sent in by David McCord
My mother and I were charter members of a Congregational Church in Lincoln, NE. She was a very devout Christian and insisted that I always attend church with her. My father never went to Church. He believed in God, but had a problem with the methods used in organized religion.
In 1963, while working on my Boy Scout God and Country award (these were quite rare back then), I was required to study the world's great religions. The more questions I asked, the less sense the answers made. Faith does not stand up well to questions. Eventually, I became agnostic. I no longer accepted the "truths" that were preached from the pulpit.
I was training to become an engineer and learned to investigate things using scientific method. Logic and the search for truth became very important to me. The bizarre and twisted logic used by the Church to "prove" their beliefs became not only hard for me to swallow, they struck me as a brainwashing tactic used to break down any skepticism which made the members more accepting of the seemingly (to me, anyway) ridiculous dogma of the church. Not only was the church preaching lies as absolute truths, it was doing all it could to break down normal skepticism in its members and making them gullible patsies for evangelical moneygrubbers. Of course, "brainwashing” is a relative term, depending on your point of view. A believer's "effective teaching methods" are a non-believer's brainwashing.
Although my profession is in engineering, I have always had a fascination for the human mind. The ability of humans to accept any reality when given the right conditioning is quite amazing. While working on a science fiction novel that was published last year, I studied brainwashing methods and was struck by how many of them are used by the church. Of course, they are also heavily used by governments (especially in the military), and advertising, but the church has done the most work to formalize the brainwashing process and has spent centuries developing a very effective cradle to grave method of reinforcement of the belief indoctrination.
What I really hate about religions is their horrendous use of fallacious reasoning to "prove" the "truth" of their dogma. For example, a proof that the universe was created for mankind is that the earth's orbit is in the right place and the mixture of gasses on earth are correct as well as thousands of other "miraculous" conditions created by God so man could survive and thrive. The fallacy, of course, is that man happens to be the way he is because all of these conditions existed. For example, if the air had less oxygen, we'd have bigger lungs or possibly not exist at all. The creatures evolved to match the environment; the environment was not created for the creatures. If the environment changes, we must adapt or die.
Did God create man, or did man create God? I have eventually come to the conclusion that the latter is true. The concept of God exists because of several human weaknesses, two of which I include here.
1. Humans cannot comprehend the idea of infinity -- nothing that is physical can last forever or have existed forever. The idea of the mass and energy that makes up an infinite universe never having been created is impossible for most human minds to grasp. It is ironic that they are able to accept the notion that some "intelligent creator" can be around forever and create the universe out of nothing, but they cannot accept the possibility of the infinite life of the mass of the universe.
Whether the life of the universe is endless or not, the extent of it probably is. If it isn't, what is beyond the farthest star? And then, what is beyond that? Convoluted theories by geniuses that use mathematics to play tricks with distance and time don't stand up very well to critical thought. In the end, Occam's razor usually applies. The simplist theory is probably the truest -- the universe is infinite in both space and time.
2. Humans cannot comprehend the idea of their own non-existance. Once the mind has developed sufficient data and memories to have a personality, it cannot accept the idea of totally disappering. Hence, we need to have an afterlife. To assure conversion of new believers, we make this afterlife into a wonderful heaven, which helps us accept the lousy life we lead (things will be great after we die), and also temper the great loss felt when a loved one dies (They’re in a better place and we'll see them again when we die). This rather bizarre belief also serves double duty. Heaven can be used as a reward for the good (those that do as the religious leaders think they should) and Hell can be used to punish the bad (those that dare to go against those who claim to know God's will.)
Personally, I have no problem with non-existance. Living forever would really get boring, even in the best heaven I can imagine. If we keep things fresh by forgetting and starting over every few hundred years, what's the point of living forever? Being shut down like an unplugged computer and never being plagued by memories of thoughtless and mean things I did in the past, or having to deal with the aches and pains of a decaying body is all the heaven I need.
Anyway, I did not choose to not believe in God no more than I chose to not believe in Santa Clause or the tooth fairy. Eventually, the mountain of evidence against the belief system that was programmed into me was overwhelming. Like watching a really bad science fiction movie, I could no longer suspend disbelief.
This is not to say that I could never believe in God again. If a deep voice came out of the heavens and said, "now watch this!" and the earth reversed its direction of rotation on its axis, I could become a believer again. Frankly, though, the piddly "miracles" put forth by religions to prove God's existence don't cut it.
I could go on forever on this subject. I rather enjoy ripping apart the convoluted logic of theists. But, make no mistake; I will also rip apart the logic of atheists if it is fallacious.
I have no reason to be an atheist except for the fact that my thirst for logic and truth will not allow me to be any other way. There is still very strong prejudice against atheists in our society, so it is easier to just go along with everyone else and bow to the cross, Star of David, or whatever. Merely by admitting that I don’t believe in God, I have eliminated myself from ever holding any elective office, including dogcatcher. In the eyes of the faithful, a “Godless” man is an evil man.
Frankly, I think a Humanist who works to make the world a better place for his fellow humans without worrying about an afterlife is working on a far higher ethical plane than someone that does good or avoids evil in order to receive a reward or avoid a punishment after death. Believing that God is responsible for all that is good and humans are responsible for all that is bad is degrading to the selfless spirit that humans can have and their willingness to sacrifice and help each other just because they think it is the right thing to do, God or no God.
Became a Christian: A baby.
Ceased being a Christian: During a period from 14 to 20 years old.
Labels before: Congregational
Labels now: Atheist
Why I joined: Same reason as most, brainwashed as infant.
Why I left: Asked too many questions.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)