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.
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 Bang, black 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.
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.