Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

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Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  Closet Agnostic on Tue Sep 15, 2009 11:46 pm

Actually my last interest, in my early 20's, was the Aliens As God interpretations of Erich Von Daniken, Zecharia Sitchin, and Velikovsky. I like science fiction and it was a good substitute for the creation and origin myths of christianity. Until people like Micheal Shermer of Skeptical Enquirer had to come in and burst my bubble. I guess I also have to admit that during that same time I was into astrology and studied it until I realized that it was B.S. I hope that these admissions have not ruined any cred that I may have had here on the forum, but I suspect that I am not the only one with a kooky past.
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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  Sosa on Tue Sep 15, 2009 11:57 pm

I was raised as a 7th day Adventist so naturally I believed in the "prophetess" Ellen G. White. After being skeptical about her so called visions and really looking into her past I found that it was ridiculous. It's a shame that I was brainwashed as a kid to believe in her writings as infallible. I use to believe in creationism (the 7 day theory) and all that nonsense, but I am cured now.
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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  MisterChristopher on Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:22 am

My skepticism has very much been learned. Because tragically enough, I'm a naturally gullible person, however, since becoming an atheist, I've managed to break a lot of my "old Chris" (pre-atheism) habits, but I still fall victim to that natural gullibility occasionally.
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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  Nicholas on Wed Sep 16, 2009 1:50 am

I've never been a gigantic fan of X-Files, but I've always been a Fox Mulder in that "I wanted to believe". It sounded too good to be true, and I was young enough (and listened enough to my elders) that I took what was told to me at face value. I took it as a given, and never really challenged it because I was unaware of the inherent problems that come with religious belief. My skepticism was learned later on in life; or rather, it was applying skepticism to religion that came later.

CA - no, you are not the only one with a "kooky" past. I used to listen to Coast to Coast AM all the time (and sometimes still do for sh!ts and giggles). Wink
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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  Stegocephalian on Wed Sep 16, 2009 2:48 am

I was deeply into paranormal Woo, UFOs AND Christianity when I was a child, and young teenager.

Fortunately I did apparently have a seed of skepticism slowly growing within me though - thinking back I think one crucial element, the thing that first exposed me to the notion that there is something admirable about asking for good evidence for even things you'd like to believe in, was Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World - a TV series that really loved.

As I remember, the show wasn't quite hard-core skeptical, and probably I now would find things to criticize about it, but at the time, it was my only connection with someone requiring good evidence, and looking for natural explanations, in connection to the supernatural mysteries that so fascinated me.

That show planted the seed, I think, that would gradually lead me towards a more naturalistic, more reasonable world view. Later, I think I was maybe 18, I stumbled upon a popular science book, the first of it's kind that I read ("Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos" by Michell Waldrop"), which I think was a fortunate choice for an introduction into the fascinating world that proper science opens up. I found myself much more enthralled with the study of complexity, than I ever had been by the study of Woo.

I read that quickly, and picked up another popular science title right away, this time purposefully looking for, and hungry for the same "magic" I had found in the first. My second choice was "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins - a much more challenging book, but every bit as fascinating.

This was about the time I started finding the cognitive dissonance between my religious beliefs and what I was learning about science and the natural world to start becoming unbearable - and so I stopped praying, not as a conscious choice, but really to preserve my faith; whenever I did try to pray, I could feel the doubt and intellectual conflicts just banging at the gates.

It wasn't too long after that that I was forced to face that cognitive dissonance, and found myself an agnostic - shortly after that, after a furious and exiting time of study into the natural sciences, and the paranormal, though this time from a more skeptical perspective, involving some personal experimentation with out of body experiences, I became a skeptic, and agnostic atheist with a naturalistic world view.

That's how I escaped the world of Woo, and entered into reality! cheers
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Hey

Post  LonghWynn on Wed Sep 16, 2009 2:54 am

I think it sounds like (so far at least) that we all share a very similar path. I too was into things like paranormal stuff, and still kind of have a yearning for some of it to be true. But nowadays, skepticism has taught me that just because we feel the desire, doesn't make that desire relevant. So as much as I would love to live inside a happy bubble, bursting that one allows me to connect to a larger bubble that encompasses humanity (which we may have to burst to encompass non-humans, etc)

My background is actually quite different. I was raised Catholic, but my dad was a convert from Buddhism, and my parents are both from Vietnam, me being an immigrant 12 years now. But it seems that my family religion is a blending of Catholicism with some more traditionally eastern beliefs; for example, we still burn "money" over there to "send" them to the dead, that they can spend it on whatever they buy in the afterlife (presumably, there's still a government in the afterlife...)

So yeah, talk about different lol. But it came natural; I never really questioned the blending until looking back at it from a more skeptical light. I guess when finally removed from the context in which our beliefs came about, things can look quite...ridiculous

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Not sure what to write!

Post  Momma Heathen on Wed Sep 16, 2009 6:45 am

I've pondered writing a gospel of doubt, but I don't have any excellent stories of de-conversion. So here's my mini-blurb. Smile

I wasn't raised in a religious household at all. My parents were divorced and my mom went to church only when her current boyfriend did. She never actively sought out any religious practice unless it made her look good in the eyes of another. Guess that's my first "ick" moment when it came to religion. My dad is a believer, but not an active practitioner. After he married his second wife he became more active in the church. He annulled his marriage to my mother in order to marry his next wife in the Catholic church, and the two of them dragged my sister and myself to church now and then. I hated it, though the stand-up, sit down, kneel, repeat exercise program was good for my back. Wink

All in all, I grew up pretending now and then that I believed because it made those around me happy. It never made me happy. And even though I never put stock in a gawd or gawds, I did go on a "spiritual quest" in my twenties. During that time I did find Buddhism, which I discovered I really enjoyed. Not necessarily as a 'religion,' but as a calming sort of 'exercise.' I was never a practitioner, but I did attend some meditation and dharma classes, and I really enjoyed them.

I want to someday expose my children to every religious practice, but only on their terms. I think it's great to experience them all, if for nothing else just to see the vast differences (and subtle ones) between them all. I would never force them to go, or ban them from going.
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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  Neon Genesis on Thu Sep 17, 2009 12:59 pm

I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian. I was a member of the Church Of Christ and I believed the bible was the literal word of God. I also used to believe in UFO conspiracies and the paranormal when I was a teenager but as I got older, that belief just gradually faded away as I lost interest in conspiracy theories. To give the short story of how I deconverted from Christianity, I deconverted because I realized I was gay and was unable to change my sexuality in spite of fundamentalists' claims that I could change. After that I started studying the bible more and realized it contained so many irreconcilable contradiction and immoral actions attributed to a supposed loving god and now I value evidence over blind faith.

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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  pinnball on Thu Sep 17, 2009 2:27 pm

Well, for me, I was raised Christian. And stayed that way until I was about 21. During those years I believed the bible to be 100% truth. But just because ghosts, aliens, chupacabras, and big foot weren’t in the bible, that didn’t mean they didn’t exist. I thought if you could have talking animals, a man who could rise from the dead, etc… why not alien life forms. But that also meant, if there were aliens, they had their own bible, and their own Jesus. This made total sense to me Smile

Closet Agnostic: Don’t worry about losing your cred. I used to believe the world was made in 7 days about 4000 years ago..

Neon Genesis: I also went to a CoC (Church of Christ) they were the main reasons I took the plunge into Agnosticism. After condemning my brother for being gay, and blaming my own shyness as an influence of Satan. Fun times.. Rolling Eyes
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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  schtumpy on Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:39 am

Raised a catholic - believed in an all-powerful, all-loving god.
Even joined a seminary to become a priest as a young bloke - much to the joy of my parents.
The all-powerful, all-loving god thing fell away after just a year or so into nursing.....
Once that was gone it was just a matter of reading some sensible science and some convincing argument from Carl Sagan and I became passionate about keeping faith out of the science classroom.
And like a lot of folk I've been inspired by the recent work of Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris and Dennett etc.

And podcasts have been a wonderful bridge to reality.
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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  NedStark on Sun Sep 20, 2009 11:48 pm

I was raised a Jehovah's Witness. Grew up doing the door-to-door thing. I never celebrated a holiday, and my first birthday cake was when I turned 27 a few months ago. Gave my first talk, or sermon, when I was six. Everybody in the JW religion is considered a minister, which is incidentally how they often tried to get out of serving in the military. I think deep down I always knew that the whole Bible/Christianity/Religion thing was ridiculous, but very rarely did I ever let that part of me surface. So I went along with it. I was especially interested in science and loved the Watchtower Society's (The Society encompasses the printing operation and leadership of JWs) Creationist book "Life--How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation?" If anything affirmed my faith, it was that book. I loved it because it convinced me that there was actual logic and rationality backing this religion, unlike those silly other creationists who thought the world was only 6,000 years old (JWs are semi-old earth Creationists. Up until a few decades ago they taught the earth was 49,000 years old, but now leave the possibility of millions and billions of years open).

I had my first crisis of faith when we were studying a Watchtower book about the book of Daniel. They were pulling so many wacky numbers, names, dates, and places out of nowhere and applying biblical prophesies to Jehovah's Witness Conventions back in the thirties that not even my cognitive dissonance was enough to push the doubts away, at least for a minute. I finally pushed all the doubts back down and that was the end of that, at least I thought.

Later as I lived on my own I became really active on social media sites like Digg and reddit. It was there I actually engaged atheists and agnostics in real discussion for the first time. Yeah, I'd gotten them when I was door-knocking, but it was never anything more than "I'm an atheist, so no thanks." So anyway, I started gradually being "won over" by the atheist side of things. I originally thought I was just becoming a better Christian by learning which avenues of argument not to go down, but all that was blasted away when I first typed "I'm an atheist" in a comment box. I stared at those words and knew it was that moment I had to make the final decision. So, after a few minutes of reflection, of asking myself "am I doing this because I believe it, or because I'll lose my family and friends if I don't?" I finished my comment and hit the submit button.

Since JWs practice shunning and treat people who leave their religion on theological grounds as "apostates" who are lower than dirt, I lost everything. In fact, I haven't spoken to my parents since December of 2008, and aside from a few emails have had no contact. To them, I'm crazy, blinded, taken in by Satan, gone "off the deep end." They didn't even come to my wedding. What gets me is that my brother is also disfellowshipped (their word for excommunication), but because he still considers himself a Christian, my mother regularly breaks the religion's rules and talks to him. They even told me that leaving "the truth" is one thing, but not believing in God altogether is quite another.

So that's my story anyway. I'm married now, trying to assimilate into a world I was taught to hate and fear for the first 25 years of my life. I think it's going pretty good so far.

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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  timmeh on Tue Sep 22, 2009 9:00 am

I was raised without religion. I come from New Zealand, which is a very very secular society. In fact I had no idea of the religiousness of the world until I went to live in the US for a year after I graduated from high school. I must say I was shocked at the in-your-face religiosity. Growing up, I kind of thought that it was a bit of a joke or something, something that nobody actually took seriously, that nobody actually truly believed the stuff from the bible (I still have trouble accepting this!). When I met my first "out" Christians in my mid-late teens I was a bit surprised of their worldview and found it hard to wrap my head around their ideology. Growing up a religious in my part of New Zealand would equate to being the inverse of the US, religo-heads would be mocked and their beliefs ridiculed by ever cruel kids/teens.

Now I live in Berlin which is an atheists heaven with a 66% atheist population.
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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  wyceeric on Sat Oct 10, 2009 4:00 am

I had the good fortune not to have been saddled with any type of religious wackyness or goofballism. Believe me, I am grateful to my parents for that. No confusing, painful, family relationship straining de-conversion here, thanks.

Knowing what I know now, I'm surprised I didn't get more crap about it from people, although there was a girl in my class who got a little freaked out by my atheism. I'd bet I was the only one she knew, and it disturbed her that I was "going to hell". She was spouting off about something ridiculous, and I told her she was full of crap. Even my one friend's dad who was a pastor was really cool to me. Maybe he just didn't know, I don't remember ever talking to him about it. That was 25 or more years ago at this point, though. Lot of brain cells under the bridge, so to speak.

Anyway, the point is, that I do know how good I had it and that gets reinforced every time I hear someone's horror story of coming around to reason, then coming out to their parents. Keep the stories coming, I'm curious about other people's experiences.

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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  NedStark on Mon Oct 12, 2009 2:39 pm

Here's a few examples of what I used to actually believe:

1. I believed that demons were real and often trojan-horsed their way into peoples' lives through physical objects brought into the house. I was taught to be very wary of garage sales because you never know what a demon could be hiding in, be it a lamp shade or a child's toy. The movie Chuckie is not a fantasy to Jehovah's Witnesses (except of course JWs would believe the ghost of the serial killer inhabiting the doll is actually a demon trying to make people think ghosts are real in order to lead them into false superstition--yes I am aware of the irony).

2. I believed that the only way to destroy a demon-inhabited object was to burn it. Burning it was the only way to destroy it, otherwise the demon could rebuild the object and put it back in the house (which makes you wonder why they bother waiting for you to buy the object they inhabit in the first place when they can just magically transport themselves to the houses of real Christians anyway). I would often hear spooky stories about things like throwing stars and music CDs finding their way back into a kid's bedroom even after he/she had thrown it out the previous night.

3. There is a story often circulated among JWs about the lone woman preaching from door-to-door and happened upon serial killer at the house of a family he had just killed. He told her politely he was not interested and she left. After being captured, he was asked why he didn't attack the woman, and he said that he was afraid of the two strong men standing behind her. The woman insisted that she was alone the entire time, and the large men are said to have been angels.

4. I believed that birthdays were wrong because both times they are mentioned in the Bible, people get their heads cut off.

5. I believed that Jesus Christ spoke through the board of directors of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, a book publishing company in Brooklyn, NY.

6. Once when I was a kid I saw President Bush (the first one) on TV giving a state of the union address and when he said the phrase "peace and security" I thought Armageddon was going to happen the next day.

7. I believed that Christmas is wrong because 2,000 years ago pagans were celebrating a similar holiday, yet there was nothing wrong with hitting a pinata or wearing a wedding ring.

8. I believed that reading Jehovah's Witness pamphlets was more useful than a college education.

9. I was not allowed to watch television programs featuring superheroes because my parents believed superheroes usurp God's authority.

10. I was not allowed to watch the Smurfs because it allowed demons to enter my mind.

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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  Sosa on Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:39 pm

Funny...on number 3, I've heard quite a few different versions of that story...as a 7th day adventist I heard the version about an SDA woman walking through a dark alley seeing a rapist...but didn't rape her because she had two guys behind her protecting her...but he raped the next woman to walk through....
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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  NedStark on Mon Oct 12, 2009 11:30 pm

Sosa wrote:Funny...on number 3, I've heard quite a few different versions of that story...as a 7th day adventist I heard the version about an SDA woman walking through a dark alley seeing a rapist...but didn't rape her because she had two guys behind her protecting her...but he raped the next woman to walk through....

Yes I've heard that story from ex-Mormons, too. It's a popular urban legend among the established Christian cults these days.

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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  agentsarahjane on Sat Nov 07, 2009 3:05 pm

I don't think that I had kooky ideas, although I felt for a long time that I was followed by demons due to my parents breaking up and all sorts of bad things that happened to me due to their own and my own actions. I also thought that the blood of Jesus would protect me from harm. I spoke in tongues, I rolled on the floor, danced in church. I know I was sincere - there were moments I sincerely felt that I knew God was real. (I know a little more about how that works now but I still would like to know how that happened)

I think before the end of my religious life that God hated me. I also started to believe that God wasn't what people said he is like ... and also that no one could describe him. I suppose that would be so since God seems to be a place holder and personification for our ideals rather than a person.

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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  jgrow2 on Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:45 pm

I put my rescued copy of my Gospel of Doubt (doot) in the G of D section. In short, I was raised Catholic, but not strictly so. My mother is the real Catholic in the family, Dad settled on it mainly out of love. When they divorced he slowly returned to a more atheist outlook.

Once I was out of the house the first thing I did was I stopped going to church. The reading I did then was mainly buddhism (zen came later) and lots of quantum mechanics and cosmology. Some of the more esoteric books on cosmology got into bubble universes and other such stuff. But they were written for laymen with very little hard math in them, so in retrospect I had to trust the interpretation of the writer. At the time though I thought it was mind-expanding. Then, I got sidetracked by work and didn't think of any of it very much.

There came a point about five years ago when I had an epiphany. Or it had me. Either way, I needed to "find god," or something like that. Long story. In any case, zen was what seemed to make sense. Taoism did too at first partly because of "The Tao of Physics" and my flirtation with that, but later it made sense in itself. Neither one had "god" in them, but the Catholic still insisted god had to be somewhere. Cognitive dissonance.

Basically, the only kooky ideas I had were when I was still trying to find a way to hang on to god. At the end, it was this nebulous notion of god everywhere in every rock and tree and you and me. I blame lack of sleep for this.
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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  jgrow2 on Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:50 pm

agentsarahjane wrote:I think before the end of my religious life that God hated me. I also started to believe that God wasn't what people said he is like ... and also that no one could describe him. I suppose that would be so since God seems to be a place holder and personification for our ideals rather than a person.

Indeed. The whole "ineffable" thing was what kept me from facing what you said here (where I italicized). A personification for our ideals makes so much more sense, and seems a lot more useful than a guy in the sky.
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No Dogma Here

Post  trnc.mtthws on Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:25 pm

Looks like I'm in the minority here. I was raised "un-churched". I feel fortunate to not have gone through the apparent pain of deconversion. No problems talking to my mom about the subject either. My dad is long gone, but was also agnostic, I think. We never really talked about religion, it just was not a part of our lives. Pretty cool!

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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  Sosa on Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:26 pm

trnc.mtthws wrote:Looks like I'm in the minority here. I was raised "un-churched". I feel fortunate to not have gone through the apparent pain of deconversion. No problems talking to my mom about the subject either. My dad is long gone, but was also agnostic, I think. We never really talked about religion, it just was not a part of our lives. Pretty cool!

lucky bastard


lol!
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Re: Were you always a godless skeptic? If not, what were your old myths,superstitions, or woo?

Post  njwilk on Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:36 am

Raised Roman Catholic in a mixed marriage (my dad was a protestant). Brief flirtation with "Jesus freaks" as a teen, then fell away from the church when I came out since I had to choose God or girls. Girls won. Explored mysticism, wicca and associated woo. Took some comparative religion classes in college, looking for a theology that didn't fall apart when examined closely. Back to the church when I fell in love with an Episcopal priest who left her husband for me. She and God both left around the same time. Neither of them lived up to my expectations. Haven't really missed them for the past twenty years. Life just makes more sense without God.

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