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For the past six months, the winding route home has taken us past a set of keys clinging to a fence post. A battered and faded heart hanging. Initially they were a puzzle. Who had lost them, did they even know they had been lost? Who was the altruistic hanger, hopeful of reuniting the pair? Then as time past, as lines cracked both wood and skin, the keys became an installation, a point of inspiration. A ritual that broke up the journey home. We would try to come up with a story each time we walked past those keys. For our youngest they became the means of entering the old haunted wooden house on the hill. Where treasure and pirates lurked amongst zombies and ghosts. For the eldest they were the means of opening a dimensional rift, created by a scientist escaping our reality. Lives and worlds were constructed and discussed, of unrequited love between a Juliet and her Romeo, a gang of nefarious bank robbers and their hidden loot, the sole means of accessing Heisenberg's meth lab and grabbing some blue. Then sometimes they were just simply keys with a heart-shaped keyring hanging underneath.

I’m not a religious person. I tried it once, when I was younger. It didn’t work out. Standing in a cold church, as an even colder man demanded that we all sing, kneel, clap, pray to someone who was apparently watching everything I did 24-7.

Big Brother and all that …. I mean a teenage boy had things to explore in private, so it was never going to work out. Not purely because of the surveillance issue, more because it lacked what I wanted. So, me and religion agreed to split up, move on, see other people/ideologies.

A very amicable separation.

I suppose you can call me an atheist, personally I don’t like the term. It implies that I am somehow lacking, that I am tinged with negativity, that I am anti something. The word fits me into a system of power in which I am cast as being without. For those with faith, enjoy it, glad the system works for you etc, I prefer my reality without the spectre of the inevitable damnation I would probably face.

Reality is all subjective as someone once said.

The reason for this entry was a conversation that I found myself engaged in today. One of those impromptu chats that sidle up to you without announcing themselves. My co-conversationalist and I were engaged in dissecting the merits of Arsenal’s tactical approach (football chat folks). At some point, much to my confusion, he brought religion into the conversation. Lamenting how, though religion had been a constant throughout his youth, his own offspring had no interest in going to church with him.

He then decried, with great conviction, that the fault was the ‘fashion of atheism’ that ‘atheists had made god irrelevant.’

I was surprised to be counted amongst any group that had made anything irrelevant? I mean, how could I as an atheist make the big-G anything if he is omnipresent, omniscience and omnipotent?

(I’ll ignore the dichotomy that exists within those terms by the way)

I suppose it was the certainty, the absolute confidence in his statement that provoked me into responding. Normally I would, at a point of conversational discomfort, adopt one of three tactics:

(a) Engage lightly.
(b) Back away, keys suddenly in hand, mentioning something about a, till now unmentioned, doctors appointment
(c) Let out an uncertain laugh, look up to the sky, tut, then shake my head in a knowing fashion. (the appeasing the mad approach)

So I answered his question with my own, pondering whether it wasn’t atheists to blame but those people who were of faith. Wasn’t it the followers themselves that had made their God irrelevant within society?

I continued, tentatively questioning why anyone would willingly want to believe in a deity who would permit their followers to, for example: demonise loving relationships due to sexual orientation, evoke religious faith as reason enough for acts of terrorism and war, demand people donate their life savings to prove their faith, conceal the abuse of children by the purest of his followers.

As the words left my mouth I felt my chest tighten, I hadn’t meant for them to tumble out like they did. Yet, he listened, then after a moment of contemplation he responded.

With an uncertain laugh, a shake of his head ….

… and a loud tut.