Why I Am An Atheist – Part 1

Ros Lyn (Humanist Association of Ghana)

I became an unbeliever in 2007. It started with the idea of yearning for more knowledge on Christianity, specifically the Catholic religion I grew up with.  

I was baptised in a Catholic Parish and attended Primary, JSS and SSS Catholic schools. My mother’s side of the family are largely Catholic and my father’s side, Anglican. I was a communicant by age 10 and got confirmed in the Holy Spirit while in SSS by 18 years. All my catechism and confirmation classes were my decision. Even at that young age, I wanted to believe in God!

 

I had doubts when my mum died when I was 4 but I couldn’t question and thought religion must be true, since everyone I knew was religious. It was on my personal journey of research, and the will to empower myself with facts about my religion, that I gradually, and painfully, de-converted myself.  

I mostly kept it to myself in the beginning, keeping some hope that I could be wrong and that there really is a God, any God. But no one was able to convince me otherwise.  

I declared myself atheist when I attended my first meeting in 2012 with other atheists and agnostics living in Ghana. Hearing their stories and sharing information made me realise that I hadn’t even scratched the surface from my own research and barely knew anything regarding the amount of information and knowledge out there. I wasn’t alone or crazy – there are atheists in Ghana!  

My first ever international humanist conference that year cemented my non-belief. Ghana wasn’t alone! There were atheists from Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia. I was in awe that we existed across the continent.  
Since then, my confidence grew and I decided to come out to friends and family. Luckily I have an open-minded family and loyal friends. Though they don’t understand, I’m still loved, respected for my opinions and accepted, unlike some I met through the Humanist Association of Ghana and Freethought meetings. Others had been stigmatized, disowned by family and even declared witches!  

Since coming out, a lot of questions have been thrown my way by friends and family of different religious faiths including Christians, Muslims, Eckists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. Some of these questions have become frequently asked questions (FAQs) and I hope each part of my story will be able to explain why I am atheist. It also helped me to understand why people are religious from the FAQs I was asked.  

Some of the questions asked include:
1. How do you think we were created?
2. What makes you moral?
3. Why don’t you just believe in case you may be wrong?
4. Do you read your bible?
5. Most people all over the world believe in God. Do you think they are wrong and you know better?
6. Aren’t you afraid to go to hell?  

Sometimes, these questions caught me off-guard or when I wasn’t in the mood for debating. Other times these questions made me realise how backward our educational system is, how uninterested and close-minded Africans are in seeking knowledge other than their beliefs, and how culture has played a big role in keeping us from questioning. I would often encourage them to find out the answers for themselves too; after all, a Google search can’t be that difficult in this day and age! But they wouldn’t, either out of laziness, lack of opportunity or simply disinterest and blissful ignorance.  

Considering I was watching documentaries on educative channels on DSTV such as Discovery, History and National Geographic channels, I wish I could understand why people who could afford over $100 a month on satellite TV, would waste it on African movies and Mexican soap operas!  

I blame this lack of curiosity on our educational system and less passionate science teachers who are also mostly under religious influence. It’s for this reason I felt I should start answering these FAQs for them, but please reader, don’t take my word for it, research it.  

So I’ll start by addressing the most common question.

1. How do you think we were created?
From time immemorial, humankind has asked and pondered this question. For me, it was the whole reason humankind needed religion before there was science to explain how things work.  

Our planet, Earth ,was formed about 4.54 billion years ago. The earliest life on Earth existed at least 3.5 billion years ago. Human beings, aka Homo sapiens, have only been in existence for 50,000 years (after 200,000 years of evolution).  

Hordes of thinkers, from the early African civilizations, East Asians and Hellenistic philosophers, talked about creation. But it wasn’t until just over 100 years ago in 1859 that Charles Darwin first wrote his famous book “The Origin of the Species”. This gave us an alternative explanation for life forms which was entirely devoid of supernatural fingerprints. The success of this explanation legitimised and fostered the growth of religious skepticism which manifested in a series of public debates on the subject. It effectively shook the received explanation found in the scriptures and now forms the basis for evolutionary biology.  

Since then, many scientists, including biologists, archaeologists, zoologists, biochemists, cosmologists, and physicists, have come a long way in answering questions about the origin of life contradicting ALL religious explanations. Yet the research goes on as there is still much to learn.  

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One such scientist is Stephen Hawking, writer of the best selling book, “A Brief History of Time” (1988) which attempts to explain a range of subjects in cosmology, including the Big Bangblack holes and light cones, to the non specialist reader.   

Hawking extended the singularity theorem concepts first explored in his doctoral thesis. This included not only the existence of singularities but also the theory that the universe might have started as a singularity.  

image

Abiogenesis or biopoiesis is the natural process by which life arose from non-living matter such as simple organic compounds. Scientific hypotheses about the origins of life can be divided into three main stages; the geophysical, the chemical and the biological.  

On the assumption that life originated spontaneously on Earth, the Miller–Urey experiment and similar experiments demonstrated that most amino acids, often called “the building blocks of life”, can be racemically synthesized in conditions which were intended to be similar to those of the early Earth.  

Other approaches (“metabolism first” hypotheses) focus on understanding how catalysis in chemical systems in the early Earth might have provided the precursor molecules necessary for self-replication.  

We know there were enough molecules in terms of structure and functionality that were able, under the appropriate conditions, to start life, most likely a single cell.  

After the first forms of life started in our oceans it was millions of years later that they became more complex organisms which later became primitive ocean life. Some evolved and moved to land eventually evolving into animals and birds. So you see, it didn’t take 7 days for this to happen!  

Such scientific research has been able to explain the formation of planets, galaxies and our cosmos as a whole. It has also given us answers to questions on life forms and our history. All this research is based on scores of evidence from recovered fossils, carbon dating, genetics and many other scientific methods, NOT on faith or personal beliefs.  

I am more enlightened now and look forward to more findings in my lifetime.  

No more will I be ignorant of knowledge. No more will I be afraid to know more. This is one reason why I am an atheist.

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14 responses to “Why I Am An Atheist – Part 1”

  1. My opinion says :

    Ms. Ros, I am glad that you took the time out to write about your belief on the ways of the world however I also take issue with a number of things you expressed.
    First of all, the question that most religious believers pose in terms of creation is not necessarily about the process, i.e. evolution as we know it, but the genesis of evolution. Scientifically this refers to the big bang which led to the expansion of of the universe from a single point to become what it is now but the question remains what preceded the big bang and what caused the big bang. No scientific explanation has been provided for the true beginning (and logically cannot be proven because for every beginning there has to be a precedence which begins to beg the question). That being said, neither religion nor science can really provide a clear unopposed explanation of something coming from nothing therefore if one chooses to take a religious approach……so be it, as you are entitled to not believing, neither science nor religion can factually be proven right in this respect.
    Secondly, you state that Darwinism contradicts ALL religious explanations which is also inaccurate. You will find that a lot of the scientific theories about creation align with quite a few religions which include but are not limited to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism among others. You might argue that the religious explanations are not detailed enough, or better yet, deliberately vague to make it easy to encompass alternate explanations which might be a fair point however, it does not change the fact that your assertion is false.
    Finally, with the difficulties that some of your fellow atheists seem to have encountered while embracing their new beliefs, I find it ironic that you seem so judgmental and high handed about your beliefs. You confidently allude to google and how its easy for people to research information but you could also have easily researched some of your information before you published an OPINION that included a fallacy. Also, your oh so confident response about creation does not actually answer the quintessential question creation and as you are well aware, science is fact until it is not. Long held scientific beliefs are debunked day in and day out with one discovery or the other and the evolution of the theory of evolution is no exception which is why incidents like discovery of the higgs-boson is still a lot of fodder for scientific discussion and debate.

    • Graham Knight says :

      It is of course a good comment that science does not yet know what happened before the big bang which is why “I don’t know” is a better answer than jumping to supernatural conclusions.

      In our world, which operates within space & time there are usually beginnings even if not always clear cut. The question then arises what began the gods? The theist will then reply that their particular god operates outside of space & time and therefore doesn’t need a beginning. How this is known by the theist is itself a mystery! Lol But they have also described the situation before the big bang as well.

      The claim that evolution aligns with varies religious beliefs is not supported and the fact it is so threatening to many believers suggests otherwise.

      The claim that religious beliefs are not detailed enough and are even *deliberately* ambigious is an accurate statement as they are pre-scientific. Because of this they have been of no value in giving us the kind of detailed, unambiguous answers science is providing and are instead retrospectively interpreted once science has provided the evidence and explanations.

      The fallacy that not believing is in itself a belief has been adequately addressed on the Internet.

      Scientific facts and explanations are not debunked as you claim (it’s important to understand the difference between a hypotheses and an explanation) but build upon existing understanding. It is the only method that has proved of any use in developing our knowledge, extending our understanding of the cosmos and improving our quality of life.

      What Ros seems to be saying is that there is no evidence for the various gods and godesses and that religious belief has been incapable of answering the fundamental questions as you acknowledge. Science does provide evidence and, through the scientific method, does stand a chance of finding more answers. Religious beliefs and writings, ossified in our ancient history, can not develop.

      Young women like Ros are curious, and unafraid to pursue knowledge. Sorry if you think that is arrogant of her. I’d rather her “arrogance” than the non-evidential assertions and opinions of the believer that claims to know things they do not and often try to moralise to others and hold back societies with Bronze Age beliefs.

      • My opinion says :

        Monsieur Knight, I do appreciate your insights and I do agree with some of them and not necessarily with others. With the statement about the genesis of things, my assertion was that it is impossible to state a pure beginning because something will always predate and thus within our current state of logic nether theists or atheists can answer that absolutely thus “i don’t know” being apt.

        My issue however is that if a person in not knowing ascribes to a personal belief that the explanation for them would be supernatural, I don’t think it makes them any less of a person. So yes, “I don’t know” is a better answer in public discourse however I would argue it is not necessarily better than jumping to supernatural conclusions depending on the individuals belief system or situation.

        I also think it is contradictory to state that there is not evidence that any religious beliefs align with evolution then go on to state that the vagueness of religious literature allows some religions to retrospectively fit evolution into their teachings. Mind you, I actually find it intriguing how theological books are written to allow interpretations of all sorts and make them seem apt to most situations but that very same structure is what makes it possible to fit evolution into certain religious literature.

        Also, I am very well aware of the differences between a hypotheses and an explanation. That being said, there have been certain scientific postulates that were deemed proven and factual, e.g., that the atom was the smallest particle of matter, which was later on debunked.

        Finally, my issue with Ros’ post that I referred to as arrogance was the statement or the judgement about what people chose to “waste” their money on watching. I sometimes find it difficult when Atheists begin to wade into those waters because that is the same kind of language that can lead to the intolerance that led the world to suffer under theists.

        I would like to say that it is extremely difficult for a Ghanaian lady to express her opinion and do so eloquently in a country that is so decidedly religious. I applaud her courage and I promote the continuous development of knowledge fueled by curiosity and I imagine that she is a wonderful lady who has risen above difficulties and continues to blossom and I applaud her for it.

        And I apologize for any offence cause stating that I am happy she expressed her beliefs. I do realise that Atheism is not a “belief system” and more of a progressive conclusion.

      • Graham Knight says :

        Thanks for your thoughts and clarifications. Much appreciated.

    • Bagrɛ says :

      “neither religion nor science can really provide a clear unopposed explanation of something coming from nothing”, How do you know that science cannot provide an answer? Science hasn’t provided an explanation to what happened before the big bang, should not be confused with science cannot provide an answer and it is important that we keep them separate.

      • My opinion says :

        That statement you refer to was directly preceded by the logical model I proposed. I admit, logic has evolved and there maybe a logic model that might be able to explain how something comes from nothing and how the whole process starts but within the logic models we have today science cannot explain the absolute beginning of the universe.

    • Ros Lyn says :

      Graham has explained most of what I would have said to reply so I would just add that first of all, atheism is non-belief. Not a belief system.
      Also, I address evolution as well since most people who asked me about creation had never heard of evolution let alone the big bang and I believe it’s because it’s not in our general school syllabus. I also address evolution first in my article because I was stating the major scientific findings I learnt in chronological order and I go on to mention Hawking’s singularity theorem of the big bang.
      Also point of correction, didn’t say Darwinism contradicts all religious explanations. I said further research from various scientists do so.
      If one decides to base his conclusions on everything he cannot explain on superstition or religious grounds then that doesn’t display a sense of logic. Yes, everyone is free to believe or not but if such superstitious mentality comes back to affect me and my country, then I find it my responsibility to share my enlightenment (not force it on them) because like I said earlier some people are ignorant of due to lack of opportunity. They don’t know because they haven’t been informed correctly.
      Also, my article isn’t about claiming science knows it all but as my title says, to explaining the processes under which I de-converted myself and the alternative explanations I learnt to things like creation for example as compared to the bible story I was made to believe.

  2. My opinion says :

    Oh and FYI, I am inclined to say the big bang theory was initially developed by a jesuit priest, which goes to show you science and religion can indeed exist in the within the same consciousness. (sorry I did not bother to google to confirm if my memory was right)

    • Graham Knight says :

      It was indeed made by a priest but he made the discovery by using the scientific method not by divine prophecy or divining it from the scriptures! The fact we are able to hold contradictory ideas in our heads is a characteristic of our human nature.

  3. Eibhlin Ni Chleirigh says :

    Ros, what an excellent thoughtful article. I often wonder why people are so desperate for absolute certainty. So instead of saying – ‘we don’t know’ – or even ‘Let’s find out’ they will assume a lack of knowledge currently means that god did it. Well in cosmic terms obviously – not about where Flight 370 – he can never get the blame for that.
    I am fascinated by the idea of a Multiverse . . for all those who think that there must have been something before the ‘Big Bang’ – that wasn’t a divinity
    Eilo

  4. Steve says :

    Brilliant piece Ros, when is part 2 coming out. Typical Ghanaian Ghallywood attitude hehe

    Eilo, I also thought the same thing when I was reading the article. I have yet to read papers on the evolution of our universe from more ancient one(s). May be the proof scientists and believers alike are looking for lies not within the confines of our own universe but outside it, the laws of our physics, astronomy, biology and genetics are torn to shreds.

    Where exactly this outside is is where the problem lies. Mapping our universe first would be a step in the right direction because I am more than convinced the answer would most likely come from the outside. In this universe, something can’t be made from nothing. But who’s to say that this is actually the case in the bigger, much much bigger scheme of things.

    Steve(Humanist Association of Ghana)

    • Raymond Osei says :

      Dear Ros Lyn,

      I only wish we could have more of such creatures as your good self on our part of Planet Earth. it is sad and shameful that Africa is deeply mired in bigotry and ignorance. I made a presentation at the conference you referred to.

      Wish you good health and good luck in your campaign.

      Prof. RN Osei

      • Ros Lyn says :

        Yes Prof, I remember you. Thank you for your support. We do need more freethinkers in our part of the world and I hope my article becomes 1 of many to help change perceptions.

  5. M. says :

    Brilliant piece Ros Lyn.

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