Something more about me.
I grew up in the town of Bunschoten-Spakenburg in the center of Holland, and have many fond memmories about that time. Despite the fact that I went to a Protestant-Christian primary school, complete with Bible stories every monday by the teacher, which I always looked forward to, and learning Psalms (and saying/singing them to the teacher), which I hated, but not because I didn't believe in God, just because I didn't wanted to do that.
My favorite teacher there was very much interested in biology and the living natural world. He was one brought a dead salmon and zander with him, and dissected them in front of all the classes up from fourth grade (we go to the eight grade here in Holland, after which you 'graduate' and move on to high school). We all got the chance of asking questions about the two fish and he showed us the intestines and explained the workings. He also took us on trips through the town, and showed us the plants and insects (I still remember the large brightly red and yellow clored caterpillar on tree) as well as their environments. We also had two old bathtubs in the hallway. One was a small insect ecosystem, the other filled with water and freshwater fish (like sticklebacks, which were very common), snails, salamanders and many other small creatures we caught ourselves in the ditches/canals throught the town. If I remember correct we released all animals back in the wild after the project was over.
Now, in my youth I had a very pore health, and have had pneumonia about six or seven times before I was ten, on top of that Astma/bronchitis and many, many allergies (lactose intolerant, sugar, fruits like oranges, heavy cabages, dust, the works) So hospitals had no secrets for me. And because of that I was talking mostly to grown ups (doctors and other medical staff) instead of kids my own age.
Things went so bad, that my parents (and most doctors) were pretty sure I wouldn't survive very long. Luckily I still am, all thanks to, no don't burn me yet, an 'alternative doctor'. He worked closely with the hospital to help me get better (which obviously worked out pretty good). Ever since then, I have never met a doctor who was more capable in drawing blood. The man (even while he was already well into his sixties) did this without me even feeling the needle enter my arm.
Needless to say (as I'm still 'alive & kicking') I got better, especially after going to an Astma center for about 13 months (where I got homesick pretty bad many times), as you couldn't go home to your family, and they were only allowed to visit you in the weekends. Now I'm mostly cured (or grew over it), except for the occasional hayfever.
While I was at the Astma center, I was also going to church school (still officially a student of the primary school mentioned above) to learn for my 'holy communion'. I remember some stories about a group of little fish going from the river to the ocean or vice versa. All of them white and one black. The black one (now that I think of it probably 'the black sheep' in a flock of good 'white' Christian people) would not follow the rest of the group at first, but after encounter a (couple of?) sharks (evil/devil/temptation) he of course joined the rest and was lovingly accepted by the other fish.
Well, I did the communion, and was since then allowed to receive the body and blood of Christ. I still only liked it because I was allowed to drink wine as a young child, and never really understood the true meaning. Besieds, we had a party after my communion, and my family (grandparents, uncles and aunts) brought me toys. I also got a children's Bible (without the racism, genocide etc), which I enjoyed reading, and still own by the way, although mosly for sentimental reasons, and because of all the pretty pictures inside. ;)
Because I was in hospitals a lot while growing up, I had a lot of sparetime, and took up reading (which I still enjoy very much). Of course I read the usual kids stuff like comics and childrens books, but I also read books about nature. Everytime my mom took us to the library, I would go to the 'studybook' section, and get some books about dinosaurs or something. Read them over and over. I collected dino toys (but also played with Transformers and Legos), and like many young children was able to pronounce and even spell the names of various species at a relatively young age. I was really fascinated by all kinds of animals, especially those that went extinct. I still have this fascination, and many books in my collection are about paleontology, evolution and the origins of the universe.
It was probably because of these books I seriously started doubting my faith. Luckily, my family is very openminded, and no one ever forced me to literally believe the Bible, or even live by it. We never went to church, except while I was staying with my grandparents on my mothers side, who went about every sunday, as well as during holidays like Christmas and Easter (yes, in the middle of the night) but I didn't mind that. Except for the waving with the incense, which bothered me because of my Astma. But even they were openminded. They lived in a (then) strictly Christian town, and I remember stories about my grandmother. It was common then here (as it was/is around the world) for the Catholic Pastor to visit the homes of members of his 'flock' and ask them when they would have more children (my mother is from a relatively small family, with only two siblings, as is my father). My grandmother wasn't very pleased with the question, and told him to leave. 'When you have a family and children of your own, you can come back!' she supposedly had said. My grandfather was not ammused, he said that you couldn't talk to the Pastor like that... My grandmother shrugged it off, dsaying he didn't knew what he was talking about and shouldn't interfere. Funniest story I've ever heared about my grandparents!!
Well, throughout the years I started to doubt my faith more and more. Things didn't make any sense any more. Stories I heared lost their meaning, and became just that. Stories or even fairytales. The biblical story was not compatible with what I had read about evolution and the origins of the universe from my books. I have to say I don't 'believe' in the theory of evolution. For the very simple reason i don't have to. As Dawkings mentioned in "The God Delusion", believing is 'accepting without evidence'. Since there is plenty of (overwhelming) evidence for evolution, I don't have to belive it, and can take it for granted. Just like I don't believe in the 'Theory of Gravity'. I don't have to, because I kno damn well that it's real. I tested it my self two years ago while bungee jumping (one of the best feelings EVER!!, beat that, religion!!). ;)
Halfway through my highschool period I 'lost' faith altogether. For the first time in my life I felt truly free. Granted, we don't live in a predominantly religious country, and the Dutch are already pretty tolerant, but still. My mom questioned me when I didn't went to communion anymore, and I said simply 'Because I don't believe in God, and I don't want to be a hypocrite'. She just left it at that, although she wasn't very happy about it at the time.
I've went from being just indifferent (maybe there is a god, maybe there isn't, it doesn't matter to me), to agnostic (can't proce or disprove the extistence of god) to full blown Atheist in a matter of years (a number 7 now on Richard Dawkins' list).
Eventhough I don't believe in God anymore, that doesn't mean I can't 'enjoy' religion. Although I no longer really like "Touched by an Angel", especially after seeing good angel Monica (Roma Downey) as a fierce warrior in "Hercules and the Amazon Women", I still like movies ("Legion" with Paul Bettany as the archangel Michaell) and books (Angelology from Danielle Trussoni) about God and religion. I'm also a big fan of the artist Wayne Barlowe, and have all of his books, including Barlowe's Inferno, about a battle in Hell between demons, and a fallen angel (now demon) who is desperate to return to Heaven. Basically this story is "Roman Empire in Hell", but I can recommend it to anyone.
This concludes this blog post. A bit about myself, and my reasons to become an atheist and freethinker. In a future blogpost I will tell about my brother, and why me being an atheist, helps me accepting him in making a very difficult choice in his life.