Timothy, a pleasant, comparatively harmless theist currently posting on RD.NET has asked for comments from posters on how they arrived at atheism, so I thought I would take the opportunity to document it on this blog. It's not terribly exciting, and, I suspect, probably very similar to a large proportion of atheists, certainly in Britain, where it's not a particularly controversial worldview. No death for apostasy here, thank, er, goodness.
I discussed my progress to atheism with a fellow atheist the other day, and we had similar experiences at Primary School. At around the age of 8 the complete *incoherence* of the Christian religion was really bugging me, although it wasn't the done thing to vocalise this too much. I just kept asking questions which had, and have, no satisfactory answer, so I was left unsatisfied. I *really* couldn't understand why grown-ups wasted their time on this foolishness. We both headed to Grammar School and were amazed to find obviously intelligent fellow classmates who believed in this bunkum.
Later in my teens I had some bright well-adjusted friends who were very religious - they were planning Theology College and possible priesthood! - and they persuaded me to give it another go. Being a teenager, I was receptive and really gave it a good shot.
Their approach, incidentally, to my rational objections, was to point out that a leap of faith was needed. Reason needed to be put aside, and one had to *trust* in Jesus Christ - be open to him. Well, I could sort of see this; I trusted my parents and my teachers (mostly!), why not the putative son of god? (It seems to me more common these days for apologists to present *rational* approaches to belief, although I've not discovered any persuasive arguments yet.)
So I immersed myself in the Good News Bible and generally enjoyed myself in bible study with my godly friends. I honestly thought I would find something different. Instead, there was a gradual realisation that there was no need for the religious *baggage*. These people weren't leading good lives because they were religious; they were leading religious lives because they were good. I honestly couldn't see that they would behave any differently if they weren't Christians. They would have been Hindus in India, Muslims in Indonesia and John Frummists in Vanuatu.
Furthermore, the teachings specific to Christianity *defied* belief, so that, as a rationalist, one had to wake up each day and put aside one's brain cells for any religious activities - one needed to keep *renewing* one's stupidity. The sensible things, like *some* of the moral teachings, were clearly possible without Christianity.
It was unsustainable, so, regretfully, I bade farewell to the theist life. Reason had won out! Later, as my thinking matured, I came to realise that we really cannot give credence to faith over reason, and we must fight against the perversion of reason to support faith. Whilst any individual must be free to believe what they like, in the public sphere, issues need to be decided on reason, and preferred options will always be the more reasonable options. In fact, this approach is essential for the ultimate well-being of the theist as well as the atheist.