John over at Homo economicus’ Weblog tagged me to answer this series of questions regarding the big fella upstairs (who, in case you haven’t already realised, I don’t believe in).
Can You Remember The Day That You Officially Became An Atheist?
To be honest, the more I think about it, the more I realise I’ve never really been anything but an atheist. That might seem like a strange thing to say but let me break it down for you, and then see if it doesn’t sound a little less strange.
- I was born an atheist. I had no knowledge of God until those around me told me about him. I had no childhood visionary experience, no bearded face staring down at me through the clouds, nothing — merely the cultural influences of religion which are addressed in point two.
- My parents were/are not overtly religious. As it turned out, I was later to find that I come from a line of atheists on my father’s side — but nevertheless, in childhood I was touched by that wishy-washy, half-hearted Church of England tradition that many of us are possibly familiar with. I can’t remember anyone in my family attending church other than for christenings, funerals and the occasional wedding. I sang hymns at school and listened to the occasional passage being read from the New Testament — and on one occasion, I even played Joseph in the school nativity play. But did I actually believe any of it? That’s a tough one, but I’m not really convinced that I did — certainly not in the way that I would have believed as an adult. I accepted what I was told, but as soon as I learned that Father Christmas didn’t really exist my doubts in other areas — as ill-formed as they might have been — came to the fore. Granted, I was not an intellectual atheist in the way that I am today, but I’ve never really been guilty of having faith of this kind.
Do you remember the day you officially became an agnostic?
Technically, I’m agnostic. I’m a six on the Dawkins atheist scale, which means I believe the existence of God to have a very low probability — low enough to be an unrealistic proposition, but still short of zero. Dawkins would describe me as a de facto atheist, and I’d agree with that, but some will nevertheless insist that my position is that of an agnostic.
To answer your question, however, I have to say that I never became and have never considered myself an agnostic. At this time, I have absolutely no belief in any kind of god — but maybe someone will provide new evidence tomorrow (I don’t think so, but…) I work with what I know. Working with what I know I see no need of a god. Mine is not a noncommittal position or one of asserting that such things cannot be proved or disproved either way.
How about the last time you spoke or prayed to God with actual thought that someone was listening?
I don’t remember ever really feeling as if there were someone else on the other end of the line. I prayed because those around me — in school assembly, for example — were praying. All those people can’t be wrong, right? Wrong!
Did anger towards God or religion help cause you to be an atheist or agnostic?
Absolutely not. Apart from the logical impossibility of being angry at something I’ve never actually believed in, I see too much understandable beauty around me to be angry about life and how it works. I see mysteries and experience wonder just about everywhere I look — but these mysteries are not unknowable, they are not beyond explanation. For me, understanding is more thrilling than anything else I know (well, almost… )
Religion, frankly, at times disgusts me now — but that’s because I understand its lies, and that disgust played no part in making me what I am.
Here is a good one: Were you agnostic towards ghosts, even after you became an atheist?
All aspects of the so-called “paranormal” interested me for a while, but largely from the perspective of wanting to understand. I prefer to use the word sceptic in this situation. I look at “evidence” and try to understand it, without automatically jumping to the conclusions that others do. For the record, I don’t believe in ghosts.
Do you want to be wrong?
Hell no! LOL. No, seriously, if we’re talking about whether I would like the Abrahamic god to exist, then I’d have to paraphrase Christopher Hitchens; if you prove to me he exists then your work has just begun. I do not want to know this kind of god. Hitchens compares this tradition (and others) to a dictatorship. He wants no part of it and neither do I.
If, on the other hand, there did turn out to be an afterlife that was much like this life but better then, yes, I’d be happy to be wrong.
I don’t think I am, though!
So to spread these ideas around, and keep the meme alive, I better tag some people:
© 2008 Gary William Murning