Reflections on April Fools’ Day and My “Crisis of Nonbelief”

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I love April Fools’ Day, even though I generally hate the way many choose to celebrate it. Pranks and tricks don’t really amuse me. Keep your silly string to yourself, thank you.

But at the heart of April Fools’ Day is the true fooling—the white lies, as my father would call them—that I think make April Fools’ Day one of the most important holidays of the year. For one, it’s a day for everyone to take themselves just a little less seriously than usual. (For example, I loved this news notice put out by my alma mater, Ithaca College.) It’s a chance for everyone to tap into their creative outlets for some good satire, often at our own expense.

More importantly, April Fools’ Day is a yearly experiment in human gullibility. How much BS can we get away with? How much nonsense can we convince people of? Surely, there are some people who thought Google really had developed animal translation technology or was changing its name to Topeka. The suggestion that New York City might get In-N-Out was cruel, but also pretty incredulous.

Truly surviving April Fools’ Day requires skepticism. It’s an important exercise for us all to question what we hear and investigate the knowledge we receive. It’s a shame we only do it once a year, because honestly, it’s frightening just how easy it is to fool people. We need a lot more practice with critical thinking than we’re getting.

Given that religion fools people with lies and superstition every day of the year (with a lot of reinforcement going on this week in particular), I decided my prank of the day ought to involve religion too. In yesterday’s post, “I Think ManRoulette Saved My Soul“, I suggested that an anonymous Muslim proselytizer on Manroulette had reopened my eyes to faith and spirituality. I admitted that atheism is sobering and lonely and proclaimed that the point to life must be to live for god, “whoever that god might be.”

First, some truth. There really is a Manroulette. There really are guys on it who aren’t just showing their penises. And there really was a camless Muslim proselytizer, and the excerpts I posted were copied directly.

But no, I am in absolutely no way reconsidering faith. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure ANYONE would buy into what I’d written, because I’ve been plenty sarcastic on this blog before. Amazingly,  many did, and their reactions actually affected me in ways I didn’t expect they would. So, here are a few thoughts for the folks who believed in the slightest what I’d written. (If you got the joke, I’m glad; I’m sure it was a good laugh for us both!)

A General Note To Anybody Who Did Not Immediately Realize It Was An April Fools’ Joke

REALLY? I’ve been writing this blog for over 14 months and I have a whole archive dedicated specifically to my posts exploring atheism and nonbelief. REALLY? You think I’m that weak that one little closet-case Muslim could get me to start resubscribing to a world of delusion? REALLY??

A Note To My Atheist Friends Who Were Worried

REALLY?

No, actually, I was very touched that some of you were concerned. I think life is so much more rewarding when you live it for life and not for some dream of an afterlife. I appreciate that you reached out and encouraged me to rethink what I was saying.

But I think this shows how lacking in confidence many in the atheist community are. This week is “A Week on Facebook,” an opportunity to raise visibility and awareness about the atheist community. Hemant Mehta is the only other person I can see on Facebook participating, even though many of my friends are openly atheist. I think we all need to have more confidence in ourselves and in each other about nonbelief.

There’s a bad joke comparing organizing atheists to herding cats, but I think that’s a horrible description of atheists. We all have nonbelief in common, and we all have concerns to some degree about the impact of religion on society. We’re not all outspoken like Dawkins and Hitchens, but there’s nothing keeping us from doing more to support each other. I can’t help but wonder: was my friends’ lack of confidence in my atheism yesterday a reflection of their own lack of confidence? My facebook profile picture has been a scarlet A all week (including yesterday), but theirs haven’t changed. Who should be concerned about whom?

A Note To My Friends Who Are Believers Who Reached Out To Welcome Me Back To Faith

REALLY?

I’m sorry, but are you that insecure about your own faith that you need to pounce at the very instant you see another potential believer? Is this just a big game of Red Rover, Red Rover to you? Let Zack come over!

I started this blog because I was struggling to have discussions with people in my life about nonbelief. Any time I questioned their belief I was being offensive and insensitive. Many shut down and were unable to talk about these topics at all with  me. I lost friends. It was confusing and painful and difficult. I felt misunderstood and completely disrespected. It was not a pleasant coming out experience.

I think these reactions show what a ridiculous double standard there is. There is no issue with questioning my nonbelief. In fact, many were all too eager to encourage my belief and discourage my nonbelief (not unlike the proselytizer who inspired this foolery). You don’t get to have it both ways.

So, I’ll be getting back to writing all about atheism now. There really is not an adequate outlet for voices of nonbelief in our society. I hope you gullible believers use this as an opportunity to ask me some real questions about why I don’t believe instead of taking offense that I tricked you with something as substanceless as faith. (An extra kudos to those of you who are  believers but know me well enough to understand this was a joke.)

I do have to give a shoutout to my one believer-friend Mark, who wondered if the post was true, but was more concerned that I might have a brain tumor.

Given the yearly success of April Fools’ Day, we have a long way to go with scientific literacy in this country. Critical thinking is sorely lacking, and until we overcome the deficits of how our brains are currently evolved, it will be many more centuries before we overcome the deficits of our societies.

My Other April Fools’ Joke

Depending on what time of day you visited my blog yesterday, you would have seen a different banner. (That is, of course, unless you’re in the 25% of my readers foolishly using Internet Explorer, which does not properly display my blog.) I borrowed banners from some of my favorite blogs as an additional little joke for the day. Hopefully, they all knew it was out of flattery. Here are all the blog logos I included. Please check them all out.

Towleroad:

Pam’s House Blend:

The Bilerico Project:

Ameriqueer:

The Student Affairs Collaborative:

The Friendly Atheist:

Pharyngula:

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