What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
Well, that's hard to say. The first trigger, when I first doubted, was when I was reading about Muslims and wondered how I knew I was right and they were wrong. But that just started the doubting.
The day I said 'I'm an atheist', I was reading The Story of B by Daniel Quinn...I had read Ishmael the week before.
I'll post some of the paragraphs that sent me reeling...you don't have to post them on your blog but this is about my expression and I feel like posting them at the moment:
"There is only one degree of having faith, but there are fifty degrees of losing it...I think I know one priest who has faith in that one degree that deserves the name of faith. All the rest, including me, are at one of those fifty degrees of losing it. Most of my parishioners would probably consider this a shocking admission, but I don't think it is. Of course there are priests who have gone beyond the fifty degrees and have walked away from the ministry. Everyone knows that, and I've known half a dozen of them myself. But the rest of us are still hanging on...This is actually reassuring, I think, because it shows that none of us wants to lose his faith or wants to think of himself as having lost it. Admittedly, this is partly just cowardice; we know that, once our faith is gone, the religious life will become utterly intolerable and we'll have to move on, out into an unknown world. But it's also partly because we have enough faith to want to go on having faith. When that amount of faith is gone, however, then it's all gone, and you're at the fifty-first degree. You're out, you're finished." - page 99-100
"To you, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism look very different, but to me they look the same. Many of you would say that something like Buddhism doesn't even belong in this list, since it doesn't link salvation to divine worship, but to me this is just a quibble. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism all perceive human beings as flawed, wounded creatures in need of salvation, and all rely fundamentally on revelations that spell out how salvation is to be attained, either by departing from this life or by rising above it...The adherents of these religions are mightily struck and obsessed by their differences - to the point of mayhem, murder, jihad, and genocide - but to me, as I say, you all look alike." - page 148, B
"'Man is the scourge of the planet and he was BORN a scourge, just a few thousand years ago.' Believe me, I can win applause all over the world by pronouncing these words. But the news I'm here to bring you is much different. 'Man was NOT born a few thousand years ago and he was NOT born a scourge.' And it's for this news that I'm condemned. 'Man was born MILLIONS of years ago, and he was no more a scourge than hawks or lions or squids. He lived AT PEACE with the world...for MILLIONS of years.' This doesn't mean he was a saint. This doesn't mean he walked the earth like a Buddha. It means he lived as harmlessly as a hyena or a shark or a rattlesnake. 'It's not MAN who is the scourge of the world, it's a single culture. One culture out of hundreds of thousands of cultures. OUR culture.' And here is the best of the news I have to bring: 'We don't have to change HUMANKIND in order to survive. We only have to change a single culture.' I don't mean to suggest that this is an easy task. But at least it's not an impossible one." - page 255
I could quote more but I don't want to get longwinded. Quinn's writing shattered my idea of humans as intrinsically 'special' and able to ignore the laws of nature. This fit in with what I had felt all along... An important movie for getting me ready to be an atheist was The Matrix. There are many great parts of that movie, but I was always disturbed by how much I agreed with Agent's Smith's monologue:
"I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet."
That quote still makes me shake, but it was not until I read Quinn that I could truly understand it. One reason Christianity is seductive is that it protects us from the truth about ourselves. This world does not matter, only the next. I realized that religion was a drug to blind ourselves from our true nature, to ease the suffering of our existence, but like a drug we had overdosed. Religion was bringing us to ruin. These words were coming from my mouth, I was an atheist.
Forgive me for quoting so much, but you asked about triggers specifically. Before those books I was not able to say I was an atheist, and after them I was. I really just needed a logical explanation of the world that didn't include God, and I finally got one, and Occam's Razor does the rest.
(I'm not trying to pimp Quinn as someone with all the answers, but he told a story about humanity that made more sense than any religion's story)
How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
I have always fought to understand the world. I wasn't afraid to ask questions because I knew that the truth of Christ would persevere anyway, I just wanted to help convince others so I had to understand where they were coming from.
So losing my faith was actually exciting and thrilling, because it simply made more sense to discard religion and the supernatural. I felt like I had solved a question of life that many could not, and I was very happy and still am.
I was always a liberal idealist, I just viewed Christ as one too, so politically I did not change.
My college friends did not go to church, and I hadn't gone since high school (I never really liked it and wanted to sleep in and ask forgiveness later), so the only point of difficultly was my parents. My grandfather was a Methodist reverend, so my father was a PK. I have three siblings, and we were all named after Bible heroes. But I could not live a lie, and refused to take communion one day when I was visiting home (though I had faked it for two years or so). Since then we don't talk much about religion, just baseball and other stuff. He probably feels I'll come around, and he's a good man, a Christian you wish most of them were like, so we are still close and he did not cut me off or anything because he believes Jesus would not do so.