In a recent discussion I was asked ‘When did you become an Atheist?’ Ignoring the inaccuracy of the question (as we are all aware, we are all born with no belief structure, our parents tend to impose that upon us) I answered very specifically “Eight years old” I said. At this point I was asked how I knew and after being asked to provide an article for this site by SS I thought this may make a good topic.
I take you back to 1972 in a small Devon fishing village, most of the locals have never left the county and some even consider the next village as forbidden territory! My Mother was born and bred in the village and her family all still lived within a 10 mile radius (one of her cousins did move to Bristol but I don’t think they talked to him!) This tended to lend itself well to an unquestioning belief in religion and consequently my sister and I were taken to church without hesitation.
My Father was a marine engineer and from County Cork in Southern Ireland, this you would surmise would have led him to be on one side of the religious fence or the other (his family were Protestant so in the minority) but no, he did not hold any religious belief however never spoke to us about this and preferred us to make our own minds up (now that is what I call an enlightened man!)
My Mother insisted we went to the local Methodist church with her and as young children, playing with our friends while mummy was with the adults, was fun. We had no idea of the religion that awaited us, later on however the bible lessons started and the slow drip, drip, drip of indoctrination began. It started slowly, fun games, stories and other stuff with our friends, this was not a problem for us as all our friends were there and we all enjoyed it. It would however inevitably turn towards Christianity and we as small children would have to sit though the brainwashing silently because questioning adults was just not done.
I have the fortunate skill of being able to ask questions and of looking at things from alternate angles however at that age, and in Devon in that era, this was not well prized. (apart from by my Father) This skill has served me well and has enabled me to become a good engineer, I do however wonder how many potential good engineers and scientists are being held back in societies which are even more religious, what has the world lost since this medieval belief structure has dominated and refused to be questioned?
Back to the main theme, it was in one of these early indoctrination sessions called ‘Bible Study’ that the blindingly obvious hit me like a steam train. We were in the early phases of religious mind control and we were doing Genesis and the creation of the Earth by God. I remember distinctly the teacher saying, ‘On the 6th day God created Man’ the oncoming Flying Scotsman of clarity slammed into my frontal lobe and I felt compelled to ask a question. (not necessarily a wise move in that environment!) My hand went up and the teacher said “Yes Anthony?” this was it, I was about to question the bible and I knew hell awaited! I said “If God created man on the 6th day, who saw what he did on the other 5 to write about it?” A murmur ran around the group in a sort of ‘good point’ way. The answer came swiftly and was short, dismissive and totally unconvincing, “God told Adam” and that was it, I had been told and needed to shut up and accept it.
Unfortunately that was the last thing I intended to do and so began my questioning and logical debunking of the whole religious myth. From that time on I held no belief at all, but it was not until a few years later that I was able to extricate myself from the clutches of the church, as my Mother still took me every Sunday with the idea that it must be a phase I was going through!
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