According to a recent study by the University of Minnesota, I belong to the minority group most mistrusted by the average American. A group that comes below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians in “sharing their vision of American society”. What is this monstrous group to which I belong? Atheists, apparently.
The level of religiosity in the United States always astonishes me: polls put the number of non-believers in the US at between 5-10%, while here in the decadent and faithless UK it’s more 35-40%. And now, it would seem, the majority of American citizens would be highly suspicious of me because of my lack – in the face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary of course – of belief in any god whatsoever. Moreover, I wouldn’t be welcome to marry their daughter. A sentiment which is wholly reciprocated, I assure you.
I’ve always found adherence to faith baffling in the extreme. Even if I were to overlook the fact that there is no evidence to support any of them, not a single one (which I can’t, fussy empiricist that I am) the sheer choice is just overwhelming. As Homer said to Marge when defending his decision to stop going to church in the classic episode Homer the Heretic: “What if we’ve picked the wrong religion? Every week, we’re just making God madder and madder!” I get flustered enough choosing washing powder at the supermarket – this one’s kinder to the environment, but this one is tough on all stains, ooh this one’s half price – so how could I possibly settle down with one all-encompassing faith and value system?
Fear and mistrust of atheists is predicated on the age-old lie that only religion can ensure a coherent morality system; that religion gives us morality, ergo atheists are amoral. Wrong way round. Morality existed long before religion: religion is an offshoot of an already embedded morality system.