Via a group discussion on LinkedIn (in, oddly enough, one of the Mensa groups rather than the Freethinkers group), I came across a link to What It's Like to be an Atheist by "DarkSyde," who asks you to "[i]magine that you live in a world where 90% of the people around you sincerely believe in something that appears to you to be downright whacky, if perhaps relatively pleasant on the surface in many respects. Say they believe in Santa Claus; beard, the big red suit, the flying reindeer, the sled loaded with a billion gifts, the North Pole Workshop, Mrs. Claus and the elves; all of it."
My mild dyslexia caused me to misread "Santa" as "Satan" several times as I went through the essay, which was a bit jarring, but the metaphor is a good one. DarkSyde cautions, though: "If you've recently lost someone or are about to lose someone and religion is the one thread you're hanging onto to keep from going bonkers, don't read this; If you need to feel that humans have some kind of special place in the universe and without that special dispensation, it's all 'for nothing', don't read this; If you're easily offended and/or intolerant, don't read this."
If none of those warnings apply to you, I urge you to read DarkSyde's whole post for yourself. It's a few years old (posted in 2005) and it'll take you a little while to read, but it's worth it. Here's a teaser, a paragraph that resonates with me:
You are under a barrage of Santa believers from the cradle to grave who act everything from shocked to disgusted that you don't believe in Santa, they're getting increasingly militant, yet not a one of them has the slightest bit of evidence that an entity called Santa really exists; not one of them is willing to explain why the North Pole is nothing but a barren, frozen wasteland, except maybe to vaguely explain that the "Workshop" is incorporeal or not meant to be taken "literally"; a claim which other Santa believers disagree with vigorously. Not one of them offers up the slightest tidbit of convincing scientific rationale for how reindeer fly and tow an arial [sic] sled, or how Santa reads the minds and keeps tabs on 2 billion kids, and visits them in a single 24 hour period once a year to deliver toys built at his workshop by magic miniature toymakers. Not one of them can offer any compelling real-world reasoning for why Santa would want to do this anyway, what he gets out of it, how he obtains supplies, feeds himself and his workers, treats disease, avoids old age and death, or how they all came to play this role in the first place. And yet you are portrayed as an imbecile and one chip short of Adolph Hitler for not believing it.Yup, that's how it feels.