Before I jump right into this hypothesis of mine, I want to make a few things clear.
First, Godless Mom is not an authority on either psychology or any sort of science. If I had to pick a topic to say I am any sort of an authority on, it would be the accumulation of drool while Google image searching Alexander Skarsgård or maybe how to use the retweet button on Twitter. Something like that. I’m not an authority on anything. What follows are simply my own assumptions, which I base on my own experiences.
Second, if, after I’ve admitted to not being an authority on the topics that follow, you still feel threatened by what I say, it will only serve to prove my points.
I don’t think real theists exist.
That’s right. I do not think anyone truly believes in god. Not a one of us 9 billion meatballs.
But, Godless Mom, how can you think that? The religious trolls are everywhere! Right. But stop and listen to them, really assess what they’re saying and you might see what I see: pure doubt.
Every morning, I wake up to a swarm of trolls pressing me with such questions as, “so, how can you not believe in God?” and “what do you know about Islam?” and random bible scriptures that are completely irrelevant to anything at all, said with the air of a boisterous “ABRACADABRA!”.
These religious people seek me out, of their own free will, and choose to engage with me simply because I call myself Godless. They don’t read my blog, they rarely scan my tweets, they just simply see “Godless” and start firing.
Well, think about it. Take the one thing you’re sure of about yourself. For me, it’s that I’m pretty smart. Not a genius or some foremost thinker or anything, just pretty smart. I have no doubt whatsoever about this fact, and everyone who really knows me agrees. What is your one thing? Think about it. What is the one thing you truly know about yourself, that you never question, never doubt? It could be anything. You love cheese. Maybe you’re a great singer. You’re 6 feet tall.
Now imagine a stranger randomly coming up to you on the street and telling you it’s not true.
In my case, this total stranger, who’s never said a word to me, nor me to him prior, approaches me and says simply, “You’re not smart”.
Now, right off the bat, you might respond without thinking, saying something like, “How do you know?” or “That’s not true” but given a moment or two of reflection, your ultimate reaction will be something more along the lines of, “whatever” and then walking away. You most certainly would not engage in a debate about the truthfulness of your cheese love, great voice or 6 foot talledness, would you? No, that would be an exercise in absurdity. Obviously, the stranger knows nothing of you and therefore, his opinion is really just background noise. You’d go about your day and forget the whole thing ever happened in moments.
On the flip side, think of something you’re very self-conscious about, something that causes you a whole lot of doubt. Let’s say maybe you’re not in the kind of shape you want to be, or you think you have a really big nose. If that stranger had come up and said something to that affect, like “You’re so fat!” or “Nice nose, Pinocchio!” it’s gonna sting a bit more, and depending on how sensitive you are, it could even reduce you to tears. You will walk away thinking about it all day, echoing those words in your head over and over, in spite of the fact that the stranger didn’t know anything about you at all and should not matter.
The point is, when we’re confronted with doubt or denial about something we already question, it invokes a far more powerful reaction, than if we’re approached with doubt or denial about something we accept as undeniable fact.
It’s why the worst homophobes are closeted homosexuals. It’s why many outspoken pro-lifers have had abortions in their past. It’s why, when a religious person sees someone living a god-free life, they get their back up.
The word “Godless” has been described to me as many different things since I started doing this: as a direct assault on religious people, as offensive, as obscene, as impossible. It is, however, none of these things. What Godless truly is, is a truth that awakens a long buried doubt deep inside the theist.
That tiny ball of uncertainty has been skillfully buried for a long time by indoctrination, the threat of betrayal, shunning or the crippling fear of just looking like a fool that fell for god. So when something or someone makes that little ball of doubt stir, the theist often feels he needs to lash out.
Calling myself Godless on a public forum triggers these fits of defensiveness as a method with which to rebury the awakened doubt within the believer.
Their questions to atheists, are really the questions they, themselves struggle with.
Their insults are signs that you’re making sense, and as a result, causing them intense fear.
Their spewing of nonsensical scripture is their way of attempting to make themselves stop doubting.
In essence, they are arguing with us as a way to argue with their own doubt.
We are the personified reflection of their own doubt in god’s existence.
But one thing is for sure in my mind, and that is that the idea that any one human on earth fully believes the mythology surrounding the major religions, without any shred of doubt, is absolutely and undeniably absurd. It’s simply not possible. There is no such thing as a theist.
Religious leaders bury their doubt to keep their jobs and make money. Political leaders deny their doubt to remain in control. Religious lobbyists deny their doubt to push an agenda that barely even ties into the scriptures. Everyday people deny their doubt out of unparalleled terror.
Make no mistake, These people are terrified. The more angry they get arguing with atheists, the more terrified they are. They’re scared to death that they’re wrong. The idea that their whole world, everything they’ve ever known is all based on lies is absolutely crippling. Some fear the loss of family, as in the cases of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some fear persecution and even death, as in the case of apostates in Muslim countries. Some fear the loss of their jobs. Some fear judgment from other religious people. Some fear a life without god will be empty. Some just fear they will look like a fool.
It’s not always easy to argue with these people because such intense fear can cause humans to say and do atrocious things, sometimes even ending in death. It’s not easy to argue with them because they seem to lack all clarity of thought. It’s hard to debate with them when they sling shit as much as they breathe. The key to a religious-indoctrination-free world, however, is to just keep doing it.
Try to be patient. Try not to appear frightening. Try to be clear that an atheist’s life is not missing anything, and we find just as much joy and wonder in our world as a theist, if not more. Even though it’s hard as hell and we’ve all done it at one point or another, don’t sling that shit back.
And never, ever stop questioning their faith. Normalize the questions, normalize the criticism. Make it so that criticism of religious ideas is commonplace and get rid of that violence-causing shock value.
Just keep poking that ball of doubt. It’s got the potential to become a proud atheist one day.
As Dan Dennett said once,
I think it may be easier than we’re supposing to shake peoples’ faith. There’s been a moratorium on this for a long time. We’re just the beginning of a new wave of explicit attempts to shake peoples’ faith. And it’s bearing fruit, and the obstacles it seems to me are not that we don’t have the facts or the arguments, it’s these strategic reasons for not professing it, not admitting it. Not admitting it to yourself, not admitting it in public because your family is gonna view it as a betrayal, you’re just embarrassed to admit that you were taken in by this for so long. It takes, I think, tremendous courage to just declare that you’ve given that all up and if we can find ways to help people find that courage, and give them some examples of people who have done this and they’re doing just fine, they may have lost the affections of a parent or something like that, they may have hurt some family members, but still I think it’s a good thing to encourage and I don’t think we should assume that we can’t do this. I think we can.
So, get out there atheists. Get out there and shake their faith.