I grew up in a small village in the country, and so I had the great fortune of being a kid surrounded by nature. I used to play outside everyday and catch frogs and insects – and soon I was completely fascinated by the animals and the plants that lived around me. I took interest in them aided by the lot of books my parents provided me with, and by watching all the documentaries by David Attenborough that aired on the Italian TV (my parents recorded them, so I was never deprived).
So as a child, I knew all about freshwater animals and could identify almost every bird I saw, and though now I’ve forgotten most of those notions – since I later took the Humanities path instead of a scientific one – I guess my self-taught natural history background has played a big part in my actual worldview. The concept of evolution is something I’ve been familiar with since I can remember, I never had trouble accepting it because it made perfectly sense to me, and the evidence for that was just outside the door.
I never wondered about god’s existence, because I’ve always considered the possibility pretty unlikely. And so I’ve never had religious troubles at all – except when it comes to dealing with religious people.
My parents were both atheists, and decided not to baptize me (a choice that caused pure horror among our relatives, and a lot of talk in the town: when I was seventeen a friend of mine was warned against me by an aunt, who I’ve never seen in my life, because “everybody knows she’s an atheist”) but they always told me that they didn’t mean I couldn’t believe in some religion, only that I was too young to tell – they gave me free choice about the whole matter.
They also enrolled me to the religion classes at school (it’s optional) and soon found out that what the official school program said (History of religions) was in fact Catechism. But since all that was demanded of me was to go to church twice a year and sometimes draw a bible character with crayons, all the effect this had on me outside boredom was to convince me that all that stuff was worthless.
However, an episode struck me as my first experience of the religious way to human relationship. One day I asked another girl (we were eight years old) what job she planned to do as a grown-up, and she said “I can’t tell you, because you’re not baptized and so you’ll tell the devil about it”.
(I smashed the desk, and to my surprise, the teacher said I was right and she should apologize for sending me in hell). That girl was a real religious nut and having her in the same classroom was all I needed, if I needed something more, to convince me of what religion really is: because almost all the religious people I met in my life were rather deluded, misinformed, somehow sexually repressed or either plainly mean and in search of a back-up authority.
I stopped attending religion classes at age sixteen, when I couldn’t stand anymore of the sexism and right-winged prejudice that was inflicted on us by the teacher, a priest. (He was later removed because of physical violence against a boy). I was one of his chosen victims, as he used to blame girls for everything, and furthermore, I had publicly come out as queer – a fact that didn’t affect my family much, but caused me many discussions at school, with teachers as well as with students.
The most solid argument I heard from those who couldn’t accept my orientation was “god created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Andrew” – so not being fooled by religious concerns has helped me a lot in facing “ethical” issues, and now I can say that I am an atheist because I had the fortune of being educated to rational thought, by enlightened parents, who never forced me into thinking this or that, but always allowed me to form my own opinion; and criticized me when my method – not my opinion – was incorrect. I was never allowed to argue with circular arguments, or to base my view of something on a prejudice, and they also tried not to.
I am an atheist because I’m aware of the logical fallacies required to explain the existence of the supernatural, of any kind, while the wonderful complexity of the natural world requires none, and anyone who’s more concerned in justifying his delusions than with appreciating reality, is a poor and blind person.
But it’s also a dangerous person, and I am an atheist because I can recognize out of experience this danger that’s implicit in religious thinking – a conservative worldview that is against everything valuable in life.