I follow Ricky Gervais on Twitter. He is a funny man, and I think he deserves to go to heaven for creating The Office. But you must know something about Ricky Gervais: he is an atheist, and a pretty obnoxious one, at that—probably as obnoxious about his beliefs as some Christians I have met. But I enjoy his sub-140 character quips. I laugh when he antagonizes religious zealots for spewing out their condescending dogma as condemnation of his allegedly wayward beliefs. It’s all very funny, if you ask me.
I also follow another man on Twitter, a writer named Alain de Botton. He seems to be a lot more polite than Gervais, and upholds the value of certain religious practices, even though he remains an outspoken atheist. He seems very smart; and I must admit, I do follow certain people on Twitter because doing so helps me feel smart. But the truth is—and this is a secret—a lot of clever things fly right over my head without my realizing it.
As for me, I remain a believer in God. Maybe it’s because I’m not that smart. The me of ten years ago would have thrown a fit if he knew of the sorcery I would be captive to in 2012 by listening to atheist views, among others. (Leave him be—he’ll grow out of it.)
The truth is, I have always believed, deep down, that God was inclusive rather than exclusive, and that Christians should be, too. Growing up, we had a hundred different nationalities at school, and that meant Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim, non-religious and Christian friends. We would have a Christmas pageant because Christmas is mainstream like that. But we would also respect holidays like Diwali for Hindus, and Eid al-Fitr for Muslims. You get the idea. It was a great way to grow up.
But I lost my way at some point and began acting as though Christians were better than everyone, that we had some sort of magical advantage over the rest of creation. Now that I am older, I look back and cringe at the sort of douche I acted like when I preached, not a gospel of God’s love, but one of being better than others because my lifestyle was supposedly more wholesome, my theology supposedly more sound.
Devout Christian people don’t often say they are better, but many of us unknowingly act like it. We act as though we’ve won the lottery and must let everyone know that we’ve moved up in life. We stop hanging out with the ‘poorer relations’, and get a new set of friends, people who have riches like we do, who think and act like we do. We become religious elitists.
This has cost the Church; and it’s no wonder many people are wary of religion, these days. Newsflash: if the only people who really like your club are in your club, it isn’t a cool club.
Maybe a thousand years from now, Christianity will have lost a significant number of followers. Maybe it will fall from the mainstream and in doing so, regain some of its mysterious appeal. Maybe it will be cool to be a Christian again, the way it is cool to be an atheist in 2012. And then maybe an obnoxious atheist like Ricky Gervais will be an ideological leader of the masses, poking fun at the weak-minded minorities who do their crazy Christian shit.
Maybe then, Christians will understand how bad it felt when we acted above everybody else, when we pushed our rules in their faces. Maybe then will we realize that it doesn’t lead anyone to adopt your belief when you have a superiority complex. And in feeling what it’s like at the bottom, maybe then will we love people better, not because we can recruit them into our big club, but because, just as they are, regardless of what they believe, they deserve our love and respect.