I was not born an atheist. In my hormone-troubled teens I was Christian for a while until rationality returned and I saw Christianity for the fiction that it is. My book – The Christian Fallacy – sets out my case. I think in the final analysis, it is the ‘god as loving father’ concept that I can’t stomach. Partly because all the evidence is to the contrary – and yes, I do understand about original sin and the inevitability of suffering in a fallen world, but that is all so much Pauline sophistry to excuse the inexcusable. But more fundamentally, it is because I am suspicious of the psychological origin of the ‘heavenly father’ concept. It just seems so obvious to me that we project our infantile desires for the warmth and protection of a father figure onto our deity. Indeed, it seems to me that the Catholic Church’s elevation of Mary to near-godhead reflects the fact that what people would ideally like, if only a patriarchal society would allow it, is a female god figure whose maternal embrace offers all the submissive, passive attractions of infantile regression to the womb. So no, sorry - I am grown up now, and much as I loved and miss my parents, I don’t need any celestial substitutes.
For many years, I called myself an agnostic because I could not prove there is no god. But this stance was just intellectually dishonest. I really don’t think there is a god, so the term ‘atheist’ best describes my position. We know that the cosmos came into existence at the singularity known as the big bang. Science cannot look ‘before’ that point – the concept of time itself has no meaning beyond the singularity. So science cannot answer the ultimate question of who or what ‘caused’ the big bang? For many people, the answer has to be ‘god’. Pope Pius XII (‘Hitler’s Pope’) welcomed the big bang theory because he believed it ‘required’ the existence of god. But does it? Any first year philosophy student will tell you that the search for prime causes just leads to infinite regression. It seems to me that we are stuck in a paradigm created by our natural environment. We see the choice before us as existential – ‘being’ or ‘nothingness’. We assume that the natural order of things is nothingness, thereby raising the issue of why things exist at all. But what if the paradigm is the wrong way about? What if the natural order of things is being, and the problematical issue is nothingness? Put more simply, why do we think nothingness is a possibility? I can imagine an infinite number of things that don’t actually exist – from flying pigs to James Bond. Just because we can imagine a state of nothingness does not mean that it is possible. The cosmos exists as it exists, because there is no alternative. That is just the way it is. If you don’t like the way it is, change it; don’t wait for some imaginary, paternal sky being to solve it all with the sweep of his/her/its omnipotent arm in some apocalyptic event, because it isn’t going to happen.
And if you want my evidence for that assertion, you will have to wait for my next book.