Part 1 is here.
We were discussing in the previous part about how, thanks to no pressure at all from anyone, I grew up an apatheist.
I did point out in that part that atheists and theists have a problem with apatheism in that they don’t understand it.
If you're an atheist or a theist who doesn't get it, I can probably tell you about apatheism by asking the following question:
When cutting a 100mm slab to put in an air-con drain pipe, and assuming that the cut required is 50mm deep by 50mm wide, is there a school of thought as to whether this is allowable based on current building regulations?
Some would suggest that if it’s roof slab, you need to be aware of the rate of decay of the reinforcing bars, regardless of re-concreting over and waterproofing.
Others would add to this any time that the slab covers a void of some sort, including basements, crawlspaces, passageways etc.
In my honest opinion, this is all very important stuff and all, and it probably affects every apartment block ever built, but do I really care?
Getting it wrong can affect tens or hundreds of lives. But do I really care?
I mean, really. Should I care?
This is how religion appears to the apatheist. Irrelevant. Boring. Full of rules that make no sense at all to the uninitiated. Or, more accurately, indoctrinated.
Ask yourself this: Football. Music. Chicks. Religion. Is it really any wonder that the last one just couldn’t find space in my short attention span?
Oh, I forgot to try to cram schoolwork in there, too.
I think that it was third year uni when I began to start thinking a little more deeply about religion than what I had in the past.
It all happened one lunchtime in Union House. I was manning the ticket table for a play that was being staged at the residential college where I lived at the time. I had, at various times that day, been approached by various members of all three major Christian campus groups and asked about my thoughts about the meaning of life, whether I believed that Jesus had died for my sins and whether I would like to come along to a prayer meeting or three.
The major campus Christian groups had tables set up somewhat permanently in Union House, and would be hassling everyone who passed by to come along on a daily basis. I thought that by virtue of manning another table, I’d be immune, but I still got hassled.
In fairness, I also got hassled by a rather attractive brunette in a top showing her bellybutton with a tray of brightly coloured drinks that I was assured would make me smarter.
Even though I was in third year at university, the pseudoscience of Smart Drinks™ would probably have been completely plausible to me, had I heard a word that she was saying. As it was, I suspect that I was concentrating on flirting way too hard to actually take in anything that she was saying and can only dimly recall the words “amino acids”. I had about three different coloured thimble-sized samplers that day, and I can tell you right now, felt no different at all.
Anyway, being hassled by the campus Christians was a daily occurrence. Being hassled by scantily-clad marketers on campus was slightly more unusual – the Womens’ Collective normally would frighten this sort of marketing initiative off into another state.
But the “wimmin” didn’t appear to be around today, so our young Smart Drink™ sample dispenser could go berzerk. I’m sure that it wasn’t lost on her that every bloke who went up to her to sample her wares was flirting with her big time, if not hitting on her outright, but I’m digressing here. The sight of those flawless, tanned, athletic legs disappearing into a ridiculously short pleated mini-skirt was, I’m sure, not noticed by anyone there that day.
I had just breathed a sigh of relief as a third, over-ardent young Christian tacitly admitted defeat in getting me to attend one of their prayer meetings. He’d scarcely handed me one of his group’s flyers and gone on his way when another young gentleman came up to me.
Swearing under my breath, I greeted our new addition, whom I’ll call “The Dude,” with bemused insincerity. Our conversation went a little like this:
Dude: I see the campus Christians won’t leave you alone either.
Me: *winces and waits for inevitable approach line*
Dude: My name’s The Dude, and I was wondering what your thoughts on religion are?
Me: Dude, I don’t have any thoughts on religion.
Dude: That’s great, cause you know, our group is always looking for fresh ideas and thoughts especially with regards to the relentless bombardment of everyone with other students forcing their religion down others' throats.
Me: Um, when I said, ‘I don’t have any thoughts on religion,’ what I meant to say was, ‘I have no interest in religion.’
Dude: And that’s fine. Our members have no interest in religion, either. In fact, one of our topics this week will be taking action to stop the insane amount of proselytising that all the campus Christians have been doing lately…
Me: What did you say your group was called?
Dude: We’re the University Atheist Society.
Me: Dude, has anyone noticed that you’re proselytising?
Dude: No I’m not… That’s like saying atheism is a religion and it’s not… And there has to be a belief system for proselytising… [Insert atheist cliché here]… [And here]… Blah blah-dy blah.
Me: Right. When you stop rambling, please try to understand this. I have no interest in religion. This directly implies that I have no interest in joining the uni’s atheist society.
Dude: But atheism isn’t a religion.
Me: I never said it was. But it's irrelevant anyway - having no interest in religion almost completely infers no interest in atheism.
Dude: No it doesn’t…
Me: Don’t argue, Dude. And, let me finish – I don’t really care who comes up to sell their wares to me, be they Christians, atheists or nubiles with Smart Drinks…
Narrator: At this point we both looked over at the sensuous figure in the pleated mini-skirt and crop top as she had a laugh with another bloke who must have been on his fifth or sixth Smart Drink sample.
Me again: …all I ask is that they don’t get hypocritical or sanctimonious. Do you understand?
Dude: Yes. I’m sorry I disturbed you.
And then he slunk off. I felt a bit bad, actually, like I’d been too hard on him, but it was nearly the end of my shift on the table, and quite frankly I was a bit rattled. I may also have been hung-over, although I don’t recall this specifically.
I also may have been a bit dishonest with him – I rather liked our young Smart Drink dispenser looking for conversation and picking me out of everyone there. That is, I probably would have tolerated a bit of hypocrisy or sanctimoniousness from her.
This event was a bit of an epiphany for me, as I now went out of my way to learn a bit more about religion, atheism and the like. This took about two or three years.
Apathy does take a long time to shift.
Atheism, I saw in the dictionary, was one who believed that God doesn’t exist. Tossed that one around in my head for a bit. Decided it was too “final” for me.
I came back to agnosticism, which was a word that I recalled learning at school. I remember having someone tell me that an agnostic was one who doubted.
I looked it up and noticed that this particular definition was right up my alley – agnostics expect that evidence will never be found concerning the existence or otherwise of God.
I had been listening to the long running Skeptics show on 3RRR (don’t think it’s on anymore which is a real shame because it was an excellent show put together by the Australian Skeptics that introduced me to the work of James Randi) and I noticed that you could turn this definition on its head and view it another way – that is, an agnostic will not accept a position concerning the existence or otherwise of God without evidence.
This fitted me like a glove at the time, and I don’t believe that I’ve changed all that much since then.
I have however, noticed that theists and atheists really, really don’t understand agnostics. Probably more so than how they don’t understand apatheists.
And I’ll discuss this some more in part 3.