I’m not an academic, pundit, writer, debater, speaker, historian or, for that matter, even a fast thinker on my feet. Like many others, I would have a tough time debating “live” with those of Faith. But, nevertheless, I’d like one opportunity, before I croak, to express my views, even if it is only to an “echo chamber” of like-minded, rational thinkers.
So, here goes.
First, a short background. I’m 70. My father was just a “cultural Christian” – went to a protestant church and even became a Steward, but religion outside of that Sunday ritual was not part of our home. Mother didn’t go to church even though church attendance was just “the thing to do” in the 40’s and 50’s here in Canada. So, I attended church, sang in the choir and attended Young People’s on Sunday nights. Hey! It was a way to meet girls.
I was doing nothing more than adhering to the cultural norm at the time. Mind you, many so-called believers showed up only at Christmas and Easter Sunday. I wonder if they are part of that group that claim on surveys to be religious? Sure. Ha!
Religion played no really important part of my life. My behaviour and morals were based on what seemed right and/or law-abiding, not what I read in some religious book. Even if I had never heard of the Bible, I’m sure that I would not have murdered or stole. It just always seemed to me that the world would be a better place if such actions did not occur. The Golden Rule was just fine.
In University I majored in Mathematics and Physics. My career was in Information Technology. I love Science. Clearly, I have always been a believer in reality, facts, reason and logic.
I was influenced against religion in the 70’s by Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. Also, again in the 70’s by Janov’s Primal Scream, whose therapy I did partake of. As many know, it was his involvement with Primal Therapy that gave John Lennon the reason to write the song “Imagine.” Primal Therapy painted adherence to religion as just a form of neurosis.
In recent years I discovered, to my immense pleasure, Dawkins, Hitchins, Harris, Dennett etc. and devoured their and many other non-believers’ writings. Yes, this meant that my readings were biased towards Atheism and perhaps I should have read religious books as well in order to be able to make a balanced, informed decision. God knows (pun absolutely intended), our local public library has an overwhelming/massive collection of religious books. But I expect, with some certitude, that nearly all of these were written by those of Faith, hence have as a starting “given” that God exists. I don’t accept their starting premise, so how can I then give their prose a rational appraisal? Indeed, I have in my mind an image, somewhat akin to Atlas holding up the Earth, of a toothpick supporting the massive weight of Religion and the Religious. All the books, debates, posturing, sermonizing, etc. go on day by day but the underlying toothpick is no proper foundation for the weight.
I now use the Internet to search out websites, blogs and videos. Richard Dawkins' website has been especially wonderful in this regard. Videos of relevant debates and interviews have helped me become more certain about my Atheism. Ironically, I find the Faith-based websites only confirm my Atheism. Again, their “God exists” premise is their fault line. Please, folks, PROVE IT, don’t just claim it.
In passing, I have to applaud Dawkins for the pleasant manner with which he talks to those of Faith. There must be times when his frustration at the ”BS” that he hears must make him want to throw up his hands and even the contents of his stomach. But he doesn’t. He remains polite. It’s so very unfair to constantly read, by his detractors, that he is militant and aggressive.
In summary, I have to stress how wonderful it is to not have Religion hanging over my head. Yes, it does mean that anything I do requires me to first think about it and make my own decision. That means more intellectual work than would be the case if I simply could reference some “good book” for the answer. Atheism does require more thinking!
And, of course, I might not make good decisions. But my life is now my own. My death is also my own. Indeed, instead of a future burial in the ground in some box (like, WHY?), my body will go to a University Medical School for training and maybe even research. No mumbo-jumbo by some cleric at a gravesite. Absolutely not!
Thank you for reading this. If it has any influence on any fence-sitter out there , all the better.