Where is there to start other than the beginning?
Anybody who knows me will know that I am a passionate atheist. If it is ever brought up in conversation I am often quick to go off on a rant about it all. Why do I care? Well it’s not something that happened over night. I have spent years as a Christian and years as an agnostic. And eventually I came to be where I am now. It seems that at every stage of my life that regardless of what I believed or did not believe at the time I have always been interested in religion. This was never forced upon me. My family has never been religious (other than my Grandad who had a conversion via a personal experience that to me now seems easily explained by tiredness). It’s not that they were atheists but I guess they’re like many other people in the UK today – they just don’t give a shit one way or the other. But for me it’s like the religion debate has continued to follow me around no matter what I do or where I go. A man of a less rational mind might put this down to fate and think God has a plan that will eventually be revealed.
It started when I was a kid. Shit, I must have been about seven years old. I found a Bible lying around somewhere in my house and I started reading it. At that age you do know things about God because they never shut up about it at school. There are hymns and moral stories. They tell you about Noah and all that magical good stuff. And I guess it interested me. I remember that I was a bit of a gullible child in some ways. I was ridiculously curious about everything and questioned anything that seemed like it didn’t make sense to me. I must have drove my Mum and my Nan crazy with questions about everything. It was probably easier to just agree with me or give me a quick and easy answer. The trouble was that due to me being a silly gullible child that I would believe whatever answers they gave me. And when it come to religion since they didn’t really care it was easiest to just say “yeah, God made the world. Be good so you go to heaven. Now stop asking questions”. How was I to realise they were just trying to keep me quiet? If they said God exists and He created us then it was obviously the truth as far as I was concerned. As a kid there was no question in my mind that there was a God who made us. So I read the Bible. Or tried to anyway. I found it really boring and could never get very far. Have you ever tried to read Genesis? If you reviewed it purely for entertainment then it is completely lacking.
But other than read the Bible off my own back I also got my Mum to take me to church. It was one of those Sunday school type things. I think I only went a few times before we moved but one of the first things I did in my new town was go to another Sunday school. I enjoyed it. We did some fun activities. But if I’m honest I think my favourite thing about it all was the free coffee and biscuits they let us have. There were always adults around planning some stuff to make money for charity. There used to be a band that played and we’d all sing some shit and praise His name. At school there were prayers everyday as well as more hymns that we used to sing. Even to this day some of those hymns get stuck in my head. I get some funny looks off mates since they know how I am now and there I am walking around singing about Jesus being “The Water of Life”.
I never questioned the truth of it all. It simply was fact as far as I knew. I hadn’t developed critical thinking yet. I remember My Mum’s mate chatting to me when I was about 9 years old and she was a devout Christian. She said God had answered one of her prayers through me cause she had asked Him if kids understood about God and obviously there I was as proof that they did. She said she’d take me to her church the next day if I wanted to go. I was looking forward to it. Next day comes and she doesn’t show up. I never saw her again. From that day forward I swore that I would have my revenge and ruin religion forever!!! Nah, just kidding. That didn’t trigger atheism. I wasn’t too bothered – just felt like she shouldn’t have lied to me.
I was an average kid who was into other things too. I got bored easily. And I had phases with the Christian thing. I guess it stopped being an important part of my life from when I was 10 years old to around when I was 17. It had taken a back seat for me. But I still believed it. If anybody asked me if I was a Christian during any of that time then I would have said yes. But as we grow older we are able to think for ourselves a lot more. I became good at Maths and Science. And Science fascinated me. I used to read as much as I could about space and the planets in our solar system. And when studying Science as a Christian you will eventually come to a crossroads. The Bible says God made the world in six days and it pretty much tells you a version of events from the beginning of time up until the time Jesus was knocking about. And Jesus was around 2,000 years ago. So to be taught that there were dinosaurs roaming the Earth millions of years ago was a bit surprising to me. And then there was this Big Bang theory. Everything began from an explosion way back when. You have two options here. Option 1 is to choose a side immediately and make a decision right there one way or the other. Switch to Science and realise religion is bullshit or stick with religion and wonder why the hell you are getting taught things that go against the irrevocable Bible. Option 2 is to find some way of reconciling the two opposing ideas. I hedged my bets and went for option 2. I decided that the Bible was not always the literal truth. Maybe six days actually meant millions of years somehow. And if there was a Big Bang then who set that little firework display off then? Must have been God right? That’s how He actually did it. And so I was able to remain a Christian. There are some people with PhD’s who are certainly more intelligent than I am who also remain religious. I guess they do what I did as a kid but on a larger scale. It must be difficult to find a way to bridge all those gaps and bury all their logic while they do it.
As time went on I found myself learning more and more about Science. The Bible got left behind. It’s explanations were just unacceptable to me. I found myself slipping away from Christianity and at some point I guess I started to consider myself to be agnostic. It was a question that had an answer but I wasn’t equipped to answer it just yet so I would think about it later. But just when I thought I was getting away God came right back to pull me back in. I hate to once again write about a certain girl that I’ve spent way too much time thinking about (and she always somehow gets into a blog post annoyingly) but she is a big part of this religion thing for me. I’d known this girl throughout school. Always liked her. We were in the same classes and always used to hang around together. I always knew she was a Christian. But something changed around the time we started college. She seemed to get more into it the older she got whereas I had moved away from it all. At the same time we weren’t kids anymore and I was seeing and speaking to her more at college than ever before and I fell for her in a massive way. One of the main things we spoke about was religion. I wanted to understand how she could just believe it all without question when evidence suggests it was all simply not true. She just knew it was true unquestionably and wanted me to understand. We must have spent hours and hours debating it. The thing is she was extremely intelligent. She did better than I did at school and college and for me that demanded some respect. I couldn’t pass off her opinions as ridiculous since she was no idiot. So I had to give it all another chance. She gave me a new Bible. In fact I found it the other day. Inside she’d wrote in it – “Darren, How great is the heart that has sought to rescue you – John 3v16. May you be saved and set free to feel the love of the Lord Christ, Jesus! 21st September 2004, Godbless x” She’d left a letter in there also telling me how real it all was and how she needed to save me. There was something about reading these nice words from the girl I loved. I just surrendered logic completely and put my faith in her. She was too amazing and too smart to be wrong about this. I was wrong. Science was wrong. She was right. And so I put my all into it. And it made me happy. I went to church with her. I prayed and read the Bible. I signed up to Christian forums and groups. I knew everything would turn out ok cause God was there for me. Everything seemed different and I looked at the world with a different perspective.
Obviously nothing had really changed except me. And one day I sat down and was a little bit dismayed about the lack of impact my prayers seemed to have. All I wanted was a sign. I prayed and prayed. And I heard nothing. I saw nothing. I felt nothing. And damn it I didn’t smell or taste anything either. I just could not kid myself. No matter how hard you try to convince yourself you believe if you really don’t then you cannot help it. I cannot bury my logic. It is simply the way I am programmed to be and if God created me to be rational and logical and then wonders why I cannot accept His Word as truth when He never shows me anything that could even be considered anything like evidence then how can He be mad at me? He made me this way right? If He wants worship without question and I simply cannot do it do I then deserve Hell? Well, fuck God. That’s what I thought. I didn’t believe in Him, I only believed in her. So I was back to being agnostic. But I didn’t immediately tell her that. When I hinted at doubts she would tell me to read more. She said she’d pray for me too. I loved her for trying. But for me I just had to figure this stuff out once and for all. I don’t know how anybody can go through life not really caring about the answers to these questions. If God is real then we could potentially miss out on paradise in the after life and burn in hell for all eternity. It is probably worth gaining some information on the subject.
By this time I was at uni. I was frustrated at not seeing this girl as much anymore. And she was so carefree about everything because “God will provide…” and all that. I remember some Christians came and sat by me while I was eating lunch at my Student Union. They were out to convert people. This is another thing about me and religion. I attract religious people somehow. They always seem to pick me out to have a conversation with. Maybe people can somehow see that I struggle with it and at that time I was on the edge and maybe I could have been pulled back towards God. But I snapped at them instead. I asked them if they know anything about evolution. They gave me some wishy-washy bullshit excuses about it and said that God loves me and loves the way I question things. They gave me a leaflet. I threw it away. I had had it with their kind. They just chat shit. They seem insecure to me. They believe things without question like sheep. For the first time I started to get annoyed with Christians completely. This lead to me getting annoyed at this girl. Something had to give and I needed answers cause it was driving me crazy. If Science is true then what are all these Christians playing at? Wasting their lives and going to church and praying and reading nonsense? If religion was true then why doesn’t any of it make any sense?
One day I was sitting with a couple of pals. They were arguing about religion but neither of them knew any of my feelings about it. So I sat and remained neutral and just listened. The one guy was saying without question that God was not real and the whole lot of it was bullshit. He declared himself an atheist and said that everybody should read a book called The God Delusion and it will point out how absurd the whole thing is and explain rationally how there is no need for religion at all. I had never contemplated being an atheist. How can you be 100% sure about this stuff? I never got involved with their debate but I did remember the name of that book. When I got back to uni I bought it and read it. And what a release it was. I was converted. The debate was settled. Richard Dawkins had finally laid it all out clearly for me so I could be safe in mind at the decision I had come to. Atheism is the only logical stance to have in this debate.
Immediately I told that girl of my new look on the debate. She wasn’t too impressed. I said she simply had to read it and she said she would never read it because it was probably the work of Satan. Funny how quickly I started to see how stupid she could be. If your faith is so strong then why fear a book? Is it because you have doubts and could be converted away? If so would you not want to explore that option? And if you have no doubts then the book is just a collection of words that can have no impact on you anyway. I said to her that from now on we would be on opposite sides for this debate. I’d always respect her faith but given enough time I always wanted her to see things from my point of view. That never happened. But still it was nice to feel freedom. And now I felt like a better person. If I do good deeds it is because I choose to and not because a book tells me and not because I fear Hell.
However, when you become an atheist after having spent most of your life agonising about religion it can also make you angry. I look around at the world and just see every religious person as an idiot. They need to be educated because they’re wasting their time like I was. I see that there are churches everywhere (I read once that there are around 47,000 churches in the UK) and it is frustrating. What a waste of bricks and land. There are religious weddings, christenings and funerals. There are wars all over the world in the name of religion. We are fortunate in the UK to not have such a huge devout Christian population these days. In the USA in some states they are trying (or have succeeded) to put creation science in the curriculum. It’s 2014. If we were all given the right education in schools then this nonsense would be eradicated. If family members and teachers hadn’t either rammed this crap down my throat or lied to me then I wouldn’t have wasted a load of time debating it all. I really believe the world should get rid of religion. I also believe that this will happen since we don’t need it anymore. Science is slowly finding all the answers and the Bible reads as if it were written by peasants in deserts thousands of years ago.
I have recently read articles about militant atheism and how the movement that Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens started has slowed down and evolved into something a bit more tolerant of religion. New Atheism had threatened to become it’s own religion and we were just as bad as Christians and Muslims. I don’t think the movement has slowed down. People criticise Dawkins a lot these days. I feel it is unjust. He has done nothing but good for Science and reason. Atheism is not a religion. It is the opposite. Religion still has a huge voice in the world and we need ours too. Why should we not speak out? And if we are a bit militant about it so what? We are right and they are wrong. It can get you mad to the point you want to shake some sense into some people.
Getting rid of religion will not solve all the world’s problems. We’re stupid humans at the end of the day. Atheists argue with other atheists about how militant we should be about it all and what we should call ourselves. It is difficult for us to unite as one force against religion (but then the Christian church has split from what Saint Peter created into thousands of separate denominations. As a race of people we seem incapable of full agreement ever). Politics will always bring about disagreements and war. There are class divides, recessions, employment, education and the law to argue about as well as many others. So what good will getting rid of religion do if it won’t bring world peace? My opinion is simply this: fuck world peace. I am cool with us having disagreements and I’m at peace with the idea that there will always be fighting and wars around the world no matter what we do. But let’s at least fight about something worthwhile. Shooting a guy whilst robbing a shop is a whole lot less annoying to me and makes a lot more sense than shooting a guy for worshiping an imaginary guy in the sky in an ever so slightly different way. I know for as long as I am around I will be a part of the secular, humanist and atheist movement. God is dead.
Peace and love x