I had been an atheist for over a decade but hadn’t realized it. It took a child to make me see that. My own child. He asked me one day why I didn’t go to church like others in our family. All these reasons flew through my head in a matter of seconds, but they all boiled down to one. “Because I don’t believe in it,” I answered him. “Me neither,” he said.
That was a year ago. I can now say that I am an atheist. Not agnostic, not searching, not anything else.
I was raised in a Catholic family and in officially Catholic countries, and mostly sent to parochial schools. Even as a small child I saw through so much phoniness in the Catholic Church, in the doctrines, in the way people behaved, but bought into the whole idea of “you should believe in SOMETHING.” So I looked and I looked. Some religions seemed comforting at first, like a cozy blanket, and I would dip my toes and go to a few services, but I couldn’t actually come up with BELIEF. It was more of going through the rituals because they were fun or created a sense of awe. Inevitably I would let the ritual practice slip away.
I grew up, got married, had children. I had a near death experience. I looked with wonder at my babies’ tiny forms. I lost my best friend to cancer. In none of these experiences did I ever see a deity, not in the good times or in the bad times. I saw myself, my friends, and my family.
I can tell you why religious fanatics fear science. My son is growing up in a cultured steeped in religion, with family members that routinely talk about church and god. At the same time I nourish his inquisitiveness and talk to him about dinosaurs, astronomy, biology, physics… any topic he is interested in. And when he was seven years old he casually commented, “if you make me choose between god and dinosaurs, I choose dinosaurs. I have SEEN their fossils, but I have not seen god.” His greatest shock came recently, when he found out that people believe that the bible is literary true. “You mean they think there really was a talking snake? They believe the earth was made in 6 days? But we KNOW about planet formation and evolution!” That shows you how religiosity is not a default state in humans, but something that must be programmed into us.
I guess I am lucky that the programming didn’t take. And lucky that my son pointed it out.