I was watching part of a History Channel show about the Mayans (the ancient ones, not their contemporary ancestors, who I'm certain are very nice people) a couple of weekends ago, and there was this extended bit about human sacrifice. The Mayans used to the rip the hearts & entrails out of strong men, nubile women, and even newborn babies, as a sacrifice to their gods, and if they made a sacrifice, and the weird weather didn't go away, or the crops still had blight, then they decided (according to the History Channel) that the gods were still angry, and they offed a few more folk for good measure. More sacrifices. To placate the gods. The History Channel showed a big pile of infant bones, and the yawning grave of a woman who'd been eviscerated.
You know what's missing there? Aside from the humanity, of course? The one malcontent Mayan in the village that doesn't think all this sacrificing's a good idea. Probably they sacrificed him first. You would, because he'd be noisy, bitchy, and fucking up the status quo. That guy woke up one morning and maybe decided that there weren't gods making the sky black, or maybe if there were, they weren't important. The gods just didn't matter. Maybe he decided that what was important was being a good Mayan, husband and dad, and not sacrificing anyone. But we don't hear about him. We hear about the "Mayan religion" and the fundamentalist priests of the long knives carving people up like a Saw sequel. Atheists, or at least those who buck the predominate religious trends, are a minority, pretty much by definition, and as such, have left no historical footprint until very recent times. The minority POV mostly gets lost in the historical narrative. Atheism has little to no history.
Not strictly, of course. The term shows up in Coptic and ancient Greek, in the Bible, and is a slur, a nasty thing to say about someone, "one without God," or "godless." Atheists are around, bucking the trend, going against the grain, but when the big histories of a culture or a time and place get written, religion is a big factor, one of the reasons why things went down. No one cultivates the atheist vote; nobody's gearing special events for atheists. There's no atheist holidays. They'd have to be aholidays anyway. Or unholidays. And then that's pretty much everyday.
Bah. It stands to reason that the ideas which dominate a culture should be the focus of reportage ex post facto. However, being the malcontent in the village, it pisses me off. I want my random, unprovable, implausible, ridiculous and invasive ideas preserved for the ages. Failing that, if there's people blowing one another up, fighting over land, raping 14-year-olds, killing Unitarians, waging Crusades and Jihads over some stuff they simply believe without a shred of logic, proof, or facts, then I think I should get the same leeway on a day to day basis, since I can't get a page in the history books. I should get to take off from work for the Feast of Maximum Occupancy. Perhaps me kicking you repeatedly in the face is part of my religion, and there's a spiritual reason for doing it that should be respected. It makes me feel spiritual.
Isn't that enough? Or do I have to rip out someone's heart and feed it to the sky gods to get respect?