The response to my post on why I’m an atheist has been nothing short of fantastic. It instantly became my most read post and I received great feedback from friends and strangers a like. Conor commented that he must write one himself and I offered him my blog as a venue. And now, over to Conor.
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Hello, I’m Conor Murphy, this is a post telling my “why I’m an Atheist” story.
Well I guess it started off with my Parents. My parents didn’t baptise me and decided that it would be wrong of them to impose any religion on me at such a young age. My Mother, I suspect is privately religious as her mother (my grandmother) passed away about a year ago and she was very religious. So I guess to her giving up on the belief and the traditions would be giving up on the memory of her mother. She wouldn’t be a regular mass goer at all, not even Christmas but she does the little manger and lighting of the candle in the porch “for lost travellers”. I live in an estate, no lost travellers here. My dad is very anti church and religious institutions which is coming more out now that I’m an adult and he knows I feel the same way. He has his own unique take on the universe that’s a bit out there and certainly not scientifically based.
Since you can join any religion at any time and religions only indoctrinate children out of fear that their “souls” would be lost if they were to die and they weren’t made a member of the cult/religion it was sound reasoning to let me figure out my own path through the maze of these concepts and proof and if I decided to become a member of X religion at the end of this quest then no religion would refuse me. They enrolled me into a non-denominational primary school that wasn’t local to us but was on the commute to my mom’s work (or at least not too inconvenient from it). Catholic instruction was possible in this school but it was meant to be done outside of class time and was an opt in rather than the non-religious opting out. The teacher simply gave us extra Maths or Irish for the half an hour or so that the class was split. I remember having no concept of what the word “Religion” meant but I knew that it seemed to be a way of getting off Maths. I remember asking my parents what is this “Religion” thing and can I do it? To which they replied “eh, Conor I don’t think you’d like that” and as soon as I found out that this “Religion” meant bible lessons I think I was willing to suffer the Maths in preference.
I’ll fast forward a bit to around the 10-12 age. At this stage I was an early bloomer in terms of intelligence. I was no means “gifted”, I would struggle at things like Irish and some aspects of Maths but myself and another kid, would’ve been above our age in scientific interest and comprehension. I would’ve been a regular watcher of BBC Horizon and Wildlife on one at this stage and would’ve understood most of it. This I feel was key to laying down the foundations of the scientific basis of evolution and the relationship between similar animal species in my head. I could see the similarity of Humans and the other great apes and of dogs and wolves and other examples. I was only just hearing of Darwin and his body of work at this stage as my first, and still one of my greatest, hero of Biology and natural world is David Attenborough. It just made sense to me and the evidence has only gotten stronger since then. At this stage I felt that I wasn’t a believer based on the information I had at my disposal, I didn’t have a label for it
My transfer to second level wasn’t an easy one, I went to my local one whereas my primary school friends naturally went to the nearest one to the primary school. It is a Community school and is “officially” supposed to have some catholic founding or history but in truth they were and I presume still are quite progressive in their teaching of religious concepts. I don’t think I’d be as far progressed and as comfortable with my position as I am now if there was more of an emphasis on indoctrination, (or maybe that would have caused me to rebel against it more, I don’t know). I retreated quite a bit into my shell for the first 3 years and in some areas I haven’t fully gotten over those self-esteem issues. I was convinced I was the sole atheist but funnily enough that didn’t make me feel down as I had built up a mental brick wall and a façade towards my fellow students. I was only myself around my immediate and extended family. It was 4th year or transition year where I came out of my shell quite a bit and made lifelong close friends. I saw no need to keep up the façade and saw transition year as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. The fact that there were several bonding trips such as cycling for a week or Paris or skiing (5th year) only catalysed my intent.
During 6th year, religion class was a study period with occasional guest speakers from various religious groups. We had an ex Jehovah Witness (he gave us the inside scoop that a practising one would never give us), group of Hare Krishnas and maybe a few others I forget. A funny side story is that 15 mins before our teacher brought in the Hare Krishnas he said to the assembled class “Now you’re about to meet a strange crowd, with bird droppings on their foreheads and curtains around their waists” I think a few students at the back were still chuckling when they came in with their hand drums and mantra chanting.
I wasn’t really an outspoken atheist at the time but would have told people if they asked. The same as I feel now. I found out a few of my friends were also atheists at this stage. But my closest friend funnily enough I don’t think I ever asked him. He either is an Atheist or a very lax catholic otherwise he would have put up with me all these years. This pretty much brings me up to speed as my views haven’t changed since then. I subscribe to the Skeptics Guide to the Universe, The Atheist Experience and The Non Prophets podcasts (among others). I am a loose member of Atheist Ireland, by that I mean I subscribe to their newsletters and Facebook group and occasionally fall in for their social meetups.
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If anyone else would like to use my blog as a venue for their why I’m an atheist story, please do contact me. Conor blogs at secularcelt.blogspot.com.
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