Why I am an atheist – Gribble the Munchkin

I am an atheist.

I guess i became an atheist when i was still in primary school (for the non-Brits out there, thats ages 5 to 11). I used to be christian. My parents had helped re-open a run down Church of England church and my family and a few others became the first parishioners there. I carried a big candle during mass, wore a robe and had a wooden crucifix on a leather cord and generally helped out with the little chores during the service along with a bunch of other kids. Its safe to say that i had absolutely no understanding of the religion of which i actively partook. To me Jesus was a lovely man with a beard who nice dead people went to live with. God was a kindly father figure. All of the atheist arguements and objections to faith with which I am now very familiar were utterly unknown to me. I was perhaps aware of a place called hell but that was reserved for murderers and Hitler.

I can no longer remember my exact age or my exact reasons but one day i decided that i should read the bible. That pretty much did in any faith I once held. I had foolishly neglected to get a recommended list of chapters from my priest and had started at the start. The first thing that struck my mind was that the bible was clearly wrong. Even back then i knew the universe was some 14 billion years old and the earth some 4.5 billion. My paltry science education was wildly at odds with God doing the whole thing in seven days and breathing life into clay men. But what really got me was how poorly written it was. Have you ever tried to read the bible sequentially, start to finish? Its incredibly dull.

I’m blessed (lol) in that i have fantastic parents who encouraged me from a very young age to read. I devoured books with a pace that put my classmates to shame and although i was hardly a critic, i could very rapidly spot that this book was crap. During primary school I read the Hobbit many times and even the Lord of the Rings and those I found to be good books. The bible could not hold a candle to them. It was clearly the same genre, there were wizards and monsters, magic and battles, heroes and villains (more on them in a second), all it really lacked was a likeable character to emphasise with, through whom we could enjoy the story (C3PO or a hobbit for instance). It clearly wasn’t real. More than that, it struck me that some of the passages i was reading really made God out to be somewhat of an arsehole.

Example: In church and from snippets of conversation here and there I was aware that Moses led the Jews out of Egypt and that Pharaoh did not agree with this and chased the fleeing Jews. God foiled nasty ol’ Pharaoh by allowing the jews to escape though the red sea, parting it before them and crushing the pursuing Egyptians. That was exodus as far as i was concerned. What the bible actually says is that when Moses asks Pharaoh to let his people go, Pharaoh actually agrees! But then God changes his mind. Why? Why would a sane person do that? Wasn’t that exactly what God had asked Moses to do? Why change Pharaohs mind when you just got what you wanted? It just got worse from there. God acts like a spoilt bully, demanding obedience and frequently making the lives of his followers miserable with arbitrary rules or freak punishments. I realised that not only did i no longer like god, i also recognised him as a poorly written villain.

I’ve always been a nerd and into my fantasy and sci-fi. I know how heroes and villains act in literature. Heroes protect the weak, fight evil, sacrifice themselves to protect others and try to make the world a better place. Villains demand loyalty, punish failure harshly and brutalise their foes. After reading the bible, it was clear to me. God was nothing but a fantasy setting villain. Even Jesus doesn’t cut the hero grade (although he might make a suitable naive sidekick for a real hero). Dying on the cross seems like little sacrifice when you are the son of god and know that you’ll be ending up in paradise as a god just as soon as you shed your mortal flesh. Hell, i’d be willing to suffer six hours of crucifixion for super powers, let alone full godhood. Only 6 hours too. Crucifixion was supposed to be a long drawn out death from thirst, heat or starvation, sometimes lasting days. He got off a bit light.
No, it was clear to me. Gandalf and Aragorn were far superior heroes to God and Christ. And all of them were fiction.

After losing my faith i pretty much ignored religion until university. It’s easy to do here in the UK. At university i began to look around for a religion, i wasn’t really looking for big answers. Science had pretty much beaten religion to them for me. I just wanted to see if any of the faiths out there actually made sense to me. I looked at Christianity again very briefly, then paganism, Satanism (of the Anton Le Vay type), various occult groups (OTO, etc) and Buddhism. All of it transparent claptrap. One day i found transhumanism and realised that this was it. This was what i already believed, this made sense to me. This is what i was.
The great thing about Transhumanism is that its not a faith. Its a philosophy. Basically it couples humanism with an urge to improve the human condition. Because it isn’t a faith it has all kinds of viewpoints within it. You have your Kurzweilian singularitarians sure, but even in that group, you have a huge range of opinion on when, to what degree, how, where, etc. Its a conversation, rather than a commandment.

I’ve since found skepticism and joined the Greater Manchester Skeptics. Skeptism i see as a filter to my transhumanism. One keeps me inspired, the other keeps me grounded in reality. My atheism now is very much a side effect of the skepticism and Transhumanism. My skeptic side tells me there is no good evidence for a god, that there are thousands of gods from all kinds of cultures and that the big faiths got big from very real world reasons (Roman empire adopting christianity, incredibly muslim military successes, etc). My transhumanism tells me that gods are old news. An antiquated way of looking at the world and something that holds mankind back from being better than it is and should hence be removed.

Atheism is not enough. It is a necessary state, but not the end of the journey by any means.

Gribble the Munchkin
United Kingdom


  1. StevoR says

    The first thing that struck my mind was that the bible was clearly wrong. Even back then i knew the universe was some 14 billion years old and the earth some 4.5 billion. My paltry science education was wildly at odds with God doing the whole thing in seven days and breathing life into clay men.

    Thinking of comparing the timespan of life on Earth – and since the Big Bang versus “bible” idea see :


    for the way Carl Sagan helps put it all in *Perspective.* One of my favourite diagrams / analogies of all-time up there with the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram for stellar classes and evolution!

    Have you ever tried to read the bible sequentially, start to finish? Its incredibly dull.

    That’s probably why Christianity has survived so long. No one actually can be bothered reading it much they just take it on faith and make it up for themselves.

  2. bovarchist says

    Not only did Pharoah initially agree, but Moses never even asked him to free the Hebrews. He asked for permission to go out into the desert for three days to conduct religious services. The plan was that they would then cut and run.

  3. dogfightwithdogma says

    “Have you ever tried to read the bible sequentially, start to finish? Its incredibly dull.” (Sorry for the quote marks but I can’t figure out how to format the blockquote tag. Perhaps someone can clue me in.)

    Did this many many years ago. Didn’t find it so much boring as just plain absurd, inconsistent and idiotic. I found the God contained therein to be petty, vindictive, barbaric, savage, and wholly lacking any moral sensibility worth emulating. Not unlike some of humankind’s worst members: Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin,Vlad the Impaler, Attila the Hun. In fact, if God were actually a material being he would make number one on my list of the Top Ten Evil characters in history.


    Unlike you I was already an atheist when I read the bible. Attended a Nazerene church as a youth but never drank enough from that poisonous well. I am pleased for you that you were able to free yourself from the clutches of God belief. Welcome to liberation and continue to drink often from its cool refreshing revializing waters.

  4. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    Villains demand loyalty, punish failure harshly and brutalise their foes. After reading the bible, it was clear to me. God was nothing but a fantasy setting villain.

    And not a well-written villain either.

  5. stonyground says

    Did you happen to notice when reading the Exodus story that the Egyptian’s livestock were all killed twice? Or that after every available drop of water had been turned into blood, Pharoah’s magicians demonstrated that they could turn water into blood? The story is so badly written that it doesn’t even make sense from one verse to the next. Near the end, the Egyptian army persue the Hebrews into the desert with chariots. What did they use to pull them, husky dogs?

  6. shebardigan says

    Heh. The Exodus. If the numbers are to be taken in the literal sense they are often taken, we have six hundred thousand adult males, with their families, goods and livestock, being pursued by the Egyptian army, which at this time did not exceed fifty thousand men.

    If one family unit per second crossed into the newly-parted dry land, it would take the better part of a week to get everybody out of Egypt.

    Pursuit, indeed.

    Then there are the problems involved in managing a crowd about the size of the population of Greater Dallas for forty years, while not leaving a single trace of their wanderings.

  7. carolw says

    Brilliant! Thanks for your great story. I sampled various mystical approaches when I was in college as well, then finally let go of all the woo.

  8. bodie425 says

    I remember distinctly hearing the story of the Exodus when I was about seven years old. This too was the start of my Atheism. I was appalled that god “hardened Pharaoh’s heart,” twice! Even as a child, I recognized this as horribly unfair. It was all downhill, or should I say uphill into the refreshing sunshine of reality, from there.

  9. slatham says

    Hey Gribble, thanks for this. It has been a while since I thought about literature and atheism. (Are there many explicitly atheist novels? Any worth reading?)

    Something you said, about willingness to be crucified, sparked my memory of Old Man and the Sea. I thought about all those devotional people who get themselves crucified on Easter — surely they must realize that their suffering is comparable to the suffering of Jesus. Afterward, do they contemplate their lord’s sacrifice with less awe? Hemingway’s Santiago suffered greatly but didn’t think it could compare to DiMaggio’s hip pointer (or whatever). Is DiMaggio = fantasy hero Jesus, and Santiago just a suffering man (who surpasses his hero)? Apparently Hemingway was an atheist but also a roman catholic (according to the web), so obviously I don’t know what Hemingway intended. Anyway, it was a provactive essay. Thanks.

  10. says

    Purely atheist novels? His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass, etc) are apparently quite anti-theist. They’re on my list of stuff to read (which just got shorter now that dance with dragons ran out of pages and Winds of Winter looks to be about 18 months away at least.

    What would qualify as an atheist novel?

  11. slatham says

    Hmm, I’m not sure. I think an explicitly atheist novel would contain the following: (1) an obvious statement (not just a minor character’s opinion) that there is no magical god creature in the heavens or under the earth who tells us what to do or even keeps a naughty/nice list; (2) a demonstration that this fact, or recognition of the fact, results in a better world. I think this second part is quite difficult, and maybe I should settle for a demonstration that ignorance of the godless fact promotes a worse world. But that seems like too low a bar.
    I haven’t read the Golden Compass, etc. I just searched “atheist novel” and see there is a book evaluating four New Atheist novels:
    1. Ian McEwan’s End of the World Blues
    2. Martin Amis and the War for Cliché
    3. Salman Rushdie and the ‘Quarrel Over God’
    4. Philip Pullman’s Republic of Heaven

  12. csmiller says

    Interesting that someone from the UK spells “skeptic” with a “k”…

    So do the Greater Manchester Skeptics” As would any right-thinking person, of course.

    The Skeptics in the Pub movement was founded by Dr. Scott Campbell, a UK-resident Australian; in Australia they spell Sceptics with a ‘k’, but in UK it’s normally spelt with a ‘c’.

  13. HaggisForBrains says

    @ 6 dogfight

    “Have you ever tried to read the bible sequentially, start to finish? Its incredibly dull.” (Sorry for the quote marks but I can’t figure out how to format the blockquote tag. Perhaps someone can clue me in.)

    I’ve only recently worked it out myself. Try putting [blockquote] at the beginning and [/blockquote] at the end, but replacing the [] square brackets with the ones that look like “less than” and “greater than”. These are situated above (ie using shift key) the comma and full stop on my keyboard. Curiously, I’ve just discovered that to put something in ordinary quotes in this blog I have to use the @ sign, which is where the quotes sign should be!

    As a Brit, I tend to resist what seems to me to be the creeping Americanisation (Americanization?) of English, but I must say I prefer “Skeptic” to “Sceptic”, if only because I am less likely to mispronounce it as a nasty infection. Having said that, I admit that some American spellings (including the use of zed (zee) above) reflect the original British spelling, so who is right?

    For an entertaining atheist novel, may I suggest “Pandaemonium” by Christopher Brookmyre. Indeed, I find all his novels hugely entertaining, but Pandaemonium is probably his most atheistic. You could also try “Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks” for a powerful attack on spiritualism. Brookmyre is president of the Humanist Society of Scotland. Try Wikipedia for more info.

  14. John Morales says


    (Sorry for the quote marks but I can’t figure out how to format the blockquote tag. Perhaps someone can clue me in.)

    To quote, do this:

    To quote, do this:
    <blockquote>To quote, do this:</blockquote>

    (The version above the comment box is misleading)

  15. concernedjoe says

    What any traditional supernatural based religion is, given even a modicum of modern knowledge and understanding of things, should be evident to any sane and intellectually competent person; that is, that it is all man-made fantasy, constructed by and for people with an agenda.

    An apt analogy are the “Santa Claus” and the like phenomena. If you think about it rationally you see religions and these phenomena share similar support and promulgation architecture and infrastructure; you see the agendas (whys and wherefores) are of like-kind.

    Competent adult people see this; however many just turn their eyes. The need to cling to tradition, community, approval of family and friends, and the warm fuzzies believing-you-believe give just override what intellectually they really deep down know.

    It happens to most of us – in some aspect of our life. We cling to things as real that seem obviously untrue to others because we just want so for it to be, etc. Human nature I guess. Especially when it comes to matters of the heart.

    Relative to god and religion, some of us have allowed ourselves to admit it – to self and others: “it ain’t real – indeed not even worthy philosophy!” We are atheists out of the closet. But I suspect a lot are in the closet – hiding even from themselves.

    As to the Bible. Take this small example: Marriage at Cana. A feel good story that moderate Christians hold dear if any there was. If god is so powerful and has such important stuff to convey why leave to his “peeps” to fight over meaning? Yes authors of fiction do that (leave it to to the reader) but authoritative non-fiction is supposed to try to limit ambiguity right? And Jesus – well I don’t think he’s nice to his mom!

  16. clairesmith says

    This is pretty similar to my own experience, I did at one point think that I *had to* choose a religion, but most of them left me feeling incomplete or unhappy, being an atheist and a skeptic (the wonderful Greater Manchester Skeptics being my local group too) means I am happier than I have ever been with myself, and with the world around me, e.g. homophobia is mostly due to the people (who read their holy books and follow the homophobic view point) rather than an all powerful god hating LGB people for the way they love.