As a person who grew up in a coercive religious household (Jehovah's Witness), I had more reason than most to leave religion behind when I left home. I was so turned off by the experience that I didn't even consider another religion, and also didn't give much thought to my own belief in God until I had children of my own. When I did start to look at the subject, I soon discovered that I did not believe that a God existed.
Now some may say that the JWs had poisoned me for all other faiths, and they would be absolutely right. If there is one thing the Watchtower Society is good at creating besides obedient 'rank-and-file' members, it is atheists. However, my conclusion that there was no good reason to believe there was a God developed only after I gave the matter serious thought, and well after I had left that stifling religion behind. All of my options were open, including the one I chose - atheism.
The main reason I am an atheist is that I do not see any good reasons being offered by the religious side of the debate. Even 'sophisticated' theologians and apologists, who have been refining their approach for centuries, consistently fail to offer compelling reasons to believe in the existence of God. The vast majority of them that I am aware of argue from a Christian perspective, and therefore shoulder a heavy burden since their deity's qualities are laid out in their holy book. Since these qualities are clearly at odds with how we actually perceive the world, and their claims demand a being that is much more active in the world than we see, I see no alternative but to conclude their arguments amount to sophistry. There just isn't any there, there.
It makes very little sense to me to argue doctrine with a theist. It is similar to arguing how tall Jack's beanstalk was, or how many angels could dance on the head of a pin - even if you're correct, you still end up looking like a pinhead. There are much better approaches if one cares whether they are wasting their time or not, and two such approaches are the problems with the Bible, and the existence of God. To abuse the biblical metaphor of Nebuchadnezzar's statue, it makes little sense to attack the upper parts of the statue (doctrines) when the feet are made of clay (the Bible) mixed with iron (the God concept). To abuse another, the religious seem to have built their house upon the sand, and all that is needed is to wash it away to bring the whole structure tumbling down.
It has become commonplace to find the theist backed against a wall, only to paint a window called 'faith' and slip through it, neatly arguing themselves out of the argument altogether. It is as if they do not realize that they have brought Monopoly money to the bank, and are left scratching their heads when their currency is rejected. The reason that faith is worthless in an argument is because it isn't an argument at all - it is a capitulation. In other words, when the theist plays the faith card, they are essentially pushing away from the table in the middle of a hand. When they do not know the rules of the game, and they decide to muscle in anyways, they can have no basis for forming a good strategy, or even mounting a convincing bluff. Well I'm calling their bluff, unconvincing as it is.
It is high time everyone realized that the same faith that sends Grandma to church on Sunday motivates the suicide bomber to blow themselves up in a crowded marketplace. The problems we face as a global society make it all the more urgent that this message is brought home. Unless we begin to make headway in this battle, we are going to lose the war. Talking past one another is no longer an option - it's time to put up, or shut up, and I'm not shutting up. Bill Maher put it eloquently in his film 'Religulous':
"If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and sheer ignorance as religion is, you'd resign in protest. To do otherwise is to be an enabler, a mafia wife, for the true devils of extremism draw their legitimacy from the billions of their fellow travelers. If the world does come to an end here, or wherever, or if it limps into the future, decimated by the effects of religion-inspired nuclear terrorism, let's remember what the real problem was. We learned how to precipitate mass death before we got past the neurological disorder of wishing for it. That's it. Grow up or die."
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