Well, I saw the inevitable. I was about to become a heathen. A "them." An unsaved, hell-going, apostate, infidel non-Christian. I was curious what was to unfold next.
As a Christian we had spent long hours discussing heathens. Since we were to be in the world, but not a part of it, it was extremely important to understand the distinction. We talked about heathens in movies, heathens on Television, heathens in music, here-a-heathen, there-a-heathen, everywhere-a-heathen. We heard testimonies of former heathens. Gossiped of back sliding Christians becoming heathens.
Oh, we knew heathens all right. And I was about to transform into one. I did what any self-respecting heathen-in-the-making would do.
I bought a gun.
See, we were certain that God established an absolute morality. Why, without a God, what was to keep a person from robbing a bank? Nothing, of course! How many times had we craftily caught the heathen by demonstrating that there was nothing to prevent them from doing what they want whenever they want, and the oft-used example was that nothing would keep them from armed robbery.
I reasoned that I would be assured the instant I had graduated to a full-blown heathen, when I woke up and had the desire to do a little “extra” withdrawal from the bank, and my complete lack of morality would dive in to the escapade. And I needed to be ready. Thus the gun.
True, it was with a mixture of reluctance (I did not look forward to my prison boyfriend, “Monster”) and some trepidation (one doesn’t go on a five-state robbery spree without a little anxiety!) But…when my morality slipped away, I thought those feelings would pass.
But then day after day, I woke up and no robbery compulsion overcame me. I was pretty certain there was no God. Yet I still had this frustrating morality clinging to me. What was I doing wrong?
Maybe I needed to start off small. Perhaps one works into this heathen thing. I stopped at a convenience store with the intent to swipe some cigarettes. (I don’t smoke, so I figured this was a “two-fer.”) And as I looked and looked at that pack…nothing. No desire at all. In fact, every time I thought about taking them, all that morality actually made we want to do the exact opposite—NOT steal them. Damn!
Dejected, I left the store with no crime committed. Not heathen enough yet, I guessed.
I tried mugging a lady. Ended up helping her. Went to punch a kid. Played with him instead. In fact, the more I tried to engage into this moral-less existence, the worse I was at it. Finally, I gave up and just lived my life.
It’s been more than two years. Oh, I keep my gun cleaned and well-oiled in the off chance that my full heathenness kicks in, but it seems less and less likely each day.
Well, I was also told I would be miserable. We heard of all these grumpy atheists who barely enjoyed life without Jesus. Some of the most fascinating testimonies were of the Pimp Lords who had drugs, cash, cars and women galore, yet assured us that they were miserable in this life because they did not have Jesus.
My Christianity was an integral part of me. Losing it was similar to the grieving process. Now this was more like it! I really WAS miserable. My family abandoned me. My friends left. My wife was seriously considering divorce.
Yet as time passed, I became less and less miserable. My wife and I worked on our situation rather than running from it. My true friends slowly started to come back. My family…well, they stayed away. I found I was getting happier and happier again. Back to my old self.
No, no, no, no, no, no, NO! To be a true heathen I have to be miserable! Here I was just as happy as before.
I tried memorizing miserable sayings, hoping I could use them:
“You dang kids get out of my yard!””Bah! Humbug.”
“What’s so great about it?”
“And I would have gotten away with it, too—if it hadn’t been for you kids and that dog!”
No use. I went back to be the life of the party. The person that seems perpetually happy-go-lucky. The guy with the smile. Reluctantly, I am not miserable.
Hmm. O.K. I was also completely convinced that heathens had no consideration for fellow humans and that the reason they avoided Christianity was that it required loving others. Maybe now I could hate everybody?
As you can imagine—I had little luck in this area either. Worse, I could no longer push up a prayer and figure that the Superman in the Sky could solve those people’s problems better than I ever could.
No, taking care of humanity became my sole problem. I committed more to charity than I ever did before. I can no longer pass people by; I must care for them ‘cause no one else will.
By now I am quite discouraged. I do not think I am getting this heathen thing right at all!
We were told that heathens were heathens because they hate going to church. They wanted to sleep in on Sunday Morning. (I lost on this, too. I attended church on Saturday night.)
In fact, I attempted to continue with church. But I informed them I was a heathen (at least I thought so) and I wanted to come to church.
“You are a WHAT? Well…uh…see…you are supposed to be over there, and not want to be over here. We talk about you being over there because you hate being over here and if you leave over there and join us over here, it causes many who are over here, but think nobody over there wants to be over here to be confused about who should be over there. We never plan on somebody from over there ever being over here, so we really don’t have anything over here for someone from over there.
“Look, can you just go over there, so those of us over here can rest easy that you want to be over there?”
I give up.
Now I just live—appreciating every bit of humanity of myself and those about me. It would seem I would not become the next “American’s Most Wanted” nor lounge about my house in a dirty bathrobe and yell at neighborhood children.
I love my life, but I can’t help think that somehow I got gypped when I became heathen. The package was nothing like the Christians promised me it would be.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)