My conversion to atheism was less of a de-conversion from religion as it was a personal realisation of what being an atheist represented. In my life I was not surrounded by religion nor was I compelled to find it by family or friends. However, even this is not a guarantee that someone will become an atheist – one only needs look at the numerous conspiracy-theorists in the world today to see how easily irrationality can take root in one’s mind.
So, the beginning of my conversion began with the simple realisation that after reading about the awesome-ness of the T-Rexs, Tricerotops, Great White Sharks and Killer Whales I found the stories of Joshua and Noah to be no more interesting or entertaining than the fairy tales I had been brought up on. Thus at around the age of 8 or 9 I simply decided I had enough with the bible and its silliness and promptly told my mother I wouldn’t be going to Sunday School any more.
But this did not make me an atheist. Rather I began to refer to myself as agnostic (once I learnt what the word meant of course! I was still young) – loudly proclaiming that I believed in a greater power, a personal God, but that this was a God not trapped in any book. A God that existed beyond us – but always there to guide and assist. Indeed, I still prayed every night to this God and I felt he listened. I left school, completed university and entered into work – sinning and fornicating along the way – and still I felt that this personal God was there with me. I could not perceive of a world without a greater power above us nor could I bear to associate myself with the now ingrained view I had of an atheist, that they were arrogant, nihilistic and dismissive by virtue of their disbelief.
And so it was that I found Richard Dawkins The God Delusion one day, in an airport on my way to Johannesburg. And it was within its pages that I started to recognise a deeper appreciation for the world – a world based on rationality and logic. And within its pages I also recognised myself. For here I was clinging to the idea of a personal God despite no evidence to its existence and all the while dismissing the superstition so prevalent in my society – giggling at stories of the ‘tokoloshe’, expressing shared disgust at ‘muti’-killings as well as mocking creationists. I was a hypocrite and it was all there for me to see.
And so it was that one evening, I just refused to pray. I had seen that to be an atheist was not to be closed minded, nor cynical. Rather it was to finally recognise what had begun when I first refused to return to Sunday School – that on looking at the evidence for religion, and finding it to be insufficient, the only honest outcome was atheism.
PS Unless you are South African I doubt you would be familiar with the terms ‘tokoloshe’ and ‘muti’-killings. It is for this reason Google is there for you – I’m sure there are better and clearer definitions out there then I could provide!