My given name, Jaban, is derived from the name of the king of Hazor, who commanded the iron chariots. This website struck a chord with me immediately, as it highlighted the irony of my name. My name, as it turns out, is the coup de grâce for religion.
Life and Religion
I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness. From the age of 20, I worked toward the goal of becoming a full-time preacher, studying the New World Translation (The Bible, as edited by Jehovah's Witnesses) and other pseudo-scientific sources to more effectively argue my point to non-believers.
I was fairly ineffective as a preacher, as I honestly attempted to understand why my opponent thought what he did (at least sometimes) and correct it, instead of simply dismissing those who made valid points. Invariably, I eventually started to recognize various inconsistencies in the teachings of my church. My doubt about their divine inspiration started with the church's regulation of Internet use, which in my view was driven by a fear of technology and of the unknown (I had been using the Internet long before they learned about it; I knew their claims against it were baseless). As I looked into inconsistencies further, the pseudo-scientific information I had been fed was slowly corrected, from the history of my own church, to the history of the Bible's authorship and compilation, to how scientific investigation is done, to the profound explanatory power of the Theory of Evolution.
So their baseless fear and misunderstanding of technology (and subsequent regulation of it) led me to question them, which led me to other sources of information, and resulted in my eventual dismissal of religion as a whole. So, in the end, them acting on their fear of technology led to exactly what they feared the technology itself would lead to. Sweet irony.
At about the age of 25, when I no longer believed in the divine inspiration of of the church's leaders and teachings, but still thought religious belief useful, I started to realize that the method of teaching was very manipulative. Over time, I realized more and more how intellectually dishonest they were, and how destructive they were to otherwise honest inquiry. This is what eventually led me to quit.
Regarding manipulation: People seemed very susceptible to having the answer to their questions delayed, such that by the time the question was answered, the "teacher" had manipulated them into thinking their question was something else. A straw man, of sorts. Convince the person that they asked a different question, and answer that one instead. Most of the books produced by Jehovah's Witnesses for studying with non-members seem designed to do exactly that, often over the course of several months.
Seeing that is an important part of who I am now. I am an atheist, and have become somewhat of a pessimistic skeptic (I try to avoid denialism, but it's sometimes a fine line). I outright disbelieve any claims of supernatural intervention, and am highly skeptical of seemingly unfounded claims (refer to the "Baloney Detection Kit") regarding nutrition and health, alternative medicine, environmentalism, even skepticism itself.
I am an agnostic atheist, in much the same way Richard Dawkins describes. I cannot remain intellectually honest and say that I know with certainty that there is no god. But I also can't say that I know with certainty that I do not live in the Matrix or that the sky is blue or that there are no flying reindeer. But to the degree that I do not believe the infinite number of other possible scenarios I have absolutely no reason to believe, I do not believe there exists anything supernatural.
In fact, I might even say that I believe in the supernatural slightly less so than random possibilities I think up, because the supernatural ideas come with a history. I think it is less plausible that Yahweh exists specifically because we know where the idea of Yahweh came from (approximately) and how it has changed throughout history. How could the god people believe in today exist, when the only reason they came to know of him is because of the recorded history... as a different god.
On another point regarding practicality, I find it useful in life to make a distinction between factual conclusions and practical conclusions.
When it comes to factual conclusions, not many claims can be made. I cannot claim that god does not exist in a factual sense, any more than I can claim Frodo did not really travel to Mordor to destroy the One Ring. Marduk may have created mankind from the blood of Kingsu. An invisible being named Yahweh may want you to avoid sex until you've legally purchased a wife. But none of those ideas have any basis, and all have a history in fiction. I cannot come to the conclusion that they are factually and absolutely untrue, but...
In the famous words of Tim Minchin, "throughout history, every mystery ever solved has turned out to be not magic." I can state with practical certainty that there is no god and that all discoveries for all eternity will be of natural phenomena. I can say that we are not the creation of Marduk or Yahweh and that heaven and Mordor aren't real places. I can say this from a practical standpoint because, given no exceptional difference between those ideas and any other random but baseless ideas, I ought to apply my previous experience and a principle of simplicity. If I have no more reason to believe one than the other, I must either believe both or neither. Both becomes difficult, so I'll go with neither.
And I take into account that every time in all of history that anyone has said "God did it", it has always been in presumptuous ignorance, and was later corrected by someone with a more reliable means of discovery.
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