I was born an Atheist, ignorant of any deities or theology like everybody else who has ever lived. Religions are not passed genetically but are ideas and philosophies that are taught. The religion that we first learn about is always the one to which our parents happen to subscribe. In my case, my mother was Catholic and my father was indifferent which means I was baptized into the Catholic Church before I could formulate or voice any opinion on the matter.
New England Catholics aren’t very strict about religion for the most part. Sure, they go to church on Sundays, abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent and believe in an afterlife but they rarely obsess about religion the way Christians in the bible belt appear to. New England Catholics are practically agnostics who just feel very guilty all the time so I really don’t remember religion playing a big part in my day-to-day life until I started going to school. My family sent me to Catholic school but it was more to do with it being a private school than for religious reasons, but it was the first time I was really exposed to religion on a daily basis.
I definitely believed in God during first through fifth grade which doesn’t say much since I also believed in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and Chewbacca. And why wouldn’t I believe in God at this age? Not believing in him was never an option and we had a religion class every day telling us that we would burn for eternity if we didn’t believe in him.
My earliest memory of finding certain parts of the Catholic religion silly if not down right confusing was during First Confession, when we go to confess our sins to the priest to purify our souls. I remember going into the booth and blanking out on what I had done wrong. I wasn’t even sure what constituted a sin worthy of confessing. I mean, sure the 10 Commandments are a pretty good guideline to go by but after I had said that I had lied the priest told me to continue like that wasn’t enough. What the hell else did the man want? I remember making up sins to satiate his need to know all the wrong I was doing but the bastard would come back with “Go on,” which just made me panic and go down the commandments in sequential order to create more lies about sins I hadn’t even committed. I’m lucky I didn’t blurt out that I had killed someone to get the damn padre off my back. The only sin I didn’t tell him was that I had just lied to a priest of all people during confession, which made the whole exercise futile anyway. I came out of confession defeated. I went in to purify my soul and came out with one even blacker than before. I tried confession one more time after that and had a similar experience to the first and just never bothered again. It just seemed silly to me even then that you needed to tell God your sins through a surrogate.
I still did believe in God although as I grew older I started to question my faith more and more until one day in sixth grade the catholic school made a grievous error that was to change the way I thought about religion forever. They gave each of us our own bible. Up to that point, we had never had our own bible to take home and read and study. Sure, we had religion books that had parables and lessons from the bible but these were all excerpts, not actual scripture. I had in my hand the actual word of God, the manual for everything we needed to know in life. I mean we’re talking about the Gospel, the Scripture, God’s Biography! So I read it. I read all of it from Genesis to Revelations. And what a sacred steaming pile of bullshit it was. Sure, there were some of the stories that we had learned in religion class that was familiar to me but the rest of it was boring, cruel, and just plain contradictory. I didn’t feel blessed after reading it at all. I felt robbed more than anything. This was the basis for religion? Hell, the first story in the damn book, the story of creation, is contradicted in the very next chapter. God certainly could have used a good editor. By the time I had finished the damned Bible, I had all but lost my religion. The only reason why I didn’t lose it completely is because I didn’t know that having no religion was even an option. I questioned my religion teacher who brushed it off as saying that the bible had gone through men so some parts would make no sense which just led to the inevitable questions of if some parts are wrong then how do we know the whole thing isn’t wrong. Nobody could give an answer to that for the simple reason that there isn’t one besides the obvious that the whole damn book was written without any divine influence.
I went through the motions of Confirmation with my parents telling me that after that I would be an adult and going to church would be my choice. After the ceremony I told my mother that I had decided not to go to church anymore. She brushed it off as a phase although she respected my decision.
I went to a public high school after eight years of Catholic school and started reading about other religions such as Greek Mythology, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, etc. I no longer believed in Christianity and as I learned about other theologies I became Agnostic. Religion was just not an important part of my life to commit to a particular one. At some point during college, I decided that I just didn’t think any deity was even probable so I started referring to myself as an Atheist. I’ve heard people make the argument that not believing in God is as blind as believing in God which I also believed at the early stages of my Agnosticism but became a lazy idea after I had thought about it for some time. There are an infinite amount of nonexistent entities and asking someone to prove that any particular one of them doesn’t exist is a waste of time. I can only make decisions based on information that I have, not information that I’d like to have.
When people ask me how I became an atheist, I think they expect some distinct moment where I was struck by a non-epiphany and shrugged off religion from that point on. The truth is that there wasn’t a moment like that but years of questioning my faith and religion itself. My decision to free myself of a deity was not made during a fleeting instant of passionate realization but of years of cold reasoning and thought. This probably would have been accelerated if I had been exposed to other Godless people or Atheistic literature but neither was available to me at the time. But the Bible was a pretty good start.