Before I accepted the teachings of the First Church of the Iterated Christ, I was an atheist, one of those shitty ones who liked to argue and read books by clever men that congratulated me on being almost as clever as they. I read the non-believer’s liturgy, recited the dogma. Can there be anyone in the world more intolerable and dumbheaded than yourself, ten years ago?
Before that, I was an apatheist, which means I just didn’t give a shit whether there was a God or not.
Prior to that, I believed in God but not in any particular religion. My friends and I had taken too much acid in Boston, and we had gone on a quest that ended up at the Cristian Science Center. It was well past midnight, and this is what the Christian Science Center looks like well past midnight:
Which will blow your teenage mind.
Emma was there, whom I loved but did not love me back. She was from the Cape, and had a fucked-up nose. Rachel, with her wonky eye and dazzled smile, and Marla; we called her Manona. Brenda had tattoos and started fights with date-rapists on Beacon Street in the middle of traffic, and she painted pictures of a distractingly well-hung Jesus on the cross. Seth may have been wearing overalls and chunky black shoes: he wore that a lot.
A wave came over me at the reflecting pool, and I dropped to the knees of my mind; all I could see was children, needy and desperate attention whores, leaping up and down to get the Lord’s attention. Some were dressed in cassocks, and others in white, short-sleeved shirts. Due to a youthful misunderstanding of Christian Science, I may have also pictured some folks in lab coats.
“Look at what I built for You!”
“Do You like it?”
“What do You think? Bigger? Maybe bigger? Bigger.”
And all of a sudden I was embarrassed for the Pope, and the Elder Mormon, and whomever is in charge of Christian Science since Mary Baker Eddy died of an easily curable disease. God made Saturn, and then he liked it, so he put a ring on it; you think a reflecting pool will impress Him? God dug the Grand Canyon by accident, and you hired a guy to paint on the ceiling.
Surely, God cannot be an architect critic.
My father, whose name was Steve, stopped smoking more than a decade before he died, but in his passing he is reunited with his True Green 100’s, at least in my mind. He liked the soft pack, and he would hold the cigarette in between in his front teeth as he lit it with a match. Always a match. He would only smoke half of them, and when I turned fourteen or so I started stealing the butts from the ashtray.
I told him about my realization once, that I did not believe in God; and that all religions were false, including Judaism, which I had renounced, even though I made no offer to return any of my Bar Mitzvah money. (I’m sure I didn’t say anything clever at the time, as the presence of my father reduced my IQ by 30 points.)
Some people blow out the match when they light a cigarette, but my father shook his out with two quick flicks of his wrist.
“You’ll be on the train car standing next to the rabbi.”
To quote Mark Twain, “Honey, have you seen my white suit?” To paraphrase him, it’s amazing how much smarter my father’s gotten since he died. I don’t know what I said; I’m sure I argued with him. Can there be anyone in the world stupider than yourself twenty years ago?