I read recently that Atheists are one of the least-trusted segments of American society, falling far behind homosexuals, immigrants and convicted felons in a recent poll on trustworthiness. Apparently, most Americans can't bring themselves to trust someone who doesn't have some sort of religious faith, no matter how insignificant or tenuous that faith is.
This leads me to believe that most people are being willfully ignorant of the fact that a substantial number of deeply religious people are bat-shit insane.
I offer the example of a former co-worker and classmate with whom I went on several dates while in college. For some time before we went out she'd been on a spiritual quest of sorts. Like many people in their twenties she felt that her burgeoning adulthood lacked something and she was looking for whatever it is that fills the void. She read the Koran, the Torah and even had a go at the Tipitaka. She'd attended services a more than a dozen religious institutions. She was regularly emailing with several of the comparative religion professors on the nature of faith. This search was the dominating feature of her life at the time and it underpinned most of the conversation on our three or four dates.
Then, in an spiritual epiphany strangely equivalent to a high-speed left turn halfway across the Golden Gate bridge, she found her answer. Overnight, she returned to the fundamentalist Southern Baptism in which she was raised. And when I say returned, I mean it in the Douglas MacArthur sense. She began going to service on Sundays and Wednesdays plus twice weekly bible study and a political action group for six hours each Thursday. She took to carrying a bible around full time, traded up all her punk and metal CD's for contemporary Christian artists and she covered her car with religiously themed bumper stickers. She also started prostheletizing and praying aloud at work, constantly.
It goes without saying that a newly minted Jesus freak would opt to quit any romantic entanglements with the likes of me, being openly Pagan as I am. Mind you, she didn't just stop seeing me; she didn't just stop speaking to me. She informed all of our mutual acquaintances that I was, wait for it ... the antichrist.
Mind you, this was not a hyperbolic euphemism for 'he practices a religion that I find distasteful and consider to be offensive to my own faith.' No, she meant this literally. In the space of only a few weeks she had come to be believe that the literal Devil, the father of lies, the source of all that is black and unholy, who normally has horns and cloven feet transmuted himself into a simulacrum of my father. He then left hell, a place of real fire and brimstone that she believed to actually exist beneath the surface of the earth, and came to Earth to deceive and lay with my mother with the express intention of spawning me into the world.
In case I haven't made this clear enough, this woman believed me to be the literal son of Satan, harbinger of the apocalypse and enemy of god as foretold in the Revelation of John, spawned by the devil himself and she believed this to be objectively true in the same way that most believe the sky to be blue.
Need I point out that an Atheist would never come to believe such a thing? Who is more trustworthy, the person who chooses to live without a faith or a person who believes things that are demonstrably false? I mean, really?
Though, in a way, it's kind of flattering. I mean, antichrist, that's a big deal, right?