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…
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!