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Narrative of the Atheist experience

Started by Twentythree, January 04, 2012, 04:24:00 PM

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I am working on constructing a narrative of the basic atheist experience. I am looking for universals to discuss as well as interesting individual stories that could add to fleshing out the modern struggle and triumph of atheistic experience. I have based the following narrative roughly on my own experience. I would love to get feedback. Additions subtractions extrapolations the whole lot.

-   Phase 1 born to traditional theistic parent. Mother had me circumcised and baptized as a catholic before I was old enough to speak.
-   Phase 2 skeptical (science) early interest in science forces me to investigate gestation and discover for myself that babies come from the merging of cells between mother and father. Interest in the size of the earth, solar system and galaxy. This gives rise to profound questions regarding god, creation and the scope of gods powers.
-   Phase 3 Skeptical (Moral) Poverty at an early age raises the question of why. Why does a god that loves me as a son have me and my family living in such conditions.
o   Further questions arise regarding sinning and forgiving. Sinning seemed to me to be inevitable everything from lying to masturbation was considered a sin. Inevitably I had to ask why we had to follow these and why if we broke them was it so easy to find forgiveness.  (Personal aside: I remember having a very difficult time with the concept that all sins were forgiven. If you asked Jesus sincerely and you meant it then any sin was absolved and your place in heaven was assured. This seemed absurd to me and I couldn't understand why evil was rewarded with a place in heaven as long as it asked yet in prayer I was not allowed to ask for anything beyond blessings for other people. I'm not sure the explicit details of my history with prayer but I do remember thinking about how communication with god works and feeling quite fearful that god supposedly knew what I was thinking and doing at all times.)
-   Phase 4 Skeptical (Mortal) Death of grandfather and death of infant niece reinforce acknowledgement of mortality and raise profound questions as to why some people are destined by god to live full lives to adulthood and why some parish before even having a chance. Consistently unsatisfied with "gods Plan" as a response.
-   Phase 5 Reconsideration (guilt) In my early teens I started feeling deep guilt. I had to move away from where I grew up. My family was a mess and I was not personally very proud of the sins I had committed. Never devout or practicing beyond an occasional mass or service as a child I found myself newly interested in my relationship with god. (Personal Aside: I remember at one point standing in the shower. I was thinking about when I was very young and had experimented sexually with my nieces and nephew. I was just a small kid as they were. My mother had me late and my sister had her kids early. My oldest niece is about a year and half younger than me. I was about 16 or so and was wondering if I was a child molester. I was convinced that I had done something evil, that I certainly had sinned. I prayed in the shower at that moment and I felt as though I heard the voice of god speak to me and tell me I was forgiven. This was a very powerful personal experience for me. I felt as though I had finally spoken to god. I was dating my first love at the time. And I had to tell her. I had to express this momentous event to her. I wound up regularly attending her church and even singing in the choir. It was a Methodist church...hindsight tells me I probably did this as much for love as I did it for my new found relationship with god. But that was a short lived religious experience.) During this time I also went with my friend to Mormon seminary. It's basically Sunday school but every single morning at the ass crack of dawn. I started asking very pointed questions about religion, faith and particularly the teachings of the old testament which were not falling into step with what I continued to learn about science. Is it true or is it made up. If parts of the bible are made up and parts are true, how do we know which is which and if any of it is made up why should we believe it and hold it in such high regard. If parts of it are made up or meant to be read less than literally then how can we trust any of it as fact.
-   Phase 6 Insurmountable evidence (Evolution): Throughout the latter part of high school and the beginning part of my college experience the evidence kept piling on. I learned about the bible and where it came from how it was complied and how it  was translated. I learned about religious history and the atrocities of religious extremism. I started reading everything I could about natural history and evolution. The more I read the more it stuck, the more I thought about it the more it seemed to make perfect sense the harmony in the dissonance of the universe snapped into clarity. This was the first time I think I fully identified myself as atheist. I think publicly I used the term agnostic because atheist still for some reason seemed harsh and strange coming out of my mouth.
-   Phase 7 Reality experiments AKA Psychedelics. It was during this time in my early 20s that I was feverishly reading about history and evolution. I started experimenting with pot for the first time in my early 20's I also started drinking and was defiantly interested in partying. I eventually moved up to taking ecstasy occasionally and then I tried LSD. It was soon after my first LSD trip that I started to finally realize that consciousness itself was a natural phenomena and that you could alter that phenomena and thus change how reality itself was perceived. (Personal Aside: It was this newly found fascination that led me to start considering the nature of consciousness. I soon started researching and writing my theory of the "Common Plain of Consciousness" it was my idea that like most other natural phenomena consciousness itself was expressed in waves. Waves of electrochemical data being analyzed by our brains. It was my idea that with a practiced mind it would be possible to tune in common frequencies of though and experience thoughts simultaneously. For example. If I were to be able to fully clear my mind. Using meditation or sensory deprivation or a combination or both. My consciousness would be operating on a pure and uncluttered "channel" If two or more people could also access this clear and  uncluttered channel then technically we would all be experiencing the common plain of consciousness. It of course was my idea that if simultaneous common plain experiences could be had then the next logical step would be the ability to simultaneously experience thought. To exist in the same conscious space as someone else. This of course was never fully realized as I lacked sufficient access to research facilities and funding. Plus its' unfounded as I know now that consciousness does not broadcast. Although I still think that it is possible to wire brains the same way. I think this happens with married couples or best friends who intuitively know what the other person is thinking or is going to say. I think that physically they are building the same neuropathways between stimulus and memory. This is much more like building 2 computers using the same wiring diagram rather than finding a frequency on an FM tuner but either way this all started my fascination with mind.) This of course led me to discover the studies of Koren and the god helmet, remote viewing and all sorts of other natural means of creating supernatural experiences.
-   Phase 7 reevaluating the debate. I started running in my late 20's and found that I ran better when my mind was engaged. I thus run while listening to audio books or lectures or classes that I can download as podcasts. This led me to sites like open Culture where in which I first heard the theories of Dr. David Sloan Wilson and his multi level selection theories and the proposed ideas of religion being and evolved mechanism for social order. This sparked a new fascination in me for Why religion, why god at all? This of course led me to listening to Dawkins and then I discovered this site and found myself fascinated in the debate. It is still very strange and fascinating to hear the god side of the debate. But this is where I stand now fairly entrenched in atheism. Gorging myself daily with new information and finding relative peace with the fact that religion is as natural as breathing. Natural selection favored in us all of the necessary propensities for believing and for the exaltation of imagined gods in order to help us to adapt to our ever growing populations and with our ever growing cohesiveness within the superpopulations.

This may be the longest post I've ever written. I would not be surprised if most of it is not read...perhaps it was more cathartic and a necessary exercise for me rather than needed specific responses. Although I would love to hear about other peoples journeys and to discover if there are constants or benchmark points in the development of an atheistic worldview. Either way thanks for taking the time and thanks for all being part of such a great community full of ideas, humor and hope.


I actually did take the time to read it. I think it's very touching, and many atheists can relate to this. An infant dying always raised questions when I was a kid too.
My dad was religious, so when he was around (pff, hardly ever) I would ask him.these kinda questions. Of course he gave me the typical "sky fairy works in mysterious ways" bs.
But when I see children less than four years dealing with cancer, it really breaks my heart.
Law 35- "You got to go with what works." - Robin Lefler

Wiggum:"You have that much faith in me, Homer?"
Homer:"No! Faith is what you have in things that don't exist. Your awesomeness is real."

"I was thinking that perhaps this thing called God does not exist. Because He cannot save any one of us. No matter how we pray, He doesn't mend our wounds.