There's one common thread that I hear quite a bit from both the moderately religious people and the over-the-top, wear-the-baby-Jesus-on-my-bumper-sticker religious folks around me. It's that some people just choose to be atheists. You see, in their mind, there are these angry atheists who are just out to seek revenge on a childhood wasted in Sunday school.
First, I'm going to skip the "angry" part for now because it's easily addressed and I've decided to hold onto that for later.
And second, I can only speak for myself and those that I've had the pleasure of speaking to about this subject. So here goes...
Every atheist I've ever spoken to says something along these lines: "After studying the Bible along with several other religions, I came to the conclusion that just like all the other gods before Yahweh, the god I grew up with simply doesn't exist." If anyone thinks this was easy, they're wrong. If anyone thinks this was a choice, they're REALLY wrong. So let's be clear. A choice is not the same as a conclusion. Not even in the same ballpark.
Plus, I think when religious people convince themselves that I chose to be an atheist, they are consciously reducing me to nothing more than a spoiled child. Because I'm just choosing to be defiant and I'm choosing not believe like everyone else. How dare I do that to the rest of the believers?
It's as if I wasn't supposed to read their book for myself. (Now I did choose to do that.) Instead, I'm to sit quietly in my seat, slack-jawed, drooling, believing everything that one man tells me to believe. I simply couldn't do that.
For me it began in church - my ex-girlfriend's church to be exact. I would sit there quietly and flip my Bible to the cherry-picked passage that the Pastor had decided to focus his interpretive powers upon for roughly 30 to 40 minutes (because we had get back for Sunday football, don't you know.) Sitting still for 30 to 40 minutes can be a lot to ask of a teenager, but I was with my ex-girlfriend so it was all good.
Thus, the path to my disbelief began out of boredom. (This often happens with teenagers listening to adults trying tell them how to live their lives, right?) I decided that I could kill time by reading the rest of the verses on the surrounding pages. In doing so, however, I began to see that much of what was covered by that Pastor was either sugar-coated or taken completely out of context to cover up iron-age beliefs. Beliefs which are horrific and inhuman in the modern era.
After a few months of attending church and retreating into the ritual of my boredom, I decided it was time I actually read the Bible, cover to cover. Needless to say, reading that book really opened my eyes. Literally. I finally saw that book for what it truly was - a historical look into the mindset of a paranoid, violent, sadistic, misogynistic, and exceedingly primitive society desperately trying to use fear as a means of controlling the masses.
(At this point I feel like I should offer some advice for the religious parents out there who desperately want their kids to grow up to be proper Christians. Do NOT let your kids read the Bible. PERIOD.)
The last nail in the proverbial cross happened as a young adult as I was studying the book of John with another Pastor (who I still consider a friend, I might add). Keep in mind that by this time I had already decided that Jesus likely didn't exist and god was a just a crutch, but I decided to give religion one more shot. As I approached the end of my study though, I decided to take time and read the Bible again as an adult, free of predisposition. Needless to say, I didn't make it far, because a rational adult cannot read those stories without being horrified by what's written within. Because if an almighty god cannot get everything right the first time, where no interpretation - no translation - is necessary, then the christian god - just like Zeus, Ra, Neptune, Horus and Thor - cannot exist at all.
No, as a scientist I cannot say this with complete certainty. Nor can I say that there aren't unicorns, or there aren't gnomes, or there isn't a purple dragon in Carl Sagan's garage. But given the evidence, and the ever diminishing influence that god has on our world, it's the only rational conclusion I can reach.
Oh, and just in case you're thinking: "But science can't explain this..."
I give you a quote from Neil deGrasse Tyson:
that how you want to play this game? ... If that's how you want to
invoke your evidence for god, then god is an ever receding pocket of
Now for the "angry" part. I'll make this easy by presenting an example:
I just read that today that Richard Dawkins was shunned by the Wyndgate Country Club in Rochester Hills, Michigan. After the owner of the country club saw Dawkins' interview on The O'Reilly Factor, the Wyndgate chose to discriminate against Dawkins (and his book tour) and break its contract. Why? What is it about a very influential scientist and outspoken rationalist that scares you, Wyndgate?
I hear over and over again how I'm supposed to "respect" other people's religious beliefs. How can I possibly do that? And how about this - why don't you earn my respect rather than simply demand it from me?
In case you missed it, discrimination makes me angry.