Soliloquy # 22
In the first or second grade, while we were living in
Delaware, in a suburb of Wilmington, I was forced to
learn the Lord's Prayer. When I explained that I was
Jewish and that I wasn't required to learn it, my
teacher threatened to rap my knuckles if I didn't. At
this very early age I was made to appreciate that I
was living in a Christian nation. I can still recite
the Lord's Prayer.
Recently, in Kansas, the Board of Education decided
to remove the teaching of Evolution from the State's
requirements. This is because there are enough people
in Kansas with irrational fundamentalist beliefs to
effect a change towards obscurantism. They are trying
to have Christian Creationism taught in place of
Evolution. If a Creation myth is to be taught in
Kansas, ought it not be the indigenous Creation myth
of the Wichita Tribe as opposed to a Creation Myth of
the Hebrews, which was plagiarized from earlier
Mesopotamian works and brought to the North American
continent by Europeans?
I am an Atheist. I am embarrassed when confronted by
people who sincerely believe in the mythology of
their own religion. As an Atheist I have no
guidelines to reveal to me why Samson knocking down
the pillars on which stood the Temple of the
Philistines is more believable than Hercules placing
his Pillars at the entrance to the Mediterranean,
those being the Rock of Gibraltar and Jebel Musa. I
feel like an Anthropologist who must adopt a
scientific distance while listening to the local
inhabitants relate the stories of their divine
heroes. It is little different than confronting
children still convinced of the genuineness of - and
here the obvious insert is Santa Claus. I would not
dissuade a child of their innocent notion, if it
brings them happiness. When presented with an adult
whose beliefs are similar to that of a child's, I
have no desire to disabuse the adult of his comfort.
It is not my intention to convert anyone to Atheism.
My Atheism is a faith.When I look into my heart, I
find there is no god and no afterlife. But a
component of faith is doubt, and so I might be wrong.
Also, I can see no reason why others should share the
angst of my Atheism. I've no interest in causing
others to lie awake distressed at night, for them to
panic from death anxiety.
Still, I wish I could convert the Fundamentalist,
those who narrow-mindedly believe the Bible's
metaphors and fables to be literal, for these
Fundamentalists are capable of committing atrocities.
I wish I could convince them to believe in an
ineffable god, that the rituals and symbols and
metaphors are there to point the way, are limited
expressions of god, yet are not actually god, only a
means of feeling closer to god. But, I daresay they
could not accept such a proposal from an Atheist.
We must beware the proselytizer who believes every
allegory of the Bible to be a factual account,
because in my country, they vote. They have elected
representatives into the highest positions of the
United States Government. A democracy depends on
quality education for its citizens; otherwise, the
people are exploited by an oligarchy. The same people
who are trying to eliminate Evolution from the
curriculum can bring a reversal to my nation's
achievements in the fields of medicine, biology,
astronomy, and physics; and, eventually, it could be
their finger that hovers over the nuclear button.
There are many good Christians in my country and in
the world who do not reserve kindness only for their
religious sect, and who do not demand a spiritual
payment for their charity. But there are also the
predatory Christians. They stand on street corners,
berating the passersby to believe as they do.
Jehovah's Witnesses, with too much makeup and
polyester clothes on bodies that look unhealthy, come
to our neighbourhood, moving door to door in search
of converts. I've talked with them and they know
little about alternate points of view. They believe
in a finite number of available slots in Heaven. When
it became obvious that there were not enough slots to
go around, the sect revised the number. They will not
expand it any further. If they succeed in converting
me, at best I shall have to settle for heaven on
earth, as already dead Jehovah's Witnesses have
filled all the slots in Heaven.
The Mormons seem to send their handsomest youth
abroad, to knock on our doors with sermons uninvited.
They show a more refined taste in clothing than do
the Jehovah's Witnesses, but even if easier on the
eye, they remain harsh to hear, presuming to know
better than whomever it is they find at home.
My salvation is when Boris, my 180 pound Newfoundland
dog, is tied out front. The predatory Christians tend
to be frightened of him and stay away. Boris was born
a Mennonite on a farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and
he wouldn't hurt any of them, but I don't care if
they don't know that.
At a difficult time when my father was in the
hospital and I believed he was going to die, an
associate at work noted my anguish and knew the
cause. She brought me to a quiet place in the office.
There she reached across the desk and held each of my
hands in each of hers. She then said to me, with the
most heartfelt sincerity, "I know what you can
do to make your father happy." She had my rapt
attention. "You can accept Christ as your
Saviour." I wanted to explode with the shock
this suggestion caused me. The very thought would
have been a knife in the heart of my Jewish father. I
concealed my horror for her offensive suggestion and
my disbelief that anyone could think so
simplemindedly cruel. I withdrew my hands, never
surrendering my smile. Why should I hurt her when she
did not mean to insult me? The predatory
Christians do not understand how they offend.
I have a Japanese friend who was at one time in
Boston pursuing an advanced degree. While she was
taking a shortcut home at night, through a churchyard
in Brookline, Massachusetts, she was surprised by the
statue of Jesus nailed to a cross - what another
friend of mine, a Nihilist, jocularly refers to as
Jesus on a stick. But for my Japanese friend it was
an unexpected trauma. She was not prepared for it. As
are the great majority of Japanese, she is both
Shintoist and Buddhist, a dichotomy with which most
Japanese have no problem. She turned her gaze away
from this gruesome portrayal. She could not
understand how my nation would so casually display
this horrific violence. Surely such a regular
depiction of torture would frighten children, or
possibly pervert them into indifference for cruelty.
In any case, she thought, shouldn't my countrymen be
protecting our children from seeing such gross
portrayals of slow death?
During my visit to Japan, I found the frequent
temples and shrines that lay in my path to be
charming. They did remind me that I was gaijin,
merely a visitor to Japan. Still, when I returned
home, my former oblivious acceptance of the presence
of churches in my homeland had been stripped away,
leaving me sensitive to the great number of Christian
churches and symbols dotting the American landscape.
I felt more alien to my homeland following my return.
Dear reader, if you be one of those who seek to save
the soul of us, the (perceived) damned, please
refrain from writing to me. Your number is legion and
there is no end to the bombardment of the goodwill
that comes from hearts like as yours. Your voices
are, in fact, too many and counterproductive. Do not
be so vain as to think that your god has singled you
out to accomplish my salvation. Rather, think that
your god has some mysterious purpose in fabricating
this Atheist, appointing me the devil's advocate. You
must have faith that when god wants me to change my
mind, god will let me know.