Personal anecdotes does not data make, but since I’ve become more involved in online atheist groups I am reminded that when I tried to dabble in religion, my mother did an hours long intervention on me and reasoned me out of trying to get a Bible.
This was years ago when I was around thirteen or fourteen. Sometimes I suspect that if mum had found pot, booze or porn or even heroin in my room, the intervention wouldn’t have been half as intense and thorough.
My mum really has no faith in the intentions and motivations of religion and the religious hierarchies. Sometimes I suspect that she started a science career just to give two fingers to her background, which included religion. Her dad was quite religious and made her to go to the church in her childhood and teens.
Only about ten per cent of the population here in the UK can be considered devout Christians. There is a large portion of fairly whishy-washy believers in something, maybe the cartoon Jesus that’s always nice and has nothing bad to say. These people go to Church only at weddings and funerals, and really never involve themselves in the Christian community and have a cultural conditioning of not flouting religion.
It can feel that way. The number of people who say they have no religion jumped from 15% in the 2001 census to 25% in 2011. If the remaining 75% were believers, this leap in free-thinking would be significant but not sensational. But those who say they are religious are not faithful to their creeds, or not in any sense that the believers of the past would have recognised. Church attendance is in constant decline. Every year that passes sees congregations become smaller and greyer. As striking as the fall in religious observance is the public’s near total disregard for the teachings of the clerics and prelates, who could once claim to be society’s moral guides.
To cite the most striking example, a popular liberal prejudice keeps anti-Catholicism alive by picturing Catholics as automatons who blindly follow the teachings of the Vatican. There is no evidence to support it. A poll just before a papal visit in 2010 found Catholics took no more notice of the Pope than anyone else. Just 11% of Catholics agreed with the church that doctors should perform abortions only if a woman’s life was in danger. Just 4% supported Vatican teaching on contraception.
When millions of people tell the census takers they are “Christians”, therefore, they are muttering the title of a childhood story they only half remember. What is more, their spiritual “leaders” know it. Long before the census figures were in, you could hear the screams that always accompany ideologies and institutions history is leaving behind.
There is a real disdain toward ‘god bothering’, which is displayed by these same squishy Christians when they are confronted with American style pastoring. A UK politician would for instance never invoke religion like an American one does. It wouldn’t be good for their careers. Not even the Queen who is the head of the Church of England really does it. Finally, with secularism such a strong force in this country, I can’t actually think of one person in my year at school that identify as religious.
All this make the atheist boy that I am a lucky fellow in that I don’t need to confront religion much, nor do I have to confront the position of privilege that religion has in other parts of the world.
So when I’ve entered into atheist communities on the internet, I’ve been struck by the intensity of feeling against atheism. Because of my involvement I’ve been put in the spotlight for people that want to do an intervention, and try to save the poor and wicked sinner to the Lord. Or at least rescue the poor child and teen from the sinners.
For one who spend hardly any time thinking about religion, except like now when I am puzzled by the importance other people put on my status as an atheist, these attempts at intervention are aggravating and annoying. Sometimes I feel that there is a Richard Dawkins growing in me, and I want to go into full on hostility and tear up these disrespectful Christians.
I do try to follow the Phil Plaitt strategy in these things, which can be summed up in the phrase “don’t be a dick”. But when the Christians are being dickish toward me and what I think? One of the things my mum, and my school, has taught me is to think critically. And boy am I critical against those that can’t leave me be, and disrespects my convictions. You could say that I am quite disparaging, hostile, and mean to those. At least on the internets, I am not so socially awkward that I never speak up.