Thursday, October 16, 2008

My first day as an atheist meme

I saw this at Kafir Girl and thought it was in interesting set of questions, even if nobody has tagged me (sniff).

Can You Remember The Day That You Officially Became An Atheist?

I was at university and had a long debate with a Philosphy student friend in which I attempted to defend my belief at the time in a theist view that there was a prime mover god-type figure somewhere, albeit one which took no interest in what happened on Earth or anywhere else, or offered anybody eternal life. He asked the astute question why I believed this, since I had renounced any form of written or personal revelation on which to base it. By the next morning I had recognised that the belief was based on emotion not reason and I abandoned it; when I told him, I remember that he was surprised and impressed that I should actually alter my beliefs as a result of such a process.

Do you remember the day you officially became an agnostic?

Strangely enough, it was my confirmation (age 14). I had been going to church with my family for years without feeling that it applied to me; the course of confirmation classes had raised a series of moral conundrums without satisfactorily solving them (chief among them the purpose of pain and who goes to Heaven or Hell). But I was holding out in the expectation that once confirmed I would experience what otehr believers obviously did: some sense that there was something there that listened, and spoke to them. And after a grand service officiated at by a bishop I had thought, well, here goes. Nope, still nothing. It seemed obvious to me then that the whole structure was created by people, without any necessary input from God.

How about the last time you spoke or prayed to God with actual thought that someone was listening?

Never, not even at the level of wishing.

Did anger towards God or religion help cause you to be an atheist or agnostic?

Not at the time, although I find attempts to justify the Massacre of the Innocents make me cross now.

Were you agnostic towards ghosts, even after you became an atheist?

Yes. I took the view that at least ghosts have a long and varied tradition of people seeing them and writing about them, and I was at that time open-minded about the limits of consciousness, so I was happy to entertain the possibility of telepathy. The critical point from my point of view was that ghosts made no claim to scriptural authority: if they existed, they existed. It was some time later that I shifted to the view that people believe they see ghosts rather than people see ghosts.

Do you want to be wrong?

No. We ought to live this life as if it is all there is, doing the best we can. There is no framework for another life which can accommodate the principles of mercy, justice and partial revelation to the living which redounds any credit to God.

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