This is one of a series of autobiographical stories of how people became atheists. The inspiration for it was the idea that one of the reasons we’re America’s least-trusted minority is that many see the label but not the person behind it. These narratives are intended to show the human face of atheists to those who currently have only a stereotypical and probably negative image of us to go by. Guest writers are encouraged to contribute their stories. Contact me via my Facebook page for more detail.
So far, all our biographies have been from California residents. This time though, we go international. Today’s story is from Bruce Taylor who says about himself. “I live just outside Amsterdam in the Netherlands and, after 40 years in the development of software for the travel industry, I am now retired. Hence, I can spend my time on the things which interest me and which I never had time for when I was working and bringing up a family. I have been doing Cosmology and Evolution at our local university, plus trying to write my memoirs.”
For me it was too easy becoming an atheist: I was born one. By that I mean that I was born into an atheist family. Richard Dawkins says that there is no such thing as a Christian child, or a Muslim child, or a Hindu child, etc. but if you are born into a religious family then, irrespective of how crazy its beliefs, in most cases that is what you will become and that is what you will remain. Your parents will brainwash you during your formative years and your religion is simply an accident of your birth. Only the lucky and resourceful few escape. When I read these stories of valiant struggle to throw off the nonsense of religion, I am humbled and thankful that I was one of the fortunate few to have had enlightened parents.
I was born late in 1942 in the city of Bristol, in the west of England. You may remember that there was a war going on at that time (World War II, between the good guys, us, and the bad guys, all Germans born before 1930) and for the previous two and a half years Bristol had been suffering from the attentions of the Luftwaffe. That attention was the bombing known as the Bristol Blitz, in which a large part of the centre of the city and the docks area were reduced to rubble. However, I arrived after the worst of it had finished, since the intense attacks were from early 1940 through to the summer of 1942. I was, of course, blissfully ignorant of it all and of all the rest of the course of the war, since I was only two and a half when Germany capitulated. My earliest memories of Bristol do include playing happily with friends and younger brothers in the rubble of bombed buildings, which just goes to show that the hard work of the Luftwaffe was not all in vain.
My father was a policeman and came originally from Wales. How long his family had been Welsh I know not, but they had been farm labourers for generations. According to my father they had also been atheists for generations, at least on the male side and at least since his grandfather. However, it was not wise in the Victorian era to broadcast this fact, particularly not in a rural setting, and my father had been brought up to keep his head below the parapet and his beliefs secret. Hence, my father was a quiet but unfaltering atheist. My mother, on the other hand, I would assess as a passive agnostic. She had come from an equally passive Anglican family. I.E. they went to church for christenings, weddings and funerals, but for no other purpose and religion played no active role in their lives. Ostensibly they were Christians and, if asked, Christians they would claim to be, but it meant little to them other than that everyone else they knew claimed to be exactly the same. The children were all sent to Sunday school to learn the mumbo-jumbo. When I was 8 to 9 years old, my father also sent me and my brothers to Sunday School at the local Anglican church, just to give us a taste of what so many of our school friends were exposed to. On our return home he would ask what we had been told and when we did so, he would point out its shortcomings. However, that did not last for long since my parents decided to emigrate from England to New Zealand.
Living in a small rural town in New Zealand, religion was even more remote. My three brothers and I were simply oblivious to the preaching’s of any and all faiths. The education system was thoroughly secular and it was only when I got to university and became exposed to the philosophers, that I had a period where agnosticism seemed logically a more reasonable position to adopt. Again, that phase did not last for long either, since my head may have said “best sit on the fence and be agnostic”, but my heart said “you are an atheist”!
Have I missed out because I have not had to suffer the trials and tribulations of losing an untenable faith?
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