Born in England to parents from two different nations, we moved to Australia when I was three. Growing up in a multicultural country opened my eyes to the wide variety of beliefs and assumptions from so many cultures (for example the Australian aboriginal stories of the Dreamtime). My family was (and still are) Christian- Church of England. We were regular church goers. I went to a Christian school for four years and attended four different schools before university. A strong interest in science fiction and fantasy allowed me to step further outside our cultural biases. Australian education has no fear of science, so the facts of evolution and cosmology were not controversial. A father with a strong interest in cosmology and a sister with an interest in biology meant that evolution, the big bang, and Christianity were all part of our family culture. (In my mind Genesis was at most a metaphor. I had not begun to consider what this meant for the foundation of Christian belief).
By the age of 16 I had the view “there are so many different world views; the chance is that my view is wrong, and perhaps we are all wrong”. This removed the hubris of assuming my culture is right and all others are foolish. It fostered a desire for evidence-based belief and seeking the truth. I was clearly aware of how religious belief was strongly dictated by the culture you grew up in. I could see how belief seemed to be a long chain of follow the leader, but I had faith in the intelligence of people, and assumed that scholars had put the effort in to verify the validity of the biblical authors and claims. After all, who would go to the trouble of putting in all this time and effort to build such institutions without making sure the foundations were solid?
By the age of 18 I labelled myself a utilitarian agnostic. I would occasionally pray starting with “to whom it may concern”. The unravelling of religion was a casual, step by step minor interest for the following few decades. It wasn’t until I looked at religion and the universe from two distinct perspectives did I end up declaring myself an atheist. These were:
– What would the universe look like if a god existed?
– What would then universe look like if a god didn’t exist?
The answer to the first question was “not like this universe at all”; the one valid answer to the second was in front of my face. So many contradictions and mysteries about the universe suddenly were resolved. The universe came together like a jigsaw.
The first question in particular revealed just how insulting most religions are to their claimed deity- acting against their own interests, not taking responsibility for their actions, emotionally immature and logically foolish. It also showed how all religions were filled with elements that were only necessary in the absence of an actual god- such as the god not speaking for itself, but needing people to speak for it.
I am still open to the possibility I might be wrong about gods, and of course there are still so many unanswered questions in the universe. However to be proven wrong, I need to be presented with a solution that better describes the world- one that provides a more complete picture without contradictions. So far my investigations have revealed believers who have failed to ask themselves those two critical questions, and are often completely unaware of the logical contradictions in their beliefs.
Suggested Article: Morality, meaning and values- how evolution explains everything
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