Try to Believe in Jesus Because Everybody Else Does

believe yourself

Just because something is popular does not mean it is worthwhile or something you should do. It is hard to imagine any atheist would disagree with that statement in the context of religion, but it seems to be more controversial if we apply it to parts of popular culture unrelated to religion. When I confessed to someone recently that I have no idea what Wordle is even though I have seen references to it in my Twitter timeline, I was rebuked with a classic appeal to popularity much like those used by Christians in the U.S. I should know what it is because of how popular it is, and I should be participating in it because of how popular it is. Evidently, it is a game of some sort. No thanks. I value freethought far too much to be swayed by that line of argument. There's not much I'm going to embrace merely because others do.

Atheists living in the U.S. or other countries where religion is somehow still the norm are the ultimate outsiders. It isn't just that we are not conforming; we are not conforming with one of the most valued types of belief there is. That's often difficult, but it is also quite an impressive accomplishment when one considers how tough it can be to go against the grain. I don't think this means that atheists are necessarily nonconformist in other areas, but I suspect that it means that we may be at least somewhat more familiar with nonconformity. Hopefully, it also means that we might be somewhat less inclined to go along with popular culture just because it is popular.

Whether it is participating in the traditional Thanksgiving meal, celebrating Christmas, watching the Super Bowl, uttering magic incantations whenever someone sneezes, or all sorts of other traditions embedded in popular culture, I have grown increasingly comfortable opting out of those I do not enjoy or consider pointless. And the list of those I don't enjoy or consider pointless seems to be steadily expanding. It is not that I face no negative repercussions for doing so because that is not the case; I think it is that these repercussions bother me less than they used to.

I don't have any interest in playing games of any kind on my phone. I never have, and it is hard to imagine I ever will. I'm certainly not going to begin doing so just because others enjoy it or tell me I should do it. If I was that sort of person, I'd probably still be wasting my Sunday mornings by wearing uncomfortable clothing, sitting on a hard bench, and listening to bad singing while wondering if I was the only sane person in the sanctuary. I'm not eager to go through that again.

The surprising thing about the appeals to popularity is just how popular they are. This is probably a slight exaggeration, but it seems like I have at least one directed at me almost every week. I don't think those who use them even realize what they are doing most of the time. "What do you mean you don't want to do what everybody else is doing? Everybody else is doing it!" I don't think they know how unappealing that sounds to me. The same goes for when they insist that I will enjoy it, as if they know what I like better than I know myself.

If it is weird not to go along with popular trends just because they are popular, then I'm content to be weird. I don't think this is about me being a contrarian because I don't find much appeal in going my own way just for the sake of doing so (or the isolation that often comes with it). But at the same time, I find even less appeal in doing something merely because others are doing it, especially if I don't expect to enjoy it or know I don't enjoy it. In my youth, I devoted too much energy to trying to fit in. I'm not interested in continuing to play that game either.