I was a believer since childhood. During my college years, I became very religious suddenly for some reason. It may have something to do with all the religious hullabaloo created around that time by the various Hindutva governments, the media, the various Swamis and their lackeys. This "fever" somehow percolated to my subconsciousness and was partially strengthened by some of my social circle at that time.
However even when I was religious, I was always open minded and believed that somehow my religious beliefs were compatible with science. I was especially ensnared by the various charlatan religious writers who claim that the latest research Quantum Physics somehow validated the Vedanta of Hinduism!!
Anyway, since I always had an open mind, I came across several atheist materials on the internet and I went through them, thinking that I could strengthen my faith somehow by doing so.
But slowly, the atheist stuff, especially the videos, books and articles of Richard Dawkins, started making far more sense than my religious beliefs that I had held on since my childhood. For a while, I considered myself an "atheist Hindu" (whatever that means), but eventually that became meaningless and so I became a committed atheist.
While I recognize that some were fortunate to be brought up in a secular/materialist environment since childhood, I would nevertheless be interested in hearing the stories of other members who were former believers and are currently atheists/agnostics/freethinkers.
I think many people would answer your question with one person's name: Richard Dawkins. (Me included).
13-Sep-2010, 11:31 AM
(This post was last modified: 13-Sep-2010, 12:26 PM by manju.)
When I was a believer (before the age of 12), I suppose I never prayed for myself. At a very young age somebody told me (must be a Christian) that I should never pray or ask anything for myself from god because that was an act of selfishness. I should only pray for others. I guess that left a deep impression on me and I always prayed for India to win gold medals in Olympics or India to beat Pakistan in Cricket (it was post 1986 Sharjah I suppose). God never obliged my selfless prayers or probably god thought I was praying for myself while praying for the country. I don't know how I lost my belief. I remember clearly stating in the 10th standard that I don't believe in the existence of god much to distress of my fellow classmates. I have never read/watched Richard Dawkins. Probably, won't read much about Stephen Hawking too as I feel many of the scientific concepts are beyond me(or I lack the attention span). I'm at home with the common sense approach of the Charvakas.
Regarding the caste and Hindu identity, probably I had a confused teenage years. I guess I thought Babri Mosque demolition was wrong but Muslims were irrational breeders and thus a threat(I guess I have grown up from instinctive fears). Christian proselytism was about money and thus despicable (similar to Gandhi's 'rice converts' comment...but now I believe the money aspect makes real sense as spiritualism is anyway pointless).
Being the eldest among a group of cousins that I would often meet, I would notice how adults often say lies to quieten or pacify smaller kids/toddlers, with an equivalent of "The Bogeyman will take you away if you are naughty". Being the elder cousin, the adults would freely admit to me that they were obviously joking. But, I remembered being a victim of such lies too, and spending nights dreaming up nasty nightmares. That was an important phase for me. I stopped trusting things that adults just said.
Religion was also a kind of hobby. I would go to temples mainly to watch the sexy/gory/scary sculptures. Some of my cousins happened to go to church, so when I learned about that, I was kind of confident that it was all some sort of Bogeyman story! Then, I heard about atheism - from Bhagat Singh's, article at http://www.boloji.com/spirituality/051.htm
. I read it in some magazine, I think. Not that I understood very much, but it immediately became something "cool" in my eyes, and I was an atheist! Of course, I've become a really serious atheist and relatively far better informed only over the last 2-3 years, reading RD, Hitchens, etc.
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For me it was my love of science that did it. I was always curious about how stuff works. I need to know at least at a high level, what goes on inside of something. It was that itch which needed scratching by knowledge that led to me to question religion and other deeply rooted beliefs I had.
My atheistic transformation was kick started by Carl Sagan. Before I read his books, I had a belief that religion can explain the world around me. One just needs to deeply understand religion. But Sagan said things that are much more beautiful and meaningful than what I had known till then. He was madly in love with science and he infected me with that love. But even after reading Sagan, I still identified with the Hindu label. It wasn't until I discovered Dawkins and the the new atheist movements that I finally ripped off my religious and caste labels.
I was determined to not get taken for a ride through all my life so from a position of utter belief in God who I believed had taken over the reins of my body I put it to the test in a detailed manner and found out that it was all a giant self delusional mistake that one could communicate with God. If one could not communicate with God or God could not send messages to me it made no sense to continue worrying about the existence of that being. The mental illness had to be cured. Belief in a God and living according to religious principles is nothing more than a mental illness as far as I was concerned. I became free of it and lived my life freely setting my own objectives of what were important principles to adhere to. I do believe in physical energy or Brahman being the underlying constituent of the universe and that we are all living in illusion of varying degrees until enlightenment purges the God delusion out of our mental make up.
My story is in my bio
- but the gist of it is, evolution was the trigger. Once I understood evolution, god became redundant.
I used to be serious believer of something supernatural.. I think its indoctrination in me.. my father and mother in-fact entire family is religious.. my neighbor used to yagna everyday, and i was encouraged to sit with him, gayarthri matra etc etc.. when i was 14 years old, i used to go "Bharama Kumari" organization.. In deep i used to feel, all religions are pretty much same, they just choose different path.. I used to mediate up to 1 ht with out any disturbance.. at age 15 i read "practical hypnosis" by pattabi ram!! I used to hypnotize my friends.. and make them reveal all secrets ;) and make them eat Chile etc, it was lot of fun,, but never really gave strong thought how does it works.. and I was active member of bhrama kumari organization, There's been some time, i wanted to devout my life to it..
For engineering i moved to different city hyderabad.. And never gave thought about it much..
Untill couple of years back, i started to think perception of minds, while meditating instead using soul i used my moms name, it worked pretty much same... then i felt its not about soul, its just isolation of thinking.. Recently after dating with some of christians in my town, i felt something is wrong them!!! christianity version is different from indian version... Them i started to question my faith and beliefs.. Then i have realized how deluded i was.. After reading lot of articles on Brain cognitive thinking!! Its just perception of brain and some sort weakness..
Still It took a long time to become atheist, sometimes i still doubt myself. The biggest problem with belief is you don't realized where you are thinking wrong... its also called learned paralysis... I must say, inspiration is daniel dennett, james randi, christopher hitchens, bhagath singh and lot of people..
Like most Indians I was born and brought up in a religious environment. I still remember entire Hanuman Chalisa which I had to chant before I could lay my hands on the breakfast. But as I grew up, I was perturbed with the social problems - abject poverty of the masses, corruption, communsalism,casteism etc. I was in the process of understanding the causes of these problems when I first read Bhagat Singh's article "Why I am an atheist". That was the turning point. I suggested my friends also to read the article but to my dismay I found that most of them could not muster the courage to question the existence of God. I then started finding the reasons as to why religion has taken such a strong root in our society. I read many books on the matter and ultimately it Karl Marx's writings which could satisfy my curiosity and helped me to have a scientific and yet humane world outlook and a way of life.