Why I am an atheist – Cody Feldman

I grew up in a town in southeastern Idaho. Where Mormons outnumber the “real Christians”. I was raised a Methodist, and we always made fun of the Mormons but I never looked at my own beliefs to think that maybe they are as unwarranted as the Mormons. At the age of 19 my father died of esophageal cancer and I still believed. I believed that God was real and Jesus was real but he didn’t do anything to help. His days of miracles were over.

I went away to a community college in Kansas and friends there were believers. I wanted to know what they knew so I tried to wash away my beliefs and start fresh. I started listening to other people’s beliefs and enrolled in a class titled “Biblical Archeology”. Hoping that it would help solidify my beliefs in the historical accuracy of the bible and then I could start to accept the words of the bible.

I am not the outspoken person I am today, another benefit of my atheism. So I sat in class and listened. I tried to take it all in even though 99% of everything the instructor said made no sense. I wanted the class to show me what was found in the archeological records and then show how that is related to the bible. Instead the class showed what the bible said and then desperately searched for something that could possibly be related to it. The final straw was a piece of wood found in China that was said to be part of the Ark. A quick internet search showed it to be a forgery.

Out went the bible and in came a flood of authors. Hitchens, Dawkins, Krauss, Coyne, and soon to be P. Zed. I am going back to school and majoring in Ecology. Thanks to just a little bit of critical thinking and a nudge from the god believers themselves. And I thank every atheist author and blogger that always had things for me read or listen to so that I didn’t have to use more than reason to figure out what was going on in the world.

Cody Feldman
Idaho, United States

Why I am an atheist – Samyogita Hardikar

Up till I was 19 I had been dwelling into the murky waters of faith, mainly switching between a haphazard belief in some sort of higher power if not god per se and agnosticism of the ‘If there had been a god, then surely he wouldn’t have allowed all this cruelty and suffering?’ persuasion. Now I really don’t think there is a god. The reasons are many and most of them are obvious to and shared by most other atheists: no real evidence for the existence of god/ gods, a respect for and inclination towards a humanitarian and human-centric idea of morality, too many vulgar disputes amongst the believers themselves about who exactly this ‘one true god’ person that they all keep banging on about might be, to name a few of the top ones. But I vividly remember the moment I started thinking of myself as an out-and-out atheist and it wasn’t any kind of anger or frustration or hardcore empirical analysis that made it happen. It happened when I heard Douglas Adams speculating about the origin of god.

He says that the idea of god probably came into existence because after looking about and seeing what a well oiled machine this world was, we humans made the foolish mistake of asking the most ridiculous, naive and treacherous question: ‘So who made this then?’ ‘This’ being the world, of course. ‘Someone must’ve made it, you know? Like we make stuff?’
And from there we just went on improvising and thinking that since we’re the only ones who ever actually make anything, it must’ve been someone very like us, much more sizable and capable than us, and much more invisible, obviously.

I completely buy that theory and it may seem trivial but if we are to move on from all this violence and disharmony that happens in the name of god, we have to see the whole notion for the triviality that it is. Let’s not- for a moment- try to answer that absurd question with the first thing that comes to your mind and we’ll be fine.

To put forth a simple if slightly cheap analogy, the idea of god is a bit like non-degradable plastic. It’s man-made. It’s not found in nature. It was created by throwing a whole bunch of random stuff together. It’s a relatively recent invention considering how long we’ve been around and even if it may look like it at first glance, our lives do not depend on it. It’s a quick, immediate gratification based solution for an eternal problem which is why it’s dangerous. It seemed like a very good idea at the beginning and most people still think it’s pretty handy but now that we have it, we don’t seem to be able to get rid of it and it’s all beginning to get a bit out of hand. And lastly, living things are suffering and dying horrible deaths because of it. Atheism on the other hand is way more ego-friendly.

Samyogita Hardikar

Why I am an atheist – James Grimes

It’s not all of the terrible things that happen on Earth that make me think god isn’t real. We’ve all heard the argument that god wouldn’t help quarterbacks win football games while letting children in Africa starve to death, but this doesn’t make me think he’s not real; it just makes me think he’s an asshole. It’s not that bad things happen to good people or good things happen to bad people, it’s that anything happens to anybody. The cause of my atheism isn’t tragedy, but the arbitrary nature of human existence.

Perhaps I expect too much from god, but if he is real, why isn’t everything beautiful? Why isn’t everything perfect? People mention sunsets and that special feeling you get when you are with someone you love as evidence of god’s existence. Even things like death and heartbreak stir up emotions just as profound, if not as pleasant. But they seem to forget that god created everything, that everything is a part of his plan. Love is all well and good, but I can’t believe that a perfect being thought it would be best to include shitting as an unavoidable biological function of human beings.

I can’t believe that a perfect being would create anything less than perfect. Call me crazy, but it seems like a contradiction. Forget the elephant man; pimply faced teens are enough to convince me that god doesn’t exist. If god is real, why isn’t every man an Adonis and every woman his Aphrodite? Why do people have unibrows? Why is my moustache thicker on one side than it is on the other? These may seem like petty questions, but when it comes to the existence of god I truly think they are just as important as questions like why do people feel pain or why is there so much suffering in the world. I can believe that god makes hurricanes; maybe he really is trying to punish those queers. But what intelligent reason could there be for creating say, asparagus?

I must conclude that there is no god, no plan for existence. There is too much imperfection, too much asymmetry in the world we live in. This is of course not to mention the fact that the bible is completely full of shit. On the principles of solipsism and critical thinking I must admit that it is possible that god exists. But if he does, mankind’s reverence for him is matched only by his indifference toward us.

James Grimes
Kansas, United States

Why I am an atheist – Sheila Galliart

My background: I will be 49 years old next week; I am a white heterosexual married woman with two almost-grown children (one girl, a sophomore at university majoring in computer engineering; the other a boy, high school sophomore). I live in Edmond, Oklahoma; a suburb of Oklahoma City. I was raised as a member of the Church of Christ; fundamentalist xtianity at it’s strongest here in the bible belt. The Church of Christ (COC) claims to be the only original, direct descendant church of the New Testament; members are right and everybody else on the planet is WRONG, including the local popular by numbers Southern Baptists.

Why are they wrong? Because they believe that being baptized is just something extra one does to demonstrate faith; whereas members of the COC count baptism, being physically buried in water (dunked not sprinkled) as a KEY, necessary action required for entrance into Heaven. Those that aren’t members of the COC? Why, they shall burn forever in the Lake of Fire aka Hayull.

Please understand that the following constitutes embarrassment to me, NOW:

I graduated from a COC university, Oklahoma Christian University, with a BS degree in Medical Technology, in 1984. I made a 30 on the ACT; I have always been interested in science. Since that time, I have been employed as a Medical Technologist/Clinical Laboratory Scientist (two terms meaning the same thing). My current position is as a US Government Employee (drone), as the Supervisor of Transfusion Services (aka ‘blood bank) at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Oklahoma City, OK.

Unfortunately, I was a product of my environment and was a bible believing church-every-Sunday xtian until approximately five years ago; more or less, I cannot exactly recall. At any rate, I have not been ‘to church’ in over five years, for certain.

Okay, I hear the wheels of your mind turning, and you are thinking to yourself: GHEEZ LOUISE HERE IS A CLASSICAL MEMBER OF THE SLOW READING GROUP! A SCIENCE major who believes in the absolute truth of the Bible? Right?

Well, I can’t argue with that! Yes, I am a victim of my upbringing; in no small part which meant that as a person lacking a penis, I was to follow; not to lead. Please understand, I don’t BLAME anybody for my behavior but I am trying to explain how an intelligent human being can believe in total and complete BS until she is 45 years old. I was always a ‘good girl’; and ‘good girls’ made good grades; good girls studied. Good girls also married a fellow xtian; good girls submitted to their fathers and their husbands, good girls did not question.

In my case, I had the fortune of meeting a man with ‘no religion’ at all. Unfortunately, for HIM, I ‘converted’ him to my religion. And, his brother. And, his parents. OOO, look at me; I have converted four persons to the true gospel of keereyst! So many jewels, in my crown of the hereafter! Awesome; I am; and awesome is my jeeebus/gayd! NOT.

Let us Fast Forward, please, to absolve me of at least some embarrassment in your eyes. I began to read a lot of books. CORRECTION: I have always read a lot of books. I keep lists of every book I have read for the past 20 years. More and more, my reading lists consisted of non-fiction books (still overwhelmingly a favorite by at least a 4-1 margin).

The books I read that began to convince me that I and my religion were full of kerap? I know you are thinking I read ‘The God Delusion’. Well, Yes I did! But not right away. The books I read that began to convince me that I was; shall we say politely, in ‘error’?

The major one was, Ghosts of Vesuvius, by Charles Pellegrino. I bought this book just because I was interested in science, and archeology, and how ancient societies functioned. After that? I read a cople of his other books. Here is another mainstream media production that convinced me, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0384766/, ROME, the HBO series. It explains so exquisitely the way the Roman gods affected the common societal norms. I began to see, that my beliefs were not unique at all, but just like the ancient Romans. In other words? Ridiculous.

After that? Laugh if you wish, but the comment threads on religion stories on www.fark.com; convinced me. I was furious, at first! Those heathen godless hellions commenting on the religion threads! But as I read, I assimilated, and I learned. Those horrible liberals! I need not mention that I was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, and the first presidential vote I ever made? Was for Ronald Reagan.

Eventually I made my way to Pharangula, likely through a Fark thread although I cannot recall for certain. At any rate, for the past five years I have been a ‘gnu atheist.’. I trust and believe in the beauty of the cosmos, and it is more than enough for me. Interestingly, long before I was an admitted atheist, I made sure my grade school children were exposed to Bill Nye The Science Guy. I have the VCR tapes to prove it. So I would have to credit Bill Nye as well as Charles Pellegrino, as ‘de-converting’ me.

Today, I visit scienceblogs.com daily, as well as The Friendly Atheist (Hemant deserves some credit too in my anti-xtian-conversion), and FARK, and am a member of Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Sorry, PZ, for the length of this. I realize you are a busy important person, and I want to extend my kudos to you and everything you do, everyday. PLEASE know that there are those ‘on the bubble’ out there, as I was at one time, who count on you and your blog to convince them of the truth.

In conclusion, if you have read this far, thank you so much! I hope to meet you at Skepticon in November.

Sheila Galliart
United States

Why I am an atheist – Nick Martin

Part of me wants to give a smart-assed answer to this question, because at my core, I am a smart-ass. Something like “because religion is evil” (which it is) or “because the Flying Spaghetti Monster told me to be one” (which may also be true). But, when I look at my core, the only answer I have to give is “because it’s the only position a skeptic can have”.

It’s something relatively recent in my life. I was raised in a conservative Christian household. I had to go to church every week, it was a requirement that I go to at least one service. But at the same time, my parents encouraged my love of astronomy specifically and science in general. And in retrospect, that is where it all started. That love taught me to question everything (which I most certainly did).

But getting out of the other side of my upbringing took time. I went off to college, Missouri State University (then Southwest Missouri State), and hooked up with Chi Alpha (XA) Campus Ministries. This was before they had Skepticon, a FSM church, or really any skeptical movement at all. Again, in hindsight, I feel a bit of shame, because I understand now that prosthelytizing my beliefs had to have done some real harm to people, something I can’t change. I only hope that by speaking out against religion now can undo some of that.

I was a skeptic with most everything else growing up. I didn’t believe in ghosts, ESP, aliens, or anything else in the pseudo-scientific range, but like so many other “skeptic believers,” I was not willing to turn that same scrutiny on my beliefs. Of course, like a college student, and to be fair, most human beings, it turns out I was also a fairly bad Christian, and a fairly normal college student, in liking loud music, drinking, sex, and skipping classes.

That all started to change after some a series of bad events pushed me more into that “good Christian” category again. I went to church, went to small groups, and, dangerously enough, started to read my bible. And for some reason, one I still cannot explain, I started to question why I believed what I did. I looked back at myself, and what I had been crediting god for getting me through, and realized that he hadn’t done shit.

It wasn’t a slow process. I wouldn’t even call myself an atheist until, reading Phil Plaitt’s blog, he mentioned, off-hand, someone named “PZ.” It was some inside joke I wasn’t part of, so I dug. I found out who this “PZ” was… and read enough to understand that, as a skeptic, there is only one position to be had. You cannot dismiss all fairies except the one you like any more than you can deny a color you don’t care for doesn’t exist (otherwise, the world would be rid of mauve by now). I didn’t like facing it at first, but I couldn’t dodge the questions. And when you look at belief the same way you look at ghosts, there is no way you can’t see it for what it is.

In the end, it was my own skepticism that forced me to realize the only thing I could be is an atheist.

Nick Martin
United States

Why I am an atheist – J

I am not a theist because I was born that way. I am fortunate enough not to have been indoctrinated into any cults, brainwashed, or subjugated as a child. I am not a theist because I was born in this time, in this country, and with this brain.

I am not a theist because the idea that I was created by someone who owns me forever is repugnant. I am not superstitious, I am a lover of science and nature, I like things that are logical, and I like to be in control. I have never longed for an inherent purpose to my life; I am here because I was born. I don’t want to worship anything, I don’t want to live forever, I don’t want to be told I’m a sinner, and I don’t find comfort in having all the answers, especially when the answers must be taken on faith and don’t answer anything. I am atheist because I am one of the most fortunate beings ever to have lived on this earth. I am one of the most fortunate beings ever to have lived because I am atheist.

, United States

(I put out a simple call for your explanations for why you’re an atheist, and I’m still inundated with submissions. This will be a daily feature on Pharyngula.)

Why I am an atheist – Michael

Why am I an atheist? Such a question would have seemed ludicrous to me just a few short years ago. And if you told me that it was the deepening of a religious belief that led me to such a position, I would have been completely baffled. But that is, in fact, what happened. Allow me to explain.

My earliest memories of religion were quite weird. My parents were not initially religious, and I was left to form ideas on my own. The occasional religious pamphlet, ranging from tattered old Jack Chick comics to slick copies of the Watchtower, was about all I had to formulate an idea of the supernatural. I can remember my father answering a question about god by talking about the energy inherent in all matter. The practical upshot was that I was basically an honest agnostic at a young age. The question didn’t seem relevant or soluble.

That all started to change around the time I was eleven or twelve. My father would occasionally take us to this strange ceremony being held at a local Catholic church called a Mass. I didn’t understand a bit of it, and found it completely boring. I was even signed up for an odd event called a “lock-in,” where I was literally locked into an apartment with a group of children I didn’t know. All very strange, but I wasn’t yet tutored in Catholicism or required to participate in their rituals.

That all changed when we moved across states and into my grandmother’s house. Immediately, I was enrolled in catechism classes, and the indoctrination began in earnest. I discovered that I had been baptised as a baby. I was forced to pray the Rosary with my family in front of the Marian shrine my grandmother had built. Attendance at Mass became mandatory. I was brought to Confession, and forced to tell these strange men what I thought I had done wrong that week. I argued with my father that I didn’t believe in a god, so I shouldn’t be forced to do this. His only reply was that until I could disprove the existence of god, I was going to go. During this time, my otherwise moderate mother, raised a Baptist, became a Catholic. My younger sister was also baptised and forced to participate.

This went on for several years. As I left home and entered college, my father racheted up the pressure. He began telling me about how I was going to be damned for all eternity. In addition, I felt an increased desire to connect with my father as I entered adulthood, but given his focus on religion, this was increasingly difficult. The two pressures seemed intolerable, and it was at that time that I enrolled in an introduction to philosophy class. The teacher of this class was pushing C.S. Lewis’ arguments, and I fell for it. Within a short time, I succumbed to the pressure and started acting more religious. I embraced the idea of apologetics, and quickly became one of those obnoxious evangelizers with whom we are all so familiar. By this time, I was married, and I inflicted these arguments on my wife until she, too, converted.

This went on for several years. My faith was only deepening, and I was beginning to think that I was being called to a life of ministry. I watched 9/11 happen, and my faith was unshaken. I was proud of the fact that MY beliefs were grounded in rational thought, not like those other religious people. I integrated myself into the local Catholic church, and was on my way to a typical unthinking lifelong acceptance of Catholic dogma. Ironically enough, the thing that made me reevaluate my beliefs was my father’s deepening religious feelings.

He began to think that the Catholic church was wrong, and that the Eastern Orthodox religion was correct. And he and I began to fight in earnest. I arrayed every argument I could think of against this apostacy, and I thought that I was winning him back to the True Faith. But, he kept going back, and eventually declared that he was leaving the Catholic church.

At this point, I realized that I was deeply offended by this, and that realization struck a nerve. I thought that I was a Catholic for logical reasons, not simply because I felt that it was right. Maybe I was the wrong party here. I had not given either side a chance to stand on its own, having always argued from the premise that the Catholic church was correct. So, I took a step back. I consciously tried to ignore my bias, and to evaluate the claims of those competing religions from a neutral standpoint.

The problem was that neither side stood up to the scutiny. When I subjected both to the same level of proof that I demanded of other truth claims, and especially other religious claims, they both withered. I was devastated. I spent many hours wrestling with this problem alone. Then, I told my wife of my doubts. Finally, I admitted to my father that I was no longer a believer. This has been a constant source of discord between us, but it can’t be helped. My wife and children were all too happy to shed their religious personas, and we quickly became a happy little secular household.

If my sojourn in the Catholic faith had any positive effect, it would be that I was immersed in various religious arguments, and it makes it a lot easier to recognize and undermine the various tactics that religious evangelists like to use.

Midwest, United States

(I put out a simple call for your explanations for why you’re an atheist, and I’m still inundated with submissions. This will be a daily feature on Pharyngula.)

Why I am an atheist – Gary Roberts

Easter Sunday was a good day for us when we were kids, second only to Christmas Day. We couldn’t wait to get home after Mass to unwrap our chocolate eggs! We’d remain in our Sunday best most of the day, as family and friends filed through my parents’ house for tea and biscuits. The religious significance of this day wasn’t lost on us either, especially after having just sat through an interminably long sermon by the parish priest about The Resurrection. A scattering of palm-leaf crosses could still be found on the tops of cupboards and shelves, or tucked away behind a picture of Pope John Paul II; souvenirs from our visit to church on the Palm Sunday the week before.

But that was back then. Things are different for me now, as far as church and religion are concerned.

Just to give you a backgrounder, I was raised a Catholic. In the Catholic schools I attended—particularly junior (or middle) school—Religious Education featured prominently in the curriculum. I remember learning the Catechism by rote then having to recite it in class along with my fellow pupils, or having to say the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary as a group when we were gathered in the assembly hall each morning.

R.E. was definitely an important part of the curriculum and we sometimes had drop-in visits by the local priest, who’d test our knowledge of the bible by putting us on the spot with his many questions relating to the Old and New Testaments.

The headmaster at our junior school, Mr. McGowan, was fond of interrupting our regular classes in order to stage an impromptu Q&A session about the Catholic faith. Mr. McGowan had a predilection for confusing us when asking such questions. One of his favourite methods was to stare at one pupil and call his or her name before asking his question, while actually pointing at someone else sat on the other side of room as he posed his question. The unlucky subjects of both gaze and finger would stare at each other, dumbstruck, as they each waited for the other to answer first. Neither pupil could know for sure who was actually required to answer. Of course, the two would then receive a reprimand for not being able to read his mind.

It was a ridiculously inane way to teach and its sole purpose was to stoke a power-hungry ego, I’m sure. It also had the effect of instilling a sense of dread in our young minds whenever he entered the classroom.

My parents were practising Catholics, my father having converted to Catholicism from Protestantism in order to marry my mother. My mother’s side of the family, being Irish, were fervent followers of the Catholic faith. We had lots of cousins on the distaff side, some of whom were nuns or missionaries.

As children, we were expected to attend Mass with our parents every Sunday until we reached 16 years of age, at which point we were allowed to go to church with friends and cousins. We often skipped Mass, however, and would hang around outside St. Gregory’s church, making sure we weren’t discovered until it was over. When Mass was finished and the congregation began to file out of the church, we’d make our way home with the rest of the crowd; at this point, we were usually seen by friends of the family, who’d then be able to attest to our presence there, should our parents ask.

We were also expected to go to the Confessional at least once a month to unburden ourselves of sin. I never really thought I did anything bad as a child, so I used to have a whole list of trivial and not-so-trivial sins on standby, which I’d mix up every now and then when I was in the Confessional, just to make it sound more authentic.

Moral Lessons

I’d have to say that throughout my childhood and teenage years I did believe in God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the importance of absolute faith, the perils of sin, the horrors of hell. I remember at times having a feeling of being watched, or judged, and of having a sense of dread at what would happen to me if I should die. Would I be saved? Would I go to heaven? Would I end up in hell? This feeling of being watched was constantly reinforced by the amount of Catholic paraphernalia, either hanging on the walls or standing on any available flat surface in our house and the homes of our aunts and uncles, whom we visited regularly. Pictures of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Family, past and present Popes, crucifixes and statues of saints could be found in most rooms of the house in which I was raised. There was no escape. You just couldn’t get away from the disapproving frown on the face of some old pope, which would be hanging near a picture of a saint, for example, wearing an expression of beatitude and love.

This was my childhood. The meanings and moral lessons associated with these religious icons were constantly reaffirmed in our day-to-day interaction and conversations with older aunts, uncles, friends of the family and whatever priest happened to be overseeing our parish at the time.

I remember, one time, lying on the bed beside my mother as she rested during the day and Jesus, Mary and Joseph stared down at us from her bedroom wall. I was about 8 or 9 years old and we were talking about baptism, the bible and the Catholic faith. I asked her what would’ve happened to all those people born throughout history before the coming of Christ. I was surprised to hear her say that these people—which included innocent children and babies—could never attain salvation, simply because they hadn’t been baptised into the Christian faith. I’m not a hundred per cent sure if this was actually true according to the Church’s teachings or not, but I remember how horrified I felt for those unlucky, unbaptised masses. I tried putting forward naive arguments, such as its not being their fault they were born when they were, before the coming of Christ; or that they may have led good, honest lives.

But my pleas on their behalf just didn’t cut the mustard—these people were toast.

I believe that was a major moral crossroads in my life, one which led to skepticism regarding the tenets of not just Catholicism, but any religion. Skepticism, in fact, not only for an unjust religion in general, but eventually anything supernatural. It all just started to seem like nothing but myth, with no basis in fact.
Enlightening Times

I would say I have a very down-to-earth personality, one which responds well to logic and reason. I was always interested in science, particularly biology, physics, and astronomy. My putting aside of religion came about slowly, over a long period of time, I now know, in which I wasn’t really aware of what was happening. The process followed on the heels of my skepticism and I just began to believe less and less in any type of religious teachings, without thinking too much about this sea change in me. Any kind of faith that required unconditional belief in supernatural beings—simply because it was written in a book—seemed puerile and lacking. Anecdotal evidence based on revelation and dogma just wasn’t good enough for me.

Throughout history, many disparate and diverse societies had believed in one god or another, worshiping them and even sacrificing to them on a regular basis. There was a time when people believed in Odin and Thor, Zeus, or Apollo. The Ancient Egyptians believed in the sun god, Ra. Reams of literature had been written about each of these deities. I began to realise that if you used the premise that there’s only one god, that your religion is the truth and that all others are false because it’s written so in your sacred book, then the same premise can also be used to explain a whole pantheon of gods (as was the case for pre-Christian Roman society, and even some extant religions such as Hinduism). How could one claim a monopoly on the truth, based on questionable revelation and dubious translation of ancient texts, when other religions could make an equally valid claim? This way of thinking seemed somehow intrinsically flawed.

Aside from these discrepancies I associated with religion, I came to realise I had a problem with how divisive it was, how inhumane and uncaring many of its practitioners were in contrast to the central thrust of its teachings. If anything, religion and its followers were—in the main—more tribal and protective of their beliefs, rather than tolerant and compassionate towards others who held different, or opposing, views. And yet the basic tenets of these beliefs were supposedly based on compassion, and an adherence to a set of high moral standards and guidelines.

As a gay person trying to lead as good a life as possible and to help people in any way I could (not because a book told me to do so, but because it was in my very nature), I had a lot of trouble reconciling religion with basic human rights, to the extent that religion lost out in my eventual philosophy and interpretation of the world. In short, I finally realised that I was living my life without religion or faith, and that it was okay to be that way. In fact it felt good, if not downright liberating, to be rid of the side effects of religion and dogma. Effects such as guilt or fear at having sinned. Not to mention the mind-numbing, expected obeisance to the Church in general and to God in particular. Independence and freethinking weren’t desirable traits amongst the flock, and certainly weren’t encouraged in any way, shape, or form by the priests in my childhood.

My way of thinking and eventual freedom from religion led me to the belief (if I may use that word) that this life is all we have. Nothing else. Just this one shot at happiness and enjoyment of the world and all it has to offer. This understanding makes faith in any of the major religions, or belief in any of the lesser known world views, seem so trivial. But that’s just my own point of view, something we’re all entitled to—be it religious or not. That’s something I’d like to emphasize here. I know this isn’t how holders of such beliefs would see it, and that to them my way is anathema. But, however firmly they believe in their religion there are many millions of people who believe just as firmly in another, opposing religion.

And the basis for their faith is almost entirely dependent upon the culture into which they were born and raised.

Nowadays, religion fascinates me from a cultural and sociological perspective. It still has the power to shape whole societies and influence the decision-making processes of reasonable, rational people in the 21st Century. Other than that, it holds no sway over me. The only awe I feel at being inside a church is for the architecture of the place, or its historical importance. I appreciate the aesthetics of magnificent buildings, and churches and cathedrals always seemed to be the jewels in the crown of human architectural achievements.

Gary Roberts

(I put out a simple call for your explanations for why you’re an atheist, and I’m still inundated with submissions. This will be a daily feature on Pharyngula.)