Something that I have been meaning to do for a few years now but somehow never go around to. So why the sudden burst of motivation? Something that is all to rare for me unfortunately. Well, the contributing factors were numerous but the primary driving force was my acknowledgment and acceptance of the fact that I have become an atheist.
I don't have any tortuous de-conversion story or atheist-in-the-closet drama to go along with this decision (at least not yet). I was raised in an extremely liberal although nominally christian family. I went to an also extremely liberal but church-affiliated school where I received what I believe to be a pretty good educational start in life. I had excellent teachers who challenged us and encouraged inquiry and free-thinking for as far back as I can remember. I went on to university where I pursued a BA with a focus on history and philosophy. I also did a few semesters at a theological college due to my (still extant) fascination with religion both organised and chaotic. I quickly realised that the members of this institution were not (unsurprisingly to a lot of you I'm sure) interested in the same open-minded investigation and discussion of christianity's origins and doctrines that I was and, as such, quickly decided I was sand in the gears rather than grist for the mill.
Following my university period came a good few years where religion played no significant part in my life at all. I worked, I studied, I fell in love and got married, I travelled etc. etc.
During this time, if asked, I would have probably responded that I was agnostic or possibly that I considered myself "spiritual" rather than "religious" but I would have gotten a bit vague after that.
Then, almost a month ago, my grandfather died abruptly of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. This came as a bit of a shock to all of our family as he had been extremely fit and strong physically (although suffering from deteriorating mental faculties for quite awhile). My grandmother on the other hand had been very ill with cancer for a long time and had had several episodes were she was not expected to pull through.
Mrs. Viking was in Australia at the time he died taking our new daughter (first child for us and first grandchild on my side of the family) on a grand world tour to meet the family. Specifically, the trip had been brought forward so that my grandmother could meet her as soon as possible in case her health took a turn for the worse and, in the worst case, died before she could meet her great-granddaughter.
So I was home alone. In a city where we've only lived for a few years and I have no real support-network or circle of friends like I do back home. Naturally, this leads to a certain amount of introspection. I began to critically assess my beliefs. I spent many hours in reflection. I wafted around the 'net looking for...I'm not sure what exactly, to be honest but what I found was a group of writers whose views (at least most of them) resonated for me with the clarity of a bell. To mention a few names:
Ebon at Daylight Atheism and Ebon Musings
The Exterminator at No More Hornets
PhillyChief at You Made Me Say It (Go Chiefs!)
The Chaplain at the Apostate's Chapel
The Spanish Inquisitor
This is far, far from a complete list but it is representative at least. These writers' positivity, optimism, rationality, hope, compassion, empathy and articulate pieces caused me to have, for want of a better word, somewhat of an epiphany: I do believe that this life is all we have. I do believe that this makes it infinitely more valuable and worthy of being treasured. I do believe that morals can be derived from nothing more than our shared humanity without the need for a heavenly watchdog waving sticks or dangling carrots. In short, a lot of pieces fell into place in my mind with a resounding thump.
Anyway, this post has rambled on a bit more than I intended and I need to leave it here for now. It's a start at least.