Christian, Why I am not a
Personal HistoryBecause I hate colouring-in
My background is not Christian, or even "non-Christian" (in the sense of "an alternative to Christianity" or "in reaction to Christianity"). My mother is vaguely pantheistic; my father is an atheist. My father's parents may have followed Chinese traditional religious practice with a humanist overlay; my mother's parents were half-Jewish atheists. I never went to any kind of Sunday school, nor had any acquaintance with the bible stories as a child.
There was one exception.
My first encounter with Christianity was at primary school, where we were required to attend scripture classes. My mother, thinking it would be a good idea for me to have some knowledge of religion, suggested I attend Church of England scripture class, but said I was welcome to change if I didn't like it. Apparently - and I don't remember this directly - I came home after the first lesson talking about God and Jesus and really quite excited by the whole idea, but after a few weeks I asked for a note so I could attend non-scripture. My best guess at the reason for this was that after the first few classes the teacher had decided we were too young to learn anything serious and had put us to colouring in pictures of the Nativity... and if there was anything I loathed in primary school it was colouring in. If they'd started teaching us abstract theology I would probably be a minister now.
My next encounter was at high school, where there was a vociferous group of fundamentalists spouting the usual creationist nonsense. I remember a running three way debate in my English class between me, one of the creationists, and the teacher. At this point I felt about Christianity much as David Hume did, when he put it in between stupidity and ignorance to form a triad. (My interest in Bertrand Russell at the time had little to do with this attitude, oddly enough - I always thought his Why I am not a Christian made far too many concessions.)
At university I acquired a lot of close friends who were Christians — mostly evangelical Protestants; some Catholics — including several who have since done theology degrees or become missionaries. As a result I became a lot more understanding of Christianity than I used to be, but there was never any danger of my own beliefs changing.
EpistemologyBecause it isn't midnight yet :-)
If someone were to come to me and tell me that Einstein's theory of General Relativity was in error, I would be quite prepared to consider their arguments. But if they were to claim that GR holds everywhere except within 10 metres of pumpkins, then I would just laugh at them. The theological claims of Christianity seem to me just like that - seriously bizarre (and not nearly as testable as "pumpkins affecting the geometry of space time"). If you want more concrete epistemology and metaphysics then I recommend two books by J.L. Mackie - Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong and The Miracle of Theism [links are to Amazon].
DebateI used to post occasionally to aus.religion and aus.religion.christian. (Heck, I even wrote the Charter for those newsgroups!)
Last modified: 2000