“If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?” I was asked this question by a friend the other day when we were both feeling especially hypothetical. It’s one of those probing questions that come up every once in while to gleam insight about someone that regular conversation would never gleam. It also prompts me to use the word gleam, which is an awesome word. Gleam.
Anyway, my answer was and is “Jesus.” My friend, a Christian, likewise answered Jesus. He wanted to meet the son of God and be blessed, forgiven, and/or taught by him. My friend assumed my reasons for meeting JC were similar. He didn’t know that I was an atheist. Setting the record straight, I said that I wanted to meet Jesus to know who he really was--expressing my skepticism of the bible. My friend was a little taken back but evenutally followed up with another question. “As an atheist, why would you care about meeting Jesus?”
It’s a good question considering many nonbelievers are fairly tuned out of religion in general. To me, the baffling question is “how can anyone not care?” There are really only two options, both of which are extremely compelling in their own way. The first is that there is a god. I started off talking about JC, but really the possibility of any god should be a topic of interest. If it’s true, it means we live in a world not confined to the material where literally anything is possible. It’s kind of like living in a Tolkien novel that may continue after death. If I believed, I imagine I would pursue the ins and outs of doctrine and the historocity of miracles with even more rigor than I explore secular ideas.
Option two is that there are no gods. Initially this seems mundane, but consider that if this is true, it means the vast majority of humanity, past and present, base their lives around some variation of a wildly ambitious lie. They effectively believe that magic is real and that stories as fantastic as the most outrageuous fiction are historically accurate. In a psychological, sociological, anthropological, neurological and just-plain-logical sense--that’s incredible...and a more than a little unnerving.
We all argree that one of these options is true. So to the apatheist too apatheistic to even know or care that he or she is an apatheist, I ask again, how can anyone not care?