Back in university, there were a group of obnoxious atheists at my school. Mind you, obnoxious was the key word here. If ornithology were relevant to the point I am about to make, I would call these people obnoxious ornithologists. But they were atheists, and at the time I was not1.
I was, however, a contrarian. I made it my point to give these guys as much shit as possible. They didn’t have good opinions, nor good justifications for their atheism, which was little more than a book report on what they had read from Dawkins, Hitchens or Harris2. They thought it was well thought out, and much of it was not. Case in point, relevant to future points – there is the notion, still held by the famed atheists of the early-mid 00’s, that religion was a necessary ingredient to evil. This is absolutely not the case, as many religious people just have beliefs that are not warranted. These beliefs often led them to hold opinions and actions that lean towards negative, but I think this is a far cry from evil. We also see plenty of examples of people doing evil that in no way stems from religion – it was not religion that caused a teenager to get mugged outside of a bestbuy for a PS5.
Another favorite example of mine is the people who rioted in France when the price of Nutella dropped significantly causing a run on the supermarkets. If you think religion is the cause of all evil, imagine a bunch of sex-positive, liberal, secular French parents parents beating the shit out of other french parents over discounted jars of hazelnut spread. It’s enough to make you say allahuakbar.
Right. Let’s fast forward this shit.
This year a friend of mine came down to a nearby town and I went and had a visit. We see each other once every three or four years, and I am surprised we’ve made the friendship stretch when many others hadn’t managed to bridge the decades gap from when we saw each other regularly. We used to see each other regularly at the time of the above mentioned religion conversation with the not-to-bright atheists at my uni. He, in fact, was one of the few people who took my side on this conversation. As far as I knew, he was something of a vaguely defined Deist back then.
We had an updated version of the long rambling conversations we had back in uni, that seemed to touch on every god damn current event. This was back in Jan 2022, and he called the Russian war when everyone else in my circle was still denying it was likely.
Now here is the weird bit. The conversation moved to Coronavirus related notions and I mentioned how the virus followed weird demographic lines. There were higher rates among republicans, and higher rates among the religious.
That last bit bothered him. And he pushed back. He seemed to object to the idea that religion would cause higher cases of covid. And I explained to him that I didn’t, but merely that there was a correlation there that likely had another cause. He didn’t seem to like this either.
And all that reminded me of the previously mentioned religious conversations from back in University. What I began to wonder is to what extent I have changed. Mind you, I know that I have gone from dumb-shit spiritual to atheist, but I still think about some of the stances Sam Harris holds to this day, and am able to disagree with them. I still think back to the specific conversation I had in Uni and know that the opinion I help hasn’t really changed. It might be because religion was never all that important in my life to begin with. But the disagreement I had with my friend did lead me to think that something must have changed. Was I wrong bringing up the facts of reality, or my mentioning plain simple statistics? Of course, I don’t think so.
1 Back then, I was one of those ‘Spiritual, not religious’ cretins. This is the group I am now most disgusted by.
2 Weirdly enough, they never mentioned those people who did end up contributing to my own atheism – Carl Sagan, Karen Armstrong, Bertrand Russel, Bart Erhman