Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Brutally Honest Rant - 03/07/07

Brutally Honest Audio Rant: Atheism and the Shoe Salesman
Audio Transcripts

[Start Program]

(Computer – Introduction)
(Music intro – “American Idiot Remix” – by Green Day and David Matthews 2)

Good evening and welcome to this week’s Brutally Honest Rant. I’m David Matthews 2, writer of the weekly online column Brutally Honest.

I want to talk about atheism tonight. I was brought up as a Roman Catholic. Had no choice in the matter, turns out that was part of the deal made between my parents, my grandparents, and the church. And trust me, the whole “turn the other cheek” thing didn’t help matters much when I was growing up. Cripes, just about every bully in the world knew that I was fair game when they realized that I wouldn’t be allowed to pound them into the ground.

Anyway, I went to a nice private Catholic college… run by monks no less… and I studied theology and sociology… because again that went with being a Catholic and that was part of the college rules. Isn’t it nice to know that all of these decisions were made on my behalf? So after all of that, I spent all these years since more or less establishing what *I* really believe in, and while I won’t go into great lengths to explain it to everyone, I will say that it’s a probably closer to Denis Leary’s Lapsed Catholic Church monologue than anything else. My beliefs are my own, and that’s something rather rare and unique, because a lot of folks usually just go along with whatever their church or mosque or temple tells them to believe.

But when it comes to atheism, I have never seen such a perverse HATRED of the subject from the ranks of the “faithful”! I mean seriously! We’re talking a hatred that usually is reserved for child molesters and genocidal maniacs. In fact I will go so far as to say that the so-called “faithful” would probably rather accept and work with a whole room full of child molesters and genocidal maniacs before they have to deal with one single atheist! That explains why Father O’Groper can molest the entire boy’s choir and get away with it… because the faithful would rather have a pedophile priest in their midst than accept the existence of a single atheist.

A few weeks ago CNN aired a little news segment hosted by Paula Zahn that talked about atheists and how some of them are being discriminated against. In one case, an atheist lost her job because it got out that she was an atheist. In another case, a family got evicted from their apartment after it got out that they were atheists. Nobody could directly say that it was because of it – because that would be outright illegal – but the mere coincidence is more than enough to rationally lead to that conclusion.

But what really disgusted me was the hatchet job done on the subject right after the news clip, because the host THEN pulled out three so-called “experts” to discuss the issue… two Christians and a Jew… and all three of them basically said that the atheists deserved all of the discrimination they got and then some. I mean we’re not just talking about shoddy journalism here, we’re talking about pretty much an ENDORSEMENT to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs… or in this case the lack thereof.

Fortunately I wasn’t the only one disgusted by this. CNN got inundated by emails about their hatchet job and their shoddy yellow journalism. So they had make up for it, first by interviewing Richard Dawkins, author of several atheist books, and then having a second discussion panel comprised of an atheist, a liberal, and a Christian. And here the Christian basically got ganged up upon by the atheist and the liberal.

But you know what? That still doesn’t make up for the yellow journalism in the first place. Paula Zahn didn’t even have the courtesy to show up for the second run-through, never mind apologize for the hatchet job done by the first panel. If anything it just added fuel to the fire of some of these hypocritical self-righteous crusaders, first by advocating discrimination, and then by confirming their fears that atheists are a “threat” to their fragile belief system.

And as someone who HAS studied up on the subject of religion, and as someone who HAS opened his eyes and has SEEN the overflowing hate and arrogance and self-righteousness being exhibited under the false banner of “faith”, I have always wondered why atheism is singled out and demonized by pretty much two of the three dominant religions in this world.

That is… until this little story came into play. And then it all made sense.

Once upon a time there was a shoe salesman who went door-to-door selling sneakers. He was good at what he did. So good, in fact, that he arrogantly claimed that he could sell sneakers to ANYONE.

Now the sneakers that he sold weren’t that good. In fact they were poorly made, overpriced, overhyped, and they didn’t always fit as they should. Some folks even got hurt because of them. But all of that didn’t matter. They’d still buy them, though, because this guy was simply that good of a salesman. He could sell those shoes to ANYONE! Or so he thought.

Then one day, someone new moves into the neighborhood. The shoe salesman finds out and he immediately heads on over there with a few boxes of his best demo sneakers and a fresh order board. He knocks on the front door, only to find that a man in a wheelchair shows up.

No problem, he tells himself, he’s sold sneakers to people in wheelchairs before. This will be no different.

So he starts in on his usual spiel about himself and what he’s selling, only to be told that the guy in the wheelchair isn’t interested!

Not interested? That can’t be! EVERYONE could use a pair of shoes! EVERYONE!

The salesman starts in with his prepared speech about how even the most incapacitated of people could use a pair of good sneakers, even if they’re just for show purposes. It gives them a sense of self-worth and makes them feel accepted amongst others.

The man in the wheelchair replies that he does not want to buy any shoes. Not only that, but he simply cannot WEAR shoes. And to prove it, he pulls the blanket back that was over his lap to show that both of his legs were amputated. He had no feet to put the shoes on. All he had were two stumps that were his upper legs.

Shocked at what he saw, the salesman heads back to the office, where he is immediately berated by his boss. HOW DARE he let a sale get past him? Wasn’t he the greatest salesman that ever lived? Didn’t he boast that he could sell shoes to ANYONE? This would be the perfect demonstration of his skills! Imagine: selling shoes to someone without feet! What a public-relations coup that would be!

Encouraged by the pep talk, the salesman heads back to the amputee’s house and knocks on the door. Once again he is eager to make this sale, only to be rebuffed yet again by the amputee… who is at this time a little bitter at being bothered by this salesman. He once again asserts that he does not want to buy any sneakers from this guy… he does not want to buy any shoes whatsoever… and he does not want to have to look at another pair of shoes ever again! Good-DAY!

But the salesman would not stop. He continued to show up there every single day, no matter what the amputee said. He would talk to the neighbors and he found out that this guy used to be a track star. The amputee used to run marathons until he lost his legs in an accident. So he figured he would use that as leverage. He tried to play on the guy’s nostalgia, only to be told that it was BECAUSE the amputee used to run marathons that he doesn’t want to see another pair of shoes ever again.

The salesman tried pretty much every trick and tactic he knew… he begged, he pleaded, he rationalized, and tried to strike deals with the amputee. Maybe he could buy the sneakers as a memento? A keepsake? Nope. That didn’t work. Then maybe he could buy a pair to give to family members? Maybe to some relatives? That didn’t work. Turns out the amputee’s whole family were killed in that same accident, and all the other relatives have long since died. How about friends? Maybe he could give a pair as gift to one of his friends? Nope. His only friends are other amputees, who also share a hatred of shoes.

Finally the salesman just breaks down. PLEASE, he said on his knees, I’m BEGGING YOU! My job is on the line here! I’ll get fired if I don’t make this sale! Just buy a pair! Just buy one stinking pair of shoes! You don’t have to wear them. You don’t even have to see them! I’ll GIVE them to charity! You tell me the charity and I’ll GIVE them the shoes on your behalf!

No, the amputee said. And stop bothering me or I’m calling the police!

Well the salesman was dejected, but he wasn’t finished. He went ahead and put the guy down for one pair of shoes. He’d go ahead and pay for them out of his own pocket and then give the shoes to charity and the guy wouldn’t be the wiser.

The salesman strolled on into the office and handed his boss the order for one pair of sneakers. Everyone is cheering him. Their faith in his salesmanship has been renewed!

Then a couple of weeks later, the amputee shows up at the office, and he’s FURIOUS! Turns out the amputee got an invoice for the sneakers that he supposedly ordered. Even though the invoice is paid in full – in cash – he also got this formal letter of thanks from the company, saying that they really appreciated that he placed this order and that he had asked to give the shoes to charity, not to mention having it all listed in this huge newsletter that all new customers automatically get. Things that HE never gave permission to do!

Boy you would think that this would be a big black eye for the company, and for the shoe salesman. But the company’s attorneys take over and they bully the amputee into silence. After all, the salesman was only acting in HIS best interests. He made a thoughtful gesture on behalf of the amputee, and the amputee should be GRATEFUL that someone would care so much to make such a selfless act of generosity! Besides, EVERYONE needs shoes, whether they have feet or not! SHOES help keep society going! And if the amputee wasn’t such a miserable, selfish person, then he’d accept that as a way of life and GLADLY order new shoes the next time around.

Few months go by and the shoe salesman has to go make his rounds again to sell more sneakers. Now given all that has transpired, do you really think that the salesman would be eager to show up at the amputee’s front door? Do you think that the amputee would be receptive towards the salesman after all that has happened? Heck, the salesman may even try to get the amputee to move out of the neighborhood. After all, this guy is interfering with HIS business and with HIS personal business reputation! If he can’t sell those sneakers to EVERYONE, even to the people who do not want or need shoes, then he could very well lose his job. THAT would be such a HUGE setback for the company, not to mention a setback to the neighborhoods that he services with those sneakers that really aren’t that good to begin with.

Now let’s get brutally honest here… THAT is pretty much the struggle between atheism and organized religion for you! It is a gang of slick company salesmen trying to sell over-hyped and overpriced sneakers to everyone, whether they want them or not, and whether they need them or not. They really don’t care about the quality of the product, and are instead obsessed with getting every single sale that they can get, by hook or by crook.

And here’s the thing… a good percentage of the atheists didn’t start out that way! They were brought up to believe in one religious belief or another. They were indoctrinated by parents and peers just like everyone else. But at some point they had to make a choice. They saw what was going on. They saw that there was something that wasn’t right with that belief. The product was flawed. The product didn’t do what it was supposed to do. And rather than to fix the product, these organized religions simply expects the rest of the world to adapt to that flaw.

Now if you were sold a pair of shoes where one shoe was a whole two inches shorter than the other, would you be willing to cut off your toes just so that shoe would fit? Probably not. Yet we expect the whole universe to adapt to conform to our religious beliefs. And then when someone speaks up and says that this kind of thinking is fouled up, we actually have the arrogance to call THEM crazy and to exhibit a passionate hatred of them simply because they just don’t fit into how WE think things should be.

I’ve got news for you “passionate believers” out there… that kind of zero-sum thinking is actually doing a DISSERVICE to your faith. All you’re really doing at that point is validating the arguments of your critics. You’re the ones creating the new atheists out there. The atheists really don’t have to do anything at that point. All they have to do is what they have been doing, which is to stand up for themselves. THAT is their only crime in this world, and it is here they actually find themselves having more in common with some of the great religious figures than with those who claim to be the followers of those figures. They don’t just talk about persecution… they have to live with it as a consequence of not following the dominant beliefs.

Talk about irony…

(Computer – some pretty good relevant stuff that you have to tune in to listen to)
(Fade Music In – “Who Am I” by Peace Orchestra)

You know, I’m not expecting to change any minds overnight with this kind of religious talk. In fact I probably pissed off a few folks tonight.

Well GOOD. You need to get pissed off. Maybe that will spark something that we like to call independent thought. Who knows? Maybe it might open your eyes and you can start to see things differently.

It’s easy to simply go with the flow, to believe in whatever it is that others tell you to do. It actually takes courage, character, and a strong sense of individuality to follow your own path. It’s a pity that THOSE aren’t the kinds of values that the self-righteous like to preach about. But then again, maybe they would preach about those things if their cause wasn’t about the acquisition of power.

Just a little something for you folks to think about.


Brutally Honest is a Get Brutal production, all opinions expressed are those of the commentator, and may or may not be shared by the online provider. This is David Matthews 2 saying good night, and I’ll speak with you soon!

(Fade out)
(Computer – Ending/“End of Recording”)

[End of program]

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