Age of non belief, christian friends, and family religion.

Jasmine asks:
At what age did you decide that you believe there was no God? When people try to convert you, what feelings do you encounter? Do you have any Christian friends, or have you completely removed yourself from anyone with any label near to that? Were you born into a Christian family, or were you born into an Atheist family and are just believing what your folks told you? How do you argue that atheism makes more sense than Christianity?

Jakes answer:
These are questions that I often get from people who are trying to understand why I am no longer a christian. I hope that I can answer your questions satisfactorily. Let’s take them one by one.

At what age did you decide that you believe there was no God? I lost my faith around 23. Technically, I don’t believe there is no god. I lack belief that there is a god. Now I know this might sound like the same thing at first, but it really isn’t. Let me explain it like this, let’s say that I have no active belief in a god. I am at 0 beliefs in a god or gods. You come and tell me about your god. If I accept this belief then I am at +1 beliefs in a god. If I do not accept your belief then I have not gained anything and remain at 0 beliefs in a god. For me, this was a 23 year process. So now, I am at 0 beliefs in a god. Now on the other hand, I do believe that the evidence people give for their gods are false. Since the only valid evidence for claims of existence must be objective and verifiable, and since no believer has ever produced such evidence, I believe that their evidence is invalid. Do you see the difference?
When people try to convert you, what feelings do you encounter? That depends on what I’m being told. My feelings can range anywhere from pity, to humor, to indignation. I pity those who believe without understanding what it is that they believe. I find it humorous when people present evidence that they wouldn’t accept themselves if the word “God” wasn’t attached to it. I feel indignation when a believer tells me that I am evil for not believing.
Do you have any Christian friends, or have you completely removed yourself from anyone with any label near to that? I have a few christian friends. I had more but people find it difficult to remain believers around me. I’ve deconverted most of my family and friends. I didn’t have to preach to them or anything like that, I just answer their questions much like I’m doing now with you. Eventually, they see the truth for themselves.
Were you born into a Christian family, or were you born into an Atheist family and are just believing what your folks told you? I was born into the LDS faith. My family were all LDS as well. I served a 2 year mission at 19 in the Dakotas and sat as a counselor in the bishopric after. I was a very strong believer. It wasn’t until I was 23 that I met a buddhist monk who taught me about objective thinking and began my journey into non belief. It took me about 2 years before I lost my belief in a god.
How do you argue that atheism makes more sense than Christianity? The same way a person argues that not believing in Santa Claus makes more sense than believing in Santa Claus. When you grow up, you realize that the story of Santa Claus has no evidence and includes impossible things. The same thing happened with me and the idea of god. I studied it, found it lacking, and stopped believing.

Well I hope that answers you’re questions. If not, feel free to ask for follow ups in the comment section below.

Answer by SmartLX:
Oo, oo, I want in on this one.

At what age did you decide that you believe there was no God?
Jake’s already nitpicked the specifics of the question, so…I honestly don’t know. There was about a 15 year gap from age 11-12 onwards when I barely thought about it, but when I did think about it at age 26 I realised I no longer believed. My faith had faded completely in the intervening years, so I had a drama-free deconversion.

When people try to convert you, what feelings do you encounter?
– Nostalgia, because people talked to me like that all the time in Catholic primary school.
– Deja vu, because whatever arguments or appeals they use I’ve probably already received them on this site at some point.
– Engaged, because if I do get something new to think about it’s great fodder for the site, or at least my own research.
If I get angry or upset in a situation like this, it’s not simply because I’m being proselytised but because the “witness” is going about it in an emotionally confronting or manipulative way. It still doesn’t work, but it puts a damper on my day.

Do you have any Christian friends, or have you completely removed yourself from anyone with any label near to that?
My wife’s Christian. About half of my family still is, and half of hers, and of course many of our friends. Australia’s far less religious than America, but that’s not saying much. We all get on, and there are plenty of non-adversarial discussions on the subject. I don’t go sword in hand 24/7.

Were you born into a Christian family, or were you born into an Atheist family and are just believing what your folks told you?
Catholic mother, atheist father, raised Catholic and believed what I was told until I found out Dad is an atheist (he only ever said so about twice) and therefore not everyone believes what I did. I think that started me on the road to disbelief, or at least skepticism.

How do you argue that atheism makes more sense than Christianity?
By essay, usually. My best attempt to do this directly is right here.

Macro vs. Micro, bird and the egg, and deceitful theists.

Todays Question comes from Charles who asks…
“My question is in reference to the theory of macro-evolution.

I’ll start by saying that I was an atheist for around 5 years of my life but am now a Christian. I fully believe in micro-evolution as it is evident and has been proven Macro- evolution however has gaping holes in it that need answers.

Let’s discuss the first bird. We can all agree birds are hatched from eggs but what came first, the egg or the bird? Also did the first bird breathe? Did it breathe before it evolved lungs? How did it do this? Why did it evolve lungs if it were happily surviving without them? How did it know what needed to be evolved if it’s brain hadn’t evolved yet? Did the bird have a mouth? How did it eat before it had evolved a mouth? Where did the mouth send food before a stomach evolved? How did the bird see what there was to eat before it’s eyes evolved?

I’ll end with a quote from Prof Louis Bounoure, Dir of Research, National Center of Scientific Research: “Evolution is a fairy tale for grown ups. This theory has helped nothing in the progress of science. It is useless.” ”

Answer by Jake:
Charles, if I thought evolution was what you think it is, I wouldn’t believe in it either. Fortunately, I know what evolution is. Let’s see if I can’t course correct your lost ship and help you navigate the sea of facts.

First, micro evolution. There’s no such thing. Evolution is evolution. It’s like saying “recycling”. You can recycle a big thing like a car, or you can recycle a little thing like a can. Either way, both have to go through the process of recycling. Both are stripped down, melted or shredded and then formed into something new. There’s no micro recycling nor is there macro recycling. The same thing applies to evolution. Both little things and big things go through the process of evolution. The only difference, just like in recycling, is the amount of time it takes to evolve. Big things take longer, little things go faster. To claim that they are two separate things, you would have to show the process that separates the two. You can’t, because there is none.

Next, your “which came first” question. The answer is simple, the egg came first. When the bird became what we know today as a bird, it was maybe 1% different from it’s parent. Evolution happens gradually. In increments. It doesn’t happen all at once. A bird doesn’t decide it needs wings and then just grows wings. It doesn’t decided it needs lungs and then grows lungs ( like your examples above. ) That’s not how evolution works and is why I said in the beginning that if I thought it was what you think it is that I wouldn’t believe in it either. I’ll give you a reference at the end of this reply so that you can learn what evolution is for yourself.

Lastly, your quote. It’s wrong. What you’ve probably done is read a christian website that misquoted the professor in order to try and justify their beliefs. It’s a dishonest tactic and if you had simply done a google search to check the quote, you would have learned of it’s dishonesty for yourself. Here is the explanation for the quote and where it came from. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/ce/3/part12.html

While you’re at that website, check out the rest of it. Talkorigins.org is a great place to learn not only about evolution is, but what it isn’t as well. I would start here http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/faqs-qa.html and read over their FAQ section. You may be surprised at how much misinformation you’ve been fed by your fellow believers. Once you realize this try asking yourself why they mislead you to begin with?

One last thing. Keep in mind that evolution neither proves nor disproves gods. There are many people who still believe in a god and accept evolution. They see their god as the one who set evolution in motion. Although I don’t accept their conclusion that a god exists, I still appreciate that they at least recognize the overwhelming evidence for evolution and don’t try to twist it in order to suit their agenda.

Atheists have no morals ?

Question from Adam (Trimmed to get to the meat.)
“Have you encountered situations where a religious person could not believe atheists had morals? I tried to explain to him how morals are built from emotion, and as a mechanism to survive as social creatures. He didn’t even respond, and reiterated that, “all I did was state the fact that atheists have no morals”. I didn’t get emotional or bothered in the conversation, because I don’t particularly care if this random guy on the internet is a closed minded prick. But the fact that many religious people do share that belief is a bit disheartening.

How would you go about convincing a person that atheists have morals when they have been taught the contrary? Is it possible to convince a Christian that morality doesn’t originate from the bible or from this “god” of theirs?”

Answer by Jake
First Adam, sorry for cutting some of your email out, but I wanted to get directly to this great question and save a little space at the same time, so bare with me.
The simplest answer is that some people don’t want to understand. They don’t want to listen to ideas or new thoughts that might go against their beliefs. No amount of debate or discussion is going to change these peoples minds. If someone isn’t willing to listen, there’s no way for them to learn.

However for the sake of this discussion lets assume that the person you are talking to isn’t that closed minded. How do you get through to them? Well again, the simplest answer is that you just give them the facts. What if though, they don’t want to hear about social empathy, or the social contract? I’ve found that a great way to get someone to start thinking about another perspective is to get them to discredit their own perspective first. Each religion is different, but they all for the most part have conflicting beliefs. For example in my view, Xians have no morals because they can be forgiven so arbitrarily that the morals that they have accpeted may as well not even exist. The following is an example I’ve used many times….

Imagine there’s a hockey game and a player sticks another player who doesn’t even have the puck. In this situation the player may be put into the penalty box until it’s time for him to come out again. Now imagine for a moment if the player had the opportunity to remove himself from the penalty box at any time he wished and all he had to do was tell the referee that he was sorry? How long would that player stay in the box? What would be the point of having the penalty to begin with?

This question is great because it asks the theist to compare and contrast their own morals. It won’t convince them that atheist have morals, but what it will do is force them to consider their own morality. If their morality is self nullifying then why do they use morals at all? It’s these kind of questions that if we can get people to ask themselves may lead to a deeper understanding. It doesn’t always work, but I’ve found more often then not it puts the theist on the defensive and demands that they prove or at least rationalize their morality.

How do I deal with my parents ?

An unknown caller said….

Question: ( sent via Google Voice. Transcribed by GV and corrected by Jake )
Hi, At the age of I’d say about 12. I realized that they were a few things I didn’t quite understand about Christianity. Besides the fact that every single one of them claim the correct one and they were simply if you had facts that could be explained by psychology and sociology, that would explain the phenomenon mind set. Thats held by not only Christians, but every religious believer that I’ve met ( mostly ). I began to question the validity of questions of religion in total instead of you know just Christianity the issue being, however, that I have been going to a Christian school raised by Christian parents, who had sent me there for all of 10 years. All though I had finally convinced them to let me out of the private school and into a public school nearby which was much more convenient on us both time wise and financially, my parents been very reluctant to let me out of Christian fear or so to speak. They insist, apparently that I keep on going to church. I have explained my position to them. And no matter what the questions I say, no matter what I asked them of their motives, I tend to get nothing but their assertion ” because we say so ” and they have very little reason, even when I do go to church and I requests to bring a book that I can quietly read or say in the back and join them after its over and get back in the car. They refused saying that I need to sit next to them paying attention to the sermon, as if I have were also an interested Christian like everyone else in the room. This is very frustrating to be going for several years and I’m not exactly sure what to do about it ? It’s very grating on the nerves and I find it most irritating because they keep on speaking to me as if I were a believer in something in which I’m not. It’s very frustrating to be misunderstood by myself and seemingly also about my parents. They seem to be wanting to save face, but better than seems so much the personality of some of my mom. Maybe my dad. However, I don’t know if you have any suggestions. please host it. I am up a creek. I’m getting very frustrated and I’m not sure what to do ? I very much love, my parents, but we’re getting point where there’s an impass that neither will give ground on and you know it’s frustrating. Thank you.


Answer :
I’ve been asked this question a lot over the last 10 years. So before I hit your head with some wisdom, understand that you are not alone. Others have and are going through what you are right now. They made it through, and so will you. However, with that said…
Since you didn’t mention how old you were I’m going to assume that you are somewhere in your late teens. The sad fact is that they are right. You are living under their house, and under their rules. It might not be fair, but until you can get out on your own, you’re stuck in their clutches. Think of it like paying rent but instead of money, you’re giving them church attendance. Yes, I know this sucks, and it’s unfair, but you have to look at it from their perspective. A parents job is to create an adult. Someone who is ready to take on the world. This means they try to instill within you what they believe to be right and wrong. To do otherwise, would be to give up on you. If your parents love you, they aren’t willing to do that. So, they do what they know how to do, and to them, church is an important part. So they force you to go. It sucks, but it’s understandable.
Until your independence day, do something constructive with your forced time there. Listen to the sermon and jot down some notes. See if you can’t find scriptural contradictions in the sermon and ask about them ? Use the time to educate yourself about the one thing you’re sure you don’t believe in, Xianity.
Remember, to them, if you don’t conform to their understanding, then they’ve done something wrong. To counter this, simply be better then they are. Do some community service in your area. Volunteer as a tutor. Mow someones lawn for free. Show them that just because you don’t hold the same beliefs as they do, that you are still a good person and that over all, they did a good job. That’s all they probably really want anyway.


And again, remember you’re not alone. There are plenty of people out there who have gone through it. You’ll survive just like they did. You’ve made it this far already haven’t you ? Hope that helps.

A little lonely.

Question :

I was formerly a hard core, truly devoted, sincere believer.

Then “pop” … awareness, englightenment….and emptiness.

When your whole life is grounded in the belief in a supreme being, and you remove the premise of god and eternity.  It changes your perspective.  That’s a huge gap you’ve got all of a sudden.

It’s heartbreaking and depressing.  I feel judged and misunderstood by practically all believers and “spiritual” people.

Where do I go from here?

Answer :

What you’re feeling is understandable. When we live in a world that still believes in magic and hocus pocus, it’s hard not to feel estranged from the people around us.  That can leave us feeling a bit lonely. My suggestion would be to find other like minded believers out there. Find a local meetup of atheists and share a drink or a meal with them. This will help you feel a lot less lonely and give you the oppertunity to meet some like minded people. They will also help to show you that life can and will go on, and that it doesn’t have to be all that depressing. You’re in control of your life, not some mystical mumbo jumbo bullshit. That’s a lot of power to have.

Think of it this way, if you were an eagle that spent it’s life believing it was a pig, when you discovered you could fly, would you stay in the pig pen or fly into the clouds ?

Hope that helps.

Is it normal to be embarrased to be an atheist ?

Question : For most of my life I’ve hidden that I’m atheist from my family and friends. The thing is: I feel embarrassed to be atheist. Is that normal?

Answer : Yes it is normal. When you live in an area thats heavily populated by theists, it’s understandable that one would feel some social and psychological pressures from that community. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, isolation, and even embarrassment when one is feeling judged or ridiculed.

Which is exactly how they want you to feel.

You see, one of the things about theism is that it creates an attitude of fear and mistrust. It teaches you that those that don’t believe the way you do should be shunned or proselytized . The embarrassment you are feeling is probably due to worrying about how others will perceive you, and consequently, whether or not they will accept you. Religion uses this to their advantage as a way of discouraging people from leaving the flock. It’s a method of control.

To combat this, find ways to build up your self esteem about your atheism. Try finding atheist meeting in your area. Join atheist chat rooms or message boards. A great atheist message board is The Atheist Network Find others who have gone through what you have, and gain comfort from shared experiences. As much as you may feel like it right now, you are not alone. This will help to build up your confidence and allow you to feel less embarrassed about your lack of belief.

Once you’ve built up your confidence, this will allow you to deal with your family and friends in a healthy manner. Try to be kind and understanding towards them and when they aren’t towards you, question them as to why. Show them that you being an atheist doesn’t make you less of a person. Show them that you can be more moral, more honest, and more understanding then they can towards you. Make them aware of your feelings and ask them to be understanding even if they can’t relate to your disbelief. They will find it much harder to judge you when they think that you hold yourself to a higher standard then they do themselves.

Remember, you have nothing to be embarrassed about. If you are a good person, then you are a good person no matter what your beliefs, or lack of beliefs are. Help them to focus on that aspect of yourself and do the same for them.

I hope that helps.

SmartLX: The Return

asktheatheist.com is dead, long live asktheatheist.com!

Welcome to the new site. The old Drupal-based site ground to a halt (like many such sites, apparently) so we’ve gone to WordPress.

Jake’s posted his old videos and I’ll be reposting my Great Big Arguments series (edit: it’s all up now), but the majority of the questions, answers and discussions went down with the old ship and we’re very sorry about that. You’re welcome to restate any of the old questions for us to answer anew. (This is of course your chance to rework or rephrase those questions, if for example you think we got you on a technicality last time.)

We look forward to receiving some questions by voice thanks to Google, and may answer in kind.

Have fun. I know I will.

SmartLX