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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
Faith of a Dumbass 
Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 | 10:31 am [commentary, personal, religion]
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Late last night Ashley and I made a run to Wal-Mart. We stopped off at Sheetz for coffee on the way home. One entrance was blocked by two men who stood talking, one leaning into the door like he was planning on walking through any second now. First he just had to finish his testimony — the evangelical colloquialism for “sales pitch.” I overheard him assuring his counterpart that all is right in one’s life so long as one puts Him first.

“Him” being God, of course. Who else is presumptuous enough to insist on the capitalization of the personal pronoun — and get it, even in the United States? According to the apostle at the door (whom, to avoid confusion, I will call Reverend Dumbass from now on) it really was that simple. Just put God first, and you can spend the rest of your life as King Shit of Fuck Mountain.

Rev. Dumbass and his companion entered Sheetz a few seconds after we did, and continued their conversation. The reverend’s friend claimed that someone (possibly his former wife, but I can’t be sure; I was trying not to eavesdrop, though I doubt those two would have minded) had tried to kill him three times, but God had protected him. That made me think of the hilarious story John Hagee tells occasionally about a lunatic who burst into the sanctuary one Sunday morning brandishing a .44 Magnum. As he tells is, Hagee stepped out from behind his lectern, pointed to his would-be assassin and shouted “No weapon formed against me shall prosper!” The gunman fired, but missed his mark and was wrestled to the ground by members of the congregation.

My favorite part of this story is that the heroic members of Hagee’s church who subdued the nut with the gun were evidently content to wait until he had emptied his cylinder in the direction of their pastor. Are we supposed to infer that these men of faith knew God would protect Hagee, and wanted to prove a point to the guy who broke into their church with a .44 before disarming and dragging him away?

Rev. Dumbass and his buddy poured themselves some coffee while Ashley and I ordered from the drink menu. (You didn’t know we were high falutin’?) I wanted to grab a bottle of Coke, too, so we passed through the aisle behind the reverend and his friend. It was at this point that I confided to Ashley my wish to, as I put it then, “beat the fuck out of” Reverend Dumbass.

He was a big galoot, black t-shirt stretched over a bulging belly, and a tangled mat of black hair that sat so far forward he hardly had any forehead at all. It wasn’t his Christianity that bothered me. It wasn’t even his obnoxious insistence on carrying on a personal conversation at that volume in public. There are rude assholes of all faiths. It was his confidence that pissed me off — in two ways.

First, like every preacher (one of the crudest and least useful forms of human life to be found), he claimed to be certain of things that are unknowable. How does he know that “putting God first” is the way to a good and prosperous life? How does he know God is even there to start with? He doesn’t — worse than that, he can’t. Yet he talks as though the existence, nature and specific thoughts and desires of God are matters of inarguable fact.

(What does it mean to “put God first,” anyway? I’ve heard I don’t know how many people of faith say that, but what does that entail? How does one put God first? Set a place for him at the head of the table and let him have first pick from the fried chicken plate? Leave him alone while he’s watching the football game? Though I’ve never had this question answered directly with any clarity, putting God first seems to require nothing more than joining a church and handing over to that church no less than 10% of your gross annual income. I’m reminded of George Carlin when he wondered what the fuck God, all-powerful creator of Heaven and Earth, needed with so much money.)

Second, Rev. Dumbass was proceeding on the assumption that he would not be challenged. He was a Christian loudmouth in Washington County, Maryland, where his is a common breed. He knew he could carry on his conversation outside and inside Sheetz, at an impolite volume, and get away with it. No one would ask him to keep his voice down, or keep clear of the entrances. No one would question his metaphysical claims or argue his theology. Even those who thought he was a sanctimonious prick would grumble and tolerate him — which is exactly what we did.

But imagine if I, as an atheist, began holding court like that. What would the reaction be if I struck up a loud conversation with someone, insisting there was no God and that anyone who tells you there is — and better still they know this infinitely powerful God well enough to speak on his behalf — is either an ignoramus or a liar? At the very least I’d expect a few takers to engage me in a not-so-friendly debate.

Imagine a Muslim entering a public establishment in this and many other parts of the United States and declaring the truth of the final revelation to Mohammad in the holy Qur’an in the same way. He might be taken away in an ambulance, unless he had the foresight to bring along friends.

By the time we returned to my truck with our coffee, Reverend Dumbass and his friend had parted company. I saw him seated at the metal table on the far end of the sidewalk. He nursed a cup of coffee alone, looking around as people came and went.

A wolf spider, I thought, waiting at the mouth of his burrow.
Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 | 11:52 pm (UTC)
What would the reaction be if I struck up a loud conversation with someone, insisting there was no God and that anyone who tells you there is — and better still they know this infinitely powerful God well enough to speak on his behalf — is either an ignoramus or a liar?

You should try that sometime and see what happens. Might make for an interesting post.
Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 | 03:55 am (UTC)
I'd love to take part in a religious debate, just not of the "impromptu shouting match at a gas station" variety.

Besides, surely you know I am not the sort to conduct myself so rudely in public.
Friday, July 23rd, 2010 | 08:38 pm (UTC)
Maybe not in public IN PERSON. ;)

At any rate, it didn't sound like you were talking about a debate - just an (out)loud conversation in public with someone who shared your views.
Friday, July 23rd, 2010 | 09:36 pm (UTC)
Meaning what, that I'm rude in public in other ways? Like on this blog? That is total fucking bullshit and you know it.

Rude in public, the nerve of some asshole motherfucker—I bet you five-thousand dollars I'd remember the names of the pictures I saw!

. . .


If I, or anyone who believes (or rather, disbelieves) as I do spoke so openly in public about it as many Christians feel comfortable doing, I'd probably cause a scene. Christians are so obnoxious about their faith in this area because they know they're playing on their home field. If they expected the same sort of reaction that those of other beliefs could expect, they'd keep their mouths shut and be polite.
Saturday, July 24th, 2010 | 12:37 am (UTC)
And what if you haven't seen the pictures, mm?

Ahem indeed ;D

YOU wouldn't be the one causing a scene. In fact, if some "asshole motherfucker" DID get on your case (which I think is less likely than YOU seem to think it is) then you'd have every reason to be all, "excuse me, sir, this is not a public conversation, just a private conversation in public, so I would greatly appreciate it if you would stfu, kthx?"

Seriously. Are you so much of a coward that you're afraid to take a stand for your faith? I mean, I know you're a pansy, but that's taking it a bit far, don't you think?
Saturday, July 24th, 2010 | 04:08 pm (UTC)

I have no faith for which to take a stand.


Awwwww yeah! See that?
Saturday, July 24th, 2010 | 06:23 pm (UTC)

You don't believe God doesn't exist?
Saturday, July 24th, 2010 | 06:41 pm (UTC)
. . .

I don't believe God exists. However you choose to state it, that's my opinion. It isn't based on religious-type faith. It's provisional, like everything else I believe about reality. Show me compelling evidence that there is a God (your god, Muhammad's god, any god), and I'll revise my opinion to agree with the facts.

So there.
Saturday, July 24th, 2010 | 10:24 pm (UTC)
Well, there's a difference between believing that God doesn't exist (atheism) and simply not believing that God does exist (agnosticism). Either one is still a belief system. You have faith - it just isn't one that's part of organized religion.

And if you choose not to stand up for your faith, that's a perfectly legitimate decision.
Sunday, July 25th, 2010 | 12:38 am (UTC)
If you make your definition of "faith" elastic enough, then everything anyone could possibly ever say or think or believe would fall under it.

When I say I don't believe in God, I'm not saying I have faith in his non-existence in the same way that you have faith in his existence. I'm saying I don't believe in God, because I have no reason to. It's not an article of faith. I'm not an atheist because I want to be, or because I have a deep inner conviction that transcends the physical, yada yada yada. I'm an atheist because I know of no good reason to believe in God. If you honestly don't think there's a difference between lack of belief in the absence of evidence, and positive belief despite the absence of evidence (that is, religious faith), then I don't know what else to tell you.

As for atheism vs. agnosticism, I like how Richard Dawkins puts it. He proposes a seven-number scale, like the Kinsey scale, only instead of sexuality it expresses one's state of religious belief. A 1 means you're totally convinced that there is a God, no doubt about it. A 7 means you're 100% certain that there is no God. A 4 means you think one is just as likely as the other, and are therefore a perfect agnostic.

Dawkins calls himself a 6, and I think that's where I stand, too. I see no reason whatsoever to believe there is a God, or anything supernatural, but declaring myself 100% certain about anything means that I'm not open even a little to be convinced otherwise. That's just foolish. So I'm a 6.

And it's no more a belief system than "not a communist" is a political philosophy. If you believe in the tenets of a particular religion, and I don't believe in them, that doesn't make me a different kind of religious -- that makes me non-religious.
Monday, July 26th, 2010 | 04:44 pm (UTC)
Where do you get the idea that I'm making up definitions? Sure, I could decide that faith means "pale skin" (and then you'd definitely have it) but few people would agree and my use of the word in that manner would likely cause confusion. But what you've said about your beliefs matches more closely with widely accepted definitions agnosticism than atheism.

Not that it matters. To avoid further semantic entanglements, let me rephrase:

Are you so much of a coward that you're afraid to take a stand for what you believe?

I won't hold my breath for an answer. ;) Reply, maybe; answer, doubtful.
Monday, July 26th, 2010 | 06:45 pm (UTC)
If I happened to be talking to someone in public about my atheism, and a third party overheard and starting hassling me about it, of course I'd stand up for myself. The difference is, unlike this article's titular dumbass, I wouldn't be holding court about it because 1) I'm not that obnoxious, and 2) I, as a non-Christian, have more of a reason to expect a hassle over something like that.

Also, atheists don't evangelize. I'm open about my atheism, I write about it a great deal lately, along with criticizing religion in general and Christianity in particular, but at bottom I don't really care whether someone else becomes an atheist due to something I've said or not. And I certainly wouldn't use the threat of hell, or guilt over the sacrifice of someone else on my behalf, to try to persuade someone to come over to my side.

And I say you're making up definitions because you're stubbornly trying to define atheism as a form of religious faith, when it is by definition a lack of religious faith.

The atheism/agnosticism thing is another issue. In the most technical sense, I (and most atheists, I'd expect) am an agnostic, because I'm not 100% certain that there is no god. But since I think god's nonexistence is far, far, far more likely than his existence, I call myself an atheist. Agnostic implies a level of uncertainty that I just don't have.
Monday, July 26th, 2010 | 07:43 pm (UTC)
So your manners override your curiosity. Darnit. That makes things far less interesting for ME!

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