What made you turn atheist or agnostic?
I'm fond of, and in complete agreement with, Carl Sagan's assessment of the situation:
- The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by God one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying ... it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.
This does not, however, make me an atheist. As far as I'm concerned, claiming that there is no God is almost as irrational as claiming there is one. Again, I'll share a succinct comment from Sagan on that point as well:
- An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do to be sure that no such God exists. To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed. - Conversations with Carl Sagan (2006), edited by Tom Head, p. 70
So in one statement sagan says a belief in a theist god is ludicrous then the next one goes on to say 'well, we can't prove it's not there'??
Well, it's impossible to prove a negative. It's up to the believers to demonstrate the existence of something by producing evidence. It's not up to the skeptic to disprove it.
This is an age old example but it serves a purpose: I believe there's a huge teapot orbiting the sun between earth and mars. Prove to me there isn't.
Finding out that the 'historical Jesus' was a very different character than that portrayed in the Bible; that Christianity isn't about what the real Jesus taught, but rather, an invention by the apostle Paul; consequently, that Jesus wasn't the 'son of God' as we construct it, no was his death redeeming in any way; that his prophecies concerned the immediate future on the 1st century, and they failed. Consequently, besides the moral compass, I stopped seeing reason to pursuit a faith-based Christian world view. Although I respect the historical value of Christianity in the formation of modern ethics as we have them today, I consider myself agnostic and apatheist.
Pretty much agree with Cofty's and Oubliette's posts, in particular Oubliette's first, concise post.
It should rightly be all about the evidence.
All available evidence points to humans, chimps, gorillas and orangs sharing a common ancestor that lived millions of years ago.
All religions, WT included, have no evidence to support their doctrine. They have a lot of warm, fuzzy thinking and assumptions. Who wouldn't want a dead loved one to be in heavenly bliss, or be resurrected to everlasting life on paradise earth? Unfortunately, religions also have their dark side - no blood transfusions and sorcerers are to be beheaded, etc.
I'm an agnostic who accepts evolution and veers very closely to atheism. I hate organized religion but the best I can do is just set aside the possibility that a higher power exists. It's up to him to explain himself and tell me that I should worship him ...
When I woke up to the fact that I had been lied to all my life by the JW religion, and I realised it was my fault for not examining the evidence, I decided I would examine the evidence for all claims.
I found no evidence for Pink Unicorns with Purple Spots, but I am agnostic on that one, it may just be that the evidence has not come my way.
The point is though, whether such delightful things as Pink Unicorns exist or not makes not one jot of difference to me and my life.
My answer to the Thread title is therefore the same as Oubliette's, the evidence ( or lack of it).
Even as a JW, evidence/empiricism was important to me. I compartmentalized and suppressed critical thought when it came to matters of my religion, however. I was very good at this.
After leaving JW, I naturally fell into a "semi-Christian" belief system. I basically was Christian in belief, but in areas I questioned, I did what I thought was best in action, not necessarily according to that belief. Then, just as I saw inconsistencies with real life vs. JW belief, I began seeing the same with Christian belief as a whole as well. This led to questioning that belief with the same level of critical thought I applied to other areas of my life.
You know the story from here. The OT was untenable. Its god was the polar opposite of anything I considered morally acceptable. Upon closer scrutiny, the NT was almost as bad, or at least inconsistent with the OT, and itself. I studied evolution, physics, history, sociology, and psychology well enough, that an abstraction easily emerged that religion was nothing more than a human made social meme to serve several purposes, some of which were less noble than others. I declared myself agnostic by this time, (I was out about a year).
Two critical points in this development happened in 2007. The first of which actually involved my second adult experience with marijuana, which was very frightening at the time. It was one of those classic paranoia experiences. It involved thoughts that my entire understanding of "existence", (including all of the social constructs, such as what is "moral"), was brought into question. While this was extremely off-putting at the time, (I stayed away from the drug for at least another year), as I processed that experience over the next year, I began to realize I learned something important from that experience. What I learned in a very concrete manner, was that morals are indeed a social construct, and something that evolved socially, as humans became increasingly aware of their consciousness. This fit nicely with what I already understood about human social evolution. The lesson stuck.
The next important development took place a few month later while reading a biography about Einstein. That bio included an explanation of special relativity that allowed me to understand how time is relative to space. I quickly formed a mental extrapolation that made it crystal clear that if god existed, it could certainly have no such thing as a timetable, unless it either existed outside of time, (which would mean that the need for a timetable is little more than superficial), or was confined to that same physical law, which of course would mean that god is not so powerful, if the laws of physics confine it. That was inconsistent with any understanding of god I ever held to, even as a JW.
It took another 4 years for me to be comfortable with the thought that my agnosticism was really just a "friendlier" term for atheism. I knew four years prior that no god I studied about could be real, (certainly by the time of the special relativity lesson). It then simply became a matter of accepting that atheism is nothing more than non-belief, (which is how most people incorrectly use the term "agnostic").
68 years of living in this world and not seeing any "real" evidence that a god really exists outside of our own imagination.
The first question I ever had was at around twelve years old, "Who created God?"
Of course my zombie mother would simply explain that Jehovah was always there but we have difficulty with the concept of infinity, that's why it's hard for me to understand that he was always there. Even in my young brain it simply made no sense to me. Add to that global suffering, lack of evidence, no godly "miracles" to witness, People of the same religions killing each other, how life itself comtradicted everything taught in theology and the blatant lies, I decided at around thirteen that there was no loving god watching ove our planet and its inhabitants.
For a long time I still held on to the possibility of some sort of creator because I had not read much about evolution. What I had read and had been taught was either anti-evolution or as in the case of my teachers/lecturers, were skewed/biased views of Christians. Due to this misinformation I had no real understanding of of evolution. It was actually books recommended to me by Cofty which filled in the missing peices of the puzzle which caused me to accept evolution as solid science.
Since reading those books I'm now addicted to reading everything I can get my hands on about evolution and the many fields of science which support it and honestly, I've never read anything before which gave me such a sense of relief and fulfillment.
An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do to be sure that no such God exists. To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed. - Conversations with Carl Sagan (2006), edited by Tom Head, p. 70
I am a big fan of Sagan, but he is just plain wrong here. He does atheism an incredible disservice with this statement. Sometimes quoting a credible source to add weight to an argument, is just as logically flawed as using one's supposed lack of credibility as a source of disconfirmation, (kind of an ad hominem in reverse).
Atheism is NOT about certainty at all. Atheism concerning belief in a desert god is no different than non-belief in the Easter Bunny. The burden of proof lies with the believer. If empirical evidence is demonstrated for the existence of said god, an intellectually honest atheist would change her/his position.
If I'd been honest with myself, I would've identified as atheist a decade before I left the cult. The cult mind control was the only thing that kept me believing in the possibility of a god for that long. The thing that made me atheist was just thinking and learning about the the things that are often given as reasons God is necessary. Morality, existence of life, the existence of the universe, and a meaning to life. I realized that not only is god unnecessary to explain or provide necessary answers to these things but in many ways the hypothesis of god limits us on all these topics. At that point there just wasn't any need for god in my life.
Acquiring knowledge outside of mythological teachings is a key factor in relinquishing the beliefs in supernatural spiritualism.