Recently, I had a conversation with a friend, about nothing really, but eventually the subject turned to atheism, as it seems to if the conversation goes on long enough, I have no idea, after all these years why non-atheists (I don’t know if many are truly believers) are so interested, intrigued, by atheists. It’s almost as if we’re looked at as a different species rather than just people that don’t believe in god(s).
So as I was speaking with this person, I wondered what he actually believed. I mean, he’s not much of a church-goer. In fact, for as long as I’ve known him (more than 10 years) I don’t think I’ve ever heard him claim to have attended church – any church – and I’m not even sure which Christian denomination he subscribes to. I’m not implying at all that he’s not a nice, even a good, person. I just have never heard him talk about his belief, ever. Of course, he claims to be a “Christian”, but so do some 70% of the country. Identifying with a religion is one thing, practicing it is another.
So, I often wonder what the difference is between a non-practicing, lapsed maybe?, Christian and an atheist? Well clearly the “Christian” still believes, I think, or at least claims to believe whereas atheists make no pretense whatsoever. Of course there’s the social pressure for some that may actually be non-believers to claim some sort of belief. How many of those are closeted atheists?
We certainly have seen the rise of the non-religious in the last decade but not being religious isn’t indicative about belief, is it? Just because someone doesn’t ascribe to the denomination of their parents and grandparents, or just in general find “religion” to be poisonous, doesn’t tell us anything . People may choose to believe on whatever they want. I used to know some people that actually believed there were people of some sort that lived on the sun. Seems silly, but then, these people were as serious about their belief system as many devoted Christians are to their resurrection story.
I asked my friend, specifically what he did believe. He couldn’t actually tell me other than that “Jesus is the Savior”. What, I asked him, informs him that way? Does he read the bible? No. In fact it’s been interesting to me over the years how few Christians know so little about their own text. I mean, there are some that can quote one or two specific scriptures they learned by rote, but do they even understand the context of that which they quote? Very few in my experience. So this same person never attends church, not even Christmas or Easter services, doesn’t read the bible, and of course (because I asked this as well) doesn’t pray. It seems to be that in his case being Christian is just a label he’s adopted.
My friend, no matter how many times I’ve told him that it’s not true, thinks that atheists (me in particular) are just angry at god. He doesn’t seem to realize that not believing in god has nothing to do about anger. I don’ t believe in Santa Claus either. Am I just angry at Santa? How many religions are there in the world today? How many have there been in history? What is it that gives anyone to believe one over the other? What makes the story of Jesus more believable than the story of Mithras?
My friend says that Christianity has survived for two millennia where many other religions have disappeared. That’s true, but then, what caused them to disappear in the last two thousand years? But then, some of those religions, and at least one today, were around for at least as long as Christianity has been – and that one? Hinduism, which, depending on what we read, is nearly twice as old, and thriving. Islam, which came into being almost six centuries after Christianity, is almost as large. What makes one true and the others not? I think that when any reasonable person stops to think, it makes no sense to believe in any of it.
I never bring up the topic. Ever. It doesn’t mean that much to me. I’m amused that so many non-atheists I know are curious though, and want to know how I live as an atheist. My response is always, the same way you live, just another person. I’m noot defined by being an atheist, at least in my mind and as I’ve written here before, it’s only one part of the whole that is me – and honestly, not a very important one at that. I don’t Evangelize Atheism, and I don’t choose who I associate with based on something that means so little in my life.
A while back, I ran into a former colleague, I had not spoken to in about a year. After a quick greeting, she asked me, “So, are you still an atheist?”. That’swhat comes to mind first? Really? I just smiled and asked if she were still a Christian. Point made.