Sunday, June 23, 2013

How to Build an Atheist and Other Things to Irritate

I remember, years ago, my ex-husband and I were living in Layton, Utah.  He was Muslim, I was . . . vaguely (dubiously) theistic, mostly ex-Christian, I suppose.  One night, there was a knock at the door.

It was a Baptist.

A rather enthusiastic, "taken by the spirit" Baptist who wanted very much to conquer my poor then-husband and bring him over from the dark side.  A guy who'd spied himself a likely "Islamist" and was bent on saaaaaaving him.

These days, I'd see that for how insulting it is.  Back then, I just found it irritating and somewhat amusing.

Perhaps it was a kinder, gentler time (this was the mid-to-late 80s), but the relationship between the two was actually quite amiable.  The guy kept showing up with his Jesus stuff, and my husband would greet him at the door with the Quran.  They'd settle at the table, drink coffee, eat cookies, and fight faith.  

Did Mr. Prosthelytizing Baptist effect a change in my then-husband?

Oh, gosh, he sure did.  You see, my ex had already rejected Christianity.  In fact, like pretty much ALL believers, he had already rejected EVERY faith but his own.  So, when Mr. Prosthelytizing Baptist, point-by-point, tore the Quran apart, he didn't create a new Baptist.

No, he cleared away that last mythological holdout in my then-husband's brain.  

He created an atheist.  

Something to keep in mind next time you find yourself driven to preach at someone who doesn't believe as you do.  You may be creating the perfect heathen.

Which is just fine as frog's hair with me.


Speaking of deities and deific-type things, hubby and I were talking the other day.  We were talking, specifically, about prayer and asking whichever big guy in the sky for some bit of divine intervention.

Some bit, but not a HUGE bit.  Ever notice that?  Sure, if Tyson falls and cracks his skull, everyone joins hands and asks their deity to heal up Tyson's poor, cracked head.  Even if Tyson's head is super-bad cracked and his EEG looks awful, they pray because, hey, as we all know, every once in a while, folks recover even from really astounding head injuries.  

Ever notice, though, that when Tyson gets his legs amputated at the pelvis in a tragic "chicken with a freight train" incident, no prayer groups gather 'round and ask that deity to regrow Tyson's legs?  Seriously, nobody sane EVER said, "Oh, dear GOD, please regrow Tyson's legs!"

Ask yourself why not.  WHY NOT?  Isn't your deity ALL powerful?  Can't he make seas part, messiahs walk on water, and incendiary bushes chatter?  Why can't he regrow a couple of legs?  For a kid?

I think, deep down, we all know the answer to that.  

We all know it's bull.  We know there are no big favors coming from some invisible ghostie in the sky, and so we don't ask for things that might actually, definitively establish a deity.  No, we don't do that because we know it won't happen.  Instead, we ask for things that could, conceivably, happen WITHOUT divine intervention.  And then, when they happen, we say, "See?  I prayed and it HAPPENED!"  Not surprisingly, when we pray and it DOESN'T happen, we go pretty mum on the issue.  Else we kick out some trite platitude about "mysterious ways" or "sometimes we just don't like the answer."

We are, above all else, experts at self-delusion.  And the best way to hold tight to a comforting delusion is to suck others into it.  And the way to do that is to claim causation when, in fact, all you have is loose correlation and energetically expressed wishful thinking.  Most folks in these parts don't know the difference.

And it shows.


And (I think) lastly, because I'm in a "piss 'em ALL off" sort of mood, let's talk about Wyoming.

Specifically, Wyoming and smoking.

Back in the bad ol' days, we used to drive up to Evanston, Wyoming from Utah just so we could sit in a crappy JB's restaurant and smoke.  See, we felt like we were somehow entitled to foul up other folks' air, but Utah's Indoor Clean Air Act disagreed.  So you can imagine our grief and consternation when we drove up to Evanston one Sunday morning to find that smoking was no longer allowed in restaurants.

On Sundays.

Oh, we were SO offended!  So terribly butt-hurt!  How dare they, ONE day a week, decree that the folks who are devastated by inhaling cigarette smoke get to have a shot at dining out?

Oh, the NOIVE of some people!

I'm not exaggerating--we were the worst kind of entitled smokers.  We were of the "if you don't like it, go somewhere else!" variety.  Because, when you're so addicted to a substance that you have to dose 50-60 times a day (the number of cigarettes I was smoking), you HAVE to convince yourself that you're in the right and everyone else sucks.  Otherwise?

You just might wind up seeing what a mess you are.  And then?  Well, then you'll have to stop.  I mean, really, what else is there?

Now, don't mistake me--I would ask someone if they minded if I lit up, I would even offer to walk ten feet away.  But what I never realized until I quit is that ten feet away doesn't help at all.  Twenty feet doesn't much help.  When I sit in my back yard, watering my flowers, the guy three places up can light up and the smoke ruins my morning.  And THAT'S what I refused to believe, that's what I claimed was "militant non-smokers" exaggerating.

Hey, I'm sorry.  It's all I can say.

Anyway, Wyoming. Read a story today about how the bustling cow town of Casper, Wyoming has repealed its own ban on smoking in bars.  The Libertarian contingent was shouting about the evil New York City nanny state-ism kicking the proud, independent Wyomans in the yellowed teeth.  The bar owners were crying that they were losing business.  

Another BS argument I remember that turned out not to be true.  Bars survive smoking bans just fine.  But Wyoming has this "don't you tell me what to do" thing going on, and they take their "rights" very seriously.

Wanna make someone squeal and swear (like I did this morning)?  Explain to them that smoking isn't a RIGHT.  That just because something is LEGAL doesn't mean you have an unqualified RIGHT to do it.  Driving is legal, too, but you don't have a RIGHT to drive.  No, you have a PRIVILEGE, and that privilege comes with a broad array of restrictions and regulations.  Same with drinking alcohol--all sorts of rules and laws about where, when, how much, by whom, and what you can be doing when imbibing.  

Smoking isn't a "right."  It's a behavior that is legal within certain boundaries and with particular restrictions.  Your "right" to smoke ends where everyone else's lungs and sinuses start.  

I won't lie--it is incredibly embarrassing to hear smokers scream about their RIGHTS, see them point their angry, tar-stained fingers at non-smokers and say, "If you don't like it, stay home!"  Because I was that desperate junkie.  I was that miserable, scared (yes, SCARED) person who lashed out at any suggestion that my smoking might in any way interfere with another person's comfort, safety, or happiness.  To my (very small) credit, I did start smoking back in the late 70s, before there was much uproar.  But by college I knew I was lying to myself and lying to others.

And by the time Evanston decided to give the poor, shell-shocked non-smokers ONE day a week to eat in peace?

I knew I sucked, my addiction sucked, and they were right.  But it took me another six years or so to admit it and do something about it, because I was SCARED.  Scared I wouldn't be able to quit, scared it was too late to make a difference anyway, and scared half to death that, without that neurochemical crutch, I wouldn't know how to operate.

Turns out I operate just fine.  

So smoke on, Casper.  Drag those Tony Lamas in the dust.  You're on the wrong side of history, and eventually you'll have no choice.  But for now?

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.


Oh, hey, one last thing, just in case I missed anyone.  Let's talk about "seen."  You know, like, "I've seen a narwhale" or "she's seen Russia from her house?"  That is the proper use of the word "seen."  I have, they have, we have seen.  Heck, even she has and he has and it is they are and it shall be seen.  Let's get everyone in on it!  The magical, necessary component?  

"Have/has/is/shall be."  Without those, you haven't (and she hasn't) seen.  So please, don't say, "I seen it," or "he seen it."  I SAW it, he SAW it, they SAW it.  

If you don't have a have, you haven't seen.  You saw.

Here--like THIS.


I have hardly any pictures today.  I may wander in and work on a photoshop of some sort later, should I feel particularly creative.  



  2. Your point about creating atheists is a good one. A few years back, my crazy Dad wanted to make a point about Jesus to his granddaughter. She was 11, and still believed in Santa. Well, he chose Christmas Eve to tell her that Santa and the Easter Bunny isn't real, but Jesus is. She cried, ran around the room asking people if it was true that Santa was not real, didn't want to believe it. I was mad, and he didn't see anything wrong with it, because well, Santa isn't real so who cares? My point was that I liked her innocence and there was no reason to disillusion her before she figured it out on her own. He said, maybe she needed to be disillusioned. So I told him, well, good job linking Jesus with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, where he belongs. And I am pretty sure that she took the point that way too, she doesn't seem to care about any of them any more.
    On the smoking topic, I recall back when Utah passed the Clean Air Act. I, a non smoker, was outraged that they would take away "our" freedoms like that. My boyfriend, parents, and roommates all smoked, and why shouldn't they be allowed to smoke anywhere they pleased? It was the damned Mormon's fault! See, my boyfriend and I liked to go to Denny's, drink coffee, and sit there for hours while he smoked and I talked his ear off. That would have to end.
    Until it passed, and I noticed how much I loved eating out without smoke in the air. Boyfriend only smoked half a pack a day anyway, and he'd just go outside every now and then while we enjoyed our crappy coffee. Same with the bar scene. I didn't care that people smoked there, I was at a bar, not a health club. Then they couldn't smoke inside any more, and about half of my friends would simply go out to the patio together and smoke. In fact, many of them finally decided to quit because of the inconvenience. Nanny state? Maybe, but nobody ever cries that they miss smoking, or breathing in secondhand smoke, afterwards.
    My experience with secondhand smoke is a whole other story, suffice to say I'm much better off without it.