No sooner will an atheist discover his colleague is a churchgoer than he will attempt to start a quarrel with them about how ‘religion is the cause of all wars.’ Never mind that this postulate is garbage, it’s always the same story. Not so long ago I was trapped at the bar by ‘uncle Frank’ — everyone has an ‘uncle Frank’ — who felt an irresistible compulsion, as all atheists do, to explain in great detail — and I mean great detail — how the Catholic Church was behind every war, responsible for every massacre, was the single greatest threat to women — oh, and children — in the world, and had ‘invented the Bible to control stupid people.’ My only crime was ordering a drink. It was a family wedding and all I wanted to do was have some banter. But the collar and the fact I was the celebrant of the nuptial Mass gave me away.
A few months later it took all of my willpower to refrain from eyeballing him as he lined up to receive Communion at his mother’s funeral. That would have been petty and quite cruel. People like ‘uncle Frank’ have their moments and social media is crawling with them — the kind of people who mock and deride people of faith from behind an anonymous profile with such classics of degraded intelligence as the Sky Fairy and the, admittedly hilarious, Flying Spaghetti Monster. But their spiel is always of a kind; boring memorised and inaccurate aphorisms — what passes for philosophy on social media — delivered with more than a hint of unexamined rage.
Why does it always have to be so angry? It’s boring! Tell me why you are so angry. Tell me who you are angry at? That is interesting. Perhaps we could get somewhere if we got to the bottom of that. The ‘New Atheists’ we meet online and propping up the bar are apoplectic with a God they are convinced does not exist. So they vent their frustrations on those they identify as religious, somehow thinking that they can answer for God. This is absurd. It’s boring and it’s rude. But it’s also heart-breaking. So often, when we do get to the bottom of their anger with this idea of God — which is never our idea of God — we discover that in fact they have been hurt. They are angry with someone or something, and they have projected the hurt and all their feelings of anger onto God and onto everyone and everything they associate with God.
Knowing that the earth is spherical, the smarter among us simply give ‘Flat-Earthers’ a wide berth. They don’t need to engage with nonsense. That this kind of Atheist needs to — and really does need to — challenge every religious person they meet to a duel to the death tells its own story. They are not engaged in a good faith dispute. They are not launching into the fray so much as to demolish the arguments of their opponent as they are in the hope their own will be demolished, that they will get their moment in court with the God they believe has hurt them.