The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

Train Pain

May 21, 2006 | 29 Comments

The rumbling of the train, the screech of the brakes, the crackle of the loudspeaker — most of these obnoxious noises go unnoticed by the desensitized New Yawk subway riding public. But as reader Regina points out, some familiar sounds manage to make it through the din:

I was on the subway this morning and one of those bible quoting religious kooks started screaming about Jesus, the Book of Revelations and how god was coming. Of course they’re like Al Qaeda and hold everyone hostage in the train with their religious and homophobic rants (“god created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” to quote our original-thinking friend). These people show absolute disrespect for people’s beliefs and non-beliefs (such as ours). Can you imagine if we started spouting anti-god rhetoric on the train? We’d be killed or arrested. But because these nuts talk about god, it’s okay. As I got off the train, I yelled “shut up asshole,” which thankfully stopped him for 30 seconds before he continued. I’m sure he’s praying for me. Ugh. If there’s anyone’s prayers I DON’T want, it’s his.

What do you think of Regina’s approach? Would you have acted differently (if at all), and if so, what would you have done? Do you think people would react differently to atheist proselytizing?

Comments

29 Responses to “Train Pain”

  1. r_m
    May 21st, 2006 @ 6:35 pm

    Act differently? As the last group that is socially acceptable to be openly predjudiced against, there isn’t much we can do in those circumstances. What we can do is frame our position for those who do not understand it, challenge religious people to think for themselves, and aviod compromising our principles.

    –Aside–

    The Voodoo Anti-Atheism post was a powerful example of letting religious people hang themselves with their own ideology. Remind them over and over again that it is they who are confused.

  2. Larry
    May 21st, 2006 @ 8:45 pm

    It’s hard to work with a fundamentalist christian in the office. It seems regardless of the stance I take, I’m setting myself up for argument.

    OK Here’s a clue: Keep your God to yourself. I really don’t want to have to destroy the logic of your god in front of people.

    Believe what you want, I simply do not care. Please refrain from asking me to believe something so ridiculous.

    This “fundamentalist” I work with came to work the other day exlaiming how he had prayed for me, and he even sent me an email telling me that he prayed for me.

    My worldly response: Pray for yourself, you need it. I’m sorry, I do not recognize the words “sin”, “blasphemy”, or “heretic”. These words imply not fitting in, or disagreement with an often overly repeated diety that killed his son to get attention.

    The religous right is dangerous, and I must admit, I have NO tolerance for these “flying up in the air” fundamentalist.

    Me

  3. Larry
    May 21st, 2006 @ 8:59 pm

    I must continue…

    The person I work with is probably the most hypocritcal and bigotted asshole I’ve ever met.

    Excuse me, but when you tell me that you believe that animals evolved, but humans did not (because of Jez-ay-us), I have to wonder if you procured your brain from a garage sale.

    Let’s be reasonable. Evolution either occurred or did not occur. Birds ARE dinasours. Dinasours DiD exist. Dinosaurs existed millions of years ago. Your (false) god, had no idea of dinosaurs, and therefore never mentioned them, because he’s simply a goatherders myth.

    Jesus = A fallacy. A contrived being with supernatural non-power. A myth.

    It should not bother me, but at age 43, I feel the need to stop others from sacrificing their ideals to an unworthy cause. Obviously, there’s frustration involved.

  4. Snap Crafter
    May 21st, 2006 @ 9:17 pm

    Wait… Birds are Dinosaurs?

  5. Lily
    May 21st, 2006 @ 9:56 pm

    Can you imagine if we started spouting anti-god rhetoric on the train? We’d be killed or arrested. But because these nuts talk about god, it’s okay.

    Actually, it is not ok. There are certain socially acceptable ways to behave in public, especially when one is in a venue with a captive audience, and this isn’t one of them.

    I don’t know what one can do about them. When I lived in Massachusetts, we had fairly reliable conductors on the train line I took and such types were put off the train at the next stop, if they didn’t dummy up, so to speak. The problem is that often these types of people are not just enthusiastic but dangerous. You certainly don’t want to confront someone who may not be sane.

    I think you are stuck with acquiring a walkman or other apparatus for tuning out noise.

  6. Russell
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 12:51 am

    Lily,
    Have you ever tried having a conversation with the billboard guy that hands out all those lovely little comics? Older man, about 55, lazy eye? He is normally outside his red van? All bearing a varient of the message “Accept Jesus or Burn in Hell”? He’s been there longer then the Pro-pot puppeteer(Great guy, never does any puppetry though…)

    Anywho, those that politly ask him to stop yelling that were all heathens during a nice little outdoor concert, or even handing back a panthlet, and he goes balistic. If you ever explain to him “why” you don’t believe, he goes ballistic.

    And there are those that support him. I’ve had cops ask my friends to stop arguing with him, and actually thank the guy.

    We also have very loud “Jews for Jesus” people…

    To sum it up, I find that atheists always get the short end of the stick if we decide to market our belief.

  7. Russell
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 12:55 am

    Lily,
    Have you ever tried having a conversation with the billboard guy that hands out all those lovely little comics? Older man, about 55, lazy eye? He is normally outside his red van? All bearing a varient of the message “Accept Jesus or Burn in Hell”? He’s been there longer then the Pro-pot puppeteer(Great guy, never does any puppetry though…)

    Anywho, those that politly ask him to stop yelling that were all heathens during a nice little outdoor concert, or even handing back a panthlet, and he goes balistic. If you ever explain to him “why” you don’t believe, he goes ballistic.

    And there are those that support him. I’ve had cops ask my friends to stop arguing with him, and actually thank the guy.

    We also have very loud “Jews for Jesus” people…

    To sum it up, I find that atheists always get the short end of the stick if we decide to market our belief.

  8. Russell
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 1:17 am

    Lily,
    Have you ever tried having a conversation with the billboard guy that hands out all those lovely little comics? Older man, about 55, lazy eye? He is normally outside his red van? All bearing a varient of the message “Accept Jesus or Burn in Hell”? He’s been there longer then the Pro-pot puppeteer(Great guy, never does any puppetry though…)

    Anywho, those that politly ask him to stop yelling that were all heathens during a nice little outdoor concert, or even handing back a panthlet, and he goes balistic. If you ever explain to him “why” you don’t believe, he goes ballistic.

    And there are those that support him. I’ve had cops ask my friends to stop arguing with him, and actually thank the guy.

    We also have very loud “Jews for Jesus” people…

    To sum it up, I find that atheists always get the short end of the stick if we decide to market our belief.

  9. Solidus
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 3:27 am

    I would have engaged the bible quoting man, asking him questions about the really hard (impossible) to answer theological and philosophical questions about contradictions between free-will and omniscience and the like, at the very least it would have stopped him from proselytizing the entire train, and in the process I would be putting good cases against the idea of god within reach of the bystanders on the train. I doubt I would be arrested or killed. If you have a few bible verses memorized that refute the universality of free will (like god’s hardening of pharos heart) this helps too, the hebrews 11 “faith is evidence for things unseen” is always good to spout off, because it essentially reduces ‘faith’ to nothing, as there is no evidence for things unseen, then faith is nothing.

  10. a different tim
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 4:39 am

    Snap said “Wait… Birds are Dinosaurs?”.

    Yup. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2036458.stm

    Aves (birds) are almost certainly descended from one of the raptors (the infamous velociraptor and its relatives). These dinosuars displayed many avian characteristics, including feathers and hollow bones, which they presumably evolved for lightness and insulation before they were coopted for flight in the aves. There are good intermediates such as microraptor. The aves seem to have diverged quite early in the raptor lineage. The raptors’ close relatives, the tyrannosaurids (yes, including T Rex), may have been feathered as well.

    Organisms are nowadays classified cladistically, that is, by descent. A clade must be monophyletic – that is, descend from one branch point. By this definition birds are dinosaurs. You have to be a bit careful though – teleost (bony) fish, for example, are not monophyletic because tetrapods (and by inplication all land vertebrates) are descended from one branch of the teleosts. This has the obvious but interesting consequence that we are more closely related to some fish that they are to each other! So even though bony fish are very similar in form, they are not a clade unless you want to classify all land vertebrates as fish.

  11. benjamin
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 8:49 am

    Yep, I’d act differently. I’d laugh at the annoying godidiot to his face.

  12. hermesten
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 10:09 am

    You’re deluding yourself if you believe people like this can be “reasoned” with. Confrontation is pointless, and could even be dangerous, because if you react and something happens it will probably be you that is held accountable under the law. I hate to agree with Lily, but if you don’t want to hear it, either get an mp3 player (they even have headphones these days that are designed to filter out ambient noise), or some ear plugs.

    Personally, I find these people rather entertaining, and even somewhat sympathetic. They at least are trying to tell you what they believe is true, no matter how riduculous that attempt may make them appear to everyone else. I prefer nutters like this, who seem to operate on principles of one kind or another, no matter how misguided, to an amoral sleezy lying sack of s-hit like the monkey we have as president. These people are just talking, they’re not robbing and killing people like the Chimp. Living in a “free” country doesn’t mean never being inconvienced by, or confronted with, an opposing or repugnant point of view. Besides, one guy like this does more damage to Christianity than one-hundred atheists could ever do. And the ones to be worried about are the ones hiding out in the Republican party and keeping their extremism out of the public square, not the misguided but sincere people you see on the street making Christians look like nuts.

    In any case, I prefer a good street preacher to the ubiquitous blaring television at the doctor’s office, repair shop, or whatever, where I am forced to pop in the earplugs in order to read a book, or just to think.

  13. Thorngod
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 1:03 pm

    Raving theists should be enjoyed, not enjoined. They should also be pitied. And if I were to see and hear an atheist raging in public in the manner of some Jesus freaks I’ve encountered, I’d feel equal pity for the atheist.

  14. Solidus
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 1:17 pm

    “You’re deluding yourself if you believe people like this can be “reasoned” with. Confrontation is pointless”

    I would argue that in the case of the crowded train, confrontation is not pointless. While the person I am engaged in debate with may be unwavering, all the captive audience is able to see the absurdity of their beliefs and their constant falling back on biblical scripture where I have multiple peer reviewed and respectable historical and contemporary sources. I would go on to say that this debate is good not only for developing my own skills of logical thinking, but for the audience in developing their free thought. I have even got some Christians thinking about the nature of their beliefs. If the shit hits the fan and I do get in trouble I could play it up that I was some kind of martyr for free thought, rationalism, and atheism I suppose.

  15. Lily
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 1:28 pm

    Oh dear, Solid. Martyr complex? Nobody trapped on the train wants you to butt in, I assure you. What we (I include myself as a former train rider with a daily 4 hour commute) want is peace and quiet.

    We don’t need you to prove the absurdity of the ranter’s arguments, either. The atheists are already on your side, those theists who are solidly grounded in theology will scorn your “arguments”, and those who agree with the ranter won’t be persuaded either and will likely chime in to support him. All you will do is increase the noise level.

    At which point, if the ranter is a psychotic nutcase and shoots you, I will regret the loss of life but be glad for the diminution of noise.

  16. George Petlowany
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 1:52 pm

    In such situations as Regina’s, mightn’t it be advantageous to eschew the futility of rational engagement-much less provocative shouting- for the disarming properties of levity.

    I suggest animal noises. I prefer sheep noises, personally, if only for their symbolic value to belligerant believers.

    In addition to interrupting a stand-up prophet’s oratory, it will usually guarantee you a seat by yourself.

  17. jahrta
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 2:02 pm

    four hour commute? I would assume you mean two hours each way? Ever thought of moving closer to your job?

  18. hermesten
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 2:23 pm

    I hate to say this twice in one thread, but Lily’s right on this one. You won’t look like a champion of “free thought”; you’ll just look like a jerk. No one is going to think about the nature of their beliefs because of what you say –they’ll just be thinking how there are now two idiots disturbing the peace. Granted, the incident we’re talking about happened in New York, and maybe people there find atheists a more sympathetic bunch than anywhere I’ve ever lived, but I doubt it. The “captive audience” will absolutely not be receptive to your message, and in fact, will probably leave the train thinking to themselves how atheists are just as crazy as the Christian fundies. How does that old saying go? “Never argue with an idiot, it’s hard for spectators to tell the difference”?

  19. Lily
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 2:30 pm

    Hah! In the city I lived in, moving closer to your job meant needing $1600-$1800 for a studio apartment in town or $1100-$1400 for a dumpy 2 bdr. apt. 30-40 min. away. Forget home ownership. It wasn’t possible.

    No, I moved to a different state entirely where I could buy a house within 10 minutes of my job and have a mortgage that was less than half what I was paying for my condo 2 hours away.

    And yes, it was 2 hours each way which wasn’t entirely bad. I usually dozed in the a.m. but you can get a lot of reading done in 2 hours on the way home.

    Actually, it was entirely bad.

  20. jahrta
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 3:49 pm

    I could never read on the commuter rail or bus – always made me queasy. I only got carsick once when someone ELSE decided to read a book – that was the time some idgit whipped out a Ray Comfort crapfest

  21. Solidus
    May 22nd, 2006 @ 4:46 pm

    Sure the atheists would be on my side, the theists grounded in their faith wouldn’t budge and both may be annoyed (although I PERSONALLY would be interested in hearing the conversation), but what about weak agnostics? what about weak theists? The curious and the indecisive, there are always a few in a crowd, and they are the ones with the ability to be convinced, I think philosophical discourse on display is good for everyone, but especially for those with weak or ambiguous beliefs, they need to view it more than anyone. If they are truly curious, but for some reason havent’t explored the arguments, whether busy or lazy, then they will listen with intent, I have observed this, and made some disbelievers and atheists in the process. I have never made a theist!

  22. bernarda
    May 23rd, 2006 @ 3:29 am

    What is more annoying is the religious fanatic preachers and commentators on television and radio who do far more than rant about their mythology. They broadcast hatred towards atheists and apostates. This could and probably does lead to agression against non-believers.

    If a preacher or commentator accuses a scientist defending the theory of evolution of being satan’s representative and condemns him to hell, that might be encouragement to someone to facilitate the process.

    I am against the idea of “hate laws” because I can’t see how one can justify punishing people for their thoughts. We don’t need a thought police. But it is interesting to note that though the “hate laws” are supposedly there to “protect” various minorities, there doesn’t seem to be any “hate law” against those who slander, defame, and encourage agression against atheists.

    If anyone knows of such a law “protecting” atheists from such attacks, I would be interested in hearing about it.

    There must also be such teaching within the traditional church buildings. I have even been threatened by people like jehovah’s witnesses or mormons who come to MY door to convert me. Occasionally my vigorous attacks on their superstition and suggestions about their personal sex habits with their prosyletizing partners evoke heated responses.

    Sometimes, one member of the team has to be restrained by the others. So it is possible to get to them in one way at least. It is possible to crack their blissful armor. Arguments about the bible and logic don’t work, but attacking their psychic structure can.

  23. RJ Evans
    May 23rd, 2006 @ 7:15 am

    I’m openly Atheist and I live in the belt buckle of the Bible Belt. Oklahoma. I have never encountered a sermon spewing zealot that didn’t shut up after I tell them I am an Atheist. They shut their pie hole and wait for me to leave the area. If someone is stupid enough to challenge me, I will point out the error of their ways- louder and more obnoxious than they can possibly deal with. So far, no one has challenged me.

    Why hide folks? What happened to personal responsibility, backbone and guts? Tell’em like it is. Plain and simple! “Damn the torpedos!” I say.

    Life’s to short to wallow in fear!

    RJ Evans
    The “American Heathen™”
    ShockNetRadio.com & FreethoughtRadio.com

  24. Solidus
    May 23rd, 2006 @ 8:07 am

    I live in oklahoma too

  25. hermesten
    May 24th, 2006 @ 9:16 am

    “I live in oklahoma too”

    You have my deepest sympathy.

  26. Solidus
    May 24th, 2006 @ 7:01 pm

    Yeah it sucks pretty hardcore!

  27. hermesten
    May 25th, 2006 @ 8:37 am

    I used to live there –or I should say, I got transferred there by my employer. The experience was a large part of what changed me from sort of a Unitarian/Deist to an atheist.

  28. Thorngod
    May 25th, 2006 @ 1:12 pm

    I was born in a foxhole — in West Virginia.

  29. Reed
    May 30th, 2006 @ 1:33 am

    It’s ‘Adam and Steven’, not ‘Adam and Steve’!

    — said by some gay comedian

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