“For the record, I am not trying to convert anyone here. I am not a Jew for Jesus. I’m not really a Jew for anything, but I guess if forced to choose I would be a Jew for Everybody Chilling the Fuck Out.”
When someone hears I’m an atheist, they become visibly uncomfortable. I’m not exaggerating, either – they stiffen, lean away, and give me that look like I’m going to sacrifice their babies to Satan. Uhmm, while I appreciate the abject fear you apparently have of me, that’s not something you have to worry about. I can’t believe in Satan if I don’t believe in God, kthanxbai.
And if it’s not the “get thee behind me, Satan!” look, it’s the “oh great, you’re one of those people” eye rolls. As if being an atheist is as joyless and attention-seeking as being a vegan. Pffft. Look, I’m not telling you just because. I don’t tell anyone anything just because, except, of course, if it’s embarrassing, like I farted in an elevator or walked around all day with cat barf on the seat of my pants. I told you I’m an atheist because you asked, or because you made an assumption that, if left un-corrected, would ruin the whole story.
Person at the bar: I go to blah blah church and they had a barbecue and I’ve been going there for blah blah years, etc. etc. What church do you go to?
Me: I don’t.
Person: <look of disbelief> Well, aren’t you Catholic? (note: everyone in South City is Catholic. Didn’t you know?)
Me: No, I’m an atheist.
Person: <look of discomfort and/or indulgent eye roll>
Why is it okay for you to talk about your church, but it’s not okay for me to talk about the lack of mine? Especially when you’re the one who asked? I’m not saying you’re wrong. My disbelief isn’t intended to make you insecure about your faith.
(I’m aware that there are a number of militant, angry atheists out there. Just like militant, angry Christians, militant, angry atheists take pleasure in telling the other side just how wrong (stupid, evil, primitive, etc.) they are. They’re like shitty old people who enjoy telling kids there’s no Santa Claus. Rest easy, people, I am not that kind of infidel! Let’s all go on a picnic!)
In addition to giving me rude looks, people seem to enjoy telling me all about religion like the most persistent Jehovah’s Witness to ever interrupt my hangover on a Saturday morning. “Well, in the bible it says…” Dude, I know what it says. I was parochially-schooled for 13 years. I know my theology. I also know my history, which means I understand that parts of the bible are written as historical document. Okay? Just because I don’t believe in his divinity doesn’t mean Jesus couldn’t have been a real guy. It’s just as Raphael says,
“My personal take on the guy? I do believe Jesus was a man that lived, but I don’t believe he died so that we could feel okay about giving retarded people the death penalty. But that doesn’t mean he/He/It can’t inspire in others something beautiful and rapturous. I’m pretty sure about ninety percent of all great music is about Jesus, heroin, or love-sick teenagers.”
I don’t believe in God. You can if you want. I’ll do my thing, you do yours. Let’s all go on a picnic!