Bits and Pieces of My Unbelief
One might think that my atheism came about because of my ignorance or because someone in the church, a priest maybe, did not smile to me one day or wish me a good weekend. Well I might disappoint quiet a few out there because my unbelief just came to me naturally the day I realized that religion was man-made, a long time ago. Women participated in the scam of course; in fact they were the perfect accomplices, willing, passionate and often neurotic messengers spreading the good word. But they were mere tools, submissive, servile and unable to emancipate themselves since knowledge and reason were strictly a man’s domain, so much so that they never got the chance to really think things through with their male counterparts. So if my atheism did indeed come to me naturally, so did my equally deep-rooted feminism. But that’s another story.
But what eventually unnerved me the most was the believer’s constant proselytizing. They knew. They had obtained enlightenment through the sacred books, faith and prayers. I remember agreeing to meet believers on more than one occasion since they were systematically calling new students that had checked the box “atheist” on the university’s registration form. I guess they needed to meet us face-to-face to confirm what their eyes could not conceive. I politely agreed to those meetings out of curiosity and the feeling that a straightforward exchange between us might prove constructive. I was naïve back then. No matter what I said, their eyes betrayed them; they could almost foresee my soul burning in hell for denying what seemed evident to them. How blind of me not to be able to admit that god was behind everything. So these meetings soon turned out to be boring. What better example of Christian purpose than to question me sufficiently on my motivations, tame my arrogance and eventually lead me to realize my error? What better purpose in their lives could there be but to convert a non-believer even if it meant investing time, efforts and, god forbid, money? Had I been living in another time, a different country, they might have gone as far as to torture or kill me… to save me.
Furthermore I do remember quiet a few debates with believers of various sorts about one’s implication in doing good generally. It really seemed to them that an atheist, all by himself, could not practise morality, ethics or even pity; to acquire such a high level of decency one would necessarily have to turn to god, one way or the other. Whenever the subject of charity or genuine concern for other human beings arose, they suspected that the origins of my awareness had to be divine. Religion, in their minds, tamed the beast, cured the selfishness of instincts; but I merely practised charity or helped my neighbour naturally, pretending that reason was its main source. To me, “not doing to others what I would not want done to me” just seemed logical and did not need a religious foundation. I guess I must have sounded quiet arrogant and pretentious but no matter how hard I tried to explain that good deeds do not differ in quality or quantity if you’re a believer or an atheist, they still gave me the look, that look, the one that makes you mad because you know the person in front of you pities you when, to be honest, you don’t give a damn.
But that was quiet a few years ago. Since that time I keep asking myself the same question over and over again. Why would a belief, even if shared by thousands of others, give me the right to harass my neighbours, look down on them and judge them inferior spiritually or worse? The answer came in the realization that if such a way of being was profoundly human, it was also pitiful. A person’s grasp of the world rests mostly on a binary view of life, think about it; married/bachelor, family/childless, faithful/unfaithful, right wing/left wing, believer/unbeliever, etc. Proselytizing to me is the incapacity of some to accept the differences of others. To be part of a group comforts by inhibiting reason because we all know that thinking and reasoning can provoke anguish and fear of the future. So to adopt a group’s way of thinking, surrendering one’s right to think for oneself adds up to not thinking at all. Call it intellectual lobotomy or cerebral euthanasia, surrendering one’s reason no matter how appealing the bait fundamentally contradicts our nature as a “thinking animal.” No matter how you look at it, thinking will always claim its share of discomfort, doubt and sometimes solitude; to surrender one’s reason condemns the individual to an isolated and subjective perspective on the world we live in.
It is for all these reasons and more that I will always promote secularism, atheism and the virtues of reason and critical thinking. I shall always fight for a public space devoid of religious signs, sterilized and neutral. For the same reasons I shall always promote tolerance for all practices in the privacy of citizens’ homes, be they religious or spiritual in any way. That being said, my atheism is not doctrinal and therefore never will I give in to proselytizing; I don’t know if God exists or not but finding out has never been an objective since I have never envisioned myself filling a void with another void; such an answer would most certainly rest on mere faith. All I really wish is to live my life as I see it fit, without hurting anyone or myself in the process, and that others respect me as I respect them. I don’t want believers to want for me what I would never wish for them; a perpetual submission and a society founded on a love that has generated so much hatred.