I was brought up as a Christian. My parents were, are, Methodists, a fairly restrained branch of the faith, and I dutifully went to church every Sunday, was a member of the Boy's Brigade, went to various Christian holiday clubs in which the Bible was studied - at one point, I could recite all the books of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, in order ( in contrast, now I can barely get past Leviticus. And let's face it, who'd want to?)
In all that time, I never once had what might be called a religious experience. All that praying (in church - I don't recall ever asking God for guidance while I was alone), communion taking, Bible study (and I was part of competition winning Bible study teams) I can say that I never felt the presence of God, or anything else supernatural.
On the other hand, I did develop strong liberal tendencies, at odds with religious expression. I recall, in a religious studies class at secondary school, when I was about 15, arguing that abortion should be a matter for the individual woman in question. One of the other students asked me if I was a Christian, and without thinking, I replied "Yes". Immediately, I doubted my statement. That was the end of any lingering religious faith. Soon after, church on a Sunday was replaced with long walks, or visits to the gym. Religion disappeared from my mind.
Reading The God Delusion last year made a huge impression on me. I think it was the first time I'd read anything on the question of God's existence that actually struck a chord with me. The passionate logic, the relentless rationality, was almost thrilling to read. Suddenly, here was someone explaining why religion left me so cold and unpersuaded.
Skepticism came into my life as an extension of that first encounter with Dawkins. I eagerly devoured further skeptical reading material - blogs like Pharyngula, Respectful Insolence, and Skepchick, podcasts like Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, articles by Christopher Hitchens, and many other sources.
Skepticism grounds me. It's taught me how to weed out the hocus pocus, and the woo, and the plain misleading. It gives me a reference point - I know which sources I can trust, not because of blind faith, but because their logic and reasoning make sense to me. It's shown me how to question information and perspectives, and that my own beliefs need to be challenged and modified when necessary.
I will continue my journey in life, not travelling down every dead end that presents itself and not with an absolute knowledge of my course, but with a reliable compass and a confident hand on the tiller. Maybe someone might gain inspiration from me, as I have from so many others.
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