I feel unsettlingly fortunate. Do you not?

There’s this concept of identity, right? I can say that I am me. But why am I me? Why am I not you? Why am I not a diseased and orphaned child? Why am I not a penguin? Why am I not a bacterium chillin’ inside a cricket? Did you know that there are 50 birds alive for every human, 200,000 insects alive for every bird, and 500 billion bacteria alive for every insect? I think most of my fellow atheists’ working theory is that identities are randomly assigned to bodies at conception. I hereby name this theory TRIA: the theory of random identity assignment. I could have been born as someone or something else, the theory goes, but I wasn’t. It was random. I’m me by chance. And what great fortune I had. But I struggle to buy it. You’re telling me that I lucked out to not only be born a human but to also have been born in America, to be happy and healthy, to have received a good education, to have lived in New York City, to get to work for myself, to drum and write as hobbies, to be living in the specific era that has high-speed Internet but has not yet suffered calamitous climate breakdown? You’re telling me that my existence was dumb luck on the order of one in a decillion? It sounds very much like you take me for a fool.

But if not by chance, then how do identities and selves get paired? Why does my first-person perspective live in my particular neuronal network? Why do I experience eyesight through my own optical nerves?

There’s a thing in logic called the mediocrity principle that says something like this: You’re most likely to choose the most common type of thing in a set. As an example: Suppose a bag has 99 blue marbles and 1 red marble. If you choose a marble at random, that marble is 99% likely to be blue.

So, if the mediocrity principle can be applied to conception, then surely you and I must have been born as bacteria, who so ridiculously outnumber humans in the bag of marbles that is our planet Earth. If we happened to get stupendously lucky, maybe we’ll observe ourselves to have been born phytoplankton or, inshallah, roundworms. But existence as a mammal let alone a human would be far too much to ask.

Okay, on the count of three, let’s, you and I, observe the type of being we ended up being. One. Two. Three. Holy shit. I’m a human! Of the privileged and frequent-flying variety! OMG, YOU TOO???

Given the mediocrity principle and our existence as well-off, educated adults, then TRIA can’t really be true. It’s like those spam emails that say I’m the lucky winner of a one-in-a-million prize. I’m not that gullible. Delete.

Fear not. I have given this thought, and I have found that the answer to this most vexing existential conundrum is…. [drum roll, please, brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr] …above my pay grade. I’m not actually a Plato-level philosopher.

Religious people, here’s my tip to you: if you want to smash your sales quota and be the top-performing proselytizer, hammer us atheists with the dissonance we feel when we try to hold in our head the mediocrity principle and fact of our own existence. TRIA cannot exist in the middle. Humiliate us with our failure to resolve this most fallacious fallacy infecting the foundation of our philosophies. Make us break down in tears. Deal us anxiety attacks. Crush us under the weight of our internal contradictions. And, like the billions of existentially confounded souls that have preceded us, we, too, will bow down to God and thank Him for being our Lord, our Savior, our Creator, our Most Generous Nonrandom Identity Assigner.