"I Was Once an Atheist Just Like You"

September 26, 2008 | By | 30 Replies More

I have personally heard this claim from several Christian Fundamentalists. It usually doesn’t survive examination. They were raised to the church, had a normal adolescent rebellion and denied everything to do with the authority structure they knew. Then as they matured they experienced the guided hallucination (revelation, dream, epiphany, psychotic break) that returned them to the church with the burning fervor of any new convert. Proverbs 22-6 pretty well promises this return to type.

What was their “atheism” like? Let’s quote one who has recently been visiting us:

“I have lived life apart from God (thinking that I was the center of the universe, not wanting to admit that I was a follower, I was convinced of my uniqueness).”

I don’t know any atheists like that.

Center of the Universe“? Rational atheists know that the universe is big, and the Earth is tiny. We are as unlikely to be the center of the universe as we are certainly living on a minor planet near a smallish star near the edge of our own little galaxy of 200,000,000,000 or more stars. This is a minor galaxy in our local galactic cluster, that is itself nothing significant in the vast foam of galaxies. All created for “me”? Uh. Huh.

Convinced of my Uniqueness“? Aside from the statistical uniqueness of any macroscopic assembly of fermions compared to any other, atheists usually know that we are basically interchangeable parts of any social unit larger than their close circle of family and friends. Every individual is unique unto himself. But not to the social matrix in which we live. Any of us might have written this post, allowing for stylistic differences, pleasing or offending the same readers.

Fashion CLubNot wanting to admit I was a follower” is typical adolescence. Sociologically and anthropologically, humans are pack or tribe animals, somewhat like wolves but more like bonobos, who form fractal group hierarchies naturally. Teens are especially prone to forming cliques with leaders and followers within and between. But the followers don’t want to think of themselves as such, so they claim to be individualists, as they carefully mimic the behaviors and accouterments of the current peer leaders while carefully disassociating themselves from the societies of their progenitors and predecessors.

Life apart from God“? I was never a theist. The faiths in which my parents were raised canceled out before I was born, and they quietly raised atheist kids in a rural Christian neighborhood. We never did drugs, we never were promiscuous. We respected our elders as well as did our peers, and lived by the Golden Rule. Excluding Santa Claus, we never believed in invisible father figures. We never believed in eternal posthumous punishment for our own actions, much less for the actions of our very distant ancestors.
Yes, I was raised apart from God. Never missed him.

Another charge raised (but not in this particular quote) is that Atheists think the world was always as it now is. Nope. Rational atheists know (and most Eastern philosophies have always held) that the world is ever changing. Mountain ranges come and go. Oceans relatively rise and recede. Glaciers come and go, and continents drift gracefully like the slag on ladle of steel. Societies, languages, civilizations, and species are always evolving, even faster than the landscape. The Sahara wetlands (a true Garden of Eden) became a desert in the time that man has lived there. All of this is measurable.

Was I raised with any beliefs? Sure. I always believed in discernible causes for any given effect. I probably believed in Evolution until I had enough education to understand it. Now I know it. Like gravity, electromagnetism, or quantum parity.

Just like Me? I don’t think so.


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Category: American Culture, Good and Evil, History, ignorance, Meaning of Life, Religion

About the Author ()

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (30)

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  1. Erik Brewer says:

    Read Genesis, God met face to face with man. Man sinned so that meeting was separated so the rest of history we have seen people trying to get back to God. The problem is, instead of coming to God His way, they made up their own ways (hence all of the religions of the world). God stepped in and revealed Himself to Abraham and developed the path back to God on His terms. That is why there was polytheism before monotheism (actually monotheism was first, see the Genesis in the Garden).

  2. Erik wrote:—"You see, you guys assume that a born again Christian grew up in the church with blinders on. "

    No, I don't. I assume that what you learned in University—studied in University, I should say—was just too complicated. Combined with other factors, you decided things really shouldn't be that hard to understand, and what do you know? There's the Bible with all its nice, homey stories and comfort etc. I know a few people who turned from the secular to the profoundly religious and generally it had to do with some sort of disconnect—often quite striking, sometimes violent—and maybe more than a little overload.

    Your assumption is that this thing you believe is all there is and that we have simply never experienced it (otherwise how could we possibly be unbelievers) and are blind to truth, when actually those of us who were quite dedicated just sort of grew out of it. Like growing out of Santa Claus.

  3. Erik Brewer says:

    If you knew the depths of the Word of God you would realize that a statement like "I grew out of it" is quite absurd.

    I know what it is like not to be able to understand the Bible and be led by what others say about the Bible (been there and done that too).

    I understood everything from my university experience (graduated with honors in the top of my classes). I realized that there are 2 radically different world views in the world today (those who are true followers of God and those who are not). You can divide the entire world into those two categories. As I said, I am well traveled and have seen people (met and gotten to know) people from all over the world. All people fall into the category of those who know God and those who do not know Him (know on an intimate level, not just knowing about).

    Your assumptions about me are just wrong. I have never checked my logical brain at the door. I take a pragmatic, logical look at the Scriptures. I also know how to critique writing and analyze it as well as the simple process of studying a text. Using all of that I have seen that the Scriptures are the Truth (I believe them because I have tested them and seen that they are the Truth).

    I do not know where you have been but I do know that there is One Truth, I know the Truth and follow it. There is no real alternative (it is false because when something is not truth then it is false).

  4. Erik wrote:—"If you knew the depths of the Word of God you would realize that a statement like “I grew out of it” is quite absurd.

    I know what it is like not to be able to understand the Bible and be led by what others say about the Bible (been there and done that too)."

    You're making assumptions there.

    Erik also wrote:—"I do not know where you have been but I do know that there is One Truth, I know the Truth and follow it. There is no real alternative (it is false because when something is not truth then it is false)."

    Truth is a process. Once it becomes a static, fixed Thing, it dies. Ergo, while it might have a single descriptor (process) it is never ever One Thing. That is where you slid down the rabbit hole. I understand now.

    Go in peace.

  5. Vicki wrote:—"(I don’t really see the Carolingian empire as a big watershed, though)"

    Vicki, it was the first widespread attempt by a secular ruler to gather and preserve knowledge (at Aix-la-Chapelle). Charlemagne's court is, I think, the model for Camelot. He gathered thinkers, poets, engineers, artists. It was the point at which the idea that culture could be preserved and maintained outside the church first took solid form. Granted, it suffered a couple of missteps till the Renaissance, but for me it is representative.

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