I was raised an atheist. The schools I went to were all Church of England although not much religion was taught. I got enough religious education to be able to be worried sometimes that my parents might be wrong. My mothers somewhat outpoken defence of her atheism probably meant some teachers thought i was damned from the start. I sang in the church choir for about 3 months. It was a paying job but didnt pay enough for me to want to get out of bed early on a sunday morning. I also worked in a church for a while as a gardener in my senior school days. That was where a friend and I created our own version of the fires of hell by making homemade flamethrowers. The upshot of that was I spent a week in intensive care and 7 weeks in hospital and got to do morphine. I remember a nurse in that hospital being very beautiful and very christian. She always seemed to have one extra button undone on her uniform. That was the probably first but not the last time I denied my atheism since she would pray at my bedside occasionally and I would look at her legs. She became the subject of my 14 year old hospital fantasies until I saw Pans People on top of the pops in stockings.
Through my 20s and 30s I mostly ignored religion and it ignored me. If friends or I were particularly conversational or drunk the subject might come up but generally related to how to fix Northern Ireland or the middle east or how catholic girls partied in their teens but got scared once they got older. I knew of one particularly promiscuous party girl ( who i never got to sleep with unfortunately) who renounced her ways and became a born again christian in her mid 20’s and then pretty much went back to her partying ways again but that was it. I was given exactly two bibles in my time in England. One by the Gideons at primary school which my mother threw away in a metal dustbin when i got it home. And one by a well meaning relative which i think also went in the replacement but more durable plastic dustbin.
Since i’ve lived in Singapore i’ve received as gifts 3 bibles, a signed book on religion by CS Lewis and a DVD on Jesus. Religion has been a defining factor in at least 3 of my romantic relationships and probably several of my business ones. I personally know well at least 6 people who have converted religion (to Christianity) as adults. Adult converts are the worst because they always seem to feel they are trying to catch up. Two of the people i have dated have been adult converts. One other I didnt really date we just went out a couple of times but she told me i would have to convert to Islam if I married her. When I said no she got angry and left.
Like most people I guess i’ve had doubts about what is the meaning of life, and what is it all about, and what role am I trying to take in it. I’ve read self help books and inspirational stuff. I even attended a Tony Robbins seminar once (did the firewalk too – thats not magic either)
But in my adult life I never have i felt the need to turn to god because I honestly and totally believe there is nothing there.
So if you come to me and say in order to have some kind of relationship with me you have to adopt these rituals once a week and twice a year I may say yes if I want to have a relationship with you. But if you or your high officer of superstition tell me I have to believe in your god I cannot. I used to say sorry for that and be defensive but no more. Lately I find myself incapable of bullshit so I cannot pretend a belief where there is none – not even to get laid. Perhaps I just grew up.
About a year ago I was at business dinner in Hong Kong with two managers and a wife. The subject of intelligent design came up because of the insanity in the US where schools were being taken to court for teaching evolution. When it came to my turn to speak I said I dont believe in any kind of higher power and the whole argument in the USA was a waste of time and resources. The guy across the table who recruited me was shocked – to the point I think where he regretted recruiting me. The wife of the other guy agreed with me and her husband (a catholic) was a little shocked. It was a defining moment for me. We atheists generally use nice words like I dont really believe or religion is not important to me or i’ve never really thought about it or i’m agnostic. Then we have to listen while we are told that god has some ultimate plan and it will all become clear and we really dont understand. Then we change the subject to something safer.
If religion is now defining people then i want to be defined as an Atheist. There is no God. I am a person who does not have or need an imaginary friend to take care of and punish him or make unknown plans for him. I am a person who makes choices and decisions and I take responsibility for them good or bad. I am able to have a strong value system without having to refer to an imaginary higher power to support it. I want to learn be educated understand be happy and enjoy my time on this planet.
If being that person makes me a bad or inappropriate person to your imaginary friend then it really is your problem not mine. If you find it impossible that I can live a good life without god, I find it sad that you cant.
I am an Atheist.
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