Is it unusual, or do other people like me also increasingly find themselves the only Christian at a social gathering. Of course, here, at Evergreen, so many of the residents are ex-Zimbabweans and probably originally from the UK, so it is not surprising to find a lot of non-believers. Church-going is not very popular in England these days. But apart from my friends from All Saints and St Martins so many of the people I spend time with are atheists.
The other evening my friend, Joy, held a dinner party as a Farewell for Ruth and her son who had been staying with her. When we were all seated, the little boy, Luca, offered to say Grace. Joy accepted, and he did it very nicely. But Joy's friend and neighbour, Fabienne, was horrified at how the child had been "indoctrinated". She was particularly perturbed by the short span of time in which this indoctrination had taken place. She kept on exclaiming that he had only been at a South African School for such a short time and yet been so thoroughly indoctrinated. All the other adults except me(or should it be I) distanced themselves from this embarrassing evidence of religious belief. I remarked on the experience of being so often in the minority and said that it seemed that Atheism was very trendy. Fabienne took exception to the word "trendy. I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps she felt I was not taking her seriously enough. I am not sorry that I was prepared to stand up for my faith, but I think I must learn to be more tactful. In my experience, atheists are inclined to be very touchy.
All through my life most of my friends have been non-believers or at least not church-goers, but it is only in the last few years that I have noticed many being so vocal about their lack of belief. There are numerous prosetelising atheists around too. and on Social media anti-Christian sentiment is common.
I am not sure what the cause of this upsurge of atheism might be. Perhaps it is the interest generated by the work on the human Genome which has made writings on Evolution popular. I know Richard Dawkins has been very influential. His books on evolution have been best sellers, although I'm not sure The extended Genotype (if I have remembered the title correctly) was as widely read as the earlier book, The Selfish Gene. It is the God Delusion that everyone has read and which I think may have been a large influence in the drift towards Atheism in the English-speaking world, though other popular writers like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. have contributed too. On another level, Dan Brown's books, which I always considered just light entertainment, have been surprisingly influential. So many readers seem to have taken seriously the mishmash of old (and mostly discredited )myths and legends which form the background of the plots of his rather trashy novels.
Twenty years or so ago, remarks like those Fabienne made about "indoctrination" and "believing such silly stories" would have been considered very bad manners. Now, although it is not at all PC to insult Mohammed or belittle Islam, it is quite all right to say anything you like about Christians or the Christian faith. I suppose we are expected accept this criticism meekly and to turn the other cheek.
And on the subject of silly fairy tales, why do people like Fabienne think modern day Christians take the stories in Genesis absolutely literally. Surely even when they were first written, they were meant as allegories. The very names, Adam and Eve, meaning Man and Woman (or mother) are clues to show us how we are to understand their story.