AN ATHEIST’S GUIDE TO BECOMING RELIGIOUS
by Troy Conrad
Lately, I’ve had many atheists write to me, asking if now is a good time to become religious again. It seems that the departure of the Bush Administration has awoken the vast majority of the atheist community to the simple fact that theocracy is no longer a threat here or abroad. It is high time to embrace what we once called superstition, dust off that Bible lifted in protest from the Holiday Inn, and delve once more into the church, dear friends.
For some, a conversion or reconversion to reverence seems a daunting task. As freethinkers, we’ve gotten a bit rusty in the worship department. When working out the faith muscle, we must start slowly so it doesn’t get overtaxed. Start out at the Joel Osteen level, before you consider going full Falwell. If you’re one of the 5% still on the fence about taking this sacred surge, ponder the inarguable, massive benefit of taking the faith train to Godville.
Huge time savings. Take into account how much time you spend thinking. Now cut that in half. Now cut that in half, and repeat until you reach zero, because you now have a handy-dandy book that makes your decisions for you. As Ted Haggard said: “We don’t have to have a debate about what we should think about homosexuality. It’s written in the Bible.” Add up the time it would have taken you to mentally debate this, and use it to go golfing. It is estimated that by eliminating thinking by 95%, the average American would save 14 hours per week. Based on the new U.S. minimum wage increase, that translates to $5,278 per American each year. That’s almost enough to purchase a Smart Car.
It should be quite clear that there has never been a better time to stop and smell the rosary. Though there are obstacles ahead for the skeptical mind, here are some simple, tested guidelines to help you go from “infidel” to just plain “fidel” in just a few short weeks.
Make meaning out of small things, so that you can be trusted to make meaning out of large things. Before you can calm your inquisitive mind and embrace the idea of a loving, caring, and jealous God, you’ll need to start with baby steps. Reading tea leaves and taking fortune cookies literally is a good start toward making meaning out of everyday situations. Is a tearful image of God’s only Son right there in your bag of Funyons? Has an outline of the savior shown up on your shower curtain? Did your lawnmower leak lubricant, only to leave a loving image of God’s only Son on the garage floor? Course through all snack foods, pre-made burger patties, tortillas (both corn and flour), breakfast flakes, nut mixes, or hastily topped frozen pizzas. If the image of Christ or Mary appears, remind yourself that it is not simply coincidence.
Re-read The God Delusion with a more critical eye. Maybe Richard Dawkins himself was sent to test your faith. Have you considered that maybe the only reason Dawkins even writes books is because he thinks he’s better than you?
Develop your ability to follow orders. For freethinkers who have not been in the military, you have a problem with obedience to authority. This can be remedied by wearing a rubber band around your wrist. Simply snap it against your flesh each time you become inquisitive. Do this every day for 21 days, and obedience will become your second best friend. The virtue of obedience will also prepare you quite well for the workforce should something open up.
Watch The Flintstones. Seeing humans and dinosaurs co-exist again will help free the mind from any previous knowledge of anthropology, paleontology, or history. Likewise, shows like Two and a Half Men will leave you with no compulsion to watch documentaries and other shows that contain information.
Be stingy with your new virginity. Since virginity is restored when you become a Christian, don’t just go and give it away now. You need to save it for marriage or Senior Prom. Post a pledge to Bristol Palin’s abstinence organization, and join Promise Keepers right away to build a solid, iron-clad moral and ethical foundation. Additionally, the purchase of a Smart Car is a great way to keep from losing your virginity in the backseat this time around.
Invent a new controversy. If it’s possible to revive a formerly settled debate such as creation vs. evolution, surely there are scores of other settled controversies to renew. These new debates will bring more validity to your newfound belief system, and balance out all the science that’s stuck in your head. Next time you hear people arguing about abortion, say something like: “Whoa! This is almost as heated as the ‘prayer vs. single payer health care’ debate!”
Use the “caps lock” on your keyboard. Many atheists are prone to using a lower case “g” when typing the word “God.” This habit, left unchecked, is an embarrassing mistake for the newly anointed. Using the caps lock is a foolproof solution, making it impossible to mess up a phrase such as: “MAY GOD BLESS E. E. CUMMINGS.”
White-out the violent parts of the Bible. Let’s be honest. Any book that condones rape, murder, genocide, and incest can be a real bummer. Just memorize the parts with the word “love” if you want to really make a difference.
Put “under God” back in the Pledge. You may have loudly objected to the addition of those two words added to the Pledge of Allegiance during the McCarthy era. Noble at the time, but you’re a believer now. Besides, why not prepare yourself for a visit to Ireland? They’ve just passed a bold new Anti-blasphemy Law. It would be rude and illegal to omit “under God” when saying the Pledge in the Emerald Isle.
Write down what you would like your City of Gold to look like. You’re going to get one when you die (Revelation 21:18), so sit down and design your city intelligently. Gold is currently near an all-time high, so guess who just picked a great time to be a Christian?
Purchase a firearm. God loves you now, and you’ve taken an oath to “treat your body as a temple.” If someone is loitering near your temple, you better have the stopping power to keep it looking good. A .50 caliber Smith & Wesson will clear out anyone’s temple. Though Christianity is a religion of peace, there’s a nugget of wisdom in the phrase: “Kill ‘em all, and let God sort ‘em out.”
Try a night of gay sex. If you end up liking it, you will meet more people to share your faith with. If you end up disliking it, then your repentance and faith will just get stronger. Either way, God wins.
(Note: Though it’s our responsibility to vote against same-sex marriage, same sex-one-night-hookups are not specifically forbidden by name in the Book of Leviticus.)
It is my hope that these steps to religiosity can help spark a return to the peacefulness of the Middle Ages. I am currently compiling some tips for nonbelievers with a background in Islam, so that they, too, can enjoy the massive benefits of a religious society. So, my fellow former-faithless friends… I am glad that we can all be a part of this new “beginning of faith” together, and I look forward to seeing you all at the Sunday meetups. I’ll be the guy in the Smart Car.
Troy Conrad is a comic, writer, and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. He is the creator of The Comedy Jesus Show, which toured internationally, and has just received distribution on DVD. He is featured in the upcoming Paul Provenza book “Satiristas” with Janeane Garafalo, Stephen Colbert, and George Carlin. To see videos from The Comedy Jesus Show, go to www.atheistcomedy.com or subscribe to “comedyjesus” on Youtube.
Ah, just hearing Sarah Palin talk about good-old, small town values just warms the very cockles of my heart. I can see it now, a return to those idyllic days of small town idealization: the 1950s, when America was at its greatest. “Leave it to Beaver” ruled the airwaves, entering every middle-class home delivering the very fundamental values embodied by Mrs. Palin, her church, and the current Republican party. Nostalgic tears flood my cheeks—Ah yes, those were the days—and I most heartily look forward to reinstalling them.
Yes, the memories overwhelm me . . . . time spent watching those wise TV fathers instructing their raptly attentive wives fresh from doing their domestic chores dressed impeccably, high heels and tastefully coordinated jewelry, while happy children with perfect manners played harmoniously, then said their Christian prayers before meekly popping off to bed. The good old nuclear family.
Sure was dreamy baby, though it didn’t have an iota of similarity to any family I knew—families where fathers beat their children and mothers called them stupid morons. Disgruntled housewives and single women who’d gotten a taste for working during the war “let go” because the men needed the jobs more. The mommies on my block drug around unintended, unwanted children. Effective birth control wasn’t available and those who perhaps aborted, well, given the morality of the times, that would stay buried in the closet, so how would we know? Unless they died, of course. Even then, it’s amazing the secrets behind closed doors. Don’t know why they were so unhappy; after all, research back then showed that only 7% of Americans thought a single woman could ever be happy. Maybe they just didn’t know enough to know what was best for them.
And as for single moms? Why, I knew of one….but she was obviously immoral, so the entire community blackballed her, and everyone had someone they could gossip about. That’s always good for keeping cohesion in a small town. Yep, nothing like being the outcast, looked down on, unable to find work, having your child laughed at and called names to let everyone else know what they better not do. That went for divorce as well, rightfully scandalous among us average folk, a good cause for a lot of tongue wagging.
The home was a man’s undisputed castle, and his word ruled—we learned that from TV, from our teachers, from, well, from everywhere. Boy oh boy, my best friend’s dad knew that. Punishment meted out in the basement with PVC pipe against bare arms and legs, metal belt buckles across the butt till she couldn’t sit. One time, she got it so bad, she had to sleep on her stomach for a week. Of course I knew, but as far as I could figure, that’s what went on in every home. Even in “Father Knows Best” or “My Three Sons” or “Ozzie and Harriet.” Children were supposed to keep their mouths shut and show proper respect for grownups, and, well, basically, do everything they were told. Now how those parents got their kids to mind themt was the fuzzy part to us as w didn’t know any kid or parent that acted like those on TV. We couldn’t figure it out: were they just being mean like our parents were in private, or were we the only ones in America whose families didn’t look like theirs?
What with all the evidence—TV, Uncle Sam, our teachers and what they had to say about us….my best friend and I guessed we just had to be the sinful little boogers, the deviants, deserving of a good beating or some other torture. If I misbehaved, I got sent to my room without dinner—zip, nothing, even if I hadn’t gotten lunch either because some school bully had taken it. My own fault my parents said. And they never did explain what I’d done to not get dinner. I remember once going a whole week without. That time I collapsed, but no doctor visit; we couldn’t afford a doctor back then. They say we got what we deserved, and I guess we turned out the better for it.
Strict rules were all part of family values back then. And it was the Dad’s job to enforce them. Men had it tough, for sure. You had to give them slack, coming back from the war and all, starting life again. So what if husbands cheated? Good, dutiful wives put up with it. Come to think of it, they never showed any of that on The Family Hour….but hard to believe it was only going on in our small town; whatever, we kept our mouths shut when it came to the men; what could you expect from men? It was in their nature after all; everyone said so. And those women still trying to keep their places in the workforce certainly didn’t help a man’s morale; they were just giving ‘em a reason to wander.
Uppity women. Selfish. Got a taste for working and now couldn’t let go, do the right thing for the country. Their place was in the home having babies—whether they wanted to or not. Uncle Sam knew best; the government made it very clear women owed it to our future to give the jobs back to the men, stay home and raise children—White children that is. I understood that some of my moms acquaintances were doing their civic duty when they told my mom she should give up the job she got during the war . . . . even . . . even if my dad wasn’t bringing home enough money to pay all the bills. I agreed with what they said behind her back, that by working my mom was undermining my dad’s ego, ‘cause her actions were making him think he couldn’t do it by himself; she was making him look bad in front of his buddies and, and, and . . . . that’s why he was running around. Yup. It was my mom’s fault for, now what was the word they used. . . for. . . for . . .I know—emasculating him.
She was white and Uncle Sam had said we needed white babies; he hadn’t said anything about the minority women that’d been working before, through, and after the war cleaning up after the rest; of course they were supposed to continue working, and be thankful they got paid at all. They needed to prove they deserved the American Dream—just like we already had.
And we had that dream, almost all that dream: we got a government loan to buy a home on Dad’s GI bill; he got a new Cadillac every year he never paid for thanks to bank credit; he was a salesman with a fine diamond pinkie ring—and it didn’t even matter that he never sold anything! We had the look of prosperity; that’s what mattered. That’s all that mattered when it came to the money game. And best of all back in the 1950s, we had the Cold War.
Now that pulled us together. A strong common enemy sure brings out true blue American patriotism, do or die, no questioning authority, no sir. Why, just like the beginning of the war in Iraq. It was that same thrill of fear, terror, panic, lashing out, and squashing anyone who spoke out against our government all rolled into one—and it lasted for years and years longer than the crap war we got going on now. Just nothing beat it for getting people all gung-ho and rah, rah, rah for the principles of the USA. I definitely know why folks want to go back to those simpler, halcyon days of yore.
We lived in the bosom of great faith we did, positive that could survive a direct nuclear attack. At my school we faithfully practiced duck and cover under our desks while those of us that lived within 20 minutes walking distance were sent home, the alarm sirens blaring from every corner, to take refuge in our basements, our storage bins, or if we had the dough, newly installed bomb shelters. With fear and pride mingling in our devoted hearts, we banded together behind the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, and Senator Joseph McCarthy—that fierce fighter of Godless Communism and minority groups trying to undermine us from within.
With our government’s encouragement, we spied on our neighbors, anonymously reported anything that looked suspicious to the authorities, rooted when the Rosenbergs were put to death, and couldn’t wait for the next round of so-called traitors to be thrown in jail or lose their jobs [sorry you were framed Ethel, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and there’s nothing like catching bad guys to keep morale up]. We felt awe and empowerment as Cold War bands of thugs channeled our fears for us, demanding blind loyalty tests from government employees, kicking out any who disagreed with any policy of President Truman and then Eisenhower, ruining careers and lives with a snap of their fingers. With total impunity, knowing what this country needed, they ignored the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, planted forged documents, leaked fake information to the press, accused and declared people enemies of the state in private trials.
They fueled the public’s rage and fear, and with pit bull McCarthy at the helm, we got to not only watch, but be co-conspirators in one of the greatest dramatic plays in America. Even though McCarthy was muzzled, we weren’t done expressing our unleashed passion; we stuck to our duty and joined The John Birch Society. Yes, we were the best Americans, finally able to overcome any family troubles and, instead, turn our righteous anger and suspicions on Semites, Blacks and any other minority that wanted to invade WASP America. Boy, oh, boy, those were the days of strong, single-minded conservative values alright.
We surged in patriotism and fear thanks to the Cold War and, naturally, we surged with Christianity to emotionally bond Americans together to save us from hellfire and Godless Communism as well. Making an official Pledge of Allegiance, still itself brand new out of 1942, overtly religious by adding “under God” in 1954 sure helped send a message to any deviants here. And then adding “In God We Trust” onto all our paper money, thanks to an act of Congress in 1955, we magically became that Christian church-going nation the family values people always thought right.
Again we turned to our trusty TVs for the right message, adding Televangelists to our favorite family programs, eagerly soaking up Oral Roberts of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches who offered fake, I mean faith healing of the blind and crippled in front of thousands and directly into our living rooms through the TV screen, and the nation sure was in need of that to keep us strong in the face of our enemies. God spoke directly to him. Imagine how thrilling that was for us watching this movie star preacher getting divine revelations at the same time he spoke to us. Of course we sent him our money—isn’t that the American way? Don’t we get rich through the grace of God just like anyone can grow up to be President? You won’t find me faulting him for his $100 shoes or $500 suits or the $9 million we sent to save his life. He and so many others have taught us the true American virtues of capitalism, which he simply followed.
And we just had to watch Billy Graham as well with his own fiery fundamentalist/evangelical rhetoric. He explained it in terms we could all understand: war with Russia being the millennial Biblical showdown, God’s test of our goodness and strength. Like the great prophet Moses appearing before us on the Universal stage, God compelled us to follow him….we embraced him especially.
Blessed by God and Eisenhower, backed by Standard Oil and the precursor of Haliburton, he, like McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover—his personal friend—focused our rage on the correct targets, the unions, the traitor liberals in government, and anyone who was anti-big business. Yes, he showed us whose side God was on There we stood, the proud towns, nay, the proud nation composed of small towns and our small town American values.
“Gimme them old time values,
“Gimme them old time values,
“Gimme them old time values,
“They were good enough for my growing years, they’re good enough for me now
“They were good enough for my growing years, they’re good enough for me now
…..ah, actually, the more I think about it…. you know, they, they, you know, they look a lot like what we’ve had for the last eight years…..
By riki mathews: The Trickster