I wasn’t born an Atheist; in fact I was a Catholic for the first 20 years of my life, only becoming an atheist 6 months ago. Like 99% of people my religion is down to the luck of my birth. Had I been born in the Middle East, I would have been a Muslims, had I been born in India, I would have been a Hindu, but I was born in Ireland, so I was a Catholic.
Like most young people I knew next to nothing about my religion. Growing up, I doubt a single one of my classmates could tell you what being Catholic meant. We were all (bar one, but we didn’t care) Catholic, but all that meant was the Pope was good and we got a wafer at the end of Mass. Religion was meaningless to us and something we never thought about.
Mass was one of those things you had to do whether you wanted to or not. It was like school. We didn’t know why we had to go, but our parents made us. You’d sit there and mumble along with everyone else. The readings were boring, irrelevant and never seemed to have a point. And they always seemed to be about sheep or shepherds or lambs.
Strangely enough, I was more religious than most. I was an altar boy for a year when I was 11, which was grand though I can’t say I got anything spiritual from it. I did go through a religious phase when I was 13 where I would say a decade of the rosary every night before going to bed. I‘m not sure why I did it, but I think I was afraid of what would happen if I died. I heard Muslims prayed 5 times a day so I felt I had to catch up. After about a year I decided I valued sleep more so I stopped.
Even in my most religious phase, I didn’t take the Bible that seriously. I was still pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-divorce and still thought the Church’s stance on condoms was ridiculous (as does everyone I know). I still knew evolution and the Big Bang were true but I somehow managed to fit this alongside believing the Bible stories. The way I did it was to not think about it. The only way anyone can believe the story of Noah’s Ark or Jonah getting eaten by a whale is to not think about them.
When I was 16 I stopped going to Mass. I considered myself a non-practicising Catholic. I just felt it was pointless. I wasn’t gaining a single thing from Mass; it was just a waste of time. I never got anything from it, the only good part was that I’d see people I knew. I felt you would better spend your time being a good person than sitting around talking about being good. I got sick of all the ritual nonsense of religion. I felt God didn’t care about how often you prayed; surely it was more important to be a good person. I did consider becoming a Quaker because their fundamental belief is just be a good person don’t bother with any of the rituals or features of a church. However, instead of Mass they sat in silence for an hour which nearly killed me with boredom.
The next big step was when I came to college. College is all about encouraging new thoughts, thinking in different ways and challenging conventional belief. That’s college graduates are the east religious group in society. College teaches you to think independently and not accept anything without evidence. This is in fundamental opposition to religion, which essentially teaches blind unquestioning faith.
What finally made me an Atheist was Christopher Hitchens’ death. It was all over the news and as I had no idea why he was famous, I looked up his videos on YouTube. They were brilliant and I found he made great points. I began to seriously think about God for the first time in my life. Why did he let millions starve? Why was he indifferent to the suffering of the world? Why did I believe God and Jesus without any evidence? I began thinking up all the possible atheist arguments that could be made and possible Christian responses. I began going back and forth in my mind, seriously debating both sides. I examined the Problem of Evil, Pascal’s Wager and the general absurdity of it all.
I eventually concluded that there was no God and I was an Atheist. I wasn’t filled with any sense of loss or emptiness; rather I was pleased at making the discovery. I had the sense of satisfaction you get when you solve a long and difficult maths problem.
Since then I’ve been really looking up religion and the more I look the most terrible and absurd things I find. The Bible is not the book of peace and love I thought it was, in fact it was full of hate, sexism, genocide, homophobia, racism and general nonsense. The more research I did, the more absurdities I found both in the Bible and in church teaching.
That’s pretty much my story.