Hiya, friends and strangers! Welcome to my new little corner of the interweb.
Recently my attention has been drawn to the debates surrounding Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the other "fundamental atheists" that have been stirring up trouble in the media, on Youtube, and in blogs like this. I find that oft-quoted insult troubling due to the difference between the methods and outlook of the atheists versus religious fundamentalists, but I also have reservations about the means being used by some of the "bad cop" atheists, as The Rational Response Squad have dubbed themselves. I'll write more on the matter in the days to come, but I wanted to begin with some...
I came to regard myself as an atheist only recently. At the age of fifteen or sixteen, I began to have doubts about Christianity. Until that point (and for some years after) I had been highly active in my church: singing in choirs, acting in pangents, witnessing to my friends. My doubts began when I started questioning the basic ethical and logical basis of Christianity. Did pre-Columbian people get to go to heaven? Why did God have to sacrifice anyone to save the rest of us? Why plant the tree of knowledge in the first place? My doubts were amplified when writing from the Jesus Seminar landed in my hands (from the book collection of my fairly conservative father, no less). The discovery was shattering. Not simply in the Seminar's findings, but the facts that had long been known to theologists but undiscussed in Sunday School about the origin and circumstances surrounding the New Testament. As I fell deeper into the world of Mithras and the mystery cults, it became clear to me that whether or not Jesus existed, I couldn't accept the Gospel story as fact. When I took a world religion course, it became clear to me that the origin of Christianity was on as shakey ground as all the religions I had dismissed out of hand.
Throughout the period, I prayed. I never made my doubts as open as I describe them here, but I asked questions and continued to stay involved. The summer before I turned 18, I left Sunday school feeling angry one day, and knew I could never go back. I can count the number of times I've stepped into a church since then on one hand.
The nail in the coffin came afterwards and turned me into an angry agnostic for a few years. After the shock of telling my parents that first Sunday, I felt nothing. I felt no doubt about my decision. Something in me must have expected a showdown, that the holy spirit would intervene and bring me back, but nothing happened. Not even my parents cared enough to save me. Not my Christian friends, not my church. I didn't suddenly become immoral, and I didn't even lose some of my doubts about evolution, abortion, etc until college. I felt as if I had been taken in with a scam and left with a dozen boxes of worthless knives and no way of getting my money returned.
Last year I attended a lecture by Eugenie Scott on the slight of hand involved in the "Teach the Controversy" tactic. A long time fan of culture jamming, I had been following the Flying Spaghetti Monster with glee. Scott's lecture spoke to the educator in me (still present despite a failed student teaching endevour), and I started to follow the serious issues that prompted the FSM response.
Last fall, I stumbled onto The Root of All Evil on YouTube and several lectures by Dawkins. I had called myself an agnostic until then, but the teapot scenario won me over. I am open to evidence on any deity's existance, but from the evidence that I've seen, I don't feel the theistic question warrants even ambivalence. This is incredibly dismissive, I admit, but like many vocal atheists, I am used to speaking within the realm of science. I have noticed that theists and agnostics are reacting strongly to the recent invasion of loud atheists, and this will inform my position on what atheists shouldbe doing.
In my next post I'll explain that position on the trouble with atheism, which the savvy will liken to Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Scott Atran's recent remarks.