My sister stopped by yesterday to show me her new car. Her old car was once our grandfather’s, who originally promised it to me. The thing is, our grandfather was always drunk (I’m serious when I say “always,” as he was a relic of Irish alcoholism where someone could just be drunk all of the time from age 15 until they died somewhere close to 80) and forgot about promising the car to me, so I bought my first car myself and my sister got hers for free. Which I’m still sort of pissed about, but now at least she knows what it’s like to purchase something big.
Because it’s been so beautiful out, we went to the backyard to talk while my nephew ran around the claiming that the concrete was made of electricity (the new version of “the floor is made of laaaaavaaaaaa!” I suppose). She just started a new job that required her to train in some office in way the hell out in Illinois. The office manager at this place sounds like a real cunt. Yeah, I said it. She’s a cunt. She’s a dim-witted, mood-swinging, power-tripping bitch with no actual power, so basically, she’s like about 85% of all office managers in the workplace. I don’t know what it is about that position that attracts lunatics, but with respect to all my teacher friends, I think we should change the saying “those who can’t do, teach” to “those who can’t do, bitch at people about files they themselves have lost and send business e-mails in Comic Sans.”
So my sister is telling me about this woman, and one of the things she did recently was stick her head out of her office and announce to everyone that she needed someone to come into the office and pray with her for some test that her niece had to take.
What the what?
This wasn’t an emergency. It didn’t involve work. It didn’t involve surgery, or the ER, or biopsy results. I’m not one to pull the discrimination alarm at the slightest provocation, but that’s some bullshit that would send me straight to HR. Look, you can pray all you want. Do it at home, in your car, or even quietly in your office for all I care. But don’t try to involve everyone else, especially when they’re trainees who arrived a few days ago and will be leaving in two weeks, which means you’re not friends with any of them. Announcing that kind of thing to everyone in the office creates the impression that their participation in a management-sanctioned activity could affect their job, and when that activity a) has nothing to do with the business and b) involves your own personal religious beliefs, you’re crossing way over the line and deserve to be re-trained on how to act like an adult professional.
This is the same woman who commented that she didn’t know why my sister didn’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent if she wasn’t a practicing Catholic. Fine, my sister’s not a practicing Catholic anymore, but her son does go to Catholic school and she wants to lead by example. What bothers me is that this woman wasn’t really talking about practicing Catholics versus true Catholics, she was talking about how insane Catholics are to begin with. Which is kind of true, and why I’m not one anymore. But what a lot of people like this woman miss is that Catholics are really no more insane than the rest of them, or at least, no more deserving of derision for the finer points of their faith. And I may be an atheist (more on that in a second), but it really fucking bothers me that Christians like this woman are out there ruining it for everyone else. Not all Catholics are like their Nazi pope who thinks birth control is a form of patriarchy-toppling devil magic. Not all Christians are asshole office managers who berate employees for their church-related personal decisions.
Apparently, at some point my sister told this woman that I’m an atheist. I don’t know how this topic came up or what happened with it, but I assume it went a lot like this:
“There are no atheists in foxholes.”
“You can’t tell me that if your plane was going down, you wouldn’t ask God to save you.”
“So if someone you knew was dying, you wouldn’t pray to God about it, you’d just say ‘it’s okay, whatever happens’?”
“The thing that bothers me about atheists is they act like they know everything.”
Bitches, please. First of all, there are plenty of atheist members of the U.S. military. Second, praying to God for survival is not an instinctive reaction to danger. It’s a conditioned reaction for those who believe in God. Atheists in foxholes hope they survive, just like atheists on planes. I hate to fly. Even when the flight is normal, the sounds and pressure changes and turbulence stress me the fuck out. But I don’t pray because I don’t believe in it. I am literally exhausted by the time the plane lands because I have focused all of my mental energy on hoping we don’t crash, but truthfully, God has nothing to do with it.
Third, atheism does not equate a lack of compassion. Of course I would be sad if someone I loved was dying. Of course I would want them to pull through. My disbelief in God does not involve tossing this out the window because “whatever happens,” the universe knows best. I exercise compassion because I think it’s right, not because I’m afraid I’ll be punished if I don’t. That’s crazy. Almost as crazy as claiming I know everything, because fourth, atheism is about understanding that you can’t possibly know everything. I don’t believe in God because there is no way to prove God’s existence or influence, and I need that proof in order to have belief. Other people don’t and that’s fine. But just because I disagree with their choice, that doesn’t mean I know more or am claiming to be smarter than them.
Have you seen those photos of women at pro-choice demonstrations and gay people at equal rights demonstrations holding signs that say “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit”? That’s how I feel about atheism. I’m not doing it to piss anyone off or be different, and I’m not trying to be better than everyone else. This is a choice I made after 13 years of formal religious education including going to Mass 3 times a week, and that was on top of being raised in a religious family. I did not come to this decision lightly. I know what I’m doing. I’m not asking for special treatment, I just want you to stop rolling your fucking eyes at me and unless we get our paychecks from the Vatican, don’t you dare ask me to pray with you at work.