"Faith" is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see --
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.
Emily Dickinson, 1860
I suppose I am not the only one to go off to college and come out the other side without her faith. It was a combination of heavy emphasis on the science aspect, exposure to people of other, non-Christian religions which my small hometown was conspicuously lacking, and a certain sense of glamor to becoming a non-believer.
I took Physics classes that explored different theories of the beginning of the Universe. I took Biology classes that postulated theories for the beginning of life. I took Psychology classes that studied the formation of cults. I took Sociology classes that described the human need for religion.
I took all these into account, and I thought to myself that if I had been born in India, I would no doubt be a Hindu. If I had been born in Saudi Arabia, I would have been a Muslim. If I had been born in Greece four thousand years ago, I would be a worshipper of Zeus and Athena and Ares. It seemed to me that religion was almost wholy dependent upon what family in which culture you are born in. And it also seemed to me that all those people practicing all those other faiths believed in them just as strongly as the Catholics I grew up with. And what right did I have to decide that one is more true than the other?
Faced with the idea that all these religions could be the one true religion, I rejected them all as being equally false. Well, not necessarily false, but manufactured. Created by humans to fill a societal, psychological, emotional role. Religion helped people live together in harmony, provided shelter from the thought of death, gave people hope and inspiration. It was good enough for those who needed it, but for those who didn't, who could see through all the hocus-pocus, it was unnecessary.
And so I entered into my atheist stage.
to be continued