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Always An Atheist

Posted by Joe Bloe , 01 June 2011 · 1,403 views

A friend of mine has often expressed doubts regarding my claim that I have always been an atheist. He is convinced that when I was four years old in Sunday School, I was far too young to dispute what the adults were telling me, and that I must have believed the bible stories for at least a few years – at least until I was old enough to make decisions for myself.

His doubts encouraged me to look back on those early days and try to recall exactly how I felt at the time, and it turns out that I do have some very clear memories:

I started going to Sunday School just after my fourth birthday in October, 1949, and not long afterwards the teacher was telling us about the first Christmas; the time when Jesus Christ was born. Everything was going well until we were told that an angel came down from heaven and informed Mary that she was going to have a baby.

Angels were brand new animals as far as I was concerned and I asked for more details. The teacher showed me a picture of some bloke in a white dress, surrounded by a spooky light and hovering just above the rooftops!

“No,” I thought, “That couldn’t be…”

“If angels were real and they were coming down from heaven and talking to people in the olden days, then how come we don’t see them today?” I asked.

The teacher said that they do exist, but that we can’t see them anymore because they are invisible - and right there, at the tender age of four, I called “bullshit.” Actually I didn’t say anything out loud, but I just knew that I was being told a fairy story with not a skerrick of substance behind it. I just knew that the teacher had invented the invisibility excuse to cover up her original lie – and I had caught her out (clever me).

The next story I remember was the business about Jesus walking on water. I can clearly remember spending the whole lesson looking directly into the teacher’s eyes, trying to figure out if she really believed this stuff – or was she just telling lies again? I concluded that it was a lie, but that she believed it – and for the first time I understood that adults didn’t actually know everything, and sometimes they could be quite stupid. I would have called her gullible, but that word wasn’t in my vocabulary at the time.

Sometime later we were learning how god created the world in six days and once again I expressed my doubts. “How would it be possible for god (or anyone) to create the whole world in just a few days?” The teacher said that in those ancient times, a day lasted for a thousand years, and I accepted that idea with no further questions. A thousand years was a long time, so maybe it was possible that god had been able to do the job after all.

But a few weeks later we had moved a little farther into the book of Genesis and now we were being encouraged to believe that Methuselah had lived to be 969 years old! Hang on a gosh-darned minute there teacher: “How could anyone live for hundreds of years back then, but nobody even comes close to that age these days?”

“Ah ha,” said the teacher. “Back in those days a year lasted only one month.”

I might have fallen for that explanation as well, but I hadn’t forgotten that she had earlier told me that a day lasted for a thousand years.

I didn’t have the arithmetic skills to do the calculations, but I had no trouble figuring out that this bitch was feeding me bullshit. I never believed another word she told me, and thereafter I was proudly informing everybody that I didn’t believe in Christianity, religion, God, or Jesus. It was all made-up rubbish and anyone who thought different was dumber than I was. Not very charitable, I know, but that’s what I thought at the time.

From then onwards I spent the rest of my Sunday School years laughing at the stupidity of anyone who took the bible seriously.

I remember one day I was in the church, in the front pew, right next to the pulpit with a couple of friends, and we spent our time mocking the parson. He was delivering his sermon and we sat there, putting on very serious faces, nodding our heads sagely and declaring quite audibly: “Yes, indeed…That is correct…I agree with you there…” until finally the parson had to lean over the pulpit and tell us to be quiet because other people wanted to hear what he had to say.

On another occasion the same two friends and I were giggling at everything the parson said (can’t remember what he was saying, but we thought it was hilarious at the time). We laughed and we laughed, until eventually one of the women in the church choir had had enough. She left her seat, came over to where we were, and escorted us out of the church in front of the whole congregation.

I continued at Sunday School until I was twelve years old at which point I figured I was grown up enough to make my own decisions and told mum that I was finished with religion for ever. The parson made a few half-hearted attempts to convince mum that I should return to the fold, but I doubt he really wanted me back and soon he stopped calling around. Since then I have been to Church for two funerals and that’s it.

I did, however, believe in Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy – but I had solid evidence for those characters. All those presents and all those coins under my pillow! Where else could they have come from?

At least in the cases of Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy you had some evidence, you just did not know who had planted the evidence at that time.

A great tale!
Cousin Ricky
Jun 06 2011 06:32 PM
Good for you! At age 4 I was stamping out "GOD MADE. THE WORLD." with an ink set. I didn't figure out that it was bullshit until I was 42.

Ironically, someone has recently informed me that I, like you, never truly believed. Apparently, True Belief™ is defined as being invulnerable to competing ideas. If I admit that it's possible that I could be wrong, then I don't really believe it. (And they say atheists are the arrogant ones?)
Jun 24 2011 12:33 PM
Even more annoying then people telling us that we never really believed is them insisting that, in our hearts, we still believe. I get so annoyed when they try to use that tactic.

As to your story, Joe, I found it really interesting. I went to Sunday School, but I don't really remember caring one way or the other. I was just bored with it and wanted to get home.