Read about how some of our members came to be atheists.

Growing up Normal

I have been in Texas and going to ACA events for some time now. One thing that comes up continually is the question of how people came to atheism. The most common story we hear is from people who were brought up theist and, over a period of time, had questions about their beliefs. Pursuing these questions has led to a loss of non-critical belief. The other extreme are people who grew up in a specifically atheist family. My background is a bit in between, and I call it growing up normal. Of course, normal for me was specific to a time and place. That included being white middle class in the Northeast during the 50’s.

Up until the time I was about 15, I was raised in a fundamentalist church where the Bible was promoted as the inerrant word of god. I was always very studious, both in school and in Bible classes. I was an active participant in discussions and good at memorizing Bible verses (in classes from the time I was old enough to read). In fact, I was one of the few kids who took an active role and actually came prepared to classes. At 15 I stopped attending church with much resistance from my mother. She wanted to force me to attend, but I explained to her that if I was not competent to reject it, then I was not competent to accept it—and so I would never consider becoming a member of the church unless it was a free choice where my judgment was respected.

As the only child of Presbyterian parents, I had been taken to Sunday school every week by a kind and patient Father since I was 5 or 6 years old. I now recall that we never spoke about religion or god during the ride, but only of the interesting things going on in our daily lives.

Later, at 17 years of age, still attending the same church, practicing and singing in the choir, etc., we older teens were expected to “join” the church, after attending several classes there. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t join, but at the very first class we were given a page listing the 10 things we would have to sign that we believed, in order to join the church - and my heart sank as I read them. 

I don't really remember much about my childhood, but I might have been a precocious kid. I remember watching the low-budget cartoon "Speed Racer" on TV as a tot and figuring out that Speed always hit the same button on his steering wheel but different things would happen, such as it creating an oil slick behind his car or the button press leading to the deployment of big saw blades to cut the trees down as he raced through the forest. I think it bothered my budding sense of cause and effect and I lost interest in the cartoon after that.

My mother was the daughter of a prominent Methodist minister in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1942 she had a husband and a baby girl named Donna. By July 1944, I was born. Like every other baby there, I was not an agnostic, not an atheist nor was I a Methodist. I had just simply arrived at the Omaha Catholic hospital with no gods in tow. And for that, what did they do? The first thing they did to me was slap me. The second thing they did to me was cut my little pecker skin off. They could have saved the second step. Ugh! What a beginning. They'd make me cry, one way or the other. Those Catholics...what a crazy bunch of people!

In his June 6, 2005, commencement address to Stanford graduates, Apple and Pixar executive Steve Jobs made this puerile remark: "Death is very likely the single best Invention of Life. [I've used it] to help me make the big choices in life." It is this fear of death that gives rise to the con game of religion. A far more mature view of life was expressed over two millennia ago by Lucretius: "Life lives on. It is the lives, the lives, the lives that die." Or cast into contemporary terms by Oxford physicist Roger Penrose: "It is through the renewal of life that the new sources of ideas and insights needed for genuine future progress will come, in the search for those deeper laws that actually govern the universe in which we live."

Raised in a wonderful traditional, conservative Baptist family by great parents, I was dressed in a suit and taken to Sunday school and Church every Sunday. I never liked Church. It seemed stuffy, and boring. I would have much rather slept late, or done something fun, but I didn't have a choice. Nevertheless, at age 9, I volunteered to get 'saved', and was Baptized. No big deal, just something I felt expected to do.

I had learned at an early age not to be gullible, and always make up my own mind about everything. To never be afraid to be unique, and independent, so I was a little bit skeptical about the whole story, but everyone believed it so it must be true. I always considered myself a true Christian, and Baptist.

Atheist Community of Austin

The Atheist Community of Austin is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting positive atheism and the separation of church and state. The ACA serves the local Austin community through outreach programs, providing informational resources and various volunteer activities. In addition, the ACA serves the community-at-large through free online portals including informational wikis, regular audio/video podcasts and interactive blogs.

We define atheism as the lack of belief in gods. This definition also encompasses what most people call agnosticism.

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