Skip to main content

How I Spent My Autumn Vacation

By Carl S ~

To tell the truth, "vacation” isn’t the natural word for the time, as it consisted mostly of traveling and visiting we would not ordinarily choose to do, and eating out almost constantly. Somehow, the stressfulness of it all turned out positively. I will relate only those events pertinent to this site.

Cover of "Vacation"Cover of Vacation

First of all, it actually started when I sent a note to my wife’s sister, Sue, two weeks before we left for the trip, asking if she still believed in a kind and loving heavenly father after what she had witnessed in the hospital room as her nephew Tony died while spitting blood all over the place. (That whole story, "Tony Gable," is here: I was certain of her response but wanted confirmation from her own lips. I asked for a simple yes or no answer. More on this later.

We arrived on Oct. 7th, around 4:30 p.m. There was no answer at my wife's sister Mary's house, although she expected us. Long story short, the EMT's came over and found her. Mary is a "brittle" diabetic, had fallen down, and had been without food or insulin since 7 a.m. Serious. The EMTs left but had to be called back the next morning. It was during the night before that I had an experience in moving Mary, who was dead-weight beyond her control. While lifting and edging her along, I felt a sudden sense of sacredness about the human body, a gentleness that would do no harm to her. We spent several hours together in the days afterward, while she was in the hospital, and that strange feeling was never far from my consciousness.

Throughout our vacation, as much as possible, I wore my "Out of the closet ATHEIST" cap. I only got 2 reactions worth reporting. At an oft-frequented restaurant, I got a reaction of barely hidden distaste from a waitress wearing a cross almost as big as the abbot’s from my monastic days. Then there was the man in his 50's, who commented in front of a young boy (don't the believers know that children hear them?), something about me being, "Not forgiven." Maybe the dancing "Snoopy" on the cap's brim confused them. A HAPPY atheist? Could it be?

Two or three days after we arrived, we, and about 15 other relatives, were invited to Sue's house for a gala celebration of her, my wife's, and others', birthdays. I found myself in the midst of a combined Catholic/religious-right environment, extended family style. A few of us were in the kitchen, with Sue at the stove, about 20 feet from me. I sat at the dining table talking to another sister-in-law, Joyce, with my back to Sue. Joyce asked me something, mentioning "God," and I told her I'm an atheist. She was surprised, so I said a few more words to explain, and got up. As I turned, there was Sue, in my face, telling me that yes, she still believed in her god, and I said, "Thanks, that's all I wanted to know."

That was not enough for Sue, however, and the fact that I suggested there is no god set her off. She went into Bible-babble, rattling off, "I am the way, the truth and the life,” . . . blah, blah, during which I stopped her several times, because those things had nothing to do with the subject, which was the existence of her god. (When I reflected on this scene later, it seemed like her whole spiel came from the priest’s mouth in "The Exorcist."). If you know me, then you know I just HAD to mention that, according to her Bible, her god had drowned children. There was a teenage girl in the room, and I hoped she would later consider this, along with the other facts I mentioned.

In the midst of all this, Sue’s son, Tim, came up next to me to ask, "And where do you get YOUR morals from?" I said, "From my conscience." He sneered at this. "God gives you your conscience," he said.

Note to Tim: Since you haven't noticed, your Bible-god DOES NOT HAVE a conscience; so how can he give what he doesn't have? And pointing out in that atmosphere that apes also have a "conscience" would have been a waste of words.

Things grew quiet, as Sue had to tell everyone present about the morning Tony died and about how a four year old girl related a dream of "meeting Tony in heaven." What a comforting "testimony!" (Of course children don't tell adults what they want to hear, right?) Then, I mentioned a question I put on a Christian website that got everyone’s interest. It went like this: I told how a co-worker, 44 years old, died of a heart attack. His wife told me she was concerned because he was not a church-goer, so was he in Hell? (I know, I know . . . it's all B.S. to us, but these people take it seriously.) So I asked the website: What if someone dies who doesn’t accept - cannot accept - your savior, and then, after he dies, Jesus reveals himself, showing all that is said about him is in fact true, and the skeptic says, "Sure I can accept you." Then, said I, he must go into heavenly bliss; it’s only fair and merciful. THEIR answer was that after death was too late . . . and THEY ought to know, right? Hardly breaking for a breath, I added the fact that two weeks after I first posed this question, a minister proposed that such a thing could be possible, and quoted Bible verses to support his contention. My question wasn't worth much, but when a "man of God" asked it, suddenly it has validity?

I related to Sue and company how a Japanese child, after the earthquake/tsunami in Japan, asked the pope how God could have allowed such a thing to happen. When I asked Sue what she thought the pope responded, she said, "I don't know.” And I replied, "That's right, that's exactly what he said, and every pope, priest, rabbi and minister ought to have tattooed on his forehead, "I DON'T KNOW."

Me, speaking out against the arrogant proclamations, the unmitigated chutzpah of her god's spokespersons? To go from being a pacific introvert to social commentator, to human rights advocate, calling a spade a spade? Honestly, the burden of truth-finding is scary, taking me into an unfamiliar neighborhood of sensitivity-to-truth and honesty.

As for the impenetrable faith of Sue, her arguments have had quite the opposite effect she intended, for she has given me even more reasons why I must reject her god. These experiences have left me considering that my denial of their god's existence has less to do with me than with them. This stems from a suspicion that behind one's "letting go of God", there is, in them, a very real fear, maybe even a frightening one, that THEY might fall into becoming helplessly wicked and totally under the control of their "immoral" and "tempting impulses;" they fear what they might become, as well as what my non-belief represents. Yes, this makes sense. It is the very same fear that drove their hero, the conflicted, soul-at-war-with-body St. Paul; it is the fear that cults use to control their faithful.

My beloved wife thinks I baited Sue, and maybe I did. I'm tired of the religious righteous pushing our government and civil rights up against the wall. They need to be challenged in their aggressiveness. She thinks I just enjoy being "different," a rebel. (Was Rosa Parks a rebel, MLK Jr., anyone who stands up for human rights?) In discussing this with my wife, something dawned on me. I asked her, "If I told them I was gay, wouldn't they have treated me with the same fight? Yes, I'll bet they would react the same. I know they would have."

The following Saturday, in the same restaurant, a different waitress told my wife and I that she was recently baptized and would send her two small girls "to St. John Vianney school." We found out she only worked weekends. The following Saturday, I spoke to her alone at the register. I told her I had lain awake for two hours that night, thinking about her daughters. I told her to beware of pedophile priests, as I feared for her children’s welfare, having been a young victim of a pedophile myself. I added that I had asked my wife, "If you, raised as a Catholic were still so, would you remain Catholic?" My wife had answered that she would flee that church over their cover-ups. I gave the waitress the news printout about the charges to bring the pope and Vatican to the world court for crimes against humanity. She thanked me. We do what we can. Take it from the religion toxic-cleanup man.

The next day, my sister-in-law, Mary, now back from the hospital, watched a live broadcast of the Pope saying mass on TV. She said, "I don't like this pope. I think he's sneaky." I told her she's right, and how as a cardinal he dictated the cover-up pedophile policy, to the extent of calling the victims liars and threatening the clergy with excommunication if they revealed what was happening. (There's so much IGNORANCE out there!)

A couple of days before our departure, I visited with my last surviving brother again, alone. We sat talking over breakfast, and I told him about my accident in the monastery. Three of us were walking in a barn under construction, and suddenly I found myself in the arms of a brother, outside the building. It was explained that a scaffold had broken loose, fell, and hit me in the head, and if something solid had been behind I me, I would have been dead at age 15. I had no recollection or consciousness of the time I was out. It was the same as coming out of anesthesia after a surgery, with no awareness of the time I was "out." What if that time had been days, years, or eternity? I would no longer be aware, because there would be no "Me" to be aware of. (And I have seen those who were almost there. As Sue said when Tony lay dying, "Tony isn't Tony anymore.")

So, we're back home and I'm thinking about what to write to Sue, and others. Any suggestions? Or should I just not bother?

As a postscript, I am thankful to Sue for the opportunity to exercise free speech in her home. I also appreciated her occasional willingness to listen to a different viewpoint on religion.


Popular posts from this blog

So Just How Dumb Were Jesus’ Disciples? The Resurrection, Part VII.

By Robert Conner ~ T he first mention of Jesus’ resurrection comes from a letter written by Paul of Tarsus. Paul appears to have had no interest whatsoever in the “historical” Jesus: “even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, we know him so no longer.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:16 ) Paul’s surviving letters never once mention any of Jesus’ many exorcisms and healings, the raising of Lazarus, or Jesus’ virgin birth, and barely allude to Jesus’ teaching. For Paul, Jesus only gets interesting after he’s dead, but even here Paul’s attention to detail is sketchy at best. For instance, Paul says Jesus “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” ( 1 Corinthians 15:4 ), but there are no scriptures that foretell the Jewish Messiah would at long last appear only to die at the hands of Gentiles, much less that the Messiah would then be raised from the dead after three days. After his miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus—an event Paul never mentions in his lette

Are You an Atheist Success Story?

By Avangelism Project ~ F acts don’t spread. Stories do. It’s how (good) marketing works, it’s how elections (unfortunately) are won and lost, and it’s how (all) religion spreads. Proselytization isn’t accomplished with better arguments. It’s accomplished with better stories and it’s time we atheists catch up. It’s not like atheists don’t love a good story. Head over to the atheist reddit and take a look if you don’t believe me. We’re all over stories painting religion in a bad light. Nothing wrong with that, but we ignore the value of a story or a testimonial when we’re dealing with Christians. We can’t be so proud to argue the semantics of whether atheism is a belief or deconversion is actually proselytization. When we become more interested in defining our terms than in affecting people, we’ve relegated ourselves to irrelevance preferring to be smug in our minority, but semantically correct, nonbelief. Results Determine Reality The thing is when we opt to bury our


By David Andrew Dugle ~   S ettle down now children, here's the story from the Book of David called The Parable of the Bent Cross. In the land Southeast of Eden –  Eden, Minnesota that is – between two rivers called the Big Miami and the Little Miami, in the name of Saint Gertrude there was once built a church. Here next to it was also built a fine parochial school. The congregation thrived and after a multitude of years, a new, bigger church was erected, well made with clean straight lines and a high steeple topped with a tall, thin cross of gold. The faithful felt proud, but now very low was their money. Their Sunday offerings and school fees did not suffice. Anon, they decided to raise money in an unclean way. One fine summer day the faithful erected tents in the chariot lot between the two buildings. In the tents they set up all manner of games – ring toss, bingo, little mechanical racing horses and roulette wheels – then all who lived in the land between the two rivers we

Christian TV presenter reads out Star Wars plot as story of salvation

An email prankster tricked the host of a Christian TV show into reading out the plots of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Star Wars in the belief they were stories of personal salvation. The unsuspecting host read out most of the opening rap to The Fresh Prince, a 1990s US sitcom starring Will Smith , apparently unaware that it was not a genuine testimony of faith. The prankster had slightly adapted the lyrics but the references to a misspent youth playing basketball in West Philadelphia would have been instantly familiar to most viewers. The lines read out by the DJ included: "One day a couple of guys who were up to no good starting making trouble in my living area. I ended up getting into a fight, which terrified my mother." The presenter on Genesis TV , a British Christian channel, eventually realised that he was being pranked and cut the story short – only to move on to another spoof email based on the plot of the Star Wars films. It began: &quo

On Living Virtuously

By Webmdave ~  A s a Christian, living virtuously meant living in a manner that pleased God. Pleasing god (or living virtuously) was explained as: Praying for forgiveness for sins  Accepting Christ as Savior  Frequently reading the Bible  Memorizing Bible verses Being baptized (subject to church rules)  Attending church services  Partaking of the Lord’s Supper  Tithing  Resisting temptations to lie, steal, smoke, drink, party, have lustful thoughts, have sex (outside of marriage) masturbate, etc.  Boldly sharing the Gospel of Salvation with unbelievers The list of virtuous values and expectations grew over time. Once the initial foundational values were safely under the belt, “more virtues'' were introduced. Newer introductions included (among others) harsh condemnation of “worldly” music, homosexuality and abortion Eventually the list of values grew ponderous, and these ideals were not just personal for us Christians. These virtues were used to condemn and disrespect fro

I can fix ignorance; I can't fix stupid!

By Bob O ~ I 'm an atheist and a 52-year veteran of public education. I need not tell anyone the problems associated with having to "duck" the "Which church do you belong to?" with my students and their parents. Once told by a parent that they would rather have a queer for their sons' teacher than an atheist! Spent HOURS going to the restroom right when prayers were performed: before assemblies, sports banquets, "Christmas Programs", awards assemblies, etc... Told everyone that I had a bladder problem. And "yes" it was a copout to many of you, but the old adage (yes, it's religious) accept what you can't change, change that which you can and accept the strength to know the difference! No need arguing that which you will never change. Enough of that. What I'd like to impart is my simple family chemistry. My wife is a Baptist - raised in a Baptist Orphanage (whole stories there) and is a believer. She did not know my religi