artphoto by splunge
artphoto by TheophileEscargot
artphoto by Kronos_to_Earth
artphoto by ethylene





Mecha Wiki

Metachat Eye


IRC Channels



Comment Feed:


13 September 2009

Tell me what it was that changed your belief in God? [More:]Was it a good book, or some incident that happened in your life that made you rethink things. Were you a believer then, and not any more now, or has your faith grown stronger because of it?

I hope this is not a very personal question because I would really like to know what you all think. What your stories are. How you became the people that you are today.

When I realized that magicians use slight of hand and trickery to do their acts, I knew there was no god. There's been a lot of confirmation since.
posted by eekacat 13 September | 22:04
Up until the age of six, I believed in God for the same reason I believed in Santa Claus: because my parents told me there was such a thing and who was I, a mere toddler, to dispute their adult judgment?

But even at that age, I noticed that my parents couldn't come up with adequate answers to my questions about the specifics of God -- where does God live? what does He look like?

And then one day, I was flipping through the dictionary and happened upon this little gem:


That one wasn't familiar at all. I read further . . . "one who does not believe in a deity"

In a flash, I knew that was EXACTLY who I was. I've been an atheist ever since.
posted by jason's_planet 13 September | 22:06
For me it was a surprisingly discrete series of steps:

1. No way I just got lucky and got born into the right religion (islam) and everyone else is going to hell unless they convert. That's just fundamentally unfair.
2. Too many rules. Way too many rules. The harder I looked the more rules there were and they intruded onto the most basic things (am I allowed to find a girl cute?) I'd rather reason out the rules than go by a pre-determined philosophical system. It seemed 99% of people ignored the basic shackles of rules, but I didn't find that logically consistent.
3. We seem to have anthropomorphised god to some degree. Whatever the mystery of existence is, it's too convenient for there to be a "being" out there--too understandable.

High Windows

It's kinda funny in that I still carry out many of the rituals within certain social contexts but I know personally that it's just motions without meaning. Weird--but life tends to be.
posted by Firas 13 September | 22:15
People think I'm insane when I tell them this, but hell, you all think I'm insane, anyway.

Back when Texas first started the lottery, I played it a bit. One day, I was in the 7-11 filling out a pick-six ticket for that evenin'g's lotto. As I stood there pencil in hand, a voice from the ether (not a wino in the back of the store, I assure you) clear as day said "THREE. SEVENTEEN. TWENTY-ONE." then, the transmission stopped. I stood there for a minute, like "Yea, there's three more numbers to go -- can I have those?" but no. After a minute, I just picked three more at random.

That night, I tuned in the live broadcast of the ball-picking thingamajiggy. The first three numbers up -- that's right. Three. Seventeen. Twenty-one.

I won three dollars, on three out of six. THANKS, GOD!

There's a lesson in there somewhere that I've been trying to cipher ever since.
posted by Devils Rancher 13 September | 22:16
I was an adult leader on a Boy Scout summer camp trip. The head scoutmaster was in a foul mood due to several factors that were piling up on him. He chewed out one of the boys, and I kind of laid into him about it.

He began Monday morning totally fed up. At breakfast he announced, "I quit! I'm not scoutmaster anymore!" He ran off, deserting the troop. My first instinct was to catch him and tell him to stop acting like a twit. Instead I stayed with the boys and got them going to their merit badge classes and stuff.

Once they were set, I walked back to camp. I passed the chapel along the way and decided to say a prayer for John. I'd prayed before, but never really felt I got an answer.

I kneeled down and opened, "God, please do something with John. He's ruining camp for the boys and they should be having a good time."

Oddly, an answer formed in my head: Well, what are you doing about it?

"I told him to stop acting like a jerk. I told him to grow up and act like an adult."

That didn't help, did it?

"You know it didn't. I've tried to get him back on track, but-"

You tried to be his parent. He doesn't need a parent; he needs a friend.


He doesn't need someone nagging him. He needs a friend. Love him as friends love each other.

"...And, that will fix everything?"

It will help. Love always helps.

"And if I do that, you'll help, too?"

Love him, and everything will be okay.


So, I went back to camp. John was there, and we talked. Well, he talked; I mostly listened. I didn't mention what had happened in the chapel. He went off alone for a while, and by the time the troop came down to dinner, he had resumed his role as scoutmaster. The things that were bothering him seemed to have vanished.


About six months later, I told John about my prayer in the chapel that day. He immediately answered, "Oh, was that you? A while after breakfast that day, it felt like the whole world was lifted off my shoulders and I could get on with things."

I understand the skepticism people have regarding the power of prayer. I was skeptical. Sometimes I still am. But that day, up on the mountain, in the chapel, my prayer and the response I experienced was one of the most real experiences of my life.
posted by Doohickie 13 September | 22:16
Never really believed in a god. Around age 8 I came across the definition of Atheist and went "hey, that's me!"
I proudly ran to my folks and said, guess what, I'm an atheist!

22 yrs later I am happy to have figured that out so early on.
posted by special-k 13 September | 22:21
Church just never resonated with me. It was like they were discussing the plot of a movie I'd never seen and could never see. I'd call myself an agnostic - I don't know whether or not God exists - but furthermore, it doesn't really matter to me. I live my life as best I can regardless of whether there is someone watching me or not.
posted by desjardins 13 September | 22:30
I'm watching you.... right now!
posted by Doohickie 13 September | 22:34
I really liked the Catholic church but I can't ever remember believing in god. Like Santa and the Easter bunny I went along because it seemed to make the adults happy. It was weird that they wanted so much for us little ones to believe. I still don't get it.
posted by arse_hat 13 September | 22:47
Nothing ever changed my belief in God. The biggest change was when I was a little kid, when I realized that other people believed it.
posted by box 13 September | 22:59
Never been a believer.
posted by gomichild 13 September | 23:47
LSD and reggae, but then I got distracted and eventually I came down. For the remaining entirety-of-my-life-less-probably-10-minutes, I've been rather boringly consistent.
posted by pompomtom 13 September | 23:49
I started reading stuff by humanist authors, and it snowballed from there. I;m completely Atheistic now.
posted by pjern 14 September | 01:00
Lots of people cite death as their reason for religion. For me it was the opposite; having a dead father, grandfather (raised me), and great grandmother (lived with me) all from a young age easily led to my atheism. I often say flippantly that thinking about your dead loved one's watching you in the shower is creepy, but those thoughts were compelling reason for me to not believe in god. As a student in a religious school I wasn't able to ignore where death and god intersect in my life. When we were taught about using quick decomposing wood for coffins so that the corpse would decompose quicker as a way to alleviate the suffering of the on-looking soul, I knew I couldn't bear to have that god in my life. It was too gross, creepy, and sadistic.

I wasn't about to give up masturbating so it was easier to acknowledge that god doesn't exist and my dead relatives can't see this. Done and done.
posted by birdie 14 September | 01:43
Grocers' apostrophe makes god sad.
posted by birdie 14 September | 01:45
I was never religious, but I was raised in a religious/social tradition. I think I've written about this elsewhere on MeCha - those traditions still bring me comfort and peace, but not because I believe in a deity.
posted by unsurprising 14 September | 02:28
I wasn't raised in any religion. As part of my general education I learned a lot about religious thought and history, and started going to my local Church of England services for a while when I was at college. I think that was an attempt to connect with the important history of religious thought in this country. I still feel a connection with the "tradition" aspect but I cannot believe in a supernatural God or the divinity of Christ, so I have to define myself as an atheist.

I generally don't talk much about religion, and don't seek to enter into conflict with those who do believe. I try to recreate the social aspects of religion in my life (fellowship, sharing food etc).
posted by altolinguistic 14 September | 05:00
It is my burden to be the religious weirdo wherever I go. I grew up an atheist but in my late teens, I damaged my thought processes with psychedelic drugs and no longer think like most people with whom I come in contact. Acid didn't make me a believer right away. I went through a Zen period for a while first. Zen was cooler and I wanted to be cool. Also, I was embarrassed to believe things when those around me did not and made fun of my kind. I first needed to develop the courage of my convictions.

It would be easy to go off on a narcissistic rant right now and explain the philosophical underpinnings of my beliefs, but I will restrain myself. I do need to say something, though, so I will.

The usual rationalist way of seeing the world is as rigid and unthinking as the earlier God-based cultures. We are all locked inside our points of view. God is who you would become if you were not. And you would love others as yourself because, unstuck in a point of view, you could understand the point of view of anyone else, even as you saw its limitations and defenses. And when you found yourself stuck back in your own point of view, you would remember that it didn't define you but just helped you function in the world.

Now I have to leave for the dentist.

posted by Obscure Reference 14 September | 07:52
The older I get, the harder it is to believe in God the way most religions describe it. In fact, I don't go to church anymroe, not even UU church, because of this.

I like to think if there's any kind of spiritual overlay to how the universe operates that it can find me how and when it wants, or I can. No middle man/icon/symbol needed from my community to achieve this.

In my experience, Hadjiboy, the more spiritual and humble you become to yourself and especially to others, the closer to a God-feeling or experience you become.

And the more you try to get to that, the less it's going to matter at all if you have faith or don't, because being well and treating others well is it's own faith, really.

posted by Lipstick Thespian 14 September | 08:15
I don't remember ever believing in God, even from an early age. I'm not really bothered by that, the universe is pretty amazing all on its own. I do actually go to church but its UU so you're allowed to be atheist. We even had a minister give a sermon last year on "the theology of atheism".
posted by octothorpe 14 September | 08:23
I don't see a point in believing in things which aren't supported by proof and I don't need any religion to have any ideas about things that are more about mores than metaphysics.

Thus, I am an atheist.
posted by kldickson 14 September | 08:32
I still feel a connection with the "tradition" aspect but I cannot believe in a supernatural God or the divinity of Christ, so I have to define myself as an atheist.

Sorry to quote myself but I wanted to add to this. As the prevailing religion for those of my ethnic background (as far as there is a prevailing religion in the UK) is Christianity, if I had any religion it would be that. Those who are born in, for example, Pakistan, are mostly raised to be Muslims. This seems to be more about coincidence, tradition and "what we've always done" than about any inherent "rightness" in either religion. Thus, I cannot participate in the system.
posted by altolinguistic 14 September | 09:15
Like box, I was surprised to learn that people did actually believe in a god, and god wasn't just some socially accepted thing in which we all pretended to believe. That was when I was about 5 or so. I actually held on to a sort of religion (rather than a god) until I was 10-ish when I had the "yeah right, why was I the lucky one who got born into the right religion and everyone else is going to hell?" epiphany that so many people do, and demanded to leave my Catholic school.
posted by gaspode 14 September | 09:18
The more I grew up and developed reason and logic, the less I believed in God. There's a great deal of beauty, and a great deal of pain, in this world. A god who would punish the innocent, allow tragedy, war, famine, drought, no. A god who would allow the tsunami that killed 150,000 people is not a god I can believe in, and certainly not worship or honor.

Oddly, though, I believe in prayer. If nothing else, prayer is really good for the person who is praying. Maybe it helps the intended beneficiary, maybe not. Releasing loving energy into the world is a net good.

I miss the community and structure of belonging to a church, but I hate to be a hypocrite.

Religion fuels too many wars, feuds, and hatred.
posted by theora55 14 September | 09:42
My family has a bunch of different faiths; Catholic, Jewish, Islam, and Zoroastrians. They never really seemed to agree on anything, and I decided not to pick a side.

I went to Catholic school until the age of confirmation; but I couldn't go through with the confirmation ceremony, because I had too many issues with Catholic doctrine as it pertained to women and human rights. The Monsignor that I went to talk with couldn't answer my questions, even though he was one of the leading authorities on doctrine at the time.

I spent the majority of my life searching for answers in different faiths; I've investigated every major religion, and a fair number of minor ones, and even a few cults.

The only answers that I've ever found have been in the comforting arms of philosophy, which taught me that it is alright to NOT have answers...but that the questions themselves are valuable tools to increasing one's knowledge and finding one's place in the universe.

That said; I've incorporated all kinds of things from all kinds of places into my personal belief system...most of which would be considered laughable by both traditional theists and atheists.

I don't believe in "God", as a hairy thunderer in the sky that watches everything all the time...but I do believe that entities are created by belief...if enough people believe in something, energy coalesces around that belief...which is hard to explain and harder to justify. It is sort of like believing in Jungian cultural unconscious being able to form order from chaos. I think they probably are things like "guardian angels" around some people, because some people can weave the energy well enough to create something like that. (Yeah...I know it sounds crazy.)

I believe in Good and Evil. I believe in Ethics. I don't believe death is the final end of our energy, nor do I believe that we should live for some "eternal reward". I believe that we are obligated to do more good than evil in our lives, but it's not my job to define good or evil for anyone else.

Basically I try to live by this doctrine; Be excellent to one another, and leave the world a place where you wouldn't mind being reincarnated.
posted by Dejah 14 September | 10:08
Those who are born in, for example, Pakistan, are mostly raised to be Muslims. This seems to be more about coincidence, tradition and "what we've always done" than about any inherent "rightness" in either religion.

If you're French, you call a dog a "chien." This doesn't make it not a dog anymore. Religion provides language and structure to talk about certain things in the context of your culture. It also has many silly accretions which make it user-unfriendly (did you ever try to double click on a religious icon?) What it's supposed to be about is understanding subjectivity and objectivity and getting beyond cultural blinders but it often ends up as the opposite of that. E.g. "Religion fuels too many wars, feuds, and hatred."

All language is metaphor--map, not territory--and religion, because of its content, is more metaphoric than ever since it deals with the hardest stuff to map, but people tend to take it literally at all the wrong times. Religion is meant to be a user interface to reality but too often it gets infected with adware and spyware.
posted by Obscure Reference 14 September | 10:22
I should expand. I was raised an atheist by staunch, ardent, militant atheists who had a visceral hatred of organized religion. I'm not sure why, other than that they were angry people. I tried to carry that anger forward as a good family member, but it somehow didn't sit with me in the end. It always felt weird to go around hating people for (wildcard) and I finally shucked all that later in life and learned to be true to myself.

Basically, the larger the universe gets, (thank you Mr. Hubble - sincerely) the less I feel like I can judge its reason for existing with any certitude. All I can do is attempt to find my place in it, and as Andy Partridge says, "stand and radiate correctly."

I don't do any ~isms. but I do like this particular thought:
I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings. (Albert Einstein)

Also, I've come "unstuck in time," or left my body, or whatever you want to call it, just often enough to really not be quite sure of things. Maybe I'm just wired wrong, but I've seen things, here and there -- like windows opening and closing. There's something on the other side of that window, beyond the space-time we perceive with our bodies, it seems.

Again, I'm too damn small to really know shit. I'm okay with that, too.
posted by Devils Rancher 14 September | 10:26

Freethinking parents.

Comparing cultures and traditions and considering how insanely unlikely it is that any one religion had accurately received the definitive facts about the universe, with all others being false.

Taking comparitive religion and anthropology courses in college.

Attending Quaker meeting.
posted by Miko 14 September | 10:39
I grew up in a household where my father made me go to church (the dry, humourless Anglican Church of England) twice on Sundays (plus Sunday school) and when I was old enough he forced me join the choir, so that meant Friday night choir practice, weddings on Saturday, and church three times on Sunday.

I actually liked the music, even though I can't sing. But I couldn't equate any of what I heard (the chanting, the repetitive droning prayers, the dull-dull-dull sermons) with anything that went on in my life. Although my dad was this respected, upstanding member of the congregation, behind closed doors he was monstrous. There was no god to protect me.

I also had a very questioning mind and would quibble about every detail at Sunday school - the whole Jeebus story just sounded completely preposterous to me, even when I was about six, and I didn't believe a word of it.

So I've never had a belief in a deity. When I got sober, I thought that'd be a problem, because AA talks about finding a higher power that it calls 'God'. So for a while I pretended to believe in something, pretended to pray, all that malarkey. Then I realised I didn't need to do that, and that all I needed to believe in was that AA could keep me sober when I couldn't do it by myself. That was the 'power greater than me'.

When I'm asked to share my story at a meeting I always say that I don't believe in God, because I know that many people struggle with this.

But I do still like going into churches - in the UK there are some amazing places - Greensted, which was built in the year 845, Ely Cathedral, the Lalique church in Jersey (which is a Deco masterpiece of Lalique glass). I enjoy them purely from an aesthetic and architectural point of view - the great medieaval cathedrals of England which took hundreds of years to build, the fantastic stained glass, the beautiful music. I don't appreciate them in any kind of 'to the Glory of God' way, but just because they are awesome buildings.

I usually go to a Christmas carol service, because I like the songs. But whenever I'm in a church, whether for a wedding, funeral or carol service, I don't say the prayers or participate in the service other than as an observer. I feel it'd be hypocritical to do otherwise.
posted by essexjan 14 September | 11:29
The resurrection of this thread confirms for me that there is no god.
posted by Eideteker 14 September | 11:35
Panentheists have always struck me as kind of odd. Why attempt to claim something exists that doesn't in the attempt to redefine and simplify the notion of nature's evolution to exist as a usually-well-oiled machine?

Nature is nature, and it's idiotic to anthropomorphize it. Yet humans have this annoying tendency to anthropomorphize everything.

I suspect if it were possible for nonhuman animals to perceive this and if they were able to feel these sort of feelings, they would probably think 'typical arrogant humans; don't they know (the sun/moon/etc) scratches its ass and uses twigs to root out ants (in the case of chimpanzees)?' and of course the smarter chimpanzees would say 'no, you dolt, that's plasma'
posted by kldickson 14 September | 12:09
I consider myself an atheist because I find most major religions too ridiculous to take seriously. I tried for many years to reconcile Christian dogma, even in its most minimalist forms, with the rest of my understanding of how the universe works and was unable to. It just seems ridiculously improbable. It is far easier for me to believe that we desperately want there to be a God, and have therefore invented the idea, than that there actually is a God.

At least any sort of God who actually cares about human beings; I can't really refute or find much of a problem with Spinoza's or Einstein's "celestial watchmaker", who set the Universe in motion and is now an absentee landlord. But that sort of God isn't compatible with any major monotheistic religion that I'm aware of, since all of those religions purport to have truths gleaned from prophets who actually communicated with God in some way, a claim that I just can't find any way to take seriously.

So maybe it would be more proper to call myself 'areligious' rather than 'athiestic.' The question of whether or not there is or was at one point a God who created the Universe strikes me as not worth arguing about, because it's un-answerable. (Although if there was evidence that the Universe expands and contracts repeatedly, i.e. that the Big Bang wasn't a unique, one-time-only event, and that the physical constants of the Universe might change each time, then I'd say that the anthropic principle combined with random chance suddenly seems like a much more reasonable explanation for why we're here than any explanation that requires an everlasting diety. It has the benefit of not raising the question of where the diety comes from, for starters.)

All this said, I do see what many people find comforting in religions: the social interaction, the ritual, the support networks (and even de facto dating services) -- all of those things strike me as pretty good ideas. Even prayer -- which to me is a special case of meditation -- seems like a useful tool. I see no reason to believe that death is anything but final, yet going to a grave site to ask for guidance -- "what would you have done in this situation?" -- seems eminently reasonable. Not because there's anything left of that person there, but because going there focuses the mind, potentially allowing us to realize something we wouldn't have otherwise.

Had I been born in another time or place, or just in a community where religion or Church were more central components of everyday life, I'd probably just swallow my objections to the ideas of prophets, divine intercession, reincarnation, transubstantiation, ghosts, etc., and try to enjoy and make the best of the material parts of religion while secretly rejecting all the metaphysical parts.

I'm glad, however, that I don't have to.
posted by Kadin2048 14 September | 12:11
I'm agnostic with atheistic tendencies - I don't believe there is a god, but have no proof either way.

I've mentioned it here before - when I was a kid I was told my step-grandfather was agnostic and I had to ask what that meant. I was stunned to find out that we were allowed to not believe in God. I hadn't known that was an option.

By the time I was 15 or so I definitely knew I was not a Christian (family was Episcopalian). I couldn't believe in the divinity of Jesus nor that anyone else could or should suffer and die for my sins. I also realized that one didn't have to believe in God or belong to a specific religion to be a good person or to have a moral or ethical code.

Oddly enough (or not!) MetaFilter is the "one thing" that pushed me that little bit further into agnosticism. Reading various threads and pursuing other sources made it clear that's where my mind is on the whole god question.
posted by deborah 14 September | 13:11
I'm beside myself || People Who Died