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Thread: Skeptics, Atheists, Agnostics: What was the first thought that made you doubt?

  1. #11
    (blankpages) Array Xenon's Avatar
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    Oct 2009


    Quote Originally Posted by tinker683 View Post
    The moment I started questioning my faith and what had been told to me or the moment I began to doubt the existence of God? I ask because they are two separate events that happened years apart.
    Yup, same here.

    My parents split when I was very young, and I grew up living with my mother and her parents. They were all Catholic. My dad, on the other hand, scorned organized religion and had lots of new agey beliefs. I don't ever remember a time when I didn't question the Catholic stuff. My dad's beliefs stayed with me much longer. He believed in telepathy, speaking with the dead, reading auras, astrology and tarot readings and other sorts of divination, the healing power of crystals, reincarnation, a vague 'God is energy' sort of belief in the divine, etc. He believed we could "know" these things were true because they "felt right". Did he ever believe that. And he spoke with such conviction and authority, so much more than my mother's family, that I was convinced of these same things until my late teens.

    Then, when I was eighteen...I experienced a terrifying mental state. It was a form of mild dissociation called depersonalization, and it stayed with me for about three months. During that time, I felt very detached from my body and my experience of the world. Like my mind was a million miles away. When I moved, I felt like my body was moving on it's own, and I was watching it from far away. Food stopped being pleasurable, because I felt disconnected from my lips and tongue. I'd spend time just staring at my hands, wondering how these strange appendages could be mine. At times I was gripped with the strong sense that my mind, my 'self', was about to fly away and disintegrate, that this could happen as easily as a feather could be swept off the back of my hand on a windy day. Like most others who've experienced this, I became obsessive about "checking" myself to make sure I was still there. I'd repeatedly run my fingers along the back of my other hand to make sure I could still feel, shift around my feet to make sure I was still connected to the became a full-time job.

    The experience also made me obsessive about questions of the soul, the afterlife, what happens when you die. More than ever, I desperately wanted to be assured that I would continue to exist after death. If I could feel this bizarre while I was still alive and still myself and still in this body, then how could I possibly expect to feel anything like myself after death?? I just couldn't let go of trying to imagine all sorts of possibilities of just how the soul could be real and what 'came next' after death, and trying to intuitively "know" the truth by which possibility "felt right" as my dad had taught me. But it led me to no clear answer. I went around in circles, saying to myself, 'This!', and 'No, THIS!' and 'No, not that, this!'.

    I eventually found an internet forum for people with depersonalization (DP, they all called it). One woman had recovered after being in this state for many years. She would stress, over and over, that obsessing about the experience, how you feel every moment, what it all means, 'checking' yourself all the time...was one of the worst things you could do. It kept you locked in that state. Better to focus outward, as much as you could, no matter how difficult that was. Slowly and gradually, I returned to feeling like myself.

    But the glue that had been holding my faith in the supernatural together - the idea that I could "just know" what is objectively true based on my intuitive feelings - that was never the same. After all, it was so very wrong throughout that whole experience. I had felt a strong intuitive sense that my mind was just about to fall apart...and it turned out I was never in any danger of that (it had not happened to anyone on that message board, although many felt like it would and feared it like I had). I had felt a strong intuitive sense that I needed to focus on myself to hold my mind together...and that turned out to be one of the worst things I could do. I had felt a strong intuitive sense that there was something physically wrong with my brain, that this just had to be a physical health problem...and all the tests had come back clear. My father had been so keen to make me understand that authority figures could be wrong, and that people should question and challenge them at times. He had never told me that our own feelings could lead us just as astray, and that we should question and challenge them also. He never realized that himself.

    So, "I know it because I feel it" was no longer a valid argument in my mind. And really, that was all I had against everything that told me that god and an extracorporeal soul and paranormal phenomena etc. probably did not exist. Once I let go of that idea, I was able to hear and seriously consider all the rational arguments against all of that. I didn't want to at first. The idea of being alone in the world without any higher power, and the idea of ceasing to exist after death..those still frightened me. After I recovered from the DP I just shoved all that stuff in the back of my mind and tried to put the experience behind me and just focus on living my life. Years later, I was browsing the internet and came across an interview with a well-known psychologist was asked if he believed in the afterlife. He bluntly replied that the probability was very low, and people believed in it mostly because they were afraid to die. I was shocked and horrified...because I had no argument against what he'd said. Nothing. Years before I would have smugly thought, I know it because I feel it. These people may be blind to the truth, but not me. Not anymore.

    I've pretty much made peace with it all now, but it for a while it was painful and difficult to accept. That's one of the reasons I normally stay away from these types of discussions: all the assumptions that atheists and skeptics are "closed-minded" and have never considered other points of view and just follow along with whatever science tells them piss me off. To an extent that sort of thing is quite natural when people encounter those who disagree with them, but it gets to me when it comes to this topic. This was somewhere my mind really didn't want to go at first, and I went there anyway. That is the opposite of closed-mindedness. Whatever anyone may think of my conclusions, I sure as hell didn't arrive here through closed-mindedness or refusing to question things.

    Well, that was quite the wall of text, wasn't it?. I think I'll just make short posts for a while.

  2. #12


    I really cannot remember if there ever was a defining moment in the becoming of my worldview. Thanks to my parents, who went to church with us on christmas but had no faith to speak of, I have never had any religious belief to doubt. In school I learned about god and his son's adventures, but those were just stories to me. I think I have always had my own philosophy and accepted influences only insofar as they would confirm or expand on already existing notions and convictions.

    I guess that sounds terribly biased; but the truth is that my convictions are very basal and can be called in question if there is something resembling evidence to contradict them.

  3. #13
    Senior Member Array Mae's Avatar
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    May 2011


    I don't think I ever believed in God, even having been born into a heavily Christian family, even when I was going to church twice a week, and playing the part being forced upon me. I just do not remember a single time at any age that I believed in God. I actually think Santa Clause was more plausible.

    I do not feel like I have to explain myself. I do not feel like I should be expected to have gone through some journey or process. I have always been surrounded by believers and have always been different from them. Getting older and learning more about the world, science, and religion only reinforced how I felt.
    I got my smile from the sunshine,
    I got my tears from the rain.
    I learned to dance when I saw a tiger prance,
    And a peacock taught me to be vain.
    A little owl in a tree so high,
    He taught me how to wink my eye.
    I learned to bill and coo from a turtledove,
    And a grizzly bear taught me how to hug.
    But the guy that lived two caves from me,
    He taught me how to love.

  4. #14
    Klingon Warrior Princess Array Patches's Avatar
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    Aug 2010
    6w5 sp/sx


    I never had the belief to begin with. Religion wasn't a common topic of conversation in my household. I knew of religion, but I don't think I ever 'bought it'.

    When I was around 12, I decided myself that I wanted to go to church. I was curious. I walked to church alone every Sunday morning. I joined the church's youth group. I went to summer Bible Camps for youth. I even joined a competition called "Bible Quizzing". (And I was a pretty fucking awesome bible quizzer.) I went all-out and became really active. But throughout it all, I never really understood why people had faith in it. And to be honest, I think I was envious. I wanted that faith. It seemed to give people comfort/happiness. I tried, I really did.

    I stayed involved despite my lack of belief until I was 17-18. At that time one of the churchgoers who was my age got pregnant. The whole young, unmarried, premarital pregnancy thing didn't fly well in church. She was forced to step down from leading bible studies for younger kids, and was pretty much excommunicated from the church by the older congregation. I was pretty disgusted by how they treated her. She DID have that faith and belief, and she was in a really hard place where she needed that support system more than anything else, and they weren't there for her. My disgust with how they treated her caused me, and several other younger people to leave the church.

    And at this point I've stopped trying to understand. I'm happy for the people who have that faith and comfort in their lives. I can't be one of those people.
    “Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside
    them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe.” -Neil Gaiman


  5. #15
    Feline Member Array kelric's Avatar
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    Sep 2007


    I don't think that there was a single moment... I do distinctly remember that even although my family never went to church as I was growing up, I'd learned in my mind that the word "Christian" was synonymous with "good person" (everyone else in my family was, and is, Christian today). So I considered myself a Christian without really knowing what it meant (yeah, I was young :p).

    So in a real way, I never had "faith" in the way that it's generally understood with respect to religion. I wanted to be (and tried to be) a good person, that was it. As I got older, I started to think about things more... specifically:

    • Why is it that people with such varying religious beliefs are so certain that they are correct? What evidence is there that one group is more correct than another? What evidence is there that *any* of these groups is correct?
    • Why is it that when something goes favorably, religious authority (ie, God) can be given credit, but when something goes wrong, this is not appropriate? The most iconic example of this is when people suffer through a natural disaster, and say things like "I'm so thankful to God that I'm okay" -- when so many of their neighbors were killed. Did God not like *them*?
    • Religious explanations always seemed "tacked on", or the result of making hasty assumptions about hard questions. When thinking about why people believed certain things with respect to religion, the answer always seemed to be "because I want to believe it -- it makes me comfortable."

    The words "religious", "faith", atheist", and "agnostic" are so prone to differences in what people mean when they define them that it's hard to use them descriptively when comparing one person's thoughts to another's. So I don't really consider myself an atheist ("There is no God, God Damn It!"), or an agnostic ("there may be a God, but for any number of reasons, I'm not sure, so the question is still open").

    So I guess I'm just "nonreligious". It's okay to not have answers to everything, for the great unknown to be something that's only partially explorable, to know that learning more and finding logical explanations for more doesn't mean that every question has an answer. Some things fall under "can't be adequately and reasonably addressed." And that's okay.

    Quote Originally Posted by Patches
    And at this point I've stopped trying to understand. I'm happy for the people who have that faith and comfort in their lives. I can't be one of those people.
    It would be nice, wouldn't it? But it's just not for me.

  6. #16
    Senior Member Array jimrckhnd's Avatar
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    Jul 2011


    I was brought up catholic and got the whole religious instruction bit. Now for you non-catholics this may seem a bit strange but the one thing you learned in those days is you did not put your filthy sin stained hands on a consecrated host. EVER. If the priest drops it you got the hell out of the way and let him deal with it - don't try and pick it up. And... the priest put the host in your mouth - you didn't take it from him. We were told all kinds of horrible tales by the nuns about what happened to people who did.

    At some point the hierarchy decided this was a bit unsanitary (the Vatican finally accepted "germ theory" or something ) and lo!! they decided you had the option of taking it from the priest and putting it in your own mouth. I was thinking "what the f*ck"? I mean if you can change that what can't you change? Is this all arbitrary? What about the people who DID commit a sin by touching it - does St. Peter come down to purgatory and hell and say "my bad - you are free to go"?

    That was first time I really started to question and after that whole religion thing just fell apart. A one point I tried to read a reason based defense of theism and Christianity (Mere Christianity I think) but even at my age (14 or so) I spotted a couple of what I felt were critical logical errors in it. After that it was pretty much game over. It took awhile to replace the metaphysical underpinnings of my belief system but one thing I was pretty sure of – that theism wasn’t reasonable.

  7. #17
    Senior Member Array ceecee's Avatar
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    Apr 2008


    I was raised Catholic, attended Catholic school, went to mass but I never felt part of it. More like observing from the outside and I didn't like what I saw from a young age. I think when I realized that religion...all religion, was the cause of so much suffering, so much hate, so much hypocrisy and worst of all, responsible for so much ignorance and allowing it to continue, I came to the conclusion that religion only existed as a way to control people and I wanted no part of it. No amount of good can wipe away the astronomical level of bad in religion. I knew religion was based on interpretation and nothing more. What made anyone's interpretation better than mine or someone else? I guess I'm happy for people who find comfort in it but I can't grasp how or why they do.
    I like to rock n' roll all night and *part* of every day. I usually have errands... I can only rock from like 1-3.

  8. #18
    Intergalactic Badass Array mujigay's Avatar
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    Jun 2011


    I might've been seven, or eight. I was in school I think, and we were reading about spiritual beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, and I recall clearly a child saying "That's so stupid. How can they believe things that ridiculous?" And then, I thought to myself, well, plenty of facets of Christianity are just that ridiculous. So I didn't start off immediately rejecting the idea of God, per se, more the Bible. But then from there, it was a pretty natural progression for me to start questioning the existence of God. I think I was ten when I decided "What are the chances of this idea of God actually existing? It makes being struck by lightning seem like a plausible fear!" And then after that, I took a philosophy course where we engaged in all kinds of fun discussions on that very topic, and it was all shot to hell.
    But then again, I was not raised in a particularly religious family. My parents were Catholic in name, I suppose, but my father carried on about his life rather as an agnostic would, and worrying about "God" really did not blip his radar. My mother....she has a very Japanese concept of spirituality if you will, all kinds of beliefs mashed into a spirituality that's comfortable to her. If anything, she's the closest to Buddhism. She is very serious about the idea of reincarnation.

  9. #19
    don't fence me in Array sui generis's Avatar
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    Jan 2008
    875 sx/sp


    In one of my psych courses in college, the professor (himself an out skeptic) talked about how stimulating the brain in certain ways can cause the owner of the brain to have "spiritual" experiences. I'd never considered before that there didn't have to be an actual "god" involved at all!
    Murphy Brown: What is it with us? Why can't we take the easy road once in awhile?
    Avery Brown: Because it's boring and dishonest and uncomfortable, like wearing a pair of shoes all day that pinch your feet.

    approx 55% ES, 90% TJ

  10. #20
    Freaking Ratchet Array Rail Tracer's Avatar
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    Jun 2010


    Not a non-believer. Not a believer. I doubt atheism because the universe is too big. I doubt religion because it tries to simplify everything.

    The universe is too big to know everything.

    What we know through science is what we know through science.

    What we don't know through science is left to interpretation.

    It doesn't stop me from disagreeing with the Jewish/Christian/Islamic God.

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