My name is Mistletoe, and I’m an atheist elf.
Why I’m an elf in SL is the shorter thing to explain, so I’ll do it first. Elves are cool. Elves age more slowly and don’t experience illness or pain, according to the stories. In my real life, I live with fibromyalgia and there are days when I feel like I’m three times my actual age; but when I log on, I’m youthful and energetic and can do anything I want. Years, even decades, can go by, and Mistletoe will still be Mistletoe. I would love to be an elf, if such a thing actually existed.
The fact that I know it doesn’t exist, however, doesn’t make the fiction any less magical or enjoyable for me. It’s like knowing how a story ends, but still loving the story.
There are things I sincerely wish I could believe to be true. Elves and faeries being just one such thing. I would love to be able to say that even though I’ve never seen an elf or faerie, even though I’ve never seen any real evidence for elves or faeries that couldn’t just as easily be explained by overtiredness, alcohol, and clumsiness on my part, they are real; but I can’t. The day Legolas knocks on my door and says, “Hi, I heard you didn’t believe I existed, so I thought I’d pop in for some tea,” is the day that I will say, what do you know, I was wrong, elves do exist.
Explain to any child why there’s no such thing as faeries, or ghosts, or the boogeyman, or Santa Claus, and you will have explained why I don’t believe there’s such things as angels, or demons, or Hell, or God. The day God knocks on my door and says, “Hi, I heard you didn’t believe I existed, so I thought I’d pop in for some tea,” is the day I’ll say, hot damn, I was wrong. That’s not an interference with my own free will. That would be actually showing me real irrefutable evidence. Mind, even if God did come by for tea, I’d have LOTS of questions, and a shifty, “Well, you know, I work in mysterious ways…” will not be a satisfactory answer for me.
I know it’s a satisfactory answer for lots of people. I know that for a lot of people God doesn’t have to appear. I get that a lot of people find comfort and personal strength from believing that if they don’t have an explanation for something, well then, it’s got to be God. Just like for some people, misplacing a pair of scissors or seeing unusual lights in a swamp is satisfactory enough for some people to say, well I can’t explain it, therefore it’s got to be faeries. Or they hear a knocking sound up in the attic or see a flickering light and say, I can’t explain it, therefore it’s got to be a ghost. You can believe it or whatever else you want. I’m not the enemy if I think thermal expansion, or a blown light bulb, or swamp gas, or evolution may be a more likely explanation. Of course I believe I’m right. And, of course, you believe you’re right.
The difference though, is if I suggest I may be right and here’s evidence, you might have to change your mind. If I don’t agree with your idea, I’m going to be condemned to an eternity of torture and suffering by someone who… loves me? Am I reading that right?
Sometimes it’s very frightening to be alone on a dark road and knowing there aren’t any faeries or guardian angels looking out for me. But it’s also comforting to be on that same road and knowing there aren’t any ghosts or demons either. It’s comfort to know the knocking in the attic is just the windows thermally expanding. It’s comfort to know that the unfathomably huge expanse of the universe is just going to keep on doing what it’s doing, with or without me in it. And it may not seem like it to many, but to me, it’s a real comfort to know that this life and this world are all I get, and that I’d better the hell make it count. Again, it’s like knowing how the story ends, but still loving the story.