It was Miss H who turned me into an atheist. She was my RE teacher at secondary school. She was a frail little woman with short dark hair and she looked as though she had suddenly been transported forward from the Edwardian era. She was austere, morose and of such crippling stupidity that none of the children in my class paid the slightest attention to her. She would quote endlessly from the Bible to a class of stupefied teenagers who were more interested in swapping football cards or discussing posters of David Essex.
Despite that, I am grateful to her. I’m sure it was never her intention, but it was Miss H who taught me to think for myself. I would sit there at the back of the class analysing her endless stream of prattling falsehoods.
For example, I realised that if God created everything, he must have created everything that is bad as well as everything that is good. He must have created all terrible diseases, infirmities, afflictions and hideous deformities. If, as Miss H insisted, God created the world and everything in it, then he must also be responsible for all the misery, suffering, disease, famines, earthquakes, typhoons, cataclysms, disasters, tyrannies, massacres and wars. If he was, as Miss H claimed, omnipotent, then he must have had the power to bring all these evils to an end in an instant. Indeed he should have been able to prevent them ever occurring in the first place. Apparently, though, he chose not to. Therefore, I could only conclude that God derived some sort of perverted pleasure out of the suffering of his creations.
I remember the day well. It was just after the Christmas holiday and the rain was driving against the windows of the temporary classroom. I was leaning back on my chair, balancing on the back legs, when I suddenly realised that nothing in the Bible is true. It is all a pack of lies. Maybe not deliberate lies, and perhaps one or two of the stories may have the tiniest grain of truth in them, but any particle of truth has been warped by the most fantastically absurd misinterpretations, creating nothing but an infantile compendium of fairy stories written by men of such appalling ignorance that even when I was five years old I knew more about the world than they did.
Of course, it’s no easy matter, especially when you’re fourteen, to suddenly reject something that’s been drilled into you all your life. Ever since I was a little child it had been rammed down my throat that if I didn’t believe in the word of God and accept Jesus Christ as my Saviour, I would be condemned to eternal damnation in the fires of Hell.
I was willing to take my chance. But what about my sister? Right now, at that very moment, she must herself have been experiencing eternal torment in the furnaces of Damnation. The only sin she ever committed in her life was to die without believing the word of God or accepting Jesus Christ as her Saviour. How could she? She died when she was only three weeks old.
That’s about it really. That’s my story, for what it’s worth. I suppose I could have spared myself the bother of writing the preceding 1200 words if instead I’d simply written, Christianity made me an atheist.