Account Of An Atheist
In the “About” section of this blog I state that the main purpose of this page is “to encourage thoughtful consideration of what you, the reader, believe and why you believe it.” The various posts on this site explain a lot of the “what” I believe so I thought I’d devote this post to the “why” and touch on how I came to believe the things I believe.
First off I wasn’t raised in a purely secular or atheistic household. My mother was, at least nominally, a Roman Catholic. We went to church, sometimes regularly, at other times more sporadically. My sister and I were baptized, had first communions and attended Catholic schools. There was, however, no talk of god in our house, no bible on our bookshelves, and never any strenuous attempt made by our mother to ensure that we followed her, or any, specific religious tradition.
To understand why I think the things I think you have to understand the sort of person I am. I was always a studious, curious, opinionated, (and I flatter myself to say) bright sort of child. I’ve never been the sort of person to accept what I’m told without question, or to accept an answer that was less than completely satisfying. The more I learned about the Catholic faith the more questions I had, and the more less than satisfying answers I received. I learned, as a lot of children do, that the primary requirement of religion was faith: that I was required to accept and believe what I was told without the benefit of any proof whatsoever, or even convincing argument in its favor. This automatically put me off. In every other aspect of my education and life I was required to think, to explore, to study, and to judge whether something was reasonable, but in this area I was just supposed to accept? This never seemed right to me.
I was and am an extremely imaginative person, I understand what it is to build large and complex fictions to entertain, escape, and even cope with uncomfortable truths. Even at a young age I think I recognized that there was little difference between what I did in my own mind with my various stories and the religion I saw laid out in church.
I read the bible all the way through for the first time at about thirteen or so years old, and by the time I finished reading it I was certain that not only was it not really true, but that it was an excellent thing that it wasn’t true. My education had only reached the end of grade school at this point yet I’d already been exposed to enough science and history to know that the bible was just flat out wrong on several points (like these).
I’ve studied several versions of Christianity, some Islam, some Buddhism and even some Hinduism as well as Greek, Roman, Norse, and Egyptian mythology and they all strike me as similar. They all reach for answers to the tough questions, and attempt to explain how and why we’re here. Unfortunately for religion we now have the technology and understanding to search out and discover the actual answers to the big questions, and our studies so far have led us to the knowledge that every religion past or present is just riddled with errors and falsehoods. They all oversimplify incredibly complex realities in order to make them palatable and understandable to the masses without the need to actually study. They all seek to capitalize on the natural human fear of the unknown and specifically the fear of death. They promise to reassure you that you won’t really die, all you have to do is accept their system and worship with your whole heart (and often wallet) and you won’t just die and be lost, you’ll be reincarnated and come back, or ascend to the halls of Valhalla, or be rewarded with Paradise or Heaven, or achieve Nirvana. To my mind there’s no distinction between the ones that are still called religions and the ones that are have been reclassified with time and labelled myths. They are all, quite apparently to me, designed to explain and make sense of the world, to provide purpose in life, and consolation about death. The problem is that even a moderate understanding of how the world actually operates can’t help but conflict with a religious view of reality. Science gives us much more plausible, testable, and falsifiable explanations for how the universe came to be, how we came to be, and why we are the way we are. It achieves what religions throughout the ages and around the globe have pretended to achieve, it provides genuine answers, builds our understanding and improves the quality of our lives.
My atheism is the result of years of questioning and studying. It is rooted in a critical examination of the claims of religion and a general understanding of the truths of science and history. It is the assertion that there is not enough evidence or good reason to convince me of the existence of a deity. My AntiTheism however is a related but separate thing. It is the assertion that the very idea of a deity, the very practice of religion is a damaging and dangerous practice which divides us as a society, builds artificial barriers between us, and acts as a roadblock to genuine understanding. This is also based on my understanding of history, but also my understanding of current events. To me the good that religion can do (the charity work, the sense of community, the comfort it brings to many) are not justification enough to balance with the horrors, ignorance, bigotries, and hatreds which religion has always fostered in our society. Both my atheism and my AntiTheism are based on my personality, my knowledge, my understanding and my morality. They’re not simple beliefs or positions arrived at lightly but thousands of hours of introspection, study and consideration distilled and concentrated into a few simple words.