Why I am an atheist – Charles Miller

I am an atheist because when I was a child, my parents read to me (and later with me) every night before I went to sleep. Some of my earliest memories are of Joseph and his Technicolour Dream Coat, of Rudyard Kipling’s Elephants Child and the Cat who Walked by Himself, of Midas and his Golden Touch. If I was ever told one of that lot was more true than the rest, I can’t remember it. I am an atheist because I can not comprehend how an adult living in the modern age, confronted with the plenitude of myths that purport to explain our existence without foundation in evidence or even simple plausibility, can pick one and say “that is the truth”.

Charles Miller


  1. Anj says

    I love myths and legends. They say a lot about societies and cultures and how they need to explain things – where the world came from, why THEY are the Chosen Ones, Beloved Of The Creator.

    So many stories, and each one reveals a little bit about the minds and cultures that create them.

    I’m also an avid reader of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett who use the power of narratives a lot in their works. Do not underestimate the power of narrative. One of the most common narratives is “The world must be X because we couldn’t bear the thought of it not being X.”

    Thus the idea of a Divine Judge who will punish in the Afterlife that go unpunished in this life. (and naturally, reward the those who go unrewarded..) Why? Because the thought that this world is unjust is intolerable to some.

  2. says

    Nice entry, Charles.

    It may get to the point where to be a theist means you’re computer illiterate or at the very least have no internet access.

  3. Nathaniel says

    Thanks for this one! It’s very close to the short answer I keep intending to submit:

    I’m an athiest because I was brought up without indoctrination into any religion.

  4. says

    …Joseph and his Technicolour Dream Coat…

    Well, now I know that briefly mentioned Venture Brothers villain is a reference, rather than just a silly name they made up.

  5. says

    Succinct. Well said.

    AJ, where’s he say anything about not believing in absolute truth?
    JD, Charles’ statement “…without foundation in evidence or even simple plausibility” does not apply to evolution, that’s why we know it’s not “a myth among others”.
    KST, “can’t know anything without god” is a pretty extraordinary claim—especially since the record illustrates god knows almost nothing at all.

    I’m not feeding trolls, am I?

  6. JD says

    How does his statement not apply to evolution? let’s take a look at it for a second: evolution’s deity is chance, it claims an absurd beginning for the universe, and can’t account for laws and logic. Evolution IS a myth among others. without God its impossible to know anything.

  7. KST says

    It says in Psalm 139:4 that “Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, oh Lord, thou dost know it all.” You can’t know anything without knowing everything, and you can’t know everything without knowing someone who knows everything.

  8. CJO says

    How does Charles know his statement is true? where does he get his basis for absolute truth?

    “Truth” in the sense of “evolution is true” and other such statements about the natural world isn’t absolute. It’s contingent on what we have discovered about the universe through rigorous empirical inquiry. New evidence could theoretically show it not to be true, but evolution is so well confirmed by so many disparate lines of evidence that it is so unlikely as to be not worth concerning ourselves with.

    “Absolute truth” is a fiction, a shibboleth employed by authoritarians and charlatans for the purpose of suppressing inquiry.

  9. KST says

    you have to acknowledge that you don’t know the truth because to know the truth you have to know everything and to know everything you have to know someone who knows everything. It was nice talking to you, I’ll be praying for you. Have a nice day.

  10. CJO says

    evolution’s deity is chance,

    Even if this were so (it’s not; it’s based on a deliberate misunderstanding of the theory), chance is at least a known phenomenon. Your deity, on the other hand, is a patent fiction, a made up story.

    it claims an absurd beginning for the universe,

    Evolution is a theory about the development and diversification of living things. It has nothing to do with cosmology. However, no scientific claim about the beginning of the universe even approaches the absurdity of the proposition that a psychopathic cosmic overlord poofed the universe into existence for the purpose of tormenting a particular species of ape.

    and can’t account for laws and logic.

    This is not so either, but, again, a preposterous fiction about a cosmic overlord doesn’t account for laws and logic, it just misdirects the question.

  11. CJO says

    why do you argue with me absolute truth if you don’t believe in absolute truth?

    Why are you so fucking stupid?

  12. says

    It may not be popular among scientists, but I think any reasonable definition of “absolute truth” is plenty applicable to scientific truths. It is an odd thing, science is in some sense always tentative, because it is always open to challenge by new evidence. However, nothing will ever show that the earth is not roughly spherical—the very most extreme thing that could challenge it would be to wake up finding this is all a dream, or a simulation etc., but even then, the earth within this apparent reality we are find ourselves discussing, is most definitely, approximately spherical. And so on for carbon having six protons and nuclei being protons and neutrons and genomics and evolution and most of the body of hard science results.

    KST, what about Exodus 21:20-21, “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod, and he dies there and then, he must be avenged. But if he survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, since he is the other’s property.” How can I trust a book that contains such vile nonsense? Also, you say, “You can’t know anything without knowing everything, and you can’t know everything without knowing someone who knows everything.” Why do you think you can’t know anything without knowing everything? How do you know the author of Psalm 139 knew what they were talking about? How would you know that the statement, “you can’t know anything without knowing everything” is true?

    More importantly, if god, or the author of Psalm, or any other biblical author, knew ‘everything’, why’d it take humans so long to figure out small pox vaccination, or antimicrobial measures, sanitation, germ theory, and so on? Why did we have to wait for the microscope to understand germ theory?

  13. says

    It fascinates me the silly nonsense peculiar things these people believe, and I want to discuss it with them more. It is amazing what childhood indoctrination, guilt and threats and the comfort of delusion can drive a person to believe—and also sad. Or maybe they’re just stupid… I’ll reserve judgement until they remove all doubt.

  14. Rey Fox says

    Ah, the solipsism gambit. Always good for a laugh.

    I’ll be praying for you. Have a nice day.

    I’ll masturbate for you. Have a nicer day.

  15. carolw says

    Rey Fox, I believe you just won the thread. At least, you made me giggle.
    Excellent, succinct statement, Charles.

  16. Anj says

    I dunno. Whenever the (religious) zealots show up to comment, the only reply I can think of is:

    “It’s turtles all the way down.”

    I’d love to compare creation myths of various cultures with zealots. Why is Creation Myth X more valid than Creation Myth Y? How can we believe in any religion since most of them have been translated, interpreted and adapted multiple times? How do you know if you are worshiping the right God? If God has always been around, why don’t all humans worship the same God?

  17. idonotknow says

    Thanks Charles, I feel much the same way. When I was growing up we read so much at home that when I got the bible lessons in Sunday school, they just seemed like another set of stories to me. Which of course is all they are.

  18. says

    Original submitter here, returned to feed a few trolls (This will be my only reply, though).

    “Absolute truth” is a pretty loaded phrase. Rhetorically, accepting an absolute truth can be used by a slimy argumentor to slip into arguing about ‘The Absolute’. Moving back from the religiously-tinted choice of words, yes I absolutely believe there is an objective reality, and that reality can be observed, measured and learned about.

    Why do I believe this? Because the world I perceive acts entirely like it is the result of such an ordered, objective reality. Now maybe the whole thing is an illusion, and my so-called objective reality is like that quiet neighbour who turns out to be a serial killer. I’m not going to use that possibility to suspect _every_ quiet neighbour of being out to boil my bones in his stew pot. I’m going to wait for evidence.

    As for evolution, that’s one of those things that has been gone over again. And again. And again.

    The mistake so many theists make is to assume science is a “what”. Religion is a what. It’s a set of tenets that followers believe purely because those tenets exist in a particular book. Science is not a what. Science is a _how_.

    Science is a process by which we discover more about our objective reality. It’s a way of observing the world that routes around the crazy variations between the way human beings sense and evaluate things. And unlike revelation, received wisdom or the myriad of ways of reading the future in bones or tea-leaves, the ways in which the scientific method has increased our understanding of our objective reality are on obvious display everywhere we turn our heads.

    I don’t “believe in” evolution. (Ha! There’s a pull-quote for you) I know that evolution is the result of a scientific process that has shown itself to be the only reliable way we have to discover new things about our objective world. Because I am intellectually curious, I have read some of the evidence for it myself and am satisfied it has been evaluated with the correct rigour by people with a lot of motivation to disprove it. I know people doing important, practically useful work that could not be done without a basis in evolutionary theory.

    That’s good enough for me.

  19. Crudely Wrott says

    I am an atheist because I can not comprehend how an adult living in the modern age, confronted with the plenitude of myths that purport to explain our existence without foundation in evidence or even simple plausibility, can pick one and say “that is the truth”.

    AAaaahhhh. Yyeeeesssss. Thank you, Charles for pointing out that myths, unlike facts and actual knowledge, really are a dime a dozen. They are all equally valid, sharing the same degree of merit. To wit: pffft.

    I wonder. How would you have turned out if you had been read Bible stories and taught to say your prayers every night before sleep? We both know >shudder< the answer to that.

    As the twig is bent . . .

  20. Crudely Wrott says

    Wow. A new breed of trolls. How ’bout that. Shall we call them the Gnu Proselytizers by virtue of their brains and hearts and nerve?

    Listen, you sawed of runts, absolute truth is the small brain lice that live in the moist, dark folds of your septic minds. You so dearly love to wriggle and scratch them. What you don’t see is that they are a product of your insistence that every thing is just . . . so. Your error, forgivable if you forgo it, is to assume that the illusions that you suffer from are common coin for everyone else.

    What you cannot, or will not, comprehend is that not all minds are as close to compost as yours. You cannot, or will not, manage the fact that things are not just so, never have been nor ever will be.

    A truth that declares itself to be superior to all others? Please. If you had the ability to follow your own logic you would see that there is nothing to prevent people, say me or you, from making any claim and asserting its veracity by simply stating that the claim is true.

    When you have grown up enough to build a foundation, then you can build a temple. You have started at the top of the steeple and are trying to build down. You’re headed for a fall.

    We will tolerate you here for a while, it’s easy because you say nothing new or notable. Your kind are dealt with daily, in real life as well as in this forum. At length you will either get tired of being a moth beating itself against the light bulb and you will mostly vanish or PZ will bring the banhammer down. Either way, same result; this ship will keep on sailing despite your make believe assumption of pirate’s clothes.

    Silly trolls. They are really naked. Just listen to them; look at them!

  21. Marella says

    Indeed, the real question is why anyone believes any of those myths in the 21st century. I think we should be making more of this mystery, why do people believe in nonsense?

  22. Crudely Wrott says

    Because it is easy and relieves the believer of anything remotely resembling real effort. That no work is required is a common denominator of seduction.

  23. raven says

    We’ll pray for Charles Miller.

    That is OK. We’ll think for you.

    Someone has to run our civilization and it isn’t going to be mindless godbots.

  24. scifi says

    Charles – nice story – thanks for reminding me about “The Cat That Walked By Himself”. I’ve been looking for a good cat story to tell my kids and the “Cat That Walked..” sums up our moggy (to anthropomorphise for a moment).

    Kipling had such a way with a story – unlike the idiots early on in this thread. Guessing they’re JWs witnessing each other for a few extra points!