Is it just me, or do Atheists comprise a larger portion of the tabletop gamer population than they do of the general population? Maybe I only notice it because I actually pay attention to the gaming community, but it certainly seems that we gamers are disproportionately atheistic. Enough so that at least one tabletop forum I frequent has an in-joke of starting posts with “I’m an Atheist.” as a non-sequitur. I won’t venture a guess as to why, but perhaps Jack Chick was on to something.
Personally, this is really cool for me. I, myself, am an Atheist. And I’m not exactly passive about it. At least two people credit me with helping them on their road towards Atheism, and believers usually find my brash and uncompromising outspokenness on the subject of religion to be unpleasant. I can certainly get along just fine with believers, but if I can game with like-minded folk, so much the better! I think everyone can agree that it’s nice to feel you are with people you don’t need to worry about offending with your opinions. Not that our opinions on religion should be coming up around the game table.
I say “shouldn’t,” because, unfortunately, they do. And I’m not talking about religious zealouts who try to demonize Role Playing. I’m talking about you, my fellow Atheists.
More and more often I’m hearing tales of Atheist players and GMs who go on an in-game crusade against religion. Players who refuse to group with clerics, distrust all in-game religious institutions, or even engaging in diplomancy to convince NPCs that there are no deities. And the GM stories…oh the GM stories. I’ve heard of GMs who refused to allow any deities in their games. GMs who cause paladins to lose their powers over questioning their god’s will, and explain it by stating that all gods demand unquestioning faith. Even of GMs who have gods strike players down for minor sins, because they apparently take their deific role playing cues from the old testament.
And it needs to stop.
There’s a line most atheists are familiar with, a common rebuttal to the assertion of a deity. It can be phrased various ways, but stated simply, it goes “I don’t believe in God for the same reason I don’t believe in unicorns. There’s simply no evidence that they exist.” Well guess what motherfuckers? Pathfinder Bestiary, page 269: Unicorns.
Religion within the game world should be no more offensive to an atheist than the magic, or the monsters, or the dungeons which don’t make a lick of logical sense. (“Mad wizards” can’t explain everything, Mr. Gygax). Nearly every fantastic element in the games we love can be traced back through history to some primitive human’s attempt to understand the divine. What about devils!? Surely there are few imaginary creatures more religious than devils! Yet I’ve never heard of a fanatically atheistic GM bastardizing that concept.
I understand that you don’t like religion. I get that it hurt you. I don’t like it either, and it hurt me too. I don’t like that I spent hours of my childhood each week listening to someone tell me about what a bad person I am. But you know what? I’m betting your parents didn’t take you to the temple of Kord every Godsday. And neither did mine. Fantasy gods never hurt anybody.
So get the fuck over it.