When I first started writing about atheism, I must admit I was coming from a very tolerant, peaceful place. I liked coming from that place, and it was my intention to represent atheism's softer side with a "live and let live, peace and brown rice" type of attitude.
By the time one of my early articles, "The Soulful Atheist," got the attention of Deepak Chopra, who liked it very much and wrote to me about it, I was accused of being a "woo-woo," which is a derogatory and dismissive term used to refer to people who have new-age or mystical beliefs. My feeling was that it didn't matter what anyone thought of me or if I had mystical beliefs or not; the bottom line was that I didn't believe in God or any kind of deity, and that is what made me an atheist by definition. In fact, hearing that Deepak was considered the King of Woo made me feel like I was in pretty good company. Did being an atheist have to cancel out my love for great thinkers like Deepak? Not in my world.
And while I'm still open to learning from the minds of those mystically inclined, I do have to say that my perception of mysticism has been altered somewhat by the knowledge I've gained on my own atheistic journey. Whereas I do recognize the need in people to believe in things that give them comfort, I can't help but register many of these things as delusional. It's not meant to be a putdown; it's just an observation on my part. I seek to understand, not to believe, and in trying to understand, I am faced with a degree of frustration, one that many other atheists have discovered way before me: Everyday life revolves around an unending deference to all things theistic.
"Bless you!" Why bless me? Will the devil get into my soul through the hole in my head if you don't seal it up with the words "bless you"? Are you channeling your god while you're blessing me? What is the blessing supposed to do? Stop me from sneezing again? Forget the devil part -- how did sneezes become the most common prompt for the words "bless you"? Are we so worried about the person who sneezes that we need to call for divine intervention?
"Oh, thank God!" Yes, everything is a God-given act of mercy. I love it when people say things like, "Thank God the earthquake only took my legs. At least I'm still here, thanks to the love of Jesus." Yup. God spared your life so that you can suffer for the rest of it. If you drop the God part, you'd see that an earthquake happened, you're alive, and now you have to deal with the effects. Nothing mystical. You weren't spared because you're good, and you weren't punished because you're bad. As tragic as our lives may be at times, it's really just narcissistic to think we're divinely chosen to fulfill such a noble yet fictional destiny. We're not special; we're just humans on a planet that is subject to natural events. Own that one and you'll bypass a whole lot of the repressed anger and resentment you'll feel one day when you start blaming God for all the crap he dumped on your head.
"My prayers go out to the families of those lost in the tragedy..." Right, because that does a lot, unless, of course, "prayers" are things that can reanimate the dead or force terrible events to undo themselves. Why can't people just say, "I really feel bad for the families, and I wish I could show my love for them with a hug of support."
"Believe." This is perhaps the woo-wooest word ever. This word ties together the worlds of fanatical religion and new-age mania with the idea that nothing needs proof, explanation, or research. The universe is beautiful enough without having to cover it in deceptive concepts and mystical beliefs. It's all right there, and it doesn't require an ounce of faith. Nothing sexier than gorgeous, stunning, quantum reality.
"It's a sign." What? Your magic rock was found facing east this morning? So that means your girlfriend will love you and your foe will come into unspeakable hardship? Oh, well, thank God for that!
"Smile, God loves you." This one's my favorite of all. Now there's a meme for you. Stick that puppy right over a photo of an emaciated African child. Tell me, theists, how do you counterpoint that cruel realization?
I just want to say that, for me, atheism is a thing that just gets better every day. When theists talk about seeing the light, they mean the blinding light of God, or Jesus, or whatever it is that gives them the idea that they've had a revelation. When an atheist sees the light, it comes like a brilliant, eye-opening beacon of truth: The man made God concept is what separates you from the light of reality. God is the wool over your eyes. Want me to woo-woo that up for you? God is Maya.
And even though I still remain a peace-and-brown-rice person, I see now why there's a valid reason to up the ante on my stance -- to remove the training wheels on my atheism, so to speak. Because atheists (like every other group in the world who has had to shove aside, back down, or suck up to the mass hypnosis that creates a privileged, entitled majority) are simply sick and tired of not being heard.
Why so angry, the world asks? Apply that question to women, black people, Gays, Jews, fat people, Muslims, the disabled, the poor, basically anyone who doesn't fit neatly into the big white box of boring, and you'll get the same answer: We're alive, we exist, we have value -- get out of our face already!
Sometimes you just have to make a noise.