The Story of My Disbelief

(Via jaskaw)

I have in this blog repeatedly pointed out the importance of the indoctrination that is done in the early childhood in transferring the religious beliefs. This is in a pivotal point in Richard Dawkins work.

My lifetime of atheism is certainly in some part based on the fact that I have not been subjected to any religious indoctrination in my early childhood.

I grew up in a family where the relationship with religion or church was quite indifferent. In both my parents families there was a strong tradition of activism in the Social Democratic movement which can in part explain this neutral attitude towards religion, even though both my grandmother’s were devout Christians.

I did not however receive any atheistic teaching or even had any knowledge of its existence in my childhood. My parents had very typical Finnish relationship with the religion. They followed the traditions, but they held a definite aversion towards any preaching or even religious way of thinking.

I doubt that a crucial thing in my own development was the thing that I never received teaching in religious matters before reaching the regular school-age, which is six or seven years in Finland. My mother was a housewife and so I never did go to kindergartens that are giving religious teaching in Finland, nor did I attend any Sunday school.

I suppose that the religious teachings received later in the school had much less impact, when there was a definite lack of the religious teaching most people receive at an age when they are not able to think for themselves at all.

Our family was on the other hand not against religion in any particular way and so I attended the regular religious teaching given to almost all children in the Finnish schools.

Even so, I remember thinking that the stories in the Bible were just another collection of bedtime stories, and I remember slightly wondering why this kind of series of clearly made up stories is taught in the school.

This early wonderment changed however to active resistance in the early teen-age. I can’t really say what caused this change. I only soon found out that I did spend the hours reserved for religious teaching thinking about arguments against these patently false and unhistorical assertions that were given as facts in this class.

The history part may have been crucial in my development, as I did nurture an everlasting love for history from the tender age of nine or ten, when I did first read the 600 pages of Pocket World History, admittedly skipping the dull parts dealing with culture. After that I read practically everything in our local library that had anything at all to do with history.

I did not receive any direct atheistic influences in the real life, but the clear anti-religious tendencies in the modern world literature must have made on impact also on me. Besides history I spend my spare time mostly by reading contemporary American and Latin American literature. From the older literature especially George Orwell’s earlier works had a great impact on me.

I remember clearly that my first anti-religious thoughts were formed when I realized that Christianity condemns to oblivion also those who have not had a physical opportunity of even hearing about its teaching.

I must admit that in high school I was the favorite pupil of our teacher of religion. He represented a very modern view of Christianity and she had great appreciation for the fact I had even thought about this kind of things in any way. My classmates were clearly only extremely bored by the whole thing with religion.

My views were maturing during these formative years and in my 18: t birthday I severed my formal links with church for good. In Finland a child is not allowed to resign from the membership of the state church without his or her parents’ permission before the age of 18, but I did at very moment it was possible.

After high school the matters of faith did disappear from my life quite totally for a very long time. Quite simply there were no more situations like the religious teaching at the school where you had to take any stand in these matters.

My atheistic views very not in any way changed in the years spend in studying political history, sociology and political science in the university. On the contrary things learned in these fields gave a new understanding the underlying causes for religions and new information of their negative impact in the humanity.

During my years in university I did not once meet a fellow student who would have been interested in religious things in any way or who would have professed open religious beliefs of any kind.

I do not even remember of ever conversing about religious or atheistic matters with anybody during these years, but my memory may be failing me, as alcohol may have been involved in these extended conversations.

Not even on a single occasion I did I have any need to openly defend my atheistic views as these matters simply were not important in this group of fun loving young people in the Finland of late 1970:s. In the same vein I did not feel any need to present my own views to anybody.

I have never based any of my views of the world on how popular they would have been in the time. Therefore I did not have any need to convert anybody to my own views.
By this time I had a brief but very tempestuous political career in the Social Democratic student movement. Politics was soon so much more fun than studying and the studies were soon left to a zombie status.

After the roller coaster ride of this rather short-lived political career was over, I had to find a new livelihood, as starting over of with my ailing studies did not seem a locking prospect anymore.

I turned to journalism, as I had liked writing all my life and my background did give me qualifications for just that profession.

My first steady job as a journalist was in a quite large newspaper in the western coast of Finland and there I met for the first time a person with real and open religious beliefs for the first time since listening to my teacher of religion in the high school many years earlier.

I remember seeing her as a person with a severe disability. The fact is that you are constantly checking your way of speech and things you are saying when in presence of a person with a major impediment, even as this is not a thing you should do… In the same vein I remember carefully watching my language in a strange way when this person was present.

The person in question was quite nice and charming young lady, but very soon I did find our seeking other company. The human being is just built so that a person prefers a company where you can be the person you really are and you don’t have the think about hurting the particular beliefs of any person.

It gives a good picture of the status of religious life in Finland, if a person can live to be nearly 30 years of age before meeting a person with strong religious beliefs. To come to think of I have not met many such ardent believers in the newspapers I have worked even after that.

A little later I moved for a spell to my original little hometown deep in the inland to work in the local newspaper there. There for the first time in my life I met a genuine young person under my own age, who would profess a religious belief. I had by then already come to believe that the young people would not fall for this bag of old tricks anymore.

This person was however an exception as religion played no part in the life of the people in my age group even in this a little already shrinking old industrial city with paper mills and one big company.

Al these years I did from time to time think about the origins of religious thought and reasons for their continued existence in a world where the made up explanations of the world are no more needed, when we have the science to give us all the explanations we need.

In the autumn of 2006 I listened to a collection of lectures in IT Conversations –Podcast series. By chance one of the lectures was Sam Harris and after listening to that lecture I suddenly realized that I was not alone in the world with my line of thinking, but there are others who had been thinking just the same things as I had.After Sam Harris I found rapidly also Richard Dawkins and his work.

The next big thing for me was the ‘06 version of Beyond Belief –conference. I did watch the those whole 15 hours of wonderful lectures and debate with growing enthusiasm.

By then I had already ordered the books by Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and the Beyond Belief –videos were soon accompanied by a tough selection of atheistic writing.

After that I have read the works of Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Michel Onfray, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Pascal Boyer, Nicholas Humhprey, Scott Atran, Victor J. Stenger among others. I am step by step getting a clearer picture where atheistic thought is today and what are the challenges ahead.

This blog then is a way of trying to transmit this newfangled view of the world also to others for what it is worth.

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