“God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable. They find not only sanctuary in His arms, but also a kind of superiority, soothing to their macerated egos: He will set them above their betters.”
“I find it necessary to wash my hands after I have come into contact with religious people.”
Recent A/N threads have generated much thoughtful comment on what to say when some retarded believer says that Jesus loves you. It’s a provocative remark, designed to trump anything the atheist says because it assumes that the believer’s religious psychosis must prevail.
But there’s much more. We unbelievers get offensive religious talk thrown at us all the time.
Jews are rarely subjected to – and rarely have to deal with -- worshipful talk about Allah or Shiva. That’s because they mostly hang with other Jews, sometimes cloistering themselves completely, as in certain communities in Brooklyn, New Jersey, and elsewhere.
Tectonics of religion
I like to compare religions to tectonic places. When they meet, there is friction, fire, death. Mostly they stay apart if they can help it.
But atheists stand between the plates. Or perhaps at the edge of one, as with Humanistic Jews and Unitarians. In any event, we mix with all kinds of folks – family, friends, business associates – who espouse different levels of religiosity. We will inevitably bump up against people who engage in a little – or a lot of – God-talk.
How to respond?
How do I respond when Mom thanks God for every positive event and piece of luck? She’s going to say it, she can’t help it, she really does believe that someone’s looking out for her (her words) – and she knows damn well what I think of God.
Should we thank him for my father’s dying at a mere 69, missing two whole generations of his progeny (and two of my marriages)? I’m weary of that discussion. I usually just let it pass, though sometimes I still call her on it.
You never know.
"Thank God" is just the beginning. You never know when you’re going to be hit with a piece of religious BS. On the way to a jam session in VT, my fellow-musician friend drove a young neighbor couple to Brattleboro, which was where we were going.
For way too long I had to listen to the travails of the gluten-free life -- the arduous chore of baking pizza crust from millet seed, oh, pity us, our special diet/religion and the attendant inconvenience, which must be of intense fascination to EVERYONE.
No, they’re not. The diet may be medically necessary (but what are the odds that two gluten-intolerant people would marry?). But nobody gives a shit. At least I don’t. My niece and nephew are vegans, which is respected when they go to their father’s house. Well, there always is a vegetarian dish anyway. Last time, we had swordfish, noodles, and corn.
By what deranged belief system do you pass up something as delicious and healthy as grilled swordfish (or, in the case of Jews, shrimp and lobster)? Because you’re special, and your specialness must be on display at all times, even to the extent of bringing your own kosher food to someone else’s house (in this case, mine; had I found out earlier, these religious idiots would have been invited to leave my non-kosher house and eat their special food on the patio, where the temperature was six degrees).
I felt powerfully compelled to turn around and calmly tell the we’re-so-special people that my body may be rife with gluten, whatever the problem with it is, but I’ve made it this far following nutritional common sense, eating chicken and fish, nuts, tomato sauce, salmon, green tea, and a bunch of other boring but effective stuff. And not boring other people with it!
And as far as the rationale for vegetarianism, Carlos Mencia points out that sanctimonious vegans are reducing the amount of plant life, which means less oxygen and more CO2, a greenhouse gas…and hey, don’t plants have feelings too? Who’s to say the thresher doesn’t create a field of pain and agony?
Anyway, back to the young neo-hippie couple. After an innocuous remark about a child, the wife said, “Well they’re young. They just came from the spirit world.” Again, I kept my mouth shut. I’ll never see these people again, and so I could resist my urge to say, “No, they don’t, you fucktards. There is no spirit world. They came from their mothers’ wombs. They’re immature because… they’re children!”
Yielding to God-talk
My point is that many atheists are subjected to God-talk repeatedly, even if it’s just your old Mom saying “thank God” – and often unexpectedly.
Still, I harbor, as I’m sure many readers do, an urge to talk back. Over and over I yield, to maintain social comity. They can’t see me roll my eyes.
But some day I might just have had enough. I know I have the courage to confront religious believers. I just haven’t had the opportunity.
Opportunity to talk back
It may come. Mom is 95, healthy but very frail. Jews insist on getting the body in the ground in 24 hours (I really prefer the casket-in-the-parlor, everybody-get-hammered type of sendoff), so all this will have to be decided in advance. And it has been.
She has asked me to attend her funeral, at her (formerly our) synagogue in my home town. I agreed to attend, but not to stand, pray, or wear a skullcap.
Scenarios of disobedience
I doubt that this will be acceptable to the congregants. One way it could play out is that I’m asked to leave the sanctuary. Or somehow I give in, but when I get up there to say something, it will be about the special evil and intolerance of religion.
I will say that honoring her expressed wish -- and the bargain we struck – is the proper way to bury her. Fuck your stupid rules, holy books, humiliating prayers, and costumes. Your god is barbaric and nonexistent. Revering the “wisdom” of some stupid pre-scientific barbarians is just nuts. There’s nothing in your holy scroll that is of interest or benefit to me – or you.
I imagine myself saying such things, in public, from the pulpit.