How My Parents Became Atheists

I’ve mentioned in various places that I was raised without a religion. I’ve described my father as an atheist and my mother as an agnostic, although she sometimes uses the word atheist as well. When I read blogs written by people who call themselves atheist, it seems that almost everyone has a post describing how and why he or she became an atheist, everyone except me. So I’m feeling a little left out of the party. Furthermore, it seems that there are fewer atheists in the United States than I would have thought, so I thought it might be worthwhile to describe for everyone how my parents became atheists. This is the story as it was related to me.

It might surprise everyone to know that my sister and I were both baptised, however I have no recollection of this event. I understand that’s typical. One Sunday morning some years after the aforementioned baptisms, my parents were lying in bed sound asleep. The alarm went off. My father, a light sleeper, awoke immediately and shut off the alarm. Now he had the difficult task of waking my mother. “Sweetie,” he said nudging her, “Wake up. It’s time to go to church.”

“Ugh,” my mother groaned, “but I don’t even believe in God.”

“Well,” my father said, “I don’t believe in God either.”

“Does that mean we can sleep?”

“I guess so.”

“Good,” my mother replied.

Now that I’ve recounted this, it seems rather anticlimactic. Everyone else has these deep posts about science, doubt, morality and a path or journey towards rejecting religion. I have a sleepy mother.

Also, I’ve seen other posts where people have talked about how to raise children if you’re an atheist. I don’t think my parents really thought much about it. They just did. We continued to go to school and not much was made of it one way or another. There were a lot of other things to do and to think about and, except when someone else brought it up, it simply wasn’t there and I barely noticed. I went through a phase in my late teens and early twenties of being curious about religion. Almost every religion I investigated seem silly after a certain point.

My mother might have felt slightly self-conscious about not imparting a religiously tinged morality. From time to time she would make odd statements. When the kid up the street blew his hand off making a pipe bomb, my mother said, “See, going to church every week didn’t do anything for his sense of right and wrong.”

My sister won’t even countenance the subject of religion. “When I hear an adult talking about God,” she told me one day, “it’s like hearing an adult discuss the existence of the Easter Bunny. I just can’t take it seriously.”

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11 comments
  1. This is hilarious! I had a good laugh reading this

      • I find your posts very interesting even I don’t write much as comments, I love most if not all of them.

  2. Hello, there.

    As you said, most atheists have rich stories behind their “conversion” (from religion to atheism). Yours was… anticlimactic as you put it, and yet, strangely nice to read!
    Though I still wish you, your mother or sister, had gone through the whole moral questioning.

    Stay well,
    Celma.

  3. Reblogged this on paarsurrey and commented:
    Paarsurrey says:

    So your parents became Atheists as they did not believe in the Christian-God “Trinity” invented by Paul and the Church; that does not prove that the one true God whom Jesus used to call as God-the-Father was not true.
    Your story does not mention of any positive or valid evidence that your parents had with them in this connection.

    • fojap said:

      The story wasn’t meant to be “proof” of anything. It’s strictly autobiographical. My parents may be simplified the story for me since I was a child. However, I should point out that my parents did not say that they didn’t believe in the Trinity, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Birth, the Parting of the Red Sea. They said that they didn’t believe in God. From later in life I know that for my father it went a good bit further than the Christian God he learned about growing up. I know, because I knew him well, that he did not believe in any non-material beings and only believed in natural explanations for phenomenon. My mother, was less certain about an absolute atheism and she called herself an agnostic, but she didn’t believe in the God of Abraham at all, not any interpretation.

      As I said, none of that is actual proof. I don’t argue with Christians, frankly, because I find their ideas too absurd, just a bunch of superstitious mumbo jumbo.

      • I think that they might have realized that Paul’s Christianity- a misnomer, could not be believed and defended as it was mythical.
        The one true God is attributive; neither material nor spiritual; so He is know by His attributes and is out of the reach of science; as science only deals in the physical and the material.
        I have observed that in the West; when they say that they don’t believe in God they mean that they don’t believe in Jesus as God.

    • fojap said:

      How dare you imply that I don’t know what my parents did or didn’t believe. You are a presumptuous, arrogant asshole.
      “I have observed that in the West; when they say that they don’t believe in God they mean that they don’t believe in Jesus as God.” Who the fuck do you think you are? I’ve explained over and over again that I did not grow up in an exclusively Christian environment. You’re making assumptions about people you’ve never met, people you don’t know. You’re stupid and not adding anything to this conversation. Do not come back here.

      I didn’t start this blog as a forum for snake oil salesmen. Sell your shit somewhere else. I’m telling my life story. That’s my fucking business. I know my own life story and you don’t now jack, jerk. There are no gods of any sort, so just go fuck off.

      Any further comments from you will be deleted.

  4. Very interesting, particularly as you are one of the few people I’ve come across who was raised Atheist as opposed to losing their faith later in life. Hopefully your experience will be much more common in the future.

    • fojap said:

      Hi, Robert. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      I imagine it is rather common in some countries. It probably helped that we did not live in a region dominated by one faith. Our town was equally divided between Catholics, Protestants and Jews. Although I’m sure some individuals were devout, I grew up with the sense that talking about religion in public was impolite. My closest friend in middle school was born in Hong Kong and considered herself a Taoist, and I also had two friends from Vietnam who were officially Buddhists, but, as one of them said to me, they didn’t really put much stock in any of it. I also knew Christian Scientists and Greek and Russian Orthodox members. So the environment as a whole, not just my own parents, was relatively relaxed when it came to religion.

      If I could get religious people to agree to the sort of truce we had growing up, I probably wouldn’t have any need to talk about atheism.

      It was just an empty space in the calendar that was filled with other things. In elementary school, my two closest friends were Catholic and Jewish. One had religious instruction after school on Wednesday, the other on Thursdays. On Tuesdays, I took painting classes. I also took horseback riding, ballet and nature/ecology classes. I belonged to a club for young people called 4-H. Really, there are so many productive things to do. I wish I could convey how banal having parents who were atheists was, especially when you’re a kid. I thought it was normal. I did the same things as the other kids, just minus the church things.

      Now, the Jewish girl grew up to be more devout than her parents, so the environment didn’t naturally turn people into atheists. There are a whole lot of people, most of whom don’t talk about it on the internet, who, while technically believing in a god and following the traditions of their parents, more or less, don’t put a lot of stock in it. I can think of so many people with whom I grew up who married outside their faiths. They go to whatever church is nearby unless the pastor says something crazy, in which case they go to the second closest.

      I didn’t grow up in the Deep South. It was New Jersey, over all pretty well educated, ethnically diverse and so on. I actually think I was pretty fortunate to have grown up without any religious instruction. I like to point out my sister to people because she’s probably closer to what most people would like their children to grow up to be. She’s a successful professional, an executive with a mid-sized nonprofit that provides human services, she has a successful marriage to a very nice man who is now a physical therapist. I’m more unconventional, but religion, or the lack thereof, had nothing to do with it.

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