Sometimes it's almost enough to make you believe in God.
Atheists claim to value reason above blind faith and individuality above the lock-step certitude of religion. My own rejection of faith, I hoped, would allow me to indulge in wicked thoughts and pork-based dishes. I hoped I could forever avoid hallelujah get-togethers, group-thinky organizations and constraining labels.
Yet these days, atheists are organized. They're activists. They probably will sue you. They have become exasperatingly earnest, hopelessly serious and unnecessarily pushy. They have, in other words, become as tedious as Joel Osteen. And there are few greater sins.
Last year, for instance, atheists -- along with humanists, secularists and a gaggle of other "ists" -- gathered in dozens of cities to celebrate a holiday called HumanLight. The festivity, according to the organizers, envisions "a future in which all people can identify with one another, care for each other, behave with the highest moral standards, and work together toward a happy, just and peaceful world."
The whole enterprise sounds like Gandhi channeling Ayn Rand -- or suspiciously like Mass. What happened to the good old days, when nonbelievers were in a perpetual non-celebratory mood?
Sadly, this trend is not only about highhanded hands-across-the-world shindigs. Why, for instance, would my naysaying brethren go and form public policy centers?
The Freedom From Religion Foundation's purpose, according to its Web site, is to educate the public on matters relating to "nontheism." In the "What does the Foundation do?" section, the first bullet point says, "Files lawsuits!"Now, clearly, the Lord was more adept at making a sales pitch. "Files lawsuits!" just doesn't have the ring of "Now go and smite Amalek."
Lawyers, of course, often exhibit the deftness of Torquemada. And when atheistic groups sue the United States to bar the words "under God" in national prayer and any references to God at the swearing-in of Barack Obama, as 17 groups did this year, your eyes struggle not to roll.
After all, any real atheist knows that when a politician swears an oath to God, it should be treated precisely like any other campaign promise, i.e., like a myth.
But it gets worse. When did atheists start proselytizing with the ineptness of a third-tier televangelist?
In the United States, campaigns by atheists subject us to varying degrees of corniness, for example, "Evolve beyond faith" and "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake." In England, there are buses that carry this atheistic slogan: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." (Hmm "
Please keep worrying. If God keeps you off my lawn, who am I to dissuade you?
The vast majority of Americans do believe in God. A poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life last year found that 71 percent of adults are absolutely certain that God (or something similar) exists. Another 17 percent claim they are fairly certain. Only 5 percent are nonbelievers.
Yet even with all these saps, no one ever has forced me to bow or to give penance. I never have been forced to join any religious group. So the last thing I want is a group of atheists speaking -- and suing -- in my name.
For now, I guess, I'll have to call myself a "nontheist" -- at least until a Nontheist Citizens Political Action Committee is formed.