Atheism a la MemeDecember 21, 2008 12:35 am Personal, Philosophy, Religion
Way back in October, No More Mr. Nice Guy tagged me with a list of questions about atheism. I was busy at the time, and eventually forgot it. I just came across the link today, though, and with apologies to my fellow blogger, I reply today:
Can you remember the day that you officially became an atheist? Do you remember the day you officially became an agnostic?
Nope. It happened gradually. As early as 13, I wrote that I didn’t believe in God. My stepfather found it and gave me hell about it. But I must have had doubts about it even before then. I just didn’t see any evidence for the god hypothesis, and worse, everybody said different things about it. No matter how certain they seemed, nobody knew anything for sure.
Did anger towards God or religion help cause you to be an atheist or agnostic?
No. I was concerned early on that my conclusion might be mistaken, but I was never angry at a god or gods. Even those verbal formulations of anger you often hear — “What loving god could create liver flukes?!” — never really arose in me.
More than anything, the big mystery was how and why other people believed. People I knew and trusted talked about God and ghosts and such, but they never offered any clear evidence. It was all just words and confusion, backed up with suspiciously strong emotions.
Certainly I’ve become more angry about religion as the years have passed, since I started to understand what it’s done to us, how much we’ve lost, and what a stranglehold religion continues to hold on society and government.
Were you agnostic towards ghosts, even after you became an atheist?
I was afraid of ghosts up through my teens. I remember walking past a graveyard at night when I was about 17 and being really spooked every time. But again, despite all the stories, I’d never seen one. Eventually I just stopped being afraid. I could probably sleep soundly in the hauntedest of houses.
The worst part about the subject of ghosts – and religion – is knowing that so many of my fellows turn into superstitious savages in the face of it. Imagine living among monkeys, with nobody to talk to or share with, and you’ll have an idea what that feels like.
Do you want to be wrong?
No, not at all. Good gosh, what for?
Early on, I really, really, really wanted to believe in flying saucers. Hey, I’m a fan of SF still today. When I was younger I read everything I could possibly find on strange occurrences, UFOs, paranormal subjects, Bigfoot, on and on. Eventually, in the face of millions of words but no slightest bit of evidence that I could see, the desire just faded away. I learned that real critters leave real tracks – tracks that you don’t need to be an expert (or a specially anointed priest) to experience. X-rays are about as hidden as anything can get from unaided human senses, and yet we use them casually every day – I’m sure most reading this have had an X-ray at one time or another.
All the magic in the world is the magic of love and imagination and discovery. Religion and superstition are just silliness, beliefs that held on long after we had the real answers … probably because some people are just too lazy or too scared to learn the real thing. They want to settle for the hopeful fantasy, no matter how much damage that does to them, or the people around them.