Thursday, October 23, 2008

Deconversion meme

Susan of Intrinsically Knotted tagged me with this meme about atheism.

Can You Remember The Day That You Officially Became An Atheist?

There was no one day. My deconversion was a long process, over the course of about a year. This was in and around my senior year in my Jesuit (Catholic) high school. All that is really clear is that at the beginning of the year, I was "questioning", and at the end, I was fairly sure of my answer. To further complicate matters, during that time I was not at all concerned with what to call myself. It was some months later that I gradually decided that "atheist" was a useful label. There was no single day in which I changed my mind, and no single day in which I started to think of myself as an atheist.

One of these days I intend to write up a proper deconversion story.

Do you remember the day you officially became an agnostic?

I never considered myself agnostic. It's not that I skipped the "agnostic stage", but that I was unconcerned with labels during that time.

I have very negative feelings about the word these days. If agnosticism just means not knowing, then I guess I've been agnostic all my life. So what purpose would it serve to call myself agnostic, except to imply that everyone else is dogmatic?

How about the last time you spoke or prayed to God with actual thought that someone was listening?

As far as I remember, I prayed all through my senior year of high school. Never by my own initiative. Only at specified times in ceremonies or other activities. I never considered myself a religious person, the kind who would pray every night. Our family never said grace at meals either (only in college did I realize how common the practice is). Prayer was never important to me, and I never felt that I got much out of it. That said, I did believe that God was probably listening to the prayers. I did not believe God ever replied back to me; I did not ever expect him to.

I didn't do petitional prayers, the kind of prayers that ask for stuff. That's only what the stereotypical prayer is like. My prayers were usually free-form, basically an internal chat with myself/God.

Did anger towards God or religion help cause you to be an atheist or agnostic?

My deconversion was never, at any point, an angry one. I'm still not angry. I like the Jesuits. Well, this political ad makes me angry, but that's got nothing to do with the truth or falsity of religion, much less the kind of religion I was in.

Here is a good one: Were you agnostic towards ghosts, even after you became an atheist?

As far back as I remember, I've never believed in ghosts. None of that paranormal stuff. Same goes for modern miracles. And remember, in my timeline, skepticism came before atheism.

But if the question meant to ask about souls, then I'd still say no. I was always agnostic about souls, but this ended when I deconverted. Technically, I still believe in souls, albeit not the dualist kind. A person's soul is the collection of parts and properties which give the person a recognizable identity. It's very much a subjective concept, perhaps not very useful. I see absolutely no reason to think that souls are conserved after their creation.

Do you want to be wrong?

I don't usually think about whether I want religion to be true...

No, I want to be right. I'd rather the universe weren't a cheesy fable.

[Yeah, I'm not going to tag anyone.]