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The Legend of a Heretic

The Legend of a Heretic - Campaign Stops - 2008 Elections - Opinion - New York Times Blog

Both John McCain and Barack Obama have been peddling their spiritual wares lately. Mr. McCain recently made a high-profile pilgrimage to meet evangelist Billy Graham and his son Franklin, while that same week Mr. Obama endorsed the essence of President Bush’s faith-based service program. Now, both candidates have agreed to appear at a forum at the California megachurch of influential evangelical pastor Rick Warren.

(tip to akira)

This article reminded me of an incident that occurred many years ago.

Many here may consider me an extremely outspoken atheist, and I am, but I’ve mellowed over the years. There was a time when my car sported the magnetic bumper sticker, Religion is the Problem not the Solution, magnetic because the religious contrary to their rantings are not very tolerant, a keyed door panel convinced me it wasn’t prudent to have such in-your-face messages permanently affixed to one’s car.

But back to my bumper sticker and those loving tolerant God fearing souls who populate our cities and towns. I was driving down Interstate 15 one Sunday afternoon with my family, this was when gas prices were under two dollars a gallon and my two boys were young, maybe 6 and 10. We pulled even with another car, an older couple, perhaps on their way to visit their grandchildren, or maybe on the way home from church. They looked over at us, seeing, what I’m sure they thought was the standard issue happy Christian family out for a drive. They smiled their we-approve smile, and then a strange thing happened, we pulled slightly ahead of them and they noticed the bumper sticker. Their smiles immediately turned to frowns and the frowns to sneers, their heads then snapped to the straight ahead position. You’d have thought we’d turned into the devil and his minions, so much for "love your neighbor as yourself." In the past 20 years the intolerance toward non-believers has, I believe, increased. Indeed, religion is still the problem and not the solution.


 

Comments

norm, the "good old days" when you would actually write a post yourself were before i started coming here, but i loved your blog so much i looked into the archives and actually shed a tear or two (um, metaphorically speaking...) that you no longer (for the most part) do so. such a pleasure to see you writing a bit! i wish there was some way you could combine your other site, mostly anecdotal, with this one, but i guess i understand why you keep them seperate.

so consider this just a fluffy bit of support and encouragement- as much as we often disagree strongly, i love what you post here, but i'd love it even more if you'd go back to offering your own thoughts more often, and in more detail.

I remember reading this a while back and figured I would share it to mark the occasion of Norm and his drive by moment...

http://www.rmitz.org/freebsd.daemon.html

Linda Branagan is an expert on daemons. She has a T-shirt that sports the daemon in tennis shoes that appears on the cover of the 4.3BSD manuals and The Design and Implementation of the 4.3BSD UNIX Operating System by S. Leffler, M. McKusick, M. Karels, J. Quarterman, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, MA 1989.

She tells the following story about wearing the 4.3BSD daemon T-shirt:

Last week I walked into a local "home style cookin' restaurant/watering hole" in Texas to pick up a take-out order. I spoke briefly to the waitress behind the counter, who told me my order would be done in a few minutes.

So, while I was busy gazing at the farm implements hanging on the walls, I was approached by two "natives." These guys might just be the original Texas rednecks.

``Pardon us, ma'am. Mind if we ask you a question?''

Well, people keep telling me that Texans are real friendly, so I nodded.

``Are you a Satanist?''

Well, at least they didn't ask me if I liked to party.

``Uh, no, I can't say that I am.''

``Gee, ma'am. Are you sure about that?'' they asked.

I put on my biggest, brightest Dallas Cowboys cheerleader smile and said, ``No, I'm positive. The closest I've ever come to Satanism is watching Geraldo.''

``Hmmm. Interesting. See, we was just wondering why it is you have the lord of darkness on your chest there.''

I was this close to slapping one of them and causing a scene -- then I stopped and noticed the shirt I happened to be wearing that day. Sure enough, it had a picture of a small, devilish-looking creature that has for some time now been associated with a certain operating system. In this particular representation, the creature was wearing sneakers.

They continued: ``See, ma'am, we don't exactly appreciate it when people show off pictures of the devil. Especially when he's lookin' so friendly.''

These idiots sounded terrifyingly serious.

Me: ``Oh, well, see, this isn't really the devil, it's just, well, it's sort of a mascot.''

Native: ``And what kind of football team has the devil as a mascot?''

Me: ``Oh, it's not a team. It's an operating -- uh, a kind of computer.''

I figured that an ATM machine was about as much technology as these guys could handle, and I knew that if I so much as uttered the word ``UNIX'' I would only make things worse.

Native: ``Where does this satanical computer come from?''

Me: ``California. And there's nothing satanical about it really.''

Somewhere along the line here, the waitress noticed my predicament -- but these guys probably outweighed her by 600 pounds, so all she did was look at me sympathetically and run off into the kitchen.

Native: ``Ma'am, I think you're lying. And we'd appreciate it if you'd leave the premises now.''

Fortunately, the waitress returned that very instant with my order, and they agreed that it would be okay for me to actually pay for my food before I left. While I was at the cash register, they amused themselves by talking to each other.

Native #1: ``Do you think the police know about these devil computers?''

Native #2: ``If they come from California, then the FBI oughta know about 'em.''

They escorted me to the door. I tried one last time: `You're really blowing this all out of proportion. A lot of people use thiskind of computers.' Universities, researchers, businesses. They're actually very useful.''

Big, big, BIG mistake. I should have guessed at what came next.

Native: ``Does the government use these devil computers?''

Me: ``Yes.'' Another BIG boo-boo.

Native: ``And does the government pay for 'em? With our tax dollars?''

I decided that it was time to jump ship.

Me: ``No. Nope. Not at all. Your tax dollars never entered the picture at all. I promise. No sir, not a penny. Our good Christian congressmen would never let something like that happen. Nope. Never. Bye.''

Texas. What a country.

Guano, lets try to keep the reminiscent comments to a mile or less, great stuff though.

Norm, Completely feel your pain, Advocacy is fine as a day job, but there comes a time when you don't want to carry it around with you every moment of your life.

I think that comes right about the time you have a car that is worth enough that you don't need to have it destroyed. Nice to keep the advocacy on the tee-shirts and car magnets, so you can go incognito at those moments that you just want to enjoy your life.

This is why I have an FSM and a Pirate Fish emblem on the back of my car. They are unintelligible to the average religious nutjob.

I really think an Obama presidency would end the federal obsession with religion. There will be a large movement of people into government who are concerned with getting things done for the sake of getting things done, not the sake of their Magic Friend. Actually, a McCain presidency would probably knock it back too. But maybe not in the Air Force.

I know how you feel Norm.

Just last week the Catholic Church had its gigantic World Youth Day on only about 2kms form my house (I'm in Sydney). I obviously didn't go, but all week I felt like I couldn't say or do anything. I had no desire to piss off peaceful and happy people who traveled a long way to see their spiritual leader.

Then this week, after it was all over, I went to my baker, who is a lovely older woman, and she asked me if I went to see the pope last week. What are you supposed to say to that? I knew the moment I opened my big mouth I would have probably said something mildly offensive to her or someone else in the queue.

It really sucks that you have to keep silent sometimes, even in an extremely unreligious place like Australia.

I really think an Obama presidency would end the federal obsession with religion

As I understand it, those who support Obama think that he is the Messiah.

Wake up! Either vote for Nader or don't vote at all. Get with the program, damn it.

Ah, nostalgic stories of outspoken atheism.

I recall having a special shirt made at the local mall with a big picture of Nietzsche on the front, and the words 'god is dead' on the back. I wore that shirt in the heart of the Bible belt. There was some mild ridicule, but most of the people who saw it and were religious tried to engage me in a polite conversation to correct my 'devil ways'.

As we rational, well-adjusted people grew up, we realized that it's rarely - almost never - the message; it's how you present it. Irrational people with big 'notice me!' chips on their shoulders proudly display contemptuous messages ridiculing the beliefs of others and just can't understand why someone would get upset. From the outside, it's quite hilarious.

In fact, religion - or, at least, belief - is the solution. Humans are the problem. Religion may be the 'opium of the people', but in reality, people need opium. Nobody believes this more than liberals who constantly rail on and on about how stupid everyone is.

Everyone needs a group and a belief system - and you proudly showing that bumper sticker and me proudly wearing my t-shirt only help prove the point.

Actually, a McCain presidency would probably knock it back too

Voting for McCain is the best of both worlds. He's a classical conservative with no ties to the evangelicals (which is why they keep grumbling about him, but who else would they vote for?). He's a military man who understands war and we're at war.

Obamaniacs are simply delusional. It's classic overcompensation from people who have been convinced through carefully managed and marketed left-wing hysteria that the country needs to swing violently in a different direction, when all we need is sensible leadership.

The best part? That Obama isn't even a radical. But he plays one on TV. Let's check the opinion polls to see where he stands on the issues today!

As I understand it, those who support Obama think that he is the Messiah.

lol, you were one of those people as of two months ago.

You know this isn't true from personal experience.

people need opium. Nobody believes this more than liberals who constantly rail on and on about how stupid everyone is.

Riiiight, the party of gas tax holidays and terror alert levels is the one that appeals to our rational minds. sure.

The best part? That Obama isn't even a radical. But he plays one on TV. Let's check the opinion polls to see where he stands on the issues today!

Right on point one, projecting again on point two.

Obamaniacs are simply delusional

Must be true. Norm has been saying this. Lemos has been saying this.

President John McCain... According to most people apparently not all that different from President Barack Obama.

When McCain is president, we'll all discover what the difference will be..

But in the end, what the fuck? 'Not that much difference, right?

Obamaniacs are simply delusional

I really need to meet one of those people some day so I can see what all the fuss is about.

Wow - calligraph keeps presenting these deep, penetrating, fact-filled analyses, and we'll be McCainiacs soon. Pass me some of that primo classical conservative opium calligraph is smoking.

Calligraph

I recall having a special shirt made at the local mall with a big picture of Nietzsche on the front, and the words 'god is dead' on the back. I wore that shirt in the heart of the Bible belt. There was some mild ridicule, but most of the people who saw it and were religious tried to engage me in a polite conversation to correct my 'devil ways'
Wow - where were you in the Bible Belt where you dealt with such mild rebuking? My cousin, a great, incredibly likeable guy and a Lutheran was down there one summer and couldn't make it through since the Southern Baptists became abusive when it came to religion. Maybe they were just ready to let you go to the devil. :)

I thought Berkeley Breathed said television was the opiate of the people...

Religion may be the 'opium of the people', but in reality, people need opium. Nobody believes this more than liberals who constantly rail on and on about how stupid everyone is.
Hey calligraph - would you mind expanding on this thought. I'm kind of missing something in the logic flow but I'm sure that's just me being so dense. Could you please write it so a girl can understand it? (Or was that good girl?)

And, calligraph - please, don't forget to give me some sources of where to find the real news. I'm tired of being brainwashed by Stewart and Colbert....please enlighten me - you of the clear vision....

A little anecdote: driving back with my wife from the '93 New Orleans Jazz Festival (featuring the Allman Brothers and Bob Dylan, no less!), i suddenly experienced a sharp pain in my right ear. That really spoiled the visit of Houston, and in the evening, the whole thing getting worse, we went to some hospital where i was treated by an emergency doctor. During that time, my wife filled some forms for me, and when i came back, finally relieved, i was asked to sign them. Name, dob, address, all good—until i saw what my wife had put for "religion". She had written "atheist"!

i remember thinking jokingly "What the heck, she wants us killed?" But anyway, i must add that the lady took the form and was very gracious to us! God bless her (kidding,Norm, ok?!).

Could you please write it so a girl can understand it? (Or was that good girl?)

oh, you did notice that comment calligraph made before, jill? yeah, i know things can get pretty heated here in the comments, and i guess cali has as much right to be nasty as anyone else, but i thought gender-based bashing was crossing the line. i was gonna hammer 'im for you, but by the time i saw it people were off on other tangents and it would have interrupted the flow of conversation. glad to see you can take care of yourself.

Thanks, Jonathan. I actually didn't even take it as gender bashing - I think he would've said good boy if I was a male. I think it was just plain, rude disrespect and dismissal of my comment and opinions. Since I really and sincerely want to know where he gets his propaganda-free info, I just let it drop.

It's interesting though. I've commented on left, right and mixed sites and I have never seen ANY liberal dismiss a woman for being a woman and it happens ALL the time from the right. Since I'm obviously posting as a female, I'm an easy target but I've gotten told to get back to the kitchen where I belong, who cares what you think b@tch (or worse), and just no women wanted here.

Makes me think - as a female, I've always been interested how some men really don't like women - they're not gay; they do want to have sex with women - they just don't like them. From what I can tell, they are much more likely to be right wingers than left wing although I'm sure there are some on both sides....

@JoAnn

As I understand it, those who support Obama think that he is the Messiah. Wake up! Either vote for Nader or don't vote at all. Get with the program, damn it.

The Messiah dig is a bit of low blow, dontcha think?

Anyway, I'm sympathetic to the Nader voters, being an occasional Nader voter myself. I vote in Texas, so it doesn't really matter so much. But I really am baffled by your stance unless it is a pure unadulterated expression of idealism and discontent with our rigid two party system. If that’s the case, then go ahead sister! Get out there and give ‘em hell at the ballot box. Our system is messed up and Nader and people like him should be viable, even though they actually aren’t.

However, just imagine what if Nader really DID get into office. Imagine what would happen if on the Thursday before the election, a scandal broke which knocked McCain’s chances to winning way down. Like pictures of him sodomizing a goat, a video clip of him wearing Nazi regalia, or perhaps an audio clip of him admitting to atheism. (Unfortunately, all 3 are in the same category to most Americans. Sad but true.) And then imagine, at a campaign rally 4 days later in San Francisco, an unpredictable tragedy strikes. We learn that the Democratic nominee is mortally wounded in a huge earthquake on the San Andreas Fault. So, between an unviable McCain splitting votes with Barr, and Nader being the only remaining liberal on the ballot with name recognition, Nader could conceivably actually win. Let’s say he does win. (This seems to be about as plausible as any other scenario, requiring only a major scandal and an unfortunately timed natural disaster.)

How well would Nader actually do in the White House? What coalitions would he form? What cabinet would he field? He has a ton of great ideas and is very compatible with my philosophy. But how would he actually translate those ideas into policy? My perspective is that people like Nader and Norm and some commenters here have ideas that are at least as good as Obama’s, but they lack Obama’s political skills and connections. A president, no matter how consonant with our own ideals, is unfit to ably execute the office of the chief executive absent the ability to build coalitions, cajole and convince allies and enemies, or otherwise implement. Despite his flaws, Obama would have a much more successful presidency than Nader, even from the perspective of Nader supporters. Nader’s goals may be much more palatable, but his ability to realize them are near zero unless he styled his approach after someone like, oh, I don't know, maybe Obama. I’m frustrated by this conclusion, but that doesn’t make it any less rational of a conclusion.

Of course the above is under the assumption that Nader's vision is heads and shoulders above Obama's. While he is clearly superior in some ways, I don't see Nader as on a higher plane of being than Obama, so the decision for me is simple. Obama in November. We're much less likely to rid ourselves of people that despicable "Big John" Cornyn with all the alternatives come election day. The president isn't the only guy on the ballot.

@calligraph

In fact, religion - or, at least, belief - is the solution. Humans are the problem. Religion may be the 'opium of the people', but in reality, people need opium. Nobody believes this more than liberals who constantly rail on and on about how stupid everyone is.

Wow. You are amazing. You manage to combine the most common misconstruction of Marx’s opium comment with an ad hominem against “liberals” while simultaneously using that tired 2-dimensional “liberal/conservative” frame used to oversimplify our political discourse to our own detriment. Were you really trying for a hat-trick? And how is a superset the problem to which a subset dependent on the greater whole is the solution? How is belief, which is contingent on humans, the solution to humanity? Unless the beliefs are given to us by God or Xenu or the FSM, that is. You are speaking nonsense!

Obamaniacs are simply delusional. It's classic overcompensation from people who have been convinced through carefully managed and marketed left-wing hysteria that the country needs to swing violently in a different direction, when all we need is sensible leadership.

Boy do I sense a tautology here! So, people who have been convinced that we need a violent shift despite evidence to the contrary are delusional? And Obamaniacs are such people?

delusion |diˈloō zh ən| noun an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder.

Hmmm. Unless you can make a link between so-called Obamaniacs to your garden-variety Obama supporter, you’ve just wasted keystrokes saying something wearyingly trivial. I’m no fan of the No True Scotsman fallacy, so I’ll acknowledge that delusional Obama supporters (Obamaniacs if you will) probably exist. So, what’s your point? Too lazy to support a non-trivial statement such as “Most or all Obama voters are delusional?”

The best part? That Obama isn't even a radical. But he plays one on TV. Let's check the opinion polls to see where he stands on the issues today!

Again, you deal in trivialities. Sure, BHO is a faith-based initializing, telecom immunity lovin’ reader of polls. And McCain is an off-shore drillin’, gas tax holiday givin’ reader of polls. This is a sad state of affairs. But you say it as: if a) this comes as a surprise (poor naïve you); and b) what you say is somehow uniquely tied to a particular candidate. Look, you aren’t trying very hard. You could easily attack Obama from the right in ways much less easy to refute with a little effort. Finally, and I don’t know how the stupid flip-flop meme every got off the ground, isn’t this a representative Democracy here? Don’t we elect public servants who reflect our opinions? Aren’t our representatives supposed to be influenced by our opinions? We’ve tried someone insensitive to public opinion for the last 8 years. Time for something different.

@Norm, Guano, Lachlan

Great to hear those anecdotes, but they do scare me a little. Mainly because my family is entirely composed of religious people, most of them of the conservative Southern Baptist variety. Some of them are so deluded, they make the Scientologists and Crystal Skull aficionados appear rational. Sigh.

I haven't lived with family since I ditched religion, so haven't found any need to "come out". When I do, it will probably be a heinous episode. Alas, I have very few anecdotes myself. Other than the older chemistry PhD graduate who tried to convince me (the biology PhD student) that evolution is wrong, I've led a charmed life since I left the house. I do get very irritated when seeing missionaries when traveling abroad.

Did y'all know that there are special provisions for obtaining visas for missionary work in much of the world? There is little more annoying than seeing a couple of foreign white dudes (always dudes, never girls) wearing slacks, white Oxford shirts and ties, riding bikes, and pushing their imported "Opium" (<snark>h/t calligraph</snark>) on some unsusptecting Asian person in their own country who has probably seldom considered the merits of exchanging one irrational belief system for an imported irrational belief system. Has anyone ever pondered the idea of de-prosyletizing? Like passing out literature to people poking holes in the factual bases of religious myths? I wonder if you could get a visa to do that?

A friend of mine had the hots for a Christian girl in college and when she invited him along to a Bible Study Class, he happily accepted, but got cold feet and begged me to come along.

I did. It was fascinating. They read the bible without actually saying anything about what the text meant, other than simultaneously sigh, and go "That's beautiful..." When they realized that they had to atheists in their midsts they were pretty taken back, but promptly started to turn us into Christians. That didn't work.

And in short order, I started getting anonymous notes slipped under my door in the middle of the night asking me things like "Why do you hate Jesus?" and "Jesus loves you!"

I thought that kind of cowardice was unpleasant, but I disliked it more when one of them threated me with grievous bodily harm, in a middle of an argument — in front of lots of witnesses. Then there were further threats, warning me not to come back.

"Cowards and bullies, who hurt their children in the name of their god and key people's cars."

(BUZZ)

"What are Christians, Alex?"

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