An Aethist’s Prayer… May 16, 2012


I was in a dark corner by myself when he entered. Not recognizing me–or noticing me, for that matter–he lifted his head and began to speak.

“I am embarrassed. Maybe better phrased … humiliated. I am a person in good standing and on record as not believing in You. God is not a Person that I worship, nor do I choose to use Him as the implement for damning anything. I think what angers me the most about this moment is that I am suddenly being transported from the purity of my glorious atheism to the lesser nobility of agnosticism–simply by conversing with what should be perceived as a vacancy. I want You to understand–my antipathy is stronger than that. I don’t believe in You. So I suppose it begs the question: why, then, am I standing here with my head lifted up like a baby bird seeking its daily worm, chatting with the air, the walls and the ceiling? Do You understand? It is not faith that has brought me here. Rather, desperation.

There are times I just get tired of hearing my own thoughts bouncing around and echoing in my head, trying to find a landing-place in reason. I try to include other people’s opinions and feelings, but they are not me. They do not understand me. And the more forceful they become–trying to subject their will upon me–the more they resemble You–with your edicts, commandments and holy writ–keeping men baffled rather than benefitted.

Yes. I am confused. Why do You choose to be so absent? People insist that You’re not–and they cite examples of the sun, the moon and the stars. My thought is, why don’t we just go back to being ancient Romans, worshipping the elements instead of the Elementer? Would it kill You to make Yourself more obvious? Every once in a while, the ideas You hold so dear should win the day in such a positive manner that the whole world would be shaken to an awareness of the wisdom of Your path. It confuses me. I do understand why You have chosen not to be a self-promoter, but really, is the profile of a hermit sufficient for You to fulfill giving us our daily bread? So You’re probably thinking–if I have so many complaints, why am I here, chattering about this nonsense? It is this yearning inside of me that seems to be the only thing greater than my doubt. I want a reason to continue my humanity instead of becoming the grouchy old troll who perches under the bridge of happiness, growling at anyone who would dare to cross.

The thing I hate about being an atheist is that the absence of God, though simplifying, is rarely comforting. It’s wonderful to believe in a world where You don’t exist, because then it comes down to equations, numbers, inventory and implementation. But these are so sterile when left to themselves, without the motivation of something. I just find it difficult to believe that this SOMETHING is a Universal King who reigns over the entire cosmos, yet somehow or another has the capability of being concerned over the texture of my fried rice.

And the more I think about it, the more angry I become. Here’s what really pisses me off: why do You have such crappy followers? Looking at Your entourage, one would have to believe that You despise intelligence, abhor diversity and reject all attempts to accept questioning. Why do you call them “sheep” and then basically make fun of their sheepishness? Is it a gag? Is it a challenge? Are You trying to increase the difficulty of saving the world by using the most inept people You can find? Is it an issue of trying to achieve Your purposes with one arm tied behind Your back and the other hand fiddling a banjo? Do You hate the brain? It is the new Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, stuck into the garden of our lives? Yet You scream at us if we partake of the fruit of thoughtfulness?

If You dare to call Yourself ‘God,’ don’t You think You should do better? Honestly, I could lobby for a suit against you for false advertising. You often remind me of a deadbeat dad who has to be drug into court to finally pay child support. Of course, all of this is based upon the paper-thin pretext that I believe in You–which I don’t. I would not describe what I feel as belief, but rather, wishing. It’s not the same thing. If You do exist and have some sort of eternal home for Your faithful, I couldn’t get there by wishing, could I? No, it seems I would have to buy the whole sticky ball of wax. If I want heaven, I’ve got to believe in hell. To hell with that! If I’m going to believe in God, somehow or another I have to concede that there’s a devil. What a copout!

What do I wish? I wish You had an ear so You could hear; eyes so You could see me as I am; fingers so you could touch the parts of my life that I’m proud of. I wish you had a smell that could trigger an awareness of true beauty. I wish you had good taste–and judging from the music and literature of Your followers, I think it’s safe to say–You don’t. I wish you had senses. Why did You give them to me and refuse them for Yourself?

So even though I’m talking to myself and pretending that my imaginary friend might actually be here, I guess what I’ve come to say is that I’ve decided. Let me rephrase that to–‘I’m deciding.

I’m deciding to use mine. If You actually exist in any form or shape, I just can’t believe You’re going to punish me because I use my ears to hear beauty, my eyes to see possibilities, my hands to touch people in need. I can’t believe that You’re going to be angry if I make the world more fragrant and tasteful. I don’t know whether I like You or not–which makes atheism my better choice. Because if You existed, I’d have to tell You how disillusioned you’ve made me. Not believing in You makes me seem less vindictive.

Thank You for Your time–if You have any. I guess I just wanted You, myself and I to know that I’m deciding to do my best as a human … without a God. If it’s not possible, I certainly will die trying.”

He suddenly was finished. He left, never aware of my presence. I remained in the dark corner, contemplating his words. Embarrassed, confused, yearning, angry, wishing, deciding.

I realized that faith is often better understood when you catch it on a bad day.


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Adolph’s… May 15, 2012


Doing a cursory piece of research right before I began writing this essay, I was somewhat surprised to discover that it was still in existence.

Adolph’s meat tenderizer.

When I was introduced to this product several decades ago, I was immediately amused at the name selection. I couldn’t decide if it was gutsy or absolutely foolish to call your product “Adolph’s,” using the first name of the world’s most infamous dictator. Wouldn’t you love to have been at that meeting? Certainly somebody must have raised the question: “Do you think that anyone will buy a meat tenderizer called Adolph’s?”

Even the fact that it’s a meat tenderizer has a bit of a macabre overtone, don’t you think? How did that ever get past a board meeting? And how did it ever survive the scrutiny of the advertising department? And how good would the product have to be for the public to request it from their local grocer? “Do you carry Adolph’s?”

Somewhere in the story, there is a gentleman named Adolph who decided that he was not going to allow Hitler to monopolize the name. He concluded that he had invented a great product and he wasn’t going to let it sit on the shelf without bearing the proud banner of his signature. He survived all the debate, conquered all the critics and ended up with a product called Adoph’s Meat Tenderizer, which still exists today—although you certainly do not hear it advertised over the airwaves of our overly sensitive marketplace.

Can you imagine—if such a notion was flung into the ring for consideration during our time? Every anti-defamation league and any group that wanted to make some publicity hay would be on television, objecting to the impropriety and bringing back memories of the holocaust.

But when you remove “gutsy” and “foolish” from life, all the geniuses are shipped away to concentration camps. That’s the danger. Everything that is a gift to humanity was once viewed as gutsy or foolish.

So I must warn you about the five questions that lead to nothing. They permeate our society. They have turned us into frightened little chicks, scurrying around the barnyard looking for a way to hide under our mama’s backside. If you’re ready, here they come:

1. “What about God?” We are the most non-religious society that discusses religion in the history of mankind. We don’t really have any desire to become more virtuous with our faith—just louder. The question “what about God?” is similar to you grabbing your ten favorite Bible verses and me grabbing my favorite ten, and heading out into the wilderness of oblivion, where we play futile games of spiritual tic-tac-toe until we’re ready to blow our brains out. I will tell you of a certainty, my friend, that often the pursuit of God is the leap into insanity.

So what should we do about God? Learn the two things He likes and know that when they exist, He is not far away. Yes—honor what He holds dear and He will always be near. And those two things are free will and mercy. If you grant your fellow-humans free will to make their own choices and extend mercy to those who require that gift in the moment of their need, God will always be standing behind you with His hand on your shoulder.

2. “What will people think?” Be careful there. We might have an oxymoron in “people think.” Are you sure? Or do people just react? I am convinced that people flit their eyes about the room, looking for the opinions of others and then suddenly adopt them as their own. If you’re going to judge your efforts on what people think, you will not only fail to accomplish anything, you will be kicking yourself in the butt because someone else will ignore the masses and beat you to the punch. If I considered what people think in what I share, I would spend most of my time editing instead of writing. They are not the same, you know.

3. “What if I’m wrong?” Count on it. There is no such thing as a pure idea—only a pure motive. It takes us too long to get our motivations pure to ever expect us to come up with a revelation that is pure within itself. The three stages of success are: (a) suggestion, (b) idea, and (c) evolution. A suggestion is when we begin to wonder whether something could be better. An idea is the means by which we decide to make it better. And an evolution is what is left after life has shown us some of the stupidity of our idea.

4. “Is there a way to escape making a decision?” Yes. It’s called politics. But keep in mind that politicians may be the only group of people that the masses hate more than lawyers. And if you happen to be a politician who’s also a lawyer, God help you. What is necessary in the process of making a decision is a good old-fashioned dose of humility. Humility is not walking around prepared to be a failure. Humility is knowing that you’ve been successful in the past, but failure is always an option. So you keep in mind that there may be a need for adaptation.

The problem with the political system in this country is that we don’t have enough parties. Since we only have two, it means that we can have a fifty-fifty split in our Congress, which creates gridlock. If we were a country that had eight parties with eight different platforms, well-defined for public purview, then no particular party could gain the ability to completely block progress. It’s a simple principle and we are a big enough country that we should have more choices instead of limited possibilities.

5. And finally, “Can I please everyone?” After traveling for nearly forty years, I can tell you for sure that there is a certain portion of the population that takes pride in the fact that they refuse to be pleased. It is their badge of honor. You can bring the most delicious meal, offer the greatest prize and perform the most beautiful oratorio and they will tell you it is tasteless, not enough or too loud, respectively. You need another measuring stick for your accomplishments other than the applause of the masses. Jesus referred to it as “the second mile.” Once you discover the level of acceptability in your particular adventure, then set your own standard a little bit higher than that, and continue to pursue your own concept of excellence. If you are rejected at that point, it’s out of stubbornness, and not because of your lack of quality.

So those are the five questions that lead to nothing, which seem to be dictating the agenda of our present social calendar. I think we need more “Adolphs” in the world, who rather than lamenting their parents naming them so poorly, decide to change the historical meaning of the word to, in this case, referring to really, really tender steaks.

Thank you, Adolph. I never thought I would write those words, but you see, I never thought I would run across someone who was brave enough to stand up for himself in a world filled with critics.


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