"Toby, you strike me as a bloke who really wants to believe God is out there and is real.
Tell me, what made you change your mind on his existance or lack thereof? What was your previous belief system? "
I don't think I do want God to be real. If I found out tomorrow that he really did exist, I would firstly have to ask "which god" so that I could find out if I was headed for heaven or hell, nirvana, reincarnation or something else entirely. Lets say I found out it was the Christian God, and I started to believe because I was given the evidence, I repented and asked forgiveness and I was pretty sure I was going to heaven. The knowledge of a second life and what's more a far better life, would completely diminish the importance of this one. I'd be forced to question so many things such as why I see suffering in the world, why the natural world and indeed humans ourselves have so many imperfections and why, if he can, doesn't he stop bad things from happening? I imagine I wouldn't get an answer from God himself even if I prayed, so other Christians would tell me it's all part of his plan or that it's because I or someone else has sinned against him. That's not really the kind of god I'd like to find out exists!
I see no neccesity in there being a god. In fact I think his existence would actually devalue a lot of what we know about the world and the wonder I have in considering it all. For me it is far more amazing and beautiful that my eyes evolved to their fairly-good, but not perfect, state that they are today due to millions of years of fine tuning and improvement by natural selection, than if someone with the power to do everything simply said 'there you go... an eye' and didn't even bother to make it as perfect as it could have been! If God made my eye, why give me a blind spot? Why invert the picture? And why only let me see such a tiny fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum? Did it come with a reciept? Because I might trade it in for echo-location and wings to be honest. That sounds a lot more fun!
A small note on my history of belief:
I was bought up in a 'vaguely religious' home. My father basically believes in a God, but isn't sure that it is necessarily the Christian one. He certainly believes in Christian morals, the soul, and some higher power guiding life on earth. My mother claims to be agnostic, but often favours the side of the debate with less evidence and i think probably does believe in 'something more'. So my upbringing was fairly secular but I certainly celebrated Easter and Christmas and learnt why they were celebrated. I went to three different CofE Schools until I was 19. The first school had us singing hymns every morning, pray and hear a biblicaly-inspired moral story. The second did the same, but had it's own Chapel that we would go to every other Sunday for a full hour long service complete with bible readings. And the third had us in chapel every morning and every third Sunday with hymns, readings and prayer in all services. It was certainly the Christian faith I was exposed to more than anything else.
However, I also took Religious Education from a very early age, so learnt the basics of almost all other major religions. From about age 14 (i'm about to be 21) I started to discuss the likelihood of god's existence with friends and my brother, who is also now a non-theist. There was no particular moment when I realised I was an Atheist, but there was a gradual movement towards it over many years. The combining factors which changed my mind are probably:
- Learning about the many different belief systems and realising they couldn't all be correct.
- Being taught science to a high level and understanding that it explained everything far better and more elegantly than religion.
- Discovering evolution.
- Discovering other intelligent people were 'Atheist' and understanding what that meant.
- Not being happy with the position of Agnosticism, which I was for a year at least.
- Being forced to attend religious services by the school, despite claiming for the last 3 or 4 years of my time there that I wasn't a Christian, but realising the many inconsistencies, contradictions and falsehoods in the readings and services.
-And more recently, all this being strengthened by my continued research into the topics and surrounding areas.