Nathaniel, thanks; I'm going to encourage the xians I know to read the bible. I don't know how many other atheists they know but I know the bible better than most of them do.
My dad sent his five kids to Catholic schools, and in the twelve years I was in them no teacher told me to read the bible. Your words above, more clearly than any I've ever read, told me why Catholic schools don't teach the bible.
My older sister might have read the verses you cited; she never stopped asking questions in high school and quit the church very soon after she graduated. Before my dad died, he knew all five of us had quit.
I was never a believer. God seemed too much like Santa Claus and other things I knew to be nonexistent.
For me...reading the bible and prayer -- on-my-knees-pleading-seeking-searching-childlike-blood-sweating-begging, and unanswered prayer. Between the two, I could not find the god that was supposed to exist, and the one that I did "see" was not worth the time of day, nor worship for that matter.
Raised Catholic, as a child I unconditionally believed all the dogma and stories I learned in Catholic school. Then again, I also believed in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. It was when I learned neither was real that I started to question Catholicism. Several years later, my grandparents (who were devout Catholics and brought me nearly every week to church) had passed away. By then I had so many doubts about Catholicism, and although I loved and missed my grandparents dearly I finally felt free to seriously ponder these doubts. The idea that angered me the most was the whole "believe-or-go-to-hell" ultimatum. That clinched it for me. I was not about to let some old guy in a robe, or some old ladies in penguin suits, tell me what I can and cannot believe - to use my mortality as a weapon against me. I had considered other religions and found them to be just as bad, if not worse. Ultimately, I settled on science to explain the world around me. I have also accepted my mortal fate and shed the fear of knowing I will not live forever. Now, it comforts me to know that one day my conscious mind will succumb to the eternal peace of nothingness. I can think of no construct of heaven that can beat that.
"...to use my mortality as a weapon against me."
Well said, and they certainly did it.
"...other religions and found them to be just as bad, if not worse."
I tell curious xians "Catholicism had almost 2,000 years to work out answers to some hard questions; others xianities have had much less time."
"...the eternal peace of nothingness."
I won't be in a comfy rocking chair watching those crazy humans down there? I'm gonna cry.
I too settled on science to explain the world outside. After I got a degree in math, I realized I'd chosen it because too many people had told me what to believe and I would believe nothing without first proving it. For a while I disliked even statistics.
Has anyone ever asked if you're glad you'd been born?
I reply it's impossible to know because without being born I couldn't compare.
Thank you for the kind review. No, no one has ever asked me if I am glad I was born. You are right though about the lack of a basis of comparison in such a question. The trick there is to use emotion (in this case, the perceived sanctity of birth) to make it sound rhetorical, even though there is no valid answer that could be taken as obvious. This technique is the basis of much faulty logic, especially that which is perpetrated by organized religion.
As for sitting in a comfy rocking chair watching crazy humans: don't we do that already?
Until I was about 40, I watched politics and said "A pox on both your houses!"
When politicians told me to be quiet and pay my taxes (to make some rich folks richer) I became hyperactive.
Now 82, I'm less active but I don't rock and watch; I educate, adding "People who aren't part of a remedy are part of the problem."
Watching, and not hurling an occasional thunderbolt, would drive me nuts.
I would have been a child, probably preteen. My parents, who seldom went to church themselves, but still believed, sent me to Catholic Sunday School. I didn't want to be there. I remember getting caught skipping out once and spending the collection money on candy bars. But on an occasion when I did attend the class, I heard the following story: It seems that there was once a young girl. . . no doubt a temptess, a tool of Satan, who doubted the truth of the Eucharest. After the priest placed the "Host" in her mouth, Satan must have afflicted her with doubt, because she decided to cut it in half! She took it from her mouth on her way back to her pew and actually performed the unthinkable act! Took out the scisors and cut it in half! Blood spewed from the host! No doubt she begged for forgiveness and was converted to the truth on the spot! I have no doubt that she grew up to be a nun. I have a tip for future Sunday School "teachers": Don't use this one for 12 year old boys! Blood gushing from the host, right there in church! . . . Well, the temptation was to great for me! Had to see that! So, of course I tried it. No blood. Just a soggy host. But I did learn something. Gods chosen people lie!
I've always had my doubts about all things related to God or the supernatural, even when I was a kid. Not to say I didn't have a religious phase, but that was mostly for my mother's benefit. She hated it whenever I said I didn't believe in God. Now that she's gone I no longer have to keep the charade up. But I miss her terribly.
I think the first doubts crept in during the 8th grade. I failed catechism. The group met on wednesday nights at this man's house, and it was torture for me. I didn't see the point. One wednesday, i walked into his house and forgot that it was exam day at the church. His daughter screamed, and thought i was a burglar. He told me about the exam. I went there on my bike, and was late. The test givers were pissed and put me at the edge of the room near entrance. I failed the test, and remember not being scared. What will happen if I fail catechism? I didn't get kicked out of my public school, and god didn't reprimand me. So what's the big freakin deal here? I started thinking that i can do what i want and nothing will happen.