I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a blog for a couple of years, since I started working on my PhD program and began to think seriously about atheism and its relationships with religion, humanism, and secularism. Many of the things I would like to write about don’t fit within the scope of my dissertation research on eighteenth-century atheism, and I couldn’t possibly produce academic articles about all of them — thus, a blog was born.
I plan to write about a pretty diverse set of topics: the history of atheism; free will; ethics; religion in the public sphere; “New Atheism”; women and atheism; atheism and religion in literature and popular culture; etc. Some posts will stem directly from my research on eighteenth-century texts, so I need to acknowledge here that my PhD work is supported by scholarships from the University of Alberta and the Province of Alberta, as well as by a doctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
To start on a personal note, I have been an atheist for around twenty-five to thirty years, since I was in my early teens. I was raised a Roman Catholic, and never had any bad experiences within the Church other than boredom at Mass. As far as I can remember, I didn’t have a “conversion experience” that turned me into an atheist; I didn’t read Russell or Nietzsche, and my head wasn’t turned by Darwin.
If anything started my atheizing process, it was a lecture given by a visiting Jesuit missionary at my church in Oshawa, Ontario, when I was in fourth grade: in answering a question from the audience, he said (this is the only thing I remember from the lecture) that he believed heaven and hell were states of mind. Around the same time, I was reading The Lord of the Rings, which showed me that one person could invent a detailed, layered world with its own history and mythology. The Troubles in Northern Ireland had a significant impact on my thinking because that conflict involved Christians killing other Christians over, apparently, being Christian (needless to say, this is not a good summary of the Troubles). At some point in high school, I decided that God and Christianity, and by extension other religions, were human inventions.
I’m not especially concerned with labels, but I am not a “New Atheist.” For one thing, I’ve been an atheist since the 1980s; more importantly, I disagree with much of what the Big Names of New Atheism stand for, which is a topic for another day.
You won’t, I hope, find religion-bashing here. I’m not interested in trying to convert people to atheism, or in attacking religion. There are plenty of other people doing that!