I went to a more than usually religious Church of England school but it seemed to have very little impact on me, perhaps because the message wasn’t being reinforced at home. I still think it’s extraordinary how many parents bring their children up to be of a certain faith rather than letting them decide for themselves.
As a child I don’t think that Christianity was ever an option. I do, however, remember thinking as a young boy that occasionally I ought to pray to God (asking him to make me taller, for example); so I tried this a couple of times, aware to some extent of how ridiculous I must have looked, and then never bothered again.
As an adult, I have never considered Christianity. To me it is so patently false that it must immediately be discounted. There is not enough space to list the reasons I have for rejecting Christianity. There is not, first and foremost, a shred of truth in any of the extraordinary claims it makes. There is no way one can go from reading about a highprofile Bronze Age preacher in Israel to believing that he was born of a virgin, that he was resurrected, and that he is therefore the Son of God.
The argument seems to me rather circular: Why do Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead? Because he is the Son of God. Why do Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God? Because he rose from the dead. To believe Jesus was resurrected on the basis of historical evidence would require a staggering level of credulity, and I don’t know how many Christians would argue that the case could be made. Why, therefore, does there exist this desperate urge to draw gargantuan claims from pitiful evidence? Why not concede to a very obvious defeat? It is this wishful thinking, this need to have comforting and childish explanations that defy logic, that informs my rejection of religion.
Added to this are the daily assaults inflicted by faith (often Christianity) on education, free expression and human rights. To stand idly by while homosexuals are being persecuted because of religion seems inexcusable to me; to do nothing about the rise in faith schools, or our freedom to write novels and films ridiculing religion, seems equally inexcusable. Christianity is not and cannot be happy with simply believing its doctrines; it must, does and always will tell people exactly how to lead their lives.
A book has never managed to make me throw up before, but Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ remains the strongest contender. That books as dishonest and as saccharine as this can be published, let alone taken seriously by anyone in this day and age, is a phenomenon I believe we have an urgent duty to address. Reason must win out over faith.
I do know quite a number of evangelical Christians. I am lucky in that they are all largely harmless, quiet believers and not members of Westboro Baptist Church. But just as I suspect that they believe I will wind up in the fiery pits of hell (although if they actually believed that, I wonder why they don’t devote more time to preventing it), I do think it a shame that so much of their time and energy is devoted to proselytising a nonsensical belief. One of the central beliefs of any atheist is that there is neither a heaven nor a hell to which we are sent after death. This life therefore becomes all the more precious and we must urgently make full use of the critical faculties we possess. All of the Christians I know are absolutely lovely people but a) ask them about homosexuality and they swiftly reveal that they are homophobic, and b) because they are generally so lovely, it is painful to see that they are labouring under a very grave misapprehension.
I consider prayer to be perhaps the most baffling element of the Christian faith, or of any other, for that matter. It’s absolutely nonsensical to me. I could perhaps more easily understand it if it were described as a one-way conversation with God; what I cannot comprehend is the belief that the prayer will actually alter the course of events in the real world. Unfortunate and heartbreaking things are going to happen every second on this earth, whether one prays or not.
I am what I would describe as a militant atheist; what Christopher Hitchens described as an ‘antitheist’. In other words, I am someone who actively tackles religion, who actively attempts to highlight its bigotry and irrelevance. I believe that one has a duty to denounce all religions as quite obviously false and delusional, to live life thinking for oneself, to reject wishful thinking, embracing the truth, however unwelcome, and to fight vehemently against the idea of faith being a virtue around which to base one’s actions.
Ralph Jones works as a publishing assistant at John Wiley Sons and writes and performs with a comedy group called The Awkward Silence (theawkwardsilence.co.uk). He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ralph was talking to Sarah Lothian.