Believe It or Not

06/03/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A strange attack on atheists over Easter by a couple of clerics in Australia. We've obviously got them worried. All the usual kind of nonsense, The fundamentalist Anglican said "It's about our determination as human beings to have our own way, to make our own rules, to live our own lives, unfettered by the rule of God and the right of God to rule over us. What we're really seeing, once more [is] an example of the contest between human beings and God over who rules the world." The catholic said "Last century we tried godlessness on a grand scale and the effects were devastating: Nazism, Stalinism, Pol Pot-ery, mass murder, abortion and broken relationships - all promoted by state-imposed atheism, [It's] the illusion that we can build a better life without God." Elsewhere other foolish people queued up to denounce atheism as a "religion". It is as if all of these bits of nonsense are being said for the first time, thoughts arising anew from a careful contemplation of science and philosophy. Instead of course they are like the tired old refrains of the climate change denialists, swallowed whole from the communications of the mother ship, repeated endlessly to anyone who will listen.

The first two need little comment. The Anglican seems to have missed the point I think - has no one told the good man that atheists don't believe there is a god, and his lot haven't proved there is? But if it's a contest between an imaginary fellow in the sky and real human beings here on Earth, hey, I'm on the side of the Humans, what a pity the Anglican isn't. And really, the catholics have a bit of a nerve talking about Hitler, don't they? And whatever was motivating Mr Stalin, it clearly wasn't his membership of a humanist society. What rubbish, how any one, unblinded by their own ideology, could possibly suggest that the nastiness of the twentieth century (and earlier centuries) was the result of atheism is beyond me. There may be some alternative universe where the religious are kind and tolerant peace loving people and atheists are rampant psychopaths who cause wars, but it isn't the one I'm familiar with.

And so to the final one - unsurprisingly trotted out when the religious perceive that rational thought might be gaining ground among the public. The sight of 2500 atheists in a convention centre for the World Atheist Conference last month must have really spooked them. Let's bury it now, once and for all. Human beings do all sorts of odd things - go to NASCAR races, secretly cross-dress, buy guns and more guns, go to Lady GaGa concerts, attend church, grow long beards and moustaches, watch Woody Allen movies, visit Disneyland, work out in gymnasiums, drink homeopathic water, go on holiday cruises, support football teams, collect stamps, tattoo their bodies - I recognise that these are all hobbies, quirks, interests, pastimes. I don't want to do any of them myself, but I am quite happy for others to wander off and do things like this among crowds of like minded people, or do them in the privacy of their own homes. You do them, I don't, both happy. I'm a very easy going fellow. I have my own interests, collecting old books and prints, for example, but I have absolutely no interest in getting anyone else to follow my example. In fact the fewer fellow collectors there are, the better, and cheaper, for me. I'm not going to knock on doors, bundle of books under my arm, to convince people of the merits of collecting early editions of Dickens books. Nor will I lobby my local politician to make collecting compulsory, or my local school principal to have book collecting become a core curriculum item.

Similarly, I'm an atheist. I'm happy in my atheism, there being no god means the world is a much more interesting and challenging place. But again, I'm not going to preach the word of Dawkins on street corners, or insist that the country closes down for one day a week while I follow my atheist pursuits (if I had any). On the other hand, I get really cross when homeopaths, and stamp collectors, and cross-dressers, and churchgoers, and Lady GaGa lovers knock on my door and demand that I follow their strange ways. Lobby politicians to make their hobbies compulsory, have Woody Allen movies playing in courthouses, demand that hospitals serve homeopathic remedies, insist that schools teach a particular old creation myth. Abuse me and say I have no morals, that I am like Hitler because I don't collect stamps. Insist that I can't run for political office because I have no tattoos.

You want to do that stuff, fine, do it, but leave me alone, and I'll leave you alone. The day I knock on your door and start preaching print collecting and atheism, that's the day you get to call my lack of belief a religion.

Oh, and you want to start a war, invade a country, kill and torture people? Try my neighbor, he's into god and guns. I'm not.

I insist you read me on The Watermelon Blog, it's practically a religious obligation.