I have been a doubter since I was a young. My father’s side of the family is Catholic. My mother’s is Episcopalian. I went to Sunday school, attended church, and did those things which indoctrinate children to believe in the divine. It’s fortunate that my mother chose to teach me an even greater lesson – to think for myself.
I began to doubt as a child. Children have the advantage of not being bashful about asking questions. I asked many. The answers I received did not pass the common sense test. They were arbitrary and out of touch with reality. The response to difficult questions was either “don’t ask that question” or “you must accept that you’re not capable of understanding the answer.” These are unsatisfying responses to any honest and open-minded questioner.
My real conversion to atheism began when I read the Bible in its entirety. It is laden with contradictions that have no reasonable explanation. The only conclusion I could reach was that it must be an assembly of myths and oral tradition from millennia past. I found nothing in the Bible demonstrably more credible than belief in Zeus, Thor – or Santa Claus, for that matter.
Accepting that there is no God or afterlife makes me feel a sense of responsibility for my actions and their consequences. I cannot take a pass on responsibility by claiming my sins are forgiven. I treasure this life rather than spending my time in anticipation of rewards after my death.
Most people seem unready to let go of religious conviction. It’s their security blanket. They rely on it to feel better about themselves, their lives and their futures. In a dark twist it also lets them believe those people they dislike will be punished – and severely – for transgressions real or imagined by the faithful.
Being open about my beliefs appears, to the faithful, to be an invitation to preach to me. I’ve endured many well-intentioned attempts to convert me. Prayers have been offered and sermons presented to me. I thank those well-meaning people. I am glad you care enough for me to make the attempt. It will be simpler for both of us if you accept that we believe different things. No amount of effort on your part will make me religious. As Carl Sagan said:
“It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
I choose to be an atheist, and a secular humanist, because there is no religion in the world that can demonstrate its validity. Until one can I choose this path with all its joys and challenges.
Also written by Andrew