I suppose the easiest thing to say is “because there is no evidence for the existence of any super natural being.” Ultimately that’s what it comes down to.
Notice that “Santiago” in my name? That’s because I am a semi-professional magician and “Santiago” is my performing persona. This is relevant. You see it was my research in to magic that put the final nail in the coffin of religious and supernatural belief for me.
I grew up marginally Christian. I went to church with my grandmother on Sundays. I used to think it was simply an excuse to get my brother and I out of the house so my parents could sleep in. But I enjoyed spending the time with my grandmother and we always when to brunch after at a little greasy spoon sort of place which seemed like a treat to me.
During the school week I also attended a private Christian school which seemed much like any other school I went to with the simple addition of a Bible Studies grade and an assembly every Friday morning.
But it was under these conditions that my doubts began. There was a certain amount of history involved in our studies of the Bible. You can do a little if one doesn’t go too far but that history was starting to not work together with what I was learning in Church. I was always a curious kid so I began asking questions.
Of course no one had any really good answers.
I also began studying science in earnest. My interest was largely focused on astronomy, biology and psychology. These areas of interest only increased the number of questions that I had.
I can even remember one of my teachers saying that if I kept working at it hard I could become a scientist and maybe discover evidence for god! I was in sixth grade at the time.
The questions kept coming and they kept not being answered. For years that was the story. I kept reading and studying science and the more I read the more I doubted.
But I was so sure that there had to be something that instead of getting out of religion entirely I turned from one to another. I began looking into various pagan practices. This didn’t last that long because the ‘magic’ that they were supposed to be engaging in was already familiar to me as interesting artifacts of psychology, a study I had been engaged in for some time.
Eventually I left that private school and went to a public high school. And to give credit where credit is due the academic education I received while at the private school actually did serve me very well. I had been taken out of the public school system because I was falling behind and put in the private school by my parents who saw it as a way to help me catch up. My parents really weren’t very religious at all so they only saw the school in terms of its academic offerings which were actually very high. Upon emerging I found myself well ahead of the curve for entry back into the public school system as a high school freshman.
I was still, however, engaged in some of that magical thinking of religion and supernatural belief.
I truly began to extricate myself when I started to learn the art of the magician. You see I was interested in the history of magic as much as in the art and I began to do more research. Well, if you go far enough back in time you quickly find that magic, science and religion were all completely intertwined with each other and it didn’t take me long to bump into that.
That was the lynchpin.
In the process of unraveling the art of the entertainer, the psychology of magic and religion, the science of deception I began to put all the tools together that I had already had for so long into one complete bundle. I was looking at the world in a way that included the facts about how the world really is, the wonder in what the world really has to offer and the skills of someone who can, for a time, seem to bend reality to his will for good or ill.
Science, especially the science of psychology, was the tool I was putting to use to both entertain and enlighten people. I started with debunking ‘psychic’ claims and of course discovered a new hero in the person of James Randi and a seemingly endless host of villains led by the likes of John Edward, Sylvia Brown and James van Praagh. As a fan of magic I was already familiar with Penn & Teller as well as what was ultimately the tragic story of Doug Henning.
I dug into the realm of séance and spirit mediums after discovering that my great grandfather actually was a spiritualist minister. Of course Houdini was my friend and companion along that journey.
Then there was Reginald Scott. He had one of the coolest keys of all. Who is Reginald Scott? In 1584 he wrote a book called “The Discoveries of Witchcraft.” It was the first book written in English which specifically targeted the bunk and trickery people used to convince others that they had supernatural powers. It included a full section describing the tricks of the magician.
It was a book so controversial that King James the First (he of King James Bible fame) got as many copies together as he could and had them burned.
There is a lesson for you.
And why I am an atheist.
Tim “Santiago” Converse