There was no defining moment, no flash of insight, no inspiration that led me to the conclusion that there is no God. Nor was it desperation or despair. I have not lost faith, I have simply put it in a better place.
In retrospect, I've been on this road of discovery since I was a child. I grew up Catholic - very Catholic. But God was not apparent to me, as I was told he should be, as others claimed he was. I wanted to believe, but I doubted.
My doubts deepened when I became a scientist. Like every scientist, I developed the skills of critically thinking and reason. These skills brought me insight into the wonders of the universe. But, when I started to turn them onto my religious beliefs, those beliefs began to evaporate. How could one interpret the self-contradictions of scripture, I wondered? How does one decide which passages to believe, which to ignore? Why is God speaking with so many voices, if only one is correct?
Eventually, I wondered why I held these religious beliefs in the first place? The answer was simple and, at first, dismaying - I held them because my parents did, because I was told to, because it's what people in my society do. But, had I grown up in another time and place, I might have been a Moslem or a Hindu or an Animist. I might not believe in my God, but in "False Gods". Like millions of others, I might be damned to eternal suffering for simply doing as I was doing now, believing what I was told to. So why would my loving God not make himself apparent daily to everyone and spare millions from damnation?
And, I wondered, if God is something that is passed on from generation to generation, how did He first become known? Could religion have had an origin other than the divine? The answer was again dismaying - of course religion could have a mundane origin, and it did. God, all Gods , are a response to the human need for order and reason. We created them so that the loss of a loved one, the occasional triumph of bad over good, and especially our own mortality have meaning and reason.
God did not create us, we created God. But in doing so, we created hope, and reason, and comfort. We created community and belief. These are not things beyond us, that we are given, these are thing OF us. They are ours, to craft, to use, to give. I was initially dismayed at where reason led me, but no more. I do not despair that I lost God, I rejoice that I found Us, our better natures and our hope. The grace and strength in each of us, and the power to use them, are intrinsic to our natures. They are ours, and ours alone. I have found a better place for my faith, in you and me. This I believe.