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Jul 28 2012

Why I am an atheist – Steven Kukula

I had been a skeptical believer from my youth, taking everything with a grain of salt, but knowing that as I got older I’d know more. At 17, when I graduated from my Catholic high school, I left the church, believing it to be nothing more than an authoritarian organization. I consider myself to have been an agnostic at that time, not knowing whether there was a god and for a while not caring.

A few years later, I was introduced to Baha’i, and quickly became a member because it seemed to answer quite a number of questions that Christianity did not. To my still-young mind it sounded good. I remained with them for fourteen years, enjoying the comfort of the group and the sense of being a part of something. But there was always that skeptic factor. The founder of the Baha’i Faith had said that if you find something better, run to it. That’s quite a bit different from the blinders put on one in other religions.

One day, while reading The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, I happened upon a line that said something to the effect that there are no gods, but wouldn’t it be nice if there were. Something snapped. I realized the truth of the statement and have been an atheist ever since. Although I had no problems with my religion I could not undo the damage to my faith. At the age of 35, I resigned from the Baha’i Faith.

With the dawning of the internet, I became a forum regular and began to see people who astounded me. Sometimes a 14-year-old would present arguments against religion that were overwhelming and I was envious. I wanted to be able to make arguments like that. I’ve spent the years since then reading and learning and researching and thinking and I’ve come to greatly enjoy doing so. Once again, I feel as if I am a part of something – a worldwide change as the old edifices crumple under the weight of knowledge.

Steven Kukula
United States

7 comments

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  1. 1
    machintelligence

    One day, while reading The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

    I have tried to make it through that book, but have not been successful. As Dan Dennett said of it: “It has about 100 good ideas and about 1000 bad ones.” I’m glad you found one of the good ones, but the bad to good ratio was too much for me.

  2. 2
    darwinharmless

    My wife was with the Baha’i until she discovered that only men are allowed into the top ranks of those in authority. That’s the only strike against that religion I’ve ever heard of, but it was enough for her. Like all religions it is based on utter nonsense. Congratulatsion on seeing the light.

  3. 3
    jamesheartney

    I read ” The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” some time back while out of town on a business trip. It mostly struck me as an example of building an imposing edifice on a nonexistent foundation (rather like “sophisticated” theism). Lots of skillful argument, but the basic idea is just daft.

    Christopher Hitchens often made the point that no, it really wouldn’t be nice if god(s) existed. Most gods, and in particular the Judeo-Christian one, are psychotic, murdering tyrants obsessed with forcing you to repeatedly tell them how great they are. Even the supposedly desirable afterlife (an infinite number of years stuck singing the praises of your loopy overlord) sounds unimaginably horrible.

  4. 4
    stevenkukula

    I should point out that I never bought into Jaynes’ basic ideas about bicameral minds. I did enjoy the book, though. It seemed to me that it was so much like Dragons of Eden that Sagan was cribbing from him.

  5. 5
    Crudely Wrott

    I made it through Jaynes’ book, twice. While not persuaded to embrace his full thesis, I did come away with one very certain conviction. That would be that had there been a breakdown of the bicameral mind it seems to be a recessive trait. Obviously, there are many such minds still around.

    Thank you for writing your story for us to read, Steven.

  6. 6
    jeanb

    “Once again, I feel as if I am a part of something – a worldwide change as the old edifices crumple under the weight of knowledge.”

    That was beautiful, Steven, and describes exactly how I feel.

  7. 7
    Aaron

    @darwinharmless
    That, and they hate teh gayz. Not like the Westboro Baptist Church, but like a lot of liberal and moderate Christians- being gay is a rebellion against the natural order. Official position is that you can cure the gay with happy thoughts- “through the advice and help of doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and through prayer, a soul can overcome this handicap.”

    Wikipedia Article:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_the_Bah%C3%A1%27%C3%AD_Faith

    For an example of a story, see:
    http://www.gaybahai.net/discussion/post/1482237

    @stevenkukula
    Man, I love that book. Like most, I don’t agree with most of what Jaynes is claiming but it’s fascinating read. I also agree with Dennett- there are some genuinely good ideas to be found within. I read it in high school (late 90s) when another speech and debater casually recommended it promising enlightenment. Since then, it’s remained one of those books with a thesis I can’t quite buy but provides much pleasure as a thought-toy.

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