Thursday, April 16, 2009

How I became an Atheist

Time to change my blog to something I'll be more likely to maintain. My interests as a skeptic, secular humanist, and atheist will be the primary topics.

I'll start by describing my deconversion from fundamental Christianity. This isn't my argument against faith, but is a story of my own personal journey to enlightenment.

My upbringing was notably devoid of religious instruction. My parents were Believers in a general sense, but not practitioners of any faith. It wasn't until I was in high school that I developed any interest in religion. I joined a Christian church after attending with some friends for a while. Within a few months I was an energetic Bible-toting true believer. My entire life seemed to revolve around my faith during that time.

While I was in college, my Shakespeare professor assigned us to read a book of the "Old Testament" in the King James translation. The reason was simply to compare the linguistic conventions between Shakespeare and the King James Bible.

Not having read much of the OT, I chose to read the book of Numbers. What I found there shook my faith and made it crumble. I could not believe the acts of cruelty, blood lust, and absolute evil that Moses exhibited, and God apparently approved.

In Numbers Chapter 31, Moses' army, under God's direction, destroys the Midianites. The army slaughters all of the adult males, and then captures the women and children. When Moses discovers that his soldiers left the women and children alive, he bellows: "Have you saved all the women alive? Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves." Num 31:17-18.

So Moses' army went back and killed all of the little boys in this city, along with their mothers. An exception was made for the young virgin girls, who were kept by the soldiers. The not-so-subtly implied prurience here is horrific beyond belief.

There is more indiscriminate killing throughout Numbers, but reading this specific passage enraged my sense of justice and destroyed forever in my mind the image of a loving God. Any God who would do such evil is not worthy of reverence. Those who would willingly follow such a God exhibit a shocking moral deficit.

My commitment to Christianity began crumbling then, accelerated by ongoing critical analysis of the Bible, a formal education in history, mythology and science, and an application of my natural skeptical worldview into religious matters.

I soon dispensed with the notion of the literal truth of the Bible, so my days as a Christian were numbered. I considered myself a deist for a long time, believing that perhaps there may have been a god at some point, but such a god didn't have any direct contact with our culture now. I don't think there's much of a difference between deism (like that of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine) and atheism; both contend that no supernatural being directly interacts with human society or the natural world around us.

When the "new atheism" began to gain some traction a few years ago, it was like a breath of fresh air. Embracing a skeptical, rational approach to truth is a liberating way to dispel unsubstantiated claims of paranormal, superstitious, and pseudoscientific charlatans.

No comments: