I remember hearing an anecdote, a particularly interesting one from the late Pope John Paul the 2nd. An assassination attempt was carried out on him in 1981, heavily wounded though, the pope survived. Whilst recuperating, he claimed that when the ghastly incident took place, he felt a presence, the presence of mother Mary it was. “I felt her divine hand circumnavigating the bullet avoiding any of my vital organs, thus saving my life, there I believed, I witnesses, and I was saved”. Good for you, I thought – but later crossed my mind, if I were Mother Mary (which in itself is a nightmare since I do NOT wish to die a virgin), what would be the point of troubling the old man by maneuvering the bullet through his poor old body, rather than swishing the bullet around him, pray, why the trouble ? A blasphemous, outright rude question such as this was never raised then, the pope lived and that was that, for the devout members who are devout enough to see Mother Mary on a piece of moldy bread (whereas an unnoticing non believer would miss the miracle and spread over her – butter and jam, or in Sri-Lanka,satanic enough to dip the holy mother in Dahl curry.) would never question what they genuinely felt, nor would they let anyone else question.
It is very human, to seek reason in the unreasonable, to seek patterns in randomness, to see faces and relate them to those that they’d seen before, to seek meaning in life in a meaningless venture, to hear music in a bird’s chirp – it’s so utterly human, when a passing vehicle misses you by an inch – you seek meaning there, some reason, it’s perfectly valid that it is coincidence – and deep within you know it. But it’s never interesting enough to believe, so utterly human of us, to seek comfort in our own illusions.
It’s the same creative force that pushes a scientist and a religious person to find patterns, while the scientist’s pattern seeking is universal and materially constructive , the religious pattern seeking is personal and spiritual , being an atheist ultimately is a question of where to direct this imagination, this power of thought, to unleash it from one’s religious boundaries and become one with humanity.