Tuesday 22 May 2007

Repost: "Another Out" (from the RD.net forum)

It's been a few months since I discovered RichardDawkins.net, but it didn't take me long to add the site to my newsreader, and not much longer to register for the discussion forum (though to be honest I haven't been very active there). But I did make a 'new visitor' post, and was delighted with the welcome I found. For anyone reading the posts here at Evil Burnee who is curious how I came to my present position on the issue of faith, I can do no better than repost my first message (from 17 December 2006) on the RD.net forum.

Reposted from: http://richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=52516#52516

After years of silent scepticism (mostly out of 'respect' for close family members who profess religious belief in varying degrees) I've become more and more appalled by what is perpetrated throughout the world in the name of faith.

Though I was brought up as 'Anglican' I harboured doubts about the whole business of God and faith, until it became time for me to be 'confirmed'. For me this was rather late, at age 14 or 15 (I don't remember exactly when), but I was doing physics and chemistry at school, and was aware of some incompatibility with what I was being asked to believe. But I dutifully went each week to our local vicar for one-on-one 'catechism classes' -- with the result that each week I became more and more confirmed in my belief that it was all bunk. Our vicar was patient with me, and attempted to answer my queries and counter my doubts. But it was clear to me by then that I could not in all honesty declare a belief I didn't have.

So I consider my confirmation classes a success -- in convincing me that my doubts were legitimate, and freeing me from the skygod's oppression. From then on I was happy to apply reason and logic to any of life's problems, without recourse to a supernatural overseer. But it was a private matter; I saw no reason to declare my rejection of unquestioning faith. Those who know me are aware of my thinking on this, but I don't tout it around.

I wonder just how many of us -- closet atheists -- there are.

I watched Jonathan Miller's TV series A Brief History of Unbelief when it was first broadcast, but only recently have I been able to see the second part of Richard Dawkins' Root of All Evil? I was aware of Dawkins' views (I remember seeing the broadcast of his Richard Dimbleby lecture, and cringing as he talked of spoon-benders while the camera cut to another Dimbleby in the audience), and I shared the unease others have expressed at his 'militancy'.

I'm now about two thirds through The God Delusion, and I now see that what I thought of as militancy is actually a healthy disrespect for blind faith, and I agree that from holy wars to religious schools, it's time to make our views known, to counter the tacit assumptions about the 'sanctity' of religious belief.

My awareness that there was any kind of organised collection of like-minded people in this sphere came when I discovered Derek & Swoopy's Skepticality podcast. Now I also listen each week to the Point of Inquiry podcast, and have recently subscribed to Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer magazines.

Coming across The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science has been the latest discovery in a refreshingly eye-opening journey.