Re-posted from my facebook note….
Atheism – the absence of belief in God. Your god, their god, any of the purported gods. It’s a word that evokes different things for different people but for me, atheism is not merely a definition. It also represents a conscious rejection of superstition and ignorance. For me, it is an end result of a journey of education and discovery which led me to reassess of my closely held beliefs.
My journey started after reading an essay by Sam Harris with an open mind. Letter to a Christian Nation presented compelling and eloquent discussion about the controversies, contradictions and fallacies of organised religion and gave me the courage to look at my own beliefs again without religious blinkers. Once that door had been cracked open, I read a range of books on similar subjects and slowly realised that there was an entire world out there free of the limitations of thought set down by religion.
Before reading Sam Harris’ book I was adamant that God existed – not just any god but a personal God that could only be understood and appreciated fully by my own religion. That billions of others following competing gods in competing faiths also held this errant belief was immaterial. I was brought up with the same faith as my parents and although my family are not church going Christians they brought me up to believe in our God, to pray, and trust that if you were good you would be rewarded in Heaven. My faith has eroded and I no longer believe as they continue to, but I am fortunate that they are wonderful people who accept my personal decisions. Although my family still professes faith in a deeply set meme that is hard for them to let go of culturally, if not spiritually, they respect my decision to reject their faith and to seek wider truths. I consider myself fortunate to remain close to my family and friends.
So, firmly committed to the path to atheism, I started seeking answers to many questions that I found were beyond the limitations of religious doctrine. As I learned more, I became awed of the wonders of nature and the majesty of the universe which exists on a scale much larger and far more incomprehensible than that defined by religious scholars. As I became aware of real world explanations and evidence that debunked supernatural claims, my skepticism increased. I am now able to see through many of the charades that I previously had accepted as at least possibilities, if not actual truths, and now have a fresh and more enlightened outlook on life.
One of the things I discovered was fossils, objects that I would never have thought I would have an interest in. But as I researched fossils and learned to appreciate the pictures that they help to paint of the past, I began to look at these fascinating relics of history with awe and amazement. Trilobites, Ammonites, Megalodon sharks and many other fossilised creatures opened up a whole new appreciation for the enormity of geological time scales that belittle the limited world history preached by religion. As I wondered why any god would create all of these species only to have them now be extinct and why we find transitional forms in the fossil record when my god should have been omniescent and powerful enough to create perfection the first time round, my residual faith continued to waver. These types of questions and their unsatisfactory answers propelled me further down my skeptical path.
I started to read books about evolution and genes. Charles Darwin’s works, among others, became a major influence and, as I continued to learn more about science and rationalism, I started to realize it was ok to not believe in God. This was a scary concept at first given the threats of eternal damnation and punishment that form the basis for much of religion’s influence over its followers. However, the more I read, the more at ease I became as I became confident in my disbelief and rejected superstitious thinking. I came to think that the mysteries of science and history were far grander and far more convincing than the intellectually lazy option of ‘god did it- full stop!’
I don’t profess to understand all of life’s mysteries and I am far from understanding all I would like to learn about. But I seek understanding with an open mind and a fresh attitude that is empowering. I have left behind my God and the thousands of his mythical peers. The gods have as much power over me as the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. Honest skepticism has released me from a veil of lies and deception and led me to find some amazing facts and exciting new discoveries. I’m on a path where I can accept the truths about myself and everything around me and, most importantly, one that my children will hopefully follow. A path without the blinkers of religion, of freedom from religious dogma and an ongoing journey to seek the truth in whatever form it should take.