Escape from the Woo Zoo: How Someone Else’s Fight Told Me Who I Am

This is part of our Teen Skepchick series, Escape from the Woo Zoo, in which regular people tell stories of how they gave up unsubstantiated beliefs in favor of evidence and skepticism.

When I was young, my mom was in charge of the after school care across town, so I rode the bus from my school to her’s every weekday. There were people I knew, people I didn’t. There were also some people who went to my school. It wasn’t a…
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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Thanks for sharing your story. You emphasized the overall triviality of the event that made you realize religion didn’t make sense — I actually think that may be quite common. I know that I had a similar epiphany over something even more trivial. I grew up in the bible belt, among Baptists, and as such, I accepted the idea that people who did bad thing like swearing, smoking, sex out of wedlock, etc., would go to hell. I was too young to want to do any of those things, so the harshness of that wasn’t really apparent (I was about 6 or 7).

    But then I went to see ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’. There was a scene in it where Indy and what’s-her-name (Willie?) shared a tent, and somehow I put two and two together: they weren’t married, and they had had sex (gasp!). I tried to picture Indiana Jones burning in hell, and I realized how completely silly that kind of punishment would be for an act that harmed no one. And that was pretty much the end of Christianity for me, because I couldn’t ever uncritically accept its claims any more, and they kept not making sense when scrutinized.

  2. I’m a late arrival to the skeptic community and to atheism. I still have vague fears in the back of my head that pull me in the direction of agnosticism more often than not.

    I have to say, though, my first real severing of the ties with my Christianity was when I slept with my first boyfriend. I’d made a “pact” that I’d save myself for marriage. That pact went out the window after two months of dating. The thing was, I blamed myself for not being strong enough to stick with my promise. So instead of “asking for forgiveness”, I pretended God wasn’t there for the next… oh 10 years. And while pretending, I realized… he isn’t really there.

    Little things along the way added to my take down of my belief; mental abuse, post-pardom depression, loneliness. But I’d say that my reaction to that one decision I made is what started me on this path.

    And since I’ve discovered Skepchik and other such sites, I’ve continued to learn more about critical thinking and skepticism. So kudos to all of you who contribute to this site and others for making this a safe place for people like me to explore and learn without feeling scolded or foolish for not knowing.

  3. Becoming Free

    Blame it on my parents.  They always told me to “think for yourself”.  I doubt they ever considered what would happen if I really did that. 

    Now, I suspect what they meant was, “Think what we tell you but do it in your own words.”  Too late.  When I was 13, I began to question everything and soon the total absurdity of religion became apparent. 

    Because I have been “encouraged” (forced) to read the bible several times, it was easy for me to see the contradictions in the book, what christians professed to believe, and how they really lived.

    When I refused to go with them to their church, they said they would “Make me go.” 

    I asked them, “How are you going to make me? How will forcing me to attend church change my mind?”  Already, their attitude was starting to harden me against everything else they would tell me.

    Their next idea was to have their minister talk to me.  I told them it was a waste of everyone’s time.  They persisted and had him come to the house to “Talk some sense into me.”  (as if they ever works for anyone)  After about 15 minutes, of him quoting the bible to me and me pointing out that he was either wrong in his quotes or showing him how it said something else in another place, he became very angry and told me I was going to hell.  I suspect it was because I knew the bible better than he did and was, at age 13, able to prove how ridiculous his arguments were.

    I told him, “If there is a Hell I’ll see you there.  Save me a nice place, OK?”  He said I was an impertinent, disrespectful child.  By then, I was angry myself and for the first time, I told a christian that he was a hypocrite, a liar, and a fool.  My parents insisted that I apologize.  I refused and left the room to a lot of yelling and threats.

    For the next four years, I heard about this at least once a week.  So the night I graduated high school, I left my parent’s home and didn’t see them again for well over a year.  By then, with the credits I had accumulated in high school and summer school,  I had completed a couple of years of college.  Fortunately, I was able to pay for this myself.  I was entering the army and wanted to try to make peace with them, but had to listen to the same old recriminations and arguments again. 

    The next time I saw them was two years later when I was getting married.  After several years of an on-again, off-again relationship they finally agreed to just not discuss it any more.  I’d like to say that worked, but  subtle hints slowly became outright condemnation.  Then I took a job transfer from Ohio to Arizona, so family meetings were rare enough to become occasions for something other than contention.

    What did I learn?  Even your family can turn against you if you refuse to share in their illusions.  There are times if you are to become your own person you must stand firm in what you know to be true.

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