I think that my journey away from religion has been a reasonably uncommon one, since I had to guard against confirmation bias for atheistic arguments, rather than those for the Roman Catholic faith in which I was raised. That is to say, when I first had doubts about the Christian story, I already earnestly hoped that the God I had been taught about did not exist. I was wary that my doubts about Christ rising from the dead had been driven by my instinctive desire that I didn’t want this guy to be the Son of God, rather than from any objective consideration of reality.
I just thought that this character was so annoying that I couldn’t bear the thought of having to account for myself to someone like that after I died. In particular, I thought it generally disagreeable to engage with a person you profess to love, by arranging for several days of torture and a gruesome murder on their behalf, without ever mentioning your intention in advance. I imagine that anyone who has had a Roman Catholic education will share my memories of the incessant guilt about the sacrifice of Jesus. “If Christ endured the Passion for you then why would you object to giving up an hour for Mass every Sunday?”. Well, none of what Christ endured during the Passion is likely to make my list of Top Ten Fun Things To Do On A Friday Night … but since I don’t recall ever requesting the blood letting, I’m not sure why I should continue to feel guilty about it for the rest of my life.
My kids started school in the last few years and here in Ireland there isn’t really an alternative to a Roman Catholic education. As a consequence, I have been delighted to hear the atheist argument being put more bluntly and forcibly in public over recent years (not least on your fine blog, Mr. Myers). I was initially wary of my enthusiasm though. Maybe it was just convenient for me to believe that Hell didn’t exist because I didn’t want my kids to be afraid of it all their lives? What convinced me that the atheist arguments are valid though … was The Bible. I had imagined that it would be really difficult to tell my kids that they didn’t necessarily have to believe all the Bible stories that they had read about in school, even if the morality described was well founded. Turns out it is not so tough to contradict the morality of the Bible stories when your kid tells you that it was a good idea for God to harden Pharaoh’s heart because it was so cool when all the water fell on the soldiers and they all drowned. Quite.