A Journey from Non-Theism to Atheism

I have chosen this time to discuss my atheism. So, if you dislike the personal retrospective; keep reading anyway. My atheism has been a non issue for a while now, which I believe gives me a comparatively clear and unbiased opportunity to recollect the development of my atheist awareness.

Way back in the depths of the 70’s, before I can remember stringing a coherent thought together, my parents had me baptised a Church of England protestant. I was baptised with my cousin and cousin’s cousin. The accepted protocol of 1970’s Cockneys, as I understand it, expected the babies’ heads be wet twice; once in the font, and again down the pub. The day was thick with sentiment for the child’s future, and agnostic reassurances to the parents that their baby’s soul was saved… if the worst should happen. My own experience of all this suggests it had little affect on my future atheism, but it does highlight an aspect of the culture that I was born into.

The first overtly religious event I remember occurred when I entered a new school at the age of 6. That first morning, and every morning thereafter, the whole school would enter the assembly hall and sit cross-legged on the floor. We all put our hands together and said the following prayer.

Oh Lord, keep us safe this night,
Secure from all our fears;
May angels guard us while we sleep,
Till morning light appears.

Even after doing this prayer for 5 years it never really grasped me in the way a Christian preacher would probably have hoped for. In the early days I did not enter a church often enough to understand that ‘Lord’ was also ‘God/Jesus’. I thought Lord was a fella who made sure no one hurt you at night. The angels were smiling women with wings who wore white, and were apparently Lord’s backup in case he got disabled by kryptonite, or something.

Anyway, the school had an age-old relationship with the local church that dated back to the late 19th century, and the praying appeared to be an obligated hangover of tradition… This tradition was also the reason for my dulcet tones ending up in the church choir, but that’s a different story. To give the school credit, it was quite secular and multicultural. We celebrated everything from Christmas to Diwali, and harvest festival to Chinese New Year. The school was composed of a pretty good balance of Muslims, Protestants, Sikhs, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists, Pentecostals, Taoists, indeterminates, and non-theists  like myself. Thinking back, the fact that we all sat with our hands formed in little triangles was a thankful ambiguity. It meant that any attempt at indoctrination to a single religion was circumvented. There appeared to be no philosophical difference between any of us.

Gradually, complications to this ignorant Utopia crept in. The first occurrence, and probably a defining moment of my life, was with a boy in my class. There had never really been any antagonism between us, but one day he took upon himself to tell me that his dad had said that I should get blown up. I questioned this, wanting to know why, to which he replied “… because you’re a Protestant!” Later that day I questioned my Mum and only then did I discover my baptism, and apparent Protestantism. This made little sense to me back then, but it had the effect of opening my eyes to prejudice and the discriminating –isms. On reflection, I do not think his father personally wanted me dead, but there were definitely Irish people in East London who had IRA sympathies.

Despite the iniquitous nature of my discovery of religion I still could not conceive of God beyond the abstract fantasy. Indeed, some fantasies, such as Star Wars, Thundercats, and ElfQuest, engaged my imagination far more effectively. The popular media, and an emerging love of reference books, made evident to me the links between religion, conflict, and prejudice.  As a 9 year-old, used to enjoying fighting, I had not yet developed abhorrence towards war, but prejudice was something I was well aware of. For all intents and purposes I had become an unaware apatheist who found prejudice and division anathema.

The next 7 years did not see much diversion from apatheism, other than becoming consciously aware of its existence. The deaths of old pals and family members stirred inevitable thoughts of an afterlife. By the time I was 17 years old a train of thought had conjectured me into a naive hyper-scientific scenario, which involved the energy of the dead joining a conglomerate of universal energy. This scenario was not too far flung from the law of conservation of energy, except my propensity for poetic language had inadvertently engaged me with quasi-spirituality.

To fulfil some kind of naive spirituality rite of passage I voluntarily embarked on a relaxed programme of hallucinogens and THCs. I had a drug buddy, who became a really good pal, who indulged with me in fuelled philosophical debate. He had a penchant for metaphysics, whose ideas interested me, but after being friends for a number of years, and sharing much fulfilling and enlightening debate, I eventually found a lot of the ideas of metaphysics lacked resolution, appeared circular, and pandered to intuition. To counter my dissatisfaction I had started relearning science to try to evolve our debates. My friend turned out to be a die-hard esoteric who regarded many of my arguments immovable and frustrating. Our friendship suffered… I blame Deepak Chopra.

After reaching the unguided limits of independent learning I signed up to gain a BSc in Natural Sciences. The study did exactly what I had hoped for and cemented knowledge on the foundations of empiricism. As a consequence I am now very unlikely to ever believe in a god, unless there’s empirical evidence and a scientific consensus. This could be regarded as agnosticism, though the fact remains that I do not believe in god, or gods, beyond the human mental construct. I am atheist, albeit a rather benign and privileged one.

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3 Responses to A Journey from Non-Theism to Atheism

  1. Sweet blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News. Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News? Ive been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Cheers.

  2. Pingback: Check My Privilege – Racism | TheArtisanTheory

  3. Pingback: Whatever… Republican Monarchy? Monarchist Republic? | TheArtisanTheory

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