Of all my friends and colleagues, most all of them identify as either Christian or Jewish. I do have 2 colleagues that are Muslim. These people know I am an atheist. I don’t go around prothletisning atheism but when the topic of religious belief has come up, I’m not afraid to tell those same people that I’m an atheist.
What I find interesting about those conversations are that no one seems to be offended by my atheism. Another thing I learn is that most of them have not darkened the door of a church or synagogue for over 20 years. Yet, they still identify with the religious tradition they were raised in.
I ask if any of them still read the bible or pray. None say yes. I ask them why, if they are a Christian or Jewish, why not? I get various answers but here are some common ones:
The bible is just a book of stories, metaphors for how we should live our lives.
Prayer is something children do. It makes them feel better but that’s about it.
So why do these same people claim to be believers? Do they believe in an afterlife? Well, 100% said they do and that may explain why they prefer to identify with their religious belief. Its Pascals Wager all over again.
So why not declare oneself as agnostic if not atheist? It comes down to the belief that these same people fear being ostracized within their family, as well as the possibility of there being a bias against them at work.
Is there a God? They all say yes to that question but are unable to describe anything about God that would have them believe. It’s always been curious to me that people that declare a belief in God cannot describe a single positive attribute about said God, other than God loves us.
Is there anything wrong with someone being an atheist? Some say yes to that question in that if there is an actual afterlife, and a God that presides over it, that those declaring a non-belief would be punished. Others tell me there’s nothing wrong with being skeptical about the existence of God.
Is there anything atheists are able to do to show that we’re no different than anyone else? It doesn’t seem so but we can continue to live our lives, just the way other do, and have some hope that eventually people will come to realize that there’s nothing wrong with being an atheist.
This won’t happen in my lifetime, and I doubt it will in anyone who’s reading this post, but over time, I think that religious belief will become less a factor in society.
It’s too bad none of us will be around to experience it.