What’s your default religious setting? Agnostic? Atheist? Believer? Default being the position you’re reduced to when dangling perilously over troubled waters; the one inspired by fear of death or eternal loneliness; the thing that remains when rational thought has left the building.
For a long time mine was atheist, and proudly, vocally so. I adopted this position, I hasten to add, long before atheism became the fad it is now, in our post-God Delusion world. Indeed, via a convoluted path I’ve touched upon before, my assertions led rather ironically to me marrying in a church, into a family called Christian, to the daughter of a man who once trained to take up the cloth. So much for my lofty beliefs.
But atheism seems to me to have one unavoidable quality in common with traditional, organisation religion. Just as foxhunters and anti-hunt campaigners alike want to preserve the fox, so religion and atheism both demand faith. After all, a total lack of evidence for God’s existence doesn’t mean the alternative has to be a vacuum. There are other options.
So if that’s the case why do so many people reject religion? A simple cost benefit analysis suggests by far the most sensible position to adopt is one of believer. This is because if the tales of heaven and hell and a Christian God turn out to be true, and you adopt an atheist position, you’re off down to the firey place. But if you pledge your faith and the whole thing turns out to be a big, fat lie, well, what have you lost? Of course, if you believe and you turn out to be right, then you’ve struck gold – you can look forward to a life in eternal bliss. Viewed in this simplistic manor, atheism suddenly seems a futile, almost vindictive position adopted by those who dislike the people who peddle the traditional stuff, rather than a legitimate system of belief.
It’s for this reason I’m convinced most who claim to be atheists really aren’t – they are just victims of a fad that could well pass as quickly as it has taken hold.
Maybe I say this because I’m annoyed that everyone jumped on my bandwagon. Maybe with more people claiming atheism as their default position, it has lost its edge. Which ever way you look at it, however, being an atheist takes too much blind faith. Possibilianism is beginning to look like a more grown-up, open minded position.
This is all of course entirely academic anyway because even if God does exists, the notion that human beings have a soul, as distinct from the physical self, is clearly nonsense. Once you’re dead, there’s nothing left to go up or down; we came from the earth and to the earth we will return.
But I guess that’s a topic for another day.