesting than accepting one. Accepting a deity means that, at some point, we must accept at least one phenomenon in our physical world to be forever and impossibly out of our understanding. I find it to be much more interesting to ponder any type of question without ever having to settle for the answer “God did it.”

  179. Posted August 2, 2016 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    1) While I was a believer, I could never honestly answer “yes” to the following scenario that popped in my mind, several times: if I were transported back to biblical times in a time machine, am I confident that I’d see things exactly as described, in the book?

    2) I read Leviticus, in its entirety.

    3) “Christian Philosophers” (Craig, Bahnsen, etc.) only sounded erudite/smart when they were discussing general Philosophy, but ended up sounding utterly silly/nonsensical when narrowing their focus to Christianity.

    • Posted August 4, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Aside: Isn’t there a science fiction story where a time traveler realizes he has to fulfill the supposed historical crucifixion of Jesus in an example of a predestination paradox?

      • Posted August 4, 2016 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        Michael Moorcock’s “Behold the Man”.

        There’s the similar “Let’s All Go to Golgotha” (Robert Silverberg?) where the crowds asking for Barabas to be freed and Jesus crucified are all time-tourists.


  180. Billy
    Posted August 2, 2016 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Sorry but I can’t believe your answer unless you never really had a conversion experience or relationship to begin with. I grew up in the church and even though I questioned many things at the age of 15 I had a relationship with the people and faith. Took many years to mourn the emotional death of the faith and sever the relationships. It was like the death of a close friend. I would say something can come from nothing and that the truth does truly free the mind to journey all roads of knowledge. My Idol is Neil deGrasse Tyson

    • Posted August 3, 2016 at 12:21 am | Permalink

      I’m sorry, but that’s just rude to say that you can’t believe people unless that had difficult conversion experiences. There are many ways to give up faith, and yours is not the only “genuine” routs.

    • Posted August 4, 2016 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

      Then you’ll probably be disappointed to learn that Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t like to admit publicly to being an atheist.

  181. Posted August 3, 2016 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    I was fed up with the hypocrisy within my church (Salvation Army)and the backbiting of people from a different church. Picking on Gays and guilt-inducing ‘Jesus died for you’. they still hate me for leaving!

  182. Kathleen
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    When I was about nine years old, I read an Old Testament story of Noah and the flood that was accompanied by an image of “World Destroyed by Water,” by Gustave Dore, and I realized the God of the Bible was evil and rejected it.

    I was still susceptible to a deistic version of the argument from design until junior high, when I started learning about evolution and cosmology, and also started grasping the immensity of deep time and space.

    Since then, as far as religion, I have become more of an anti-theist than a mere atheist. More broadly, my worldview is naturalism, and I do not accept any supernatural or paranormal claims (although some atheists do).

    I was once asked by a street preacher if I believe in God, and he didn’t understand some of my words, so I ended up explaining that I didn’t believe in God or anything magic. He asked and gestured, “You mean, like, poof?” When I nodded yes, he objected that God was not a magician, and so I asked him how God created the world. He started his answer, sounding a lot like God poofed the world into existence, and he just stopped mid-sentence and walked away. Lest you think that he went away to ponder the obvious, what actually happened was he abruptly abandoned us to go preach to another group further down the sidewalk.

  183. Dan
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    The god/s capriciousness is all too human, Narnia isn’t at the back of anyone’s wardrobe and no being with the power of ‘creation’ would create a world where one sentient creatures sustenance depended on the consumption of another sentient being.

  184. Posted August 4, 2016 at 4:13 am | Permalink

    My answer is:

    As someone who was once very religious, I came to the realisation that everything about god and religion is entirely man-made. Added to the genuine lack of positive evidence for any god, there is no rational conclusion other than there are no gods to believe in.

  185. Richard
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    I was in elementary school when I observed the members of my Mother’s church teaching one way but actually behaving in another mode altogether. It wasn’t instant atheism but the thinking got underway. Tried for years to get it to work for me but found that i couldn’t suspend my disbelief. Not an activist atheist but will engage in a discussion if someone takes issue. Like the whole miracles argument. I say “Miracle on the Hudson” carries the same weight as “the miracle of the lorry driver in Nice”. Unexpected outcomes, not intervention.

  186. Carl
    Posted August 12, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    I was reading the bible at the age of 13 when I realized it just didn’t make sense at all..
    That and the fact I was afraid as hell God would call upon me to become priest, ridding me of my chances of having girl friends.. lol 😀

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