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The recent death of Christopher Hitchens, atheist author, thinker, smoker and drinker occurred while I was in Mexico, so I wasn't aware of it until I returned to California. While I did not always agree with Hitchens, I read his column in Slate on a regular basis and found him to be intellectually honest, for the most part, though always in possession of numerous axes that needed grinding.

His biggest axe was his insistence on the lack of existence of a supreme being. Like all atheists, he seemed plenty peevish about this at times. Atheists can be angry people. This is because they can only prove that religion is nonsense, not that God for a logical certainty does not exist. Atheists and agnostics also get irritated with religious people because they can be so smugly irrational and also possibly because the religious sometimes want to kill us instead of engaging in their normal practice of killing each other.

As an amateur agnostic theologian, and a lifelong apatheist, I am not troubled by the possibility that a Supreme Being may have designed this beautiful if somewhat accident-prone plane of existence. I am also at peace with the fact that there will always be some kind of religion, because of the intrinsic human need to attempt to control the uncontrollable future. Consider the first, unrecorded religion, a nameless, extinct faith whose holidays we nonetheless still celebrate at Christmas and New Year's. A primitive tribe notices that the sun's path across the southern sky is getting lower and lower each day. They go to their juju man, who declares that they must bring him animals to sacrifice and beer to drink, so that he may have the strength to summon the sun back north. A week later, the day is perceptibly longer, and the juju man demands more meat and brew to thank the sun for not disappearing entirely.

I am sure there were cave atheists back then. The forebears of Hitchens, they must have grumbled that the only result they were for certain getting from their sacrifices was that the juju man looked fat and hung over. Because the sun disappearing forever would be way too big a problem with which to take a chance, the other cave people told them to shut up. This started the religious practice of ignoring reason and logic, which logically led to the religious practices of excommunications, inquisitions, heresy trials and burnings at the stake in later years.

The juju man, entranced by his power over the cave people, began adding other rules. He would forbid gay marriage, for example, or tell the cave people they couldn't eat lobster on Sundays. The cave people would obey, because they couldn't risk losing the sun. Eventually, the add-ons became more important than the original central point of the religion. Consider modern American evangelicals, worshippers of sweet loving Jesus. The most important things to them, if I read the news right, are banning abortion and insuring that homophobia remains legal, even though Jesus, according to the written record, never had a word to say about abortion or homosexuality.

The add-ons are what infuriates atheists and causes them to sue to get crosses taken off hills and commandments banned from courtrooms. If all religions consisted of religious people saying "There is a God, He wants us to be good and we're going to get together every week to talk about that," we rationalists would leave them alone.  Especially if they left us alone.

Meanwhile those of us in the agnostic community remain relaxed and bemused, knowing that if there is a God, He wants us to live in a world where there is no incontrovertible evidence of His existence. This takes a lot of pressure off of us, including the pressure to prove that He does not exist. And if He does exist, and in fact does maintain a Heaven, whether it be filled with harps and angels or brimming with extra virgins or is just an eternally sex-charged nightclub where the drinks are free, everyone is beautiful and nobody is jealous, I am sure all atheists go there.

The God I could get behind would let them in just to see the looks on their faces.


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