When I was younger I spent a lot of time in the presence of a tubby older man called Lenny. Lenny was always there for me. He used to take me for meals and we used to nibble on most food together, thus explaining his portly appearance. After mealtime we then often used to take a nap together, where I often delighted in the comfort of Lenny’s rotund belly. Before Lenny is investigated as rigorously as I imagine Timmy Mallet must be currently, I must point out that Lenny was my invisible friend. He left my head aged about four when I realized two imaginary friends, alongside a need to add tangible real friends, was a high maintenance balance to maintain. He was elbowed out of my imagination by the other invisible friend, a case of bad winning over good given that my other imaginary friend was a jealous, vindictive, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, genocidal bully. I guess it was peer pressure that made me choose Jesus over Lenny. Hanging around with Jesus involved going to a Sunday school, I got fed better than with Lenny and briefly fell in love with a girl called Alice who shared a love for my invisible friend. When I reached the age of reason, about aged 8, Jesus also got flung onto the scrapheap alongside Lenny, Alice and my heart after she cast me aside.
The point is that a large proportion of the world’s population are happy to keep that one imaginary friend for their entire lifetime, which seems like a disorder of sorts. Frank Noon is a devout atheist who strongly believes that religion brainwashes us, controls us, divides us, and restricts our growth as a species. It hurts him that we’ve been afforded great, complicated, intricate minds, and yet we’ve completely squandered that gift and let ourselves be controlled by things like religion and superstition. In one of his diatribes he hits on the notion that religion is almost a mental illness. Put simply he argues that any faith not based on evidence could be deemed a mental illness, and that ‘it’s undeniable that if you think there’s a man up in the sky keeping score of everything you do then you can’t be entirely sane’. He sees praying as some kind of game, that the rules of probability means they’ll get half the things they pray for and half not, and that the way they then simply write off the things they don’t get is akin to a mental illness. He also notes how people who believe in UFOs are ridiculed as laughing stocks, but that if you actually stop to assess it these people are far more credible than those who believe in God, as there’s genuinely more evidence and likelihood of some kind of alien activity in our universe. As he can often do he facetiously takes things to extremes by suggesting that if religious brainwashing or fanaticism is seen as a mental disorder in law then these people could finally get some treatment, but essentially he’d just love to associate with a humankind that doesn’t need religion to control it, a society that instead educates its young with a strong moral guidance.
The Chronicles of Hope is a series of books based in 2080’s. The first book, ’2082′, sees an experimental intergalactic project when the government get the chance to colonise a recently discovered planet that’s habitable for human life. Fuelled by overpopulation on Earth making life increasingly unsustainable they offer Frank the chance to lead the project, largely because of the stir caused by a speech he does on climate change and global warming. The first chapter including that speech is free to read here. During the speech he fires off about religion and how he sees it as a far bigger threat to the world than global warming. Off the back of such a controversial speech the government see the perfect fit between their project and the chance to make Frank disappear for a while, and Frank decides he has to accept their offer in order to secure the financial future of his family. ‘2082’ is still just 99p to buy in ebook format.