ARCHIVES:

Posts in this section were archived prior to February 2010. For more recent posts, go to the HOME PAGE.

8/22/05                                                                                       View Comments

Atheism through anthropology

sent in by Michael

I was raised in a family that could best be characterized as "unthinkingly Protestant." My parents (to their credit) hadn't really studied their religion seriously, but just got it from their parents. We were sent to Sunday school, because that's what nice people do.

When I was a teenager, I started to take a serious interest in philosophy. I read Aristotle, Plato, Nietzsche, Sartre, and others. However, I don't recall that I ever seriously encountered or thought about the question of whether God really existed. It just wasn't something that people around me discussed.

One day, I was talking about philosophy with a friend, whose father happened to be an anthropologist. The friend asked me, "Do you believe in God?" I answered, "Of course." He replied with the question, "Which one?" and went on to explain how he'd learned from his father than people around the world believe in all kinds of different, mutually-exclusive gods. They are all sure that their god is the true one, but each merely believes in the religion of his parents. How, my friend asked, could I possibly claim that my religion and god were the true ones? If I couldn't know that, then how could anyone be sure of what god was like, or if he existed at all?

This discussion was a revelation to me, and started me on the road to atheism. I'd say from the moment of the discussion, I was intellectually an atheist. The logic of my friends argument was that conclusive. I struggled for years to throw off feelings of guilt, fear of hell, and all the other emotional traps that Christianity sets up to keep people believing. As I read and grew in my understanding of the case for atheism, I was surprised and still am at how few others I meet who are also atheists.

By the way, my parents are now atheists as well.

Illinois
USA
Was: Protestant
Now: Atheist, free-thinker
Converted because: Indoctrinated by parents
De-converted because: Started thinking for myself