You ever tried to quit smoking? I have. Numerous times. Once you've gotten past the fits and irritation and the snapping at your mailman, you get into that mindset "now I'm a non-smoker". At that point, you actually start looking at the world around you as a non-smoker, too. You see people huddled around outside of their place of business, all smoking away and you think "How can they do that?" You hear reports on the news about how many people die from lung cancer ever year and you think "I'm glad I'm not in that SMOKING group anymore! I'm a non-smoker!"
Of course, then your wife leaves you or you get shot in the leg and you probably go right back to smoking again. But that's besides the point.
It was maybe a few years ago that I took the step from agnostic or "spiritual but not religious" (which is a phrase that bugs the crap out me and yet I can never fully explain why) to straight up atheist. At that point, seeing the various different religious references in the world around me were actually more prominent. And I found them less insulting or infuriating than I did confusing. "Really?" i would think to myself, "People still think that?"
Here's an example. A year ago this month I moved from Cincinnati, OH to Austin, TX. Now, as an aside, most freethinking people who haven't spent a lot of time in the South will usually grimace at just the word "Texas". Granted a lot of its reputation is well deserved but it's not as bad as you would think. On top of that, this isn't just any city in Texas we're talking about, this is Austin. I would say that Austin is the Madison, WI of Texas, but it would be more to say that Madison is the Austin, TX of Wisconsin.
Where the hell was I going with this? Oh, right.
So, anyway, we're taking the highway into Texas, driving through Dallas to get there and there's the usual amount of billboards. Now, most of us have seen the billboards, especially in rural areas where some wacko fundamentalist has put an extra mortgage on his farm or compound so he could buy a billboard that says crap like "HELL IS REAL!" or "REPENT TODAY!" or other such nonsense. This was different, more subtle and actually way more frightening.
These billboards were for regular businesses. But many of them would have the ichthys symbol - commonly known as the "Jesus fish" - on them with proclamations of "we are a Christian company",
Double-you Tee Eff?
Now in a religious community, you can see a billboard like that and not even think twice. But once your world view changes, stuff like that stands out like Clay Aiken at a Slayer concert. (how's that for a pop culture reference?)
It's not just the nutjobs at the Westboro Baptist Church or the crazy street or campus preachers. It can be the Mormons wandering around your neighborhood like some sort of weird preppy Girl Scout brigade, going door to door selling Jesus cookies. It can be something as simple as seeing a cross necklace around someone's neck. Again, it's not infuriating (most of us could give a crap what anyone else believes provided they're not bugging us or hurting anyone). It's just... confusing. Fascinating almost.
Anyway... just some random thoughts. You all play nice now, y'hear?