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#1
Hello everyone, and greetings from Bangalore. I’m male, 36 and have been an atheist/rationalist only for the last 5 years. I just wanted to introduce myself and tell the story of my "deconversion".

My childhood wasn’t a typical Indian one, in that I wasn’t raised religious or even spiritual. My parents were of different religions (in theory), though neither of them was religious. God was never mentioned or talked about in our house. We were a liberal, progressive kind of family. My elder sister and I both became feminists early on in our teens, for example, and our heads were always screwed on straight when it came to things like ethics and justice.

I’m not sure how I became “spiritual”. It probably happened in school. Whatever the reason, from the age of 10 or so I started believing in God -- strongly. I prayed to him every single night for the next 20 years. Now I think, how could I have been that stupid? But back then it felt pretty natural. Looking back, there are some interesting things to note:

1) Even back then, I despised religion. I was the poster child for the “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” brigade. India was (and still is) full of religious stupidity, hatred and violence, and I hated all those people. I thought I had a special connection with -- and understanding of – God. We were like buddies. I never realised that everyone thinks the exact same thing.

2) I studied science in both school and college, and did the old compartmentalisation trick without realising it. Evolution? Of course it was true. But God still existed – no problem. I never saw any contradiction -- the question didn't even arise!

3) I realise now that believing in (and praying to) God made me a weak-minded person. In the sense that, I was unwilling to take charge of my life, and take responsibility for it. I thought that as long as I was more-or-less good and I prayed to my old friend, he would take care of me and my family, and I would be happy. Such a waste.

My conversion to atheism happened four or five years ago, and is kind of funny. smile It was triggered by a book, but not your Dawkins type – it was a sci-fi novel called “Evolution”, by Stephen Baxter. It’s a marvellous book, I highly recommend it to everyone. It dramatises the story of human evolution, by telling the stories of a whole line of individuals down our family tree – from our rodent-like ancestors at the KT period (aside: the chapter describing the actual KT asteroid collision is sensational) down to the present, and then onto our (possible) future evolution as well. I had never had a problem with evolution, but this book made me appreciate just how amazing and true it is – it made me think about evolution. I realised that God wasn’t needed to explain how our species came to be. So I was forced to ask myself why I believed in God. And the only answer I could find was – because I find it comforting; it was like a security blanket. What if I stop believing for a few days? How would that feel? I decided to try it. The first two nights will always stay with me – I’d be in bed, and my hands would automatically come together in prayer, and I would catch myself and say ‘stop it, no praying tonight remember?!’. So for two days I didn’t think about God, and didn’t pray. And that was that. That was how long it took for 20 years of belief to evaporate – just 2 days.

Once I became an atheist, I felt liberated. I saw the world with new eyes, and my thirst for knowledge increased – I started reading science books of all kinds. From there I also got interested in rationalism and skepticism, and realised just how much we take for granted is actually nonsense – ghosts, homeopathy, miracles. I was a new person. I feel sad that it took me 30 years to get there, but I tell myself that every life is a journey and I shouldn’t be too harsh on myself. smile

So that’s my story. I’ll end with a request -- If you have children, don’t assume that they’ll “decide for themselves” about god once they grow up. I’m living proof of someone who made the wrong choice all on his own. You need to take active counter-measures against theism. I.e., raise your children so that they are aware that there isn’t a God.

I'm glad to be here and am looking forward to talking to you all.

Regards,
Sunil
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#2
Welcome to the Nirmukta community Sunil!

(26-Jun-2010, 06:24 PM)unsorted Wrote: Once I became an atheist, I felt liberated. I saw the world with new eyes, and my thirst for knowledge increased – I started reading science books of all kinds. From there I also got interested in rationalism and skepticism, and realised just how much we take for granted is actually nonsense – ghosts, homeopathy, miracles. I was a new person. I feel sad that it took me 30 years to get there, but I tell myself that every life is a journey and I shouldn’t be too harsh on myself. smile

Yes, it is a truly liberated feeling when we are emancipated from our belief in god! It really helps us use the lens of rationality better, once we apply it and obliterate the belief in a supernatural being that is watching over us - this comfort blanket is probably the most strong obstacle for most people to overcome.

Quote:So that’s my story. I’ll end with a request -- If you have children, don’t assume that they’ll “decide for themselves” about god once they grow up. I’m living proof of someone who made the wrong choice all on his own. You need to take active counter-measures against theism. I.e., raise your children so that they are aware that there isn’t a God.

I however think that we can't conclusively prove the absence of something like god, because it is also impossible to prove the absence of Russell's teapot (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell%27s_teapot), or the invisible pink unicorn (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Pink_Unicorn). The ability to think critically is what helps us evaluate the alleged acts of god, miracles, etc, and almost always show them up as man-made, or give them better explanations (in which the concept of god would be superfluous to the explanation), and I think it is more important to teach this ability to children, than making them in a sense "believe" that there is no god.

And of course, we look forward to talking to you as well! Welcome again! Thumbup
Aditya Manthramurthy
Web Administrator & Associate Editor
Nirmukta.com
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#3
Hi Sunil welcome to the community! Nice knowing your story and I agree that critical reasoning must be encouraged in children or they might fall prey to to pseudo-scientific and nonscientific ideologies later. Cheers!
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#4
Hi All,

I am Allen from Mangalore currently working in Bangalore.

Was Born and brought up in a Roman Catholic family.

Educated in Catholic schools till 12th
When I was in around 7th or so I started questioning things.
I regularly used to have small debates with priest who were open for discussion.
questions like
- If god knows whats going to happen to a person before he/she is born What is the point of heaven and earth? It should also be gods plan if he/she is going to be a social worker or a murderer right?
- If god is so powerful why did he take 3 days to come back to life?
- If god knows everything why do we need to confess?
- If adam and eve were the only 2 people how did they populate the world ?
etc were usually raised by me . but never got any satisfactory reply.
And continued following my faith blindly.

I did my Graduation in a Muslim minority college.
It is here I started looking at Islam critically.
which in turn led me to re look my own religion !! but again did not bother a lot since all my friends(mix of Christians, Hindus and Muslims) were kind of religious and I did not have any debate regarding god / religion.

I Bangalore Once I started working. most importantly started living away from Home. I stopped my daily morning and evening prayers.
But still continued attending weekly church mass.

In Bangalore I met two like minded people who used to question their own religion, they were agnostic.
Which int urn brought out the questions that I had about Christianity?

Once on a trip to my friends uncle's place for a kite festival in Kolar. I came to know that his uncle's were atheist and did not follow Christianity / or any religion any more. They had a group called "Samudaya" which organized several events. since it was a two day visit I got to discuss about the fundamentalist organizations coming up in India in the name of moral policing and their point of view.

After this visit, I started thinking of a secular religion where there was only one god for all people. Because I believed that the concept of God is needed to build morality even though now I really was turning into a skeptic questioning to myself the existence of god more strongly.

Then I got a work assignment in the UK for a year where I met some people who were into social work without having a religious tag. Open for discussion based on reason not "GOD". started reading literature on secular Humanism ans similar.
Interacting with these people really helped me open up. I did not feel alone any more. Their actions showed that we do not need "God or religion" to be morally correct. This phase of my life changed me from an agnostic to an atheist.

I started looking for similar people back at home, Came across sites like Indian atheists then nirmukta. Found loads of people here with similar viewpoints. Even came to know about Mr Narendra Nayak who also is also a active rationalist from mangalore and his contributions to rationalism.

Regards,
Allen
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#5
Welcome to Nirmukta, Allen! Thank you for sharing your story.

It will be great to hear more about your takeaways (and maybe success-stories) from debates with liberal and moderate clergymen. Debates such as these seem hardest with people closest to us (as discussed in this comment-trail) and it will be interesting thoughts from recent 'deconverts' among members here regarding the following questions:

Quote:-What are the challenges in discussing unbelief with a family members, vis-a-vis discussing with colleagues?

-What are some things about religion that we find so unacceptable that we will be willing even to sacrifice a relationship on that account?

-What are some religious practices that, though annoying, we can rather live with in the interest of maintaining a relationship?

-What are some some success stories you have had in altering the worldviews of family members you have argued with?

-What are some arguments from faithful family members that have given you pause and made you reconsider your position?

-How best can we overcome inevitable 'generation gaps' and 'culture clashes' in such conversations?

The aside on the Kolar kite-flying is interesting as well. Given the priorities of our media, curiosities like a Sanskrit-speaking in village in Karnataka get so much more coverage than a secular community in Kolar, on which a detailed profile will be of considerable interest in our readership.

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#6
Hello Allen, please check out our FB group on mangalore
https://www.facebook.com/groups/mangalore.freethinkers/
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