Saturday, July 25, 2009

Going to Hell

I haven't always been an atheist. There was a time when I was young when I cried myself to sleep because I was so scared about going to Hell. Belief in Hell is, by definition, theist. Not certain where I got such an impression of Hell, but I have a hunch. My family joined the Velvet Hills Baptist Church. In fact, my dad helped build the... umm, building. The preachers visited the Sunday-school classes and told us their stories. Great story-tellers; they were extremely impassioned.

On Sunday mornings, my dad used to have the TV or radio tuned into religious shows while he was milling around, working on the house; so one would think my dad a religious man.

I don't think I ever bought into that view of my dad. One day my mom told me that my dad didn't believe in God. I think I found that difficult to comprehend, but I'm glad that seed was planted. That singular event might have opened my mind just a crack to the possibility.

You see, somewhere along the line I switched. I stopped believing in God.

The rock-opera Jesus Christ Superstar has always been a fixture in my family. My parents used to play the soundtrack on our stereo. Later, we owned the video and watched it many times. That movie left me with the impression that Jesus was probably just a cool guy. Except for the end of the movie, where the song "Jesus Christ Superstar" goes rather Broadway, there is nothing in the movie that suggest Jesus was the son of God. No miracles, divine intervention... nothing. In my view, it told the story of a sociological phenomenon.

At some point, I learned about the theory of evolution. I guess it was grade 10 when I first heard about it. It was a feeble introduction in science class; we watched a video that I don't think I really understood. No class discussion. I'm not sure if our teacher didn't believe in it, or if was too much of a hot-button topic to be worth dwelling on. Regardless, over the next 10 years or so, I would come to respect that theory a great deal. To me, it's one of the most profound ideas ever conceived.

I also recall thinking that if there really was a god, he'd be OK with the way I live my life. I am nice to people, and give a lot of thought to the way the world works.

Today, I'm pretty public about the fact that I am atheist. The only caveat is that I am technically agnostic. I am a scientist in the sense that I believe we should look to explain our world through natural causes, not super-natural causes. The God hypothesis is unfalsifiable in that there is no natural observation that can disprove the existence of God. So, that's why I hope that if there is a God, he's understanding about people like me.

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