Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Close Encounters with the (Un)Evolved
Max and I are originally from Long Island (I lived closer to Queens, he lived further out on the Island). Constant trips to NYC, very diverse schools, and an eclectic mix of people helped both of us from an early age be very tolerant of others, and, on the whole, were accepted in return. As anywhere, there were of course quite a few intolerant jerks, but, overall, it was pretty great in that regard (not so great about traffic…) When we went to college, we realized it isn’t like that everywhere. I worried about it a little bit when moving to Pennsylvania, but after a few years here, and over a year of the Darwin fish planted firmly on both of our cars, I just forgot about it.
So imagine my surprise when, a few weeks ago, Max and I were driving home from my parents. We were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, and we were just chatting about what we would do when we got home from our busy weekend (me: nap and read; him: Guitar Hero and practice tae kwon do). We were just sitting there, and we heard a few repetitive beeps. I looked out the window and saw a gray-bearded man in a large truck gesturing for us to roll down the window. So I did so, thinking that I knew what it was; one of our headlights was out, which we knew about but had scheduled an appointment to get it fixed the next day. So as I smiled uncertainly at this stranger, I was not prepared to hear what he would say.
“You know, evolution isn’t true. Have you read your Bible lately?” he shouted out, in a fairly jovial but firm tone. I looked at Max, looked back at him, waved, and rolled my window back up.
As I did so, he leaned further out his window and said. “He recanted on his deathbed. Google it!”
Luckily, just then the traffic moved and we merged right in front of him, giving him plenty of time to contemplate our Darwin fish in all its glory.
In a way, although it was certainly a strange encounter, the man was fairly polite. He didn’t rant at us or call us names. It actually seemed like he genuinely wanted to inform us of something we might not know about.
On the other hand, can you imagine what would happen if we, as either atheist, secular humanist, a non-religious person, or any such ilk, made a similar statement to a car with a Jesus fish on it? I wouldn’t be surprised if we were sued.
Our would-be teacher might be interested to know that Max and I, unlike many people on both sides, have read The Origin of Species. There is really nothing Darwin needed to recant. He didn’t, by the way. I think some people equate a lack of religious fervor to something like the Goth, or gangster, or whatever trend is currently popular amongst teenagers—which can sometimes be temporary, immature, rebellious, and superficial. It is just a phase that we, as young people, are going through. So although I appreciate the restraint this man showed, it did seem a bit patronizing, like we would “grow out of it.”
So, on the off chance this man is reading a blog written by the wife of an atheist, let me clarify something: The large majority of people my age that I know are either not religious, religious only for convenience, or atheists. Most of us have chosen this direction based on a lack of satisfaction for the “answers” religion provides. Perhaps as we age, we will change our minds; anything is possible. But we have made this decision rationally, not out of rebellion or pique or on a whim. And we are very happy, and we still have the potential to be good.