I’ve mentioned before how I lost my belief in god when I was sixteen years old, but I never really told the whole story and I think it’s a story worth telling, because it does show my choice to mock religion incessantly in a new light.
I was sixteen years old and in standard eight as we called it then – school kids these days would call it grade 10. I was a quiet and shy teenager who mostly kept to myself, or sometimes voiced my sarcasm and cynical criticism of pretty much everything softly in the back of class so that the louder “trouble-making” teens might hear me and repeat my words; which they frequently did. So basically I was as I am now – mostly quiet but always thinking and sometimes voicing my views. Because my statements were mostly perceived as “clever”, nobody bullied me or harassed me and I was for the most part left alone.
Such was not the case for Meri, a girl who had immigrated from Finland. Her accent, her vastly different views, her attitude, and the fact that she would not back down when challenged, especially for a girl, made her the butt of many jokes and the victim of unnecessary verbal abuse. I remember one day overhearing the end of an exchange, between her and two or three others, including my friend Dale, who I respected until that day. Dale was one of the most intelligent people I knew, super smart – and my basis for this was that he was better than me at maths. Anyway, the argument was about religion. Dale laughed at her for not believing in god. Dale and whoever else was involved, but I can’t remember who the others were. They mocked her and she was almost in tears. Just because she didn’t believe the same as them. I remember Dale even saying to me, “How can she say there is no god?” as if the very suggestion was completely absurd because everybody “knows” god is real.
So after the conversation, I approached her. To be fair, I had my doubts about religion – I just hadn’t told anybody. I asked her, as a Christian, why she thought there was no god. She laughed. She scoffed. She could not understand why anyone would believe in anything obviously so absurd. She didn’t even say more than a few words, and that was it, my “Eureka!” moment. I knew at once that she was right. I knew that someone like Dale, who laughed at her, was dismissing her despite his intelligence. His intellect, even though it was greater than mine, was working against him. His high IQ was a reason not to think, and I knew at once that’s how it always works. When brushing off those like Meri who questioned the existence of god, we used our intelligence not to think, but to come up with excuses to continue believing what we already believed. That’s how it works. As an indoctrinated person, you think you “know” your god exists. Then when you dismiss people like Meri, your logic is no more than, “I believe what I believe because I believe it”. And that is no reason to believe. With that realization, my Christian faith dissolved instantly.
I wish I could say that was the end of it, but I am not that smart. I stopped believing in any god from that moment onwards, but my journey into my position of atheism I have now took many years. At the time, I still believed in ghosts, a soul, an afterlife, and all kinds of other nonsense. My position now, of not believing in anything for which no evidence exists, took more than another twenty years for me to reach.
However, I knew then what I know now about arguments for the existence of god: There aren’t any good ones. Every single argument, no matter how complex it may appear, has no more substance than that of 16 year old Dale’s argument. Every single argument starts with the assumption that god exists, because the believer thinks he or she “knows” this to be true. I have seen this proven to be the truth over and over again after joining Facebook debate groups. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of theists in debate groups are not clever like my friend Dale. There are clever theists, but the majority of debaters, especially those who partake the most and those who are more vocal about it, are absolute blithering idiots.
Likewise every “militant” atheist is a victim just like Meri. Every one of us has been singled out and humiliated because we dare not to believe but to think and question. We who do not claim to have a personal relationship with the creator of the entire universe are called arrogant for it. We are victimized and persecuted all over the world. We are bombarded with common phrases assuming that we believe the same as everyone else, and have to struggle with our children having the same nonsense imposed on them, even in supposedly secular countries. In my country (South Africa), the majority is Christian, and most Christians are quite oblivious to the way they impose their Christian-normalized views and privilege on everybody.
So I mock religion. I scoff at it just like my 16 year old friend all those years ago. I probably overdo it, but I don’t care, because my mockery of religion doesn’t even begin to approach the level it is imposed on people like me, and if I can reach through the brainwashing to even one mind, as Meri did for me all those years ago, it’s all worthwhile.