When I was a small child I attended Sunday school at a local church. I don’t remember when I was first told about God and Jesus. I do remember thinking that I wasn’t good enough to go to heaven when I died but as it was in the distant future it didn’t bother me that much. At primary school we sang hymns and said prayers but I never thought deeply about God. Even when I was a junior soldier in the Salvation Army I was there for the music and not for God. I always thought that everyone believed in God so I was a bit perturbed when I found out that David didn’t.
Apart from the story of Moses and Jesus I hadn’t read much of the Bible. This was to change in 2003 when I started attending church properly. This was at a time when I felt that something was missing and thought that going to church might help. I not only read the Bible but also other Christian literature. I loved the ‘Left Behind’ series which introduced me to the concept of the rapture and end times. Had I lived in the US I would have attended a church that had adopted this doctrine. The minister at the church was a very kind man and I took to him immediately. He was able to answer the questions I had when they were fairly basic but would always deflect them when he found them challenging.
The more of the Bible I read the more disillusioned I became. The God of the Old Testament is jealous, angry, vengeful God who condones slavery. I know Christians say that Jesus brought with him a new covenant but Jesus himself said that he didn’t come to change the law but to fulfil it. When I tried to pray, deep down I knew there was no one listening. It finally took reading Richard Dawkin’s ‘The God Delusion’ for me to finally admit to myself that I was an atheist. It is very difficult to let go of a belief that you’ve held since childhood and it took some time.
Earlier this year I found the ACA (The Atheist Community of Austin) on the internet and I have found a group of people that I really identify with. I have watched countless debates and documentaries and have learned so much. I have seen how the arguments for God’s existence do not stand up to scrutiny and are full of logical fallacies.
I am so fortunate not to live in the US where atheists are one of the most distrusted groups of people in society. For a nation founded on secular principles I find it very disturbing how much religion is integrated into their society. The ACA is campaigning for separation of church and state but they’re facing an uphill struggle. Religious groups are trying to legislate that creationism should be taught in schools as an alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution in science lessons. I have nothing against religion being taught in schools but I think all of the world’s religion should be taught.
I have many online friends in the reborn community that come from the US and it has taken me years to let them know that I don’t share their beliefs. The most common response I’ve had is that they’re ok with my atheism as long I still ‘respect’ their beliefs. I can’t respect their beliefs but I do respect their right to have them which I think is an important distinction.
I love science. I have studied biology and chemistry at university and have tried to bring my physics knowledge up to the same level over the years. Over the past 300 years the scientific discoveries that have been made have proven that there are natural explanations for phenomenon that were previously thought to be down to a supreme being. There is no reason to think that the questions that remain in the world of science won’t be answered in this way.
Personally I find the natural universe around me far more awe inspiring than any universe that could be created by an omniscient being.