I was watching this meeting between Richard Dawkins and Ricky Gervais on Youtube recently and it got me thinking about religion. From a young age, until the age of 18 I was religious. I joined the Salvation Army after dropping into a kid's club when I was young, and as it was at the end of the road I lived, on I carried on attending. My parents were never religious but by attending this group I began to believe what I was being told, and progressed into joining the youth group. It was a great friendship network outside of school and gave me opportunities to try interesting activities.
When I finished secondary school I wanted to do a gap year and I joined the Timothy programme, a Salvation Army gap year programme. It mainly involved being involved in youth work at a given church, and I was sent to Manchester to be involved in a branch there. I worked with schools and the church and ran the youth group while I was there. It was interesting, but I was lonely, and my lodgings were with an 81 year old woman so I spent most evenings alone. My next door neighbour was a similar age boy and I soon started spending time hanging out with him. We quickly became boyfriend and girlfriend.
He had grown up as a mormon and had moved away from the church despite having religious parents. We began talking about religion, and he put forward some very sensible arguments. Although he was a bit pushy about trying to get me to re-think my views, I took some time alone to really consider what I believe. I decided I didn't think there was a God. I couldn't see how I could believe in something with so little evidence, and that I could quite easily live without. I felt that the reasonable and mostly likely argument was that he wasn't there. I also had serious reservations about a lot of parts of the bible. It didn't seem fair or compassionate to burn someone in hell forever for simply not believing in God. This wasn't the kind of God I wanted to align myself with.
After that, I questioned everything and stopped attending church. I completed my gap year but no longer took part in the 'teaching' of young people as I didn't feel comfortable. I read books and found that many people I consider to be intelligent and knowledgeable also didn't believe in God. Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais, David Attenborough were all people I looked up to and respected the opinion of. I also didn't feel my life was lacking anything without religion, and I knew that being a good person for the sake of being good was more important to me than being religious.
Ricky Gervais mentions an analogy in this clip that Douglas Adams first stated. I found the entire quote and I think it's rather wonderful.
“This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it.”
― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt
We can think that the world must have been invented simply because things seem to work, but this quote reminds us that although a puddle fits the holes it is in exactly, science and molecules can explain this better than the idea of a creator can. Just because things seem to be perfect, doesn't mean they were designed. It is miraculous and awe-inspiring that the world has evolved to become the intricate and amazing world that it is. To us, it is by no means perfect - tsunamis, famine, disease and earthquakes are dangerous and upsetting. I can't imagine God would have chosen this reality. However, physically, the world is perfect. Diseases control population levels and dry weather is part of the seasonal cycle in parts in a landscape that has worked for thousands of years.
So, my personal belief is that we should enjoy the world and its perfection without worrying about an invisible being. Love one another and love life.
What are your thoughts on religion?