Thursday, 13 May 2010

Atheism and its Cult Following, or How My Dad Believes in God Less Than Your Dad

I dislike those ticky boxes on Equal Opportunities forms. Not the "single, married, other" boxes - to be worried about ticking one of those either makes you Bridget Jones or in need of some serious life validation (worry about more important things, dude. Like 2012, shite conspiracy theories or whether Red Dead Redemption is actually going to be sweet mega kickass or not). I hate the boxes where you tick which religion you are. It's not that I despise pigeonholing myself (ugh, I hate that term) or that I have wider beliefs that cannot be measured by mere penstroke, I just don't see why it's an issue. I don't believe in anything apart from good old-fashioned scientifically-backed empirical evidence. This statement is usually met in two ways, both of which, in my opinion, are as bad as each other, but we'll get to that in a bit. What I'm trying to say is that whether I believe some guy ages and ages ago whipped us all up out of archaic Play-Do or not shouldn't be a way to define my character. Do I meet people and immediately announce "I REALLY LIKE ANGEL DELIGHT"? No. Because people don't really care about that, and if they wanted to know more about me, they'd be interested enough to ask. Later on we might have an Angel Delight party, and laugh whimsically about that time when we both realised we both loved dehydrated pudding mixes. Until then I'd keep schtum and tell awkward mum jokes like my life depended on it. That's how I make friends.

It seems odd to me, to start out a relationship with somebody by giving them an opening statement about what you do and don't believe about the world around you. To some people of course, religion is an all-encompassing obsession ruling every detail of their lives, and so it would make sense to blurt out "Hi, I'm a Taoist and I believe in crystal therapy". In these cases, I like to be warned. Crystal therapists are not allowed near me for their own protection. I can shout very loud. Still, really? Is that how you want to be defined? Surely that's on a par with telling people you're nickname back home is "Batshit Mentalcase" on your first day of Uni, even though it isn't. It'll get annoying after a while, trying to explain to people that "that's not all I am though". You might be a wonderful, loving, caring individual, but if you told me you were a Christian as soon as I met you, no matter how lovely you are, all I'll be able to hear when you enter a room is my head saying "She prays when she's sick instead of nailing Lemsip and Vodka". It's mental. And please don't explain it all to me, I know why you believe et cetera blah, I'm just so arrogant that I know that me not believing in God is the right thing to do.

And so we come to everybody's favourite type of person - the Atheist. The leftie leaning doctrine of choice. Notice how I even slag off my own belief - it's called equality. I am an atheist. I haven't always been, mind, I went to a Protestant primary school and a Catholic high school, and believing in God and Jesus and all those friendly little elves that help them out to bring the easter eggs made me feel happy and safe. It was only until we were told in high school that the contraceptive pill would make us infertile that I began to question what type of a God I believed in. I studied Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies (one of a class of 7 - not a popular subject) in order to get to grips with the psychology behind why people believe. As you can imagine, I was not a hugely popular child - I was researching Kierkegaard while my friends drank Jack Daniels in the park. I'd meet them after. It turned out that my beliefs didn't centre around a God, per se, but in a totally unexpected belief in human nature. Here I was thinking my entire life that I was a cynical little fuck. So I began to think I was a Humanist, and loved reading about all that Victorian Humanist stuff, about the Inductrial Revolution, building the Forth Road Bridge and all that jazz. It was fulfilling. Unfortunately it became clear very quickly that 150 years on it made a bit less sense to send up the Human Race as the best things since pre-sliced cheese since we were all hell-bent on destroying everything, so like the handlebar moustache, it became less fashionable to me, and I looked for something else to believe in. For a short and admittedly embarassing time, I was a Solipsist. This may have had something to do with me being a tiny depressive metalhead girl, but I thought the only thing that would make any sense was if the world was all a dream, dreamed up by me. Then I finally watched the Matrix and thought "pffffffft".

So back we go to some kind of Angel Delight dinner party. Beliefs have come up in conversation (even though we were talking about Supernanny US - some people just love to change the subject so they can reel of information they read in Dawkins) and I've probably mentioned that I don't believe in God. Here we have those two outcomes I mentioned before. Both as bad as each other, remember.

1) How can you not believe there's anything out there? There are so many unanswered questions about our Universe, you can't just rule out a supreme being - or even a supreme race! (Adding in a bit of Sci-Fi there for good measure. People think I'll agree with them more if they add aliens.)

2) Oh, me too! It just makes sense, doesn't it, I mean a big bloke in the sky creating the world in 7 days? Get real! Do you read (lists off several thousand Atheist blogs) and go to (some form of Atheist meeting group)? Oh, you should, it's so interesting to hear opinions from people as enlightened as us! HAHAHA!

Person number one is possibly naive but essentially harmless. I could maybe get out of this conversation by shrugging my shoulders and saying "Well I believed in Santa wholeheartedly until I was given solid evidence contrary to my beliefs in his existence." Then there'd be a bit of an awkward mumble, somebody would call me an arse, and we'd get on with the party. Person number two is a whole different kettle of fish. They are the reason I am ashamed to admit I am an Atheist. Somehow they believe that because they don't believe in God that they are some kind of new-age genius, far above the rabble, much more intelligent than those pathetic, praying proles. I love talking about Atheism, debating and hearing different opinions, but generally Atheists make this so hard. If you disagree with anything Dawkins says, for example, you are regarded as a total whimpering idiot. We mustn't disagree with Dawkins, or Sagan for that matter. Why? Oh, is that because you've set up a nice little religion for yourself have you? With Gods who tell you what to think? And you meet in a room and listen to ideas and ideologies? And you want to make everybody think the same way as you?

Holy crap. Atheism as a religion. It's found a way to isolate me. And here I was just thinking I'd finally found a way to independently reign in my thoughts and find new ways to explain life on this planet. If Jesus existed, he'd be weeping.


RoisinSinead said...

Yes! An atheist who thinks for themselves! I FOUND ONE! :D

Katie said...

Hurray! :D

matt said...

I have been preached to by more atheists than religious people. I went to a humanist comedy night once, its broad theme was 'science'. It was compered by Robin Ince. That's the gravity of the situation we're dealing with here.

Can I say 'I don't believe in God' but not be called an atheist? It's like socialism; I like the principle, I just fucking hate socialists.

Saxby123 said...

But some of my best friends are religous people! :-p

Katie said...

Sounds good to me, I think I'll join you THEN WE CAN MAKE OUR OWN RELIGION GROUP!!!!11!

Katie said...

Danny, religious people aren't bad! People who bellow their beliefs at you at Gale Force abillion are the bad ones!

iamhewhoisiam said...

Pushy Atheists bother me as much as any pushy religious types bother me. I think that everyone is entitled to believe what they want to believe and should be free to do so. It all falls to crappy pants when people start imposing their beliefs on others. THAT is what I have trouble with.

If I'm stopped by a nice polite Mormon in the street and I have a moment, yeah I'll stop and chat. Not so long ago I was in Cambridge and I got stopped by a Buddhist who gave me a book and a hug and said "believe what you want - just be happy" which was awesome. Then I turned two corners and there was the Cambridge University Christian Society shouting, singing and forcing pamphlets on me, which led to me giving evil eyes and snarling loudly when approached.

I couldn't be an atheist though, to not believe that there is SOMETHING out there somewhere is a bit too scary for me.

Nice Post, thank you!

Katie said...

Cool, glad you liked it!

And I agree, that buddhist must have made your day! I always like to chat to people who have something to say, but if they are pushy, they are going to get "I haven't had any tequila yet today" me. And that isn't a nice me.

dAb said...

May I recommend The Church of the Subgenius? It certainly helped me on my journey from confused teenage acid-casualty, through born-again-christianism (the memory makes me shudder), neo-paganism, atheism all the way to goddamn stand-on-your-own-two-feetism.

The Hour of SLACK costs nothing to listen to. I was so impressed I coughed up my $30 to J.R. Bob Dobbs, became a minister and have never been happier since.

Stick yourself in his pipe and let him smoke you! I did!

Good rant Katie, enjoyed it. :)

Katie said...

Thanks a lot :)

Saxby123 said...

I know people dont like Dawkins because he's a bit ranty but he doesn't bother me.

Hate the sin, not the sinner. As his holiness would say.

Katie said...

Oh, I don't *hate* Dawkins, I find his books fascinating. I dislike people who treat him like a messiah, and then wholeheartedly congratulate themselves on being so humongously brilliant at thinking for themselves.

Chris Terry said...

My dear Biscuit, your views and personal history are so familiar that they might've come from my own pen, excepting that you have written them with a skill beyond my pen.

I am not at all religious. As a child I was a methodist, and attended church regularly and went to a CoE school. I have since ceased to be religious, but I do not have a problem with the religious. Indeed I love hearing their views on theology. The thing that really pisses me off is when people act as if religion has given the world nothing of worth, or as if religion is the sole cause of problems in the world. No, people are the sole cause of problems in the world and sometimes they abuse religion as an excuse, and let us not forget the many charitable acts done by the religious, the many men and women who have been motivated to improve the planet because of religion (immediately Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. comes to mind), there are those who argue that religion is backwards looking, but early Islam encouraged investigation of science and the world because to understand the world was to be closer to Allah. As such Arabs kept a careful hold of Ancient Greek literature and work, when Europeans would have surely destroyed them as heresy, only for Europeans to 'rediscover' them in the Enlightenment and the marvellous concepts of science, democracy and rationality so beloved by the uber-atheist crowd.

Katie said...

Christopher Terry, you are probably the smartest person I know. Thanks for reading my blog and writing a very very very interesting comment under it :)

ps. I agree with everything you're saying, as bloody usual

Becca said...

Interesting post :)
Whenever I'm asked by anyone I say that I'm agnostic...what I really mean by that is that I have no effin clue whats out there and am scared to committing to anything.

As far as religion goes in my life I went to a C of E school but my belief went as far as occassionally praying for a certain boy I fancied to fancy me back in primary school and thinking God was watching me whenever I stole biscuits/sweets from the cupboard/told a lie/was mean to my sisters/or was on the loo - I lived in fear ;)

Still in the back of my mind is the feeling that if I actually say I don't believe in God, I might be wrong and he might smite me down someday!


Katie said...

Oh I used to feel that way - that if I outright said I didn't belive in god I'd end up going somewhere awful when I died, or I'd get loads of "bad karma" or something.

The only way I stopped feeling this way is by deciding that I was going against my better judgement and accepting that in my case, these feelings of uncertainty and fear were just remnants of my childhood religious indoctrinations. But of course I could be wrong! haha

Mike said...

I don't really think i've ever been asked my religion.. Maybe that's because i'm in Ireland, so it's taken for granted that surely i must be Catholic.. I like the idea of "adding a little sci-fi in there for good measure"..! If anyone asks me my religion in future, i'm gona tell them i believe in Science, and Science Fiction

Mike said...

Reminds me of that Spiritualized song, "No God Only Religion"

Katie said...

Sci fi is the best religion. It involves Farscape :)

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