The Antitheist’s Bible
I wrote this novel a number of years back. I wanted to explore the stupidities of religion, it’s use as power to contain and quell, its use of fear and division. Religion does have good aspects but, in my opinion, has been an overriding force for evil. I used a novel to explore this.
Later that week we had friends round. Kathy and Tobes came to stay for a few days. It was good, they were old friends who went back to the heady days of poverty and rebellion. We’d met them in London back when we’d both had our first babies.
They had come to London to escape Apartheid in South Africa and make their way in a place of equality and freedom, such as it was. This was the refuge.
Liz and I had helped move them into the bedsit below where we lived. We’d shared meals, ideas and much laughter. We’d all laughingly carried Kathy and Tobe’s mattress from the old place to new through the crowded streets of Manor Road. Our kids had grown up together.
It was one of those friendships that lasted through the years even though Kathy and Tobes had moved back to Africa and Liz and I had moved up North.
We got together when we could.
We’d eaten and I’d taken Tobes off to my room to listen to a bit of Blues. As Howlin’ Wolf boomed around the room we talked, aimlessly at first but focusing in on the issues that were bouncing around my head.
‘So Tobes, I start this lesson talking about racism, and this kid just comes out with this stuff.’
‘What stuff?’ Tobes asked in his big soft voice. He was a big man who gave the impression of quiet reflective intelligence. His eyes always danced with laughter, full of sparkling creatures. ‘I didn’t know you were still teaching. Thought you were the big boss man, giving out orders and having everyone running around after you.’
‘Yeah, right. Chance would be a fine thing,’ I muttered. ‘Well, anyway, this kid was saying that he thinks religion is the cause of all hatred and war and that it should be banned.’
‘So what did you say?’ Tobes chuckled, punching me playfully on the arm. ‘Did you agree with him and give him a house-point for perceptiveness.’
‘I think you would find that house-points are a bit sparse on the ground in the modern education system’ I replied. ‘At least in my place.’ I punched him back. ‘No, I was a bit gobsmacked really. You know, I agreed with him but I couldn’t come out and say that, could I? It’s hard promoting tolerance and keeping your views out of things. I have to be neutral.’
‘Yeah. Bloody impossible for someone like you, I would imagine,’ Tobes said grinning his head off. ‘So how did you deal with it?’
‘Hey! I believe in freedom and tolerance you know!’ I protested. ‘Anyway, I could see that there was a few heads turned, waiting, you know; the Christian militia,’ I explained nodding in reflection. ‘And there were also some up for a debate. It could have developed into something tasty.’
‘Usually does,’ Tobes observed. ‘Especially when the Christian militia get involved.’
‘The thing is that I could see his point,’ I continued. ‘There’s a lot of stuff that I could have got going but that’s not what it’s about. If you’re looking to get out of the violent aggressive rut you can’t throw petrol on the flames. Besides they are young impressionable kids. You can’t get involved in indoctrination.’
‘Never stopped my teachers when I was young and impressionable,’ Tobes remarked, reflecting on my education in religious schools. ‘And not like you to avoid conflict.’
‘I don’t mind conflict,’ I replied grumpily, ‘I enjoy it. But there’s a time and place.’
‘But if you want to change the future you have to engage people in thinking about issues,’ Tobes remarked.
‘Yeah, yeah,’ I agreed. ‘But I think he was just trying to be a bit confrontational.’
Tobes nodded and smiled. He was winding me up.
‘I said to the guy that it wasn’t religion to blame,’ I continued. ‘Religion should be a personal faith; it was people being bigoted and trying to force their views on others. That it wasn’t religion that was the only cause of conflict and war. What about culture, race, nationality, politics?? It seemed to be something inherent in human beings. We are a violent species. We are incredibly primitive and tribal; that even when there are no tribes to belong to, we make them up. I went on about football teams, post code gangs. We make conflict.’
‘Did he buy it?’ Tobes asked.
‘Yeah, he lost interest and all the hackles went down,’ I explained. I frowned. The encounter had left me unhappy. ‘You know, I think I handled it wrongly,’ I explained. ‘I should have engaged a bit more, allowed him to develop his opinion. Created a real debate. Because, I think he was right; religion is to blame for far too much, and, you know, perhaps I was too influenced by that religious group of kids, what they thought and the repercussions that could have come out of it.’
Tobes considered that. Then he looked me in the eye. ‘Yes, but in your position you couldn’t do that, could you? You have to be impartial.’
I met his eyes. ‘But was I leaning too far the other way?’
‘How’s that Antitheist’s Bible going?’ Kathy asked. ‘Are you calling it The Latest Testament? Portraying yourself as another prophet? As a new Jesus? Maybe that second coming?’
I considered that for a moment or two. I had been jotting things down about my life and my distaste for the power and control that religions exerted. Was this going to become the book? I chuckled. ‘Well, I have learnt to walk on water,’ I assured her.
‘I just have to wait for it to get cold enough,’ I explained in a deadpan voice.