The Angry Atheist

7 06 2011

We climbed to the top of Mt. Baden-Powell, where we found a monument, created by Boy Scouts in honor of their founder, Lord Baden-Powell.  I can only assume the mountain was named in his honor.  My first thought, as is usual when I find these things, is that some people must have hauled an awful lot of concrete, water, wood and bronze up here to make this thing.  A person doesn’t go about constructing a large concrete obelisk way up on a peak like this without considerable motivation.  Hopefully, they didn’t need to carry it through the fifteen-hundred feet of hard-packed snow that we had to crawl up to get there.

My second thought was that someone must have had an awful lot of hatred for God to have beat the word, “God” to oblivion.  Defacing the monument was not nearly as impressive a feat.  The jerk didn’t even bring his own mallet up the mountain, opting for whatever rock was handy.  Once upon a time, the idea of the Angry Atheist was a stereotype akin to the Wandering Jew, or the Thieving Gypsy.  Stereotypes only last when applied to minorities.  Today’s atheist controls the entire institution of public education.  Today’s atheist has cowed the scientific establishment.  Mainstream media tows the line.  Public monuments bear his dogma.  One might wonder what the atheist has left to be angry about.  All of the primary means of public brainwashing…yes, brainwashing, are dominated by the lexicon of atheism.  The United States was built up on a Christian foundation, and it will be torn down by the atheist rock, pounding, pounding the idea of God into oblivion.

My pet atheist seems awfully angry at something that he claims doesn’t exist.  I can imagine being angry with Santa for not delivering a certain toy, but I can only imagine a believing child being angry with Santa.  I’ve never met an adult who held a grudge against the jolly man.  It’s hard to be angry at nothing.  The world is full of these atheists, who spend their hours vandalizing a cross in the Mohave Desert, or suing to remove the cross from Mount Helix, and many more.  I can only imagine the acrimony they would cast on us if we were to demolish a bronze Buddha.

Which brings us to another point.  Christians, by and large, tend not to vandalize the monuments of atheism.  Here stands a plaque describing our simian ancestry.  There lies a monolith telling of how the Earth was formed millions or billions of years ago.  It’s just modern mythology.  I don’t like it, but I’ve never picked up a rock and blemished the word, “evolved.”  Other people have a right to say what they think.  I like to think that a group of Boy Scouts can make a monument on the one peak named after their founder, without having a self-appointed censor come along and deface it.  In fact, the dogmas of atheism (Darwinism, Big Bang theory, free love, etc.) have spread largely in the face of passive Christians who had the civility to let other people live and speak as they choose.  In societies founded upon atheism, such as China, the old Soviet Union, and the Eastern Bloc nations, Christians were not afforded this freedom in return.  Incidentally, atheism-saturated cultures are not the nicest places to live.

What is the difference?  They are insecure, and we are not.  People don’t react violently to tall tales.  They run for their guns at insults with a touch of truth.  Tell a jock that he’s a sissy, and he’ll laugh at you.  Tell that to a weak little bookworm, and he’ll hate you forever.  What is God to an atheist?  Ostensibly, God is just a word.  In truth, God is that thing that keeps nagging at the atheist, dragging him back to the Christian blogs so he can slander them on his own blog.  People don’t get angry at nothing.  The cross is not just a pole with a crossbeam.  God is not just an idea.  Something motivated someone to pick up a hammer and drive a nail through the Word of God.  Something motivated someone to pick up a rock and hammer flat the word, “God.”  They can’t get over God, because God won’t let them, because they’re still alive, and because there’s still an opportunity.  They can’t get over God, because he hasn’t gotten over them.

One day, the atheist’s goal will be fulfilled spontaneously.  The monument will erode and crumble.  The very mountain that it sits on will wash out to sea, eventually.  Long before that happens, the atheist will die, and the whole world will utterly forget that he ever existed.  Long after that, God will still remain.  You can erase the word, “God,” but you can never erase the Word of God.





A Dangerously Weak god

16 09 2010

A coworker named Albert  attempted to explain to me that another coworker named Tuan thought he was far better than anyone else at the lab.  When confronted with what were perceived to be his shortcomings, Tuan reacted by insisting that he was the very best among us.  In fact, he might have had us believe that he was near perfect.

“He doesn’t really think that,” I told my other coworker, “He’s just insecure.”

“No, he’s not insecure,” replied Albert, “He thinks we’re all down here.” He indicated an arbitrary position with his hand, palm-downward, “And he thinks he’s way up here,” he said, raising his hand above his head.  “When I tried to correct him, he got defensive and argued with me.”

“Secure people don’t get defensive,” I replied.

It’s true, though.  Confident people can take harsh criticism in stride.  It may bother them, but they don’t lose confidence in who they are and where they stand.  It is with this in mind that I note how, with a Koran in one hand and a cigarette lighter in the other, I can make the entire Muslim world jump with every flick of my thumb.  With a pencil and a wild imagination I can draw a face and call it “Mohamed,” earning myself a death sentence.  But all of this zealotry runs amok when we put it to the magnifying glass.

I understand that offenses against Muslim icons are an offense against Muslims.  Insults to my mother are offensive to me, and insults against my God are all the more so.  In a sense, everything that I hold dear and close is part of what I call home.  In a beehive, the queen bee is home.  To the mockingbird, the nest is home.  We naturally fight to protect our home.  However, against these physical things, there lies a real threat of harm.  The bees fight for the queen, because she could really be killed.  The bird fights for the nest, because the young might really be devoured.

On the other hand, fighting to protect one’s god is like fighting to rescue a wooden idol from a burning building.  When a person finds himself filling the role of a self-appointed guardian of his own god, then he ought to reconsider what this thing really is.  I might ask, exactly how fragile is this Allah, that he cannot defend his own honor?  Why does any supreme being need mere mortals to run to his rescue?  It’s like the idol-makers at Ephesus fighting to protect their trade from the teachings of Paul and Barnabas.  That Muslims feel any need to fight for their god is all we need to see their insecurity.  No one dies in defense of the invincible.

They have every reason to feel insecure, though.  The whole Muslim world is economically, militarily, socially and technologically weaker than the industrialized Western nations.  If Allah were strong, then he would have lifted them above the infidels in all respects, for this god is not known for its modesty.  All the worse, though, that Allah is immodest, for weakness is never an act of voluntary meekness, as it is with Jesus.

Our God humbled himself and became a human so that he might be mocked, torn apart and murdered.  In light of this, one might threaten the burning of thousands of Bibles and never come close to the desecration that Christianity suffered.  Yet, this desecration was part of our theology.  Humiliation is central to our faith.  No derision proves our God too weak to respond, and no lack of faith or weakness of character would keep us from defending him.  We don’t need to defend him, and he is not weak.  It is through our persecution that we are proven strong.

Allah takes nothing in stride, and neither do his followers.  He proves his might through violence, which, ironically, is all the proof of his weakness.  Those who look to him for deliverance have become his protectors.  It’s the grandest of all role-reversals.  The loyal adherents have become the gods and made their god as weak as a newborn babe.

You can burn my Bible.  It’s just a stack of papers with ink scribbles on them.  Only the ideas contained within are holy.  The book is just a book.  Even the ideas don’t exist within the pages of a book.  Ideas can only exist within a mind.  A book never read is a book without meaning.  In this case, the book was read, and the meaning, which is the only thing holy about it, was stored within the soul of the one who read it.  The only thing holy about the Christian holy book lies hidden within the hearts of the Christians who believe in it.  There, no match can burn, nor any heretic desecrate it.  We have nothing to fear.  The real Bible cannot be burned.  That which can be burned is not the Word of God.

It is the weakness of Allah that causes the infidels to die.  A polytheistic god that was hardly more than a myth was built up to parade in the place of God, himself.  Such a vainglory was but a house of cards, and the effort to protect that house is more than the world can bear.  If Allah were stronger, then his followers would not have to fight so hard to protect him.  So far, though, he has managed to make a solitary prophet snort and gag while uttering proverbs.  His people have done the rest.  We are the victims of a dangerously weak god.





The Soapbox and the Train

16 05 2010

True story: a woman dropped her coat on the ground, just below a platform.  She climbed down to retrieve her coat, and some complete stranger jumped down and rudely shoved her, attempting to force her back onto the platform in a hurry.  Several bystanders stood there and watched.  In the next moment, he was dead, and she was critically injured, but alive.  All of this, because of a mere coat.  To save that material article, she climbed onto the subway tracks.  Then the man climbed onto the tracks to save her.  Most would say that the coat wasn’t worth it.  Some might even say that the woman wasn’t worth it.

But that was just a subway, and he tried by physical means.  It was only a matter of life and death, nothing more.  In another time and another place, a man stood on a soapbox and preached at a passing crowd.  This is also a true story.  He told the world that they were sinners and needed to repent.  He said that they needed Jesus.  He warned them that they were going to Hell.  A man with good intentions stopped to argue with him.  In fact, the man who wished to take him to task was no less than a pastor.  He asked the man on the soapbox why he was being so mean-spirited, why he didn’t just show people the love of God.  Fortunately, the man on the soapbox ignored him.

Let’s take the two true stories and merge them for the sake of analogy.  A woman drops her coat on the train tracks, and in a moment of carelessness, she places exceedingly high priority on a temporary piece of property at the expense of something far greater.  A coat is until the next paycheck, but death is forever.  A man on the platform yells and screams at her to abandon the coat and move to safety.  He warns her of impending doom.  The other people around him mostly do nothing, same as before.  One man stops and accuses him of being unloving, harsh and overly critical.  According to the detractor, all of this yelling and screaming is only bound to chase her farther onto the tracks.  “She’ll never come to safety if you keep on like that,” he says.  At some later time, we might even make the suggestion that the police come and arrest the shouter for “hate speech.”  The liberal says that a loving God would surely not let a train come and crush a person flat, simply because she followed her own tendencies.  What harm did she do anyone?  How did her actions justify the punishment?

Yet, God’s moral laws are no more flexible than his physical laws.  She stood on the tracks when the train came, and she was to be crushed by it.  We don’t fault the train.  We don’t fault God.  We place the blame squarely on the woman.  She should have known better.

There’s a popular little lie that makes its rounds among believers that we should, “preach the gospel to the world, using words, if necessary.”  Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by people speaking the message (Romans 10:17).  If no one speaks it, then no one is going to hear it.  Somehow, we are expected to simply be nice people, without ever really getting to the marrow of what we believe to be not only the truth, but a dire truth, at that.  In any other dire situation, we would be expected to go out of our way to convey the danger of the matter to the potential victims as quickly and as loudly as we possibly could.  Yet, somehow, when it comes to the only thing more important than life or death, being Heaven and Hell, we are expected to simply show people the love of God, without ever broaching the subject of the other person’s future of burning in Hell for all of eternity.

Focus on Heaven, they say.  Don’t scare them with the stuff about Hell.  So our victim is bending over to pick up her coat, and the man on the platform is calling to her seductively, telling her how wonderful it would be if she could stand up there on the platform with him, instead of being down there on the dirty old tracks, like that.  Her response?  Yes, of course it would be nice to stand on the platform, instead, but she’s going to get her coat first.  Yes, it would be nice to get into Heaven, but I’ve got time, and I’m going to enjoy life first.  In the end, the woman still gets crushed, but at least the man didn’t get hurt in the process.

That’s what it’s all about, anyway, isn’t it?  We try to win people to Christ in the way that is least likely to get us hurt.  The train comes.  We don’t mention it.  We act like there’s no hurry.  We behave as though there were no threat.  We even pass laws against telling people that they are going to be utterly destroyed if they don’t get out of harm’s way.  That’s hate speech.  But, love is not always polite.

Jesus was often rude.  He spent much time railing against the teachers who led people astray.  In his case, he was so determined to save a person, that, like the good fellow who tried to rescue the woman, he died trying.  As in that case, more often than not, Christ’s own attempts to save people are for naught.  In the end the train comes, and there is Hell to pay.  Even so, he still hopped down from his high place and died in the attempt.  Futile effort is better than the nightmare of having done nothing.

It doesn’t have to be futile, though.  There was always some slim chance that the person might be saved.  In fact, sometimes the hero is rewarded with another soul rescued, a life saved from imminent doom.  We are not that hero.  We are only asked to speak the warning from our place of relative safety.  Our job will not always be this easy.  For now, the bystanders only ridicule us for speaking of the train and the danger.  For now, we are only made to endure a little scorn.  The time is coming when the masses will drag us away and put us in prison, that the woman may remain on the tracks until her execution.  That is, they will do so if we continue to warn.  As it is, we mostly stand and stare, like an audience at a horror film.

And we think we are virtuous for our gentleness.





Of Mice and Momes

13 02 2010

[fiction]

Warren Wormwood lived in the quaint little town known as Lasciate Ogne Speranza Voi Ch’intrate, more familiarly known as Lasciate Ogne, or L.O. for short.  He was a single white man trapped in a neighborhood of people very much unlike himself.  It’s the age-old phenomenon: a man finds a nice little community of individuals of similar character, moves in, and finds his neighborhood slowly slipping out from under him.  One by one, familiar faces move out of the area in their quest for upward mobility, and one by one, immigrants who don’t speak a word of the native tongue move in around him.  Pretty soon, he’s trapped in a setting that he did not bargain for.

“Momes,” he calls them, the archaic word for moron.  He finds that it relieves some of the angst to insult people openly with words they would never understand.  Open profanities are far too obvious.  A person doesn’t even need to understand what was said to know that he was slighted, if the accusation comes laced with an obscenity.  Almost no one knows what a mome is, and so Warren finds himself free to express his ill will.

Perhaps the first day was when he saw the neighbor lady take one lazy step outside to deposit a large untidy bag of diapers and rotting food on her own doorstep.  Convenience, the universal currency for which there is no equal, demanded that she do no more than absolutely necessary to rid her home of the unwanted garbage.  Out of sight was out of mind.  She didn’t care that her neighbors and everyone driving down the street were now faced with the blight of her front stoop.  She had maximized her benefit to cost ratio, and that was good enough for her.

“Lazy wench,” Warren grumbled, “Too blasted lazy to put her trash where it belongs.  There goes the neighborhood!”

He had wrongly anticipated that his fellow neighbors would share his sentiment.  To some degree, they did note the unsightliness of a large gaping poke of refuse blowing in the wind, but they were of a similar heritage as the woman, and they, too, discovered the joy in the convenience of not having to take the trash any further than the front door.

One day, Warren plucked up the courage to go next door and speak his mind.  This, of course, was not received in any better manner than it was given.  Wild words in that foreign language flew around, intermixed with something that his mind could latch onto, generally expressing the belief that Warren was a jerk for imposing upon the business of strangers next door.  Besides, the woman could easily survey her area and point out others who were living just as basely as she was.  Therefore, she was right, and he was wrong.

But he tried to explain to her that she was bringing down the neighborhood.  She replied by telling him to find a new neighborhood.

Having failed at that, Warren sulked about for the next several weeks, unable to think about anything else, until a new neighbor moved in, who was not only of a different race, but of a different species altogether.  The first mouse of bitterness showed itself, of all places, in his kitchen trash.  There it sat, staring up at him with his beady little eyes, looking like a kid caught with its hand in the cookie jar.  He quickly tied up the bag and darted about, not really sure what to do with the thing.  In the end, the bag and the mouse found their way into the trash can outside.

But, for a moment Warren felt a pang of empathy for the little critter, trapped in a bag, slowly suffocating.  So he rescued it and dumped the pest into an old terrarium that he had stashed in a closet.  For the next two days, he fed it and admired its little pink nose that wiggled at him, and the little white whiskers that stuck out from his face.  He named his pet, “Peevy,” and he kept it in the attic, where he spent most of his leisure time.

Well, one mouse under glass is fine and cute, but two mice in the room are an annoyance.  When he found the next mouse in his kitchen trash, he promptly took it outside and flung it at his neighbor’s yard.  “You’ll get plenty to eat from them, I’ll bet!” he yelled after it.

Two mice in the room are an annoyance, but three mice in the walls are an infestation.  He heard the telltale scratching and scrambling behind the gypsum board, and he knew he had a problem.  Upon closer inspection, he found that the drain pipe under his sink lead through an oversized hole into the wall, providing a highway leading straight out over his trash can.  He marched straight to the store and bought a tub of spackle and the biggest box of rat poison he could find.  He poured the poison into the wall and sealed off the hole.

Night after night, he lay awake pondering the constant gnawing on the framework above him, beside him and below him.  They seemed to be gnawing at his mind, munching away at his heart and slowly eating away at his sanity.  That wasn’t the only thing eating at him, though.  Bitterness, like the mice, was gnawing at him.  At first, he had nurtured his little pet peeve, but it had reproduced and filled his thoughts like an infestation.  It was that stupid lady next door with her ill-managed garbage that was drawing the vermin into the area.  It was all of these people, imitating the easiest possible lifestyle that brought the pestilence.

And it was Warren, who just couldn’t poison and kill them fast enough to keep them from boring holes through the walls, bringing down the house.  He likened the vermin to the people, invaders with bad hygiene.  In a sense, it was the fault of his neighbors.  In a sense, Warren could not be faulted with blaming them for his own problems.  However, it was not his neighbors that ate at his soul.  They were not the ones biting and chewing their way through his mind.  They were minding (or not minding) their own business, and they were oblivious to his suffering.  But while he fought the infestation of mice, he fed the infestation of evil thoughts.

Then, one day, he realized that it was easier to kill a few people than to kill hundreds of mice.  That’s how he ended up in a concrete studio apartment with bars on the windows.  At least it had room service, with the warden delivering his mush on a platter three times a day.

And, as he sat there contemplating a mouse that inched its way into his cell in search of his gruel, he remembered the words of his neighbor, telling him that if he didn’t like the neighborhood, then he should move out.  That would have been great advice, but it was advice for an earlier life.  This was a neighborhood that he could never move out of, and the mice were there to stay.

[/fiction]





Dead Carps, Cream Pies and Rubber Chickens

7 06 2009

[fiction]

fishHello, my name is Gary, and I’m a fish slapper.  I came out of the closet ten years ago, and I’ve never looked back.  Ever since I was a child, I knew that I was special.  At first, I thought something was wrong with me for wanting to slap myself in the face with a dead carp, but after hiding my nature for years, I finally realized that it’s just who I am.

In the early days, I used to be content with slapping myself  with a carp in the privacy of my own home, but I soon came to realize that the world should love me for who I am.  I must admit that I was a little scared the first time I ordered a raw unprepared carp in a fancy restaurant.  The waitress looked at me like I was a little nuts, but she did manage to serve me one.  For a moment I hesitated.  Then I took hold of it and gave myself a firm slap in the face.  By the third slap, the tables all around me had grown quiet, and everyone was staring at me like I had grown a second head.  Undaunted, I continued to slap myself in the face, until the manager came over and insisted that I leave.

Of course, such discrimination was to be expected in those days.  Narrow-minded individuals were common, believing that the food was either to be eaten or not eaten.  Unconventional uses for food, such as mine, were not accepted as normal.  I had to convince the world that fish slapping was a veritable alternative and that I deserved to be accepted for the fish slapper that I am.  Eventually, after getting thrown out of several restaurants, my story made small news.  Pretty soon, I was getting mail from other fish-slappers who had been hiding their true selves for years and just wanted to come out of the closet.  I decided that it was time for something to be done about it.  We formed a society of fish slappers, and we even gained enough momentum to hold a fish slappers pride parade.  With enough publicity, the society at large was being made aware of the plight of fish slappers everywhere.

The downside to the publicity is that certain small-minded individuals became ever more vocal against us.  They called us “odd,” to the point where the word, odd, came to specially mean people who slap themselves in the face with a dead carp.  I cringed when I heard a teenager call his peer, “odd,” comparing him disparagingly to one of us.  These days, after much activism, schools teach kids to be more sensitive to people who are different than themselves, but the early days were painful.  We tried, with great success, to change the terminology used to describe us.  We called ourselves “happy,” and the public generally accepted that term.  Now, if you call yourself happy, people think you mean that you like to smack yourself violently with a fish.  Ask any guy on the street, and he’ll swear that he’s feeling miserable.  They’re all afraid to call themselves happy, now.

Despite all of these victories, there was still one looming problem.  It was an area of intense and unforgivable discrimination that had been institutionalized from the very beginning.  Our manner of eating was rejected in restaurants and eating establishments everywhere.  Happy people were not permitted to practice their preferred use of food in the same way as fish-eaters.  What became clear to us is that we would have to fight for our civil rights in the same manner as Martin Luther King Jr.  The problem was that, while the African American population was discriminated against for what they were, we were discriminated against for what we did.  We had to prove that fish slapping was something that we were born with, like being born of a different race or being born with a disability.  We did, in fact, manage to publish a few scientific journals that pointed to a possible genetic connection with fish slapping.  These were much-derided by the intolerant members of society.

“Do you think I would actually choose to make myself open to ridicule for the whole world?!” I complained to my friend, Norm, one day.

He shook his head and replied, “No, I think you’re right.  I can’t imagine ever wanting to slap myself in the face with a fish.  You must really want to do it, or you’d never be willing to put yourself up to such ridicule.  What I don’t understand is why you’d insist on having fish slapping  be treated as equal to eating seafood.  It’s just not the same.”

“It is the same!” I insisted.  “No one’s preventing you from doing what you want with your fish.  Just because I like to do something other than chewing and swallowing the fish doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to be treated the same as everyone else.”

“No one’s treating you differently,” Norm replied, “If you want to eat a fish in a restaurant, then you can do that, just like everybody else.  It’s just not the same to consume a fish as it is to slap yourself with one.  Eating the fish serves a functional purpose.  We were made to eat.  Survival of the human race depends on it.  Sure, it feels good, but that’s not the point.”

“Hey, you do what feels good to you, and I’ll do what feels good to me,” I replied in anger.

“No one’s stopping you from doing what feels good to you,” Norm said, “but restaurants were made for eating.  Waiters and chefs work to feed people.  That’s what they’re there to do.”

Norm never understood my lifestyle.  Having failed through parades and media coverage to win the public over, we turned to the law.  We sued restaurants for discriminating against us.  We protested in front of the homes of public figures who advocated against us.  We harassed, bullied, pleaded and educated.  Eventually, we won a popular vote that mandated restaurants to provide us with our own eating area.  They could no longer deny us service.  This wasn’t enough, though.  We didn’t want to be marginalized, slapping ourselves in a separate room, while all of the other diners ate in peace.  We failed to pass legislation forcing restaurants to allow us to slap ourselves in the main eating area, so we sought to change the meaning of the words “eating,” and “dinner.”  Fish slapping needed to be considered a form of eating.  In a landmark case, a high court ruled that separate was inherently unequal, and restaurants needed to accommodate alternative dining lifestyles, such as ours.

Unfortunately, this turn of events was short-lived.  The populace passed a law that defined eating as being the chewing and swallowing of food.  Only that definition of eating was permitted in the main dining areas of restaurants  Even before that law came to vote, we were already at the works to bring that one to court.  The judges ruled in our favor and overturned the law.  We could once again slap ourselves as loudly as we wanted in the main dining area of restaurants.

Shortly after that, though, the people voted for a constitutional amendment redefining eating as the chewing and swallowing of food.  We were once again denied the main dining areas, meant for eating, because what we were doing was not considered an act of eating.  This outrageous amendment was, unfortunately, upheld in the high court.  We’re going to keep fighting this one, though.  We have teamed up with the pie-in-the-facers and the rubber chicken flagellants to form the Fish Slappers Cream Pie Smashers and Rubber Chicken Whippers Society (FSCPSRCWS).  We will not be stopped.  We will not be forced back into the closet.  We’re in your face, and we’re here to stay.

Look out world, ‘cause here we come.

[/fiction]

Just wait until those hate speech laws kick in.  Then we’ll never be able to address anything by name.

reflectivesig





Death Trap Highway

7 02 2009

They call it Death Trap Highway, and for good reason. It’s a long desert road in the middle of nowhere, connecting a small desert city with the nearest thriving coastal metropolis. On one side, there’s a dry mountain range, and on the other is an endless expanse of joshua trees and rocks. All kinds of things die out there, coyotes being the least of them. If your car runs fine everywhere else, it might still die out on that road. More importantly, though, it’s a common place for people to die. I remember that one night, years ago as a kid, when we arrived at the scene of a car accident, and my Dad tried valiantly to resuscitate a little girl. One car, loaded with kids, half of them dead, and another car with two dead adults just sat there, smoking. It was a futile effort, though. There was no reviving the kid. My Dad spent the next two days in bed. He didn’t come out for anything. What was the cause of the accident? The mother of the family, who was one of the drivers, said that she swerved to avoid an animal in the road. In all likelihood, she either fell asleep at the wheel or was a little intoxicated. Their funeral was not a solemn stoic one, the way white people do it, but a raging torrent of emotion, wailing and crying.

That funeral could have been ours. Was it nearly half a decade later? Yes, I suppose it was. We were on that same highway, now with a large billboard naming it “Death Trap Highway,” in memory of some other people who also managed to die there. My mom was driving, and she was clearly in her happy place. We passed a sign that said “Lane ends, merge left,” and she didn’t merge left. We passed over a couple of slanted arrows on the road, pointing left, and she kept driving straight ahead. I looked over at her, and she was staring straight ahead, but her mind was somewhere miles away.

“Um, Mom?” I said, “Are you going to change lanes?”

Up ahead, my Dad and I both saw the lane end quite abruptly at a pile of rocks. We were headed straight for it at the speed of seventy-five miles per hour. My mom didn’t even flinch. Very anxious, my Dad started pleading with her to change lanes. It was like watching a captive plead to his tormentors to stop whipping him. I saw reality dawn on my mom’s face, as she snapped out of her reverie. Rather than change lanes, though, she took her eyes completely off of the road and drilled my dad with an angry stare (for several seconds, mind you) and proceeded to scold him for his tone of voice.

“Look, Babe, I’m just trying to tell you to change lanes before we go off the road!” he pleaded.

He was looking at the road. She wasn’t. He began to get more anxious. I kept looking back and forth between the pile of rocks and them. My dad had a look of horror like I’ve never seen before, with his feet on the seat and his knees drawn up to his chest, he was biting his fingers and getting red in the face. She was giving him a lecture about how she didn’t appreciate being talked to like that.

Then, I think the thing that convinced me that we were about to die was when she turned her head back to the road, looking straight at the pile of rocks, expressionless, yet she looked like she was determined to stay in that lane just to show us who was boss. “I can’t believe it,” I thought, “She’s really going to do it. She’s really going to drive straight into the rocks.”

At the last possible moment, she began to get over. We missed the rock pile by a foot, went off the road and did about a hundred yards in the dirt, before making asphalt again. I won’t say what I was thinking after that, but it’s safe to say that my way of thinking was forever changed by it.

I wish I could say that it was an aberration in human nature, but it’s not. Every single one of us drives our own Death Trap Highway. It’s a dangerous life, and death is inevitable, but when someone tells us that we’ve made a mortal mistake, how often do we continue in the same path, refusing to change, sacrificing everything for the sake of our stubborn pride? And we even fail to protect our pride. Who can possibly respect a decision like that?! Instead of making an objective decision and steering safely away from harm, we scold the person who tries to warn us of it. We don’t like the angry way they told us (though, seldom is it really all that bad), or we pretend that they are wrong. We cast the blame on them. Then, we continue along the same path.

If a person is going to Hell, and I warn them of it, in all likelihood, they’ll cast me as an intolerant bigot. They’ll accuse me of being insecure and trying to comfort myself by winning others to my faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. We could be perfectly at ease, enjoying our salvation and watching you go to Hell. I mean, who wants to put up with verbal abuse from a bunch of angry heathens, when we can relax and take it easy? I’m okay; you’re going to Hell, but that doesn’t hurt me. I’ve lost count of the number of people who lambaste Christians who make even the barest attempt at sharing their faith.

And they call us the intolerant ones.

Look, it isn’t easy for someone to warn you of your sin. Truth be told, no one really wants to have to be the one to do it. Next time, when a Christian wants to share his faith with you, be polite and listen, whether you’re already a believer or not. We’re not doing it for ourselves. We’re doing it because we think you might be headed for trouble and we hate to see it happen to a nice person like you.

Truth be told, if I try to proselytize you, then it’s only because I like you. Just take the compliment, okay?

xerosig





The hypocrisy of fighting proselytization

28 08 2008

There are those who think it a sin to try to convince others of one’s own religious beliefs.

I take that back. There are those who think that tying to convince others of one’s own religious beliefs is a sin, so long as those religious beliefs are Christian. These same people make no mention of other religious groups, so I must conclude that they are concerned only with Christians. In Iran, such people are prominent, being the highest political leaders in the nation. There, it is a crime punishable by death either to convert to Christianity or to attempt to convert another to it. I’m not going to waste time writing about Iran, here. I don’t speak Persian, and if I did, this blog would never get inside the country anyway. No, I am talking about a particularly open-minded class of American who believes that it is a Christian’s foremost duty to keep his religious beliefs to himself. We can talk football. We can discuss politics. We can even have a chat about the Eightfold Path. If we mention the name of Jesus in any other context than that of an expletive, then we’ve crossed the line into that deep and dangerous gray area of, and I quote, “shoving your religion down my throat.”

Ah, yes…America is built on the free exchange of ideas. We hold firmly to the value of free speech. In fact, we extend it so far as to say that the freedom of speech inherent in painting oneself green and running naked on the White House lawn is a sacred rite. Well, maybe not completely naked. However, any effort to share Christian values is not seen as free speech, but as an attempt to stifle others. I have been told not to share my faith, or that if I do that I am only reacting out of insecurity about my beliefs. The irony in this is that in telling me this, these same people have attempted to share their own beliefs with me, as an effort to actually change my behavior! (Gasp! Oh, the horror!) Oh, wait…I forgot, it’s okay for them to try to get me to change my views and actions, but the reverse is a form of oppression.

Let’s face it, folks: telling people that it’s wrong to share their views in an attempt to convince others is a self-contradictory lie. Yes, it’s even self-contradictory if they are Christians who share their beliefs. I know it’s convenient to have a double-standard, though.

Then there’s this notion that I’m full of myself if I think I have the truth and you don’t. Hmm…someone didn’t think that one through too carefully. Oh, wait, I forgot, I’m full of myself if I’m a Christian and I think I have the truth and you don’t. I knew I was missing something. Yes, because it would be silly to assume that I’d be trying to convince you of something that I did not believe in.

No, no, you have the truth. I’m wrong. I’m only trying to convince you otherwise.

You’re right. You have the truth. I have the truth. They both completely contradict each other, but neither of us are wrong! The laws of reason and logic just twisted themselves into a Gordian knot to accommodate you, and I am an ass!

(Deep breath) The person who tells me that I can not insist on having the truth that someone else does not, must, himself not believe that he has the truth that I do not, or he would be contradicting himself. I must therefore assume that he knows that he is wrong, and that he is attempting to convince me of something that even he does not believe, in which case I will not believe him. Therefore, I might logically continue to believe that I am right. I can not be proven wrong simply because I am wrong to believe that I am right. It’s a baseless argument.

I believe that the odds are that any given person reading this post is more likely on their way to Hell than Heaven.

Oops…I just did it. I shoved my religion down your throat.

Comments? Oh, well, if you agree with me, then there is nothing to say. If you disagree with me, then your only point would be that it is wrong to attempt to share your views with others, so I will spare you the temptation of betraying your own beliefs by posting a comment.