Two more provocative questions from Dale McGowan @MemingOfLife, researching a new book by soliciting the input of atheists.

I do still prefer humanist and naturalist, but in a world where some theists “cure cancer” with a kick in the teeth and others blame my worldview for enabling the sociopathy of murderers, the splitting of terminological hairs is an unaffordable luxury. So,

1. What was the first realization that got you questioning religious assumptions?

2. What was the biggest AHA! moment on your path to atheism?

Dale asked for tweet-length responses, so mine were:

1.  Belief mirrors locale: few S.Baptists abroad…

2.  I’m surrounded by unreflective S.Baptists!

My larger implicit observation is that unreflective people everywhere, not just around here, tend to embrace the tribal thinking at hand. Thinking about the contingencies of birth and geography got me past that hump, onto the “path” of freedom.

It freed me from the clutches of tent revivalists and bigots, for sure, though I admit I never encountered a teeth-kicker among them; but also from the more benign but misplaced intentions of the casually-but-unshakably religious midwesterners who sent me to Sunday School “for your own good.” Their interest in religion had as much to do with tribal identity as with metaphysics. Religious training was just part of my civics curriculum.

But I wanted to be a citizen of the planet and the cosmos, even (I think) before I heard Carl Sagan articulate that possibility. There were no cosmopolitan churches for freethought in our community then, not even Unitarians or Congregationalists.  One member of our congregation was marked as that exotic beast known as an “intellectual,” apparently because he read extensively (though not enough, evidently). My Dad, to his credit, expressed admiration for this man.

And so, to cut a longer story short, aha! A philosopher was born.



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