What is that thing? It’s the Fact that most people live in families, and that most experience religion through and because of their family members — father, mother, sister, brother, and the rest of the sentimental bunch. That’s what atheist anthropology isn’t getting, don’t You see? Nobody really settles the big issues like You all imply they do — like they’re some Ayn Randian Übermenschen sitting by themselves in a garret, say; or the last emo scragglebeard left alive on Lost, stuck on some mountain someplace and trying to piece out the Loser’s existence on their lonesome own.
That’s why real religious belief becomes so hard to shake, don’t You see? It’s nothing like one’s “individual conscience” or “internal principles” that way. After all, most people can lose those pretty easily! Just ask anyone when they’re at a party after a few drinks and some Ecstasy and they’re watching a porn movie on the HDTV while everyone’s grinding to Usher, to take an obvious for-instance. At that point, You can pretty much kiss their individual “consciences” and “principles” adios.
No, what makes real
religion so much harder to shake is that a Dull’s devotion to the Loser never really exists all on its own, apart from everything else where it might be easily plucked from him. Instead, it’s stuck waaaaay down inside, all wrapped up like some diabolical Double Helix with the other people
in his life. That makes quitting an awfully hard thing to do. It’s like trying to stop four anti-depressants at once instead of just one, if You know what I mean: Don’t try it on Your own!
Some of the Dulls, for example, come to believe in the Loser for one kind of family reason — say, because they love their husbands or wives too much to believe that death really cuts the two apart forever. Even more people — way more, from what this Former Christian has seen — are drawn to belief because they feel that way about their brats. They think in the craziest way that there’s something infinite about their love for their children, something that transcends these finite shackles of our Cells — and they infer from that powerful feeling that love really is stronger than Death, as their stupid old book says somewhere.
Now You might not think that this gross sentimentality is much of a force in the great Natural scheme of things. But I’m here to tell You that it is. It’s familial love that first gives people the idea of infinite love. It’s that kind of love that puts them in touch with the Loser in the first place — meaning that nothing, really, is more of a problem for our Side than the existence of Human families.
And this former Christian should know! When I lived in a family myself, I was a textbook Dull. And when I went off on my own, especially after those four babe-licious years at the University (!), I started wavering. Oh, I’d go to church here and there, all right, especially if Mom called from home to ask if I was getting there. Then I’d slink off, and usually be late.
But when I really didn’t want to get out of bed, and there was really no one around who knew or cared whether I did, I got into exactly that habit that we Brights have raised to an art form. I’d tell myself that my avoidance of the Loser was all about one (high-minded!) thing, when it was really about something else and not remotely elevated. You know, like when we Brights say things like “The Thomistic doctrine of transubstantiation of essences is too contra-Newtonian to be countenanced by the twenty-first century” — when what we really mean is “what the hell, why should I waste an hour in church when all it’s going to do is remind me of rules I’d just as soon forget”?