We’ve probably all met somebody who believes in the existence of literal angels. Not fuzzy wuzzy guardian angels where the person makes vague statements about being watched over and it is ambiguous whether or not they really mean it, but somebody who actually thinks angels are real. It’s always a man or woman into New Age woo, or some other kind of religious extreme. And we all react the same way. We say nothing to their face but go away thinking they’re out of their fucking mind, but harmless enough, so we forget about them. That’s just aunty Carol, who believes in angels and Tarot and healing crystals and talking to Jesus. She’s sweet and nice and she shouldn’t be locked up in a padded cell because her belief doesn’t do any harm.
Likewise, when homophobic uncle Richard claims he talks to Jesus, who comes down from Heaven for a cup of tea and a chat about those nasty homosexuals, we know that person is not quite right in the head about either god or his self-hating repressed sexuality. (Aside, here’s a newsflash for homophobic Christians who love talking about gay sex: Straight people never think about gay sex.) Interestingly, his belief includes prejudice for a minority and does do harm, but because it is part of his religion, we ignore that. (But that’s not my topic for today.)
And yet, to believe in a religion like Christianity, as so many do, requires one to accept that god and his angels used to come down to Earth, two thousand odd years ago, but they don’t any more. So when did they stop? Why would they stop?
We know that anybody who claims to speak to god and angels now is insane. (I’m choosing to focus on people we’ve all known who are thought to be eccentric. Not obvious con artists who run their own religions and make money, or the suckers who believe in them. And I assume none of those types read anything here.) Yet to believe that this used to happen thousands of years ago requires living with a permanent suspension of disbelief.
This, among other things, is the truth that dawned on me back when I was sixteen years old. The main difference between now and two thousand years ago is we are a lot less ignorant than we were then. Deities don’t come down to Earth now, and they didn’t then. Angels don’t come down to Earth now, and they didn’t then. Because deities and angels aren’t real. All supernatural things aren’t real. It’s all pretend. Deep down, if you know that anybody who claims to see those things today is mistaken, you know that those things were never real. So you have to suspend your disbelief. You have to lie to yourself and pretend, just like when you watch a movie. And you believe those lies you tell yourself. That’s the difference between believers and atheists. We stopped pretending.
Noteworthy, I think… I generally avoid arguments like this because theists into debating often make what they believe is an equivalent argument, asserting that we all “know” their god is real and are “angry with him”. Apart from the “angry with god” thing which is an argument they’re taught to repeat parrot-fashion, the part that we “know god exists” is an example of psychological projection, a method of avoiding the argument by projecting your own beliefs onto others. But I do think that when it comes to suspension of disbelief, my argument is valid. I’m not saying you “know” god isn’t real but that you do recognize when certain claims are crazy, while holding beliefs similar to those claims and lying to yourself, or avoiding thinking about them entirely, to continue to hold them. Hence today I’m publishing this argument anyway.
Maybe me being an atheist was inevitable in this sense… I was unable to avoid thinking about these things, and also unable to lie to myself about them. Discarding those beliefs was a natural part of me growing up.