When I was seven years old, I became convinced that everything that adults were telling me about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and all such magical childhood entities was a big lie. Of course everyone comes to that realization at some point in their life, but most continue to live out the fantasy, especially when they become parents. At that point, they seem to think that it is their duty to play those little games and promote the idea with their children that magical and mystical entities exist. While I have never had children, I think that in the long run this is an incorrect way to raise thinking children, but the purpose of this post is not to argue that point. This post is to explain, in part, how I became an atheist.
How do I know this happened was when I was seven? Well, when I was seven, my family was living on a farm in Mason City, Iowa, with my paternal grandparents. My grandmother's birthday was on December 26 and her family was not very well off. Her memory of her childhood Christmases was that there was no celebration or gifts, so she did not remember Christmas as a very happy time. Therefore, she always insisted on making Christmas a big deal for her grandchildren. On that particular Christmas, my family was all gathered in the living room when my grandmother excused herself to go into the basement because she said she heard a noise there. Shortly, thereafter, we heard jingling outside and then a bag of toys showed up on our front porch. By age seven, I was smart enough to question why my mother would not let me look outside to see the source of the jingling and would not let me go downstairs to get my grandmother so she could share in this event. I knew that my real life grandmother was really this magical Santa. Importantly, I was a budding skeptic!
Then, in the following year, we were in a church and they were having baptisms that day. My mother could not remember if I had been baptized so my brother and I were sent to the front of the church with a large number of people to be baptized. A woman appeared and explained that the minister would be out to baptize us, but first we would have to agree to a statement that she read to us. My guess is that it was the Nicene Creed, but basically it was the we would agree that the story of Jesus was true or something to that effect.
Having developed a healthy skepticism, I raised my hand and asked how I was supposed to know the truth of the statement - afterall, I had already been lied to about Santa Claus and the Jesus events were supposed to have happened 1900 years or more before. She told me that there was not time to explain it all, but that I would have to agree, if I wanted to be baptized. I refused and she asked that I step back from the railing. I went back to my mom and explained my dilemma to her. She told me to just agree to the statement which I did and I was baptized.
For the next ten or so years, I continued to go to church and tried to make some sense out of what I was being told. Luckily, I was never traumatized by any reaction to my beliefs. For one thing, I kept most of my thoughts to myself. Plus, most of the churches we went to were mainline moderate churches that were doing so well in the 1950s which were nothing like the right-wing churches that "put the fear of God" into you. Having talked to many converts to atheism who came out of extremely right-wing denominations, the experience can be quite traumatic. Luckily, I experienced none of that.
I could post a long list of additional events in my young life that led me to ultimately realize that atheism is the only stance one can honestly have, but by age eighteen or so I was definitely an agnostic or atheist. Evidence became very important to me and the evidence definitely disproves the existence of any god.
And, about the baptism, having been baptized is inconsequential to me! Some atheists want to go so far as to go through a debaptism, but to do that is to say that it is an event that has meaning. Putting some water on my head and saying that it washes away my sins (or whatever the function of it is) is total nonsense.
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