Hello everybody. Please allow me to introduce myself. l live in a small town in Switzerland. I live alone and travel a lot for work, all over the world. I enjoy my work and believe in living life to the full, without being weighed down by religion.
Here's my story of how I became an atheist...
I sometimes went to church with my parents when I was a child. But we never talked about religion at home. It was somehow private. I remember being a little surprised to see my father singing hymns or my mother kneeling to pray.
I quite enjoyed going to church, listing to the clergyman and meeting other English speaking children.
But I never really understood church, religion or Christianity. I just didn’t get it. I felt I did not understand the logic or that I was missing some vital piece of information. It just didn’t make sense.
As I got older I formed some questions in my mind. How could god letting his son be tortured and killed be a wonderful thing? How could the death and resurrection of Jesus change the way god viewed my sins? What was so wonderful about knowing there was and afterlife? Why did nothing ever happen when I prayed?
It did not make sense.
I remember listing to the Anglican liturgy. One passage goes “We, who are not worthy so much as to pick up the crumbs under thy table….......” I remember sitting there and thinking ‘Wait a minute! That’s not how I feel! What has this god ever done for me?’
Here I was, a teenager struggling to find my place in the world, fighting the usual teenage battles, and getting no divine help what so ever. Praying for divine aid or inspiration did me no good. On the contrary, I got best results when I stopped thinking about god or waiting for him to help me, but took control of my life myself and did what I felt was necessary. By the time I was about 20 stopped thinking about religion, though I called myself a Christian.
Then I had an epiphany of sorts, a sort of reverse epiphany. An old high school friend of mine, Andy, and his sister had recently joined a church and become very religious. On the pretext of showing me photos of their trip to Australia, they invited me over and tried to get me to join their church.
Andy's sales pitch was in essence that if I accepted Jesus into my life I would eventually get to heaven, and that would be very pleasant. If I did not accept Jesus into my life however, I would eventually get to hell and that would be very unpleasant.
I was surprised and shocked. That was his best argument. That was my religion being reduced to promises and threats. Was I supposed to join his church out of fear? Or as some sort of insurance policy? I felt I was being threatened and even blackmailed. Threatened with physical violence after death, how ridiculous!
Andy said some other ridiculous things, for instance that in the second world war, Switzerland, our home country, was not invaded because it was such a good fearing nation, and that Yoga was the work of the devil. Obviously my friend has at best not done his research, or at worst had become a nutcase. I could not agree with anything he said.
But Andy was right about one thing. All that could be deducted from the bible. I realized I could not honestly call myself a Christian and yet not believe the things Andy believed. I started a period of soul searching that lasted several years, on and off. I read all sorts of books on religion, slowly making my way from Christian to atheist.
I remember the day I realized that there was no god. I felt so liberated and empowered! No longer did I have to have these troubling unanswered questions in my mind. No longer did I have to feel like some sort of puppet, moved by some invisible puppet master. I was my own master. I could no longer delegate responsibility to some deity. Everything I do matters! I can make a difference! Instead of being predetermined by the will of a god, life was an exiting challenge.
Life in this earth is all we have. We have an ethical duty to use it to the best advantage for all human beings.
Several books helped me on my way.
• Farewell to God, by Charles Templeton. My first atheism book, it opened my eyes
• Atheism - the case against God, by George H. Smith. More intellectual and philosophical than Templeton, sometimes hard going, but a 'revelation'
• The Atheist Debater's Handbook, by B.C. Johnson
• Atheist Universe, by David Mills
• Challenging the Verdict, by Earl Doherty. I could not put it down
• For those of you who can read German, I highly recommend 'Stollbergs Inferno' by Michael Schmidt-Salomon. A hilarious account of a professor of philosophy's journey in to hell. Schmidt-Salomon's 'Manifest des evolutionären Humanismus', his manifest of evolutionary humanism, should be a guide to our defining culture
Switzerland is good country to be an atheist. People here respect each others privacy. So long as you follow a few written and unwritten rules in society, you can do pretty much as you please. Religion almost never comes up in conversation. Or in politics. I don't know anybody who goes to church, except maybe for weddings and funerals. About a third of the population say the don't believe in God. And the atheists here are slowly getting organized.