Why do atheists become atheists?
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12-01-2015, 07:40 PM
RE: Why do atheists become atheists?
Well it's very simple. Some people are reasonable and others are not. Most are not, in fact. Which is why most of the world is religious.

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12-01-2015, 07:47 PM
RE: Why do atheists become atheists?
Another thing I forgot to mention was that reading the bible actually helped make me an atheist. When I was around 10 or 12 I was getting curious about our religion - so I started reading the bible. Of course no one stopped me since they that was great and I even got my own bible for christmas. I remember back then thinking that there some crazy shit going on. I could see back then that none of what the bible said was matching up to the real world so to speak of.
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12-01-2015, 07:57 PM (This post was last modified: 12-01-2015 08:01 PM by mordant.)
RE: Why do atheists become atheists?
I'm sure that the real reasons are as diverse as the people involved, but I'll venture a few observations based on my experience.

There's a guy on another forum who has argued the theist position for several years and who recently issued a mea cullpa message in which he confessed he has been convinced of atheism. Now he has a problem with his wife, who basically refuses to consider his arguments because she's afraid it would deprive her of her faith, which she wants to hold on to (at least she's being honest!). I think this hapless duo demonstrates in microcosm why people let go of theistic ideas and why they don't.

Theism's basic product is certitude. It claims to know the origin and purpose of creation, provide an invisible friend who has your back, an afterlife to defer all the unresolvable lack of closure and injustice you encounter in life, etc. This is a leaky abstraction, but an adequate one that provides a degree of comfort so long as one's luck and / or stubbornness holds up sufficiently. It also (and this is key) delivers the "support" of group dynamics in spades. We are social creatures, and a community of others participating in the same shared fantasy is a powerful incentive to maintain buy-in as well as a powerful disincentive to break ranks.

Based on the principle that people don't change until the pain of change becomes less than the pain of not changing, it usually takes painful cognitive dissonance and/or personal issues or tragedy of some kind such that religion clearly isn't working to "fix" the problem, in order to shake people loose. For the above couple, the husband was responding to cognitive dissonance, and the wife was content to remain in her slumber.

As I said this is an over simplification, but basically, that is how it works. There's a cost to leaving theism -- loss of social support and acceptance, potentially outright shunning; fear of divine retribution or simply removal of divine support; the loss of cherished subjective comforts; the need to either sit with uncertainty or to find alternative certainties; more personal responsibility for one's actions and thoughts. There's a cost to staying in theism -- cognitive dissonance, inconvenient facts, unanswered prayer, questions that are not answered or not adequately answered, stifling aspects of dogma or ritual. Like everything else in life it is just a calculus of cost vs benefit. It's hard sometimes for people who have never been believers to understand this dynamic.
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12-01-2015, 08:06 PM
RE: Why do atheists become atheists?
I had questions as a young child that were never really answered (save for the many "non-answers" that Christians love to give). Many years later, I returned to those same questions and sought out answers for myself. And when faced with the obvious conclusion - that there is very likely no divine being out there - there was no going back. So here I am. Big Grin

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12-01-2015, 08:08 PM
RE: Why do atheists become atheists?
(12-01-2015 07:40 PM)Misanthropik Wrote:  Well it's very simple. Some people are reasonable and others are not. Most are not, in fact. Which is why most of the world is religious.
There's reasonable, and then there's reasonable. It depends on the perspective. A particular theist at a particular point in their life may find it reasonable to maintain their beliefs because the beliefs provide subjective benefits and there are tangible costs to giving those up -- and the benefits may be hard to see. Particularly true if the main thing you notice is giving up a belief in your immortality and a sense of subjective transcendence for a great big, beautiful, indifferent, uncaring, harsh universe.

Atheism's value proposition is hard to love at first, particularly if you're not very intellectual / heady, and if your life has been reasonably fortunate so that your religion can take credit for your good fortune.

Some 15 years out of the reality distortion field of my evangelical faith, I find atheism the best thing that ever happened to me, but it has taken the better part of that time period to pry all the false promises out of my head with a metaphorical crowbar.
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12-01-2015, 11:12 PM
RE: Why do atheists become atheists?
(12-01-2015 06:39 PM)CleverUsername Wrote:  Sooner or later, everyone is exposed to the idea that it is possible to not believe in a god, or at least act like you don't. Some people look into this new viewpoint and become atheists. Some people recoil like a cat hit by water and scream at the position until it goes away, remaining theists.

Sometimes, I wonder why that is. What is it that causes some people to accept that their faith is wrong, while others who see the exact same evidence, can't accept that?

Anyone else think about this? Got any ideas? All I can think of is basic open-mindedness.

Edit: I guess it's be better to say "What makes atheists go back to atheism" since it's the default before indoctrination. Or, "What makes atheists stay atheists if they weren't indoctrinated but exposed later".

Much of what we believe is imprinted on us as young children. Children tend to trust authority--there is some benefit to survival for children to accept what is taught to them by adults rather than verify by trial and error each detail in life. The greater this trust in authority, the more reluctant the individual will be in breaking from what they learned as a kid. Most of us follow the same faith, politics, morals, and beliefs of our parents, so I am saying this blind acceptance is not limited to just religion.

I think some of us just have less trust of authority. Maybe the level of blind trust as children amongst humans is a spectrum of degree to which each individual has this quality. I was about 4 when I figured there was no Santa Claus after seeing remnants of a price tag on a gift. Most kids that age would have let such a minor detail slide in their willingness to accept the belief in Santa Claus. It's not that I was so intelligent that I figure it out at a young age when so many others don't--I was just less trusting of authority. I always have been. I read the Bible, and as I did I found the entire New Testament to be contrived--when I read of Jesus actions being planned "so that prophesy may be fulfilled", it was the equivalent of finding price tag remnants on Christmas gifts.

I viewed each of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Jesus as fictional characters intended to make people feel better. I just never dealt with the logical conclusion of the Jesus story being fiction until I was barely in my teens when I had to deal with the death of a friend from grade school. As this was before the internet was ubiquitous and I lived in a socially conservative community, I had nobody but myself to think through issues of life and death. The more the faithful insisted on their religion explaining life and death, the more I came to think that religion was actually harmful.

In sum, "I am so made that I cannot believe", one of those individuals Blaise Pascal addresses his wager to. I was always a skeptic.
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13-01-2015, 12:26 AM
RE: Why do atheists become atheists?
reason: being the skeptical people we are
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13-01-2015, 04:26 AM
RE: Why do atheists become atheists?
I really never bought into the whole religion thing. Catechism classes from first grade until sixth when I started attending Catholic schools just didn't make me believe. I thought for a long time that something was wrong with me because I didn't. To me the whole thing was just something we did...it was expected. I played along and did all the things expected such as first communion and confirmation. After becoming disgusted with the hypocrisy of the Catholic faith I started looking around for a faith that made sense to me. Read a lot - even new agey stuff.

The revelation I finally had in my early 20s is that I didn't have to believe in any of the religions or near religions so I stopped looking. It wasn't till I was in my 30s though that I put the right label on my stance and realized that I am an atheist.

See here they are the bruises some were self-inflicted and some showed up along the way. - JF

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13-01-2015, 05:15 AM
RE: Why do atheists become atheists?
I was indoctrinated into atheism at an early age.

I blame the BBC... specifically David Attenborough and Douglas Adams. Bastards!

CleverUN, there are many factors...
  • Learning some critical thinking skills before being exposed to the 'faith' epistemology;
  • Reading about Greek / Roman mythology before or at the same time as learning about the Jesus cult;
  • Enjoying chocolate and bunnies more than ritual sacrifice;
  • Enjoying christmas trees more than christmas mass;
  • Having people around you who don't take it too seriously
  • Having people around you who said "fucking idiots" when the news covered sectarian violence in Northern Ireland (thanks, dad Smile )
  • Trying hard to listen to the voice of god... but nothing happening.

... and many more.

But the main one has got be the realisation that logic, evidence and reason are going to yield better, more accurate, more repeatable results and lead to a more reliable understanding of what is true than arguments from faith, authority, revelation and tradition.


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13-01-2015, 05:20 AM (This post was last modified: 13-01-2015 05:52 AM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: Why do atheists become atheists?
No one "becomes" an atheist. Sooner or later, one has to face realty.
Rejecting delusion isn't really optional for sane people.
It's all that remains, when the field is cleared.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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