My name’s Miles. I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the USA, and I’m an atheist.
Unlike many non-believers who were first believers or who came from very religious backgrounds, I was the son of mid-western Lutheran parents who themselves came from devout homes but who had developed rather liberal attitudes about religion. They married in church, and had baptized my brother and me to please their families, but our family never attended church and we kids never had any religion pressed on us. Any religious ideas ideas I had as a kid came through osmosis, from living in a small town full of church-goers, and our parents took the position that any religious commitments we might have was to be our decision. In my high-school years, I read Bertrand Russell’s “Why I Am Not A Christian”, Corliss Lamont’s The Philosophy of Humanism, and issues of The Humanist magazine and decided I couldn’t accept the arguments for religious belief. In college and shortly thereafter, I read some things about Buddhism, which appealed to me for its rationalistic elements and focus on ethical issues, but in spite of my fascination with it and my respect for it, I couldn’t honestly commit myself to it.
In adult life, my non-belief was not something I considered a large part of my identity, and it was some years before I embraced the word “atheist”, which for me still had negative connotations: I was a “humanist”, or an “agnostic”, or a “secularist”, or just plain old “not religious.” I was quiet about it, avoided polarizing conversations about religion, and interested myself in other things.
I started getting more “serious” about atheism around the time of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the subsequent attention on such things as religious extremism, the so-called New Atheists and the rise of the religious right. On a personal level, I was also getting annoyed with the reactions that many people had, just to my simply identifying myself as an atheist. Most people were nice of course (this is Minnesota), but I couldn’t simply mention my atheism and expect other people to let it go as I habitually did when others mentioned, for instance, “I’m a Christian.” No matter what the other person believed, and I have met people with many beliefs, it was always a problem that I was an atheist, and people always had to ask why and express their opinions and so on and so forth, even when I wasn’t up for a conversation on the subject. Most of them could not or would not understand that this was a position to which I had devoted much thought and careful consideration, and which deserved exactly as much respect as their own. I realized that I had to assert myself a little more in this area, and part of that meant I had to educate myself a little more.
This website began as an idle idea I had, shortly after I had come to Minneapolis to live, when I had a couple of encounters on the street with some Bible-college students who wanted to “witness” to me: to write a printed “tract” explaining what my non-belief means to me. This was mainly an imaginary project that served to collect my thoughts on the subject: for years I kept notes on various issues that I went back to and re-wrote and expanded, until recently I decided that I might as well publish them on the Web.
This material is probably not going to “de-convert” anyone, because that’s not the way the atheist journey works. Becoming an atheist is an intellectual, personal, and often emotional journey that takes time, thought, and effort., and my personal journey is still ongoing. I’m no professional philosopher or scientist, just an ordinary guy with a compulsive need to write and explain my ideas to myself and to any others who may be interested, and my words will stand and fall on their own merits. My intention is just to clear up a few misconceptions, express what I care about as an atheist, and to give a clearer idea of what it can mean to embrace reason rather than religion.
If you are questioning your beliefs, and something here is of use to you, then my efforts will have been rewarded, but I won’t pretend that this site is the go-to resource for all things atheist (I’ll be sure to add links to other sites that have been helpful to me). It’s just my little godless corner of the web, and welcome to it.