Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Road to Blogging, Part 1

I am an atheist.

I don't think that's the most important thing to know about me, but I think it is the biggest factor that led to me starting this blog. Sort of. Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

My parents are non-religious. Although I can't remember them using the word "atheist" to describe themselves, I'm pretty sure that's what they are. Never the less, my childhood was full of the Judeo-Christian myths. Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, the tower of Babel - I have known these stories for as long as I could remember. There was the scripture teacher at the local primary school that told us to pray, and dutifully I did, once or twice. I had an illustrated children's bible that I asked my Grandma for (the Old Testament stories were the best, especially the gory ones). I devoured the Narnia books, although it wasn't until much later that I realised they were Christian allegory.

Yet by the age of 10, if not earlier, I was an avowed atheist. So what happened?

I asked questions. First they were fairly childish ones, like "how did Noah fit all the animals on the ark? And how did he stop the tigers eating the other animals?" I was told that these stories weren't literally true, that ancient cultures created myths to help explain the world, but now we used science instead.

Then I found out that there were other religions, and every person thought that their own religion was true and the other ones were false. Even as a kid, this set up sounded pretty fishy. And this new knowledge led me to ask another question. The BIG question. Possibly the biggest question of my life.

How do you know?

How do you know what is true?

How do you know about God, about fairies, about Santa Claus, about that thing the other kids said in the playground, about politics, economics, ghosts, Mac vs PC, the nature of reality itself?

I didn't know when I asked it how enormous a question this was, and that it would be years until I got an answer that I was even halfway satisfied with. But in the meantime, I had never heard any good justifications for why we knew any one particular God to be true, whereas we had a pretty good explanation for why people would make Gods up. God was an obsolete hypothesis, and I had no use for it.

I wouldn't exactly stand by this logic today, although it's not bad for someone whose age was still in single digits. But the process of asking the questions, of rejecting something that a grown-up says is true? That is what I'm most proud of wee-Elanor for.

This does connect to my blogging, I promise! But this post has gotten long, so I think I'll continue with this train of thought in another post. Until then...

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