May 10, 2018

Even the Weatherman Thinks You Belong in Church

sh7 typical weather forecastI recorded a recent episode of Saturday Night Live on my DVR like I usually do. When I watched it on Sunday night, I noticed that the recording started a minute or two before the show had started and that the local news had been on right beforehand. To my delight, the local newscast was concluding with the weather forecast. The guy presenting the weather was standing in front of a temperature chart showing the varying temperatures throughout the next day (Sunday). He made a point of telling viewers that we would have nice weather "on your way to church tomorrow morning."

At first, I was a bit taken aback at hearing this. But it all came rushing back to me. I am in Mississippi. It makes sense to assume that almost everyone here is a practicing Christian because almost everyone here is a practicing Christian. I'm one of the few outliers. I'm one of the few strangers in a strange land. Of course the news guy would reference church like this without needing to give it any real thought. Odds are extremely good that everyone he knows would have been heading off to church at the time he noted.

When you hear atheists talk about the value of those of us who can be more open about our lack of belief in gods doing so, this probably isn't the sort of thing they have in mind. Still, I can't help but wonder if this guy would have been so quick to say what he said if he personally knew more atheists. I'd guess not. And yes, this is an extremely trivial example. I have long suspected, however, that when enough trivial examples accumulate, the result becomes less trivial. We may even find ourselves living in a culture where religious belief is the norm and infuses our daily lives whether we want it to or not.

My goal is not to push any atheists to "come out" who are not ready to do so. Far too many are still in situations where there could be a variety of negative consequences for doing so, and I continue to believe that this must be a decision one makes for oneself in consideration of the risks. I also think that there are some benefits in more of us being increasingly open about our atheism. By doing so, we can slowly change the influence of religious belief in our culture.