Bill Nugent has not received any gifts yet
When I was about 10yrs old my dad built a telescope with a 8" mirror. We set it up in the back garden and although we lived in north London right by the M1 the view was pretty clear. What really got me, it was some sort of epiphany, but not the christian kind, was seeing with my own eyes the rings around Saturn. I understood very well the physics of the telescope, I had helped to put it together and set it up, but seeing those rings for real, not on the telly, with my bare eyes made them more real than I had realised. A tremendous feeling overwhelmed me, I felt my whole body, my whole being was drawn through that tiny lens into the vastness of space, the solar system, the galaxy, the universe.
From that moment I was changed, I had crossed a rubicon that few if any of my contemporaries at school or elsewhere could possibly understand. I was different, other, a stranger in a strange land. So, now my friends were Heinlein, Asimov and Clark, Feynman, Sagan and Kaku (and a whole slew of professors who have appeared on BBC's Horizon or presented their own documentaries like Cox, Sautoy and Stewart) Lately, I have been drawn to the ideas and ideologies of people like Lovelock, Dawkins and Hitchens. I have acquired (a little) knowledge of everything from the big bang through chaos to the edge of a black hole, with mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology I have glimsed at geology, evolution, philosophy and a bit of Life, the universe and everything. Oh, I know it's all a bit 'Jack of all trades, Master of none' but nevertheless I feel well informed.
So, I suppose it should come as no surprise that I am a atheist -I find myself divided between 'militant' atheism, the kind that challenges all forms of religion as futile and stupid and just wanting to be nice to people. It's hard trying to be tolerant when I know in my heart and I have gained knowledge that informs me the existence of a god, any god is wrong on so many levels it is almost criminal that people still have these beliefs.