Monday, February 19, 2007

An Atheist

I have a degree in Physics, but I'm not a practicing Scientist. However, I specialise in figuring out how very complicated things work, making sense of them and explaining it to other people who are confused. Seriously, that's what I do in my day job. I've always been able to do this, it seems easy to me, and it pays well....

So when I was in high school, and I had to write an essay for a Religious Education lesson, I explored the idea that the source of religious belief was the result of encounters with extra-terrestrial aliens. I wrote a serious (if naive) essay. It seemed like a very reasonable and sensible explanation for the religion that I saw around me. In particular, lets suppose that a real alien did spend some time visiting a primitive culture, what long term effect would you predict? I thought it would look a lot like the religion we see in the world today. My RE teacher was not particularly happy with my essay, but he didn't seem to have any counter arguments, other than to imply that I was making a joke, which I wasn't.

I'm older and wiser now, and I don't see the need for alien visitation. I think the human mind is perfectly capable of creating all the trappings of religion on its own, without aliens or any kind of supernatural assistance.

For many years I was happy to live a life that had a profound absence of any need for religion whatsoever, but I kept my beliefs to myself. I disapproved of religions that had a missionary component and tried to recruit others, but I just kept quiet in case I upset someone. In the UK this is easy. Religion is in the background, easy to ignore and avoid, of historical interest, but just not very important in most peoples lives. The overtly religious are a harmless minority.

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