Interview with me over at Deity Shmeity
Have you always been a nonbeliever? If not, what were you before and what was most influential in your change? If so, has anything ever tempted you to believe in a deity?
It depends upon what you mean by “non-believer”. As a child I was told there was a God and a Jesus and that we should be thankful to them, but this mostly came from the society around me and my extended family, not from my parents, in the form of prayer at family meals like Thanks Giving and Christmas. My mother an father came from scientific schools of thought, mother studying physiotherapy and my father fresh-water biology, so the scientific method was something they had to employ in their daily working lives. This trickled down to my brother and I as we were growing up. They always supported us to think critically about the things presented to us, and later in life have come out to me as atheists, both independently of the other.
Probably the closest I ever was to a “believer” of any kind was a bit of a new-age hippy in my teen years. Most of this was due to ascribing too much to weight to things like commonality of being human, happenstance and coincidence, and an ignorance of what mechanisms are actually in place when dealing with each other and the world at large. When I learned more about human psychology and the physical sciences, 99% of this was thrown out the window. I became agnostic (always was really), but still hadn’t made the logical jump to “atheist” at this stage. It wasn’t until I read “The God Delusion” that I gained the courage and insight I needed to become atheist proper. So the journey was a series of small steps, from being told to believe, to being free to explore, to coming to the eventual conclusion that there is no reason to believe in any gods.
In terms of belief in any particular deity, maybe the closest I came was thinking that there was a Gaia or universe god, which was actually the universe itself. Almost deistic, but probably a lazy and disconnected version of such. I became much more rigorous in my questioning as I have grown older.
Everything about your blog screams “well-read”–from the informed opinions within the articles, to the back-cover style testimonials, to the “Reading” tab linking to books you’ve enjoyed. If you could offer one book to a person who is starting to doubt their faith, what would it be and why?
Firstly, thank you for the praise. I really just consider it my ramblings, and am pretty happy that people like to read it. I try to be as even and informed as possible, and I’m glad that this comes through in my writing.
If there was one book for people to start doubting their faith, the best for me would be Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces. While this book doesn’t seek to discredit religion per se, it does a great job of showing that the stories of Jesus, Krishna, and any other deity all are rooted in a similar structure, what Carl Jung would call “Archetypes”. These archetypes are each very similar in many ways, including the journey these religious heroes and mythical characters take on their paths to enlightenment. It even draws on popular cultural references, such as the journey of Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars series, and even The Lion King, to show that this story structure still resonates with us today as it did with Homer’s Odyssey. Once a person has this perspective on these, the most powerful stories in human history, the whole Jesus myth starts to fade into just another story. For me, this book was one of the first that started me on my journey of discovery.