Editor’s note: Atheist convert A.F. Christian returns again to National Review Online this Friday with number nine of THE LOSER LETTERS, a Screwtape for our screwed-up time.
In the latest round over God, A.F. Christian explains the True Facts in the actual Sequence of her conversion to atheism — and no digressions or jokes this time, swear to Loser . . .
Dearest Fellow Brights among Brights,
Drum roll, all You leading Atheist Guys — this finally is it!! The moment Everybody’s been waiting for! Part Two of the true Facts in the actual chronological Sequence of what exactly turned this Former Christian to godlessness!
I’ve just got to share with You before starting today, this place is the craziest rehab I’ve ever seen. I mean, I knew I’d end up someplace serious after what happened that night two months ago. But here? If those whiners on Intervention could see this detox, they’d never touch anything stronger than Red Bull again!
As mentioned, for example, the Director here is a midget who wears a red cape. And even though I’ve talked to him like twenty times, I’ve never really seen his face, because he keeps the hood up. He’s the one who gave me Rosetta Stone German, You know. He said studying it would help me to understand atheism. And then for no reason at all today, one of those creepy attendants of his took away my whole language kit — no explanation, no apologies, no nothing! They said the Director ordered it, and that he’d explain why when he sees me next week. How totally stupidly random is that?
And just when I was making lists of all kinds of Scientifically significant German words to put into this Letter to You, too! Words like Rassenhygiene (racial hygiene) and Minderwertigkeiten (inferior) and Krankheitsanlagen (diseased traits), for instance. They’re from the history of Social Darwinism, You know — the Applied Evolutionism that was so influential in certain circles in Germany not too long ago. I have to admit, just reading auf Deutsch about what happened in Darwin’s name there got me a little freaked on Our behalf. Now I totally understand why none of us Brights ever mentions that history voluntarily! And to think about all those atheist attacks on Pius XII, for what he supposedly did during World War II! Holy chutzpah!
Now back to what I was explaining: As if the Director in here isn’t snarky enough, there are also the so-called attendants. Those guys — if they are guys; they’re so metro I can’t tell — freak me totally. They don’t go around in those bright colored scrubs like the orderlies do in some regular old rehab, but in some kind of weird shimmery gray robes. And they don’t wear those fake smiles all the time like orderlies and nurses do, either — you know, like the ones who come in chirping like, “Good morning A.F., I think you’ll be very happy with our crafts project today!” when the only thing I’d want out of that stupid crafts class is glue and lots of it if You know what I mean.
No, the attendants in here don’t act like anything like that. In fact, they don’t even have real facial expressions. They’re not happy. They’re not sad. They just look totally alert. They’re like that New Yorker cartoon of the tragedy mask and the comedy mask — You know, where they’re both wearing the same exact look, and the caption just says “Botox”? Well, that’s how these orderlies or nurses or whatever they are look, too. That must be some stash back of Botox in the Director’s office, don’t You think? If I weren’t so busy writing these Letters to improve our new atheism, I’d probably be wondering what else he has in there!
But now let’s get back to our real reason for Being here — Part Two of Your one and only atheist conversion story! And no more digressions or little jokes this time, swear to Loser.
It’s interesting, don’t You think, given all the attention we Brights devote to the question of what draws the suckers to theism, that so little has been said about the opposite — i.e., what might tempt people to atheism? Oh, of course a handful of the Dulls — mostly the very worst backstabbing enemy cranially supersized ones — have thought to address just this question of motive. I’m embarrassed to report, by the way, that their answers for why people turn to atheism don’t remotely line up with Yours. Not one of them seems to think that going godless has anything to do with succumbing to Reason and Logic, for example — not at all.
C. S. Lewis, for one, pulls the rug out from under Us like this: “If you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?” I can’t pretend to Statistical certainty here, and I hate to say the old Loserphile got anything right. But I’d have to say that based on what I’ve seen of most Brights I’ve known, he nailed that case shut.
Fulton Sheen — who incidentally gets under my Epidermis like no other flak for Rome, though he also is mercifully as it were Deceased — makes a different if also hateful point. He addresses what he calls the “anger” that colors so much Bright writing and thinking: “He who has fallen away from the spiritual order will hate it, because religion is the reminder of his guilt.” Can You believe that guy? As if humorlessness and a low boiling point have anything to do with being drawn to godlessness! I got so mad when I read that one, I threw his book right across the room!
Yet Lewis and Sheen, much as I hate to admit it, get closer to the Facts of my own personal conversion than any explanations offered by our own Side. In the end, it was all very simple; and the simplest part of all went like this.
You see, if everything You Guys and the rest of the Brights said is true; if we Humans really are just some tiny animate buttfungus on a somewhat larger rock of some kind, however Statistically improbable, just orbiting one of those billions and billions of stars that Forebear Carl Sagan liked to talk about; if there really is nothing behind us and nothing ahead, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing at all; if You Guys and the other atheists are right, and all the Loser’s poets, builders, painters, prophets, believers and apologists stretching back over three millennia are wrong; if no one else really is watching us, or caring about any of us at all; well then, in this whole random cosmic rave of matter and anti-matter, space and time, that just dwarfs every last thing any one of us will ever be or think or do — if that’s really what we’re talking about here, then one little procedure, one teeny-tiny exercise of a woman’s right to choose by one very insignificant Human Female like A.F. Christian, shouldn’t matter much to anyone, anywhere, ever at all.
Isn’t that right, Everybody? Isn’t it just right?
Because that is how it all came down. We were living in Portland with friends by then, leechosaurus ex-boyfriend Lobo and me. His Dad as mentioned earlier had finally kicked him out of the apartment in New York. Lobo managed to find a job at our nearest Starbucks, so he was actually working a little for once (though not much!). I was sort of working too — not for real money, Loser knows; just trying to get some of my fiction serialized online. But at least for the first few months there in Portland, things were more or less what You might call normal — or as close to that as the likes of us could get.
That’s when I found out I was pregnant. And that’s when Lobo, who is a hyper somewhat Endorphically challenged head case even at his absolute best which he rarely is anyway, really flipped out.
Now, inexplicably fond as I was of my hopeless ex-boyfriend — he wasn’t all bad, You know, only mostly — I knew inside he did have a point. Bringing up a baby with him, I thought more than once, would be like giving someone a pig for a father (I don’t mean that in the Peter Singer sense of course!).
But on the other hand, and even by that late date — months after I’d darkened any church doorstep, years after I’d really even talked to the Loser — there was still enough of the former Christian left in me to put up some fight about it. We’re supposed to be anti-violent, I told Lobo. We’re vegans, for Loser’s son’s sake. We don’t even kill the roaches in this place. And we’re supposed to go and do something as Unnatural and bloody and Biologically imperialist as that? I probably said a lot of other things, too, when I was trying to talk Lobo into keeping the baby; I’m trying not to think too much about that now.
But Lobo didn’t want to hear any of it. Instead he did what he always did when we fought and I won: stalked off to see his friend who ran the internet café, and who was always on top of the latest progressive stuff. And when Lobo finally came back that day, he had all Your books on atheism and a bunch of others that his friend had loaned them to him. He said they both thought I should read these books, because they’d prove to me once and for all would prove that getting a You-know-what was no big deal.
So every day for a while, we took turns reading all those books on the new atheism out loud to each other. And what with one crappy thing and another coming back to bite — I was throwing up like I was auditioning for the Ms. Bulimia contest, my sister e-mailed to say Mom was sick, our cable got shut off for nonpayment and Lobo said the lights would be next — I started to weaken; and finally I caved. I went to Planned Parenthood and just did the thing, and then went home as usual — home by then being defined as Lobo, Your books, some painkillers courtesy of PP, and lots of talk about how into all this new atheism we both were getting.
The trouble was that despite my new belief system in all Your ideas, things started happening in my head and just wouldn’t stop. First, I got this crazy but totally firm idea that the baby — as I could not stop thinking of it — would have been a girl. I’d see her if I closed my eyes — not looking like a tiny fetus and all, You know, but like a real little baby, all wrapped up in some little pink bunting and trying to curl her tiny fingers up on me. I started calling her H.D., Hypothetical Daughter, to myself. (You know H.D. already, I’ve mentioned her a couple times to You before.) And as time went on, I started to find myself talking to her more and more — and more.
I thought at the time that it was just some OCD kind of habit. Then Mom died unexpectedly a couple months later, and the whirring and clicking inside kicked into overdrive. I hadn’t seen her in a while, You see; she was not exactly approving of my current lifestyle. Somewhere deep in the Cerebral Cortex, I started thinking about them both together and couldn’t stop. The most random ideas would come up: like, if H.D. and Mom were both here today, I’d be seven months pregnant and Mom would be visiting to help me get ready and doing stuff like making dinner for me. Or, in five years when I’m thirty, Mom and I will be going to see H.D.’s first kindergarten assembly. Sometimes I’d tell Lobo about what was happening in my head, and he’d usually just hulk out on me. But that’s just exactly what was happening, whether he went tattling to his friend at the internet café about me or not.
The day I saw a doll on the street that was about the size of a Human infant and brought it home and wrapped it up and sat it on the couch, Lobo finally went ballistic. That’s when he went back to his friend and returned with those essays by fellow Brights that I talked about in the last Letter. There! Lobo said. That all proves it! Because if even bestiality is okay, and if there’s really no such thing as Human dignity, and if even infanticide is getting a re-tooling thanks to all Our new Atheism, then what you did about that blob of cells has just got to be all right too! And as I told You in the last Letter when we talked about the slippery slope, this time around, faced with all that incontrovertible Evidence that the slope really did exist, I was just about certain he was right — at least about that.
But even so, I couldn’t stop thinking. The day I set out a little tea party for Mom and H.D. to celebrate the doll’s one-month birthday, Lobo finally packed up his junk and just left. I still don’t know why. I even set a place for him at the table, like he even deserved it which of course the slacker dirtbag totally didn’t. I mean the quote birthday cake wasn’t even a real cake, just some stale old Little Debbie cookies which were all that was left in the place. And we didn’t even have real utensils that matched and weren’t plastic, so I had to set the table with our little coke cooking spoons. How lame is that for a one-month-old’s party, anyway? I tried to explain how unfair he was being to both of them, but Lobo wouldn’t listen. He just threw all his stuff into his duffel, grabbed whatever drugs he knew about that were lying around the place, called me a crazy b**** and a few other things, and off he went.
You know how some Humans morph into hypochondriacs and spend all their time online Google-searching diseases, convinced that they’re going to find some obscure truth about what’s Malfunctioning inside them? That’s how it was for me with Our new atheism, once Lobo left me alone with Mom and H.D. for good. All I did was read and take notes on Your books. Somewhere in there, I knew, I’d find the words to make me feel a little better. And the longer it went on, the more I understood that I really did have more invested in this new godlessness than anyone else did, and that I really am Your number one convert bar none. That’s why I started making those lists of all the Factual errors and Logical problems that I talked about in the first seven Letters, don’t You see? I thought that if I could just make this new godlessness of Ours airtight, Terminator bulletproof and invulnerable to any question that any believer anywhere ever might hurl at it, I’d be off the hook I was on once and for all.
I was still working it all two months ago, making my little notes and questions for You, when I looked at the calendar and realized that it was H.D.’s actual due date. So I celebrated the only way I knew how. First I went to my Facebook page and took down all the pictures of Lobo and me and replaced them with some pictures of the doll and changed my status to “single.” I had to take a pass about dinner; there was nothing left, not even any of those crappy Little Debbie cookies. Then I put the doll on my lap as usual, lined up every pill I could find in the place on the kitchen table and washed them all down with most of the last bottle of Grey Goose, and read some random old poem called “Mr. Flood’s Party” to H.D. over and over again till I finally couldn’t read any more.
And that’s really all I remember, until I woke up in this cuckoo-bird rehab place. There was some crack baby on the stretcher next to me, and the midget with the red cape was leaning over both of us not making a sound, and the weirdy attendants just took some kind of notes and stared with those crazy unblinking kind of eyes of theirs. Then they put me in a room somewhere with Rosetta German — and the rest of the story You already know.
Sorry if this Letter’s been kind of a Debbie Downer, Guys. But Everybody wanted to know the Real story of my turn to atheism, and now You do! You can’t say anything got left out this time, because it didn’t! Besides, I’m personally sure that things are looking up! You know that song, “Hey There Delilah,” that topped the music charts everywhere and won all these awards and how there’s the famous story that the girl it was written for actually dumped the now totally famous guy who wrote it for her? Can You imagine what an idiot she feels like now? Well that’s how Lobo’s going to feel some day, when he finds out about my Letters to all of You!
By the way, Everybody, the Director told me this morning that I’ve only got one more week in this place, so we’ll find out where they’re transferring me next Friday. So that means there’s only time for one more Letter to You about our divine godlessness. I’m going to make the most of it, Guys! True dat! You’ll be sooooo surprised and proud when You see!!!
Yours more gratefully 4-ever than You will ever know,