Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Why I'm an Atheist

My bro has posted on his blog why he is an atheist.  I used this last night for our discussion night at the pub.  People were very moved by what he had written.

Here is what he says:

I don’t believe in atheism. What I mean by that is, I don’t believe atheism is a universal truth. I don’t believe atheism has all the answers and the non-existence of god is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  I do believe in integrity though, and being true to yourself and what you believe.

I was a Christian and a very passionate Christian at that.  I was able to preach to large groups of people about God and how amazing he is.  I truly believed god was amazing and could do life changing things.  I really felt he had changed my life and I was on a new path, with a new life, with new hopes and new dreams.  I thought Jesus was one hell of a bloke and I still look at Jesus and find him a superb example of what it means to be a human being.  Jesus is a great example of how to live, but also his anguish at the exploitation of the poor and marginalised is so appropriate for the way society is at the moment. 
There is a “but” though.

Over four years of being a Christian I was always left with a niggling doubt.  An itch I couldn’t quite scratch.  Something like a knot in your stomach that doesn’t quite go away and ends up growing and wrapping itself around you.  It was to do with prayer.  Why weren’t my prayers answered?  It, at first, felt like God was hearing my prayers but maybe answering them differently to what I expected.  It then felt like I was making excuses for God’s silence by believing his inaction made a better result.  Over time though I just felt like god wasn’t answering and didn’t really care.  And then it felt like I was saying these prayers which were drifting up into a vast expanse of emptiness.  Ultimately I didn’t see prayer working and it made me wonder if there was even a god there listening to me.  If god didn’t care about me, why should I care about him?

For me, I am an atheist because I feel I have no choice. I felt so disillusioned by god’s silence I actually found more peace in thinking that if god isn’t there then I don’t need to pray and get disappointed if he doesn’t answer. 

I also found disbelief more of a peaceful route because of how some people within the Church treated me.  There were a few who made me feel less of a person and who upset me and hurt me. I felt judged.  I spent time away from the Church and met people who loved me for who I was, with all the scars and tears and pain I carry.  They loved me unconditionally.  An unconditional love I expected from some people within the Church, but never got.

I do believe many in the Church give unconditional love but they don’t have the monopoly on it and it got me thinking that either god shares his love freely throughout all people or maybe people simply have an innate ability to love each other just the way they are. 

I chose the second option because I found more peace in it.  My girlfriend loves me simply because it’s me. She knows my past pains and present struggles.  She understands my future worries and my distant dreams. She loves me because she loves me, no more, no less.  I get physical comfort from her when I am low and I get emotional comfort too.  I guess god became too abstract, distant and silent. I prayed to him and felt I got no answer, no hug, no tears wiped away from my eyes. Only recently I was upset and asked where he was and silence boomed back.

I don’t think atheism will ever become the dominant belief system in the world because it doesn’t have all the answers. I don’t even know if I agree with a lot of what atheists say! I am an atheist because I feel, through life experience, god doesn’t exist. 

I must admit, I’d happily be proved wrong though…


Perrie D said...

For me, the reasoning's slightly different. I'm an atheist because I find more beauty in science. I love watching Brian Cox and his documentaries and seeing massive swirling galaxies and thinking about all of the science that created it, and how science makes such a difference in our lives.

God is either too big or too small for me - if he's big enough to create the ENTIRE universe and everything in it, then why does Earth matter? Why did he make one tiny human to live for thirty years in a Middle Eastern country two thousand years ago when that will never ever affect any beings that exist outside our ozone layer? And if he didn't create the universe, and he only created Earth and only looks after Earth, then he's not such an enormous, omniscient being after all - in fact, he's really no bigger than I am.

I'm an atheist because, to me, it just makes sense. And God doesn't. Simple as that.

Minister Mike said...

Wow. That touched me. I am a Minister in Worthing. There's been quite a bit of pain (and fun) in my life, both before becoming a Christian and (belive it or not) after too.

I think I really understand what you are getting at. I also know that church has so many shortcomings (as well as lots of good bits). In short, we need rather a big revamp...to get closer & closer to what Jesus wanted it (wants it) all to be about (there's lots that makes me cringe still). The exciting thing for me is that I am starting to sense this sea change (albeit in little ways).

Keep on questioning mate..keep on mulling it over...I think that the Jesus I have come to trust & love
will make himself known to you again.

All the best.

Joe Haward said...

Thanks Perrie. what you say about the beauty of the universe. I find it amazing and mysterious.

I think there needs to be a realization that there are many scientists that are committed to a life with God. The two aren't contradictions.

Jesus isn't a man created by God, rather he us God who created all things. His life, death and resurrection transformed the entire cosmos, not simply earth. So all things can be made whole, healed and redeemed.

God is not a creature and cannot be contained by the universe. He is beyond limit yet chose to limit himself in Jesus in order that all things could be transformed. God isn't a genie in the sky. He seeks for relationship, to be known and to walk with us through all things.

Hey Mike - Post that on Tom's blog, he'll appreciate it. Www.journeytodisbelief.blogspot.com
Bless you mate.

Simon said...

First up hats off to Joe for doing this - these things should be things that are openly discussed.

If everyone were so willing there'd probably be an awful less grief in the world.

Perrie your start and end captured most of why I'm an atheist too.

Your last statement - God just doesn't make sense sums up so much on so many fronts.

We can forgive our ancestors for their first attempts at trying to understand the world around them and where it (and we came from).

As (one) example it's only been since 1543 (I think) that Copernicus put the sun, rather than the Earth, at the centre of the solar system - that's less than 500 years ago and 1543 years after the birth of Jesus.

The horeshoe crab shells I have on my wall are a species that have remained unchanged for approximately 450 MILLION years.

Does anyone really believe that Eve came from Adams rib?? (were that true - where did everyone else come from after that?)

The point I'm trying to make is that in a short span of time (in the scheme of things) we have already replaced wild crazy guesses with knowledge and testable fact.

"God is not a creature and cannot be contained by the universe. He is beyond limit yet chose to limit himself in Jesus in order that all things could be transformed."

God isn't picking on Tom by not answering his prayers - think of the untold suffering going on right now (and I don't mean in any way to underestimate the difficulties Tom has had to face up to).

In Syria alone - either God is unable to do anything about it, chooses not to OR simply doesn't exist.

Every year millions of children under the age of 5 die horrible deaths - what could they possibly have done wrong?

The universe, science, Brian Cox (and a myriad of other perhaps less cool scientists!) make the amazing cosmos a place of true, testable, wonder none of which,based upon what we now know, has to be ascribed to a deity.

Different religions over history have come up with all sorts of ideas as to how everything came about and what God (or indeed Gods) did or didn't do. None can stand up and say their view or story is right as they are all based upon extremely dodgy, if not downright daft, proposals.

Just because a fairy tale has been told for a few hundred years doesn't make it true.

For me 'God' makes no sense at all - we should look up, turn the lights on and enjoy the oh so brief lives we have the best we can.

Joe Haward said...

Thanks for this Simon.

It is because of God that I am looking up, that the lights are on and I am enjoying this brief life.

Again, we need to realise that science and religion are not contradictions. There are many within the scientific community that have a deep faith in Christ. Science has enabled us to deepen our faith in God. Yet science can only go so far. Testable fact can't explain beauty or poetry. It can't explain consciousness.

So much suffering is humanity being evil against humanity, injustice, greed and selfishness. I don't understand all suffering, yet in Jesus God has suffered in order that one day he will vanquish all pain and misery in this broken world.

Interesting that you use Dawkins language of fairy tale. Christianity is anything other than that. The person of Jesus, the history of the church, the experience of billions of people has meant that the Church has continued to grow and is still growing for the last 2000 years. A fairy tale could never stand up to the amount of skepticism, persecution, trial, error and length of time that Christianity has. With all our knowledge, understanding, science, experience, facts and life, Christianity makes even more sense and millions throughout the world are compelled by who Jesus is devoting their lives to him.

Tom Haward said...

See, I don't see god as not answering my prayers as him being spiteful. I don't see science as the answer to all human's prayer's. I think that as a species we are inclined to love and protect and god may or may not be present.

Science is not the answer, not is religion. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. If science or religion gets full control then we'll all be in a poorer place.