My parents had raised me in a strict sabbatarian Christian sect in western Canada. Growing up I took everything the church told me as the truth; everything my parents told me about the bible as truth; I had no reason to doubt them. As a teenager and a young man I bought into that faith and encouraged others to partake in it as well. I Believed with all my heart and even wanted to join seminary, and I justified to myself that everything in the bible was the literal truth no matter what any objections had to say about it.
But unlike my parents and most other people in my church I needed to justify it through historical accuracy; as a young man I started on a spiritual and historical odyssey through other religions (the big three monotheism’s), Buddhism and Taoism. I took History as my major in University and found that there was no validity in the historical accounts of the bible, and many Jews and Christians do not even consider many of the Old Testament stories as true (I didn’t interview Muslims, due to the absence of them in my community). I found it utterly baffling that there are people who claim they are Christians or Jews who do not believe in Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, or Noah, or the parting of the Red Sea. These stories are the foundation of these religions; it is an oxymoron to reject them as ‘mythos’ and yet cling to the religion that purports them.
Pouring over text books and looking into archeological evidence I was shocked and disturbed at the incredible lack of historical accuracy behind the biblical accounts of even the most important events and the most notable figures; to include Jesus himself. My faith was shaken, but I was still a believer.
Well, the Iraq war started. I was in school for a couple more years and than decided to go to the States and join the US Army. I was eventually sent to Iraq and hoped that I could understand God and the bible better in the ‘holy land’. I was mortified by what I saw; a completely blind and unapologetic adherence to a violent interpretation of Islamic text. The people even had a common saying inshallah, or ‘God’s will’. Well, God’s will included many horrible atrocities including rape, murder, and infanticide (which particularly haunts me to this day).
And given the complete wanton destruction laid by the pious; I realized that God does not interject in the actions of men; and if He even cares, He certainly does not make it known.
It was during this time a fellow Soldier lent me his copy of god is not Great by Christopher Hitchens. It was unrelenting and ruthlessly critical of all religious belief, as I’m sure you’ve read it for yourself.
In time I came upon your book The God Delusion was very impressed by the logic you’ve applied to belief in the ‘theistic’ creator god, and how the very notion of belief itself is destructive. I’ve watched many of your interviews and arguments and have to say you use a much more logical approach then the opposition (and you are usually much more respectful then they are as well). I appreciate your objective and unapologetic approach to understanding why people believe what they do and exposing the lack of validity behind it.
And now after three years of gradual conversion, I’ve shaken off the painful and self-loathing ideology I grew up with and have accepted the logical conclusion that that there is no personal god.
I’ve since confronted my family on their beliefs and their rational for raising me in such a strict household; and their response and defense for their religious beliefs have only caused me despair. Their faith has no bearing on anything tangible. They simply believe because that’s what they were told to believe; and have never been put in a situation where they had to challenge that belief. It’s hard not to be resentful, but unlike the Muslim mind-victims in Sadr City, and Iraq in general, that resentment does not have to be ideological dogma.
Thank you Richard, you’ve helped set my mind free; and I truly do feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
P.S. There are a hell of a lot more ‘atheist’s in the fox holes’ then most churches would care to admit.