Walking Away

by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

I've been following the atheism discussions and I've yet to see anyone mention that there's a third path that's getting conflated here: apatheism. That's what I find, in general, among friends from the Netherlands and Sweden, and in myself and in plenty of friends here in the US. My Swedish relatives are all listed as Lutherans per the national church but many avow a purely secular outlook; unlike some American atheists I've known (and many of the big names, it seems), the combination of listed-religion on one's citizenship and a personal disinclination is not seen as a worrisome contradiction. It just doesn't matter enough to fuss about.

It's like agnosticism, but lacking the usual agreement with Pascal's Wager: apatheism, instead, realizes that those dice are loaded and chooses to walk away from that bet. Atheism, especially of the stricter political sort, would prefer to end the game, or at least steer potential marks away from it.

Maybe there is a god. Maybe there are many gods. Maybe there's no god at all. Maybe I could drive myself crazy second-guessing myself and every theologian and pastor and religious friend out there. Maybe in the end it doesn't matter, and I've just got to lead the best life I can, as I see it, and if that's not good enough in the end -- if there be an end instead of a simple fading away -- then as far as I'm concerned, any god that would condemn me for doing my best to be the best person I can isn't a god I'd want to believe in, in the first place. That means not only do I respect other people's beliefs and their right to believe, I even recognize it's possible that they're right -- but that doesn't mean my choice is wrong.