My Path to Atheism

(Via Imago)

Mine's a straightforward story. I was brought up by reasonable but traditional, older parents - both parish christians of what I now realise was the 'best type'. They both took their beliefs for granted, and were diligent in their participation in the life of the church. They were really good, and caring. But apart from one memory of praying at bedtime with my father, I know I was completely bored by the religious view of the world, and the rules we were supposed to live by.

Although my elder brother was more taken by the whole thing, I remember only pretending to be asleep when it was time to go to church, disliking Sunday school, feeling offended when I was supposed to say 'we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table'. I only liked singing the hymns.

I declined to be confirmed when I was about 14. The sticking point was transubstantiation. Drinking blood seemed an odd thing to do, and also impossible for that blood to actually be wine, or vice versa. The minister came to talk to me but somehow I held firm. Really I think I did
not want to experience the boredom of confirmation classes, and I was probably shy of the other young people.

There was a group of christian girls at school and I did (honestly!) try to ask god into my heart, probably just to have some friends. But I couldn't say it worked. I stopped going to church, and my parents let me.

When he went away to university, my brother joined a fundamentalist evangelical church, and my parents started to worry that he was being exploited by the minister, who lived off student donations, a very nice life thank you. My brother's view of me (I was the voice of the devil) became insufferable at this time. Another nail in the coffin of my belief.

When I got married, we did it in church, but I always wished I had been able to say 'no' to this. The prospect of what our parents would say was just a bit too scary. Likewise we did not say no to being godparents to my nephew, which I regret, even if it was a bit of a formality. Fortunately the minister did not ask us to stand up and say anything publicly! Our children are not baptised.

The two final wriggles of my religious life were to take my daughter to church (once) and to engage in a debate in the local newspaper with an evangelical minister who was saying that children ought to be taught the ten commandments, and then they would be better behaved. As my daughter was being bullied by an obnoxious christian girl at the time, I felt obliged to claim that our godless three were at least as aware of their social responsibilities as any so-called christian child. And then, the first Gulf War, during which a local church proclaimed prayers for 'our boys' only. The end.

Although the Church of England is a moderate place, and does as much good as may be, it is nevertheless, in my view, founded on a lie - that there is a supernatural being who watches over us. We can be good people or not, but it is nothing to do with our beliefs. I still have christian friends, but I have remained at a great distance from my brother. After studying biology, psychology and philosophy, I think I understand some of the reasons why humans have been attracted to religion, but I am relieved I no longer have to pretend that I am. I think it is a
manipulative, limiting and ultimately repellent practice, and to raise children in any religion is an offence against their freely developing minds.

I wish I did not hate religion so much, and I do not know quite why I do. I would prefer to simply ignore it. But is is such a force in the world that I now feel obliged to stand up for my non- belief. I am glad to be able to do this here.

1 comment:

Monika said...

Do you live in England?