Friday, December 16, 2005

How I Lost My Faith

Several people have been asking me to explain how I came to lose my faith. I feel like I've told this story a thousand times, but I've finally decided to put it in writing. After this, anyone who wants to hear my deconversion story can piss off!

Like all really good stories, mine begins with a young man in love. Except that the object of my affection was eternal, all-powerful and (I would eventually discover) completely imaginary. In fact, I was so in love with God that I decided to major in Theology in college, with the intention of entering the ministry. However, at the beginning of my senior year, I had a crisis of faith. No, I didn't have a traumatic experience - i.e., nobody in my family died, my girlfriend didn't leave me, and I didn't find out that I had an incurable STD - that all happened later. Simply put, I spent a lot of time studying the Bible (perhaps more than I should have) and I began encountering many inconsistencies and inaccuracies.

I know you're going to want an example (they always do) and so I'm going to give you one (and only one). Jeremiah 28:9 states that if a prophet makes a prediction that does not come to pass, then that prophet is not of God. Now, it so happens that in Matthew 16:27,28 Jesus predicts that his Second Coming (in glory and power) would take place within the lifetime of some of the people in his audience. Naturally, all the folks in his audience are now dead and Jesus still hasn't returned. (There’s not even a Yahoo emoticon that captures such a let down!) In brief, since Jesus' prediction didn't come to pass we have to conclude he is a false prophet. Oops.

But like I said, I came across dozens of instances of the kind just described. At first I simply assumed that I was just misunderstanding these passages or that there was some explanation for these "apparent" problems. (Damn, I knew I shouldn't have smoked that peyote before my Bible Study class!) However, after reading and re-reading many of the problematic passages - often in the original Greek and Hebrew - I could no longer deny the obvious: reading is much easier when you're not high, especially since the words don't move about the page as much. I realised that I only pretended not to understand what were clear inaccuracies and inconsistencies because I was unwilling to accept that the Bible was not the infallible word of God. But it soon dawned on me that I was not only lying to myself, but also to my church members. (I was actually a ministerial intern at the Hosanna SDA church in Trinidad at the time). Finally, I decided that I couldn't go on living a lie; burgundy ties are not fashionable, no matter what the Deacon says! With new-found determination, I tore off my burgundy tie and walked out of the church, never to return!

Admittedly, for a short time thereafter I did dabble in a few moderate versions of religion - a little Unitarianism here and a little Buddhism there - you know, nothing too hardcore. But ultimately, it all boiled down to a matter of faith - or more aptly, my rejection of it. In brief, I am convinced that faith is merely the excuse we use to believe things we want to believe but have no good reason for believing. Now that's all well and good, except that if we're all simply entitled to believe what we want, then I would much prefer to believe in a heaven filled with large breasted women wearing nothing but fishnets and knee-high boots whose sole ambition is to enjoy the endless delights of sodomy.

So there you have it folks, the ‘short’ story of my deconversion. And no I don’t hate God (given the inherent difficulty of hating someone who doesn’t exist) and I’m not on a crusade to convert all Christians to atheism (If I'm not going to be an evangelist for God, I see no reason to be one against him either). I believe everyone should simply live their lives honestly and in harmony with their own convictions (except if your convictions include doing naughty things to farm animals, in which case I think you should be taken outside and whipped).

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The What and Who of Love

The French philosopher, Jacques Derrida, distinguishes between the “what” and “who” of love. When we first meet someone, we typically love him or her for what they are – i.e., the various archetypes we believe they embody. (For instance, I personally prefer women with wide hips, large breasts and without a penis.) However, it is also possible to love someone for who they are; that is to love them as singular individuals.

The “what” of love almost invariably fades when we discover that the object of our love is not what we took him or her to be (like in the movie The Crying Game where the guy discovers that his lady-love didn’t fulfill the “without penis” rule). In fact, most often the “what” of love is our own construction, representing what we want someone to be, rather than who they really are. But eventually we find ourselves unable to runaway from the truth; that his three-inch monster isn’t really three inches and her ability to recite the entire alphabet in a single burp isn’t as big a turn-on as we let on. There’s simply no running away from it. In time you’ll have to stop pretending that the reason the woman you’ve been dating for the last three years refuses to accept that you’re a couple is not simply because she’s playing hard to get. (Rather, it may have something do with the fact that you haven’t seen each other in five years and she lives over two hundred miles away with her husband and four kids.) Thus, we inevitably come to realize that those we love do not really embody all the qualities that caused us to fall in love with them in the first place. This makes the “what” of love, at best, transient.

But the “who” of love refers to the act of loving someone, not because they fulfill a list of criteria on a checklist, but as the singular entities they are. For example, growing up I had a dog by the name of Bubbles. She was pot-bottom black, with white patches of missing fur, one eye, a broken nose and a bad habit of chasing after cars (except that she did it while they were still parked; which, incidentally, explains the missing eye and broken nose). In short, Bubbles was the most unsightly and inane mutt I’ve ever come across. However, I still loved Bubbles more than any other dog on my block for the simple reason that she was Bubbles. The difference between the “what” and the “who” of love is the difference between loving shaggy dogs because they are shaggy and loving Bubbles simply because she is Bubbles.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Dinner with the McDougles

Diane’s parents are visiting St Andrews this week and they’ll be coming over to my place for dinner tomorrow evening. I’ve been so nervous about meeting them that this morning I accidentally got my earring caught in a coat hanger. (That makes three times in the last 72 hours.) I’ve been trying to decide what to prepare for dinner. At the second-hand bookstore on Market Street I found a 600-page cookbook that explained how to make rigatoni from scratch. But the cookbook was much too detailed for my tastes. The first chapter began with a complex quantum-mechanical explanation of how to create matter using nothing but a spatula, a baking sheet and a lepton.

I’ve always got along well with the mothers of the women I’ve dated—perhaps sometimes to a fault, like that time I got my fiancĂ©e’s mom pregnant. Oops! But it is Diane’s step-father that I am concerned about. He, after all, is white, Irish and Catholic, while I’m black, West Indian and irreligious. Consequently, I’m worried that he would find my low tolerance of alcohol unacceptable. However, I take consolation in the fact that despite whatever differences we may have, there is something we all share as human beings. Deep down inside of us all there is something that has no name, and that something is … Like I said, it has no name.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Security Alert

Today, the St Andrews police (i.e., the real Scotland Yard) reported that someone was rubbed by a gang of ruffians somewhere on campus. They therefore warned students to be extra careful when walking home late at night from the ‘library’ (which is one of the many Scottish words for ‘pub’). Try as I may, I can’t bring myself to take their admonition seriously. Can you imagine leaving Harlem, New York only to be mugged on the mean streets of…Fife? How would I ever be able to look at my own reflection in the mirror knowing that I was held up by three men wearing plaid skirts? But let me not make light of the affair, since gang violence of any stripe is always a serious matter—especially when kilts and bagpipes are involved. What’s worse, according to the police reports the entire ordeal took much longer than was necessary since halfway through the mugging the assailants had to break for tea, returning to finish up the crime a full twenty-five minutes later. This was of course a great inconvenience to the victim, who had to wait the entire time in the cold dark alleyway until the bandits returned. But at least one of the hoodlums was thoughtful enough to bring the muggee back a scone as a token of apology for making him wait.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Prudent Omissions

There are many things that are better left unsaid. For example...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Immoral Minority

It’s hard being the minority, especially since one often finds oneself outnumbered. This is no less true in the sphere of religion; and when it comes to the flock of God, atheists are clearly the black sheep. But I haven’t always been a member of the god-hating atheist minority. On the contrary, I was actually quite religious as a child. When I was only six years old I decided to enter the priesthood. Of course my parents assumed that it was just a childish phase I was going through, especially when I began holding mass for my Lego blocks and G.I. Joe action figures. But I approached my ministerial aspirations with the determination of a wine stain on a silk blouse. At once I implemented a strict spiritual dietary regimen consisting of the Old and New Testament scriptures, the writings of the church fathers and Veggie Tale videos. My bedroom wall boasted a signed pin-up poster of Mother Theresa and next to my closet stood a life-size cut-out of the pope. Each morning the sun peeked over the eastern horizon I could be found at my desk, wrapped in earnest prayer, bible study and mediation. I became so well known for my piety that in my school yearbook I was voted most likely to move to the Midwest, found an ascension cult and die in a shootout during an FBI raid of the cult compound.

However, things took a turn for the worse when I began asking sceptical questions for which I could find no satisfactory answer. Questions like: if God is benevolent, why is there so much suffering in the world? Or, if we believe there must be a God because everything must have a cause, then who caused God? And most perplexing of all, how could a merciful God allow Madonna to put out another album? I grew disillusioned. Unable to find the answers I was looking for I turned to a life of debauchery. Soon I was experimenting with drugs, imbibing copious amounts of alcohol and waking up each morning next to a different woman. Then I turned seven years old and I decided that enough was enough. There must be some intellectually honest way of relating to the world, a way of living that does not involve telling yourself lies like there is a life after death and Jared really did lose all that weight by just eating Subway sandwiches. It was then that I discovered atheism—a faithless belief system that emphasized personal responsibility, open rational inquiry and the eating of the raw flesh of Christian babies. (Of course I’m only kidding about the last bit; we atheists prefer our Christian babies steamed with asparagus in a light vinaigrette.) Ever since my conversion (or is that unconversion?) to atheism, I have grown to appreciate that the world really is as fucked up as it appears. No more cheerful fairytales about Baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Big Foot and the other fanciful characters of Christian folklore. Now it was just nature red in tooth and claw, or sometimes white depending on who’s your manicurist. Now, thanks to atheism, I have no problem admitting that life is unfair: that sometimes good people do suffer, sometimes wicked people do prosper and yes, video really did kill the radio star.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Diane Revisited

Diane and I have been going steady for a month now. However, it turns out that she has several faults I was not aware of, the chief one being that she is much too pretty to be seen with in public. Whenever we’re seen walking along hand in hand, onlookers typically sport a “how does a guy like that get a girl like her” look on their face. I expressed my concern about this fact to Diane, but she glibly brushed it off by saying she didn’t care much for penguins or people’s opinion of them. Which brings me to Diane’s second fault—she never seems to care about the things that are really important. Personally, I live and die by other people’s opinions, especially when they have to do with the various species of aquatic birds. Diane says she likes me mainly for my mind. But this comes as little consolation since I recently overheard her telling her best friend how silly she felt dating a guy who didn’t speak English. Basically, she assumes that all my utterances are either unintelligible gibberish or some private idiolect I’ve invented—but as of yet she hasn’t determined which. I tried to explain to her that I did speak the Queen’s language but she just nodded her head and smiled in the same manner one would when listening to a non-Native speaker one couldn’t understand. I contemplated breaking up with Diane, until I learned that she has ties to the Scottish Mafia and that she had a hit put out on the last sorry bloke that broke up with her. I can see the newspaper headlines now: "Death by haggis!"

Monday, October 31, 2005

Mademoiselle Sophia Orgon

Much to the delight of the menfolk (and chagrin of the womenfolk), the city of St Andrews was graced by a busload of scantily clad “French tarts” over the weekend. However, there was one French tart, Mademoiselle Sophia Orgon, who stood out from the rest like a Scandinavian prostitute at a Chinese whorehouse. She sported a skin-tight mini-skirt and legs that went all the way up to her arse (unlike the other French tarts whose legs, as far as I could tell, stopped halfway). Her face shone with the smooth youthful vigour that 21-year-olds usually boast and for which 31-year-olds resent them. However, it was clear from her manner—the way she artfully negotiated the sidewalk in her six-inch stilettos, the way her hips rocked from side to side as she walked, the way her breasts inscribed small arches over the top of her dangerously low blouse—that this was no young ingenue. This was the type of woman that made a living breaking men’s hearts, wiping her shoes with their tongues and convincing them each time they saw her walk by that they had left their pants crotch in the dryer too long.

Her given name, Sophia, actually means ‘wisdom’; a very fitting title since she looked like she was plucked right off of the tree of knowledge of good and evil—but when good knowledge was out of season. Her last name, Orgon, comes from the Latin word for when a man needs to use the toilet really bad but is forced to wait impatiently at the back of a long queue. He finally does get to the head of the line and happily relieves himself. But once done, he zips up his trousers too fast and gets his Johnson caught in the thread. (O’ boy that smarts!) Later the wound gets infected, but the sorry bloke is too embarrassed to get it looked at until it becomes badly swollen and gangrened. When, barely able to walk, he finally does check himself into the hospital the doctor informs him that the infection has spread too far for his penis to be saved. Prognosis: free willy! Naturally the man becomes disillusioned at the prospect of going through the rest of his life urinating through a straw. Eventually, he decides that there is no point to living, not with his pecker gone, and so he purchases a gun, rents a motel room, watches one final episode of Friends, puts the revolver to the side of his temple, and plasters his brain against the motel walls. Then at his funeral a mysterious woman dressed in black, who no one has ever seen before, throws herself on his coffin as it is being lowered into the ground. Through gut-wrenching subs and moans she declares: “Yes he was a jerk, and yes he probably did deserved to die. But for heaven’s sake, he didn’t deserve to have his penis chopped off! No man deserves to have his penis chopped off!”

Unless I’m mistaken, ‘Orgon’ comes from the Latin word for that. And boy does Mademoiselle Orgon live up to her name!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I Hate Mondays

This morning, as I was getting out of bed, I tripped over a stapler. (Luckily, my nose broke my fall.) A few minutes later I accidentally stuck myself in the eye with a telephone cord. It was turning out to be a bad day. The bus I usually take to work pulled into the stop promptly at 9 o’clock and the driver got up from behind the wheel, exited through the side door and never looked back. When midday rolled around and the bus driver hadn’t yet returned, there was no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t make it into work for 9:30. Mr. Weinstein was going to be furious. But I can’t say I would blame him since Mr. Weinstein, a character in a novel I was reading, is only two pages from finding out that his wife has been having an affair with his brother for the last 15 years. He first suspected something was wrong two weeks ago when in the middle of a heated argument his wife announced that she had been having an affair with his brother for the last 15 years. But still, nothing could prepare him for what he was about to discover. But enough about Mr. Weinstein; what’s even more worrisome is how upset my boss, Mr. Davies, would be when I came strolling into work a full three hours and a day late. I’m afraid I cannot deny it. Yesterday, when my alarm clock went off at 8:30am, I hit the snooze button and it didn’t go off again until 8:45 this morning. Can you imagine the embarrassment of showing up on the first Monday morning of a new job at 12:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday? I’m no pessimist, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this would significantly compromise my chances for that promotion next month. Then again, it doesn’t hurt to remain hopeful.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

That Girl, Diane

Today I met a toothsome Scottish lass by the name of Diane. She had hair the colour of glazed almonds, skin as pale as lily petals, and the kind of hips that would make you deliquesce right out of your kilt. We were both waiting in line to use the loo, when in a moment of mind-numbing randomness she blurted out: “I believe that brevity is the soul of wit!” Caught off guard by her non sequitur, I thoughtlessly responded: “then you should find my performance in bed very amusing”. She erupted in snortful laughter and simmultaneously we recognised in each other the same penchant for the random and absurd that resided in ourselves. It was one of those wonderful moments when mutually insane minds meet—a cosmic connection that laughs in the face of reason. Soon we were seated on the floor next to the toilet having a lengthy conversation about love, life and the silver paper used to make chewing gum wrappers. She went into detail about how she and her father fought constantly, particularly over his stubborn refusal to let go of his prostate cancer. The feud between father and daughter continued until he finally succumbed to the disease. Diane was so upset by her father’s death that she refused to talk to him again. I encouraged her to make reconciliation with her deceased progenitor, to which she responded by suggesting that we make love instead. Twenty minutes later we were both rolling around in a nearby park wearing nothing but our socks and scarves, our bodies entwined like a black and white barbershop pole. Tomorrow we are planning to have a picnic on the green of the St Andrews Old Golf Course where we will sip sherry, dodge oncoming golf balls, and discuss the long forgotten fashion trends of Tsarist Russia.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Day in the Life of a Philosopher

Today my self-esteem hit an all time low when my logic professor proved that I didn’t exist. I’m quite distressed. Perhaps this explains why my jeans are so loose-fitting. What’s equally upsetting is that I learned that non-existence does not exempt one from local and federal taxes. But if anything could be said for my new status, it is that I now belong to same category as many famous non-entities—such as unicorns, Bigfoot and US military intelligence.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Break Out the Kilts

Yes folks, it's true. I've moved to Scotland - the home of golf, the 5pm hangover and the Loch Ness monster (better known by his rap name, L-Nizzy). A few minutes ago - on my way to the computer lab - I saw a burly man with tattoos, shaved head, and a camouflaged army coat, wearing a skirt (sure, you can call it a fancy name if you like, but it's still a skirt!) Needless to say, I'm quite enjoying myself, though judging from most folks' facial expression upon first meeting me I would guess they aren't very used to seeing people of my pigmentation. Well, either that or they find my newly acquired habit of spontaneously bursting into "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" while hopping on one leg to be something of a novelty. Either way, it is clear that I'll be one of the most recognizable faces on campus. The only question that remains is: will I use my newfound celebrity for good or for evil? Decisions, decisions.