Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why I Am An Atheist

PZ Myers has put out a call for short essays on why you are an atheist. I have just submitted mine and I thought I would also post it here.

I am an atheist because I read.

I was raised in Rome Italy by a vaguely Catholic mother in a pretty Catholic country. However, since I was not forced to go to church outside of Christmas and Easter, I didn't take my first communion until I was 11 (and even then I studied my catechism with an extremely liberal nun) and my upbringing was never based on the rules and guilt-trips that are typical of the Catholic faith I did not immediately question the existence of God or the church itself. I just was not exposed to anything that was so explicitly divorced from reality from the perspective of a child. The first thing that I realized was that prayer was just not working out for me. This lead me to thinking, am I doing it right? What does being a Catholic even mean? What am I attesting to when I label myself at one? At the age of 12 I picked up the Bible and actually started to read it.

I am an atheist because I've experimented.

By age 13 I was studying ancient Roman history as is to be expected given the city in which I grew up. It struck me that the content of the Bible was no less fantastical than the wonderful stories I was learning about the gods that the Romans believed in. I came to the conclusion that all religions must be equally true. As my upbringing very much encouraged the belief in the superstitious and magic, as my mother is still a strong believer in everything from faith healings to fairies, I had now become a polytheist, I laid flower offerings at Minerva's temple in the Roman forum, I practiced Wicca and dabbled in pretty much any forgotten religion I could get my hands on.

I am an atheist because I reasoned.

Although I remained a pagan until the age of 17 when I first went to college, it had become more of a ritual than a true belief. I enjoyed keeping holidays like All Hallow's Eve, I used my prayers as a source of comfort being in a strange new country where I had to adjust. I didn't submit my faith to the sort of scrutiny I eventually knew it deserved. It was simply something to fall back on, something to keep me company, but never something I openly shared or overly contemplated. I began to transition out of feelings of faith as I made new friends, as I realized that if I was ashamed to share with others my beliefs, it must mean that they are completely ridiculous. I had now become an agnostic.

I am an atheist because I was honest with myself.

I did not identify myself as an atheist until I was 20. By then I was in my third year in college and had fully understood the scientific method. I had shied away from the term "atheist" because I was under the misguided notion that being an atheist meant being absolutely certain that there was no God. To me, this seemed as obtuse and arrogant as being absolutely 100% certain that there is a God. However once I began to fully appreciate the scientific method I realized that this was not the case. There is nothing in this life that we can really be absolutely 100% certain about, but I began to see my lack of belief like a null hypothesis.

I am an atheist because there has been no reason for me to believe in any God. I have not been presented with nor come across a single miraculous or inexplicable event that contradicts my assumption that no God exists. However, this does not mean that such an event could never happen. The day I experience something that would give credence to a God I am perfectly happy to refute my null hypothesis, but until that day comes, it holds strong.

Please share your thoughts


  1. Actually when I read myths, mayan, roman, greek, norse, I don't know, I just liked them but never made me question the existence of God, probably just made me think they had a wrong idea about God which spread through many gods. Now what I believe is that every culture had their own way to reach to the divine. I'm still monotheist, but I believe there are lesser beings like spirits and other deities. I'm something like a catholic with hindu, buddhist and pagan influences.

    1. Reading the myths didnt make me question the existence of god either at first, I really did believe that zeus was out there along with krishna and yahweh, just that he was having a lack of followers in these centuries (but what is a few centuries to a god? he might still make a comeback)

      For me, it came down to a question: why do I believe in all of this? I had constructed this complicated terry pratchett-like theology for myself (although I had never read one of his books at the time) until I asked myself, what reason do I have to believe any of it? What objective evidence is there that any of this is real? Do I believe it simply because it is what I want to believe? What does my personal opinion have to do with truth? What I want to be true or want to exist does not influence what is actually true or actually exists. I would like fairies to exist, but I don't believe they do because there is no evidence to support their existence. I would like for genocide not to exist, but that doesnt lead me to believe there is a global news conspiracy to convince me that it exists when it doesnt.

      It comes down to the fact that once I was honest and admitted the fact that there is no evidence and no reason other than what I personally would prefer or want there to be, there was no rational reason for me to keep believing.