I was raised Roman Catholic. My parents were very devout, and so was I into my late teens. I always had a curious and skeptical mind though, which meant that I often had lingering questions and doubts about what I was being raised and taught to believe.
I was able to suppress those doubts until my early 20s when I began studying psychology in college. I joined a lab as a research assistant, helping to conduct experiments in memory and other aspects of cognition. After graduating, I chose to continue on in the graduate program, working in the same lab. It was at this point that my hard-core training as a research scientist began.
The more I learned about the foundations of the philosophy of science (determinism, skepticism, empiricism, probability, etc.) and practiced the scientific method as I conducted research, the more I found my mind incorporating those elements into my worldview. For a time, I was able to suppress the obvious tension between my increasingly evidence-based belief system and my faith-based one. Eventually though, as I continued to develop my skeptical mind, the incompatibility between the two aspects of my worldview became too obvious to ignore. This was when I started to have serious doubts about my faith.
Like a good Catholic, I sought counsel from the supposed resident theologian at a retreat house my Dad and I used to visit every year. For the sake of brevity, I won’t recount the conversation with him right now. Suffice it to say, his lack of satisfactory answers (or any answers at all in some cases) to my questions only increased my doubts.
The next logical thing for me to do seemed to be to seek answers to my questions from the Bible itself. I decided I was going to read it cover to cover. This turned out to be the nail in proverbial coffin for my Christian beliefs. I got barely half-way into the old testament before I put the book down, horrified by what I’d read there, and never picked it up again.
So that was that for my Christian faith. My full “conversion” to scientific skepticism happened when, at the recommendation of a lab mate, I bought and read a copy of Carl Sagan’s “The Demon Haunted World”. It remains far and away the most compelling book I’ve ever read. I’ve read it three times to date.
So that’s the “Cliff’s Notes” version of the story of my apostasy. As I said in the original post, I’m very curious to hear what led others to their own de-conversions. Hope others will share their stories as well.