PZ Myers on his wonderful Pharyngula blog has been asking for essays on why people are atheists, so I thought I’d write my own. Below is what I wrote originally, but it went on a fair bit so I’ve submitted a heavily edited version to him. If it gets put up on his blog I shall let you all know! Apologies in advance for the length of this post!
Why I am an Atheist
I realise that I am incredibly lucky. I am a college-educated, very well-travelled Western woman from a nominally middle-class family, born into a society where religion is rarely mentioned in polite (or even impolite) company. My parents didn’t go in for religion in a big way, but did try and thrust some Christian beliefs onto me. I have vague memories of Sunday schools, of being Mary in a Nativity and of attending services as Brownie where they let me ring the church bells (while being carefully watched to make sure I didn’t disappear up into the belfry), but I don’t recall having any strong religious convictions. To me, God was just the nice man in the sky who you sent your wishes to. A bit like Santa Claus, but at least you got presents from him at Christmas; God never seemed to grant my wishes (and if Santa couldn’t get me a pony then what hope did God have?!).
I had a minor ‘crisis of faith’ when I was nine and my beloved hamster Shadow fell sick. I spent a worried night praying that she would be ok, but alas in the morning she was dead and I was heartbroken. I thought it unfair that God had ignored my prayers and had taken something precious from me. I didn’t understand what I’d done to deserve her death, falling in to the (rather arrogant) trap that somehow it was my fault she had died. I clearly hadn’t been religious enough to warrant God saving her. But as children do I bounced back and forgot my little waver of faith.
From a young age I was a voracious reader and one of my most treasured books (which I still have to this day) was an encyclopaedia of Gods, Goddesses and Heroes from around the world – from the Classical Mediterranean and the Norse, to the exotic; Central American, African, Asian… complete with their myths and legends. Already I was aware that not everyone had always believed in ‘my’ God, and some people in the world still didn’t.
When I was ten my father’s job took us to Cyprus, which is a fascinating country for those that know anything about its history, and a perfect place to visit the nearby Middle East from. My parents were very keen on encouraging us to travel and two trips in particular changed the way I viewed the world. Read More…
While browsing some links on an atheist blog, I found a ping-back linked to a rather interesting forum: Islamic Awakening. I haven’t had time for a good nosey but one thread has caught my eye in relation to the talk on sharia law at Queen Mary, University of London I mentioned in a previous post. Entitled “Urgent- Calling all muslims to East London today!!!“, it is a call for Muslims to come out and protest at the debate. You can read the full thing here but some worrying extracts include (copied exactly, I take no responsibility for grammar, spelling or general coherency):
From the first post:
Who gave these kuffar the right to speak? Let me ask you – if a bunch of kuffar got together and were given the right to touch your mother up and analyse her, then would you stand by and let it happen? Then what about your deen?!! Remember, these guys hate religion and are not looking to have an unbiased debate. Please be here by 7 pm. to let them know what we think. Back in my day no-one in UNi would dare even look the wrong way at a muslim, because we used to represent our deen and didnt take kindly to it being insulted. It is only when the pacifists ecame numerous that the kuffar dared to raise their heads.
I don’t think anyone wants to ‘touch up’ anyone’s mother. I’m not even sure mothers were to be mentioned in the debate…
I am fully aware of the hypocrisy of so-called ‘peaceful religions’. And though I do get mad, on the most part I tend to ignore them. I don’t have to read the comments sections of online newspapers or of blogs of atheists that I enjoy reading to know of the idiots out there. I tend to avoid them because they make me angry and life is too short to have strangers online make me mad.
But there have been a few recent events that I haven’t been able, nor wanted, to ignore, and I just wanted to speak up about them. Before I do begin, I want to iterate that comments of “but these aren’t real *insert religious follower here*” or “but that’s not what *insert holy book of choice here* says” because honestly, that’s the “No True Scotsman” fallacy (look it up, educate yourselves) and I won’t have any of that here. For starters, I am perfectly aware of the contents of some of the ‘main’ holy texts, and secondly people like the ones I am about to talk about seem to be the rule rather than the exception. In fact the quote below taken from the comments section of JesusFetusFajitasFishsticks has probably the best description of it I’ve ever read:
Anonymous Jan 13, 2012 08:28 AM
@Jack: You misunderstand the fallacy. It is a fallacy *because* there is no such thing as an ideal “scotsman” that one can compare anyone against. The “true scotsman” always happens to be the person speaking. If there were such an ideal, you could always measure the closeness of an individual to being a “true scotsman”, and hence there would be no fallacy.
If someone calls themselves Christian, and claim at least the basis of Christian belief (Jesus as the Son of God, the Resurrection, etc…), then they are Christian, whether or not they match yours or anyone else’s ideal of what being a Christian means. So for someone to claim another person is not Christian because they don’t match their specific ideal is a fallacy; if it weren’t, no two Christians could ever recognize each other as being members of the same religion. Read More…
From the British Government for once! They have changed the funding agreement for their new Free Schools to preclude ‘the teaching, as an evidence-based view or theory, of any view or theory that is contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations.’ In other words, if something isn’t supported by rigid scientific evidence, or is not recognised as ‘fact’ by academic communities then it cannot be taught as is it were the truth.
This means Creationism cannot be taught in Free School as fact in science lessons, and that’s the way it should be.
Teach whatever world view you want in Religious Education, but when it comes to science lessons then I firmly believe that only recognised scientific facts and theories should be taught. Creationism is not one of them. This is especially true if the school if funded by the government (and therefore by the public).
The British Humanist Association has an article about it here and there is also a petition to the government to ‘Teach Evolution, Not Creationism’ for anyone who wants to join the campaign for reason!