Losing your religion

[...] I didn't so much lose my religion(if I ever had any) but it was shattered by a red necked red faced southern baptist charlatan who claimed to have faith, but had none.

If particular instances of exploitation of a system fallaciously cascaded into cynical distrust or suspicion of it in general... Then I would probably have a range of wavering to little confidence in most secular human operations, too. Especially those parading about and germinating in the socioeconomic-cultural slash altruistic and humanitarian signaling category complex for circa the past 160 years. Oh. Gee. Maybe that actually is the case... ;)
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Going the opposite way, I was raised as an atheist and came to religion pretty much on my own terms. Up until I was ~9ish years old I was just blithely unaware that people believed in any god, and thought the idea patently ridiculous. After I came across people that were more expressive in their beliefs, I reacted to that and became a militant atheist. The Bush Administration and its obvious Christian nationalist policies certainly inflamed my militancy. This was about the height of the New Atheist era, mid-2000s or so.

Then late in high school, I want to say maybe 16 years of age, I began to mellow out about it. By around 17, I was more amenable to pantheism in the Spinozan sense. Around this time I became more acquainted with Neopaganism and was fascinated by the idea of modern revival of pre-Christian polytheism. When I was younger, I had a brief period of finding that polytheism made sense, and had a pecular interest in Egyptian and Greek mythology. But that had kinda faded out in the face of my militant atheism.

Around 17-18, I pivoted into identifying as Pagan. I adopted a formal polytheism, but closer to Neopythagorean and Hermetic panentheism. I adopted some Pagan practices, but I slacked off on them after a couple years. I had not really had any clear experiences, and my commitment waned. I became more of a...theorist than a practitioner. I read, I debated, I talked about Pagan philosophy and theology. But I had largely stopped doing paganism.

But that changed, in fits and starts, from about 2011-ish and proceeding for the following few years. I had several vivid, intense spiritual experiences that, inasmuch as my senses could imbibe them and interpret them, evidenced polytheism as truth. I have had further experiences that have shown me a much greater complexity to that view-- and oddly enough, I've started to be more amenable to Neoplatonist and Hermetic thought. Funny how things come full circle, huh? Difference being that I am active and consistent in my hearth practice, and regularly engage in mystical communion with the gods.

The main thing I carry over from my atheistic days is that I am still a skeptic at heart. Even when I experience something, I do not automatically believe it. I seek to replicate the experience, interpret it, and observe commonalities between my experiences and those of others. And, most critically, I do not expect others to hold my views. It took several mystical experiences to convince me of polytheism. Why in the world would I think that someone would come to those conclusions purely on discourse? Even Plato said that the esoteric knowledge of the gods and the universe can only be truly understood experientially.
 
I kept the faith because I want to be a believer. My mind spoke and said two words, “I, Believe,” and I was totally fascinated with that word immediately. I believe in faith, and the devil terrifies me.
 
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I kept the faith because I want to be a believer. My mind spoke and said two words, “I, Believe,” and I was totally fascinated with that word immediately. I believe in faith, and the devil terrifies me.
You should only fear one. God.

Don't waste time on the devil.
 
When I was a kid, my parents dutifully attended a Christian church most Sundays. I did Sunday School, where I was taught bible stories about Noah and Jesus and Moses and the rest - mostly Jesus. I was a Christian for the same reason most Christians are Christians: because I had Christian parents and I was brought up that way. If I had had Muslim parents, I probably would have been a Muslim kid.

When I was 9 years old, my family moved to a different country and lived there for almost 3 years. There, Christianity was not the dominant religion. I visited the holy buildings of a number of different religions. I interacted with lots of people who followed non-Christian religions, and I learned something about some of those religions in school. At the time, I'm sure that I still thought that Christianity was the "right" religion. Some of the other religious practices and beliefs seemed strange to me and misguided, though I would never have expressed that thought out loud to any believer in some other religion. That would be impolite and disrespectful.

When my family returned to Australia, I started in a new school. It was a Christian school that had some emphasis on religion, but of a different Christian denomination to the one in which I had been brought up. As a result of that, I always felt somewhat religiously separated from many of my school friends. They participated in all the rituals of their domination, whereas my family considered that it would be inappropriate for us, who were of a different denomination, to engage in all of those things fully in the new context.

Nevertheless, I still retained my belief in God. At school I had to regularly attend religious services, which still covered the same core Christian material, though with different trappings of ritual. I was interested in learning more about the religion, to the extent that I even voluntarily attended some extra bible study classes from time to time. I had a strong inner feeling that God was a real being who took a personal interest in me (along with everybody else, because God is love etc. etc.).

I was interested in science from a very early age. I read lots of science fiction and popular science fact, along with other things, so I learned something about the way that scientists think about the world. I was strongly influenced by a number of popular science communicators who were, in fact, atheists, although at that time people mostly kept their atheism fairly quiet. In my teens, I was drawn to the writings of people in what would now be described as the Skeptical community. What they said about lots of things made a lot of sense to me. They were rational people who applied scientific methods. They debunked lots of stuff that is bunk, some of which was stuff that in my younger years I had lapped up, assuming that people on TV who presented pseudo-documentaries were probably telling the truth. Now I understood why that stuff was bunk, and I was equipped with a mental toolbox for sorting balony from truth.

After leaving school, my regular church attendance - and that of my family - stopped, mostly because our churchgoing activities had been almost exclusively school-related activities for a number of years. I still believed in God and Jesus, but I didn't feel like my relationship with them had to be mediated through an organised church.

During my undergraduate years at university, as I read more and learned more, about science and about the wider world in general, I began to describe myself as an "agnostic", if anybody asked me what I believed. I would say that I thought that God was probably real, but I couldn't be sure. My reasons for continuing to believe mostly boiled down to my gut feeling that God was out there - and inside, even though I was becoming more aware of the absence of solid evidence for the God I believed in. In terms of my beliefs about how God interacted (or failed to interact) with the physical world, my beliefs might have been described as deistic. An interventionist God seemed to be incompatible with science, history and the rest.

I remember one conversation I had with a small group of friends, including a friend of a friend who these days people might describe as something of a "militant atheist". I found myself trying to defend my belief in God against a number of counterarguments. It didn't go well for me. The best argument I had was something along the lines of "I feel in my heart that God is real". I recognised that, in terms of trying to convince anybody else that God is real, that is a weak argument.

I read stuff. I reflected. I thought about what would happen if I applied the same standards of skepticism and critical thinking to my God belief that I was now accustomed to applying to every other claim to Truth (absolute or otherwise). I stopped giving my God belief a special pass.

Some time in the 1990s - I can't say exactly when - my religious belief evaporated. There was no single Eureka moment, but I became a de facto atheist, though for quite a long time I still identified merely as "agnostic", partly because I didn't think it was necessary to come "out" to my family, and partly, I think, because I didn't really understand properly the difference between agnosticism and atheism. I was, in fact, an agnostic atheist, but I thought for quite a long time that an atheist was a person who made the positive claim that there is no God. That didn't - and doesn't - describe me. Now, however, I know that an atheist is simply somebody who is not convinced that any gods exist, and that is a position I wholeheartedly embrace.

I don't think that I was really comfortable with applying the label "atheist" to myself publically before around 2004. That's the year that the so-called Four Horsemen of the "New Atheism" published their books. I snapped them up, along with a huge swathe of other atheist texts. I got serious about learning more about atheism. What it means, who is and was an atheist, the often-hidden history (necessary because atheists have so often been actively persecuted and often killed for their non-belief), and how and why it is relevant and important in our modern era. Since I agreed with most of what I read, I was finally willing to plant the flag and proudly declare myself an atheist.

These days, I'm more informed about the enormous burdens and costs that religion of all kinds has placed (and is placing) on believers and non-believers alike. It's not black and white; things seldom are. Religion has done a lot of good, as well. But even if religion is useful - and I'm not convinced that it is a net good in today's world - that's no reason to believe in any of its central claims. So, I might describe myself as actually anti-religious, these days, in that I think it is important to take a stand against the evil things that people do in the name of various religions, and against the organised activities of religion which seek to divide people based on whichever arbitrary set of myths one believes in.

Atheism is often mistaken for - or portrayed as - an ideology. But it is not. I am an atheist. All that means is that I'm not convinced that any gods are real. Nothing else follows inevitably from that. I'm open minded. If somebody can convince me his God is real, and make a compelling argument for why I ought to worship that God, so be it. But I've heard a lot of arguments for various god beliefs - many of them many times - so it seems unlikely I'll be "deconverted" from atheism any time soon. This is not unusual for atheists. Many atheists start as believers, by default. They are brought up to believe. Getting to reasoned non-belief is a process. Once you're there, it seems like going back to belief would have to involve "unlearning" a whole lot of things. In contrast, people who start off as atheists because they simply aren't exposed to religious ideas when young (or because those ideas aren't emphasised by their parents or guardians) can more easily "convert" to a religion, because they have yet to go through the process of learning and questioning that people who have deconverted from religion have had to go through.

As well as being an atheist, I am also a Humanist (although I have some reservations about that particular label for it). That is to say, my own moral inclinations most closely align with Humanist values. Humanists tend to be atheists. The reverse is not necessarily true. Humanism, of course, shares some of the same moral philosophy as Christianity, but without the supernatural trappings and without some of the questionable baggage that certain Christian denominational beliefs carry with them. It would be fair to say that, in practice, I have been something like a Humanist for my whole life. I have just given up the mysticism and unjustified beliefs that any belief in God entails.
 
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I'm open minded. If somebody can convince me his God is real, and make a compelling argument for why I ought to worship that God, so be it. But I've heard a lot of arguments for various god beliefs - many of them many times - so it seems unlikely I'll be "deconverted" from atheism any time soon.

What I don't understand, though, is why you continue to bind yourself to a Christianist deity.
 
I don't think you understand. I'm an atheist. I'm bound to no deity.
I might be wrong, but I think they're inquiring why your concept of deity is so rooted in Christian theology. So your opposition to theism might not be relevant to all possible theisms, only to Christianity.

If that is their position, I don't agree with it. I'm just clarifying. I think your reasoning is sound; while I am a polytheist, I have no skin in the game on converting you or convincing you. I just want my own beliefs to be respected, by which I mean, taken as seriously as any other, and I don't want to be discriminated against. And those are things that Christians are far more responsible over than atheists.
 
What I don't understand, though, is why you continue to bind yourself to a Christianist deity.
How do the following two statements made by JR on this thread, imply that JR only means the "Christianist deity"?
Now, however, I know that an atheist is simply somebody who is not convinced that any gods exist, and that is a position I wholeheartedly embrace.
I am an atheist. All that means is that I'm not convinced that any gods are real.
My bold in both quotes above.
 
I might be wrong, but I think they're inquiring why your concept of deity is so rooted in Christian theology.
Tiassa is just doing what Tiassa does: telling lies about me. Somehow, this appalling and repeated behaviour makes him feel good about himself, I guess. He needs to get a life.
I think your reasoning is sound; while I am a polytheist, I have no skin in the game on converting you or convincing you. I just want my own beliefs to be respected, by which I mean, taken as seriously as any other, and I don't want to be discriminated against. And those are things that Christians are far more responsible over than atheists.
I will defend your right to believe anything you want. I will not necessarily agree with you. I might even try to talk you out of it. The only time I would actively discriminate against somebody is when their beliefs prompt them to take actions that harm or threaten other people.
 
As well as being an atheist, I am also a Humanist (although I have some reservations about that particular label for it). That is to say, my own moral inclinations most closely align with Humanist values. Humanists tend to be atheists. The reverse is not necessarily true. Humanism, of course, shares some of the same moral philosophy as Christianity, but without the supernatural trappings and without some of the questionable baggage that certain Christian denominational beliefs carry with them. It would be fair to say that, in practice, I have been something like a Humanist for my whole life. I have just given up the mysticism and unjustified beliefs that any belief in God entails.

Thanks for the details.

I am a terrible Humanist!

A member of the BHA since 2007 and I can barely tell you about key policies, very lazy and embarrassing. I have been to a few meetings but I need to do more, read more and get involved if change is going to happen.

Andrew Copson is the CEO https://andrewcopson.com/
 
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