Friday, 29 August 2014

Coming Out

I'm an Atheist. Here's my story.

Even though my background is that of a scientist, culminating in an honours degree in Biology, most of my emotional life has been haunted by superstition, the supernatural and religious terror.

In my early 20's I went on a quest, to apply my scientific reasoning to religion, to seek the answers to the big questions, once and for all. Rather than the calm and logical reasoning I had imagined, I found the mechanism to open up my Pandora's box of fears about my own mortality. I suffered badly from panic attacks, emotional instability, sleep deprivation, delusions about supernatural intent. Jesus wasn't my saviour, he was my torturer.

I stepped into the realm of religion, into Christianity, with a questioning mind, and fell out the other end, an emotional and psychological wreck.

For many years, I medicated myself with alcohol and worldly pursuits. When I lost my father, I held it together for my mothers sake. When I lost my mother, I lost it totally. I would cling to mysticism, fortune telling, or clairvoyants. Desperately trying to make sense of the loss.

Time wore on, and I still suffered from panic attacks and hypochondria. Superstitious behaviours and supernatural thinking underpinning my thought processes. Many imagined delusions about an afterlife. I suppose I spent a lot of time in a state of mortal terror, obsessed with death and my demise.

In my late forties, I stumble upon a video by Sam Harris. I watch it, feeling uneasy because it talks about Death. Everything he said just made sense. I tentatively watch more of his material.

Around the same time, I began watching the TV show Wonder of Life by Professor Brian Cox. I'd not watched his other Wonder series, but this one show connected my childhood fascination with Astronomy (that had lapsed since my early teens) with my biological education to degree level. In six episodes Brian had pieced together the vastness of space with complexity of life on Earth. It just made sense to me, and re-kindled both my love for Biology and fascination with Astronomy at the same time.

Finally with my new found interest in these sciences, I began watching material by Richard Dawkins. An eminent evolutionary biologist, and a man who strongly believes in the "Poetry of Reality" based on evidence. I vociferously guzzled down Richard's work, and now truly understood the evolution of life, our place on the planet and in the Cosmos itself. He just made sense to me.

This site was founded upon what I call my Dawning Enlightenment. It's taken a long time to come to fruition, but with the help of these men and their discussions, books and TV shows, I have come a long way from the emotional and psychological wreck that I once was.

If I'd have only known that my grounding in science was ultimately the key to my understanding "Life, the Universe and Everything", I could have saved myself so many years of self-torment, so many wasted years shrouded in depression.

Sam lit the candle, Brian illuminated the Cosmos and Richard grounded me in the evolutionary tree of life.

Since my personal enlightenment I have gone on to read many other important people (Hitchens, deGrasse Tyson, Krauss, Feynman, Ray, Sagan etc.) having equally important things to say about the reality of life and what's actually out there NOT what is imagined to be out there.

Atheism for me was a gradual climb, but one which I am now relieved and a little proud to be a part of. The shift of perspective is incredible. Science makes you care more for the people and the planet than any fabled laws written down could.

My hope is that with the almost rampant proliferation of information across the Internet, this enlightenment will spread and the Human race will grow up and see the world and life for what it is, a fantastically precious thing to nurture into the future. It's time to shift our perspective of concern higher than 'iron age fairy tales', territorial control, racial hatred to cherishing the life on earth and the planet itself.

I'm Ian. And I'm relieved to be an Atheist, grounded in reality.

Monday, 25 August 2014

The Answers

Long, long ago, when I was a superstitious, semi-spiritual, wishful thinker - in spite of an intense overwhelming fear of death - I used to imagine how at least in death, I would know the answers to everything. My spirit would ascend, and I would enter a realm where the answers would be revealed to me.

So eventually, I would find out what the spiritual entity behind the whole thing had planned for me. The answers would be my reward. The ultimate revelation. This notion can transcend any denomination. This imaginative and creative thinking, can comfort you because you only have to wait for death and then the answers will be bestowed upon you.

I spent many years with this fanciful notion at the heart of my faith in "something".

After my dawning enlightenment, using reality as my guide, I noticed that instead of waiting and having to physically die for these fabled answers to be gifted to me, most of them had already been given to me whilst I was alive! If only I'd used my mental faculties to seek the actual information out!

For many years, my terrified and fearful consciousness had postponed rational thought on the matter, and had sidelined the main questions for presumed/imagined answers after death!

How wonderful it is to have *some* of those big questions answered truthfully by human scientific endeavour during my lifetime!

I know my place in the bigger scheme of things. I see where I've come from, and ultimately where I'm going. My purpose on this planet is clear to me. To live. Here. Now. A biological machine, a genetic vehicle, to be a part of the story of life on this planet.

Not only can science reveal these truths about my immediate status - it can open my conscious mind (itself a product of evolutionary survival and refinement) up to truths that span many many lifetimes, and millions upon millions of years.

I am no longer willing to defer this knowledge to the vacuum of my death. I am using my biology, and our history of scientific discovery, to find the answers when I am in a state to comprehend them.

Bathe luxuriously in these truths now.

The story is so big, and we are so little, these answers are so precious to us.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Religious Phage

I've heard..

*Religion is Poison*, by Hitch

*Religion is a Delusion* by Dawkins

*Religion is an Iron Age Fairy Tale* by Harris

Recently-ish, the Dawkins inspired meme (memetic?) concept was fleshed out a little more to include the biological analogy that...

*Religion is a Virus* by Darrel Ray.

The God Virus

It's an interesting fit. One that is worth considering. As we move on, global concepts and ideas will proliferate, and this Globalisation will require a more detached objective view on geographically localised Religion. We need to make sure the thinkers of the future embrace the scientific reality of the world, and identify the cultures and delusional poisonous ancient fairy tales that still infect many people on this fragile planet.

For it truly is a Phage, a Devourer of reason and rationale. A vector for blatant ignorance and defiance of cumulative scientific discovery. If we are to embrace our period of enlightenment, we need to innoculate our newborn potential intelligences against this most destructive of viral diseases.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Atheist Cult?

I am quite disheartened, because my new found enthusiasm for reason and rational thinking, for embracing all that is real, and openly dismissing all that is related to the falsehood that is religion is annoying my close family.

They think I go too far.

They think I am a ranting zealot.

They think its some sort of cult.

And that atheism is the new fanatical religion in my life.

Nothing can be farther from the truth. However my enthusiasm and my emotional need to keep reaffirming my "beliefs" are obviously affecting them.

The thing is, I've been a hollow, emotionally volatile, wisp of a man for many years, medicating myself with alcohol for much of it, ultimately at the mercy of my fears towards death. Hypochondria. Panic attacks etc.

Death has so heavily exacted a toll on my life over the years, its claws are in every aspect of my being. My new found "enlightenment" in Atheism, Reason, Science and the Truth of Reality really is a kind of ongoing therapy for me. Self administered. I find myself easily slipping into superstitious ways, or hoping for salvation and an afterlife of some sort, or wishing reconciliation with my dead parents. These thought processes have been conditioned into me and nurtured by me, from an early age. They have kept me weak of will, with no personal integrity, no dignity, no backbone (if you like).

So, I need to reinforce my current understanding of things, by watching leading scientists in their field present the arguments, offer up new viewpoints, by stating the realities of it all, and by being annoyed at the damage that has been done to the world over the years by religion, by supernatural twaddle, by pernicious pseudo-science. 

My inner strength, my growth, my rational adulthood needs frequent affirmation. These trains of thought are still new to me, the ability to drop all prejudice, all preconceptions, all sociopathic tribal hatred and to embrace the liberal secular views of Humanism is a major leap for me - going against everything I've been taught as a child, everything I've ever thought as a adult throughout my 20's and 30's.

Just a few years ago none of this would have been possible, I simply wasn't open enough to see the truth of the world. I was wrapped up in a supernatural superstitious semi-spiritual delusion. Perhaps John Edwards, or Colin Fry can bridge the gap and put me in touch with my parents, or confirm the presence of an afterlife, or a God that will meter out justice? Whilst others thought that it was just a "bit of fun", I seriously considered it as the truth!

I could convince myself that I was having a spiritual experience when my Father-in-Law George died, I felt his presence "in the corner of the room". I thought that was true! I was in a place where just thinking something could convince me it was true.

Hence, ridiculous phobias about connecting bad things with situations or inanimate objects. Watching the film Dragonheart (because thats what I was watching when my Mam phoned me and announced she had terminal Cancer). Watching the film Gallipoli (the night prior to my Dad's death). Wearing Dungarees (because I was very ill after I tried something new like wearing all-in-one trousers). Forming ways of behaving based around irrational pattern matching.  These are behaviours of an emotional child.

I feel I have taken a major step forward in terms of development and maturity, to get to the point where I only accept reality, I only trust evidence, and I am keenly trying to educate myself in the things that I now feel matter. The World. The Climate. Humanity. Our future as a species, bearing in mind the poisonous spread of religious fanaticism.

The Reality of it all has dawned upon me, by the help of scientific celebrities and their teachings.

I was once a scientist. I understood the scientific method. But I didn't know it held the key to my growth/recovery and ability to face up to my fears. I feel more grounded. Stronger. And more open to new ideas, new ways of thinking. To use Dr Steve Peter’s Chimp Paradox model, my chimp has hijacked my life for long enough, and now the sentient Human wants control.

Now I understand how this life will unfold. Now that I'm not waiting on some judgement, some supernatural justice. I want to enjoy whats left with my new perspective.

I haven't joined a cult.

I'm not brainwashed.

I've never been more "awake", mentally speaking.

I've never had this much control over my emotions and thought processes.

I'm no longer flailing about, like a lost child looking for a parents hand.

I accept my incoming death. I don't like it. But I understand the processes that are underway to bring it about.

My conscious self wants to enjoy as much life as I can.

I'm not totally there yet though.

I still have doubts.

And my seemingly constant barrage of anti-religious quips, jibes and taunts - is purely a self confirmation in my new mental perspective. I'm sure it will calm down. I'm sure I'll end up as a content and rather placid Atheist. But at the moment, the pain of the damage wrought upon me by superstition / supernatural / religious delusion still stings, and I have anger towards it. 40 odd years wasted in emotional torment. I simply have to shake my fist!

This is my journey.

And if its annoying, or amusing to you, and you think I'm mad, or have joined a cult, then so be it. I'll try and temper my fervour and reign it in as best I can. I am striving to be a better person than I was. To be more rational. To be an Adult. To be Human.

This "enlightenment" process is probably the best thing that has happened to me for many years, and I treasure it, and in doing so I'm probably coming across as fanatical, for that I apologise. It is VERY important to me though. It's not a fad. It's not a new toy that I will throw away. I see it as the answer to a lot of my emotional issues and phobias. Not some 12 step help book, but a real positive way to look at life and face the truth (and beauty) of reality.