Perspectives on
Atheism and Religion

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 93, 2003 November)

Introduction

There has been considerable discussion in Investigator revolving around the subject of why atheists, unbelievers, and sceptics hold the attitudes towards religion and the Bible that they do. Some may believe that these attitudes are the result of indoctrination – that unbelievers have been adversely affected by anti-religious writings or an upbringing hostile to Christianity. The purpose of this essay is to explore this claim from a personal viewpoint.
 

A Personal View

For those who have read my previous essays dealing with the Bible and religion it will be clear that I am rather sceptical of both, and many people may be wondering what lead me to reach this conclusion. In view of this possibility I will give a brief outline of the circumstances that lead to my unbelief. This should help people decide whether my attitude is the result of indoctrination or independent thought.

I was raised in a family that, although not Christian in the conventional sense, nevertheless had a strong belief in the existence of God, and it was this belief that prompted me to begin my investigation into the Bible and Christianity at the age of twenty.

I attended church and initially believed that Christianity was The One True Faith until I picked up the Bible and began to read it thoroughly. Unfortunately, nothing could have prepared me for the gross brutality of the Biblical god. Here was a being, the alleged creator of the Universe – from the subtlety of the quantum realm to the complexity of billions of galaxies – behaving no better that an evil man.

It was these atrocities, some of which I have outlined in previous articles, The Bible: Word of God or Man? [Investigator # 60] and The Bible: A Sanction for Evil [# 69], that eventually convinced me the Bible could not represent the nature of an all-powerful, wise and benevolent being – for no entity capable of creating a cosmos as complex as ours would be so foolish as to engage in such reprehensible conduct.

I continued my search for the truth by reading books on anthropology, comparative religion, history, philosophy and psychology and, after considerable thought on the matter, reached the conclusion that there is no sound evidence that supports any religion. I have also read works by apologists (C. S. Lewis, for example) but found their attempts to solve the various Biblical discrepancies and contradictions unconvincing. Naturally, I have also read books written by atheists and sceptics to obtain their point of view, and I find myself largely agreeing with what they have to say.
 

The Dangers of Religion

Do I think religion is dangerous? It certainly can be. I have just finished reading Charles Kimball’s When Religion Becomes Evil (Harper San Francisco, 2002) which outlines "the five warning signs of corruption in religion":

Charles Kimball is an ordained Baptist minister and his book shows that believers of all faiths need to think critically in order for them to avoid falling under the influence of destructive verities of religion.
 

The Existence of God

At the heart of most religions is belief in the existence of a god or gods. What evidence is there that such beings are extant realities? Two of the most common arguments put forward in support of the affirmative are (1) The Argument From Design. (2) Mystical Experience:

The Argument From Design basically states that because Nature displays order that there must be an orderer. As I have already exposed the weakness of this view in Is Creationism The Answer? (#88 & #90), I will not repeat my comments here.

Mystical Experiences are often used as proof of God's existence. However, these events (whether they take the form of an overwhelming sense of the numinous, or a vision of Jesus or Krishna) are of an entirely subjective nature, and are not open to independent verification that would enable their veracity to be confirmed. Moreover, there is good evidence that the nature of the experience is culturally determined — Christians usually see visions of Jesus or the Virgin Mary while Hindus see visions of their gods. A reasonable conclusion is that the percipients own brain, rather than an external supernatural cause, generates the experience.

I have no firm belief in the existence of God for the same reason that I have no firm belief in the existence of unicorns – namely, a lack of sound evidence. It is interesting to note that most people would not be condemned for unbelief in unicorns; however, if the central tenet of a particular faith was that their god had been incarnated as one, it might become an entirely different matter.

Once again I would like to reiterate that I'm not trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking. As far as I'm concerned everyone has the right to believe in what he or she thinks is true. If people agree with what I've written then they do so of their own accord. On the other hand if they totally reject my conclusions, then that is fine by me. The sole purpose of my essays is to provide information to people that I hope will assist them in making up their own minds.

The Views of Others

<>Naturally, this is just my own personal view, and it may be the exception. Keeping this in mind I conducted some research using the Internet and came across the following website that may be helpful to people interested in finding out more about why some people have rejected religion in general and Christianity in particular:

www.infidels.org/library/modern/theism/christianity/ex-christian.html

This site contains autobiographies by people who have lost faith in their religion ranging from ordained ministers to laypersons. From these accounts, it is possible to see that some had similar reasons to mine for finally abandoning their beliefs. I would like to point out that most tried desperately to keep believing (as I did) but were ultimately unable to do so because they were not prepared to sacrifice their reason on the altar of blind faith.

If these people are a fair representation of unbelievers (and I think they are), then it is clear the claim atheists etc. have been indoctrinated into unbelief rests on shaky ground. Naturally, I urge people to examine the above website for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

More articles by Kirk Straughen on this website:

http://users.adam.com.au/bstett/

http://ed5015.tripod.com/