Guest Post: Everyday Atheism For Beginners
I’ve been an atheist for so long, I barely remember what it was like to be upset with a God who wasn’t there. My atheism requires so little of my time and attention these days, it barely registers most of the time – just one of its many attractive features. It most certainly isn’t the character trait that most defines me. That’s my roguish good looks, rapier wit and humble humility, naturally.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t still aspects to being a godless heathen that provide…challenges. Day to day life is so skewed towards theism it can be a nigh on impossible, just keeping your cool amidst the madness. But keep your cool you must – or else there’s a danger you’ll descend to the same level of belligerent stupidity that makes fat people in Stetsons talk in tongues, picket abortion clinics or burn decent albums.
So, before you’re sucked into a thousand Reddit forums, adrift amongst a sea of angry seventeen year olds, spitting bile at their parental upbringing in the name of Christ the Saviour, it’s probably wise to warn you of some of the things that will undoubtedly be making your piss boil until the very moment you fall off your earthly perch.
1) People are always going to thank God for stuff. You can’t change it, I’m afraid. To most people it’s simply a turn of phrase, not a serious proclamation of faith. To Grammy winners, it’s a way of pretending to be humble, instead of exposing their narcissism and egomania in front of a room full of rented tuxedos. You’ve got to learn to let that one go right over your head, like a moron in a homemade jetpack – or else you’ll be twitching like a gulf war veteran by the time you’re 30.
God hates retweets
2) Don’t judge a religion by their wackiest members. Whilst I agree that it is entirely irrational to believe literally in a Space Dad and his Bee-Gee offspring, adherents to fundamentalist religious sects are a different kettle of fish to the sort of weak-coffee-and-cookies types who fill most Churches. Most moderate Christians don’t really have a hardcore concept in mind anyway – their faith is more like a kind of vibe. I can dig that, even though I don’t get it. (This is most certainly true in the UK. I’m not so sure it holds firm in the US, given the American population’s seeming love of both 1. Public hysterics and 2. Firearms)
3) Don’t try and force your worldview on your kids – they’re smarter than you think… In the UK, our kids have to be instructed within a ‘broadly Christian’ curriculum by law. This makes my toes curl at night, but there seems little point in me going all Michael Douglas in Falling Down outside the school gates. Instead, I engage my kids in conversation and try and explain everything with a cool, detached and friendly skepticism. Kids are smart – they’re nowhere near as easily brainwashed by bullshit as you may think, so long as you speak to them like sentient beings. Our nine year old is the most rational, switched on little freethinker as a direct result of this approach – the five year old snapping at his heels.
4) Defence not offence is the way to win the game! Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” Actually, I think it was his mom. Smart lady. Religion is too. Specifically it’s like a cheap Walmart box of chocolates. Some of it you can stomach, some of it makes you gag, some of it’s offensive to anyone with functional tastebuds. But not everyone condemns the whole box as rancid, like we do. Some people will happily spend their life buying the whole damn box every Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving, cherry picking out the tasty bits and ignoring the foul stuff. It’s their money, time and effort they’re wasting. Let ‘em get on with it. You only need to get in their grille when they start shoving vile chocolates in your face. Then it’s no holds barred – but only then.
5) Fear and ignorance are not things to mock – they’re perceptions to alter. The problem with rabid attacks on religious people is that it makes them dig in further. Even gentle but rapid movements startle many devout people – like those feral cats you see terrorizing households on Animal Planet. Kindness, love, tolerance and patience are the answer. It’s fucking infuriating – just as it is teaching a vicious cat that all you want to do is to make them pee in the garden – but it’s the only way.
Follow these five simple guidelines and you will avoid 90% of situations in which you appear to be a complete asshole to anyone with a theistic bent. We know you were only trying to point out the inconsistencies, circular logic or blatant hypocrisy of belief, but the faithful don’t see it that way. The Easter bunny is real, godammit. They are children of God. Therefore, you need to be the responsible adult.