My son lives in Brooklyn and I was visting from Texas.  He suggested we spend the morning book shopping at the Strand on Broadway at 12th Street and the afternoon in Queens taking in the Museum of the Moving Image (we are both film buffs), then dinner at the Seva Indian Restaurant.  On the L train going back (the long way around since New York pisses off its subway customers by shutting down certain trains on weekends for repair, so we could not take the G train), as we stepped into the car and made out way to a vacant spot in the middle, a young man got out of his seat and asked me, "Would you like to sit?"  I did and thanked him.  He was bald but had a big unkempt beard.  The woman sitting next to him had a burka, but I did not know they were married until, during our short conversation, he introduced her as his wife.

The conversation revealed that he had served in the army and was stationed at Fort Hood, near Killeen, Texas, my home state. He did not like Killeen, because it "had nothing to do" (the soldiers on leave go to San Antonio), and because of the drug culture there.  (Without asking, I suspected the drug of choice was methamphetamine, which no intelligent person should touch.)  The conversation was what Fritz Perls would have characterized as mostly bullshit (not the weather and such, which Perls called "chickenshit" nor the Einstein and Cabala he termed "elephant shit"), as those would be out of bounds except for casual acquaintances and fellow academics. it was more along the lines of comparisons between Texas and New York. 

When we left them at a change of trains, I had a sharp pang of remorse.  Here I was lambasting Muslims and anyone religious weekly on this site, Facebook, and Twitter, and the only person on the metro who offered me a seat was an Islamist.  Yes, I know the caveat that not all believers are "bad" and that even fools can be nice now and then.  But my self-examination was more along the lines of the thought that one might better simply argue the atheist point of view without humiliating believers by putting them in the same boat, not turning away the very people who should be given food for thought and logical reasons why they should abjure.  I realized that all too often I demean believers in ways that so upset them they go away thinking, if that is what free-thinking is all about, I want no part of it.  I think this notion is very much in keeping with the site administrators' wish that we tone down our rhetoric so that people curious about atheism, people who are, perhaps a little agnostic to begin with, do not turn off when they see hyper-pejorative things on the site.  I promised myself to be a bit more lenient and tactful.

Of course, when I got back to Brooklyn and on my son's Mac, I saw a Facebook entry asking, "Should an atheist marry a religious person," and my reply was, "By all means an atheist should marry a believer, and after the honeymoon, beat the bejesus out of them."

Hey, to err is human.

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When the paper posts my letter, I will provide the link.

Thanks, Loren.  I made a mistake.  I think it was not a burqa that the wife had on, but a hijab.

Damned little difference, though I THINK with a hijab, the face shows, as opposed to a burqa, where there's an allowance for the eyes and nothing else.  Regardless, it reflects an arrested culture - one I don't tend to give a lot of slack to.

But on A|N you are preaching to the choir.

While in NYC recently, a friend of my son's asked if he could interview me for a streaming radio show he is doing.  I said yes and we discussed my coming of age in L.A. in the late 60s and my journalistic career prior to going to law school, lots of other topics. I thought I made it perfectly clear, especially from diatribes against the Catholic Church, that I am atheist, but sure enough when he told his listeners on sign-off, "God bless," I cringed.  Who did he think he was talking to?  In his defense, if you can call it that, he was drunk by that time.  He must have thrown back a six pack and who knows what he'd had prior to arriving.  I have learned to just forgeddaboudit.

I've always been an atheist, but didn't realize it until I was 6 years old.  I must have evolved into a social anti-theist a half-century on -- some time after 9/11/2001.  I mention this because now I live in rural Upstate South Carolina, where everyone I know identifies as Christian.  And most of them are very good people, at least within the context of life here.  Not the one who shot my dog, and probably not the one with confederate flags flying all over their compound (don't know -- haven't screwed-up the courage to meet them).  They all insert words like God or Jesus or Lord or pray or blessing into about every fourth sentence, but they hardly ever (at least in front of me) use words like repent or damned or abomination.  They're largely benign cultural or devout Christians, and I would be an asshole to speak against them.

I remember a time in the 1960s in a different part of the South when our family was called Damned Abominations and had a cross burned on our lawn and our store vandalized because we gave business credit to our 'nigger' neighbors and refused to Repent and join the Church.  The mayor had our well condemned by fiat, and my sister and I failed our grades in school because our records went missing (sis was set to be valedictorian).  And similar or much worse stories go back generations.  So I have some not small reasons to revile the Kozy Kristian Kulture around here.

But this South is not that South, except for eddies in corners, and the Christianity expressed by my friends and neighbors is not the Christianity of slavery or Manifest Destiny, at least if left politely unexamined.  The good people who practice it do so because it's like the air around here -- it just is.  Most of them are politically conservative, and some who are apolitical vote the way their minister recommends.  My dear ex wife voted for G.W. Bush twice (!) because her Southern Baptist minister told her that she must in order to fulfill God's plan.  She also went on a mission to Honduras and did some good for desperate people.

So it's complicated.  When every person around you, good or bad, adheres to a particular social dogma, it's sort of hard to cut out that dogma and demonstrate it as the problem that it is.  This is especially true if the people around you believe that their faith is the source of their goodness.  Hell maybe it is, though I doubt it.  I'd posit that these good folk would be good folk under another tradition or maybe even no tradition at all, and that the not so good would find another way to justify their behavior.


my reply was, "By all means an atheist should marry a believer, and after the honeymoon, beat the bejesus out of them."

That could alienate not just believers, but abuse survivors and women too.

Just funnin' and most people took it that way. 

It happens too often that a guy marries and then does "beat the bejesus" out of his wife, for it to seem like fun.  Especially if one has had similar experiences, as I have, it seems an echo of violence. 

Golly, some folks wear their feelings on their sleeves.  I am as big an advocate for women's rights as you are likely to find.  And if you look at the reply I posted, it is not gender specific. I urged anyone, male or female, to marry and beat the bejesus out of their believer partner.  And it was obvious I was making a joke. Get real!

It's because it's all too real that it could alienate people. 

in other words, I'm telling you if you are concerned not to turn reading believers or fencesitters away by rough language, it could turn off other kinds of readers also. 


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