I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, but not into a Mormon family. My parents could both be best described as agnostic. I was encouraged to attend the Mormon church by my many friends as I grew up, but I usually refused because the services were so deadly dull. However, this did leave me vaguely believing in the idea of god and heaven.
At the age of 10, I was playing dangerously in my backyard and my father yelled out the back door at me to stop it. I remember the conversation very clearly because it was the start of my atheism. He asked me, “What if you fall off that thing and die?”
Being a smart-alecky kid, I replied, “Then I’ll go to heaven.”
His reply was, “What if there is no heaven?”
This had honestly never occurred to me before but, once the idea took root, there was no going back. Now, as I look at the world around me, I see no need to believe in god(s), heaven, hell or an afterlife. In fact, I find that those beliefs tend to cheapen the lives we lead, diminish our achievements, and provide ready excuses for horrendous behaviour by believers. Though I am not a scholar, I can look at the answers provided by science and appreciate the complexity they offer. I do not need to dumb-down the world around me by assuming an invisible hand is guiding everything. I feel perfectly content when answering a question with, “I don’t know.”
I will admit that, at times, I wish there was an afterlife. I would like to see my family grow after I am gone. I’d like to see my grandparents again, and the thought of losing my parents is a crippling fear for me. But I can take comfort in the fact that, once I am gone, I will not miss any of this. I take comfort in the fact that I’m raising my children to be intelligent, independent, competent, and conscientious adults who will survive just fine without me and hopefully they will work to make this world a better place.