Why does it seem that so many atheists come from a Christian background, or very orthodox background?

I’ve noticed that most atheists I talk to, used to at one point, be a part of some form of Christianity or some religion that was very orthodox.
Why do you think that is?

Posted: November 4th 2009

flagellant www

For my own part, I found my Christian upbringing – although it was not fundamentalist and illiberal – very difficult to take. I began asking questions at an early stage and often felt like interrupting sermons for their patent absurdity. (I never did.) This disenchantment began even before I started to study science. Could it be that I have always had a need for proper, sensible answers and that I want to hear reason and explanation rather than reassurance and expiation?

I seldom discuss atheism, even with my – mainly atheist – friends. Atheism just seems natural to us. As for those who cling weakly to some sort of religious belief, I don’t discuss with them how our religious positions came about, either.

In Europe, it seems there is little pressure on people to be religious. Thus, it’s very easy for us to express our minds and opt out. So many people accept atheism as the default position; that it as it should be.

It appears that natural human opposition to regimentation explains the number of apostates from the more oppressive religions, all of which, in some or many ways, seem to frown on enjoyment. Liberal democracies are so much more 'fun’, aren’t they?

The most interesting – and encouraging – aspect is the number of people abandoning their religions and adopting a more secular persona. The traffic is all one way: as far as I know, no serious atheist ever backslides, even in extremis.

Posted: November 5th 2009

See all questions answered by flagellant


It’s simple.

If you are in a family that is weakly religious, religion doesn’t have much impact on you. You don’t spend much time thinking about it and it doesn’t control what you can and can’t do.

If you are from a more religious background, you spend more time in it. It controls who you hang out with, what activities you do, and what you are supposed to think.

If you are studious and inquisitive, you will quickly find things that just don’t make sense. Some people can deal with those sort of things and stay religious, but others say “what the?...”, do more studying, and end up atheists.

Others rebel against the thought control that is common among the fundamental sects.

Posted: November 4th 2009

See all questions answered by Eric_PK


I can’t say that is my experience. Most of the atheists I know in France and Great Britain come from secular homes, including my husband.

However, the culture can often have a Christian flavor (as my atheist relatives on my husband’s side celebrate Christmas and get married in those lovely Christian churches that are so common in Europe) because in Europe, Christianity has an strong influence upon culture so it is not surprising that it, well, dominates in the public sphere with holidays and symbols.

In America, I suppose atheists come from religious families because religious believers are in the majority in that country. Since atheists don’t come from thin air, they therefore come from parents, who often are religious.

However, since the non-religious group is the fastest growing one in America, I would conjecture that in the near future, you will have more and more atheists whose parents are atheists, eventually even have atheist grandparents (as in my husband’s family).

The reason why the numbers of non-religious is growing in America is because religion is finally being subjected to vigorous criticism and found terribly wanting. In addition, atheists are organizing and offering psychological and emotional support to others who are fed up with the often unchallenged privileges accorded to religious believers and the tacit assumption that religion is a given in order to live satisfying, good, and fulfilled lives.

The times, they are a changing.

Posted: November 4th 2009

See all questions answered by logicel


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