What Convinced You to Become an Atheist?

If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, Greta Christina is compiling a list of reasons people change their minds about religion:

I’d love to see some good sociologists tackle this question, and get a good, large, somewhat statistically representative sampling of non-believers to answer this question. But for now, this may at least get a rough idea of some of the methods that can work…

So: If you’re a non-believer in religion, and you used to be a believer — what changed your mind?

Let her know your answer at her site!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Stargate SG-1 turned me into an atheist :-p

  • Cobo Wowbo

    Reading the bible, cover to cover, turned me.

  • http://twitter.com/PeteHullah Peter Hullah

    This sounds like what PZ is currently doing. Are we going to get into an IPR battle among atheists now? :-)

  • Grlnxtdr

    Being unable to reconcile the idea that God “loves us”, and would intervene here or there, but somehow letting babies starve to death, get raped, beaten to death, etc. But he “loves” them….huh, that’s some love right there. If he exists, he’s an evil, uncaring, shithead.

  • TiltedHorizon

    I had to read the bible….. twice. The first pass set the stage for doubt, the second buried my faith entirely.

    For the record, nothing “convinced me to become an atheist”, once my faith was stripped I became atheistic by definition.

  • Michael Anderson

    I never really was a believer, but I was a fence-sitter most of my life. AronRa’s Youtube video’s knocked me right off that fence!

  • Mattincinci

    reading the bible convinced me i was atheist

  • ff42

    I wanted to answer the question, “Why does the LDS church want government involved (Prop8) in marriage when 100 years ago they wanted government out of marriage”. Perhaps they didn’t want .gov out of marriage 100 years ago?  Maybe I should do some research to what really happened back then.  Because I was so invested it took a couple years (and many books) to realize it was all a fraud.  Within days, using the same reasoning, I kicked the Bible and even god out for being the frauds they are.  Final note:  For me nothing and nobody could persuaded me, I had to come to terms with it on my own.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    To be fair, PZ is ripping off the idea from an early 1900′s newspaper called “Blue Grass Blade”

  • kaileyverse

    I wasn’t ever really a believer – sure I would go to church on occasion (with family or what not), but a god concept never really made much sense to me.

  • Bvice

    I read the bible.

  • King_damond01

    I was in a combat zone and people were sending prayers and nothing changed. Plus the enemy always said ” god is good” when they were trying to kill me and my fellow troops.

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Tom Lawson

    The more the merrier.

  • stylofone

    I can remember having philosophical discussions in the school playground when I was about nine years old. “Something must have made the universe, so there must be a god”, someone would say. “Yes but what made god?” another child would counter.  On occasions like these the rituals of the Catholic faith and the authority of our elders pushed those doubts aside. Finally when I was 14 a friend confided in me that he thought the entire Catholic religion, its rules, its declarations about the nature of reality, the afterlife and how to influence it were “a load of crap”. It was the first time I’d ever heard someone say that and I knew in that instant that I agreed with him.

  • http://twitter.com/car_tag Josh Helton

    I was never actually able to suspend disbelief, though not for lack of trying while younger. I thought I was defective that I never did believe. Turns out it wasn’t a bug, I was right all along.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DocMonkey Mick Wright

    I read the Bible and became Buddhist. Then I read Sagan, and Warren Ellis, and Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha-lifestory manga, and the three of them purged gods from my life forever.

  • guest

    I converted and over time the feeling of God’s presence dwindled.  I wondered why God was “leaving” me when I wanted him in my life so bad.  That combined with constantly witnessing to friends and family that I loved and seeing no response, and then suddenly realizing that, while I would do anything, even take their place in hell, God wasn’t making any effort to save them, that if a single person went to hell it would be because God hadn’t put forth the effort to save them.  I think I stopped believing long before I realized I had, because I didn’t want to let go of the idea of eternal life and love.  Eventually I realized that I had lost my faith, and when I went back to study the apologetics that I had spent so much time on before, I saw all these questions that I had never considered. 

  • Girish Billava

    Since my high school times I have been seeking proofs of God’s existence. But never found a concrete answer. My interest towards astronomy made me realize the truth in this matter. The realized truth is that GOD is only an imagination of the humans. Its very easy to believe in GOD  as the fear of the unknown always nourish the idea of GOD in humans. Idea of second life(rebirth) always console humans from the fear of death. So the idea of GOD has developed in the human minds in different ways in different times. The unconsistant GOD ideas per se is the proof of non existence of GOD.

  • Miele Tita

    I’m Italian, i was sent to nuns schools from the age of 5. No wonders I was actually quite a hardliner catholic. but the more i was trying to be a good catholic, the meaner i was becoming as a person. it sounds absurd but it was like this. The bible is a book so contradictory, they say “love thy neighbor” but then also that “homosexuality is abomination”, “god is love and mercy” but “you have to suffer in order to follow him” etc…when i started to thinking with my own head, all of this didn’t make any sense. I want to be a good person, and to be as such I MUST NOT to be a good catholic…and this apply to any other groups of people who think they know THE truth. The only thing I follow now it’s common sense, so far it works much better than religion rules. I delete my name from catholic registers (to be coherent and also for political matters, in Italy you have lots of financial benefit and jobs favoritism just to be a catholic, but I couldn’t watching me in the mirror…so….) and  I warmly suggest everyone to do so to “fight” all this non-sense that produce just lots of barriers and discrimination.

  • Trace

    Hi Greta (too lazy to go to your site…sorry)

    I don’t remember when it really happened.

    I had always been interested in history.

    Early in my life I found that the population of my country had changed religions several times through history (normally following political intrigue, upheavals or domination).

    In turn, as my country’s political dominance grew, its leadership forcibly converted many of the peoples living in its territories worldwide or fueled religious warfare in nearby territories.

    Atheism soon followed as I realized that, more often than not, historically coercion was often associated with conversion. That and the realization that my ancestors probably “dabbled” in every religion that reached our shores.

    By the time I was an adolescent I was a lost cause, I guess.

    Movies like Pharaoh(1966), and more recently Agora (2009), illustrate, much better than my worlds, what I am trying to say.

    Good luck with your research!

  • Anonymous

    Bible reading and theological studies, reinforced by applying observation and logic. 

    From that, there followed the realization of how small the Christian god was (in light of the grandness of the Universe, there is no way their petty despot could have even understood the physics of it, let alone designed it) and how silly the attributions were.  For example, when the survivor of a fire declares, “Thank God we all got out,” my thought is, “Where was your god when the fire started?”
    If both teams pray to the same god for a victory, shouldn’t the result always be a tie?
    The silliness that God intervenes in our lives, that He sends calamities to punish us, or prosperity to reward us.  The unjustness of letting children starve when there is food for them, and die from easily prevented disease while the nasty people steal relief supplies and live in luxury, whereas a good person who didn’t happen to be born in the right place will burn for eternity.  Eternity is a very very long time, and burning causes incredible agony and as such, is inappropriate punishment even for the worst evil. 
    When I heard that New Orleans was flooded as punishment for the Christians allowing people to speak of those who are Takei, then see the child rapists and cruel selfish people live in luxury and without feeling guilt or anxiety because they are Christian and believe God wants them to be prosperous, and they think that poverty is evidence of not being Christian enough, then I see there is something very wrong with these beliefs.

    Having determined that this God didn’t measure up, I studied as many other religions as I could, searching for one I could support, but none qualified.

    I can’t support an unjust supreme being.  Yes the Universe isn’t fair, but at least it doesn’t do that on purpose.

  • Anonymous

    I also struggled for many years with the God concept.  And perhaps it was my Catholic up-bringing that kept me on the agnostic fence for a while (just in case he did exist). Even though I realised many years ago that religion has been utilised for centuries as a means of controlling people, it was not until my father committed suicide after years of suffering with MS that I became a confirmed atheist.

  • Annie

    I was always an atheist… even while attending 12 years of Catholic school (I just never bought into it all), but it wasn’t until I had a child that I went from calling myself “non-religious” to atheist.  I realized there were simple things I could do right now that would make the world a better place for her when she grew up.  Telling people you are an atheist and letting them get comfortable with knowing a real, live atheist is one of them.

  • Jedipunk

    Nothing convinced me to become atheist.  I simply stopped finding reasons to believe.

  • Bluebury

    I was also never a believer despite my best efforts ask a kid to try to conform. 
     I think doubt started pretty young for me.  I remember being at a swimming pool with a band aid on my arm after getting a shot (I couldn’t have been more than 6) and a woman asked me what had happened.  I explained that I had received a shot and she said “Oh we don’t believe in shots”.  I later asked my dad why they didn’t get shots and he said in an incredibly condescending voice that I will never forget “They think God is going to heal them.”
     It wasn’t until I took an early American lit class in college that I started to identify myself as an atheist.  In particular, rereading “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” gave me a great moment of clarity that sounded suspiciously like my brain fake-sneezing “Bullshit!”  

  • Anonymous

    I was 20, a college junior, when I had my unBorn Again moment. I truly realized, not in an “it’s interesting to think about theological dilemmas” way but in a “holy shit this is reality, this is my life” way, that I only believed because of the home in which I’d been raised. My 18 years in the home of a Southern Baptist pastor-dad and a properly submissive mom saw every day saturated with Evangelical tenets. If I’d been raised in a similar home in any other faith, my epiphany told me, I’d believe just as strongly.

    And, like a switch, in a proper Road-to-Damascus moment, it just shut off. I 100% did not believe. I knew that, if I were to ever return to the faith, I’d have to have a better reason than mere circumstances of my birth. I never found that reason. Instead, I found Reason.

  • Alice

    I didn’t get ‘convinced’: I just suddenly realized, after 30years of worrying about offending people, that it was ok to say out loud what I was thinking in my head, which was something along the lines of “God is a cushion for people who are small and scared, and the Bible (my atheism comes from a Christian education) is the equivalent of 1st-century tabloid press.”

    Who wants to live small, scared and ruled by tabloids?!

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    I’ve always been an atheist, so this might not be much help, but I never started believing because I assumed that the supernatural was made up. Even as a little girl, it seemed obviously false. I knew that monsters and ghosts weren’t real. I knew that the angels and devils I saw in cartoons weren’t real. It really never occurred to me that people could think otherwise.

    When I got older, it was hard for me to imagine that adults could believe in the supernatural. I wasn’t sure if they actually did, or if they were just telling kids that they believed in it, like with Santa Claus. To this day, I’m confused by how Christians can believe in some supernatural things while dismissing others as myths, all because an ancient book says so. I still can’t figure out what makes the “real” supernatural (gods, angels, devils) any different from the “fake” supernatural (fairies, elves, unicorns).

  • usclat

    I appreciate your experience in losing your christian faith TH, but while you may lose your faith in christian dogma, there are many other dogmas that you could have easily jumped to. My point is, that once you lose your faith (whatever that may be) you do not necessarily become an atheist by definition. Just ask Cat Stevens. 

  • usclat


  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Tom Lawson

    Takes about as much or as little as it did 108 years ago…http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005PJKWUY

  • Anonymous

    I’ve gotta admit, if I’d watched Doctor Who earlier in my life, it might’ve made me lose my faith sooner…

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    It may sound strange to some that a TV show helped you lose your faith but Stargate SG-1 played a huge part in me becoming an atheist.

    The show really did make me question everything I was taught and raised to believe and the snowball effect pretty much took over as I learned more and more.

    And now I’m a very happy atheist.

  • Icarus09

    I read Carl Sagan’s book “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark”

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

    I went to Catholic school for 14 years (including kindergarten)

    We seem to have a lot in common.

  • TiltedHorizon

    I understand what you are saying but I was speaking about myself, note the qualifiers: “me”, “my” and “I”.

  • Ashton James

    I had the exact same experience.  I grew up in conservative Christianity but I remember disbelieving and trying to talk myself into believing from the time I was about 7.  I don’t know where this disbelief came from as I really wasn’t exposed to any critical thought.  Everyone I knew was religious and I even went to Christian schools.  Throughout my teenage years I really thought that there was something wrong with me.  I tried begging “God” to give me any amount of faith, but I just felt ridiculous for talking to the air in my room.  I finally gave up and figured if god wanted me to believe he’d let me know somehow.  I was finally able to relax and start trying to figure out truth instead of trying to force my brain to do something it was incapable of.  I started calling myself agnostic, but that didn’t last long and I quickly realized I was atheist and had been for quite some time – actually, probably my whole life.  Conservative Christians for the most part don’t believe me when I tell them about this experience.  They can’t accept that someone could genuinely want to believe and that their god would ignore that person.

  • Kevin H.

    Raised and confirmed Lutheran I started to drift from the church in my early teens. When I was in my twenties I considered myself to be agnostic. In 2007 I became an atheist after being introduced to “The God Delusion”. At first I was a closet atheist. I didn’t want people to think that I was some kind of radical person bent on taking down theism, be it mono or poly. It was a bit scary telling my parents that I don’t believe that there is a god and when I came out at work I was also a bit nervous. Now I am comfortable with being an atheist. If you are curious about atheism just ask. We are not a bunch of crazy people. We just enjoy our pasta more than most.  ;-)

  • Xeon2000

    My catch-phrase as a child was “what’s it do?” As long as I can remember, I enjoy figuring out how things work. I was raised nominally Methodist. Growing up, the occult fascinated me. I investigated magick and even had a Wiccan phase in high school. None of the occult stuff ever gave any results. I guess I approached it more as a scientist than a believer. In high school, a “friend” tricked me into attending bible club at lunch. As a social outcast, I embraced the attention the bible club heaped on me (with the agenda that I’d convert). I spent a year as a bible thumper, mostly for social interaction. One weekend at a prayer rally, they had kids come up front to break their “secular” CDs in front of the audience and only listen to Christian music from then on. I remember thinking how stupid it was and how much I like some and the bands they were destroying. I quit after that event and never went back. I called myself agnostic in college and eventually admitted I was actually an atheist later on.

  • Bill

    I was sent to an Assemblies of God in 6th grade.  I just thought the kids trying to witness to me were so STUPID.  Also, the idea of witnessing to my friends and family just seemed so…embarrassing.

  • Anonymous

    I was 14 or so when the tsunami in 2004 happened. That was all it took.
    The Kansas City Star had an article titled, “What kind of god would allow this?” or something to that effect. The article featured religious apologists but my mind was made up when I started to ponder what sort of god would allow this sort of thing to happen.

  • Elliott776

    It answers questions and affirms “truths”  with conjecture. Its an absurd idea. I was religious because I was taught to be. When I challenged these ideas they just don’t hold water. 

  • Elliott776

    “It” meaning religion. Sorry