Thursday, February 28, 2008

Being an Atheist Is Hard!

I'm an atheist. My ex-husband is an atheist. Therefore, our son is an atheist. Seems reasonable enough, right? I mean, no one questions it when a Catholic mom and a Catholic dad have Catholic kids. But you should hear the shit I get from people when I say my son is an atheist.

"How can you say that? He's not old enough to make up his mind!"
"If you brainwash him like that and he dies, he'll go to hell."
"How will he learn morals if he thinks there isn't a God?"
"My kid believes in God, so tell your kid not to tell my kid he doesn't believe in God."

And so forth.

That's on top of the fact that at least three kids at school repeatedly tell my son he's going to hell because he doesn't believe in God. We're talking six-year-olds, people. So, apparently, it's perfectly fine to brainwash your kid until he turns into a tiny, Jerry Falwell-style, neo-conservative hater, but it's totally unacceptable to encourage your kid to think for himself. And can I just point out that it really should be obvious that "You're going to hell" is probably the most wildly ineffective argument possible when you're talking to an atheist?*

So, as the title of this post says, being an atheist is hard, and it's not just because we're going to hell. As an adult, I occasionally wish I could pass off various human atrocities and natural disasters as "God's will," and convince myself there was some good reason God wanted to kill a bunch of babies in a hurricane or whatever. Intellectual honesty and critical thinking take effort, and sometimes, aren't very comforting or fun, especially considering the current state of affairs in this country. But, in return, I get to have an open mind, an interest in science and keeping myself educated, and a deep appreciation for the genius that is Jon Stewart. Who should call me at his earliest convenience.

But the hardest part of all is teaching this style of thinking to a child. The day he watched Bambi and figured out that everyone is going to die, including mommy, I wanted to convert on the spot to any religion that would let me tell him that after we die, we all go somewhere great to eat unlimited macaroni and cheese while watching The Upside Down Show and making Lego robots together. But no. I had to spend several heartbreaking hours consoling a little boy who was learning to deal with the idea that one day, mommy will probably go away forever. That seriously sucked.

On the bright side, my son gets to learn that there are reasons for everything. The sky isn't blue because God made it that way or little fairies painted it when they were drunk. He knows that the sky is blue because, uh, something about refraction, I think, and . . . honey, let me introduce you to a great invention called Google.

And that's really the meat of the whole thing. Google has all the answers, so who needs God? Google will never smite you. Google is totally new testament.

*Explanation for those who don't see why this is obvious
Hello, Christians! See, atheists don't just not believe in deities. They also don't believe in all the stuff the deities supposedly (more of the not-believing, here) said in their various books, alleged (see?) appearances, visits with schizophrenics, and messages on trees or tortillas or toast. So, as an atheist, I don't believe in God, hell, the devil, angels, or lepers, and I'm kinda undecided on what I think went on with the whole Jesus thing. Just kidding about the lepers.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Meet Mish-Mish

This is Mish-Mish. She is a twelve-week-old Chausie kitten who is currently purging my home of invisible-to-the-human-eye terror threats.

It's been about sixteen years since I've had a kitten. My last kittens were Fear and Trembling, a sweet, adorable, if non-litterbox-oriented pair of "mutt" shorthairs I adopted upon pressure from a former coworker who didn't believe in neutering her cats. They weren't that smart, and they weren't that proud, but they loved me and I loved them. Fear died over the summer, and Trembling died early this month. That was the first day I ever lived without a cat family member.

Between the time I was about six until I got Tremor (a year before Fear and Trembling), my family favored purebred exotic cats, like Siamese, Burmese, and Tonkinese. After my family's long-lived, beloved Burmese, Killer, died, my dad expressed an interest in Abyssinians, which I had also always coveted. When Trembling died, I started looking into Abyssinian rescue organizations, thinking that "when I was ready," I might want to adopt an Abby or Abby mix. I found an Abyssinian and Chausie breeder and rescue service, who happened to have one female Chausie they desperately wanted to adopt out. I researched the breed, and when I discovered they're more affectionate and better with children than Chausies, I figured I'd better meet that kitten. I did, and it was very-much-like at first sight.

She came home with me (and about eighty dollars' worth of Chuao chocolates) on Valentine's Day. She hid under my bed for about eighteen hours, and then began reminding me of what it's like to have a kitten.

Fingers typing on a keyboard are a scourge that must be exterminated. Dust bunnies will not stand. Six-and-a-half year old little boys are a very interesting science project and/or transportation system. Toes? Another scourge. By the way, that snack you're eating? Drop it, or she'll pounce. In fact, pounce is her middle name. Oh -- and there was nothing in the available material on Chausies that mentioned they can jump ten feet vertically from standing.

It's been fun. And she's certainly worming her way into my heart. I miss my old lady kitties, but I can see my new longtime kitty companion in Mish-Mish.

Question: Why Won't They Give Me a Normal Amount of Food?

Answer: It's because they like me.

Where I work, we have an on-site cafeteria. The level of tastiness of the offerings is unpredictable, but having the option on site sure is convenient, since we don't have anything nearby that we can walk to. And there are some consistent items, like the salad bar and deli sandwiches, that one can eat in a pinch.

So, what you probably don't know about me is that I'm sickeningly nice almost all the time. In any given transaction, I probably say "please" and "thank you" about a dozen times. Once, when I called a friend at her family's house, her brother who answered the phone gave me crap about being too polite. "Fuck you!" I replied. Fictitiously.

Anyway, I am very polite to service workers, and when I see them on a regular basis, I try to find out their names and have just enough small talk to make the interactions friendly without slowing them down in their jobs. (Aside: This is different from my mother. Woe betide the supermarket cashier who asks her how she is.) In a nutshell, I treat the staff of the work cafeteria the way I would treat my coworker acquaintances, because . . . they are coworker acquaintances. Apparently, this attitude is unusual in my office.

As a result, the staff tend to like me and they sometimes do favors for me. Like, the cashier sometimes doesn't charge me the quarter for my daily giant cup of water. The chef tells me when he's going to make my favorite soup. The sandwich maker automatically puts dijon mustard on my veggie wrap. And the guy in charge of serving the "healthy choice" entrees piles ten times more food into my container than he puts in anyone else's.

I've tried to explain to him (politely!) that for me, more isn't better in this area. Especially since the healthy choice entrees I am likely to try are typically some form of pasta with veggies or tomato sauce. But he always just smiles and keeps putting more in, sometimes brushing me off with an "it's good for you." I've finally stopped begging him to stop after every giant spoonful, even though it's really horribly wasteful to have to get rid of three-quarters of the meal. (Why don't I share with someone or save the leftovers for the next day? It's never really that good.)

Today, I weighed my orecchiette with roma tomatoes, basil, fat-free mozzarella, and garlic (which still ended up pretty much tasteless) on the salad bar scale: 1.34 pounds. Of pasta, basically, since there was but one tomato in my container. So, more than a full standard package of pasta. That's what people want you to eat if you're nice.