My transition to Atheism started with my mother’s miscarriage when I was around seven to eight years old. I remember being ecstatic when I was told my mother was having another baby as I had always wanted a little sister and hoped the baby would turn out to be a girl. A few months into my mother’s pregnancy we received some bad news: early scans had shown that the baby would be born with Downs Syndrome. Not fully understanding what Downs even was all I could gather was that the baby would be born different (for lack of a better word) and unable to lead a normal life. I got down on my knees that night and sobbed and prayed to God to make it not so, to give me a normal little sister like I had always dreamed of. A few weeks later the baby died. My mother had suffered a miscarriage and in my childish mind I partly blamed myself, believing that the death of the baby had come about because of my prayer. It was then that I came to the realisation that if God did exist then he was not the benevolent loving creator I had always imagined him to be, I think it may have been this that made me start to think deeply about my religion. I was raised a Catholic and had never really questioned my beliefs up until that point (though like most children I dreaded the tedium of having to go to church).
Later on, like most of my friends, I was sent to a Catholic secondary school. It was then that I started to become more interested in the church and papal doctrine. Instead of merely questioning the nature of God I was starting to question the teachings of the church itself, which often seemed to me to be outdated and unfair. It was around this time ( I was in year eight or year nine) that I started to become aware of the inequalities in society that the church seemed to endlessly perpetuate. It was the issues of excluding women from the priesthood and the condemnation of homosexuality that I saw as being particularly vicious, unnecessary and downright stupid. I realised that the Catholic Church was not so much preaching the word of God as it was the word of privileged old white men. It was only later during RE classes where (to their credit) my school encouraged open debate over some of the more controversial parts of the bible that I realised that this vitriolic spew that the Vatican emitted really was the Word of God after all.
However at this point I was still not an Atheist, In fact when I first saw Richard Dawkins book in stores I regret to say that I was quite nasty about it. Seeing Atheist literature and hearing Atheist view points used to fill me with this horrible heavy sinking feeling in my stomach, at the time I believed it be righteous anger, but now I realise it was fear: fear of having my own flimsy faith questioned. I was now content to believe that, while his dad was not so nice, the figure at the heart of Christianity: Jesus Christ was still good and worthy of my devotion. However I was soon to have this delusion crushed too.
Ironically enough I view my final transition to Atheism as a direct result of doing A Level Theology in a class full of extremely religious people. Most of them were of the irritating ' God rawks!’ variety. Maybe it’s ingrained Catholic snobbery talking but I never could stand huge Christian festivals like 'Greenbelt’ or the tedious caterwauling that is Christian rock. I found myself constantly irritated by their willingness to accept everything the bible said without question and their constant failure to ever actually use their reasoning and logic skills. It was these frustrations that lead me to finally pick up a copy of the God Delusion: a book that I knew they all hated and were deeply frightened by. So my original decision to read the book that I had so heavily criticized came about because I knew the sight of it on my desk in class would annoy the 'God Squad’ rather than because of any desire to read the actual book and pursue an Atheist belief. All I can say is that I’m glad I did read the book because it changed my life. In about two days professor Dawkins dispelled all the fear and guilt I had felt for seventeen years. The answers all became clear: the reason why the mysteries of God and belief that had always worried me were so complicated was because no such thing existed. There was no creation story to reconcile with the clear evidence for evolution, there was no apologising for the Old Testament and cherry picking from the New, there was no need to explain the contradictions inherent within the bible because the whole thing was a pack of lies fabricated by man to explain all the things that science explains so beautifully, so clearly today. The answer really was that simple! Suddenly I felt more free then I had in years, Atheism signalled an awakening to the beauties of life because for the first time I fully appreciated just how lucky I was to be here: just one possibility in a universe of endless possibilities.
Since then I’ve been much happier. The only time I still feel troubled by my old beliefs is when I see the look in my Mother’s eye. That look which says she’s worried about me as she thinks I’m going to hell. I’ve come to accept that there is nothing I can do about that as she is a life long believer and always will be. But me? I feel free for the first time in years: and I have professor Dawkins to thank for that.