Having grown up in secular Holland in the 1980’s I don’t need a reason to be an atheist. One’s an atheist by default. Those attending church on a regular basis are either few and far between or tend to live in the heavily segregated villages in the Dutch ‘Bible belt’. The only interesting question that pertains to my situation would be; “why didn’t I become a Christian?”.
Of my four grand-parents, only one retained her faith (the only one left alive incidentally, I wonder if that is significant somehow) and through this channel I’ve been exposed to plenty of Christians over the years. These people are almost uniformly very kind and caring, slightly more so on average than the atheists in my life I dare say.
And yet, and yet. Almost every time I talk with Christians about religious or philosophical or ethical topics, I feel as though soaked in the most bare and acrid hypocrisy. Gone are the compassion and the empathy, replaced by the holier-than-thou unspoken remarks and the patronising “I’ll pray for you” defence, designed to turn the believer from ideological busybody into sacrificial lamb. Gone are the doubt and self-deprecation, replaced by the most wanton sense of faultlessness.
I would get it if they really believed what they say they believe, but they don’t. They are Christians only while religion comes in a neat little predigested package. If these people really believed the Bible is the word of God, why have none of them read it? Why do they not even have a cursory knowledge of what their particular denomination is about? There is only one explanation I know of that covers this; they don’t actually believe. They tell themselves they believe because it allows them to belong to a group that feeds and nurtures the ever-prevalent martyr complex in all of us.
This is why religion does not attract me on an emotional level. This persistent hypocrisy that taints everything in the vicinity of faith.