How I stopped believing in religion–Part Two (the rest)

By popular demand…. where popular means as requested by my one loyal reader, friend, and commenter from Sweden, here follows the second part. This one will be short.

By the time of my Confirmation as a Roman Catholic at fourteen years old, I was having serious doubts. I mean, I already didn’t believe in almost everything they taught in Sunday school, but as a teenager, I started thinking about other religions. I didn’t know any of them in detail, but I realized that was quite unnecessary.

I realized that I was taught my religion was the One True Religion, but so were other people. Everybody I knew sincerely believed in Christianity, but other people sincerely believed in other religions. The only difference between us and and them was the location of birth and religion of our parents.

How could our god, who was so loving and good, sentence others to eternal punishment just for being born into the wrong religion? It makes no sense. There seems to be two ways people respond to this dilemma:

  1. Assume all religions contain some kind of universal truth, ignore the differences, and cherry pick what they have in common.
  2. Realize the truth – that the only thing in common is belief. Whether that’s an evolutionary need to believe or something else doesn’t matter.

Obviously I went with number two. I didn’t quite put it all together, not then, not at fourteen years old, but I did get closer at around sixteen when confronted by an atheist, and then it took me less than thirty seconds to realize that I was comfortable with rejecting everything about my religion. And all the other religions. (Actually I didn’t call myself an atheist until years later, and also didn’t come to grips with rejecting the idea of an afterlife. But that doesn’t matter here. This post is only about me saying goodbye to belief in religion.) If Christians can reject other religions without knowing their doctrines and belief systems, and for example Muslims can do the same, then so can I. I can reject them all. It isn’t about the subject of the belief, it is about belief itself. It doesn’t matter what god or belief system you grow up with, they are all very much the same. And they all indoctrinate you the same way. It would be illogical to assume any of them contain any truth.

My first post could be rewritten about any other religion by someone who grew up with a different religious background, because when you look at any religion closely, they all believe stuff that’s batshit crazy. I still don’t understand why believers believe, because I have realized that it was natural for me to reject religion in general. With all my doubts right through childhood, for me atheism was inevitable – a natural part of growing up. I don’t grasp why it isn’t that way for everybody.

11 thoughts on “How I stopped believing in religion–Part Two (the rest)

  1. Very good summary, Jerome.

    But now I’m longing for a part 3 as well. With a title (and topic) like: Why did just I – but not my sibling(s) – succeed in rejecting the invisible God in heaven?

    Is it more about nature (genes) than about nurture (the same upbringing)? Or put in another way, how come sibling A maybe chooses to become a priest/pastor while sibling B in the same family instead becomes a militant atheist?

    IMO it’s not a random choice we have to deal with here. But what do you think are the underlying (real) explanations, Jerome?

    If you look at your eleven year old son Josh today and contemplate a bit about his future life, do you see something that leads to the conclusion that he one day probably will become an atheist rather than a fervent god believer (or vice versa)?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I can’t speak for my sibling… We were both brought up the same and probably have similar genes. We both believed in the supernatural, and he has criticized me for that, claiming that I have seen certain things and still don’t believe. But I see those things differently now… Sleep paralysis, looking for things that confirmed what our parents told us when we wanted to believe them and believe that we were special, chilhood imaginations and wishful thinking combined with the encouragement of magical thinking by our mother, etc. And now we are so different – he and his wife went to Italy a couple of years ago and even believe in holy relics of the Catholic church.

    Why I rejected everything magical and he believes in it, but sees signs that confirm his belief, signs that do not satisfy my criteria for evidence at all, I do not know. That was kind of my last point of the post… I can’t understand why some people believe despite the subject of belief having zero evidence. It’s a mystery to me, and the more I look at it, the more I see things that are not evidence being claimed as evidence by belivers. It’s an indication that something more is going on – something in their brains where they are connecting things that aren’t connected. Some need to believe that causes that leap where things are taken to be proof even though they are not. I think understanding requires extensive knowledge of neuroscience and psychology that I don’t have. That’s kind of what I was hinting at when I wrote, “It isn’t about the subject of the belief, it is about belief itself.”

    My son hasn’t made up his own mind yet, but he has teased his mother and Aishah by telling them that god isn’t real. So he might end up an atheist – I don’t know. But since he isn’t getting force-fed religion as I was, he probably won’t be militant about it like me. Maybe that’s a good thing?

    Megan is still a Christian and wants to take Aishah to church, but hasn’t done so. If she continues not enforcing that worldview, I may be able to influence Aishah more than she realizes. Aishah will only be six next month, but she is smart. I am definitely going to help her understand that not everbody believes in gods and that’s OK; an understanding I lacked while growing up. And see where that leads…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good summation – I think neuroscience has enormous difficulty applying its micro-world knowledge to the far messier reality of cognitive dynamics – thus, we want to think our brothers or sisters have some great commonality in their brain workings to us, but, in the reality I inhabit, they don’t.
      Am I really my brother’s brother? Not really – if it is, it is very hard to tell.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yup. The older I get and the more I learn, the more I understand that there is so much more I will never know. And case in point regarding beliefs, magical thinkers will make my last statement to imply that the subjects of their beliefs are real, and expect everyone to get that connotation (in reality I get it only because I have debated them enough to know how their reasoning works), while I made the statement to imply that there is more to the mind and cognition that we don’t understand, more that leads to belief in magic despite it not being real.


  3. You wrote: I think understanding requires extensive knowledge of neuroscience and psychology that I don’t have.

    I wonder: Why don’t you become more interested in neuroscience and neuropsychology? I recommend you to start following the Neurologica Blog by Steven Novella. Then you should realize pretty soon that discussing and debating religion (or, if you like, addiction) without knowledge of neuroscience and neuropsychology is, in a way, a waste of time.

    Start for example by reading this blog post by Steven Novella:

    Do you think it’s a waste of time spending a few minutes reading that post, Jerome?

    BTW and completely OT, You promised Aishah last year to teach her how to swim. How is it going?`

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t read his blog for a while, but Steven Novella is one of my favourite skeptical writers. Novella tends to put things into simple enough lay terms that I can easily understand, so his posts are great because it doesn’t require much concentration to understand what he’s getting at. I like his buddy David Gorsky’s writing too, but he tends to get into details and include medical technical details that I struggle to follow without reading more than once…

    Summer seems to be over here now and it’s not suitable for swimming any more. I did try a bit… she has these armbands and I held her tummy and let her try to doggy paddle… but I think a proper swimming teacher is going to be needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, David Gorski is a renowned and skillful skeptic. But isn’t he more interested in bullshit found in the field of alternative medicine? Or does he write about religious bullshit as well?

    BTW: Here in Sweden summer has just started. The Easter holiday was very sunny, with 22 degrees C at the most where I live (but there are still lots of snow in the northern parts of the country). So can’t Aishah move here, and I’ll try to teach her how to swim?

    BTW once more: In Sweden the most common swimmimg style is breaststroke. I suppose it’s crawling in S.A. Or maybe it’s doggy paddle? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just wanted to try getting her to stay afloat. So doggy paddle would be a start…

      Yes, they write about different stuff, but I think that started Science Based Medicine together. can’t remember if Gorski has written about religious bullshit… I just associate them with each other for some reason.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. How are you doing Jerome? I just happened by your blog and read your bio. I hope the bad stuff is in the past. It is interesting about siblings. The Hitchens’ brothers, Peter and Christopher, are a good example of how differently siblings can turn out! I also applaud your atheism. It has taken me a few years to acquire my present state concerning “religion”, which is: the supernatural does not exist. And, believers in salvation, resurrection and an afterlife are all part of 2000 year old scam. GROG … and cheers, by the way!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks. I’ve just been down for three days thanks to a muscle spasm in my lower back. I had no idea such agony could result from it… But I’m back and limping on.

      Liked by 1 person

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