So there I was, coming out of a cafe on the tail end of a quite enjoyable psychadelic experience, when I saw that my friend (seated at an outside table) had been cornered by a mildly grizzled older gentledude I’d later come to know as Punya.
Punya had an idea. It was a simple idea that had the potential to really take off and change the world. We were young geniuses, masters of technology; he just knew we could help.
I knew that this idea would either be awesome or hilarious, so I leaned forward as he explained his vision.
“So I know about several drum circles,” he began. It was going to be option B.
“Get fifty drum circles and link them up. Then, have drum circles going in fifty states. Soon, we can have drum circles in all 195 countries, feeding five billion people nutritious, vegetarian food. It’ll be just like Burning Man!”
Sure, dude, I thought to myself. Your drum circle buffet scheme sounds completely scalable.
As I sat there sniggering to myself, he started talking about how these drum circles will lead to world peace. “You can have different drum circles for all the religions, each one drumming side-by-side with no violence!”
To prove his point that we can, in fact all just get along, he asserted triumphantly, “I meditate every morning surrounded by all the names of god: Yahweh, Jah, Allah, you name it.”
My skeptic senses started tingling, and I had to put him on the spot. How far would his tolerance extend?
“That’s awesome,” I said. “I’m personally an atheist, but if that works for you, that’s really cool.”
The word atheist often catches people like dear Punya off guard. I’ve seen people visibly startle at the word, like I’m gonna bite them or something. The interfaith bullshit went right out the window, and he amped up the creepy condescension.
“Put on your sweater. You’re making me cold,” he said, alluding to my chesticles with a suddenly Scottish accent. “When you grow out of this phase, little sister…”
“Phase, eh? It’s certainly a long one!” I snorted.
“You’ll grow out of this phase of being an atheist when you realize that everything around you was made by a person. This chair. That cup!”
“So…a person made this planet?”
“A personal creator!”
Punya the Intermittent Scotsman’s embarassed man-friend then emerged from inside the cafe and tried to shoo him away from us, but I managed to troll him back a few more times before they departed.
“We’ll continue this conversation at the temple!” he threatened, before departing with the friend so embarassed for him that he wouldn’t even share his name with us.
I wish I could say his reaction surprised me, but if there’s one thing religions can all agree on, it’s that atheists are wrong and untrustworthy. We’re right up there with rapists on a scale of one to get the fuck away from my kids.
But the good news is that there is an alternative to interfaithery that embraces atheists. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s called secularism!