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Don't Worry, Be Happy
To be religious takes non-think, and there's an acceptance of that non-think as part of being religious by religious people -- even if they wouldn't admit to it, or they dress it up as "faith." Faith is agreed stupidity. Faith is willingness not to think too much -- or at all.

My cab driver in Philly tried to cheat me. Bad idea. It was Sunday morning. The cab company said it would be maybe $18-20 to the airport; it probably would have been much less because we didn't encounter a car on the road at 7:45 am, and got from Locust and 40th at Penn to the airport in under 15 minutes.

As we were arriving at the airport, I noticed the cab driver hadn't turned the meter on. Ugh. Ex-New Yorker here. That's fine if you want to make a deal with me for the price (if that's legal), but not if you don't ask me first...because it generally indicates that you're about to rook me, or try. When I told that to the guy, and indicated that I was an ex-New Yorker (ie, a raving bitch when taxi drivers try to scam me), he wavered a little, then told me the rate would be $26.10 -- the flat rate from the airport, whcih I'm sure accounts for heavy traffic at the end of the day, etc.

Nice try. Baaaaad idea. I told him so. "But, Miss, I am a Christian," he protested. Hah. He picked the wrong girl for that argument, and I told him so, explaining that I was an atheist, and most likely a lot more ethical than he was. I gave him $20, which was probably overly generous, come to think of it, and told him that I'm a big tipper and he screwed himself. (I generally tip cab drivers 20% -- so he conceivably could have made $26 if it had been a $20 cab ride). And then, when I was inside the airport, I called and reported him. A black eye for a black eye, you could call it, if you want to get biblical.

Most hilariously, NPR was playing in the cab -- some woman talking about her book on (religious) doubt, and how there's been a long tradition of it, and how being an atheist became evil during the communism fear years, as it was associated with being a communist. It was then they tacked "in God we trust" on the money, and "under God," into the pledge of allegiance -- both embarrassments for a nation that Consitutionally mandates separation of church and state. And by the way, Gregg told me Detroit's Father Coughlin, a notorious anti-semite, equated being Jewish with being atheist as much as he could.

Here's the political version of the cab driver's "But, Miss, I am a Christian." Yeah, all you fundies out there, turn off your brain and support whomever professes to be a believer. Here's a link from Andrew Sullivan -- to some WorldNut Daily guy advocating blind allegiance to the god guys in power. What a dunce. And what do you want to bet that George Bush's "faith," in some small or some larger measure, has a little more to do with the god squad getting him off the sauce and the Rove squad getting him elected than anything else.

"Don't you know that you are aiding the enemy when you speak against President Bush? I will bet you that of all the presidents since 1950, with the exception of President Ronald Reagan, President Bush is by far the best. We and hundreds of thousands of Americans stand by the president. Of course, he is not perfect, but he is a man of God. If you are a born-again Christian, you will support him and pray for him every day. We are called, no, commanded, to pray for our president," - an email to WorldNet Daily. Its title? "Born Again? Then Support The President."

Political pornographer Ann Coulter's a Christian, too, by the way. Or says she is. I'd bet she, like George Bush, is what I call "a convenient Christian," a category which doesn't exist among non-believers. Not believing takes intellectual thought and work, and a willingness to be unpopular (and unelectable) among all the religious zombies who can't bear being de facto told their belief is moronic by the very existence of those who don't drink the Kool-Aid.

And sure, there are religious people out there who do good, and I read about an increasing number of Christians who are speaking up about Christianity supposedly being about helping the poor, not fomenting hate of non-believers, and the rest of the ugliness practiced by so many of the fundies.

And as Daniel Dennett points out, there are people who believe in god, and then there are people who believe in belief in god. I'd venture a whole lot of people are the latter -- especially any believers who post here. To keep up in the fray here, you can't be a moron. I can't really imagine intelligent people I know believing, without evidence, in some big Imaginary Friend in the sky moving pieces of their lives around like it's chess.

I mean, come on, you not only think there's a god but that god gives a shit about whether you get run over or not while running across the street to get a latte?

Posted by aalkon at June 13, 2006 10:36 AM

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Comments

About the taxi fare...

He charged you the rate called for by the tariff. It's the
same rate whether coming from or going to the airport, and
it isn't a discretionary thing. See
http://www.phltaxi.net/pages/fare-info.htm where it mandates
a flat rate from center city to the airport of $25, plus
$1.50 if the pickup isn't in the central downtown area (in
the U of P / Drexel area the fee would apply).

Posted by: Ron at June 13, 2006 5:52 AM

The taxi company quoted me a price from where I was staying the night before. I told the driver the price the taxi company had quoted me and he didn't dispute that.

Moreover, when I called back to tell the company the guy had tried to charge me a flat fee, the supervisor was upset, apologized to me, and told me the cab driver was wrong to do that. They take your phone number as your pickup confirmation, so the supervisor knew my route. Also, the cab driver probably would have charged me more had I not warned him I was an ex-New Yorker and don't suffer being screwed over gladly.

Moreover, when I told him as we pulled into the airport that the meter was off, he didn't mention anything about flat fees, but said he'd make me a deal. Sounded fishy to me. You?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 13, 2006 6:03 AM

Ironically enough Amy, my aetheist freind, you were probably a lot more lenient with that guy than I as a Christian would have been if he'd tried to cheat me and pulled that shit (assuming he was trying to cheat you and it wasn't that tariff thing Ron mentioned). I'm loving and forgiving sure, but people like him make me look like an asshole.

Now if you'll pardon me, I've got a to go yell at this Andrew Sullivan guy.

Posted by: LXV at June 13, 2006 6:37 AM

Christian churches are notorious for trying to screw vendors. I deal with churches, synagogues, and mosques on a weekly basis. The synagogues and mosques always pay on time (usually American Express). I have never had a problem with them.

Christian churches are another story. IF I extend them credit, which I almost never do anymore, they shuffle you from one "volunteer" to another, trying to get payment. When you finally get hold of the person in charge, they either ask you to "donate" your service or explain that their budget just doesn't allow for that expenditure, and the person who ordered was not authorized to do so. I have learned this after 18 years in this business.

I have been trying to receive a payment now from Peace Memorial Church in Klamath Falls, Oregon now since they promised me the "check was in the mail" back on March 27th.

Posted by: eric at June 13, 2006 8:02 AM

They're already saved, why do they need to be nice? They've got a get out of jail free card, straight from Jesus himself.

Ethics are for the damned.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher at June 13, 2006 8:47 AM

Eric, what do you do for a linving, and what's the deal with AmEx?

Posted by: Crid at June 13, 2006 9:39 AM

Amy,

I KNOW I'll be disappointed by the following book. Because, as an atheist who often looks to understand how folk hold on to their faith without enormous compartmentalizing - (like ripping off cab passengers without turning a hair) I've read this sort of stuff oddles of times, and done the usual eye roll.

But I have to admit I'm intrigued by Francis "Genome" Collins' new book "The Language of God" (published next month). I saw this teaser extract from his preface:

"First, I should explain how a scientist who studies genetics came to be a believer in a God who is unlimited by time and space, and who takes personal interest in human beings. Some will assume that this must have come about by rigorous religious upbringing, deeply instilled by family and culture, and thus inescapable in later life. But that's not really my story."

I'll probably give it a whirl when it comes out, because he is manifestly not an idiot, though no doubt the jaunty promises will all dribble away in the usual fashion!

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 13, 2006 10:01 AM

We do demographic database work Crid. We work with all types of companies- credit, media, advertising, utilities, etc. Most of our new clients pay in advance or credit card, like American Express. (We have done work for AmEx a well.)

In this case Peace Memorial Presbytirian Church in Klamath Falls, Oregon called us a few days before Easter and needed to get out a mailing to the closest several thousand households for their Easter Worship service. They were in such a hurry the woman there (Mary) promised me they would put a check in the mail that day, and she seemed nice enough, and it was a small job of no real financial consequence, so I sent it out. Since then I have called about a half dozen times, and have been told every time that a check would be cut soon. Now Mary no longer answers the phone, as she recently "retired".

Posted by: Eric at June 13, 2006 10:03 AM

OOps- Presbyterian. I knew it didn't look correct.

Posted by: eric at June 13, 2006 10:22 AM

"separation of church and state" is not precisely the same as "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion". But I'm nitpicking. On the other hand God (or the concept of God) is not the same as religion regardless how everyone tries to pin God down to their specific beliefs. Man created religion. Why do you think they are all so f...ed up?

Posted by: Rodger at June 13, 2006 10:36 AM

I think the shrinks say delusions are only important if they infringe on one's ability to see and react with reality. That's not the same as immersing oneself in an overdose of brainwashing.

I quip that I don't worry about being crazy because I talk to myself - I'm well past that point and am one of those people who think in a simulation of audible speech instead of visualizing - I worry more about the quality of response.

BTW Have you ever rented "The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas" ? I figure the spoofs against pseudo-religion and politics are timeless classics.

Posted by: opit at June 13, 2006 11:00 AM

Since David Ehrenstein's not here:

Dear God, hope you got the letter, and
I pray you can make it better down here.
I don't mean a big reduction in the price of beer,
But all the people that you made in your image,
See them starving on their feet,
'cause they don't get enough to eat
From god, I cant believe in you.

Dear God, sorry to disturb you, but
I feel that I should be heard loud and clear.
We all need a big reduction in amount of tears,
And all the people that you made in your image,
See them fighting in the street,
'cause they cant make opinions meet,
About god,
I cant believe in you.

Did you make disease,
and the diamond blue?
Did you make mankind
after we made you?
And the devil too!

Dear God, dont know if you noticed, but
Your name is on a lot of quotes in this book.
Us crazy humans wrote it, you should take a look,
And all the people that you made in your image,
Still believing that junk is true.
Well I know it ain't and so do you,
Dear god,
I can't believe in,
I don't believe in,

I wont believe in heaven and hell.
No saints, no sinners, no devil as well.
No pearly gates, no thorny crown.
You're always letting us humans down.
The wars you bring, the babes you drown.
Those lost at sea and never found,
And its the same the whole world round.
The hurt I see helps to compound,
That father, son and holy ghost,
Is just somebody's unholy hoax,
And if you're up there you'll perceive,
That my hearts here upon my sleeve.
If there's one thing I don't believe in...
Its you, Dear God.

("Dear God" by Andy Partridge, from the XTC Long-Play audio recording, "Skylarking")

Posted by: Franko at June 13, 2006 11:04 AM

"Moreover, when I told him as we pulled into the airport that
the meter was off, he didn't mention anything about flat fees,
but said he'd make me a deal. Sounded fishy to me. You?"


Yes, sounds fishy to me, too. The meter being off for a
flat fee area ride would be SOP, but the bargaining wouldn't.

Posted by: Ron at June 13, 2006 11:16 AM

Rodger This is going to slay you. I quite agree. And so do people who try to read that tome which is cited as the only authority and inspiration necessary - hah - with an attitude of trying to get the baby out without all the bathwater.

Posted by: opit at June 13, 2006 11:43 AM

I'm an atheist. I have never felt a need to believe in a god. And I have felt all of the emotions you feel about people who are casual believers in a god.
But I think that it is important to respect what people believe. There are many intelligent people who believe in some form of a god. They're not all dummies who have just never thought it through.

Posted by: ak at June 21, 2006 7:14 PM

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