Goodness for goodness' sake

I am an atheist. This is not a lack of belief. I am not wishy washying around, searching for something to believe in that’s better or more convincing. I actively believe that there is no God or gods. I believe that religions are coping mechanisms created by humanity to deal with the unknown and/or scary things in life, particularly death. Which makes total sense. Life can be scary and death is downright terrifying. I will stop existing one day. My thoughts, these thoughts, will just stop. Blink out. Be no more. This person, me, everything I am, will be gone. Of course that’s scary.

I’m not easily offended. Though I care deeply about a lot of things, most potential insults wash over me without great effect. I accept that other people think differently to me. But one of the things that I do struggle with is repeated nonchalant attacks on atheism that are apparently acceptable in a country where any attack on religion is not acceptable.

Godlessness does not equal immorality. I believe in being a good person and doing good things for all sorts of reasons, some selfish and some not. I particularly like this quote by Ivan Ratoyevsky: “If anything, an atheist has to be more morally responsible precisely because we don’t blame a god for our own actions.”

Of particular concern to me – why is it okay for state-funded schools to be affiliated to a particular religion? For that religion or local church to have a say in what is or isn’t taught, in who is or isn’t accepted to their local state-funded school. In many areas, especially rural ones, the only local school is a church school, usually Church of England. I went to a C of E primary school. It wasn’t a bad school overall. But we sang hymns and said prayers every morning. The only religious speaker we ever had was the local C of E vicar. RE was 90% or more Christianity. We did a passion play at Easter and a nativity play at Christmas. It was ingrained in us that these were not just stories.

I do not want my children to be taught that way. I strongly believe in secular state-funded schooling, with religion staying at home (or church, temple, mosque, whatever). It makes me angry that religious divisions in our society are aggravated by this continued policy. Of course it doesn’t help that it’s still frowned on to openly admit that you don’t believe in God, which makes it a difficult thing to do.

A big problem is that countries like the UK (and, I believe, Australia and much of western Europe) are considered to be predominantly Christian countries even though only a small percentage of the population actually practises any sort of Christian faith. This is for all sorts of historical reasons but it is not helped by the fact that the UK government relies on census data and the census question has been proven time and again to produce skewed figures, with a significant number of people ticking “Christian” when they are nothing of the sort.

So, I have decided to publicly out myself as an atheist and ask you all (UK peeps, that is), next March, to honestly answer what your current religion is, not how you were raised or what your parents are or whether you were christened decades ago. Do you right now (or rather next March) consider yourself to be practising a religion? If not, then for goodness’ sake tick “No religion” and let’s see some accurate numbers on this subject for a change.