When I was eight years old, the pastor of our Baptist church asked my parents to stop sending me to Sunday school because ‘my questions confused the other children.’ Confused the Sunday school teacher, my mother suggested. My father, who was devout in a purely Protestant sort of way (read my Bible and find my own way to God) stayed silent but complied.
By twelve, I had read his Bible from cover to cover and come to my own conclusion. There was no God to find my way to. I kept going to Church for two more years – we were the only white family in an all black church (long story) – because I loved the music and the smell of the well-polished pews but I didn’t believe. To my everlasting shame I stopped attending because I couldn’t stand the racial slurs of the other white kids in my Nova Scotia town. In the end, that shame has helped me understand how truly repulsive racism or any other form of prejudice is, including prejudice against the religious. Indeed, while I still think of religion as a blight on humanity, I am completely accepting of other people’s faith. As long as they do not feel they have to impose it on me.
People of faith are often confounded by those who have none. They tell me that atheism is a religion – I won’t bother with the illogic of that but I’ll sum up the refutation this way. Not thinking about God is not the same as thinking about Him the same way as not thinking about sailing is not the same as being on a boat.
The religious often ask: how can you be good without God? My reply: if you require promise of reward or fear of punishment to be good how can you truly claim to be moral? My morality comes from the lessons of history which includes all the lessons – good and bad – that religions have provided.
What do you have to look forward to without God? I answer the way my religious father answered when asked what the happiest time of his life was: Every single day, it is all beautiful and it is all wonderful. The world and the fundamental laws it operates under – the laws of physics not God’s laws – are amazing enough for me. And when it is over I will know – nothing. I will be gone as if I never was. Isn’t life wonderful?
As to faith – I, despite so much evidence to the contrary, have faith in my fellow man. I believe we are getting better as each year goes by. And perhaps faith in man will lead us to peace the way faith in God never has.
And that’s ten minutes.