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If you were once a theist was there something in particular that made you become an atheist?

Can you remember a particular thought, event or period that was especially important in leading you to become an atheist?

Posted: June 1st 2007

SmartLX www

It was a question from a friend: Why do bad things happen at all, if God is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-benevolent? In short, the problem of evil. It made an agnostic out of me. Atheism then developed over a period of years.

It’s not that I didn’t find an answer to the question. I found loads. God is testing us, God gave us free will so he has to put up with a bit of evil, the devil does the evil things, evil isn’t really evil and so on.

All plausible answers, all slightly contradictory. Therefore, all baseless. These are not true answers by people who know, these are defenses by people who have to fend off the question. Otherwise Christians (my old faith) would have decided on one answer by now. If nobody knows this detail, do they know anything at all about God for sure? Seems not. That was my line of thinking.

I’ve since found plenty of other reasons to disbelieve, but that was my starter.

Posted: November 13th 2007

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Russell Blackford www

CHRISTIANITY’S DAY IN THE SUN: I first realised that I had no religious beliefs back in my early years of primary school — I might have been about seven at the time — when, after being immersed in Greek and Norse mythology, I had the insight that those religions had had their day in the sun, and that the same would doubtless apply to Christianity. One day, perhaps in hundreds or thousands of years, people would, I saw, look back on the religious beliefs of “the ancients”, i.e. us, and they’d be no more inclined to think those beliefs true than we are to believe in Zeus and Poseidon and Aphrodite, in Thor, Odin, Loki, Freya, Baldur the Brave, the great wolf Fenrir, and the Midgard Serpent.

TRYING HARD TO UNDERSTAND:
During my adolescence, I became involved with a peer group of kids from more religious homes than mine (though, like Richard Dawkins, I did have some family background in the Anglican Church). I did my best to believe in Christianity, at least to accept a moderate version of it that was compatible with science and with modern ideas about morality.

THE PROBLEM OF EVIL:
But the last straw was when I was at university and found myself grappling intensely with the Problem of Evil — why is there evil in the world if it is overseen, and was, indeed, created, by an all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing deity? Of course, there have been many attempts to solve the problem, and some of them are successful if you are prepared to believe certain other things, such as that God’s goodness is not the same as benevolence, or that we possess not only free will but a certain mysterious kind of free will.

As any competent philosopher of religion will tell you, the Problem of Evil is not a knock-down argument against God’s existence; I quickly add, however, that for a religious believer, deep reflection on it can force you to go on an uncomfortable intellectual journey. At the end of the journey, you may find that the total set of beliefs that you need to explain evil, while also believing in something at all like the God of the orthodox Abrahamic theologians, is just too contrived to be acceptable.

Posted: June 7th 2007

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RTambree

The explanatory power of science, and the fallibility of human intuition.

There are many roads to atheism.

1. Comparative religion – being aware of the beliefs of other religions and the arbitrary nature of these beliefs. They can’t all be right, but they can easily all be wrong. Most children simply adopt the beliefs of their parents, yet all come to feel they have the one true faith.

2. Cosmology – knowing the immense age and size of the universe and how tenuous the thin film of life on the surface of one planet that orbits just one average star in one average galaxy among hundreds of billions of galaxies. Look at the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, with its vast field of galaxies, and ask yourself if God really cares about your sex life?

3. Neurology – Crick’s Astonishing Hypothesis that the mind is simply the product of the brain. Hormones and neurotransmitters can affect your personality – in fact, how these chemicals interact with your neuronal structure IS your personality. There can be no afterlife once you have a basic grasp of the cognitive sciences. Furthermore, it’s easier to explain the origin and continuing beliefs in the various religions once you are familiar with the biases and thinking fallacies inherent in the human brain. Humans can use rationality to justify just about any proposition, but it is only evidence that can distinguish which of these alternatives is correct.

4. Evolution – knowing how life developed, in particular, the anthropological history of Homo sapiens, also undermines any notion of a personal creator. Humans are simply bipedal apes with large brains and language that developed a sophisticated social culture since the last ice age, but the gap between humans and other apes is much less than between apes and, say, insects.

5. Extinctions – 99% of all species on Earth have become extinct. This undermines any notion of a intelligent creator. Historically, it was mass extinctions that eroded that beliefs of early intellectuals in the late 1700s and early 1800s, even before Charles Darwin published 'On the Origin of Species’.

6. Natural disasters – the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 or the Asian Tsunami of 2004, both occurring on religious holidays, gave atheists confirmation that there is no benevolent God and gave agnostics and theists doubt. There have been thousands of natural disasters, that could be easily preventable by a supreme being that loves us, but the world makes more sense from an atheist position (less questions need to be asked) than from a theist position.

7. Logic. Adding a Creator to the beginning of the universe doesn’t explain anything. Firstly, who created the creator? If the answer is that the creator was always there, why not simply say the universe (or multiverse) was always there in some form? Secondly, there is no way of distinguishing which variety of possible creator to believe in.

8. Awareness of wish-fulfillment. One should be particularly critical of one’s beliefs if you wish something to be true.

9. Evolutionary psychology – once you realise that concealed evolution in humans gives rise to certain tensions between the sexes (e.g. the man doesn’t know 100% if the child is his), then the emphasis on female chastity in a resource-limited environment like a desert is understandable. The Abrahamic obsession with promiscuity, virginity and other sexual matters, has a human origin – there is nothing divine about it. Other polytheistic cultures in rain forests have less of an emphasis on female chastity.

10. Confidence. Knowing about the universe and casting off the superstitions of religion is liberating. Some people imagine that it may be depressing to be an atheist, but atheists don’t feel they have to grovel to some powerful deity in the sky. They are their own masters. Obviously, some personalities are more anxious than others, and atheism can consequently meet with more resistance in some people than others.

11. History. Every time in human history where we assumed that God must have to intervene there in order to explain something, we have later found out God is unnecessary, that there is a perfectly natural, rational explanation. God doesn’t make it rain or make women fertile or cure diseases. Science’s explanatory power and efficacy is far superior to theology or prayer.

Posted: June 1st 2007

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logicel

I believed in God, and it was a very hazy belief where God was just an extension of my parents, until around the age of six or seven when I begin to study the catechism for the daily religion class held at my Catholic school.

I still vividly remember memorizing the text: Who made me? God made me. I fervently wondered who had made God? Realizing that the answer was not in the catechism, I decided that the content of the catechism was highly suspect, and instead I would use this demand to memorize the catechism as an opportunity to increase my skills in vocabulary and grammar, ignoring the dubious content.

From that time on, I was a closet atheist. I could not voice my objections, but I did collect all the contradictory, non-evidential information in my mind. When I would stumble upon a resolution of one of these bits of information, whether by extra-curricular reading/activities as I had the good fortune to grow up in New York City, or just by the power of my own critical thinking, I would cross off one of the beliefs, eventually building up a database of rationality against the forced indoctrination of Catholicism.

When I left my family home at the age of eighteen, I happily climbed out of my atheist closet and proudly exclaimed to anyone asking me what my religion is, that I had none for I am an atheist.

Posted: June 1st 2007

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