At the time it confirmed two things for me. Firstly, it confirmed my suspicion that adults were indeed making up the whole pile of horseshit about a man managing to shove presents down the chimneys of every house in the entire world in one 24 hour period. It had seemed unlikely for a number of years, but I had kept up a polite compliance in the idea out of a fear I would stop getting Christmas presents.
Secondly, it confirmed that my Aunty Sandra was a complete bitch. I think she knew full well that I was listening and that by casually revealing that Father Christmas did not exist knew she was snatching away a piece of my childhood innocence.
(she really was that type of woman. Fortunately we no longer have anything to with her and I presume she continues to live her life bringing tears to the eyes of small children.)
I remember too, the first time I realised that God did not exist. This time it was not my Aunty Sandra who gave the game away, but my English teacher, Mrs Hough (she of the hairy feet). To my shame I was quite old - seventeen - and we were reading Hamlet for A levels. I forget now exactly which part of the play it was, but our English teacher had to put some text in context of Christian belief at that time. This was something of a shocker to me. One of my many assumptions about Christianity was that Jesus had started it off and it had gone on the same ever since. If belief could change with time, even parts of a belief, then how it could it be truth?
Just this one question sent me off on the road to atheism. For the first time in my young little life I began to ask searching questions of religion and God and soon began to realise that all this, too, was horseshit.
(I will spare you the searching questions I asked and the answers I found that made me an atheist, as it would be less of a blog post and more of a slim volume of work. Perhaps I'll publish when I'm famous.)
With the arrogance of youth, I made an assumption that everyone else in the world would soon realise this too. No one needed to pretend to believe that a supernatural being was in charge of things anymore. We were a modern society. We had Duran Duran and Betamax. We were at the pinnacle of civilisation. We were brave and liberated with no more need of old superstitions.
Just the same as we grow out of believing in Father Christmas, I confidently thought to myself, we can't help but grow out of our primitive need for religion.
I think the time has come however to admit that, much to my puzzlement, that hasn't happened. If anything there seems to be more religion about than when Rio danced on the sand wearing her cherry icecream smile. The bloody thing is everywhere; causing all sorts of trouble that I believe you are probably aware of without me detailing. You'd think religious people would be embarrassed by the difficulties their faiths are causing, but rather than feeling the need to be slightly humble and apologetic, they just seem to be shouting at everyone that everything would all be alright if everyone just tolerated religion more.
"It's not us going around beating people over the head with a stick that is the problem, it's you being so intolerant of being beaten over the head with a stick that's the problem. Stop trying to bully us into stopping us hitting people over the head, accept us beating you over the head, and there will be no problem.
I think this is wrong. But it is hard to argue against religion these days. In the old days you were made to feel no worse than if you were an Aunty Sandra type. If you tried to tell a religious person that there was no God and religion was horseshit, however subtley, you were generally made out to be the sort of thug who would kick a crutch out from under a cripple. If people had a friend in Jesus, then who were you to malign that friendship? Who were you to try and take that away from someone? Nasty person. Just because there is no truth to what they believe in, doesn't mean you should point it out.
(I generally did anyway, and lost a few friends through it. Back then, speaking the truth seemed more important to me than friendship, now I have learned that a good friendship is worth keeping your gob shut for sometimes.)
Now however if you try and argue about religion you are aligned with the Stalinist regime or maligned as a racist. It is not only an act of thuggery these days, but you are singularly contributing to the type of climate that saw millions of Jews being systematically murdered across Europe in the last century apparently.
I look around me with bewilderment. Not only am I supposed to tolerate horseshit, but the reason I am supposed to tolerate horseshit is horseshit too.
These days stating the simple fact that there is no God feels like an act of sedition.
And I am tired, now, of arguing about whether or not there is a God. It is not up to me to prove a negative. If you are going to make ludicrous claims about supernatural beings running the world then it is up to you to prove that to me. And until you can prove there is a God, and no one has managed it yet despite the fact there are several Gods to pick from, then God is unproven and religion is horseshit and that's an end to that.
I am also tired of keeping quiet on this subject because I fear I may look intolerant. The fact is I am quite intolerant when it comes to people spouting nonsense, and the world might as well know it if it didn't already.
And so, dear reader, Scribbles' New Year's Resolution. Every time I see something in which God is talked about as if he actually exists and religion is talked about as something that is not based on nonsense, then I will hang it up here for all to see and do my act of sedition. I will point out that there is no God and that religion is horseshit. I don't mean to make small children cry. I hope instead to do my bit not to let total insanity and unreason overrun the entire planet. And we can't let Richard Dawkins do all the work.
I leave you with a quote from Goethe that I coincidentally came across last night as I was gathering thoughts in my head for this post:
"Truth has to be repeated time and again, as also the errors of the world are preached time and again, in fact, not by one or two, but by the masses"