13 December 2006

No Conversion Story

I see so many others out there in blogdom talking about their conversion stories: the events or thoughts or teachings that made them re-examine their respective faiths and decide, "Hey, this isn't all it's cracked up to be," and become atheists or agnostics.



Sadly, I'll never be able to join in this particular genre of story telling, since, from the time I could first reason, I was always an atheist.

I do remember a time when I was very, very young, where I was a mental sponge. I believed everything I was told to: Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and yes, even Jesus and God.

I did have a leg up; my parents were never religious, and they never said anything about believing in Jesus and God. I don't know if they really are atheists, agnostics, or what - we never talked about it - but I do know they despise organized religion. Any God 'belief' (I say 'belief' in quotation marks because I never had a real, conscious belief, rather, I just didn't know I could disbelieve things yet) wasn't due to them. It was a cultural thing. North America is mostly Christian; even in the Ontario public school system of the mid '80s we still had an old substitute teacher who would read Bible stories, like Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath, or Joseph and the Coat of Many Colours.

But this was before I could reason. Being that this was only up to around grade 3, I was still in the irrational phase of childhood. That soon changed. Once I got old enough, I started to be able to think. Very quickly, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were out the door. Santa and Jesus still remained, though I was no longer sure.

As I said, my parents were always anti-religion. My father had this really annoying saying that he voiced whenever he beat anybody at anything (fortunately, a very rare occurrence; no offense, dad =P): "Once again, skill and science triumphs over ignorance and superstition." And that struck me as true, as well as being damned annoying. They never talked about religion really, just the occasional snide comment about the occasional stupid thing done in the name of religion. Science, on the other hand, was prevalent. There were old geology, history, biology, medicine, paleontology, and astronomy books lying around for me to find. Realizing the work that had been done by scientists and historians to discover these things, I soon recognized that reason and hard work were the keys to understanding.

By around age 9, I had determined that Santa is real. Or rather was, and he's dead now, while the modern Santa is mythology that grew up around him. Religion also joined Santa as mythology.

Now, a lot of people assume that, since I'm a science-minded person (engineer with interest in biology, astrophysics, etc), the reason I deny faith in a god or gods is because of things like biological evolution, age of the earth, stellar evolution and planet formation, and the big bang. That is simply not true. Back then, I certainly did not know enough about science or religion to know where religion makes nonsensical, contradictory, or physically impossible claims, or that science explained so much. What I did know was culture.

My parents are from a diverse background; my mom is Asian, my dad is a British Loyalist. I traveled a lot as a child and saw Christians of various denominations, Buddhists, and Muslims. I noticed orthodox Jews in the streets. I saw people of various religions on television (often waging war against each other). I read books on ancient Egypt and Greece and saw that they worshipped a slew of different gods.

As a young child, I realized that not all of these religions could be true, yet all were firmly believed by somebody at some time. Other than a few Bible stories, I knew little of Christianity, but I could tell well enough that it was just one of many religions: all behaving the same way, all equally grounded in reality, and all disbelieved by all the others. And if not all of them could be correct, yet all were on equal footing, then none of them could be correct.

All it takes to grow up atheist is a lack of indoctrination and an openness to all the varied cultures of the world. Simple as that. And that's why I was an atheist from the start.

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2 Comments:

At December 19, 2006 5:24 PM, Blogger TheBrummell said...

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At December 19, 2006 5:29 PM, Blogger TheBrummell said...

Your no-conversion story is remarkably similar to my own. There are plenty of differences, of course - my parents probably are somewhat religious, and I'm pretty sure neither is an atheist or an agnostic, but neither attends church - ever, as far as I can tell.

It's true that a great many atheist websites and blogs discuss the moment in a person's life when they suddenly realize "hey, wait a minute, I don't actually believe this...". It's nice to see another person out there who never had such a struggle.

 

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