1. If you find yourself thinking about a loving God, divert that thought into the terrible behaviour of the Church.

Follow this logic: Christians do bad things- Crusades, Inquisition, paedophile priests, voting for George W Bush- therefore Christianity itself is distasteful. This is easier to feel than think, so try to approach it at an emotional rather than an intellectual level.

2. You may find yourself thinking about the bad things atheists have done- French Terror, Soviet gulags, Cambodian Killing Fields etc. Somehow this won’t put you off atheism. Again, feel rather than think your way over this logic gap.

3. You may wonder at the good things Christians have done- building schools, orphanages and hospitals, feeding the poor, abolishing slavery etc. Well, they say it themselves: their good deeds won’t get them into heaven; so don’t sweat. Credit the Church with nothing. Blame the Church for everything.

4. Be obstinate in referring to faith as a crutch. If Christians point out that at times crutches come in quite handy, you’ve got them where you want them. Faith is for the weak. You don’t need it, because you’re perfect -or at least can pretend to be.

5: Repeat to yourself, while brushing your teeth if you like, that God is uncaring. He is angry with you. He is nasty. When you wonder, ‘Why does God allow people to suffer?’, brood irritably on the suffering not the allowing.

We all from time to time find thoughts breaking in to our consciousness of God’s daddish grace and mercy; sending sun and rain on his enemies and friends alike; the tender words of Jesus on the cross; the counter-intuitive enigma of the gospel message. When these troubling images intrude, you must up the ante. Call God a childish autocratic myth or a callous arachnoid corpse. Say it: sky-pixie.

6. Insist that the relationship between faith and reason is a conflict. Focus solely on the anti-scientific factions within religion. Close your eyes to religious scientists like Francis Collins, Michael Faraday or James Clerk Maxwell. Do not let the possibility of the synthesis of religion and science enter your mind.

That was tips 1-6. No.s 7-12 coming up…

7. Tell yourself that becoming a Christian will mean you have to swing to the right wing. Converting is a fundamentally party-political decision, rather than being about you and Jesus. All Christians are conservative nincompoops.

8. The Bible: slag it off, ridicule it, form a strong opinion about it. But whatever you do, avoid reading and getting to grips with it if you can possibly help it. Some of the most powerful stories ever told about love and forgiveness are in there, waiting to ensnare you.

9. Church: oh, boy. Forget about all those fun-looking, alive, interesting sorts of churches. Remember: going to church will be boring, awkward, perplexing and guilt-inducing. Don’t go there. Your Christian friend comes back from meetings buzzing with joy? Try to put that out of your mind, or at least pass it off as merely psychological.

10. No-one wants to associate with nerdy maladjusted losers. Your mantra will be: Christians are not cool. ‘What, Beyonce?’ the dorky believers might respond. ‘Jay-Z? Kaká? Johnny Cash?’ In this scenario, just hum back: ‘We’re all going on a summer holiday…’

11. You need to be prepared for waking up in the night wondering where your sense of right and wrong come from in an ultimately meaningless universe. Simple: you decide your own right and wrong, your own purpose and meaning. Just hope there’s no-one around to point out the ultimate futility of that decision itself in a universe without God.

12. If all else fails, there’s always one glorious cop-out. ‘That’s true for you, but not for me.’ Aah, like a Get Out of Jail Free card, isn’t it? Perched cat-like on the fence of lazy agnosticism, no-one can touch you.

When it suits you, you can always invoke the relativist doctrine that there’s no absolute moral truth, or reality. True, it will undermine your insistent criticisms of a moment ago. But that doesn’t matter. You’ve made a little box, and squeezed God right into it.

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