Eventually I’m going to be asked the question regarding my own behaviour and its rationality. So I thought I’d confess this one early. My behaviour is not always rational. I know, it’s a shock, but it’s true. Now, without going down the path of love and all of its fruits and foibles, there is one behaviour in which I am almost rabidly irrational. I am a huge West Coast Eagles fan.
Before any Fremantle fans jump on that, I’m not implying that following the West Coast Eagles is irrational, I’m saying outright that following a sporting team is irrational. And not only that, but in a very similar way to religion.
I couldn’t tell you when I became an Eagles supporter. The club was established when I was about 6, so I can’t say I’ve always been an Eagles supporter. However, I can’t really say I chose to be either. The club was the first Western Australian club in the Australian Football League and, having been born and raised in Perth, it happened somewhat organically. You could argue I’ve always had the choice to change, but changing football teams can make one the subject of much social stigma. So really, the football team one follows is far more a geographical, cultural and social result than a personal choice. Does that sound familiar?
I also, rather strangely, brag about and defend my team. When they are winning I’m all over it, letting everyone know how brilliant my team that I contribute to and benefit from in no way is. Read it again and you’ll get it. And when they are losing I’m making excuses like there’s no tomorrow. They, umm, have a lot of injuries and, umm, they came off a shorter break. Yes, that will do. What do I get out of this? Well, I’m not sure. I get bragging rights but that seems to be a circular argument. However, I must say I enjoy it. The elation, the rivalry, the tense finishes. Winning or losing, I enjoy watching my team more than I enjoy watching other teams. I couldn’t tell you why, but I do.
I also know that all rival supporters feel pretty much exactly the same way. Yet, when they brag about their team, I shoot them down. It’s all part of the rivalry, but it really makes no sense. Most of them fell into the support of their teams the same way I did and the winner of our match doesn’t actually have a tangible effect of either of us. Don’t even get me started on people who don’t follow Australian Rules football.
So it would be fair to ask, if, like religion, your sporting affiliation is a result of geographical, cultural and social coincidence and has no logical argument over any other choice, then why do you argue so hard against religion? Well, the answer is I’ve never interfered in anyone else’s personal freedom for my team. I’ve never petitioned governments to make decisions based on my sport. I’ve never killed or supported killing in the name of the West Coast Eagles. All because I understand the irrationality of my support. I simply do it for enjoyment.
I believe if every religious person would admit the irrationality of their belief, admit that it is simply a result of the human brain’s teleological and authoritarian aspects that provides pleasure in belief from some sort of cosmic karma or eternal afterlife, then the belief would do no harm.
So to the religious people I argue with, my goal is not to make you an atheist, my goal is to make you rational.