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The X-Files made me an atheist. Yup, you read that right.
The X-Files made me an atheist. Yup, you read that right.
I had reason to type this up about a month ago for a mormon online friend I'm having a theological debate with (she would call it a "conversation" but why beat around the bush?). If anything I hope you find it amusing. Thinking back on the time I know I do. Smile

Around seventh grade I was introduced to The X-Files while doing math homework. Actually, my mom was doing my homework and I was watching the show over her shoulder as she tried to explain one of the equations to me. I was an instant fan. And when I say “fan” I mean I was an X-Phile; I was into it in a serious way. I followed the actors, I got really into conspiracy theories and alien stories, I read the fan books, I was as obsessed as a 12-year-old could possibly be. I tied up our dial-up internet connection for hours at a time perusing AOL for more information about the show, the actors, the stories, it was what got me into computer graphics manipulation, web design and coding, it was the first thing I ever wrote fanfiction for, and to be honest this show was probably most responsible for putting me on the path that resulted in me becoming an atheist.

In the early episodes every case Mulder and Scully would get he would insist it was aliens, but it would end up being genetic abnormalities, or medical experiments gone awry, or a host of other conspiracy theory plots. The dynamic between them, the believer and the skeptic, really opened my eyes to what it meant to prove something to people who didn’t believe you, what it meant to say you had evidence for something, what it meant to convince other people that you were telling the truth. I remember that I wanted to have Mulder’s convictions, his assuredness that he was right, I wanted to believe that all this alien stuff and these government conspiracies were true – they were just so interesting! – but I found that I naturally identified more with Scully. She was the doctor, the skeptic, the rationalist who was always looking for the down-to-earth explanation for why something might have been happening. Mulder would claim it was aliens but Scully would counter every claim he made with a reasonable, terrestrial explanation and when she couldn’t she wasn’t averse to saying she didn’t know the answer. It was always so obvious that Mulder was right, though; Scully was just being stubborn and refusing to admit that what had happened had really happened. She would rationalize these bizarre occurrences in the most profound ways:

S6E7, How the Ghost Stole Christmas Wrote:[Mulder and Scully are investigating a haunted house]
Mulder: [hears a noise] What was that?
Scully: These are tricks that the mind plays. They are ingrained clichés from a thousand different horror films. When we hear a sound, we get a chill. We see a shadow and we allow ourselves to imagine something that an otherwise rational person would discount out of hand. The whole idea of a benevolent entity fits perfectly with what I'm saying. That a spirit would materialize or return for no other purpose than to show itself is silly and ridiculous. I mean, what it really shows is how silly and ridiculous we have become in believing such things. I mean, that we can ignore all natural laws about the corporeal body- that we witness these spirits clad in their own shabby outfits with the same old haircuts and hairstyles never aging, never in search of more comfortable surroundings-- it actually ends up saying more about the living than it does about the dead. I mean, Mulder, it doesn't take an advanced degree in psychology to understand the unconscious yearnings that these imaginings satisfy. You know, the-the longing for immortality the hope that there is something beyond this mortal coil-that we might never be long without our loved ones. I mean, these are powerful, powerful desires. I mean, they're the very essence of what make us human. The very essence of Christmas, actually.
For as wrong as I knew she was I had to begrudgingly admit that she had a point. It was possible that what they were experiencing was all in their heads, trumped up by years and years of cultural influences ingraining into them the clichés of ghost stories seen on TV and heard about around campfires and shared at slumber parties between friends. But obviously she was wrong because the ghosts on the show were real ghosts! And if they were real in the show they could be real in real life, too! Rationalizing is all well and good but you have to accept the evidence right in front of you and the evidence she was getting was that ghosts were real, aliens were real, conspiracies were really going on, demons did exist, people could really control the weather and live for hundreds of years and get impregnated with Luke Skywalker’s baby!

[Image: LukeSkywalkerBaby_zpsefc1c510.jpg]

My big opportunity to prove Mulder right came in 1999 when I started high school. I went to an arts magnet school that did things quite differently to the average neighborhood high school. We were too small for sports teams, had an overabundance of art classes and everyone in that school sucked at math and were only moderately better at science (I was a bit of an exception as I did pretty well in both but needed tutoring for math in order to really comprehend the abstract concepts). The biggest difference, though, was that we didn’t have finals at the end of every term, we had term-long research projects that included a research paper, an art project and a speech given in front of our peers. As you advanced through the grade levels the requirements for your Exhibition project, as it was called, became greater and greater, from a 10-minute speech and a five-page paper to a 30-minute speech and a forty-page paper. We got general parameters for the topic we had to choose (research an everyday object, a scientist, a medical condition that runs in your family, choose as topic for which you will try and sway your reader’s/audience’s opinion, teach your reader/audience about a cultural movement, etc.).

In my freshman year I did my second exhibition on the Bermuda Triangle. I was still an X-Phile and as it happened the beginning of the current season had featured an episode where Mulder had gone through a time-warp in the Bermuda Triangle that put him on the Queen Anne ship which had disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle in 1939. It was one of my favorite episodes in my hands-down favorite season of the show. Struggling to come up with an exhibition topic that fit the parameters I lit upon the Bermuda Triangle and I was so excited to start researching it. From the release of natural gases in the continental shelf which could literally sink a ship in minutes, to violent and rapidly changing weather conditions to natural variations in the Earth’s magnetic field to pure and simply human error, the Bermuda Triangle, much to my disappointment, began to be less and less mysterious. I also discovered that a lot of the stories relating to the Bermuda Triangle turned out to be trumped-up stories that were a more-interesting or sensational versions of the actual facts of the case; stories would abound about ships that would mysteriously go missing and the return of the ship to port would never get reported or would be forgotten from history, some of the outrageous disappearance stories turned out to have very reasonable explanations and some of the planes and ships that were reported as victims of the Triangle weren’t even within the boundaries of the Triangle at all. I also learned that the Bermuda Triangle wasn’t unique, there was a similar “triangle” off the coast of Japan, and that, in fact, if you drew a triangle of the same area over any part of the ocean you would get similar results on the number of ships that would mysteriously sink in that area. What I discovered on the one had was one of the biggest disappointments I can remember suffering (after Santa), but on the other it really opened my mind up to the importance of being skeptical about outrageous claims and not taking at face value what the people around you are reporting. I began to have a lot more respect for Scully’s ideas and realized the error I had been making in transplanting the fictionalized “truth” of the X-Files to real life.

I honestly cannot recall when evolution was introduced to me as a concept that related to the development of life, I almost want to say that I got little doses of it my whole life and school career. (It was certainly very present in the movie Jurassic Park.) It was in 9th grade, the same time as I was researching the Bermuda Triangle, that I got my first actual lesson in evolutionary theory proper and it was as mind-blowing as the Bermuda Triangle research I was doing. As a mechanism, evolution was exciting. As a theory, it is incontrovertible. I started doing independent reading about evolution and learned about creationism and that a lot of religious people had serious problems with God and evolution and I wondered why; it had honestly never occurred to me that God had anything to do with evolution or science or even that he played a role in my life; God, to me, was a “person” I had been told about as a kid and it was basically left at that – God was as real to me as the Zeus in the Disney movie was, only I professed at least a minor degree of belief in the former and treated the latter in the same way I treated Cinderella. As far as I knew the only thing God was there for was to get the ball rolling at the beginning of time (I suppose the closest I ever got to true theism was deism).

Once I had finished the research and presentation for my Bermuda Triangle project and my term-long education on evolution wrapped up, I went a little research-crazy; it was the end of the school year and I was looking at three summer months with no money and nothing to do so I started to haunt the library (I had gotten too many stern talkin’-to’s about my injudicious use of the internet at home since we didn’t have two phone lines) and began devouring specials on the Discovery Channel on conspiracy theories and ancient aliens and biblical claims and one by one all of my cherished irrational beliefs born of a desire for Mulder to be right were either disproved completely or poked so full of holes I couldn’t rightly hold on to my dogmatic adherence that they were true; the Bermuda Triangle, the Jersey Devil, the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, alien abduction stories, ghosts, and all manner of other supernatural phenomena crumbled. I began reading about psychology and how people are able to deceive themselves and why humans are so gullible and prone to believing in these kinds of phenomena, how fallible human senses are and that you can’t always trust that the input you’re getting is real. Religion and theology was no exception to my investigation.

Throughout my school career I had been taught about ancient Egypt, ancient Rome and ancient Greece and had taken a particular interest in their divine mythology. Their gods were fascinating and diverse, their stories equally so. But it never occurred to me until high school the manner in which these deities were treated: like characters in old stories; certainly they were real to the ancients who prayed to them. These ideas seemed to naturally transfer to the Christian God. If the ancient gods weren’t real, if they were just made up stories to explain natural phenomena, how was Yahweh, or Baal, or Elohim, or any of his other names, any different? Here I was, having found just about every supernatural, extraterrestrial, off-the-wall claim I could think of debunked or unsupported by real evidence, presented with incontrovertible evidence from my independent reading that every time man claimed that a god dun it someone would come along to prove that claim false and with the historical background I had been taught throughout school about how the Greek gods and Roman gods and Egyptian gods “died out” or were “just myths.”

A domino effect was set off in my brain which culminated in a thought so profound that to this day I remember where I was, what I had been doing prior to this thought occurring to me and can even picture the exact location where I stood and the way the afternoon sunlight fell on the wall I was looking at when this thought dawned on me: If scientists as smart as Newton and Copernicus can make these assertions that God is ultimately behind the thing they can’t explain and yet someone keeps coming along to explain it, wouldn’t science eventually explain away God? What a stupid thing to think that a god is the only explanation; scientists for hundred, even thousands, of years have been taking science to the edge of knowledge and then saying that beyond that horizon lay God but those appeals to God were always superseded by the next generation of scientists. Why do people think that belief in a god is immune from the investigation of science? Why should it be? It’s as testable a claim as the Bermuda Triangle is, as psychic powers are, as telekinetic abilities are.

So I started looking into it, really, honestly, seriously looking into it. I read books on why the bible was or wasn’t an authority to be taken seriously. I read books on early Christianity and the development of religions. I read books on logic and reasoning. I read books on creationism and intelligent design and books on evolution and scientific theory. There was a girl named Devon at school whose dad came in to give a talk in our English class when we were reading Siddhartha and he told us about the history and development of Buddhism and mentioned that he was a Buddhist! A white guy could be a Buddhist?!? I’d never seen such a thing! So I looked into Buddhism, then Taoism, and Islam and Wicca and Paganism and ancient religions and any other religions I could think of.

For everything I read supporting a position I tried to find something that opposed that position in order that I wasn’t favoring one side or the other. I consciously made an effort to approach the subject objectively and give each position equal consideration. And at the end of all this reading, all the stuff I had read or seen or learned in support of religion or a god or supernatural spirits or souls or ghosts or reincarnation or heavens or hells… what it all amounted to was a bunch of wishy-washy arguments, appeals for me look into my heart and feel His presence there, and the exact same promises and warnings I had been spoon fed about Santa: he’s always watching, he knows when you’ve been good or bad, you’ll get rewarded for being good and that there are consequences to misbehaving.

I came to understand that there’s no evidence for any of it, no rationale for picking one religion over another and real no reason believe any of it was true. None of these religions could point to anything real or tangible or testable, none of them could give me a good reason to believe at all apart from trying to make me afraid of their hell and desire their heaven, all they could do was talk at me, and the supposed “evidence” they would point to had either been falsified by other scientists, had been proven to be a misrepresentation of the data on the part of the religious advocate, or was an outright refusal to even consider the evidence presented by scientists with an opposing view. On the other hand, though, the people who were doing the experiments, who were coming up with the evidence, who were doing the research into religion and belief and theology and the historicity of their holy books, many of whom were religious and just trying to better understand the origins of their faith, weren’t coming up with anything that supported the existence of a god; they weren’t coming up reasons for me to believe.

So I stopped believing.

I gave up whatever deistic belief I had, recognizing after all that time and effort that it was ultimately an appeal to ignorance, got comfortable saying “I don’t know” and not filling in the blank with personal assertions that are unreliable and untested.

I didn't come to the question of god determined to prove it wrong. I was raised with every intention of instilling in me the presupposition that some kind of god existed. I was entirely hooked into believing in some truly wacky things. I stubbornly refused to give up those beliefs when confronted with the possibility I could be wrong about them. What to happen in my case in terms of a god belief was the failure to indoctrinate me into a religion that would cement that belief and a lack of definition regarding what “god” was, but when I started my investigation I didn’t know that not believing in a god was an option. Because of those two things, when I began questioning religion I made a conscious effort to not lead the evidence, to not make universal pronouncements of belief in a thing until I felt I had an understanding of what it was I was supposed to be forming a belief about, I tried to give all sides of the issue a fair shake. As far as I knew I had to believe in something. I didn’t know what an atheist was, what agnostic meant, everyone I knew believed in a god and all I was trying to do was find out why and how they came to that belief and why I never really seemed to share it to the same degree.

After I lost my god belief I started looking around for some other kind of group to join. I had to belong somewhere, I had to call myself something; everyone else had a church, had a name, had a doctrine and a leader. Science was what I believed in: the methodology, the skeptical approach, the demand for evidence and the quest for knowledge, not asserting that you know a thing but asking the question and methodically searching for the answer, those were things I identified with. I had heard of something called Scientology which sounded legit so I thought for a while I’d be a Scientologist. That idea lasted about 10 minutes into researching Scientology. That’s when I really learned what being agnostic or atheist meant; until then I only knew that atheist usually meant denying that a god existed. I didn’t deny it. I didn’t know one way or the other, but the evidence sure didn’t seem to point to a god, the evidence pointed squarely at natural explanations, not supernatural ones.

I didn’t begin this journey aiming at a goal of disproving god. I didn’t try and steer myself toward a conclusion. I wanted to know whether what I already believed was true and I understood enough about the skeptical mindset and the scientific method by that point that I knew couldn’t approach the issue with my mind already made up or I’d be leading the evidence. I looked at the subject I was investigating as objectively as I could muster and followed where the evidence took me and at every fork in the road the evidence led away from the supernatural and away from a god belief to the point where it was no longer rational to profess a belief in any of it and to date nobody has provided me evidence or a good reason to change that stance.
Teenaged X-Files obsession + Bermuda Triangle episode + Self-led school research project = Atheist.
RE: The X-Files made me an atheist. Yup, you read that right.
I am a huge X-Files fan. Otherwise, tl;dr
“The man who can't visualize a horse galloping on a tomato is an idiot.”
~ André Breton
RE: The X-Files made me an atheist. Yup, you read that right.
Quote:So I stopped believing.

tl;dr but good for you!
"Men see clearly enough the barbarity of all ages — except their own!" — Ernest Crosby.
RE: The X-Files made me an atheist. Yup, you read that right.
Yep... tldr.... but welcome nonetheless!
Enjoy your stay.
I too was a huge fan of fox mulder and dana scully.... then the big government cover up just shut it down and we got lost and fringe instead... still good.
RE: The X-Files made me an atheist. Yup, you read that right.
(June 6, 2013 at 11:04 am)pocaracas Wrote: I too was a huge fan of fox mulder and dana scully
Oh yeah... [Image: drool.gif]

Mulder who?
"Men see clearly enough the barbarity of all ages — except their own!" — Ernest Crosby.
RE: The X-Files made me an atheist. Yup, you read that right.
"The Universe is run by the complex interweaving of three elements: energy, matter, and enlightened self-interest." G'Kar-B5
RE: The X-Files made me an atheist. Yup, you read that right.
Wow, that has got to be the longest post I've read so far! Nevertheless, welcome to AF! ^_^
When I was young, there was a god with infinite power protecting me. Is there anyone else who felt that way? And was sure about it? but the first time I fell in love, I was thrown down - or maybe I broke free - and I bade farewell to God and became human. Now I don't have God's protection, and I walk on the ground without wings, but I don't regret this hardship. I want to live as a person. -Arina Tanemura

RE: The X-Files made me an atheist. Yup, you read that right.
(June 6, 2013 at 11:04 am)pocaracas Wrote: Yep... tldr.... but welcome nonetheless!

(June 6, 2013 at 11:13 am)Kayenneh Wrote: Wow, that has got to be the longest post I've read so far! Nevertheless, welcome to AF! ^_^

I'm verbose, what can I say? Wink

Actually, I already had it typed up so I was partially using this post to test out the forum's formatting, image-linking and stuff like that... Basically all you need to know is from this post is distilled in my signature --v But for those who might insist on asking, I posted this.
Teenaged X-Files obsession + Bermuda Triangle episode + Self-led school research project = Atheist.
RE: The X-Files made me an atheist. Yup, you read that right.
Oh, it's quite alright to be verbose! Hell, I get taciturn even over the internet. Though I have lots of thoughts, I just write down the gist of instead of trying to elaborate Big Grin
When I was young, there was a god with infinite power protecting me. Is there anyone else who felt that way? And was sure about it? but the first time I fell in love, I was thrown down - or maybe I broke free - and I bade farewell to God and became human. Now I don't have God's protection, and I walk on the ground without wings, but I don't regret this hardship. I want to live as a person. -Arina Tanemura

RE: The X-Files made me an atheist. Yup, you read that right.
Hi from the UK.

I always thought of the X Files as a thoroughly sinister example of subconscious messaging with the purpose of propagating the idea that 'you've got to believe something'. Just think of its catchphrase "I want to believe".

Glad to see you bucked your programming!
Sum ergo sum

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