I love to argue. I especially love when I can stir the pot in a room where two other people have a far deeper care for the topic than I ever will and am able to slice open some argument, its guts splayed carelessly across the table, set it on fire, and watch it burn. At a brunch restaurant I exclaimed that gun control and universal health insurance should be tied together; guns for all, health insurance for all. I did it knowing the people sitting across from each other were single issue votes. Then I sat back, ordered a beer for breakfast and enjoyed the show.
I don’t care to win arguments. I’m not much for litigious endeavors since winning an argument doesn’t seem like the acme of personal achievement nor does it suffice the competitive part of my brain. But I like arguments because I hate television, am often bored, and probably have a personality disorder. Recently, I had the pleasure to make the acquaintance of a terminally ill woman who was “Born Again”. Through no fault of my own the conversation turned to Jesus and thus to God and I was asked the question I was hoping wouldn’t come to fruition. “Do you believe in God?” I answered no.
Without belief in it, Hell becomes much less intimidating, but it didn’t stop her from letting me know that’s where I’ll end up without changing my ways. She asked what makes me think that God doesn’t exist and I didn’t want to get into some philosophical conversation with someone who is so much closer to death than me, someone who has been told the time is near, her fear of the unknown and maybe a past that was less than stellar driving her to repent and find religion again, so I tried to wiggle out with a joke. She sniffed it out and pressed me.
I told her that if God made up everything in the world, the good and the bad, then he or she was rather vengeful, a grudge holding patrician, a narcissistic psychotic who created fires just to put them out, and that it was too easy an explanation to say that God is in charge and that’s why this or that happens, that we are all guided by some inexplicable and invisible hand that we need to trust and that everything that happens is for a reason and is beyond control, to accept your fate, and then drop to your knees to ask for forgiveness.
What most surprised me is that her smile never wavered and in fact turned to more of a sneer as my sentences rolled on. She was ready to retort before I had hardly got out my first sentence, a trained verbal assassin, sniper calm. She told me that even though I say I don’t believe in God, I actually do, because how can something not exist if it has a name, and that I used the name to discuss, and that proves that God exists. She said “I bet you’re going to write a little story about this too, and you’ll capitalize the word God, further proving my point.”
There’s no down side to being an atheist, no Purgatory to sit in to think about how and where your moral compass went awry, no hell to char in flames of Sulphur unconsumed, no judgement day, no devil or demons. No down side of course unless you are religious, and apparently especially of the born-again category. She worried for my soul, the soul of my children, the soul of my family, the souls of those who are like me, she will pray for my soul, pray and ask God to forgive me for the error of my ways, for my ignorance, my hedonistic heathen lifestyle, she will, in part, take it upon herself to save me from the things that I don’t believe in because she believes in them, and because I used the word God, the crux of her argument.
In fact, it was hardly an argument at all. I politely nodded mostly. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy her asking me about it so I could loquaciously and somewhat lavishly cascade my internal dialogue and let her sort it out, something she made very quick work of. But my plan to destruct the conversation led to my being the recipient of the thing I normally like to watch, the fire I like to set was now burning on me and the feeling was not one I enjoyed, feeling stuck, hot, breathless, and slowly dying. In short, I was in Hell.
This woman will spend her dying days repenting and proselytizing, condemning and then praying for herself and others like me, playing her part in redeeming the heathens to her lord and savior, making what was once wrong right again, in her eyes, and in the eyes of some congregation. She did her part, sending me away with her sincere thoughts and prayers, leaving me to think deeply about the merits of religious fervor, the profundity of God, as I went home to write this article, and capitalize the word God.
This post is republished on Medium.