Rationalism: It sings the song of freethought, of the logical mind and how the discordant notes of cultural religious proselytizing can turn the beautiful music of natural physical law into a cacophonous dissonance. As a Rationalist, one of my objectives is to create images and arguments justifying my Atheism. I attempt to do this by expounding upon viewpoints and experiences which substantiate the tenets upon which Rationalists and Atheists base their “belief” (or nonbelief) system. Here, then, a few thoughts about children who have helped me to see more clearly that the concept of God is what it has always been to me: a myth!
It is a few years after World War II. Although quite poor, we have had a television set in our apartment since 1946. My father was “cool” that way: not much food, but TV?–absolutely! New York’s Channel 13 is the PBS of its day. On this particular afternoon, confiscated films from Nazi Germany during the Holocaust years are being aired for the first time. I am there, watching as men and women are stripped naked and beaten to death. The Nazis had poured ink on these films, attempting to destroy them before the allies captured them. Even though I am numbed by what I see, I continue to watch. Here they are: the little innocents, led to the slaughter. Dressed in coats against the cold, led between the barbed wire gateways to their end, they bear their arms as ordered to show their ID numbers. Human calves marked for death. I wonder why my eyes are suddenly blurred and moist. The question rises from deep within me, finally emerging as a butterfly from its cocoon: “Where was God?”
I am on the street where I live. There is a little newsstand on the corner where I work after school. I can see across the street where two women sit, rocking their babies to sleep in their baby carriages. The husband of one is the butcher, in front of whose window his wife sits conversing with her friend. The boy on the bike is turning the corner. Also turning is a car whose driver is startled when the boy on the bike clips the sidewalk and wobbles a bit, just grazing the car door. A knee-jerk reaction from the driver causes the auto to speed up in a widening arc and sends it headlong, right into the plate glass frontage of the butcher’s store. The impact carries the two women through the glass, severing both their legs from their torsos, and hurling both baby carriages up and over the automobile, which has, by now, crashed to a halt halfway inside the butcher shop. The butcher–the father of one of the children in the carriages–rushes from his store, screaming. He lifts the bloody baby from the twisted carriage, and beats upon its dead form, his eyes aloft, roaring aloud what I can only echo from deep within me: “God?!”
His name was Danny. He was a “blue” baby. The RH factors in his parent’s blood were not compatible. He began to die when he was born. It took seven years. He lived those years unable to draw a full breath; his lips and fingertips were always blue. He remarked one day, in his seventh year that he would never grow up. He was very wise for seven. They took him to the hospital because his organs were failing. He blew up like a little balloon. I saw him sitting in his bed as the elevator doors closed. I didn’t wave; I knew I’d see him tomorrow. I got there too late. I never said goodbye. He was my nephew. In his memory, I composed the following:
And God dreamed that Evil awoke, and Evil caused the little children to suffer, and Evil caused the little children to die! Accidents crushed them. Parents abused them. They were abandoned to the elements. They were beaten and starved. Poverty decimated them. Pollution poisoned them. Disease and pestilence ravaged them. Animals and human beasts tore them asunder. Terrorism and ethnic genocide murdered and destroyed them. The compassionate were powerless, and could not stop the slaughter of the innocents. The rest of mankind did not care, and Death laughed in the face of God. And God awoke, and He wept because of the nightmare. And the weeping of God was a storm of tears that awakened me to a driving rain hammering at my window. It was late. The TV was on and tuned to the news. The newscaster spoke of a father who had murdered his infant daughter. I wept, not only for the loss of the child, but for the fact that God was not, and that the nightmare was real.
They line University Drive for miles, both sides. The little brainwashed minds, squeaky clean. We’re in South Florida, the Ft. Lauderdale area. The Christian Coalition and the Catholic Church have injected another dose of intolerant righteousness into the minds of their parishioners. Today the children will emulate their parents, and picket the practice of abortion in the name of Jesus Christ. They will stand, indoctrinated by their moms and dads, seeking their parent’s eyes, and a look or a nod of approval at how good they are at abrogating the rights of the individual. There is no Constitution in this parade; only the raw emotion of the mob that, in their passion for some misguided sense of promise-and-threat theological philosophy, are “doing God’s work!”
I pass a public school on the route of the lineup. Here, too, the picket signs wave in the hot afternoon sun: “Stop the killing; stop the murder!” Here, too–on public ground paid for by taxes from citizens representing all walks of life and social strata–Theists and Atheists alike are the children, slaves to the slaves of religion, innocents learning how to keep people apart by perpetuating something they really know nothing about.
I stop my car, and wander amongst the crowd at the school. They are not bothered by the fact that it is a public school; they would march into the mythical halls of Hell if it meant they would see Jesus. I can almost hear the strains of Wagner, and see the fabled Valhalla, with Odin greeting the Vikings!
An older man, carrying his “cross,” a sign which reads “Abortion is Murder,” and fingering his rosary while praying and sweating, bids me welcome. He asks if I would like to join the march. I tell him I’m a Rationalist, and that I’m not there to ridicule or argue, but in curiosity to ask why, other than for religious reasons, he would attempt to disallow a woman’s right to choose whether or no she brings another human being into the world. The man begins to answer, “Well, I’m a Catholic, and …”
He is young, the boy who breaks through the line, pushing past the old man. He carries his own “cross.” His face is contorted in anger, and almost livid in color: more purple than red. His eyes tell me how he has grown, from a toddler, cradled in his mother’s arms at church services through his early youth, standing by his father’s side in the pew.
He’s heard much about the biblical god, and the purity of the soul, and the danger of rational thought and free will, and sex, and impure thoughts and deeds, and the Promise and the Threat … yes, he’s learned well. It’s all reflected in his eyes, the innocence now clouded out by the poison … “It has nothing to do with religion!” he screams at me, his eyes blazing, his spit spewing forth with each word. “It’s God’s Will!” I leave this human zoo and return to my car, heavy in heart. Another “soul” saved; another mind gone.
They will grow, the children. They will continue to be proselytized and hypnotized. Some will become Billy Grahams. Others will become politicians; there might even be another George W. Bush or John Ashcroft among them. These are righteous men who will start their day with a prayer, and foster intolerance and divisiveness. They will be given power by those who were indoctrinated in their youth in like kind. There will be others, the Rationalists and the Atheists whose eyes were undimmed in their youth by rhetoric reserved for the Dark Ages; boys and girls whose parents allowed them the freedom of weighing the evidences; who understood the rare experience of existence, and knew that freethought bears no shackle upon the mind. They will not be ruthless, nor seek to hurt or divide their fellow humans. They will make their mark upon the world as children who grew to become adult role models for the good of all mankind.
Eventually, human beings will have to make a choice. The crowd lining University Drive may win its day in the short run, have its moment in the spotlight of history. But, their “righteousness” in trying to control human conception will only breed chaos in the long run, for who will feed and nurture a crowded planet teeming with life unabated, and no resources to sustain it?
If religion is good for anything, it is its ability to cause warfare from ethnic diversity, and so balance the population of a world devoted to bringing more proselytes into its midst to keep the madness. We, who do not practice the “dark arts,” see our world and our universe through the eyes of the innocent child who has not been corrupted; who has not, as yet, been carefully taught to hate.
I used to joke with mothers pushing their perambulators as to the reason why babies are so cute. “So we don’t eat them!” I used to say. Now, I silently remark at how lucky they are, if I don’t see a religious symbol around the necks of their parents. “They have a chance,” I think to myself, “a chance.”