Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

My Neighbor Charlie Runs For President
July 5, 2007

     My neighbor, Charlie, the accountant, has thrown his hat in the ring. Actually, it’s a baseball cap for the Mets, but he never wears it backwards.
     Charlie is certain he has the right stuff to be President.
     “On September 11 I was walking around New York City, brushing the dust off myself. I led a small group of people into a storefront, so I was in charge,” Charlie told the local news reporter, Miss Emma Fitzfitz, an octogenerian with bad hearing.
     “Were you ever cruel to animals, sir?” Emma asked.
     “I certainly was. I yelled at my dog once for hiding one of my slippers.”
     “How does that qualify you?” I asked.
     “Well, terrifying my dog shows that I do what’s necessary, no matter what, doesn’t it?” Charlie said.
     Miss Emma nodded her head. I shook her awake.
     “Where do you stand on evolution, sir?” Miss Emma said.
     “I can pander to the religious right just as well as anyone.”
     “But where do you stand on evolution?” she repeated.
     “I think I’m quite evolved,” he said, breaking a little sweat.
     “Of course you are, sir” Miss Emma said. She said to me, “He’s quite wonderful, isn’t he?”
     “What’s your religion, Charlie?” I said.
     “I’m glad you asked that. It’s very important.” He fiddled with his cap. “What else do you want to know?”
     “I want to know what your religion is.”
     “Well, I’m a Morchrisjewian. But that’s not really important. I would never let all of my faith’s tenets dictate my actions in office.”
     “Just some of them, then, sir?” Miss Emma said.
     “How will you fight the war on terror?” I asked.
     Charlie brushed some dandruff off his plaid shirt. “Well, I’ll fight them in Iraqistan so they don’t come over here and marry my daughter.”
     “You don’t have a daughter,” I whispered to him.
     “Shhh,” he whispered back. “My people are going to rent one.”
     Miss Emma chimed in with, “Sir, should we attack Iranistan?”
     “Of course. We have to keep them from building nuclear power plants and getting all modern and then coming over here to marry my daughter.”
     “What about the illegal immigration problem, Charlie?”
     “That’s an easy one. Round them up, send them home, collect a fine, and make them come back in later.” He grinned and waved at the crowd. Well, at me and Miss Emma.
     “But, sir, the Congress just rejected that approach.”
     “Well, harumph, then I’d build a fence along the entire Canadian border. What did you think of my harumph? I’ve been practicing.”
     “Good harumph, Charlie. But it’s not Canadians crossing the border. It’s Mexicans.”
     “Well, we have to start somewhere. And I love Mexican food. Canadian food, too.”
     “Sir, would you pardon Scooter Libby?”
     “I’d pardon all my friends. What’s a President good for if he can’t pardon his friends? It’s the American way, right?”
     Miss Emma wrote that down, and announced that she had to toddle off to cover a flower club luncheon.
     “Well, I think that went okay, didn’t it?” Charlie said, watching Miss Emma toddle away.
     I nodded sagely. “You’ve got all the important things down, that’s for sure, Charlie. But what about money? It takes a lot of money.”
     “Oh, no problem. Remember? I work for Incredibly Huge Accounting Company. We have government contracts. There’s lots of money there for the taking.”
     I cocked my head and stared at him. “Republican, right?”
     “Of course,” he harumphed.


What Would The J-Man Do?
April 8, 2007

     Sunday morning, on my way home from not going to church, an activity which I observe religiously, I stopped at Arnie’s Sidewalk Café to partake of his generous Atheist Coffee Hour. As I munched on an Atheist Cinnamon Bun, shaped like an angel, the J-Man sat down at my table.
     “J-Man, how you doing?”
     He looked puzzled. “You recognize me?”
     “Sure. The white robe, the long hair, the silky beard, the healthy glow. And that little halo thingie up there.”
     “Damn. I thought I had that taken care of.”
     I shrugged. “Hard to get good help these days.”
     “I just came from church. Nobody recognized me. They looked at me like I was a freak.”
     “It’s the clothes, J. Robes are out. Tell you what, I’m almost finished here. Let’s go over to Wal-Mart and get you some jeans, a nice shirt. You want shoes or keep the sandals?”
     “Sandals are good.” He peered down at his toes.
     “Umm. How about underwear? You wearing any?”
     “That’s sort of personal, don’t you think?”
     “I’m cool with it.”
     He looked around nervously for a second. “Maybe we could skip Wal-Mart and go to, oh, I don’t know, maybe that store over there.”
     He pointed across the street at Joe and Annie’s Good Time General Store and Computer Repair.
     “Sure. I know Joe and Annie a long time.”
     “Good. Good. It’s just that the Old Man doesn’t really approve of Wal-Mart. They don’t treat people right.”
     “Amen,” I said.
     I bought him some nice Pakistani jeans and a white shirt with just a touch of red and yellow embroidery, and we went for a walk in the city park down the street.
     When we settled into a nice walking rhythm, I said, “So J-Man, what are you doing here? You didn’t come to try to convert me again, did you, because we had that talk when I was twelve.”
     “You were thirteen, and no that’s not why.”
     “Okay. What’s up then?”
     He fidgeted, picked up a rock and threw it in the lake. It skipped all the way to the other side and hit a duck. “Damn. You think he’s alright?”
     “You hit him in the butt. His dignity’s ruffled is all.”
     “Everything’s out of quack.” He smiled, then shrugged.
     “Good one.”
     “It’s all these people going around asking ‘What would the J-Man do?’”.
     “Yeah, that would get annoying.”
     He smacked his forehead. “It’s getting worse than all the praying. You don’t know how many times I’ve had to listen to the Old Man rant about that. ‘Why don’t they get off their asses and their knees and do something instead of whining to me? Tell me when I designed pathetic whining into them, tell me! Whine, whine, whine. Please fix Aunt Jean’s liver. Please kill the dictators. Please get rid of Bush. Please kill all the Muslims. Please help Anna Nicole’s baby. Please find money for heat. Please fix my car. What in Hell do they think I am?’ Yada yada yada. He goes on for years sometimes.”
     “Must be tough in the god business these days.”
     “You’ve no idea. Oy!” He shook his head. He looked at me curiously. “You’re an atheist. Why are you even listening to me?”
     “You’re an interesting guy. You tell some funny stories.”
     “I’m supposed to be your God.”
     “You hit a duck in the butt.”
     “Good point.”
     “Look, even if you did a miracle right here in front of me, I’d just shrug and tell you that David Blaine can probably do it better.”
     “You know, him and Copperfield have really messed up the miracle business. I saw Blaine levitate once, on the street, in front of people. He had me convinced.”
     “He has a god-given talent.”
     “I should mess up your karma for that one!” He laughed. It was good to see him laugh. When I was thirteen he had been so serious I was sure he was headed for a heart attack or a stroke.
     “So what about this WWJD stuff?” I said.
     “Well! I mean, it’s ridiculous isn’t it? First time I’m back I see a 747 roaring in over my head. I was terrified.”
     “Probably not a good idea to come back in an airport.”
     “Yeah. And trying to cross a city street for the first time? No oxen, no horses, no asses.”
     “You haven’t seen some of the girls, have you?”
     “Whole other story. I actually tried to chastise some of them for their immodesty. They laughed.”
     “They ask to see under your robe?”
     “The redhead did.” He paused. I think he blushed. “I was tempted. She was really very pretty.”
     I let him have his moment.
     “And TV. First time I saw TV I tried to find out how the little people got in the box. And where’d they come from? We didn’t make them. I told people it was sorcery, and they threw me out of the bar.”
     “Yankees, playoffs, right?”
     “Oh yeah. I learned not to mess with people’s Yankees.”
     We walked on in silence for a few minutes along the edge of the lake. Lots of people were out enjoying the sunshine, walking, jogging, playing with their dogs. Several of the women cast appraising glances our way. Well, his way.
     “J-Man, you should pick up one of these women, have a few drinks, go out on the town, relax.”
     “I know, I know. That’s what my therapist tells me. Loosen up, loosen up, she says. But this WWJD stuff…”
     “Well, what would you do?”
     “What difference does it make? They know what to do. They don’t need to be pinning it on me and the Old Man. They’ve got science and reason. Can’t any of these people think through a problem and come up with solutions? They have to whine to us about it? It’s pathetic.”
     I nodded.
     He said, “The world’s going to hell, they’re responsible, and they won’t do anything about it. Look at me. I come from a two thousand year old village barely out of the freaking Stone Age, and they want me to fix the world. They think that the stuff written by a bunch of post-Stone Age fanatics, neurotics, psychotics, poets and essayists is what ought to govern the world. These people are on drugs.”
     “And I thought I was alone in thinking that.”
     “Nah,” he said quickly. “But don’t tell anyone I said so.”
     “My lips are sealed.”
     “Do you think that duck is really okay?”
     “Sure. Trust me, they see worse every day.”
     “Yeah, I guess. Want to go to the Yankees game today? Double header. Drink some beer, flirt with the girls a little.”
     “How’re we gonna get tickets?” I said.
     “Dude, I’m the J-Man.” He flashed a couple of tickets seemingly out of nowhere. “I may not be David Blaine, but I’ve got some pull.”

Jerry and the Watchmaker
March 10, 2007

     One sunny day I was walking along the beach with my friend, Jerry. Jerry’s a nice guy, decent sort of fellow, and a pretty good thief. He makes a living. He’s also a profoundly devout follower of one of those one-god religions. I’m not allowed to say which one anymore, but it begins with a C. Jerry never misses a chance to convert me, but within a couple of weeks after he tries we can be friends again. This time it was the watch thing.
     Jerry stopped, bent down and picked up a watch from the sand. “Look at that!” he said. “Someone threw away a perfectly good watch.”
     “Maybe they just lost it,” I offered.
     “Well, you look at it. Maybe it’s engraved.” Jerry’s eyes weren’t so good, but they weren’t that bad.
     I looked it over and didn’t find anything. No name. It was an old piece, one with gears and hands. “Here,” I said, handing it back to him. “You get to keep it.”
     He put his hands in his pocket, refusing the watch. “Doesn’t it tell you anything?”
     “Yeah, it says it’s two-thirty.”
     “No, something bigger, something about the universe.”
     “Okay, it says it’s two-thirty here on Cape Cod.”
     “No, no.”
     I could see it coming. His eyes glazed a little and started to vibrate in their sockets. A little bit of drool started from the corner of his lip.
     “Don’t you see?” he said. “We find this precise little instrument on the beach, in this vast sea of sand, like the Earth in space. How did it get here?”
     “Someone dropped it. Or maybe they threw it away. Or maybe you came out here this morning and planted it so you could do a religious riff.”
     “I did not.”
     I believed him. Jerry was a packrat. He wouldn’t risk losing the watch by leaving it on the beach. He’d sell anything, but never throw stuff away. His wife nagged him constantly about cleaning out the garage. He’d tell her that one day eBay would make them rich.
     “Okay, Jerry, do the thing.”
     He knew it was pointless but he had to do it. Pushing his religion was like obsessive compulsive disease.
     “Someone had to design it, didn’t they? It didn’t just create itself out of iron ore and plastic.”
     “You’re absolutely right, Jerry.”
     “Same thing with the Earth, isn’t it? This great complex universe. Someone had to create it, design it, right, it didn’t just create itself. It’s too complicated.”
     “But wait a minute, Jer. Back to the ore and plastic. Didn’t some miners go down and get that ore? And some oil drillers get the oil for the plastic?”
     “Well, of course.”
     “And some more people had to smelt and refine the ore and do stuff to the oil?”
     “Yes, but-”
     “And then someone had to have the idea for the watch and someone had to draw up the design and the plans and someone else had to plan the manufacturing processes and someone else the distribution and sales end of things, right?”
     Jerry mumbled something.
     “So, I mean, Jer, really, it wasn’t just one guy. And who built all that mining and drilling equipment?”
     “God works in mysterious ways.”
     “What, building watches? Jerry, it’s a ten dollar watch. All it does is tell time, and not very well, either. Look,” I said, waving the watch at him, “It still says two-thirty.”
     “Yeah, well what if it were a Rolex?” he huffed.
     “We wouldn’t be having this conversation. You’d be running down to your fence.”
     “Never mind that. God could have done all those things to build the universe, all by himself. He’s big and smart and knows everything.”
     “How’d he get smart?”
     “Whaddya mean?”
     “He’s a lot more complex than this stupid watch.”
     “So who built god?”
     “Nobody built God. He just is.”
     “But you’re trying to tell me complex things have designers. Who designed god?”
     “Stop it. You’re being sacrilegious.”
     “Of course I am. But if the watch is so complex it needs to be designed, and god is more complex than the watch, right, then you have to have something to design god. And something to design the designer of god. You can’t claim complexity requires a designer and claim that god doesn’t require a designer.”
     Jerry kicked at some sand and started to walk away.
     “And Jer, what was there before god did all this?”
     “There was nothing.”
     “Just lonely old god making something out of nothing?” I called to him.
     “You cheat at golf. I know you do,” he shouted.
     “Do not.”
     “Do too.”
     “Do not.”
     After a while I couldn’t hear him anymore. I put the watch back on the sand. It started ticking. Good old American design.
     Hell, I don’t even play golf. Too many priests and ministers on the course cursing at the ball, which by the way is a technological marvel all by itself.