I was raised as a Christian, but gained my free thought in my teenage years, in the late 1960s. My father was a minister in a moderate protestant church, the Evangelical United Brethren (which merged with the Methodist church in 1968), and I was a believer in my early life, like the rest of my family, friends, and all of society it seemed. But as I learned about evolution I began to question the need for God to explain much of the world. I was taught that evolution was the how but God was the why, but that didn’t seem very plausible. Over the course of a few years, a world without god started to seem more likely. My breakthrough though was finally discovering that there are people in the world who do not believe in any god, that it is possible to be an atheist, and realizing that, it fell into place that that was my world view too. John Lennon’s “Imagine” and the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” are wonderful.
I’m an atheist because there is overwhelming evidence that there are no gods. There are many lines of evidence but an important one for me is that when you rationally and dispassionately consider religious development, it is clear that people create gods, not vice versa. The more distant the cultures, the more different the religions but if people were actually perceiving reality, they would not. Religions battle each other and evolve, each striving to gain and retain believers. Dispassionate reasoning, not religious/emotionally thinking, is a better way separate truth from fiction.
The scientific method is clearly humanity’s most effective way to discover actual truth. To see how well it works, you only have to consider the the wonders of our technological society and compare life in it now to times and places where religion rules. Scientific understanding has been displacing religious beliefs over the last few centuries. It was once believed that a god or gods caused disease, rain, drought, the apparent movement of the sun, even life, death, a lots more. We certainly don’t know everything, but we know and understand a great deal more than the ancients did.
There is some comfort in religion, as most all of us would like to live beyond death, but believing something doesn’t make it so. Truth is more important than comforting falsehoods, and is better for us as individuals and for society as a whole. People have many ways of deluding themselves into believing what they want, so we need to avoid those tendencies, via skepticism and critical thinking.
At the same time, there is great beauty, wonder, and mystery in the real world; the fact that we, and all life, evolved here on Earth over billions of years, that there are billions of galaxies with billions of stars in each, that the atoms of our bodies were formed in stars (which flow through us like water in a stream), etc, etc, etc. It’s really sad that some people avoid seeing reality, in this one life we know we have, for a hope in a life after this.