Note: This blog was written a few weeks ago and I was unsure about posting it – but in the light of this week’s incident in Paris, I have decided to go ahead. It doesn’t specifically address religious extremism, but I feel that the content is appropriate and timely. JE SUIS CHARLIE!
So, the very title of this blog should have caused a tremor to run down your spine and perhaps it was right to do so, because I’m not going to hold back on this topic. Religion is a very sensitive and controversial subject, one of the few areas that still seems to have the power to inspire mighty opinions and even mightier divisions amongst humanity. It is probably the only topic that every single person on the planet has an opinion about. So, what is my opinion? Well, that’s easy. I’m an atheist. Not one of those atheists who lost their faith, just one who never had it in the first place, who never believed. I actually just don’t get it. I don’t get religion.
For me, as an outsider, there are two basic parts to religion, neither of which make much sense. Firstly, there is the belief in a deity, a supernatural being who created everything and may or may not decide to incinerate you after you die. This is despite the fact that they created you in the first place, specifically in their own image. It just doesn’t seem credible that people believe this notion, the idea that some creature (human or alien) created everything we see, hear or touch and sits in judgement over us, using a fairly arbitrary set of rules to decide whether we deserve eternal peace or eternal agony. Secondly there is the institution of religion itself, the church. Not just the bricks and mortar, but also the business and dealings of the church and its employees, who get paid to spread the particular opinions and thoughts of their particular churches. Church is the place where you go to be told what to do by men who like to interpret the words written down by other men who themselves were interpreting what some-one else thought their particular deity might like us to do on a day-to-day basis. Often these men, who tell you what their particular deity wants you to do, spectacularly fail to obey their own rules. A very flawed model, if you ask me.
So, why my atheism? Why my complete lack of belief? Well, it’s partly because I am a scientist who requires evidence when considering such issues. No such evidence exists. Never has, never will. But it is also because I was brought up in the west of Scotland, a place influenced by the sectarian division between Catholics and Protestants. It wasn’t as violent or divided as Northern Ireland, but it was a strange place to grow up. When I was growing up there, depending on your religion, you could only support certain football teams, or work in certain places. I remember well going for an apprenticeship position (thankfully I failed miserably) and being told to wear a certain lapel badge to announce my religious orientation. Other friends told of job interviews, where it was taboo to ask directly about religion, so instead they were asked how many siblings they had. I’m sure you can work out why this was considered a reasonable proxy. It was a world where wearing the wrong colour in the wrong place could get you stabbed. And I think that’s why I don’t believe in both a deity and the institution of the church. Those early experiences showed my younger self all the crappy things that religious belief can do.
For me, religion does very little good, lots of bad and is based upon some very odd, illogical and divisive beliefs and opinions. And that is for all religions, every single damn one of them.