My parents weren't religious when I was young, but my older sister got sucked into the local baptist church, so of course she dragged me along. It was the typical fire and brimstone kinda preaching. In the summer, we would go visit my grandparents, and my grandmother would take us to the christian scientist church. They didn’t conflict too much for my young brain, so it wasn’t that bad. I was a good little christian girl, and got baptized as soon as I could with the god fearing baptists.
When I was about 10, my parents suddenly got religious in the church of christ. More fear of god preaching filled my head, including bible study once a week with the minister. I got baptized two more times in two different churches, for good measure, and went to church faithfully. I was terrified of burning in hell. It didn't help that my parents were crazy... good christians on Sunday morning, screaming and abusive the rest of the week. Of course they both blamed me for their abusiveness, so I felt damned to hell for being so wicked, even though I was exceedingly good most of the time.
Not long after we started bible study, the minister decided he wanted to go bowling instead of teach us about the lord’s word. He said I asked too many questions. This was the first blatant sign I had of the hypocrisy of the church and I wanted no more part of it. My stepfather thoughtfully punished me severely for not wanting to go to church. But after a month of it, he inexplicably stopped trying to make me go, much to my relief.
When I was in my late teens I tried several different religions and practices, from Buddhism and Taoism (which isn’t a religion, but a way of living) to American Indian practices, to Wicca (which is the ancient mother earth religion). I tried it all and found it all lacking. If pressed, I would have still called myself a christian at this point, I guess. But honestly I had no idea what to believe.
Years went by and I searched for meaning in any way I could think of. I wanted answers.
I was 27 when I got married, in a small ceremony by a woman ordained in some airy fairy light church. I can’t even remember what her ordination was, but it was definitely spiritual/nontraditional. I wanted nothing to do with the christians, but still would have called myself a believer, if asked. I was afraid not to believe in the whole jesus myth. I didn’t have anything to replace it with.
About a year after I was married, I was watching this movie called The Name of the Rose. For some reason, I was suddenly interested in how the christian religion started. It suddenly hit me while watching the movie that the religion didn’t always exist. I basically knew the jewish god and the christian god were actually the same god with just a different name, but what was going on? Did the jewish religion always exist? I was full of questions and started an official Quest for Knowledge.
I read a lot of books at that time, everything I could get my hands on. I got a really nice annotated bible to refer to, and will supply you with all the books I can remember. Anyway, I came to realize that the three major religions all sort of just came about!
This to me was a shocking revelation. I also realized that the jewish god was very concerned about other gods, which seemed suspicious. I also realized that the christians kind of took on the jewish god, but the christian god never talked to anyone like the jewish god did. More reading of the bible showed more and more inconsistencies.
In this time I took an early world history class in college. There I realized that all cultures have created religions. I mean, I always knew that, but it suddenly started to dawn on me that those old religions are now called myths. Why would that be? Another inconsistency. More bits and pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place.
After awhile, I realized that all religions are made up! I was rocked to my foundations. Everything I had been taught had to be questioned and reevaluated. Nothing was sacred anymore. There was no more magic in the world, and finally, there was no more god. It was scary to admit it, back then in 2000. But there I was, a rather shocked and sudden atheist.
For several more years I still clung to the idea of the supernatural. I believed in healing energy and other concepts. But finally I had to come to terms with the fact that it was all just silly wishful thinking with no basis in reality and zero evidence, just like the idea of gods and unicorns. But I realized that the world is wonderful without religion, gods and the supernatural. The natural world is incredible and amazing and still mysterious.
Since then I’ve tried to coexist with religious people nicely. I don’t usually tell people that I’m an atheist, I don’t attack their belief system, I don’t ask them to understand mine, I just try to avoid the topic. In fact, often I let people talk to me of their love of god and I don’t say a word. I don’t want to upset them. I guess I’m an overly polite atheist. But also I don’t know how to defend my lack of belief in any god. It seems easier to say nothing.
Recently (2007-2008), I’ve seen things in the government and in society that have outraged me and frightened me into thinking I’ve got to act. I can’t keep my mouth shut anymore. I’ve got to at least tell other atheists they aren’t alone.
I got involved in making anti-religious t-shirts with my husband (he’s an atheist too). Then I stumbled upon Atheist Nexus. I found that there are lots of other atheists out there and have tried to make friends with several of the other members. In doing so, I was inspired to create the 12 Steps to Intellectual Enlightenment by a fellow member.
I started seeking out podcasts because I like the sound of voices talking to me when I'm cleaning or cooking. I found the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe and realized I still believed whatever I was told to me when it came to pseudoscience. So I have started practicing Critical Thinking since then.
After that it was a crazy ride to Heaving Dead Cats, which is a combination of atheism, my personal blog and Freethinking Skepticism. :D