My daughter has just turned six. Some time over the next year or so, she will discover that her parents are weird. We’re weird because we go to church.
This means as she gets older there’ll be voices telling her what it means, getting louder and louder until by the time she’s a teenager they’ll be shouting right in her ear. It means that we believe in a load of bronze-age absurdities. That we fetishise pain and suffering. That we advocate wishy-washy niceness. That we’re too stupid to understand the irrationality of our creeds. That we build absurdly complex intellectual structures on the marshmallow foundations of a fantasy. That we’re savagely judgmental. That we’d free murderers to kill again. That we’re infantile and can’t do without an illusory daddy in the sky. That we destroy the spontaneity and hopefulness of children by implanting a sick mythology in young minds. That we teach people to hate their own natural selves. That we want people to be afraid. That we want people to be ashamed. That we have an imaginary friend, that we believe in a sky pixie; that we prostrate ourseves before a god who has the reality-status of Santa Claus. That we prefer scripture to novels, preaching to storytelling, certainty to doubt, faith to reason, censorship to debate, silence to eloquence, death to life.
But hey, that’s not the bad news. Those are the objections of people who care enough about religion to object to it. Or to rent a set of recreational objections from Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. As accusations, they may be a hodge-podge, but at least they assume there’s a thing called religion which looms with enough definition and significance to be detested. In fact there’s something truly devoted about the way that Dawkinsites manage to extract a stimulating hobby from the thought of other people’s belief. Some of them even contrive to feel oppressed by the Church of England, which is not easy to do. It must take a deft delicacy at operating on a tiny scale, like fitting a whole model railway layout into an attaché case.