I always subscribed to a view that the world as our social norms and cultures develop do so through a series of reactions and counter reactions to what has gone before. For each such cycle though you rarely go back to things exactly as they where before and thus society change over time. So in recent years there has been a sense of growing religious activity in response to the increasingly secular nature of modern governments, as we witnessed in the form of the takeover of the US republican party by the so called evangelical Christians and by the growth of radical Islam across the middle east and to a lesser degree a more assertive Hinduism in India in the form of BJP election victories some years ago.
One response to these developments have been that atheist has suddenly started asserting themselves more strongly in the public arena. Atheism have for a long time been slumbering, opting for a live and let live attitude instead of direct confrontation with the religious world, but with the recent developments I think it became clear to a lot of leading atheists that unless they started speaking out and advocating their world view things might get out of hand. Supporters of religious faiths, even in the west, have tried to paint religion as something not to be criticized. Attempts are being made to paint religion as similar to inherent traits such as skin color or gender, instead of self chosen beliefs by it adherents (and while there is an argument about how self chosen something being brainwashed into you from a you age is, there can be no doubt that at the end of the day we all exercise free will and have the chance to break free).
So in the last few years we have seen the start of this movement with people like Richard Dawkins best selling book The God Delusion and later on Christopher Hitchens book God Is Not Great: The Case Against Religion being released. Having read both I strongly recommend Hitchens book over Dawkins. Dawkins book is a bit to theoretical and academic in his approach, while Christopher Hitches book is more willing to tackle todays major religions more head-on.
Anyway, it was with great interest that I came across this little gem by Ricky Gervais, the well known comedian from shows such as The Office and Extras. The story outlines his own path to atheism and also includes a nice little gem of statistics on the religious faith of the US prison population (funny due to the oft repeated claim by religious leaders that morality and good behavior would cease to exist if not being bolstered by religion.)
Ricky´s article made my think of my own path to atheism as it to was cemented at a young age of what I felt was a logical fallacy in the bible. That said my road to declaring my atheism was shorter as I grew up in a family where religion never played any major role and my fathers side of the family having been atheist for many a generation. Yet I remember when we where thought the ten commandments in school I started wondering about how, if those where the direct words of God, they by their wording seemed to clearly indicate that women where the property of men since it said you should not covet your neighbors wife, and putting women on the same level as oxes and donkeys in that regard. While I guess some would conclude that God is sexist and that women truly are the property of men, I instead came to the conclusion that it was probably a sign that these so called word of ‘God’ where actually the words of men of their time. And with that conclusion and further pondering I realized that if the only words in the whole bible claiming to be the direct words of God where false, then it was quite likely that if there was a God the people who had written these books and stories had most likely not the faintest idea about the will of such a being. of course only later did I also realize the Norwegian ten commandments I read was edited as they didn’t include the implicit endorsement of human slavery that I find the the English version.
Of course such conclusions only put me on a clear path to deism not atheism, but I guess I never found a compelling reason to believe in the supernatural. I love the quote ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ which I think is from Arthur C. Clarke. It reminds me that a lot of the things we understand today was perceived as magical and mystical to those who went before us.
Anyway, I guess this little blog entry is my little way of making a stand for what I think is right :)