I am a 40 year old British ex-pat living in Denmark for the past 10 years.
Ever since infant school, the state run schools force fed God to impressionable school children in the form of morning hymns and prayers (The Lords Prayer was almost brainwashed into everyone). Everyone had to have their own personal hymn book. From the very beginning, the concept of organised religion was always unsettling to me. On the rare occasions I went to church (Weddings, Funerals and so on) I always found myself uncomfortable and out of place somehow. I could appreciate the design of the building itself, the beauty of the stained glass windows and so on, but its very purpose, the reason it was built, did not seem right.
I have always been scientifically minded. As a child, I loved Lego Technic, Meccano and so on, and after getting a computer for my 12th birthday, got into programming. The creation of programs was a real insight into the real world and my first foray into the theory of evolution. Sure I had read the books that the school had, but it was just facts. To understand the meaning took programming. I would write a program, then modify it over and over to improve it, throwing away the irrelevant stuff, adding new, improving the remaining existing code. Over time, a program that complemented the situation was produced. As the situation changed, the program evolved to compliment it. This was an epiphany (in the scientific sense , of course) for me, and I could see what Darwin was on about.
For the rest of my school and college years I studied the Physics, Electronics, Mathematics, Computer Science and so on, to feed my need for knowledge and understanding. I dabbled with astronomy for a while, which came in particularly useful with a run in with Jehovah’s Witnesses one day.
A knock at the door came. My father groaned when he saw the trench-coated, suited individuals outside. I offered to “see them off”. I opened the door to be greeted with an unnerving smile, and almost cattle-like gaze. Was I interested in learning the truth? Certainly, but I informed them I was of a scientific disposition. They inquired what a 17 year old thought of creation, so I gave it to them. The big bang, to cosmic background radiation, first generation stars, stellar nucleation, supernovae, second and third generation stars, the ever increasing number of elements, protoplanetary discs, and so on. Needless to say, they never knocked our door again.
To me, religion has a lot to answer for. Religion, or its banner, is the number one cause of conflict in the world today, and indeed historically. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, to name a few. They are all at each others throats because their invisible friend is better than the next. How sad that we squander so much precious time and resources on these irrelevant quarrels. We have been granted an extraordinary opportunity to be a living, breathing part of the Cosmos – how sad that it is wasted on magic and mysticism, instead of furthering the knowledge and understanding of the Cosmos from which we all came.
I am proud to call my self an Atheist – and a dysteleological one at that.
Thank you Richard. Since the loss of figures such as Carl Sagan, very few people stand up and defend science from the continual attempt of religion to bury it. May you have the strength to continue to do so for many years.