Many of the theists who comment on the various articles give the impression of not understanding why many atheists or nonbelievers feel the way they do. The majority of the atheists were brought up in religious homes and environments (particularly those born into the white South African culture of National Christian life and education).
The bible was the one book that in many homes was read on a daily basis, the lessons were absolute and could not be questioned. Concepts that contradicted to word of the bible were automatically wrong. At the school I attended biology was not an option as evolution contradicted the creation story as presented in Genesis. The threat of divine punishment was a great weight on the shoulders of pre and pubescent teens.
The forbidden pleasures often resulted in confession and atonement in a vicious circle with the acts themselves. As I progressed through my school days I found myself questioning the religious teachings more and more. As a boarder at a religious run school there were many of the teachers and house masters who were available to answer the questions. Many of the answers were lacking in logic and conviction. I read the bible and found many things that did not make sense or were contradictory.
I started reading as many books and authors that covered religion and philosophical subjects as were available in the libraries I had access to. During national service we were constantly told that we had god on our side against a godless enemy. I knew some of these enemies and knew that they held the views they did out of strong religious conviction. Who was right?
Before I completed my service I concluded that religion was a means of control, of suppression and silencing. For close to thirty years I continued to read but had because of where and with whom I worked to keep my lack of formal religious belief to myself. The advent of the internet came as a breath of fresh air, I was able to read and study the writings of many atheist and agnostic authors.
I was able to read the writings of many theologians and to compare in some cases their views on the same subjects as the atheists. I was able to read up on and discover all the writings and work published on the evolution of the universe and the earth. I discovered great writers and thinkers but the one who has had the most impact on me and my thoughts was Robert Green Ingersoll. Nothing more so than his Vow!
"When I became convinced that the Universe is natural that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world, not even in infinite space. I was free.
free to think, to express my thoughts
free to live to my own ideal
free to live for myself and those I loved
free to use all my faculties, all my senses
free to spread imagination's wings
free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope
free to judge and determine for myself
free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the "inspired" books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past
free from popes and priests
free from all the "called" and "set apart"
free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies
free from the fear of eternal pain
free from the winged monsters of night
free from devils, ghosts, and gods
For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of my thought, no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings
no chains for my limbs
no lashes for my back
no fires for my flesh
no master's frown or threat
no following another's steps
no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words.
I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds. And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain
for the freedom of labor and thought
to those who fell on the fierce fields of war, to those who died in dungeons bound with chains
to those who proudly mounted scaffold's stairs
to those whose bones were crushed, whose flesh was scarred and torn
to those by fire consumed
to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men.
And I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still."
This is what not believing in myths means to me!! I hope that it will bring a degree of understanding to some.