You can be skeptical and friendly at the same time.
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Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.
It didn’t seem so painful at the time, but I definitely had no choice in the matter.
Episcopalian. No complaints about the church. Communion and being an acolyte were fun, it’s just what they were saying wasn’t true. I still remember my 7 foot tall priest’s look of fear when he saw me (as a 13 year old) walk into the room.
Why would he be afraid of a 13 year old boy? Unless he had the hots for boys and feared wrestling with temptation? ; )
Mine was pretty much the same. I was a lucky poor kid that got to go to a private Episcopalian school because my grandfather was their book keeper. God was a daily thing at school but not at home. Even so, I did not feel like I was all that force fed at school especially when compared to what my First Baptist friends had to deal with at home.
That looks about right. My father was the minister, mom the choir director. It didn’t matter if I had a 103F temperature and was puking every half hour, I was going to church. After all, what would people think if the minister’s daughter didn’t go?
My mom was the organist/choir director so yeah, I was there at choir practice once a week, then she had a teen choir, so I sang in both adult and teen choirs. She also went to practice and organize her music library every Saturday, so I was there then, too. At one point, I played autoharp for services with her.
Luckily, she did this job at a base chapel for several years into my teen years, and as the organist, she had to play for all the denominations, not just the Protestant service I went to, so I spent time in the church offices with the airmen assigned there. The things I learned from them… To them, it was a job and they were not necessarily believers, but they sure were fun to hang around with.
We really had no religious upbringing that I have any recollection of. My mother did send us to Sunday School when we were very small (small enough that I have no real memory of it other than riding in some big car to get there).. We never attended church, never did anything even remotely religious… Now later in life (I’m 50) my father had taken up to damning me for my rather less than supportive statements about religion in general.. It’s a bit depressing really
Yup, that looks familiar. The one time I asked if I could skip church in my high school years, I wound up having to sit through a crying, screaming, 3 hour long rant from my mother about how wicked and evil and horrible a child I was for saying “I’m not getting anything out of this, do you mind..?”
Yes. I had to go to church every Sunday even though 1. I had lost my faith and 2. No one else in my family was required to. Explain that one.
It wasn’t always forced down my throat because I tended to be a pretty obedient child, but there are two things that really stick out in my mind.
1. I went to the orientation session for prospective altar servers. I’d been told that “Sally” (the old lady who ran the church office) had requested I go. During the orientation, the priest talked a lot about the seriousness of the job. I was in the middle of having some really serious doubts about my faith, and I decided it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to have an active role in Mass if I wasn’t sure I believed in what was being said and done. So after the orientation, when my dad picked me up, I told him I didn’t want to be an altar server. I didn’t think anything of it because as far as I knew, it was Sally, not my dad, who wanted me to be a server.
My dad got mad when I told him I didn’t want to do it. Really mad. Scary, veins popping out of his head, turning purple mad. I honestly thought he was going to beat the shit out of me. Instead he threatened to destroy away all of my possessions, keep me locked in the house until I was 18, and he threatened to sell my pets. So I became an altar server. The only thing that forced participation did was make me resent the fuck out of both my dad and going to church.
2. During the prep classes for Confirmation, the doubts I’d previously been dealing with turned into the full on realization that I did not accept Catholic doctrine. I did not believe in original sin, I didn’t believe in the need for salvation, I didn’t believe in the sacraments, I just did not want to be a Catholic. I hadn’t quite hit atheism yet, but I knew I didn’t want to be a Christian. Then I remembered the terrifying rage my dad displayed when I didn’t want to be an altar server, so I decided to go through with Confirmation anyway. This involve lots of lying about what I believed. That was the point when I started counting the days until I could move out of my parents’ house.
The only thing I remember about the prep classes for Confirmation (Lutheran) was that the kid I had a crush on was constantly kicking me under the table until my shins were black and blue and my crush died miserably. I hated those classes with a passion.
Enuma, you did the only thing you could have done. Self preservation has to always be tops in our minds!
I had a dad similar to yours, only instead of the threats, he’d have jumped straight to physical violence. So I totally get where you’re coming from. *hugs*
I’m so sorry you had to deal with violence growing up. *hugs back*
I also had an abusive parent – in my case, my mother – who went berserk when I didn’t show sufficient mindless piety for her taste. I spent a lot of my childhood in terror of her. What really bothers me now, when I think back about it, was that people would see me with bruises all the time – teachers, priests, you name it – but no-one ever expressed any curiosity let alone concern. Is it any wonder that I associate organized religion with hatred, violence and bullying.
I hear you.
A year or so ago, my great-aunt and I had a conversation in which she actually admitted to me that she and my great-uncle knew we were abused. My only thought was, Why the hell didn’t you DO something?!
I always think about this when someones giving me the lecture. If someone was raised without someone else telling them anything at all about god and the like. Would they go looking for a god? Would they be inherently evil because there was no god/Jesus to tell them how to live and what is right and wrong? I certainly don’t think so.
Bingo. This is the reason I am a hardcore Atheist. We are all born without any knowledge of religion. It would stay that way without someone telling you about it . Any real religion would be obvious, and wouldn’t require people to force it on others.
The saying I’ve always loved is: You have to be carefully taught to hate. That comes along naturally with religious instruction and God. My mother is a wonderfully accepting and loving woman now, as a Catholic. But the Lutheran Mother had many books and church publications denouncing all other denominations as evil for whatever reasons. She doesn’t remember them, but I do (as a bathroom reader, I grabbed whatever was nearby to read and for some reason, these publications were always in the bathroom).
Not mine. My parents were just nominally Christian. We went to church for a few years and then stopped altogether. Religion was never important to me or my family.
No really, but we had to go to Sunday school. I always though the Methodists were pretty mild mannered in that respect.
Church as a kid was great until politics was brought in and paranoia took over. I had lots of friends and they kept us busy with fun activities. My Christian school was very conservative but it had its good parts too. I have many good memories, some bad, some bizarre. No really bad complaints, but the beliefs are wrapped up in an entire culture so it was a tough decision to leave. Afterwards it felt very freeing and I wondered why I hadn’t made the leap sooner.
I was raised in a southern baptist home. We were there Sunday morning and Sunday evening and Wednesdays. As I approached my teens I began questioning. That was met with a strong rebuke from my parents. I stopped wanting to go by age 14 and fought with my parents over it until I went to college. I remember telling my mother once that I didn’t believe in her god and that if there really was a god it wasn’t the one in the bible. She cried for a while and told me that she wanted all of her children to believe. My response was and still is, I cannot believe something just because you want me to believe. If it doesn’t follow reason then I see no use in even trying. This is still a contentious issue with my family. My siblings call me some pretty nasty names because I don’t believe in christ. Ah, christians.
I was christened RLDS and went to church with my grandma. My parents never went to church. When I turned 10 or so I stopped going. My mom isn’t at all thrilled of my non-belief but we just don’t talk about it much. I think my dad is a closet atheist lol
I know LDS and FLDS, but what is RLDS and how is it different than the other 2?
I was raised Presbyterian—the “frozen chosen” as we liked to jokingly call ourselves.
At my church we were strict Calvinists which if you are not familiar with it is a horrible doctrine that says God picks who he wants to save and sends the rest to Hell. You have no choice in the matter. If God wants you to be saved you will be. If not, sucks to be you.
I always thought it was a terrible theology and left the church when I went away to join the Marines. Unfortunatily I ended up an evangelical and stayed there for two decades before becoming a mainstream liberal Christian and then an atheist.
Yes, Calvinism (excluding that of a six year old boy and his tiger) is a terrible theology. But what is a good theology?
I don’t think there are any good theologies–and I have checked out quite a few! But I think Calvinism is especially obnoxious. (But Calvin & Hobbes is GREAT! LOL.)
None that I know of. It’s all shit to me, but some shit stinks worse than others.
Don’t calvinists also believe that having fun is forbidden by the skyfairy?
Well we weren’t Puritans but having the “wrong” kind of fun was looked down upon. For instance, you could go to a “G” rated movie but not an “R” one. Listening to rock & roll was wrong but listening to classical music or jazz was ok. Watching professional wresting was fine but women oil wrestling was definitely out of the question. In other words your “fun” had to be pretty vanilla.
They really believe that?? That’s horrible! It’s like being the kid chosen last for a team! ”Oh, God doesn’t like you, you’re going to hell” just because you have glasses or something…
Yeah you basically had NO choice in the matter. If God picked you then you were one of the “chosen.” If not too bad. The worst part of it was that humans had no say in the matter. It was all “predestined.” Calvinists considered humans to be totally depraved and evil and think that they would never turn to God on their own. So God has to force them to be saved. (The ones he picks that is.) It’s a really screwed up theology.
Calvinism is an abomination. I’m convinced it’s a congential psychopathy. You were lucky; you won the genetic lottery. You were able to get out.
The fact that Calvinism is one of the two main influences within the evangelical subculture (the other being Domionism) tells us all we need to know about them.
Are Calvinists the ones that believe poverty is a sign of not being chosen? Is this the religion where they work really hard to be rich and then flaunt their wealth because it makes them look like they were chosen?
That was a Puritan understanding of things that I am sure they got from Calvinism. After all if you are lucky enough to have been “chosen” by God then it stands to reason that God would reward you with riches too. Calvinism is very elitist.
Not really. My mother took us to a Presbyterian church when we were small. My father sometimes came along. Then when I was about ten, I went with a friend to a very evangelical Baptist church and started going alone on the church bus. I guess my parents let me decide. I ended up deciding by age 12 that it didn’t make any sense to me (much longer story behind that decision) and quit going, although I struggled with some guilt over that for another decade or so. I am secure in my non-belief now……no more guilt feelings. Dad has passed on. Mom and I just don’t discuss religion. She is a serious believer, as is my sister. I guess I am kind of the black sheep.
My parents had long before lost all respect for religion and left it up to us what we wanted to do. I have been a life long atheist (57) and my children are both atheists. My Roman Catholic raised husband has no need for the hypocritical church and has recently admitted to being an agnostic. My siblings on the other hand seemed to need something else, so my lonely, single brother answered the door one day 20 years ago and is now a jehovah witness. He has learned sign language and signs for their meetings, so I give him that! My sister seems to have been on a life long search and she now follows the Abraham-Hicks cult. Go figure. But myself – no need to believe in supernatural beings and very happy that athiests are starting to stand up for themselves. When I was younger and would tell people that I was an atheist, they always looked at me like I had 2 heads! And telling a believer that I was never baptized – I thought the sky was going to fall! My favorite comment was made recently, when I told a catholic believer friend that I was an atheist. She paused and then said “that’s ok, you’re still a good person”. Nice to know.
I have been told that too!! Makes me laugh every time. It’s like “uhhh, thanks?”
My cartoon would be of someone with their arm around my shoulder, maybe holding a Bible, with some friends nearby, with a sense of community and closeness to God. Nothing ever forced, no threats.
The Gospel has nothing to do with the cartoon above – it’s too bad that it plays out that way sometimes.
The force and threats only come after you disagree.
Not in my case – there was disagreement, and discussion, but it was never countered with force or threats. I have no doubt that people have experienced those things, but I never have.
I grew up in the NY area, not the Bible belt, maybe that’s why.
I had an experience similar to Blacksheep’s. I never felt that what I was receiving in the way of religious instruction was being forced on me. My mom was very religious (my dad wasn’t, but was very supportive of what she was doing) and I always enjoyed what I was learning from her and from the teachers in Sunday School. Honest questions were always welcome and no one was ever threatened.
I think a lot hinges on what one is taught (the theological concepts being conveyed) and how they are taught. I always felt that what I was taught made a lot of sense and I appreciated the honesty and the friendliness of the teachers. I teach Sunday School myself now, and I also try to help my students understand and welcome their questions in class. In fact, questions from the students make the teaching even more enjoyable. And the learning continues for me as well, since trying to apply these theological concepts in one’s own life impels a person to deepen their own understanding of God. I can’t imagine myself not wanting to learn more. (I’m over 60 now.)
So, no, this cartoon doesn’t at all match anything I have ever experienced.
I was forced to attend until I managed to get the CCD teach to ask for my removal. The teacher was dead set that Catholic teachings were more moral than secular humanism and presented the two (and other views) with out the labels attached. I had gotten my CCD class in agreement with me about which was ‘better’. That wasn’t ok so I had to go. Can’t say I minded.
The CCD teacher and the priest who oversaw the whole thing called my parents and asked that they not send me back when I was 13. I was only staying in so I could make my confirmation and get gift money from relatives. I wonder if I could sue for financial losses…….
My family was nominally Christian. My dad and his family never went to church. My mom’s family was Methodist and a bit more “churchy” but not hardcore or anything. My maternal grandmother took me to Sunday school a few times and we made bread and read some “child appropriate” parables. At my mom’s urging we went to church as a family on a few rare occasions. It was boring. She didn’t have us go regularly. I joined the church softball league, but it was to play softball, I didn’t care if it was at church. I made a few friends from the community. Nobody was a fanatical evangelical. When I wasn’t going to church regularly we were still friends and they didn’t care. It was all mostly a social gathering more than a spiritual deal.
My parents gave me free reign to find my own path growing up though. I read up on paganism, I joined an evangelical Christian youth group briefly (then quit because they freaked me out), then I gravitated towards agnostic, then admitted I was an atheist. My parents and family don’t really care. My brother is an evangelical Christian but he doesn’t harass me and we get along okay.
What is it about the Methodist church softball league that is so awesome? That’s why we joined, too. My dad wanted to play for the team. My mom used to swear that if the local Buddhist temple had been close to our house and had a softball league, we probably would have gone there.
Good question. This church was out in the country so there was room for a field. The two Methodist churches I’ve been in that were in the middle of town had basketball courts. Maybe Methodists tend to be sporty? (The couple baptist churches I’ve visited never had recreation of this sort)
I was raised Methodist…don’t recall us being a particularly sporty congregation aside from the casual volleyball games at the church picnic…
Heh. There was a Baptist camp right next to my high school Episcopal summer camp. Theirs was the week after ours, but while we were they, they were doing staff orientation, so there were often hot college-age Baptist guys out on the volleyball court. “Don’t flirt with the Baptists” was one of our camp rules, but I think it had more to do with the age difference than religious affiliation.
I don’t really remember being forcefed religion. It was just a given that I go to church, sing in the choir, and attend Sunday School. When summer rolled around, it was Vacation Bible School attendance then later, teaching at VBS, usually crafts. I don’t remember fighting it, but I do remember asking the hard questions at a young (under 10) age and being told to “just have faith, faith will answer all.” It never made sense to me. If you know the answer, cough it up. If you don’t, admit it.
I remember being asked to do the narration for the Christmas program because I was a good reader. I remember potlucks and going carolling followed by a chili dinner. I remember Apple Pie Fourth of July where the choir (directed by my mom) was always asked to sing a few patriotic hymns (it was an Air Force town). I remember being in Mom’s bell choir, ringing the bell hymns at major holidays in a pretty dress and white gloves (don’t want to get finger prints on those expensive bells!). I remember the home-sewn Easter Dresses, especially the ones that my mother never finished because Easter is a big music holiday for her.
But I definitely don’t remember the level of Christian Patriotism ™ that the country is experiencing now, even though I was raised as an Air Force brat. I really don’t remember religion being as all-encompassing in my life as it is now, even as I avoid church and religion whenever I can. Maybe I was just young and oblivious, who knows.
I was raised in a nominally Protestant Christian household. My parents
sent me and my sister to Sunday school and had us baptised because they
thought it was something they ought to do. We went to the Methodist
church until I was about 11, because they had a softball league my dad
wanted to be part of, and then we moved to the Episcopal church because
it was only a block from our house, and I stayed there through high
I actually really enjoyed my time with the Episcopal church. They were a
pretty fluffy, liberal, open-minded bunch, and I had a lot of fun, made
many good life-long friends, and fell in love multiple times at church camp.
Unfortunately, about the time I turned 17, my mom became born-again and
started attending an Evangelical church. This completely mystified me.
Our paths have diverged completely since then as she has grown more and
more conservative and religious, and I have become less and less so,
drifting into naturalistic paganism. I know it’s best to just not bring
up the subject of religion with my mother, but if I don’t, she usually
does. It never ends well.
Not at all. I was made to go to church when I was very young but when I was in Junior High or maybe slightly older my parents allowed me to make my own decisions and occasionally I decided not to go to church. I generally decided to go even though I did not get it and didn’t get much out of it. I have often questioned my faith and/or religion but I have been wise enough to know that just because my parents or other authority figures couldn’t give me the answers does not mean that they were not out there. So I took the initiative to look for them. I have found satisfactory answers to most of my questions. These answers combined with my personal experiences have lead me to believe what I believe. Which is that God exists, loves us enough to become one of us and allow himself to be sacrificed and wants us to freely love him back by serving each other. It is my opinion that it is quite beautiful theology. Perhaps I am wrong but until I see a compelling reason to change my opinion, I will stick to it because quite frankly, I love it and it is just to amazing to trade for anything else.
No, thank the gourd.
When I washed my hands of it and refused to go anymore, my parents were just like, “Sweet! We can sleep in!”
Not my upbringing. I went to a religous school (CoE), where we had to be baptised and admitted to communion. Though I came down with pneumonia 3 days before each event was scheduled to happen, somone/thing may have been trying to tell me something (they were they only times I have ever been that sick).
At the beginning of each year our priest would stand up before one (of three weekly) service(s) and say something along the lines of
“What I tell you in here is what I believe. You can choose to believe, or not. But I expect you all to shut up, show some respect and listen.”
So I shut up, respectfully listened, and never believed. (And sometimes fell asleep).
Belief at home was a bit different. Both of my parents were cultural christians. We would go to church at easter & christmas, and for weddings. All pretty harmless. Until they got divorced, then my mother started trying as many different churches / religions as possible. I remember her going to Baha’i, buddhist & half a dozen flavours of christianity. Though it seemed to be more of a dating exercise for her, she ended up with three ministers/priests/pastors (all widowers) over the years. Although there was no pressure on me to join the churches, there were a couple of very very strange, almost double dates where I was being set up with the daughters of my mothers current squeeze.
The cartoon which would better represent my Catholic upbringing would have shown me shoving the bible and cross in my own throat. It was a cycle of guilt and fear, each doubt in faith was a sin, which resulted in a retreat back to the bubble and more prayers for forgiveness. Each time my father took “the lord’s name in vein” was another chance to feel god’s wrath as a means of punishing my father. The end result, would be a Lucile Ball tribute, me eating bibles and crosses as they come across the assembly line, cheeks expanded with cellulose and wood fiber, all in the hopes of not being punished by a god.
Yep. Only the person on the table needs to be a little kid.
Nominally catholic with admonishments by both parents and both grandfathers to not take any of it too seriously.
The only catholics left in the entire extended family are one (out of 9) cousin, and an aging aunt and uncle. I expect I’ll have to attend three more masses in my lifetime (for their funerals).
Nope. And as far as I know, none of my friends religious or not religious ever speak of having a similar childhood. I guess it can happen. Probably it can happen with anyone. For me, I tell my kids it’s up to them to work out. It’s natural to have doubts one way or another. In fact, if you go your whole life and don’t doubt you could be wrong, there’s a good chance you’re not really thinking it through. I also remind them that applies to everything. As an agnostic, I freely admit I had times when I would stop and think, “Hey wait a minute. There are some brilliant, beautiful people who seem to have everything wired straight, and they’ve done their homework and they believe. And we all know there are things we can’t explain. Maybe…” So it’s part of learning and thinking things through, and that’s where you come to what you finally believe.
Yes. So much so that I went to Bible College, was a missionary, and believed for 46 years before I made my escape.
This shows you how intense it was at our house: my 89-yr-old mother (who doesn’t know I’m an atheist) re-purposed my old bedroom as her “tract and witnessing resource room”. Even now when I go to visit her, I have to sleep in a room lined with bookshelves full of tracts, “Come-and-meet-Jesus” books, apologetics & creationist books, and bibles of every hue and stripe. (Is this God’s twisted idea of giving me a taste of hell on earth?)
I think a better analogy would be pouring trash into an empty bucket. A little kid just doesn’t know enough to realize he/she is being fed BS and doesn’t know enough to resist. A child has an open mind and sort of innocently asks how the world works–in response, deluded adults pour in the garbage.
I grew up in the RLDS church. Went every Sunday morning and evening and then Wednesday evening for prayer service. Dad and me and my brothers also cleaned the church and mowed the lawn every Saturday. It was just something, as a kid, that you did. After Mom went totally batshit crazy and Dad finally kicked her to the curb when I was 14 I think my Dad started to have some doubts. He eventually confessed to me, on a trip he and I made to California to see my youngest brother, that if he had it all to do over again we wouldn’t have spent so much time at church. The truth is, I was bored the whole time. I didn’t find any of it interesting and as I got into my teen years I found it less believable and pretty much quit going by the time I was 17 because I worked every Sunday.
The up side was summer church camp at Camp Bountiful in southern Ohio. I loved that place and so did my Dad. Dad was a handy guy and always spent some of his summer weekends working on the grounds. And, of course the girls at camp, the holier the family, the wilder the girl.
I was a willing sheep of the Catholic Church into my 30s. As a child I did my obligatory sacraments; 1st confession, 1st communion, confirmation, etc. without a CLUE why I was doing any of it and what it was about. All of the experiences were extremely frightful. At my 1s confession, the priest admonished me for not having enough sins (at 7 years old, what did he want from me; MURDER?). I panicked and started to cry, forgot the words to the act of contrition, and he screamed at me to get out and “come back” when I’ve come up with more sins. So I thought for sure, when I got to the altar in my little white dress and veil on my 1st communion that the bishop would refuse me the host since I couldn’t remember all of my sins in confession. I was shaking so bad, I couldn’t even croak the word “Amen”. It was all I could do just to move my lips! Harrowing! At my confirmation, one of the nuns told me I was a heathen for asking too many questions in confirmation class and I didn’t deserve to be “wedded to God”. WTF? Yet, I plundered on, like a good downtrodden christian soldier! . Then, after I was divorced, and I tried to maintain active in my church, I noticed I was being shunned from all social activities. Sure as shite, they were keeping me away because I was now a divorced, childless woman who was probably on the prowl for a man. That’s when I had quite enough! I took a lot of crap before the last of my indoctrination was conquered by the works of the very church that indoctrinated me!
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