24 January 2009


        Joe*, an atheist friend, was remarkable in that he had memorized nearly the entire Bible. More than 25 years ago, he often appeared on a Pittsburgh radio program with Rey, another local atheist. The program’s host, a Christian, always prefaced his program by suggesting that people not call in to argue the Bible with Joe and Rey, because, he told them, that these two atheists knew the Bible better than most believers. Rey knew it well, but Joe could quote thousands of passages without referencing any notes.
        Callers didn’t listen to the host’s advice.
        Although some listeners asked thoughtful questions, many callers quoted chapter and verse from the Bible, but Joe could always politely respond with a Biblical passage that contradicted the caller’s quoted passage. In every instant, at least one "good Christian" would call to damn the atheists, tell them they were the cause of all evil in the world and condemn them to horrible and painful illnesses and everlasting flames. Joe was soft spoken and never got angry no matter what insults were thrown at him from religious callers.

I wonder why many old radios were designed to look like Gothic church arches.

        The host often asked the question. “What horrible thing happened in your lives that caused you to become atheists?” Some atheists can pinpoint such an event as a trigger to religious doubts, but most can not. Joe explained his change in thought by saying that he started out as a believer with no doubts, then he became a believer with doubts, then a nonbeliever with doubts, and finally a nonbeliever without doubts. It was a lengthy evolutionary process. 
        It is this way for many atheists who start out in religious homes. Some start to have doubts as young as 5, but most start doubting in their teens, although some in their 20’s. One woman reported it took her until she was 60 to finally decide she was an atheist.**
        Many people believe no one can be good or moral without God. But Joe and his wife were among the nicest, most honorable, and most caring people I ever met.
         Several years before I met Joe, he and his wife had been nearing retirement age. They had brought up several children of their own. Joe’s wife worked for a county agency that helped place abused children into foster homes. Over the years, she had been given the cases of many children who had been in homes with ruthlessly cruel parents. One child had been forced to eat out of a dog’s dish on the floor. One barely spoke for fear of being beaten. Some of these children were in homes with strict religious zealots who abused the children.
        I am not implying that this happens in many religious homes. I am saying that being religious is not a guarantee of being kind or moral or being a loving parent.
        Joe and his wife took in two girls who had been abused in Christian homes, first as foster parents. Later they adopted them. Atheists are routinely discriminated against by judges deciding child custody cases and adoption agencies are often reluctant to place children in atheist homes. But because Mrs. Joe worked for the county and she was known for being an affectionate and responsible parent, she and Joe were able to adopt the girls. 
        As you can imagine, it is not an easy task to work with children who have been abused. It takes a lot of love and patience to earn their trust. Joe and his wife nurtured the girls in a loving atheist home.
        Joe and his wife didn’t need to do this. They could have happily retired. Taking in the girls meant they had to continue working until the girls completed college when Joe and his wife would be years beyond their projected retirement ages, but they did it anyway.
        Joe the atheist ---one of the best people I ever knew.

* * * * *

*Unlike Joe the Plumber, Joe was my friend's real name. He was the proud father of several of his own children and his adopted daughters, a self-taught Biblical scholar, and an atheist. Sadly, he died several years ago. I miss his soft-spoken wisdom on the radio.

**These statistics are from a book summarized in another of my posts  HERE.

copyright 2009 by C.Woods

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...