03 March, 2011
Spreading the News - Moral Atheism
I had never done it before, never thought about it in fact, and I doubt that very many other Atheists have either, which is why I mention it.
Twice this week I engaged in what, just for fun, I'll refer to as spontaneous acts of morality. I am writing about them not to toot my own horn, Darwin knows I do enough of that, but hopefully to start a trend.
The first incident occurred in the parking lot of my local Kroger. An elderly man approached me, obviously distraught. The battery of his car was kaput, and the serviceman leaning against it had given him a price of $29 for the call and jump. The fellow explained he only had $11 and needed help. He held out his license to me and offered it as collateral until he could get to his bank and withdraw the money to repay me.
"Don't worry about it," I said as I returned his license and handed him a twenty dollar bill. "Pay me back by helping someone else out when the opportunity arises."
He accepted my offer with several thank yous and a promise he would do a good deed in return. He was halfway back to his car when it hit me, and I called out to him, "By the way sir..." He turn to face me and I finished, "Just so you know, I'm an Atheist." He looked puzzled at first, then smiled and waved.
Then today I was in a local wine shop. I had selected three bottles each of Orin Swift's The Prisoner and Abstract, both excellent zin blends, and a bottle of 1988 La Grande Dame Champagne. (A splurge to be sure on the Champagne, but they had it on sale for $139 and it goes for $199 everywhere else I've seen it.)
I got busy scanning my credit card while the clerk rang up my purchase. "That will be $179 with tax", he announced. I looked at him, then at the POS monitor which clearly read "Items: 6".
I picked up the bottle of Champagne, handed it back to him and said, "I suspect you missed this."
"No, I rang it up," he responded.
"You couldn't have," I insisted.
He finally examined the register tape and, sure enough, the Champagne hadn't scanned.
He looked stunned. "Wow, thanks for being honest, most people wouldn't have said anything."
I started to demur, then thought better of it, leaned across the counter and said softly, "By the way, just so you know, I'm an Atheist."
He stared at me for several seconds, then grabbed the box containing my purchase and said, "I insist you let me carry this to your car for you."
After placing the box in my car he held out his hand. "Thanks again."
Week after week, month after month, year in and year out, Atheists go about their lives at least as moral and caring as the population at large. At the same time we are constantly told that we can't be as moral as religious people, because, well, we don't have a god to scare the shit out of us.
Beginning this week, I am proclaiming my Atheism every time I do a good deed In doing so I intend to make it difficult at best for anyone with whom I have come in contact to ever think or repeat such a slur again. I strongly urge you to do the same.