Why I am an Atheist
Some thoughts of an average English man
Firstly, I wish to describe my Atheism - that is, the way that my mind perceives it. It is by no means an academic definition of Atheism, but will certainly be quite close to the general and accepted view. I believe it is what is known as Strong Atheism. Thus:
"Atheism for me is the total, and absolute rejection of the existence of a divine being. This includes any divine beings - be it a divine being of Christians, Muslims, Jews or any other religious group. There is, never has been, and never will be any form of divine being." I could go on, but this definition will, for me, suffice.
I do not believe that the ancient Jewish Rabbi Jesus Christ ever existed, and as more and more evidence as to that non-persons non-existence becomes generally known and available I am ever more confident in that belief. Also, I am positive that we need to understand the reality which is in front of our own eyes, understand that which is factually verifiable, and not be guided by a bunch of ancient middle-eastern mumbo-jumbo. The Bible was written by humans for humans and is nothing more than that. It is a book. It can prove nothing above that which the original writers believed - beliefs born of ignorance, superstition and tradition. It is quite peculiar that those who profess to be Christians only practice their faith within their comfort zone of belief. One would expect a true Christian to be out there in the world faithfully practising the teachings of their saviour, but this is obviously not the case. Perhaps there are only a few dozen true Christians left on this planet?
The understanding of scientific literature is difficult, for the most part, for most people including this writer, to comprehend. Nevertheless, that is no reason for not having a good attempt at trying to read and understand at least some of it. There are many books and documents on evolution, philosophy, science and religion available in our local libraries, and on the Internet that are written specifically for we laymen. Have a go at reading them. By all means read the Bible, but try to understand it within the context it was written. Do the same with scientific literature. Criticise the bible, criticise all scientific literature, and criticise evolution but make any decision about them on facts, evidence and the truth. Be incredulous. If your religion precludes the knowledge contained within banned books and documents do your best to obtain and read those volumes. Formulate your own opinions and decide for yourself why they have been banned. If you are religious, read up on the history of that religion and its followers, I guarantee that you will be most surprised if you have not already done so - especially if you are a Christian.
We dont believe, in this day and age, that a stage magician can really turn his wand into a live snake, or turn water into wine so why should we believe it when the same explainable effects appear in a so-called sacred text? If it were not so tragic, Christian belief even after an explanation of a scientific, rational, logical, truthful nature to the contrary, would be humorous in the extreme.
I am Mr. Average. I am 43 (as of the year 1999); I live in England - about one hours drive away from London. I have a house, car, satellite TV, a microwave oven and most of the other consumer goodies. I enjoy normal pastimes and pursuits - reading, eating, driving, music, listening to the radio, and watching the TV. Whilst admitting that I do, along with the rest of the human race, have a few faults, I dont consider myself particularly immoral. And definitely not in the same league of immorality as promulgated in the Christian Holy Bible. In most aspects of my life I hope that I am a relatively reasonable person.
My religious upbringing was one of mild Church of England Christianity, indeed I was in the local church choir - I was a boy soprano. Funnily, the music that I enjoyed singing the most was the section from Stainer's 'Crucifixion' where the gathered throng repeatedly proclaim "Crucify Him!". I also enjoyed singing at weddings - the choirboys were paid a few pre-decimal shillings each. I hated Sunday evensong, which was a real dirge. My education, I suppose, was quite average, I attended a Church of England junior school and later, an average secondary modern school. I went to college where I studied music. And now, in my middle age, I find myself running computer systems. I am not particularly intelligent, but I do admire those that are. During my later childhood I came to realise that there were no gods. There was no kind of anti-revelation, just a gradual wearing away of unbelievable beliefs. And now in my adult years, as a fairly rationally minded atheist, I can easily see what harm and damage organised religions have done, and are doing even today as we pass through the almost enlightened year of 2000 C.E.
I now find it important in my middle age, to express my atheistic thoughts, to an audience that may or may not appear. It doesnt really matter that I may be the only person on the planet to read these electronic pages, because what really matters is that my thoughts have now been expressed. In some way, I am getting it off my chest. I am sick of the bickering in Northern Ireland, the disproportionate intrusion of religion into secular life, fundamentalism, Jehovahs Witnesses, Christianity, fatwahs (SP?), hostage-taking, circumcision, churches, mosques, temples, faith-healing, the second coming and a whole bunch of other religious bunkum. What really makes me sick though - and this is well documented - is that in the name of Christianity, the religious hierarchy stifled any non-Christian view of the world. This happened between (roughly) the years 300 and 1300 C.E. There were theocratic backed governments and kingdoms, education was denied to all but the clergy, autopsies were banned, and all of early European science had to bow to the incorrect Christian conformity. This is so sad. Just think, one thousand years of the dark ages. It is about time that the religious leaders of Europe and the middle-east held up their hands and proclaimed, loudly, that their dogma, their history, their hierarchy, their selfish, idiotic beliefs are the reason we are not flying amongst the stars. That we still have disease, that we have mass overpopulation. That starvation still exists, and that slavery existed into the 19th century. They should be so ashamed of their wasted one thousand years that were forced, unconditionally, onto the fearful, innocent public.
As far as my lack of belief is concerned, common sense is my guide. In fact, I consider those who still profess to believe in any sort of divine being to be somewhat mentally ill. It seems incredible to me that in this modern era, so many people throughout our planet are still so easily led, coerced, misguided, cajoled and conned by organised religion. Nevertheless, it is not hard to see why so many people have their faith. Firstly, the indoctrination of the very young - no one is born with any form of religious belief whatsoever. The concept of a divine being can only be taught, and obviously, learned. That well quoted proverb has it in a nutshell - Give me the child until the age of seven... secondly, the rewards of faith - be good within a particular faith and you will somehow be alive after you are dead - theres no proof, just a glib promise. You will be eternally happy, reunited with your loved ones, free of pain or injury, bouncing around gleefully on a cloud and strumming on a harp - for all eternity. Some part of you will live on. This is a good deal; it gives the gullible something nice to look forward to, something to hang on to. Thirdly, the sense of community - being in an organised religious group brings people towards a common goal, be it Muslim fundamentalism, Protestant/Catholic approved murder squads in Northern Ireland, Christian fundamentalist anti-abortion protest or the hijacked Mithra nativity play. In the fourth case, some people have no choice of religion or even the option of believing or not. The reality of subjugation, death, humiliation and religiously inspired torture still looms large over some fanatical, medieval Middle Eastern states.
Also, evidence is my teacher, as are thousands of years of war, murder, rape and torture in the name of religion. In another light, a total lack of real, verifiable evidence for even the merest hint of anything supernatural is also my teacher. I have no great educational learning but I feel quite justified in saying that my early education was really stunted by the fact that I went to a Church of England school. Being taught that the Lord Jesus will be nice to all the good little children is not a rational substitute for real history. It is but a matter of geography that the vast majority of the religiously inclined believe in their personal gods. For example, very few babies are born and indoctrinated into Mormonism in the environs of Tehran, and no one got up and proclaimed "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet!" in any of the school assemblies that I attended. In the same vein, it seems really odd to me that if there really was a divine being (choose your own flavour) floating around up there, the belief in that god would be genetic. It would have been so easy for a god to pass on religion, inbred automatically, from generation to generation. There are just too many errors in the various bibles. Most biblical errors are catalogued and are easily available on the web, so no need to bother any readers with them here. The same can be said of all the unbelievable biblical claims.
I am wondering why are so many members of the Christian clergy in the UK, a disproportionate above average percentage, are tried and convicted child molesters? Every few weeks in the British news media a new case comes to light, and it is a trend that does not appear to be diminishing - and these are only the perverts who are actually discovered and caught. It beggars belief. I doubt that there is anyone (apart perhaps from the Christian clergy) who would doubt that all paedophiles are, in fact, severely mentally ill. Why are they like this? Is it something to do with their religion? Is it their belief that they have a god given ticket of forgiveness? Given the above, it is also true that paedophiles reside on both sides of the religious fence - Atheist perverts are also a reality - I have no truck with either.
There are a few things that give me hope, indeed I am getting a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. It seems that religion, at least in the country where I reside, is gradually taking a back seat. (Though there is still no separation of church and state). The amount of people who actually acknowledge to being believers in a divine creature is on the decline, I have heard on the radio (BBC Radio 4) that it is between 12.5% and 15% of the population. The number of church going subjects is falling substantially. In fact the media tells us that there has been a 22% decline in church attendance in the last 10 years, and that the overall regular churchgoing figure in the United Kingdom is now under 10% (reported as 7.5% in January 2000) of the general population. The church going public is suffering a gradual increase in average age - take a look at British religious TV programming for proof of this. The youth of this country are, for the most part, rejecting organised religion. Even if we were to overestimate the reported number of churchgoers in the United Kingdom, lets say by doubling them, it still means the United Kingdom is by no means a religious country. In fact religious believers would still be in a grossly weak minority. How frustrating that level of belief is not shared by the Mother of Parliaments. The Christian church in this country is becoming divided in what it actually believes. Be it the churches attitude towards homosexuality, the acceptance of female priests or even the maverick clergymen who profess to have no belief in God, there is nothing quite like shooting yourself in the foot! For example, even as I write, the representatives of 40 independent UK Christian schools are battling in the European Court of Human Rights for the right to administer corporal punishment to their pupils. Anyone who knows even a minuscule segment of Christian history will be surprised that it isnt capital punishment that they are fighting for! It is yet another nail in their rapidly disappearing coffin of Christian belief.
The World Wide Web enables almost instant access to Atheistic and scientific information. With the global communications revolution in the past two decades it seems to me that even though the lunatic religious fringe are getting their fair share of internet, radio and television publicity, they are justly being taken for what they are - crackpots. This I believe will ultimately filter through to be the general perception of organised, stable religions. Without the appearance of a divine saviour scourging the planet of non-believers and sinners, Christianity is surely going to find it more and more difficult to hang onto their faithful followers. How long do they have to wait for the reappearance of their Lord? We should be told. Is it ten years, twenty, thousands, millions? More? The religious fringe prophesies concerning the end-of-the-world at the end of the 20th century most certainly didnt happen. One wonders when those end-of-the-world protagonists will pop their heads up again, though I doubt that if and when they do, it will be to proclaim their inaccuracy in this instance.
Surprisingly, I do have something good to say about religion! The music. (Dont be too heartened - see below). The Bach B-minor Mass, Gregorian plainchant, Verdis Requiem, Janaceks Glagolitic Mass, Bernsteins Chichester Psalms and thousands of other religiously inspired opuses - not divinely inspired Im sure, but definitely driven by western religious belief. I do not include happy clappy music in this category, apart from its cultural sterility, it is just another attempt to climb aboard the popular culture bandwagon. They havent fooled me. I would rather listen to trad jazz than listen to the offering hoisted up for British popular consumption during the Xmas of 1999. It is beyond this writer's understanding as to why anyone, sane or otherwise, would deliberately go out and pay good money to listen to the fetid excrement that was the Lords prayer grunted, using a fake American accent, to the pentatonic banality of Auld Lang Syne. Let us now remind the peddler of that childish garbage that his religion, his own Holy Book, has something to say about camels and the eyes of needles.
As for death? Well, I wasnt around for billions of years before I was born, and I wont be around for an even longer time after I die. I exist as an electro-chemical being in the 21st century and my only fear about death is in the manner in which I will cease to exist.
Martin Burn - Atheist
Would you like to declare why you are an atheist but don't run a personal website to publish your thoughts? If so, I would be happy to include them within "The English Atheist", just email me here and I will do the rest.
PS Take a look at: The Most Pathetic Web Site In The Universe - Amazingly, it's the web site of the church that I attended as a child! And it's a real corker of a stinker! No wonder church attendance in England is plummeting exponentially. Yup, God really does work in mysterious ways. Ha ha.
One of the three graphics from the The Most Pathetic Web Site In The Universe showing children being indoctrinated into Christianity. Look, there's me on the right!
This page is part of The English Atheist
The music on this page is an original work - "Walkabout" © Martin J Burn 2000
© Martin J Burn 2000