When you read through the many Atheist/Atheism based blogs you will come across many many stories of how people de-converted from one religion or another and came to Atheism. The stories are pretty enlightening, and it’s encouraging to read how people take the woo out of their lives.
It’s much rarer however to read about people like myself however who consider themselves to be life-long Atheists.
For me as a child religion was always sitting in the background, pretty much never intruding into my life. I knew it was there, I knew plenty of people who were practising Christians, I just wasn’t one of them. It didn’t seem to serve any practical purpose other than to take up time on a Sunday morning. I think my parents are/were (my mother died 14 years ago) nominally Christian, but very far from being practising. We basically never attended church (with the exception of the usual Hatch/Match/Dispatch events for friends/family), and neither I nor my sister have been baptised. Religion was never even a topic of discussion growing up as far as I can recall, and we certainly weren’t guided towards any particular belief system. We were simply raised to be well rounded human beings, with a sense of right and wrong, good and bad. There was never a need to back it up by threatening the wrath of some all powerful invisible deity at some unknown time in the future, why bother when there was the all powerful threat of being sent to my room right now!
So it’s from this background that I quite naturally and of my own accord found myself to be an Atheist. No other position made sense. When you’re free from religious preconceptions, all the modern dogmas start to look a trifle silly. It’s always struck me that in the caveman days it would only be natural to project a deity onto things like the Sun, Moon, and Sky etc. Those were visible physical objects that have a very obvious influence over your everyday life, so if there was any chance that they could have a conscious entity behind them then you would definitely hold it in high regard, and the temptation to deify it would be great. But as time moved on, and human knowledge grew, it became obvious that there was no such entity to heap praise upon. No sane person nowadays would believe that if you don’t pray to the Sun god, then she won’t rise in the morning. Once you realise that those gods aren’t needed, why invent others to replace them? They’re superfluous.
When it came to raising my own daughter, I decided to take a similar approach. I wouldn’t try and push her to follow my beliefs, but let her decide for herself. She attends a Church of England junior school – primarily because it’s one of the best in the area – where they are fairly liberal. They do do the Christian thing, I’d be surprised if they didn’t. But they do also cover other religious beliefs too, giving the kids a well rounded view of the world around them. Whenever she asked me a religiously based question, I’d try to answer honestly, point out my own beliefs, but also offer insights into how others believe. I’m not stupid enough to believe that I never favoured Atheism, but I did hope I provided enough information so she could make an informed choice. She’s a reasonably bright young person (obviously, she’s my child ) so she took it all on board, and eventually declared to me that she also didn’t believe in God etc. This was towards the end of last year, when the Christmas season was coming into full swing, so I wondered how she’d handle her belief in Santa. To my surprise she declared that she didn’t believe in him either! She’s obviously a bit more perceptive than I am because I think I was a year older before I gave up that one – either that or I was a bit more shrewd and realised there was something to be gained by holding onto Santa. Interestingly though, the Tooth Fairy is still in business. I guess the lure of cold hard cash is still too strong.
So it looks like another generation of Atheists is born. Recent studies seem to suggest (in Great Britain anyway) that religious belief in the younger generation is at an all time low, and falling. Hopefully that will translate more and more into people who have similar experiences growing up as I did. Once there are significant numbers of second and third generation Atheists around the world will be a very different, and in my opinion better, place.
If there are others out there that have always been Atheist, I’d very much like to hear your story.