– Isadora Duncan
“Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion–several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven….The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.”
The other night, I was at a party talking to somebody’s friend of a friend and out of the blue sky she asks me if I’m Jewish. I was vaguely flattered, but mostly puzzled. She took my stunned silence as a sign that I must be Catholic. She seemed so normal the moment before. I told her I sacrifice babies to Ba’al and made for the bar.
Mom covered the topic of theology in one short conversation. When I was very young, I asked what religion we were and she explained that she was raised Methodist and my father was Catholic, but all organized religions are corrupt and she would leave it to me to decide for myself when I was older.
At the time, I was just happy we didn’t have to go to church; a place I found creepier than any haunted house. Then, when I was twelve years old, my father went through some sort of religious crisis and asked my mother (not me) to have me baptized into the Catholic Church. It was time for that decision. It wasn’t easy. The possibility of an immortal soul which may or may not be in need of salvation is a vicious weight to put on a child’s shoulders. I read the Bible cover to cover. I attempted prayer. I phoned the local Catholic Church and the priest I spoke to, to his very great credit, was dubious. I looked, I saw, I decided: None of the Above.
It also seemed impossible to me that any intelligent person would believe in God. Deity makes no sense. Logical, rational people do not believe in Cosmic Watchmakers. That applies to any sort of metaphysical or paranormal belief. Psychics? Bunk. Reincarnation? Absurd. Spiritualists and Mediums? Pernicious con artists. At age thirteen, I was a card carrying, proselytizing Atheist and the godly better beware!
You see, thirteen was when growing up godless became a major pain in the ass. It was 1980 and God’s Army was mobilizing. Previously self-righteous-but-innocuous born again Christians suddenly became Jerry Falwell’s fire-breathing Moral Majority. Hellfire, damnation and Ronald Reagan. It was a bad time. The only thing we could do was get angry.
There has never been any room in this country for the godless. Atheists are among the most hated groups in the United States. People call themselves Agnostics, but let’s face it, they’re just trying to avoid the embarrassment of confessing that they don’t believe in God. I have proudly, zealously, stridently carried the flag of Atheism for thirty-three years.
Then Peter unpacked his tarot deck and my whole anti-philosophy collapsed like a house of cards.