Since I’ll be writing about atheism, I thought it’d a good idea to explain why I’m an atheist. First of all, for those who didn’t grow up in the Netherlands, for most people over here religion is not that much of an issue. We have a right wing orthodox christian political party representing most of the Dutch bible belt, we have our share of extremist muslims, but otherwise religion is pretty much dying out as an organised force (note that this used to be completely different in the first half of the 20th century, with a religiously vertically divided society). That’s not to say the Netherlands is an enlighted society, since homeopathy, spirituality and other crank stuff (hello there Ms. Margolis, Mr. Ogilvie) is still rampant, but the fact that there isn’t a decent atheist movement is telling.
I grew up in a moderately religious house hold, meaning that we said our prayers over dinner, read from the bible on a daily basis (modern translations and children’s bible) and went to church once every Sunday (as an echo of the pillarisation, my mother being Gereformeerd and my father being Hervormd they went to different churches, me and my sibblings going along with my mom). I basically went along with this: I’ve never had an epiphany about the nonsensical aspects of it, nor did I suddenly resent it; I accepted it thoughtlessly as part of our culture. When I was about 13 or 14, I started objecting to going to church, mainly because I got a wooden ass sitting an hour and a half on hard wooden benches listening to boring stuff, and not long after that I refused to go, which as far as I recall went unprotested by my parents.
The next recollection I have concerning religion was when a few years later, me and two of my friends went to “catachese” (bible study) at the local church, all three of us intially to please our parents and not long after because we liked poking fun at some of the overly religious kids. So by that time (I was about 15 or 16), I was already firmly an atheist, or at least a firm disbeliever in the biblical truth. As a funny detail, quite often the presiding reverend agreed with us on topics like the non-literality of biblical passages and the unprovability of deitical existence.
Being a very arrogant juvenile, I thought that was it: since I didn’t believe in God, He didn’t exist. I didn’t really care about other people’s opinions, and went on with my life. That basically was it, until I married a moderately religious woman, which caused me to having to give arguments for my disbelieve (“there isn’t a single shred of evidence”), and later when we discussed having kids why I opposed them being baptised (“no organisation will claim my kids as property”). A few years later, I discovered Richard Dawkins, Pharyngula and shortly after its inception Freethought blogs. The blogs on these sites reminded me in an in-your-face kinda way of the damage religion inflicts upon innocent children (a pleonasm, if there is any), minority groups and society at large, and how much better of we would be without it (as well as shape or sharpen my opinions on other issues like abortion, feminism and privilige). And with that, I sign off.