A while ago, I tried to write a post showing the absurdity that is my life by proposing a hypothetical situation in which the roles of Christianity and atheism were reversed. In order to express just how much Christianity was forced on me at school, I wanted to say, “Imagine being a closeted Christian who had to take classes on atheism, sing songs about atheism, read books on atheism, and attend atheist church.” Quickly, I realized that this entire situation is flawed because by nature, atheism doesn’t operate in the same way that religion does.
That post turned into my argument for why my college should require each student and faculty member to sign a statement of faith upon enrollment or employment. In hypothetically reversing the situation, I realized just how unusual it would be if a school required anyone to sign a statement of disbelief. In my experience, atheists are typically accepting and would allow anyone to believe what they want, so forcing anyone to not believe in god would be particularly uncharacteristic.
With that being said, I can’t help but try to treat atheism in my life the same way that people treat religion. Many people I know have small collections of Christian books, so in my eyes it is only fair to have my own collection of atheist books. My college classmates wore clothes with Christian references all the time, so I bought myself a shirt with the atheist logo. (And I now have an entire merch store of my own designs.) I’ve seen hundreds of coffee cups with bible verses scrawled on them, so I’ve got one that says “Atheist”. Hundreds of blogs focus on various aspects of Christianity, so mine is all about atheism.
In trying to treat Christianity and atheism equally in this way, I realized that since atheism is not a religion, and the mere fact that it is a lack of belief (to some, a negative belief), this just doesn’t work out the same way. You can’t replace something with a lack of something. For example, a while ago there was a trend going around with Christian YouTubers to make videos about “My Morning Routine with Jesus,” and I was thinking of how one could counter it with an “atheist morning routine.” Would an atheist replace their morning bible studies by reading arguments for Jesus mythicism, or would they ignore religion altogether? Granted, this is why we have things like secular church.
My fiancé and I look forward to having truly secular Sunday mornings come November by skipping church together. But is it not hypocritical to skip church just to sit home and celebrate atheism and the very fact that you’re skipping church? How productive really is rebellion just for rebellion’s sake? I would be the last one to say that secularism and skepticism aren’t worthwhile interests, but they should be for the right reasons. I read and write about them because I enjoy them, but I’ve decided that atheism activism out of spite isn’t healthy. If I read a book on atheism, it shouldn’t be because everyone else is reading the bible and I don’t want to feel left out. It should be out of genuine interest.
Although I never truly believed in god and didn’t have an entirely full-fledged deconversion, I know that for many people, religion can leave behind a hole in the shape of interests, meaning, and morning routines. The solution to filling that hole, however, is not to dwell on the fact that you’re irreligious; it should be to fill it with something else entirely. This could really be with anything: playing music, being with family, reading books you love, cooking, fitness, art, fashion, science, technology, you name it.
The real opposite of having a coffee cup with a bible verse on it is just having a coffee cup without a bible verse on it, not necessarily an atheist quote. The opposite of having to sign a statement of faith isn’t a statement of atheism, but rather no required statement at all. And the best alternative to attending church is getting so caught up in the life you’re living right now that you forgot church was even going on.