Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A dialog

Atheist: Hey man, how you doin'?

Theist: Not so well, actually. I've been feeling really tired, and my leg hurts all the time.

A: Actually I've been meaning to talk to you about that. I think I know why you're not feeling well.

T: Why?

A: Not to put too fine a point on it, but you have an 18 lb. iron ball chained to your ankle.

T: What? You're crazy!

A: No seriously. Look: I'm pretty sure that's an 18 lb. iron ball, and see, there's the chain and the shackle around your ankle.

T: Oh, that's just my religion. That can't be why I'm feeling bad.

A: I'm pretty sure that's the cause. It takes a lot of energy to drag an 18 lb iron ball around.

T: But my mom gave it to me!

A: Your mom? Not to diss your mom, but why would she chain an 18 lb. iron ball to your ankle?

T: She had one, my dad had one, my grandparents all had one; why shouldn't I have one too? And I told you, it's not an 18 lb. iron ball, it's my religion.

A: Well, you can have it if you want it, but like I said, that's what's making you tired all the time.

T: Speaking of which, where's your 18 lb. iron ba... I mean... religion?

A: I took it off when I was in Jr. High. It's actually pretty easy. Here let me show you: You just turn this doohicky here and...


A: Whoa! Sorry dude. I didn't mean anything.

T: But how do you get around without an 18 lb... um... without a religion?

A: I walk, same as you. Except I don't have to drag around an 18 lb. iron ball everywhere I go.

T: But if you don't have a... a religion, you could just take people's stuff and run away.

A: I suppose so, but I don't want to do that. Besides, I can't outrun everyone, iron balls or not. And you could do the same if you wanted to. It just takes a second to take it off.

T: But if I keep it on, I'll go to heaven; if I take it off, I'll go to hell!

A: You're kidding me, right? You might as well say that if you kiss Hank's ass, he'll give you a million dollars when you leave town, but if you don't, he'll kick the shit out of you.

T: Hank? Who's Hank?

A: Never mind. I'm just saying: Do you know anyone who's gone to either heaven or hell? I mean do you personally know?

T: Duh! I'm not stupid. Of course not. You go to heaven or hell after you die. Everyone knows that.

A: So how do you know?

T: Well it stands to reason, doesn't it? If I go around my whole life with an 18 lb.... er... religion, surely I deserve to go to heaven.

A: The world doesn't work that way, though. Flap your arms every day and you'll never end up on the Moon.

T: Well, if I'm right, I've traded an eternity in hell for an eternity in heaven. If I'm wrong, I've lost nothing.

A: Except that you have to carry around an 18 lb. iron ball your whole life.

T: But I like carrying around my... um... my religion.

A: You do? Just now you were just complaining about being tired and your leg hurting.

T: That's not because of my religion.

A: It isn't?

T: No. Pastor Hardwick explained it to me: We're tired all the time and our legs hurt because... [lyrical voice] Many years ago, the first man and the first woman broke God's law by eating a magical apple, and he punished them by making their legs hurt. It's only by wearing our 18 lb.... I mean, it's only by our religion that we can atone for that sin and run around in heaven after we die.

A: Um... you believe that?

T: Sure! Can you prove me wrong?

A: I need to prove that story wrong? Are you serious?

T: Of course.

A: Well, I guess you've got me there. It's impossible to prove wrong.

T: So it's true! Besides, Pastor Hardwick runs around like nobody's business, and he has an 18 lb. iron... I mean, he's the most religious guy there is.

A: I know. Have you checked out Hardwick's "iron" ball?

T: Yeah. It's very light.

A: It's papier-mâché. Painted black. He takes it off at night. Ever notice how he'll come up, put his hands on you, and then walk away quickly.

T: Yeah, so what?

A: Ever check your wallet afterwards?

T: No, why?

A: Ah, never mind. Look man, I have to go. Good luck with the whole religion thing.

A: Theists! Totally impervious to reason. [walks off]

T: Atheists! Totally impervious to reason. [walks off... thump, drag, thump, drag...]


  1. Does religion always have to be a ball and chain? Couldn't the burden of not having a religion, not fitting in with the religious, be a ball and chain as well?

  2. Does religion always have to be a ball and chain?

    Depends on whom you're trying to fool, or how successfully someone's trying to to fool you.

    If you want to look at it another way, what can the religious person do pretending he has wings that I cannot do knowing that I do not?

    Couldn't the burden of not having a religion, not fitting in with the religious, be a ball and chain as well?

    Not for me. I fit in well enough at a very superficial, social level. At a deeper level I don't "fit in" with very many people, not even other atheists, and that's fine with me. Even if I were a theist I suspect I would be an unpopular heretic.

  3. It also seems to me that "fitting in" is, while not the very worst reason, still a pretty bad reason for believing anything.


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