Obviously fundamentalist religion bothers me. It makes me very angry to see anyone try to enforce rules based on ideas that are unproven, much less false. But I’ve never really known what to think of the more mainstream, moderate everyday religion.
I mean, I don’t like it in principle because I think if people are going to believe something then it should be true. (And for the record, anyone who falls for Mormonism or Scientology is a fully levelled-up imbecile, with a million inexperience points and the Shield of Ignorance card.) I also object to the relativist attitude the current culture promotes. Lastly, I object to anyone identifying themselves as ‘Catholic’ because that’s an endorsement of Pope Batshit-Mental XVI, and more generally a large number of believers gives any religion’s lunatic fringe a dangerous illusion of credibility. And these are all fine objections in principle, but in practice, in reality, for the purposes of day-to-day thinking, I just find it weird.
I think I’ve essentially been an atheist ever since it occurred to me to think about religion. For years since then I’ve surrounded myself with young, middle-class, liberal science students and their ilk, so now when I meet someone I assume they’re an atheist in the same way I assume they like cake: so completely have I accepted that there aren’t any gods that it simply wouldn’t occur to me that anyone might disagree. I mean, I know religious people exist outside of churches and other countries and the Internet, but only in the same way that I know a lot of people are conservatives and I know the weekend isn’t an infinite time-bank in which I can catch up with any ridiculous amount of work I care to ignore during the week: I can remember that these things are true but they’re kind of not programmed into my internal model of the world. You know, like general relativity.
But then… there are a couple of my friends who are theists, and every so often I see a Facebook update or something* that casually mentions God or Jesus or Allah vel cetera as if it’s a real person and it just weirds me out. For one thing, I don’t know what to do when I’m invited to thank God for some meaningless turn of fortune. Anything honest seems impolite. How is that fair? They’re the one with the delusion — if anyone’s going to be in an impossible situation, surely it should be them?
In the end I just ignore them. I know if I correct them they won’t listen anyway. Although that said, I do the same thing in pub quizzes and I’ve lost out on a prize that way, so maybe I need to be more assertive. In the meantime, though, my sheepishness to correct the deluded stands me in good stead for handling the religious. Sometimes I post passive-aggressively atheist messages just to balance it out.
The feeling that it’s weird persists, though. Here, I think (in that implicit, subconscious way we do most of our low-level thinking) is a list of updates, from people I care about, to let me know what’s going on in their lives… and here’s one that also involves a fictional character that my friend genuinely believes to be real. I literally don’t know how to process that information. It’s like presenting DOS with the command “c:\make me a cup of tea”. My face just goes blank while my brain throws it the neural equivalent of an unhandled exception error and emails a crash report to Charles Darwin.
I don’t really have a point to make here about anyone other than myself. (I thought I’d wait until the end to mention that. So you’d read it.) I think I just needed to write this somewhere before it drove me crazy. I vaguely hope that any religious folk who happen across this post might understand a bit better what it’s like to be an atheist, although I suspect they might only learn what it’s like to be a socially inept geek-atheist who is procrastinating rather than write his thesis.
*It’s always online. I assume this is either because there’s less taboo about being religious on the internet or because people rapidly learn not to invoke their imaginary friend in my company.