Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Becoming an atheist

What is an atheist?
Having already written an article about becoming a vegetarian, I though it was high time I wrote an article explaining why I am an atheist.

Firstly, what exactly is an atheist? An atheist is someone who does not believe in the existence of a deity, who lacks religious faith, and has a naturalistic worldview free from superstition and mysticism. Just t clarify from the outset, I am not a practicing scientist, but I do think like one. I don't want to give out the false impression that atheism is confined to scientists only. Atheists can and do come from all walks of life.

So why do I reject the notion that there is a higher being who watches over us? An omnipotent, omniscient deity who created the universe and our planet in a handful of days, and created every single species to boot.

Atheism is aligned with science
To turn the question round slightly, instead of asking why I am an atheist, a better question is why should I believe in the notion of a deity? We have explanations for the formation of the universe and the planets. While the birth of our universe may not yet be fully understood, this does not mean we have to resort to superstition to fill the gaps. Thanks to branches of science including astronomy and cosmology, we understand how planets and stars are formed. Our knowledge of such formations grows daily.

We understand gravity, atoms, chemistry. To anyone who denies that science has shed light on our understanding of the world, I would urge you to step out of an aeroplane when it is 30,000 feet in the air and jump out without a parachute. The fact that an aeroplane flies at all is also a testament to science.

Where is the evidence?
As a died in the wool sceptic, I demand to be shown evidence to substantiate a claim, especially one as grand as an omnipotent deity. Am I really to believe in the idea that our universe, planets, animals, seas and life were all created by a single omnipotent being? This leads to the obvious question of - who or what created the creator?

We know from the physical sciences that you cannot conjure up complexity from nothing. This violates the first theory of thermodynamics, an expression of the conservation of energy which states that "energy can be transformed (changed from one form to another), but cannot be created or destroyed".

That a being complex enough to create planets, stars and life was spontaneously created out of thin air is therefore impossible. Complexity does not arise from complexity, it arises from simplicity. The creationist myth that the Earth is several thousand years old is pure fantasy. We know that the age of the Earth is somewhere between 4 to 5 billion years old.

Extracted from the Wikipedia:
"This age has been determined by radiometric age dating of meteorite material and is consistent with the ages of the oldest-known terrestrial and lunar samples."

Anyone who denies the age of the Earth is either scientifically ignorant, or pushing their religious ideology.

It is often claimed that atheists are immoral people, as they do not have the moral framework and guidance of a sacred text. As I was at pains to point out in my earlier article Do atheists have the moral high ground?, it is perfectly possible to be a good, decent and moral person without religion. For religion to make claims of morality is absurd, when you look at fundamentalists who fly planes into buildings, or murder physicians who perform abortions. The fact that these are extreme acts is irrelevant, they were nonetheless carried out under the name of religion.

As an atheist, I do not believe in the notion of going to hell for being a bad person. I therefore do not perform acts of kindness to curry favour with a vengeful deity, who will smite me down and let me burn in hell for all eternity if I do something wrong (so much for an all loving deity).

If you need to rely on a sacred text to tell you that murder is wrong is deeply worrying. Without resort to any sacred text, an atheist innately knows it is wrong. If theists could steal themselves to throw away their sacred texts, which are nothing more than moral crutches, they would realise that they knew it too.

I perform acts of kindness because they are the right and moral thing to do. Not out of fear of a vengeful deity, or because I have read it somewhere in a sacred book.

Atheism is the only true path to enlightenment
I am far happier living my life as I see it. My life is not based around superstition, fear, vengeance and all the other artefacts that constitute religion. It is based on common sense, evidence and logic.

I do not need to have a meaning to my life ascribed to me by a sacred text. My life already has meaning. I have family and friends, goals and objectives, love and happiness. All these things give my life meaning.

If being a husband, father and friend is not enough to give your life meaning, then I do not know what is.

There is no place or need for religion in my life. We have the scientific methodology to explain the world around us, and our place within it. We are all born with an innate sense of morality. We do not need religion to explain these things. The only thing religion teaches us is to be satisfied with not understanding the world.

Religion is superfluous, surplus to requirements, irrelevant.

I am perfectly happy without it.


  1. Well said. Well said. I think your best point was that of morality. I was talking with my grandmother a few years ago and the subject turned to my Atheism and she asked 'but what do you use as a moral compass?' I was genuinely astonished. She's an intelligent woman but sometimes it is her belief that holds her back.

    I had to explain to her that I didn't need the threat of eternal damnation to be a good little boy. :)

  2. P.S. I've subscribed to your feed. I like your style and the blog itself - maybe that's just because you confirm my pre-held beliefs (like people reading the newspaper that thinks like they do) but oh well. I still like it!

  3. Hi thomasbobs, I'm really glad you enjoyed my blog posts, it's always nice to have positive feedback. I hope you enjoy my future posts too!