There are quite a few reasons as to why I am an atheist. My father decided he was, after being raised in a fundamentalist household. My grandfather was a believer. To me it seemed my father was reacting to his upbringing and taking a lot of pleasure from aggravating my grandfather. Even so, atheism made sense to me.
My mother’s family was Mennonite, old order, which meant they lived on a commune. Her siblings all left the church and the commune, as did she. She definitely left the church, but she didn’t comment much about religion. She didn’t go to church, however or refer to god when she knew she had a fatal heart condition.
When I was in my forties, I had a few experiences that felt supernatural. I survived a severe heart attack and my heart healed itself. In a case where I got a court order for a child, he somehow righted himself and began to flower as a human being when his future was stabilized by the court order, even though he came through horrible psychological abuse. He made it, somehow.
I began to think about god and religion, because that was the standard explanation given to me for these events. I realized I had never given religion a chance, although I had read the bible more than once, but as an historical record. So I did some research and whenever I was driving any distance, which was several times a week, I thought about religion, taking the view that it was real. If so, what did research say? Did the information support a belief in god if I started from the view that there really was a god and looked for evidence?
There are common beliefs in all religions about being good, which is consistent with a single divine source. These ideas could come from god therefore. But the rules that are really wide-spread are consistent with simple sense, such as don’t kill, don’t steal. If a society did not have such rules, it would be very unlikely to survive. If a society had rules that went against survival, yet somehow persisted across the ages, that would be more convincing proof that the rules were divine in origin. I couldn’t find such an example, so concluded that the existence of consistent rules was not of itself, proof of god, given that such rules could easily arise out of utility, not divinity.
The rules that varied tended to be less tied to the survival of a society, such as dietary restrictions, day of the week for worship. You could vary those a lot and not threaten the continuation of a given society. What rules seemed to be favoured? Was there consistency there? As I read more and more, it seemed to me that the variation of rules was a strong argument against god. If god directed the rules, then he or she was capricious, or even malicious. You could sincerely believe the wrong religion, and be damned because the right religion had different rules. Eating pork was a big divider, for example. Although the rule was clear and there were religions on either side of this rule, there was no clear advantage to any of the societies that espoused the religions. In past times, not eating pork religion societies sometimes had the upper hand in that they were predominant and successful. Then in more recent times, pork eating religious societies did very well. There seemed to be no sign of god’s favour for one system over another. Clear proof of which religion was the correct one, seemed only to be apparent on death and therefore unavailable to me at present. That’s the malicious part. How could I know I was doing it right? How was it fair to damn me if I mistakenly believed the wrong rules?
At this point, I could not see any evidence that religion was real and was driven to conclude that it seemed not to be. I stayed with atheism. I accepted that my experiences ended fortunately and made me feel very lucky, but that actually there was no divine intervention just for me. Or just for that child. Not only that, we both went through something life threatening, which would also be an act of god, but we were not supposed to blame god for that part, just be grateful for the surviving it part.
In short, I think it would be wonderful to have a god take care of you and watch out so really bad things didn’t happen to you, but that seems to be a delusion in the face of all the times that god doesn’t take care of you and seems to be out to get you. So, atheists, carry on being ethical and rational. That seems the best way to be in this universe.