Why I’m an Atheist

Hello once again everyone, so it’s been a bit of a slow weekend, a little madness about the house, but that’s just normal operating procedures, nothing too exciting. Hopefully then, if all goes to plan, I should have another vlog entry up tomorrow, probably either on this topic or on Scottish Independence. Unfortunately, I am sticking to Windows Movie Maker just now, as I am currently still trying to figure out just what I have to do to get Jahshaka to work for me – perhaps I haven’t yet sacrificed enough children to it yet?

How can so many confident religions be correct? – Image Credit: the UK Human Rights Blog

It dawned on me quite recently, that I have go on about religion in a couple of posts, some more coherent than others, but I haven’t actually covered my own views on religion itself, not as a body that organises itself or that gets involved in places it shouldn’t, but as personal belief. You see whilst I am quite opposed to religion as an apparatus of the state, to me, personal belief is a different matter, and it’s something I thought I’d talk about this evening.

As a child, my parents worked full time, so I was brought up for most of my formative years by my Grandmother for most of the time. My Gran was a member of the Church of Scotland, her husband had been an army chaplain, a missionary and a minister; needless to say, my Gran was quite Christian and, as such, I was brought up being quite immersed in the Protestant Christian faith. I attended services with my Gran, went to Sunday school on occasion and helped out a lot round the Church – Gran was the Church’s secretary, so I kind of became a runner for her about the Church.

In fact, my primary school, whilst being officially a non-denominational, state-run school, was tied to the United Free Church of Scotland, fuck knows what they actually were, but sufficed to say, there was a heavy church presence in my primary school. However, at home with my parents, there was no mention of religion; my father was brought up without religion and has never been particularly religious, and my mother, has never been particularly religious either. As I got older, I started to ask questions of religion, as any child does and that’s when I began to sense it wasn’t doing it for me.

We were being taught about the Romans and other ancient cultures in our classes at school, cultures that we were taught existed five thousand years ago or more, however when the minister came around he told us of the floods and of the creation stories, with the Earth apparently only being six thousand years old. I asked about the ancient people, who we had been taught lived longer ago than this. Now he didn’t stick completely to the creation story as some would, and was able to tell us that some things in the bible maybe weren’t right, or were simply symbolic and not to be taken literally.

Whilst some people may find that a comforting response, for me it just opened everything up even more – the bible, as I had been told, was the word of God and was infallible, how then could it be wrong? By the time I was coming to the end of my time at that school, I had begun to question the existence of God, the truth of the bible and the Christian faith. What also perplexed me was that there being so many other religions we were now being taught about, how could all of them be right? I had asked questions of the ministers of the churches I knew, they hadn’t been able to tell me much, my teachers, I soon discovered, were quite useless too. In fact, one of them pulled me out of a class and shouted at me, after word got out that I had said I didn’t believe in God. Apparently, those are the kinds of opinions we are to keep to ourselves, despite the school being supposedly secular.

I couldn’t bring myself to believe in any kind of supernatural creator or god, but I had nothing else I could fill the gap with. I had heard tales of the “big bang” theory and “evolution”, but as a ten year old child, I didn’t know what these were. Near the end of primary six, I moved from the state primary to a private school in the west end of the city. Whilst the school had a dedicated chaplain and was tied to a church, it was reasonably lax on religion, with the church only being used for Christmas and Easter services, as well as the Service of Remembrance every year. The teachers at the school were also more up for discussion and were quite open about their views.

To my surprise, so were my peers, I found it quite different, this school seemed to be full of more intelligent people up for a debate. As I progressed into secondary school, at the same school, my interest with Physics and Chemistry began to grow, and I became more interested with how the world and the universe actually worked. As I found out more in physics about the workings of the world and universe, I began to fill those gaps that had previously been filled with religious dogma. Chemistry and Biology began to teach me about the formation of life, about evolution, Physics taught me how to interpret the universe and how it works. Slowly I became more confident in my idea that religion was not the way for me.

As I have gone through university, studying Astrophysics, it now has become apparent to me, that the existence of a god, at least in the sense that religions preach, seems quite absurd and improbable. With every passing century, we have uncovered more and more information that disproves creation stories, we are not the only world in this universe, we evolved from different species, etc.

To me then, the idea of some kind of supernatural creator seems quite improbable, there is no need for it in our understanding of how the universe works. It also strikes me as somewhat insulting, that we as humans can accomplish so much in the way of science, only to belittle ourselves by making claims that the universe was created by some kind of higher being. When we know so much, why is it that we seek to pick holes in our theories and then say, “look, this doesn’t match up, therefore God!”

It also seems quite egocentric to have the mighty creator of the universe have simply created our planet, created us in his image and given us some kind of privileged position in the universe. Yet, our science tells us otherwise. We do not have any kind of privileged position, we are in fact a small planet, orbiting a fairly ordinary G class star, on the edge of fairly bog-standard spiral galaxy, whirling through the universe among billions of other galaxies, each with billions of other stars and planets. We are of no consequence to the universe in the grand scheme of things, yet our religions tell us otherwise. In that way, religion to me seems slightly silly, I find it strange to think that others believe in such things.

For that reason, I spent a little while as, what Dara O’ Briain would refer to as, an “Angry Atheist”. Now this wasn’t for long, but I did have a period of time where I belittled religion, I belittled people for believing in their Gods. To me, I had seen what religion had done throughout history, I had seen that science debunked a lot of religious claims, and so I saw it as my job to bash religious people.

However, I quickly came to realise that by doing this, I was no better than those who had tried to force religion upon me before. Whilst I am still an atheist, I no longer take people down simply for attending church or the like. I have come to respect it as a personal belief, whether one chooses to believe in a god or not, and which religion they choose to conform to if they do. I have no place to question peoples’ rights to believe. Whilst I do sometimes like to debate religion, especially when it is present in schools and the state, in an institutionalised form and indoctrinating people. I respect the rights of people to believe what they want, but teach them to think for themselves first.

As a scientist, I now class myself as an atheist-agnostic; I don’t rule out the possibility of a creator as a means by which the universe may have come about, but I am severely skeptical and the idea that such a creator, should it exist, is anything like those depicted by any of our religions is absurd. However, once again, that is my personal view; religion to me is something personal, and should really be kept that way. I will respect your beliefs if you can respect mine.

So, please feel free to share your thoughts below, I know this has been a bit of a life story, but feel free to share your personal story too. Thanks for reading.

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4 comments

    1. Indeed I have, it is quite an interesting concept, and one that I generally like to go by. Whilst I don’t ardently go around telling people that they’re gods don’t exist, I do like to ask them for the proof. Similarly, I like to back up my arguments with the facts. It’s all really about remaining skeptical for me, asking questions is ultimately what allows us to progress as a species.

      1. Me too. I classify myself as a theist-agnostic the same way you consider yourself an atheist-agnostic. So why on earth do I believe in an imaginary man in the sky who created us to judge us and kill his son???

        I really think there’s something out there, because the universe is just so massive that there has to be something out there. And I think there may be a God out there from my reading of the quran and the bible, and that serves as my signal that their may be a proverbial teapot orbiting the sun. But I certainly don’t purport to know anything about him. I don’t believe in hell or all of this judgment business, that we’re created in his image and whatnot. I feel like a lot of what is taught by religions are human attempts to explain the unknown, which I love, but I see it all as human conjecture through the ages.

        As an agnostic, I really appreciate when atheists and theists also adopt agnosticism. I feel like making the claim that “God certainly exists” takes the same leap of faith as making the claim that “God certainly does not exist.” What I find pure and realistic (and humble) is the idea that he may or may not exist, we don’t really know, maybe one day we’ll know, and right now all we can do is conjecture and believe and keep looking.

  1. It is certainly wonderful to see theistic agnostics too, for me the important thing is not simply taking a religion or the existence/nonexistence for granted, rather it is about asking questions and trying to figure out the answers to life’s great questions by what we can see and observe. I also feel it important to take into account every option and every idea, hence why I stopped being the “angry atheist” that I was.

    Your idea that religions are simply a human tool to explain the unknown is spot on too, we’re always wanting knowledge and to understand the universe, and religion was able to give people that feeling of knowledge. As science has advance, some of religion’s claims are no longer needed to explain things, but the idea of a god creating the universe is still a valid assumption, as it’s something that we really don’t know much about.

    However, I feel the important thing is to accept everybody’s personal beliefs as precisely that, and not to impose our own ways of thought on them.

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