I’ve been an atheist for about 30 years.
I can remember very clearly that eureka moment when I first thought that the Christianity I was being taught in school was, to me, rubbish.
I’ve been quite happy in that time. I’ve never really engaged my atheism with people, for two reasons.
- It’s a personal choice. Whatever happened that brought me to that decision is no one else’s business except mine, and no amount of damning me to the lake of fire, or screaming bible passages at me is going to change that. No, that’s not be being closed minded, that’s waiting for evidence to prove the contrary.
- I don’t know enough about Christianity, Islam, etc. to discuss it with any confidence with theists. I know the major stories, but that’s about it. I do read it, or rather in the 21st century way, on audiobook. Theology is not my strong point.
The only time it has come up is when my girlfriend, a Christian, decided to finally get married. My only condition was that it won’t be in a church with all that “gathered here before god” stuff. I’d be lying, so we got married in a registry office in Northern Ireland.
But anyway, I have two major interests in my life: science and history. It’s on those two matters that I have engaged with Christians in discussion since the very beginning of internet, and on the whole it’s been very enlightening for me personally, and I hope for the other participants as well.
These days however, thanks to this “new atheist” trash label that the likes of Richard Dawkins has given us, many atheists have turned the baiting of believers into a sport.
To go off at a tangent for a moment, let me explain my position here on Richard Dawkins and this “new atheist” tag that we all seem to be labelled as these days. Dawkins is a brilliant scientist, no doubt about it and I have alot of time for his books, lectures and interviews where science is the topic. Where I lose interest, and respect, is when he goes off on one about religion. The God Delusion is a good book, don’t get me wrong, but not one I’ll be picking up and reading again in a hurry, unlike the Greatest Show on Earth or the Selfish Gene.
A few weeks ago on Twitter, watching the #atheist and #atheism columns scroll up my desktop, I suddenly felt a profound sense of embarrassment and awkwardness that left me in a state of confusion about what I was and what I think. I usually get spells of self-doubt from other issues in my life that continually haunt me, but this was very different.
I see myself as an atheist and to me that means that I have a disbelief in ALL Gods because there is no evidence to show they have existed. And erm, that’s where it ends for me. Yet according to the Dawkins scale, I’m pretty hardcore at a six out of seven. But if I’m a six, what are the people I follow? Are they atheist or anti-theist? I don’t hate or wish harm on Christianity, Christians or the Bible or anything else you hold dear. I don’t want to see churches burnt to the ground. I don’t want them to be forced to give up their beliefs. And any number of misgivings theists have about us atheists.
Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t care less about your religion, practices or anything else. If you wish to believe in a God of whatever flavour, then that’s your right to practise it freely, just as I am free to unbelief.
So given that is the state of my mind, I read what my fellow “atheists” say on Twitter and 90% of it is abuse against Christianity itself, or rather abuse for the sake of it. There’s no intellectual argument, in fact it’s turned into a “who can quote-mine the best” competition. Twitter, and the tweeters have brought this age old intellectual, philosophical and theological discussion to the level of a playground. I confidently predict that one day “naa-naaaah” will be used by atheist or theist one day.
@asonofselene said to me that:
Even though some one’s beliefs seem ‘stupid’ to you, calling them stupid will only alienate them and make you look stupid.
That quote has had a deep impact on me ever since.
I admire the rich history that Christianity has given us. The beautiful language of the Bible has enriched our language with sayings we all use today that we probably aren’t even aware of it. The wonderful architecture of the churches, cathedral and abbeys and interior decoration. I’ve seen first-hand the comfort Christianity can bring to people in times of stress.
I’ll be damned if I want Christianity to disappear, be silenced, persecuted or anything of the sort. If that day ever comes, I’ll be in the front of the queue for your human rights to be protected, even if you won’t give atheists, like me, the time of day.
So that’s my thoughts on Christianity overall. So why do I get overly animated about? Well, it’s the perverting of history and science that I am passionate about and to see fundamentalist try and twist every minor point to their advantage, aggravates me intensely.
I just want to leave you with this little incident that happened just today (as I write), which shows the point I’m trying to make here about the atheist mentality that I refuse to be a part of.
A sweet Christian girl from Alabama, who by her own admission has never spoken to an Atheist before asked a certain fundamentalist for help, but misjudged her request for help about intelligent design and blocked her.
So I rashly stepped in to try and help her, sending her links about intelligent design, Demski, Behe, Discovery Institute which she asked for originally. Then a couple of my followers saw the tweets and proceeded to bombard her with tweets about her beliefs. For what possible gain, would you harass this poor girl in such a way? She might hold beliefs you disagree with but what lasting impression are you leaving her of Atheists? It made uncomfortable viewing.
I am not an anti-theist. I never have and I never will join that extreme end of the spectrum.