Part of me wants to give a smart-assed answer to this question, because at my core, I am a smart-ass. Something like “because religion is evil” (which it is) or “because the Flying Spaghetti Monster told me to be one” (which may also be true). But, when I look at my core, the only answer I have to give is “because it’s the only position a skeptic can have”.
It’s something relatively recent in my life. I was raised in a conservative Christian household. I had to go to church every week, it was a requirement that I go to at least one service. But at the same time, my parents encouraged my love of astronomy specifically and science in general. And in retrospect, that is where it all started. That love taught me to question everything (which I most certainly did).
But getting out of the other side of my upbringing took time. I went off to college, Missouri State University (then Southwest Missouri State), and hooked up with Chi Alpha (XA) Campus Ministries. This was before they had Skepticon, a FSM church, or really any skeptical movement at all. Again, in hindsight, I feel a bit of shame, because I understand now that prosthelytizing my beliefs had to have done some real harm to people, something I can’t change. I only hope that by speaking out against religion now can undo some of that.
I was a skeptic with most everything else growing up. I didn’t believe in ghosts, ESP, aliens, or anything else in the pseudo-scientific range, but like so many other “skeptic believers,” I was not willing to turn that same scrutiny on my beliefs. Of course, like a college student, and to be fair, most human beings, it turns out I was also a fairly bad Christian, and a fairly normal college student, in liking loud music, drinking, sex, and skipping classes.
That all started to change after some a series of bad events pushed me more into that “good Christian” category again. I went to church, went to small groups, and, dangerously enough, started to read my bible. And for some reason, one I still cannot explain, I started to question why I believed what I did. I looked back at myself, and what I had been crediting god for getting me through, and realized that he hadn’t done shit.
It wasn’t a slow process. I wouldn’t even call myself an atheist until, reading Phil Plaitt’s blog, he mentioned, off-hand, someone named “PZ.” It was some inside joke I wasn’t part of, so I dug. I found out who this “PZ” was… and read enough to understand that, as a skeptic, there is only one position to be had. You cannot dismiss all fairies except the one you like any more than you can deny a color you don’t care for doesn’t exist (otherwise, the world would be rid of mauve by now). I didn’t like facing it at first, but I couldn’t dodge the questions. And when you look at belief the same way you look at ghosts, there is no way you can’t see it for what it is.
In the end, it was my own skepticism that forced me to realize the only thing I could be is an atheist.