Here are some things you may want to know about my thoughts about religion and atheism, but may be afraid to ask. Have a read, you will get to know me better. Some of what I write may seem confrontational, but those thoughts are only aimed at fundamentalists and those clergymen who abuse their influence. If you want to respond in writing or in person, I won't bite your head off. I love my friends and family and a little theological discussion won't change that.
I could get a lot more specific with my reasons that I don't believe the Bible is true but I'm not writing this to convert anybody. I just want to give people a better understanding of who I am if they are interested.
Why did I stop believing in God?
First I want to say that I believe everyone is born as an atheist. You can't believe in something you've never heard of. So it wasn't until later that I became a Christian. This happened because like most people in Christian countries I learned about Christmas & Easter, I went to weddings, and we were taught some bible stories at school. I stopped believing in the old testament when I was 10. After learning about dinosaurs, how old Earth is and how young humans are, it became obvious to me that the book of Genesis was not the infallable word of god that it claimed to be, therefore the whole collection could be thrown out.
I stopped believing in Christianity altogether a few years later when I learned about all the other religions of the world. To me it seemed like a riddle with an obvious answer. If all these religions claimed to be the true one and they all had equal physical evidence to back them up, then the most likely answer was that none of them were true. I had become an agnostic.
It wasn't until early 2009 that I first conciously considered myself an atheist. Until then I was convinced that there was no solid scientific or historic evidence in favour of the religions of the world, but there were still the claims of the faithful who have had spiritual experiences.
For a couple of years there had been lots of funny stories in the news about people seeing the face of Jesus or Mary in things such as toasted cheese sandwiches. The mind is a powerful tool. It can make you feel complete bliss at a Benny Hinn performance and you can collapse in rapture when he touches you, but you'll still have cancer when the show is over.
I believe that people have truely amazing emotional experiences beyond imagination, but the way they intepret that experience always seems to confirm the beliefs that they already had in the first place. How often does Jesus appear in sandwiches in Saudi Arabia?
Do I hate God?
I feel the same way towards God as today's religious people feel towards Thor, Zeus, Ra, or Jupiter. Atheism is no way a hatred of God, it's just an absence of belief.
Isn't atheism just another religion with it's own beliefs?
As a popular atheist Youtube video maker says, atheism is a religion in the same way that not collecting stamps is a hobby and that bald is a hair colour. The closest thing we have to belief is that we tend to go along with the scientific community's latest guesses about the nature of the universe. Our scientific knowledge changes and improves over the centuries so while athesists of a time tend to agree with each other on the nature of things there can be no such thing as a fundamentalist atheist because we don't hold any of those beliefs dogmatically.
Where do I get my morality?
Same place as everyone else, from the society I grow up in as well as from my own sense of what is right. Except for fundamentalists, people who think they get their morality from scripture have not thought it through. There are many morals that we have in common with scripture, but there are also many that we don't. Thou shalt not kill and thou shalt not steal are great recommendations, but these ideas were not founded at Mount Sinai. The fact is that no matter what your morals are, you can back them up with scripture if you're willing to cherry-pick. There are all sorts of morals both good and bad that can be found in the Bible. Thankfully we don't follow most of the bad ones these days.
If I don't believe in heaven and hell, why do I behave well?
Again I don't think I'm different from most moderate religious people else on this one. Someone with a healthy mind should act morally because it's the right thing to do. If someone told me that they honestly believed the only thing stopping them from harming others was fear of hellfire, I would think that person is a monster. Acting moral to get in to heaven is not morality, it's arse-kissing.
Do I hate religion?
I have nothing against religion in principle, in practice it depends on the activities of the representatives of the religion. I will tell you what I think are the problems with religions today. I'm not even going to touch the middle-ages. These things do not necessarily apply to all religions, but all of them apply to at least one.
Violence against other religions. Yes, not all war or terrorism is religiously-inspired, but religion often provides a reason to commit atrocities when there is nothing else.
Oppression of women. Women have fought hard for their equality and in the civilised world they have won it, but there is still a long way to go for women who are unfortunate enough to be born in cultures where they are second-class citizens. Where they are only allowed outside the house with a male companion and then only with a veil. Where if they are raped they are killed by their own fathers out of shame. Where girls aren't allowed to have an education, what's their consolation prize? Female circumcision, which is a polite way of saying "mutilated vagina". Even today in civilised countries there are those who want to deny the right for women to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. They make the unscientific claim that life begins at conception and that these organisms without a developed brain or nervous system are capable of suffering and need to be protected.
Oppression of homosexuals. Religion has carved this one so deep that even some people who aren't particularly religious may feel queezy about homosexuality. But that wasn't always the case. It wasn't until Christianity began to gain power in the 4th century that homosexuality was widely considered abnormal.
Condoms in Africa. Many highly-ranked holy men right up to the Pope himself are against the use of condoms. And they haven't just said it's a sin to use them, they've gone as far as lying and telling Africans that they increase the risk of AIDS. It is estimated that 1.6m-2m people die from AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa per year. That's a higher death rate than Jews in Europe during World War II. Bombs, guns, blades and poisons aren't the only ways to kill people. You can kill them with words if you are influential enough. The blame for this abnormal death-rate compared to the rest of the world can be placed directly on the Vatican.
Child abuse. Need I say more?
Land rights. If the whole of the Old Testament has been proven wrong by science, history and archaeology, why do people pretend that God promised to give Israel to the Jews?
Tax exempt status should only be granted for charitable works. When the church feeds the homeless and clothes the poor, that should definitely be tax-free. But the church saves billions of dollars every year on tax-free land, construction, living expenses, candles and funny hats. Everyone else's tax rates are artificially high because they are subsidising the church's non-charitable activities.
In recent years the Islamic world has threatened violence against people who insult their faith. Freedom of expression is recongised as a basic human right by civilised nations. I'm disappointed that our governments are not standing up to these people. I'm also disappointed that leaders of other religions blame the recipients of these threats for bringing it on themselves.
Obstruction of scientific progress. Fundamentalists love teaching children that evolution is a lie and that the universe is less than ten thousand years old. Outside the classroom these same people claim that cloning and stem-cell research are immoral. It makes me sick that these people reap the rewards of the scientific method every day when they use technology and medicine, but then they turn around and bite the hand that feeds them.
What about religious moderates?
I have no reason to dislike an individual for being a religious moderate, but as a whole they cause a problem that isn't their fault. This problem is that religious moderates prevent fundamentalists from rightly becoming completely marginalised. Moderates are the reason that religion has so much respect because moderates are good people. If the Pope didn't have a billion followers he could say whatever he wanted about about condoms because his words would not carry any weight. If there were no religious moderates to give religion a good name, nobody would put up with the atrocities commited by fundamentalists in the undeveloped world.
Am I afraid of death?
I consider death to be something worth avoiding, but I imagine that I will be no more inconvenienced by it than I was during the 13.7 billion years before I was born.
What gives my life meaning?
I don't believe there is a reason were are here. Like almost everyone else I am driven by a natural desire to reduce suffering and increase happiness. Starting with myself and those closest to me and so-on outwards. Although I do not bring happiness to strangers across the world, I would if I could. I love the human species and my greatest hope is that quality of life continues to improve beyond my lifetime in the way it has done for the last three centuries. I think that because I don't believe in an afterlife, that my time here is all the more valuable. As Emily Dickinson wrote in 1741 "That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet."