I’ve probably been an atheist my whole life. I wasn’t really raised in a very religious way. I got baptized, and had my confirmation when I was 14 years old. But still, I didn’t really believe that stuff. Confirmation was basically for getting money from my family.
But that doesn’t mean I never prayed.
Two years ago, when I was 16 years old, my father died – not suddenly, but slowly, because of cancer. This was not a pleasant experience. He had had cancer before, it was thought to be gone, then there was another tumor in his brain. Which caused a stroke, he was brought to a hospital, and then there he was, unable to move properly, unable to speak properly, completely helpless – which is terrible, but it was even worse for him. He never wanted to be dependent on somebody. But now he was. He still was completely conscious, he knew what happened around him. He could hear us talk to him, but he couldn’t reply properly. I could see how frustrating that was for him. I remember how we tried to understand what he tried to tell us, but ultimately we didn’t seem to get it. He tried to write it down, but there was no way we could read it. I remember when he was trying to tell me and my brother something, but still, we weren’t able to understand him. But then there was something we did understand. “Ihr seid doch so dämlich, ihr seid doch so unglaublich dämlich”, which roughly translates to “you are so dumb, you are so incredibly dumb”. When you could have seen his face, you would know how frustrating this was for him. He was angry, either at himself, or at us, or at the cancer. He was unable to speak with us, unable to say last words, unable to give last advice.
His condition got worse, and I don’t even know how long it was until he died. One month? Two months? When it finally happened, it was a relief. For him, and for all of us.
Why am I telling you this?
This was the time when I prayed. I prayed for a cure, for the radiation therapy to work, even when he got to the hospice, I prayed for a miracle. I probably didn’t really believe in God, but you try everything out, you cling to every glimmer of hope there is, however remote.
A day before his death, there was a priest with him, and he received the last supper. I was not there myself, but I wonder what he might have said.
“You’re going to Heaven, to a better place”?
Or “Do not be afraid, God is waiting for you”?
Is this a comforting thought? Anyway, why is the way to enter Heaven so painful, why do you have to suffer for so long? Why not just make him die now, why not help my father? Why does God not care?
I think that this was the thing that made me realize that there is no God. Definitely not. And even if there is, then he is not someone to worship, but someone to be repulsed of.
Some days before his funeral, the priest of our small city who was going to hold the funeral sermon was at our home. She asked questions about him, about his life, about what to say about him. My mother told her, and at the funeral, the priest basically repeated what my mother told her. Of course she did, what else could she say? But that made it clear to me: This woman did not know my father at all. She had no idea about who he was. And still, she acted as if she knew him, as if she actually cared.
When, some day, I’m going to die, I don’t want some stranger to talk about me. I want my family and friends to do that, people, who actually knew me.
Religious people don’t have a satisfying answer about why God allows so much pain and suffering. Either they say that God works in mysterious ways, which is basically admitting that they don’t have a fucking clue, or that it’s part of God’s divine plan (You can’t help but to wonder why an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving creator of the universe is unable to develop a plan that doesn’t require hundreds of millions of people to die to function). My favorite: In our confirmation lessons we discussed the issue, and after some weeks, we came to the conclusion: everybody has to decide for himself. Yea, great. I’m feeling much better already.
So, about one and a half years later, I discovered the splendid Astrodicticum Simplex blog of Florian Freistetter, which is the most known German science blog. Through him, I came to discover the awesome videos of Edward Current and Non Stamp Collector, I discovered The Thinking Atheist (from which I have some awesome T-shirts), I discovered your blog, Pharyngula, and later the Freethoughtblogs with Camels with Hammers and The Digital Cuttlefish (Bishops, And Pawns and What Would An Atheist Do? are so amazing, thank you for them!). I came to know Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, I bought God Is Not Great and The God Delusion, and through Florian Freistetter I discovered great science books (I can’t really name them all), and Carl Sagan and his Cosmos. These people showed me a lot about our world, and why it is so magnificent, and why it can be so without a god.
But I also discovered more unpleasant things. I discovered how women in Islamic countries are being treated, how atheists suffer from a lot of prejudice in America, what parents can do to children because of their religion, how there a people like Ken Ham who are able to ignore all evidence and live in their own illusory (6000 years old) world, and even teach these views on children. I read parts of the Bible and the Qu’ran, and found out that these are books filled with violence, far from being divinely inspired, written by God. I found out about just how ridiculous some religious beliefs are (two words: Noah’s Ark).
But the thing that probably shocked me most was Harold Camping. This man brought people (besides bringing them to give him all their possessions) to actually kill themselves. He inflicted a fear of something imaginary in them, so strong, they saw no other way to handle it but to kill themselves. And did he show any remorse? Far from it, he said that the 21st May 2011 was merely the date where humans on earth are to be judged, and the final end of the world is said to happen 5 months later, on 21st October, which is (from the time I write this) in exactly 12 days. I don’t have any hopes, we’re going to have the same thing again, that is, people willing giving up their whole life because of their immense faith, and people like Harold Camping who have no problem with exploiting this faith for their own benefit, walking over dead bodies, and just not giving a damn. And maybe he even isn’t just not giving a damn, maybe he thinks he’s doing something good. If he were real, his God would probably be proud of him.
That’s why I am an atheist, and why I oppose religion.
“We are all without god – some of us just happen to be aware of it.” ~ Monica Salcedo