Why am I so passionate about atheism?
I grew up in an atheist household in Melbourne, Australia, where Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" was a must watch, and David Attenborough was king, warranting the "special shortbread" to be brought out whenever his documentaries were on TV.
Side note: Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" still rocks, as does Neil Degrasse Tyson's new version. And I still watch every documentary by David Attenborough as he will always and forever be King. 🙂
When it came to religion, Mum had been brought up a Methodist, which meant that, when she no longer believed in a God, she was just an atheist.
However Dad, born before WWII (he had me when he was MUCH older), had been brought up a STRICT Catholic.
This meant when he no longer believed in a God, he became a "Catholic Atheist", which, as I discovered, was very different from just being an atheist.
This ended up having a profound effect on my opinion of religion, and of the idea so often spouted by religious apologists, that religion is, at worst, benign, and should be allowed to exist without any challenges from the outside world.
The defining moment which cemented, not just my atheism, but the importance of openly speaking out against the hypocrisies and inconsistencies of religion, happened when I was about 15...
I was sitting at the kitchen table, having a cup of tea with Dad. We started talking about religion, and suddenly, as the subject of hell came up, it became startlingly obvious that the idea of eternal torment still completely terrified him.
Not because he believed in hell, but because it had been drummed into him continuously as a small child...
(Unfortunately he had attended one of the famously brutal Catholic schools run by the even more famously sadistic brothers and nuns in Melbourne, where they had, quite literally, put the fear of God into him and countless other innocent little children.)
This meant that, over 5 decades later, just the mere thought of hell brought up instant, and extreme feelings of terror, anxiety, shame, and guilt in him.
And I remember thinking, what could my loving, gentle, "spoils his daughter rotten" father possibly have done in life to make the idea of eternal punishment something that he should fear?
Unless having more model railway magazines than any person could possibly need had suddenly become a major sin!
And while I know that fearing hell isn't the worst thing religion can do, (certainly not at the school my father went to), this was when I really began to understand that, far from being benign, how truly damaging religion can be.
And that these painful effects can last a lifetime, making it vitally important to speak out against a way of thought that can allow such abuse to occur.
From that time on I was an open and passionate atheist, always ready to question and challenge any ridiculous, unscientific, and damaging claims that religion night make!