Sent in by Andrew Hawkins
I am a 39-year-old male. I grew up in Somerset, UK. It was a pleasant semi-rural existence. My childhood is full of pleasant memories with a loving family. At about the age of 15 I joined the boys brigade, an organisation with religious undertones. We had to go to church services once a month. I suppose that all of those church services must have played their part in me becoming a born again Christian. Billy Graham was on a tour in 1984. I went to see him at Aston Gate football stadium. The sheer numbers of people there overcame me. I was also overcome by the showmanship of the event. On that fateful night I became a born again Christian. I was 18 years old.
Being a red blooded male and highly attracted to the opposite sex and being a Christian is a very difficult thing to do. I was heavily into masturbation and I tried and tried to stop but I couldn’t. I prayed and prayed that Jesus would take these feelings away. He never did, of course. I took communion and one day I read in the bible, I can’t remember exactly where, that he who drinks of the blood of Christ and desecrates his own body will spend an eternity in hell. I remember saying sorry to Jesus and asking for forgiveness but that one paragraph really took hold of me. I remember being really frightened, upset and angry that I was going to hell. Slowly but surely I remember slipping out of Christianity and so I hoped for a long life before I was to face my fate. Hell, when you are in your twenties is a long way off. I remember my Christian friends would pray for me to come back to the fold but they really didn’t know what the problem was.
At this stage in my life I was studying hard to go to university. Once at university I met my wife to be she was a Christian and I told her that I used to be. She then explained that I wasn’t going to hell and that I was misinterpreting that part of the bible about desecrating your body and drinking the blood of Christ. And so I became a Christian again.
After university I started work in Birmingham and my housemate had a Richard Dawkins book, which he lent to me. The book was “The Blind watch-maker”. At last there was an explanation for this life. I began to read other books on evolution. I read a very interesting book about Darwin machines. A Darwin machine is anything that has come about by the same processes that govern evolution. A religion can be said to be a Darwin machine.
1. It has improved due to the process of natural selection.
It has been improved upon century after century and it is still being improved upon. There are many different interpretations of the bible each one being better that the last. By the process of speciation various sub-religions (denominations are created). Many religions are in existence and many, over the thousands of years of humanity, have become extinct. Only two seem to be ahead of the field. Christianity and Islam.
2. It is open to mutations. – There are many different denominations
Looking back on my time as a Christian I can honestly say that I didn’t feel the presence of Jesus, not once. Not once did I see any evidence. One thing I remember which illustrates the absurdity of blind faith is a friend - who went on to be a minister - saying, “God will always answer your prayers. He may answer it with a ‘No’ but he will always answer your prayers”. I can honestly say that I never heard of one prayer being answered with a ‘Yes’.
Looking back another facet of religion and Darwin machines strikes me. The great religions have gone through many different improvements. The improvements are such that they make the religions seem perfect (not quite perfect because of all the contradictions and because not all accept it). Here is not the time to illustrate the contradictions. All the readers of these testimonies have heard them. If I were to create a near perfect religion how would I make it?
1. It would, of course, worship the creator of the universe. What is the greatest thing that a human can imagine? Why, God, of course.
2. There would be a prophet or Son of God to whom you must interface with God.
3. For all non-believers I would say that they would face eternal damnation and for all believers they would have eternal bliss.
4. I would make its moral code close to the natural moral code that all humans have. The moral code would be difficult to adhere to but I would promise rewards for following them.
5. For proof I would perform a few conjuring tricks like turning water into wine.
6. For all of those having doubts about the process of blind faith I would say that if they leave the religion they would face eternal damnation only their damnation would be more severe than the unbelievers.
7. And, of course, everyone loves a martyr. To start the religion I would die for it.
Does this sound familiar?
What am I now? I am a humanist. Which really is a sub-label for an atheist. I am tolerant of people’s beliefs. I can understand why people become involved in church. It is a great social centre. People feel a need to belong to a large social group. But, on the other hand, people feel a need for the truth. And I would prefer to live my life in truth and to hell with eternity.
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)