I was well known in school. I might not have always been well-liked by some crowds, but I wasn’t generally hated either. I was that weird kid who would refuse to play kickball but would doodle in gym class instead. My mother was often in a hurry in the mornings and would yank on my hair while attempting to brush it out, and so I developed an aversion to hairbrushes. My hair was cut short so as to not be much work, and it was often messy. As for clothes, I mostly just threw together an outfit without much care apart from ensuring that I was covered (bright green sweatpants and a Power Ranger’s T-shirt with a hole in it seemed like a good match.) I didn’t much care about being attractive. I just didn’t really care at all what anyone thought of me. In a way, I miss being able to carry that sort of attitude.
I badly needed glasses, but I never got them until about second grade. Even then, I often lost them. Of the friends that I would make at recess, I would often have trouble finding them again due to my poor vision. I can’t say that I felt all that lonely though. I usually was happy to entertain myself drawing. I even brought my sketchbook with me to gym class and would sit out games of kickball in favor or doodling.
I was never much bullied. Sure, kids tried to bully me every now and then, but that never went all that well for them. I was no push over. I was a very confrontational child and would stand up for myself. For a time, I was a regular in the principle’s office because I wouldn’t let any Zero Tolerance policy rob me of the right to defend myself when needed. Of course the loser of any scuffle, even if he started it, would paint himself as the victim and me as the aggressor.
I had a few friends, in a circle I kept very small. Then I had a room full of classmates, most whose names I couldn’t be bothered to remember (it was a good year if I knew the teacher’s name.) And that was my school life, pretty much.
There was one girl in particular, who I got along mostly OK with, by the name of Dorothy. Admittedly, she was quite annoying. She was known to be excessively loud, clingy, and careless (she had once dropped a rock on my head off a playground, and had also spilled milk on my head in the cafeteria once.) I was mostly only friends with her because her name reminded me of The Wizard Of Oz, and I had a tendency of feeling compelled to be nice to people, no matter what they’ve done to me in the past, as long as they were being nice to me at the moment, which she usually was.
It was at her invitation that I first attended church. I reckoned I may as well find out who this god character everyone keeps fussing about is. I had little else to do on Sunday mornings anyway.
I’ve always loved the gothic architecture that some churches have. I love the soaring, stained glass windows, and the images that they would depict. I loved the repeating patterns of elegant, pointed arches. I loved flying buttresses that climbed the wall with such grace. I love the strong, stone pillars. Then there was the towering spire, visible from quite some business away, with its breathtaking presence. Before I first attended church, I associated that sort of gothic cathedral construction with all churches, probably because that makes churches highly recognizable. I thought that they were all designed in this fashion.
I’d often wished that I could find a church of that type for sale, and was able to get it zoned as a residence. I was a bit of an odd child, maybe, but it’s hard to deny that a building with that sort of construction would make for a beautiful and rather large dwelling. I imagine that the chapel would have good acoustics, and the pews already provide ample seating, making it the ultimate home theater room.
Much to my surprise the church I was brought to wasn’t at all what I imagined. It was actually quite ugly. I’d seen this building before as it was close to my home, but if it weren’t for the large stone cross, I would have never guessed the hideous thing church. It lacked any symmetry or aesthetic form at all. It looked like a collection of children’s building blocks just thrown together. The exterior was stucco and painted bright blue, and much of it looked to be in disrepair. It certainly lacked the beautiful architecture of the Catholic Church down the street.
I once revisited this church building as an adult, just a few years ago. By then, I’d thrown off the shackles of religion. My purpose for visiting was not one of faith, but of consumerism. What had once been a church had been turned into an antique store, now called Church of Mouse. The building seems to lend itself as well to this purpose. I amuse myself today at the thought of religion as an antique. It seems appropriate, really.
The adults of the church seemed very sure of god, and would talk about him with certainty to each other rather than just when speaking to children as with Santa. Adults can’t be wrong, can they? It was at this church that I learned that, at the age of 8, I was a filthy, dirty, sinner deserving of not only execution, but also the most horrific tortures imaginable for an infinite sentence afterwards. Apparently, snatching a cookie before dinner or feeding my peas to the family dog were very grievous offenses in the eyes of god. As for my young self, it was the first time that I had been told that I was so evil and worthless, the worst of my crimes being simply being born.
It wasn’t all bad though. As it turned out, the members of this church, and only them, the brilliant people that they are, had the cure that I need to cleanse myself of my wickedness and escape condemnation to hell. How lucky for me that I happened to meet people privy to such a thing. It’s odd that no one who didn’t claim have the cure ever even mentioned the need for one, considering how much people went on for the cures of diseases. I would think that this hell would be far worse than cancer or AIDS (whatever those were.)
Thanks to the kindness of the pastor, I was quickly “saved” from from my sentence to hell which, until I met the church people, I never even realized was immanent.
Wait, the concept of hell seems a little bit implausible. I mean, where is it? It can’t be under the crust of the earth, that’s where the mantle and core are. Don’t ask questions! Don’t even think questions! Is it supposed to be on another planet? How do we get there? How do we even get anywhere anyway if we’re dead?
STOP THNKING! STOP DOUBTING! STOP ASKING QUESTIONS! That’s just the devil infecting your mind and trying to trick you into doubting, the punishment for being a victim of this trickery being that eternal torment in hell. Oh no! Sorry, god. I didn’t mean it! I’m so sorry! Please forgive me. I promise not to doubt for a moment ever again. Please don’t burn me. Amen.
And so I became indoctrinated and easily manipulated puppet. I was even an instrument in my own indoctrination. Do as god/I say(s,) hate what god/I hate(s,) hate who god/I hate(s.) Wow, it sure is lucky that I found a teacher who is so in tune with what god thinks. It’s very convenient that he can hear god. … Why can’t I hear god?
Anyone familiar with operant conditioning can see what’s going on here. You do something, so you’re punished (the mere thought of punishment, especially one so severe, is its own punishment here) so eventually, you stop doing that thing (even when that thing is only a thought.) I was not to doubt or to question. To do so meant thinking of hell, the punishment for thinking and questioning. Skepticism was simply not allowed. It was blasphemy. Once that much was accomplished, it was easy to convince me that “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” was a sensible argument against respecting the humanity of those evil homosexuals (whatever those were.) I could not ask, “by why is being gay wrong?” expecting any deeper answer than “because god says so,” otherwise… hell.
I don’t remember Santa Clause ever threatening me with anything apart from coal. Even then, that punishment was just for being bad, he didn’t seem to care if I believed in him or questioned his reindeer or not. And that punishment at least was temporary, I’d have next year to learn from the punishment and do better.
Just nod your head. There’s a good little sheep.
It should be said at this point that, for the most part, the church fold were nice. They picked me up and dropped me off every day in their church van. On my first day, they introduced me to everybody and the adults shook my hand, a respect I was rarely afforded as a child. Every day there were snacks available for free, which I appreciated as I rarely awoke in time for breakfast.
The pastor was personable, always chatting with everyone, even the children. And the lessons for children were fun, we mostly played games and watched Christian cartoons. The church folk even got me a Christmas gift.
This was not a fire and brimstone church. Nor was there a time in which they attacked science, at least not in front of me in the time that I attended. Still, all that is needed is the threat of hell, for crimes real and crimes only thought of but not actually carried out, and the rest of the indoctrination takes care of itself.
And then, something even more terrible happened and I was plunged into my own personal dark ages, which I didn’t manage to crawl out from until embarrassingly recently. One day while I was chatting with an adult neighbor about dinosaurs, I imagined how they died out something like 65 million years ago, way before the first humans. Then he did something I wasn’t expecting.
His words were simple, shattered my perception of reality. I was that day made into a creationist, not because of any evidence or convincing argument, but because of the blind fear that church had conditioned me to develop.
He asked me how that was possible for the dinosaurs to have lived and died so long before the existence of humans, given that the sun, earth, humanity, and all animals were all crated in the same week according to the book of Genesis.
It was at this point that my brain short circuited, a portion of it ceased to function properly. We all joke about hearing something so dumb, that it makes the rest of us dumber for having heard it. To my shame, I can honestly say that this is exactly what happened.
I had heard the story of Adam and Eve before, who hadn’t? The sins of the first humans are, as I had been told, to reason that I deserved eternal torment. I even attempted to read Genesis as a child, but the strange form of English used in the King James Version was not one that was fluent in. Somehow, it never occurred to me before my neighbor asked the question that there might be a conflict between the Bible and the truth. I had never considered it before. But now I could no longer deny the contradiction. I then had to make a choice. I should have just said that the bible’s account of the origin of life on earth was simply wrong, as the evidence that I was, by then, well aware of clearly shows.
However, I just couldn’t say that the bible was wrong – it was the word of god, I’d been drilled to believe. I’d surly go to hell if I didn’t believe the bible. I’d go to hell if I even thought about disbelieving the Bible. To deny the Bible was evil. Satan, I was told, would do anything to make me doubt, and would come in a form that seemed reasonable and attractive.
Science, I had to convince myself, was evil. I had to believe that scientists in many fields, some of the smartest people on the planet, were all wrong. I convinced myself that I was required to believe that dinosaurs never existed. So severe was my fear of torment should I accept dinosaurs that when the marvelous BBC documentary Walking With Dinosaurs, which depicted the awesome creatures in a way I had always wished Paleo Word could, was shown in class, I refused to look. I put my head down on the desk, closed my eyes, and tried to block it all out. It broke my heart that I had to give up my dream of being a paleontologist.
I even rejected fun things like Pokemon, simply because the word “evolution” is used to describe the monsters’ transformation which is nothing remotely like actual biological evolution. Pokemon, at the height of its popularity, was quite difficult to avoid. The devil sure was a crafty, um, devil, trying to lure me to the darkness with cute yellow electric rodents. Or maybe the lord was testing my faith. Given what I’d been carefully lead to believe was at stake, I couldn’t afford a bad mark in god’s grade book.
My parents, to their credit, tried to help me. My father offered me the idea that time was relative and that the bible didn’t really mean six literal days. My mother suggested that I attend different churches or investigate other religions. Sadly, I was dug in like a tick. I was sure that either option meant eternal death. In hindsight, I wish they wouldn’t have just stopped babying me and flat out told me that I’d bought into bull. But they let me believe whatever I believed, even to my detriment, in much the same way most us are told that we must respect any religious belief, no matter how absurd. It’s all the same anyway, I would have probably just dismissed their attempt to de-convert me as the work of the devil or something and buried my head deeper.
I tried not to think about dinosaurs, or the age of the earth, or evolution, or anything that wasn’t consistent with the religion I’d been fed. I couldn’t argue against any of it, so I tried to block it out. I couldn’t doubt, I’d be punished. And I prayed in school before eating my lunch, even though the kids in school mocked me. Oh well. The Bible says that Christians are persecuted, so I figured I was being a good little martyr.
I couldn’t not pray, I’d be punished for that too. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with a start, trying to remember if I’d prayed before bed or not and then praying anyway for good measure. Please don’t burn me.
When things went well in my life, I credited god. If there was a substitute teacher on a day that I’d forgotten/neglected the previous day’s homework, then god was looking out for me, personally. If a stalled car started, it was god. If my mom made angel food cake, well, that was obviously god. What sense did it ever make to thank anyone else?
I’d been told that I can ask god for anything, and he may or may not oblige. However, I was required to believe that he would deliver whatever I prayed for, else I was doubting his power. But he still might not deliver if it wasn’t in his plan. So… if I prayed for something, I had to believe that it would be there, and was god’s plan, until such a time as it wouldn’t be there and wasn’t god’s plan. I have trouble explaining the cognitive dissonance this particular dilemma caused me, apart from saying that it now reminds me of Schrödinger’s cat.
I was convinced that whenever anything went wrong in my life, I was either being punished for something or tested. Did I just trip and scrape my knee because I was bad and needed to be punished? But I just prayed for forgiveness not even an hour ago, so I should be freshly forgiven! I must have done something wrong that I didn’t realize was wrong. Maybe I’m incapable of realizing everything that I’m doing wrong because I’m just a mere human and am not the all-knowing god. … This game seems rigged. Sorry! Don’t burn me!
Maybe bad things are happening to test me. That’s what happened to Job, right? If I remark on, even in my head, how bad things are, or how unfair god’s justice system seems, I’ve failed. Am I supposed to be… thankful when I’m hurt or hungry?
When I was 11 years old, I was shot. I am a perfect example of the harm even personal, non-violent religious belief can do. I, a mere child, was shot. And I was convinced that I deserved it. Whatever I did to deserve such punishment, it must have been awful. I truly believed myself to be a worthless creature, to deserve such a thing at only 11. I was certain that I did not deserve to live. Is that really such a stretch when Christianity had taught me that humans all deserve eternal death?
When I was very young, I wanted to meet a dinosaur someday. Maybe I even would have liked to keep one as a pet like on The Flintstones. I, of course, knew that I couldn’t, at least not until such a time as the technology in Jurassic Park could become a reality. Until then, I would just have to settle for my large, stuffed Dino the dinosaur toy.
My earliest memories are of staying up late with my father watching Paleo World, wishing that the animatronic dinosaurs shown were more realistic. I was fascinated by dinosaurs and prehistoric history. I would be enthralled listening to Bob Bakker and Jack Horner speculate on the behavior of Tyrannosaurus Rex.
I remember the blank looks I would get from the employees at Chuck-e-Cheese when I would attempt to exchange my handful of tickets for a Parasaurolophus figure. After repeating the animals name a few times, I’d finally say, “The dinosaur with the thing on its head. No, no, not that one. That’s a triceratops, silly.”
Oh yes, I was all about the dinos. All about history. All about science. I was even slowly developing a very basic understanding of evolution. I didn’t want to be Miss America, or a teacher, or a nurse, or a mom, or any other role that society and toy companies market heavily to young girls. I wanted to dig in for dinosaur bones. I used to proudly say that I wanted to be a paleontologist some day, at an age where most children might not be able to pronounce that word. My father seemed pleased with this.
He was not so pleased, however, with holes I’d dig in the yard. I once dug a holes so deep that I dropped my little sister into it, leaving only her head sticking out. To my amusement, she was unable to climb out again on her own. Of course I realized that I probably wouldn’t find any dinosaur fossils in my yard, and certainly not so close to the surface as I could dig. I could still enjoy pretending that I was on a dig site. I knew that I wasn’t really a world-renown paleontologist/adventurer extraordinaire and that I wouldn’t really discover the remains of some new species of enormous therapod hidden just under the paving stones. But I could still pretend, at least until I was caught. Make believe is fine when you’re aware that it is just that.
I once dreamed of being a paleontologist. Religion, specifically Christianity and the creationism is afflicted my mind with, ruined that dream. For those years, I had no dream anymore. I was told I must “please god,” in what I did with my life, but such vague instruction doesn’t give me any solid career leads. I wonder, now that I’m freed from the grip that denying reality in favor of myth had on me for so long, if it’s not too late to revisit my old dream. I think a little girl digging in the dirt would be pleased.
Or has the hole in my scientific education left by years of creationist “teaching” too much to make up for now? I lament that I will never know who I’d be, how I’d think, what I would know, or what would be doing right now had I, in my youth, the courage to reject the lie that is the Bible.
Although my family was not particularly religious, and did not pray or attend church or speak about religion at all, this “God” fellow seemed to keep coming up among people I encountered quite a bit. I remember, in kindergarten, watching a girl configure two magnets into a plus sign, saying “I’m making a cross for god.” I had no idea what a god was or what the connection to the letter “t” might be.
That was how I usually heard people talk about god, when not preaching.
They would mention god in references. When anyone spoke about god, it was in a sort of abstract, impersonal sense much as in the manner a child might use when mentioning about The President or the Queen of England, and always with the sense as if referring to an idea, rather than a person you could expect to ever meet.
It’s easy to get children to believe in god. Everything is new and amazing to us. If airplanes can fly, why couldn’t donkeys talk? Talking animals sounds like a lot of fun anyway. As for god, it made little more sense to question that he exists than to question that The President exists, as young children aren’t interested in watching the news anyway. Children have little to no frame of reference as to what is real or plausible, so we mostly just trust the adults around us to know what they’re talking about. This gullibility and trust is often exploited for the amusement of adults in the form of tooth fairies and Santa Clause.
Speaking of Santa Clause, I never believed in him. Oddly, it wasn’t the flying reindeer that tipped me off. Why couldn’t there be flying reindeer? After all there were flying squirrels, right? Yes, I once thought that flying squirrels could really fly. The feat of hitting every house in one night didn’t bother me that much either. At the time, I had no concept for how big the planet was.
I realized that, no matter what mall I went to or what time, Santa was there all throughout the holiday season.
Why? Shouldn’t he have important work to do anyway? And how did he deliver presents to my home even though my chimney only lead to my furnace, and not to any fireplace? And about those presents, if Santa brings them, why did I need to write a list for Grandma? Why did I find these presents unwrapped in the attic moths ahead? Why were there the same number of presents under the tree the night before Christmas as there were the night before? And why did none of the presents say that they were from Santa, rather than Grandma? I caught on very quickly that I was being lied to, and I didn’t appreciate it one bit.
I remember even feeling insulted when adults would try to talk to me about Santa, as if he were real. It’s not that I wanted all mention of Santa removed from the celebration. Although Santa is a myth, he is at least, a fun myth. I only wish the myth would be treated that way.
My mother would get angry at me when I said aloud that Santa isn’t real. She would tell me that I must continue to play along and pretend that Santa is real, even though I knew that he wasn’t, so that my younger sibling would continue to be deceived. Apparently, the truth spoils the fun and it would be cruel of me to upset my siblings to become disillusioned. Yes, it was my fault for telling the truth, not mom’s fault for lying in the first place.
My Kindergarten and first grade teachers seemed to be of the same opinion. I was not to speak the words “Santa Clause is a myth,” lest any of the other students be bothered. Surely it was some sort of character fault on my part to “ruin” the “harmless” beliefs of others by simply telling the them the truth or even just encouraging them to question the whole Santa Clause business.
Much to my regret in hindsight, I mostly kept my mouth shut about Santa Clause, conforming to the rest of the class and my family in acting as if Santa was or even could be real. The thought didn’t cross my mind at the time, but looking back, I wonder how many of those other children also disbelieved in Santa? Maybe there were others, but they either remained silent on the matter or played along. Possibly, they had been told the same thing that I was: “Don’t ruin it for others.”
I wonder what would have happened if one student boldly stood up before the class and declared “Santa Clause is not real.” Would the other students have argued that he was? Might that bold student have been laughed at for her disbelief and forced back into silence? Or would the entire class gasped in sudden horror and broken down in tears at the shocking revelation? Would that student forever be the villainous Grinch who ruined Christmas for everybody?
At the time, I was sure that I was alone in a sea of believers, the only one knowing the truth but sworn to secrecy. I had been coached to think to think that this was indeed the case. In reality, however, I doubt now that many of my classmates then actually believed in Santa Clause by the time they made it to first and second grade, but were just playing along for the same reason that I was. Because no one spoke up, each of us was certain that we were alone is our disbelief, and because we thought we were alone, we didn’t speak up. Those few who perhaps truly did believe in Santa, or who at least would like us to believe in Santa, were the only ones that had a voice, so were the only ones who had power.
I have another mental image. Maybe instead of being met with negativity, the bold child would be validated. What if the student, fed-up with the patronizing and insults to her intelligence, boldly stood at her desk and addressed the class, again saying “Santa Clause is not real.” The class would fall silent and all would stare, but the student would remain standing all the same, unwavering. Then one student, then, another, then another, would stand up and proclaim “I don’t believe in Santa Clause either!”
Soon, the whole class would be standing standing and cheering, each pleased to see that they weren’t actually alone as they had believed. Each seeing that they could quit the ridiculous charade of pretending to believe in something they knew to be false. They would all learn the virtues of honesty and courage. They would learn that there is freedom in truth such as can never be found in lies. Those students would still enjoy Christmas, if that’s what they celebrated, but then they could do so in a more mature way. And those students could still enjoy the stories and iconography of Santa Clause without having to pretend to believe he is a real person.
Those students who weren’t quite sure if they believed in Santa or not would realize that disbelief was, in fact, an option. Those students would realize that it was perfectly OK to question the existence of Santa Clause and admit to disbelief if that’s what they came to. Maybe they’d stand too before the spontaneous event in the classroom was through. Those few students who would remain seated would at least have the seed of doubt planted in them, now wondering what reason they had for believing in Santa. No doubt these believing students would eventually come to the realization that he isn’t real on their own, given time and the space to do so.
Maybe then the adults who had pushed the fairy tale on us all would see the error of their ways. Maybe then they would realize that children are more intelligent than believed, and that it might have been wrong to lie to them. Oh, what a marvelous scene that would be, to see a room intended to be a place to inform and expand young minds actually utilized as such, rather than merely another setting of cultural conformity, censorship, and revisionist history.
Then, when the event was through, we’d all go on making Santa out of various crafting materials, the same as we were doing before. We might even sing songs about Santa too. And watch movies about him. The difference being simply that we no longer needing to pretend that Santa was anything other than a fun, yet still entirely fictional, character.
I don’t kid myself though. Scenes like I described are the stuff of Oscar-Bait films and just don’t happen in reality. Looking back now, I think that the bold student most likely would have been answered with a chorus of “Duh!” and instructed by the teacher to sit down and shut up, thoroughly chastised for speaking at all, even a truth. Still, it’s a pretty dream.
I didn’t doubt the existence of god though. Honestly, I didn’t even give it much thought. I just took the existence of god for granted, putting it in the same category as The President, rather than where he belonged, the category that Santa Clause fell into. Maybe if men dressed as god (however god might dress) routinely appeared in malls for children to sit on, or if teachers had giggled while their class made macaroni art of god, I might have caught on.
Maybe what I needed was some bold person to stand up proudly, without care for what other’s will think of the words, boldly declaring, “God is not real.”
The line spilling out from CU Boulder’s Mackey Auditorium was a long, slow one. The people waiting in line wondered aloud if the author would be able to sign all of the books of everyone waiting in line. One person said that they overheard one of the security guards say that the author would only sign about 100 books and turn everyone else away. To be fair, it was late. It wasn’t hard to imagine that Richard Dawkins would probably prefer to return to his hotel room, or wherever he was staying while touring the United States, rather than entertain the crowd of fans all night.
As I stood with my copy of his newest book, The Magic Of Reality, the very book that he had just finished giving a presentation on, I kept my hopes up. Just being here meant a lot to me. That man’s work has had a lot of influence on who I am and how I see the world today. It was amazing to have had the pleasure of hearing him speak in the auditorium, where he had the full attention of the audience. He was every bit as intelligent and witty as person as he’s ever been in his books or on film, and with that same dry sense of humor.
There was only one more thing that could have made the evening perfect. All I wanted was a signature. I said to the gentleman ahead of me, “Well, if Mr. Dawkins doesn’t have to hear every single person’s personal atheist story, we might get our signatures.”
The man grinned cheerfully and responded, “Oh, don’t worry. Mine is only about 20 minutes long.” And then he proceeded to tell me about some project he and some other people were working on, atheists tracts fashioned as elaborate satire of the infamous Chick Tracts. Later, an excited woman who had evidently been at the head of the line told the man that she’d had a chance to talk to Mr. Dawkins about their tracts, and Mr. Dawkins like the idea. I was happy for them, although they were strangers. But I was happier still that they, and a group of other people, left the line soon after.
I think that every atheist has a story. For most, it involves escape from the religion that they were brought up in. For such people, de-conversion isn’t always easy. Investigating what you’ve held so deeply to be true, and rejecting your old notions if you could not justify them. To do so means changing who you think you are, how you perceive yourself as a human being, because it means re-defining your identity, to which religion had for so long played a major role. It means admitting that you were wrong. Doing this requires lot of honesty and courage. Being “out” as an atheist requires even more, as it means dealing with the judgments from society, and possibly even being ostracized by family and friends.
Even those who have never had never been part of any religion from which to escape have stories. Nearly everyone has at least heard of religion. And despite how evangelists seem to believe as they knock on my door to deliver me “the good news,” I have heard of Jesus, as has everyone in the US and much of the rest of planet. It’s unlikely that anyone who has never subscribed to religion in their life time has never been proselytized to, directly or indirectly. At such an occasion, the non-believer was in a position to consider religion, even if just long enough to reject it.
What’s more, whether we were always atheists or escaped from atheism, we are affected, as is everyone else on the planet, by religion in some way. All too often, religion impacts scientific advancement, education, domestic laws, and foreign affairs, and never in any positive way. All the more reason to speak up and be heard. Tell politicians who pass laws based on their personal convictions to their myths of choice, “Speak for yourself.”
Every atheist has a story. I think most of us would like to tell them. I had an atheist story that I, of course, would have liked to tell Richard Dawkins. I wondered how fast I would have to speak to be able to tell it in the moment it takes for him to write his name.
Well, it didn’t matter. The late-night book-signing was neither the time nor the place, and I’m sure Mr. Dawkins must be just about sick to death of hearing everyone’s story by now anyway. Heck, he looked like he had just about had it with singing books by the time it was finally my turn (Yes, I made it!) It seems signing books was every bit as tedious as I expected it must be. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have everyone want to tell you their story too. He smiled politely.
I said “Hello, sir.”
He said “Hello,” back. Then he quickly signed by book, returned it to me, and waved the next person forward.
I was happy, absolutely giddy, to have gotten his signature. That was more than enough for me. I believe my exact thoughts at the time were, “HOLY CRAP! Richard Dawkins signed my book! He even smiled at me! He is so awesome! Squee! Forget rock stars, I want autographs from kick-ass biologists! Oh, hi, boyfriend. I totally didn’t forget you were here. OK Maybe I did a little. But isn’t Richard Dawkins great?!” Yes, it seems that I might just be a bit of a fan-girl over a 71-year-old science man. Is that weird?
So I didn’t bore Mr. Dawkins to death and irritate everyone who stood behind me in line by telling my story. Still, I think it’s important for atheists to tell their personal stories, even if we can’t deliver them in the three seconds it takes scientists to scribble their names. The perspective of atheists is a valid, yet tragically overlooked one. Mr. Dawkins himself spends a great deal of time speaking about atheism, and even endorses the Atheist Out Campaign which encourages atheists to come out of the proverbial closet in the same manner as homosexuals. The goal is to foster a visible and vocal atheist community. To speak about being an atheist is an important part of being “out.”
So speak up. Speak out. Be heard. Tell your story. You might just inspire someone else to do the same. Each voice may be small by itself, but together, we can be hard to ignore.
A while ago, on Face Book, I ran into a horrifying picture. It appeared to be some sort of accident, with mangled metal and bodies. Next to the army of one of the bloody corpses was a small boy, seemingly alive and unharmed, which a circle drawn on the picture around his face. The worst part about the picture was the caption “Share if you believe in God.”
Although I do not believe, I was tempted to share anyway while adding the commentary “… and believe that he’s a sick monster who has the power to prevent tragedies like this, but doesn’t. “ How is it that so few actually consider this?
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
Have a merry, happy, holly-jolly…
- Bodhi Day
- Dongzhi Festival
- Saint Nicholas‘ Day
- Anastacia of Sirmium Feast Day
- Saint Stephen‘s Day
- Saint John the Evangelist‘s Day
- Saint Sylvester‘s Day
- Watch Night
- Saint Basil‘s Day
- Pancha Ganapati
- Dies Natalis Solis Invicti
- Guru Gobind Singh Gurpurab
- Old New Year
- Zamenhof Day
- Boxing Day
- New Year’s Eve
- New Year’s Day
- Flying Spaghetti Monster Holiday
- Snowflake Day
- Day of the Ninja
- Winter Solstice
Oh, yeah, now I remember, how silly of me!
Fuck you, American Family Association (why do hate-groups made up of Christians so frequently include “family” in their name?), you misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic, ignorant, fundamentalist pricks!