More than you could possibly want to know about what I believe and why I think that I believe it and how it all affects the slant of Atheists Anonymous.

I was vaguely Christian as a child; a born-again, Evangelical, fundamentalist, Pentecostal Christian as a teenager; an Atheist by the time I was 21; and I remained a firm, unquestioning Atheist until the age of 26 (two years ago). I'm now a biochemist by education, a computing consultant by profession, and an amateur student of philosophy and theology by inclination. I'm a regular church-goer and a struggling Christian. I'm denominationally Anglican, liturgically catholic, theologically orthodox, and, nevertheless, an Atheist. If you care for a more detailed explantion of the personal biases which determine the slant of AA, please read on.

We approach any subject, be it as ephemeral as taste in neckwear or as ageless as the existence of God, with some number of unquestioned assumptions and personal preferences. These assumptions and preferences will affect even the strictest attempts at objective reasoning, colouring any seemingly purely rational conclusions about the being of God or the appropriate width for neckties this season. Consider, then, that in Atheists Anonymous I'm not even trying to be especially objective. I'm devoting attention to the philosophical and experiental problems that matter to me, and I'm most interested in the solutions that bring me satisfaction, insight, aesthetic pleasure, and/or a sense of well-being. Allow me to provide some personal history which will explain some of the emphases of Atheists Anonymous.

I was as a child exposed to formal religion only irregularly, though I was nominally Anglican; I never questioned God's existence, but that existence didn't really seem to impinge upon my life. I became a born-again Christian at the age of thirteen, two years after my mother had been converted to Charismatic Roman Catholicism. I burned my entire KISS collection and discovered the insightful spiritual folk music of the Rev. Cary Landry. A move from Montreal to small-town Stratford, Ontario brought about a change of denomination that lasted until I was eighteen; I was now a Pentecostal and struggling hard to receive the Gift of Tongues. Amy Grant and Petra somehow seemed cool. Another move brought me to a new highschool, new friends and an incovinient distance from any born-again, spirit-filled churches; removed from the routine of dual Sunday services, Bible studies, youth groups and Christian peers, I found, to my surprise, that I was an agnostic (atheist being more than I, Bible Boy, was then willing to admit). At about the same time, I discovered girls, Donne's poems of religous angst, and not-threatening rock'n'roll of Billy Joel; these were months of great moral and aesthetic confusion.

It was four years later, at the age of 24, that I conceded that I was, after all, an Atheist; yet God's sudden non-existence didn't really seem to impinge upon my life. I was busy enough with my biochemistry degree, part-time computer-consulting job, my friends and my two new greatest joys, alcohol and promiscuity, to spare the time to fuss over fine metaphysical distinctions. I finally discovered decent rock music, and how to dance. My reading tastes shifted: Nietzche, Wilde, Flaubert, Donne and Amis put new ideas into my head and taught me how to rationalize them. I decided that my immediate goal in life was to become a profligate libertine. I devoted my energies towards rakish style, affectedly urbane charm, witty, wicked (and borrowed) repartˇe, and growing my hair. Recreational pharmaceuticals seemed cool for a while, as did bone-rattling industrial-dance music. My lifestyle at this time precluded any toying with Christianity (as I understood it) because I hadn't the stomach for such egregious hypocrisy.

Over the next four years, I slowly discovered that I wasn't terribly adept at profligacy after all, that, no matter what I liked to think, I wasn't really amoral,and that most people whose opinions I respected thought that I had been acting like a self-serving jerk. I found that I was no longer able to ignore this strange urge to act like a decent human being. Monogomy started to seem like a good idea (if a bit harsh on my ego), and I cut my hair and shaved off my beard for the benefit of my girlfriend. I gave up much of the behaviour that had been outwardly very non-Christian out of the realization that it was never really what I wanted. It seemed that I had been so concerned about not appearing to be a conventional, brainwashed, moralizing simp that I had been ashamed to act according to my seemingly outdated ethical notions; ironically, I had often acted like a cad as a matter of principle, trying to live up to the strength of my lack of conviction. At this point I became engaged by the sober, lofty Atheism of Bertrand Russell, and began thinking about the basis of ethical behaviour and the nature of "the good life." Reading far too much Roberston Davies inspired my return to my Anglican roots (if only for the music, ceremony, and tasteful liturgy). These various influences soon led me to think about religion again, and I started to wonder how it was that I was able to go so quickly from being a devout, eager born-again Christian to being an unquestioning Atheist. At the same time, Jeffery Burton Russell's intense four-part history of the concept of the Devil critically undermined my reductionist, materialist view of the world; like many people, I was becoming weary of the Abosulte Relativism that dominates our idealogical culture, and I started looking for an Absolute, or at least a Relative Absolute.

And so, here I am: a 28-year-old biochemist turned computer consultant and amateur philosophizer, trying very hard to ground and justify my re-acknowledged moral sense. Turning to explicitly atheist writers such as Russell for inspiration, direction and support, I've been surprised to discover that even the best of such philosophers that I can find somehow seem tinny, even when I agree with them intellectually. And at the same time, I am drawn to the warmth and depth and compassionate understanding of human nature that I find in religion and religious philosophy. I am, without a doubt, an Atheist; I don't believe in God and don't know how I ever could again do so. But I've come to feel as C. S. Lewis did in the years prior to his conversion to Christianity: I dislike the philosophy with which I agree, and like the philosophy with which I disagree. I'm now forced to actively reconsider religion, faith and God, forced both by reason and by feeling.

Despite my re-emergent religous leanings, I'm still an Atheist, in that I just can't convince myself that God exists. It may very well be said, however, that I'm not a very good Atheist. I might best be described as a non-practising Atheist: I'm a regular communicant my parish church (Anglican again), have taken up an interest in orthodox theology, and dabble in prayer and meditation.

... which brings me to Atheists Anonymous, founded in the hope that I will be able either to learn to justify and accept my religious inclinations, or to at least come to acceptable terms with my Atheism.

Author: Kenneth Moyle, - Last updated:29/04/96