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