In his June 6, 2005, commencement address to Stanford graduates, Apple and Pixar executive Steve Jobs made this puerile remark: "Death is very likely the single best Invention of Life. [I've used it] to help me make the big choices in life." It is this fear of death that gives rise to the con game of religion. A far more mature view of life was expressed over two millennia ago by Lucretius: "Life lives on. It is the lives, the lives, the lives that die." Or cast into contemporary terms by Oxford physicist Roger Penrose: "It is through the renewal of life that the new sources of ideas and insights needed for genuine future progress will come, in the search for those deeper laws that actually govern the universe in which we live."
My father was converted to Mormonism five years before I was born; ten years later he succumbed to leukemia. A fundamental belief of that cult is that couples are married forever. All her life my mother clung to the belief that posthumously she and my father would be reunited. So fervent was that belief that she declared to her second non-Mormon husband that the doctrine of the Mormon church held that the three children she had had by him would forever belong to her first husband. It was this grotesque and macabre scenario of reuniting with a corpse and another man's children that struck me as so unnatural and inhumane that I began to question the religion In which I was being reared. I lived in a rural Idaho town In the 1950s, with no cultural contact except the public library. At Einstein's death I learned he was considered the outstanding thinker of his time, so I read a collection of his essays on social Issues. From there I struggled to understand his theories of special and general relativity, but lacked the mathematical background to engage deeply with his ideas. But that plunge into real science broughtme to appreciate the value of Bacon's scientific method as a valid means to discover the nature of the world I lived in.
There was no particular point at which I no longer held to any belief in Mormonism. Can you recall the moment you no longer believed in Santa Claus or in the tooth fairy? From reading Bernard Shaw's prefaces, I saw that religion had produced no inventions to benefit mankind, but had instead been nothing but a source of confusion, a gigantic obstacle to the cooperation necessary to improve life. Over many years I gave Mormonism a good shot at proving Itself, but at length, disgusted with the many disappointments and juvenile beliefs it produced, I forced an excommunication from what former Mormons term the Morg.
I have made a real attempt to expose my five children to the hard sciences and to allow them free rein - to follow their own Interests to the full. It has been indeed rewarding to see them pair up with other non-religious and beautiful humans free of the retarding baggage of religion. Each person is unique, of course, but for me the atheist lifestyle was a precious discovery.