Greetings from Australia
Greetings from Australia. My name is Robert and I’ve been a long-term reader of these forums, but have only posted once before. I’ve enjoyed reading the discussions in these forums, and look forward to becoming a little bit more involved.
Having read a few other introductory posts, I thought I’d give a bit of history about myself, my experiences with religion and belief, and my education and work.
I was born in Tasmania, and lived there with my christian family until the age of 16 when we moved to Adelaide, South Australia. Both my parents are members of the Uniting Church of Australia (a merger between the Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregational Union of Australia (?) that happened in 1977), which is a liberal Christian church that supports social justice. I was baptised as a week-old baby, and as I was growing up was taken to church every Sunday.
I met my wife at high school in Adelaide, and we have been together for 14 years, married for seven. We have two beautiful boys, aged 5 and 3.
My religious history:
Being baptised at age 7 days gives a good indication of what Sundays were like for me growing up. Every Sunday morning was church, and other weekend activities needed to fit around that. I was quite a good soccer player throughout primary school, and was offered the opportunity to try out for the state team, but given that these extra sessions were on Sunday mornings, I had to refuse. Despite this, I didn’t resent my parents for this in any way; they only made us attend church – we didn’t have to fervently remember bible passages or anything like that. Most of my friends attended the same church too, so for me going was more a social occasion than a religious one.
My father was elected as the moderator of the uniting church synod in Tasmania during the 1990s, and spent a couple of years assisting in the management of the church. My mother is probably more devout than my father, and was heavily involved in assisting with services, playing the organ etc. Both my parents had been brought up in strongly religious families, and there was never any real doubt that they expected me and my two sisters to follow their beliefs.
I was given the opportunity to be confirmed (baptised again) when I was 12 or 13 years old, but decided against it. I hadn’t really given it much thought at the time, but when the discussion arose I had a chance to reflect on the inconsistencies in religious belief. In 1993, the football team I support won the premiership (go you Bombers! ), and in the lead up to the grand final I had been praying to god for this outcome. When the desired result occurred, however, I had the thought that surely someone would have been praying for the other side as well? How would god decide which side to go for? Which team would be more worthy? And on what criteria would god decide? At that time I decided that there couldn’t be an all-powerful god. It appeared to me that religious belief was a human weakness that made people feel better about themselves by giving a semblance of certainty when they didn’t know the answer. For me, god didn’t (and couldn’t) exist. I haven’t been back to church since.
There has never really been a discussion about religion with my parents. I think this is probably why I am not comfortable debating religious belief with others in person, although I feel much more comfortable when I read debates. To their credit, my parents have never criticised my decision or dragged me to church against my will, nor have they ever threatened me with ‘hell’ or other biblical consequences – I think they are happy enough that they have raised a kid with the ability to think for himself.
Even when I decided that god didn’t exist (at the age of 14), I didn’t really have a strong interest in science. I was interested in the natural world, but the study of science just wasn’t something that attracted me. I had just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, however, and this led me to investigate just how the human body works, and what happens when things go wrong. Even at this stage, I read these books for personal interest rather than any specific desire to study what was written.
In my final year of high school, I signed up for biology. I found I had a good understanding of many of the topics through my general reading and study of human anatomy and animal physiology, and more importantly, I enjoyed it. I studied a Bachelor of Science degree at the Flinders University of South Australia, and after studying topics focused on animal behaviour, population ecology and behavioural ecology undertook an honours degree that looked at the proximate causes of the evolution of siblicidal behaviour in Australian pelicans.
Since competing university, I have been employed by the Australian government (I could be more specific, but I’d have to kill you… ) based in Adelaide. I am currently in Canberra in week 3 of a 12-week stint working on a special project, and hence have the enforced time away from my family to sit down and introduce myself.
My (lack of) belief:
I am an atheist. I understand that there are further, more specific definitions of atheism, agnosticism, theism, deism and so on, but rather than worry about labels and precise definitions at this stage, I’ll just state that I don’t believe in the existence of any gods. I am perfectly happy with my belief, and the knowledge that I am small and insignificant in the greater scheme of things. I know the insignificant nature of my place in the universe, and I am not worried by it.
From reading hundreds of different forums on this site, I feel that I know a little bit about many of you from what you’ve shared with others. Most of you are far better debaters than I’ll ever be – not least because most of you appear to have a very good understanding of the topics being discussed and an in-depth knowledge of the bible – but I’ll try to post when I see a topic I have an interest in to begin to redeem my voyeuristic surfing of the last few months.