Saturday, September 26, 2015

Our Lord and Savior On The Omni Loop Metromover

Now Playing: The Cure - Last Dance

Atheism is a funny thing. A ton of people--dead or alive, even people I admire, like Isaac Asimov--claim "atheism" is a term that shouldn't even exist. Both religious people and atheists have claimed that the title itself is meaningless because you can't define yourself primarily on the exclusion or absence of something else.

Which I think is kinda bullshit? Society at large is still mostly religious. Most people fall under some set of beliefs, follow a church, pray a little on occasion. I see the term "atheism" the same way I see the term "childfree." In today's society, people, especially women, are expected to have children. The absence of that isn't the norm, and it even causes confusion and sometimes hostility from others. It's only natural we'd create a term for the outliers.

I've never been against identifying as an atheist. Never had a problem with the term. I've just certainly been pretty silent about it.

This is mostly because I noticed a lot of hostility in high school on the occasion that the topic would arise. Almost like if I personally didn't believe in a heaven, it meant I was actively fighting the idea of it and taking it away from people who believed. I found the most acceptance from one kind of people: non-Christians. There was some Pagan idiot who became the exception, but for the most part, people of different faiths outside of Christianity or no faith at all were very kind to me. My friend Saba, a Muslim, was probably one of the most accepting people I ever met, and my closest friends are either atheists too or people who don't think all that much about religion.

My parents saw that same hostility happen with other family members and friends. My mom still keeps things quiet so her family won't hassle her about not being religious. She pretends to be Catholic to avoid recommendations of Christian churches from other people. (You'd be surprised to hear how often that happens). I think she's on the fence--her and my dad are probably more agnostics than they are atheists. Out of the four of us, my dad went through the most doubt and fear and questioning. My brother might have too, but I think he doesn't care now and likes to mess with people. Even when he's not sure if he believes or not, he likes to get into arguments with friends about religious subjects and once told a friend's mom he was an atheist just to see her reaction. Which--as he later told me--was that she scolded him. We thought it was funny.

I've tended to keep it on the quiet side too. I was technically born into a Catholic family but I never did much with that faith. Never had a baptism, a communion, anything of the sort. In bible studies I never made it past Cain and Abel. My parents didn't even get married by the church. The last time we went to a church was ten years ago, when Pope John Paul II died.

Because of some of that never ending hostility, I don't exactly tend to broadcast my atheism. Part of it is that it honestly doesn't come up all that often. Not because religion isn't a part of every day life but because it's easy to not mention it or find a way around the subject. Oh sure, I've gotten invited to churches sometimes and I get a "may God bless you," often enough (especially with where I work now--surprisingly enough), but it's nothing major.

Mostly, I just refuse to bring up atheism because I don't have the energy to deal with people's offense.

Over the last two weeks, I started to think about it again. Mostly due to two events, one of which, while weirder, I am at better liberty to discuss in length. Also, both of which involve bearded men.

I take one bus ride, two metromover rides, and a car ride to get from work to home on most days. It's mildly exhausting but I use the time to read and write and ponder over the day and everything I still have to do. Also, music and audiobooks. Those are my saviors.

Public transportation in major metropolitan cities seem to have one thing in common: there's so many people, so much noise, so many weirdos, you just learn to tune everything out. Blast music directly into your ears, shove a phone in front of your face, keep a book handy. It's like this in Miami, in Chicago, in New York City. On one afternoon, I actually forgot my earphones, so all I had was my library book to keep me preoccupied. That's usually a good shield--though it doesn't always work.

The metromover rides are my favorite part of the day. While Miami isn't my favorite city in the world (because I hate heat and humidity), Downtown is my favorite neighborhood. I discovered a lot of my futuristic cities are somewhat mirrored off of certain components of Downtown Miami. Mostly, I love being in tiny shuttles that slip through buildings, flying above the congested streets. I've never been particularly afraid of heights. I tend to favor them actually, and I do love urban skylines. The scenery makes the rides all the more fun and I guess I love the metromover because it feels both modern and futuristic.

So I get pretty comfortable there. I usually try and lean against one of the windows so I can read without having to lock my arm around one of the poles.

In the afternoon, they tend to get crowded. It's mostly made up of construction workers and people in suits and college kids, but I guess that's also a good time for the occasional, well, weirdo to wander in. The day I forgot my earphones, the metro was somewhat crowded with a very diverse cast of people.

And I met Jesus. Or at least, I met a guy who claimed he was Jesus.

He was somewhat short--no more than three inches taller than me--dressed all in white. White shoes, white pants, white shirt. He had a bit of a beard and his hair was pulled back. He'd even draped a white scarf around his head and had a bunch of crosses looped around his neck. He was actually kind of handsome--wide dark eyes, brown skin, symmetrical features. When he spoke, he had a very nice voice. Instantly charismatic.

He stood beside me at one point, having already addressed someone else. I heard him say, "Jesus wouldn't like that," at something else and a few people were staring at him. I just focused on reading, thinking I could probably ignore him. It didn't quite work.

Our ensuing conversation went as follows:

Him: "What are you reading?"

Me: (thinking this is how a lot of strange people open conversations with me) *shows front cover of Uprooted*

Him: "It's about magic?"

Me: "Yeah. Fantasy."

Him: "Oh, I know. Because I know everything. Quick, guess who I am."

Me: "Who?"

Him: "Guess."

Me: (smiling) "Tell me."

Him: (smiling too) "Guess."

Me: "Tell me!"

Him: "Okay. Who's the guy who's up on the cross?"

Me: "Jesus!"

Him: "That's right! That's right. I don't always tell people. But they know and they get this look about them. It's all: *Widens his eyes, stutters for a second*. They don't usually recognize me--because I'm not always in white like I am today. Or they think I'm joking. They're all, 'nah man, get out of here.' But like, you're gonna pull that on me? On me? You think I don't see through you?"

Me: "You must get a ton of reactions."

Him: "Oof! Like you wouldn't believe!"

I don't really remember this next part--but he went on this little speech of how I'll know it's him because the Pope and Obama are gonna mention him and show his face soon when they're together, broadcasting to America. And he was all--

Him: "Look, here's how you'll know I'm the real deal. Next week? A missile's gonna hit New York. Then another one's gonna hit Miami, which is why I'm here."

Me: "To save us?"

Him: "Ahhh. Some of you. I'll save the good people. The ones who believe. The angels will come to help out. And, pfft, there'll be demons. Of course. Demons."

He was still talking by the time the shuttle reached my stop. So after I looked around and realized I had to get out, I had to interrupt him and say something like, "Well, it was nice meeting you." (What a failure, by the way. Legit Jesus would have known what my stop was).

He got all wide eyed, stopped for a second, and said, "Remember my face?"

Me: "Oh, I will."

He didn't follow me off the metro, so I'm really thankful for that. All in all, that whole thing could have gone down a lot worse.

When I told my mom about it, she said she might have ended up freaking out a little bit if put in my situation. Religious talk kind of puts her on edge and she has way too much experience dealing with public transportation weirdos. Previous to this, few years back, I had a guy offer me his church card on the bus, and when we got off on the same stop, he stopped me to talk about the church and ask me if I thought I'd go to hell or heaven. (I said purgatory on a whim without elaborating and he looked a little confused). I talked to him, as I talked to that guy on the metromover, and my mom thought that'd been a mistake back then. She thought I should have shut him down outright and told him to leave me alone. She didn't scold me this time, but something tells me she would have preferred it if I'd done the same in the metro ride situation.

But honestly, as weird as I find it, that whole talk with Jesus of the Omni Metromover was mildly amusing. I did see how freaked out other people looked, giving us stares, kind of blankly watching him and me talk for a bit. I wonder now how they might have handled him. (Or what they thought was going through my head).

Sometimes (and only sometimes) I don't see the harm in playing along. If anything, I figured that was the safest option. If I can't ignore them, I indulge them a little bit. I figured, if he thought I believed him and I was polite, we could probably keep it to a casual conversation. I don't know what I would have done exactly if he'd tried to follow me off the metro. I probably would have sprinted to the nearest crowd. (I do that with creepers. At sixteen, when I got followed by a construction worker asking if I could be his girlfriend and refusing my "uh, no thanks", I said fuck manners and ran across the street till I was farrrr away from him).

But this time, this brand of weirdo didn't follow me. So I get to look at that whole conversation with moderate chuckles rather than ridiculously hysterical giggles.

And the thing is, I do buy that Jesus of the Omni Metromover gets a ton of extreme reactions. Not just because people are  suddenly aware that they're probably dealing with an unhinged guy who honestly believes what he's saying, But also because. . .it's gotta be excruciating to even try and play along.

Say you do believe in Jesus. Or at least believe in something that's somewhat connected to the guy. If some dude on the street took Being Weird In Public Places and threw some blasphemy into the mix, you'd blow your fudge, man*. You'd tell him to piss off, to prove it, you might even argue with him for a good ten minutes. I know because I've seen religious arguments break out and it's never pretty, no matter who's arguing what. (In fact, one broke out just this Thursday. I found that more annoying so I just listened to music and ignored them. Attention seeking hogs.)

It used to happen a lot in school. For some reason, preachers (and a ton of fuckface pro-lifers) were allowed to throw out sermons and put up posters in the Oglesby Union square of FSU. It was so annoying.

While it can vary, I get all uncomfortable and teeth grinding and eye-rolling at things like preachers. Especially when they don't stay in their fucking corners and go to my university.

Whenever people would set up random sermons in the middle of my campus, I'd want to go around and rip their pamphlets to pieces and tell them to piss off. But what honestly annoyed me more was seeing crowds form around these assholes. It was bad enough to catch people sitting casually around them and paying attention to them. It was worse when they drew in an entire, enveloped circle and even got other students to jump in and argue and preach. Then I was suddenly 100% okay with the idea of a meteor hitting the campus and denting the Earth with a nice little crater.

Alright. See how aggressive I get over that than over some deranged guy in a metromover shuttle?

I guess what I'm trying to get at is--my relationship with religious people and religion in general is complicated. I want to be respectful and sometimes I am. But am I respectful for the right reasons? Or am I doing it out of obligation or the occasional mild panic? And who exactly do I grant that respect to? What even dictates that? Does it matter if it's internally genuine or not?

After the metromover incident, a second thing happened at work that also involved a bearded guy who started up a conversation with me. (Cute more than handsome, really tall, a little adorably awkward, definitely not claiming to be the guy who died for your sins. Not a Christian, but religious. Religious for sure.).

That hasn't gone anywhere yet and I'm not really at the place to discuss it. Plus it's still developing. But it has gotten me thinking about me and my set of non-beliefs, how far I can truly and honestly respect people, how far I feel they might respect me.

I legit wish atheism was a non-issue. I wish religion in general was a non-issue. But I'm thinking that's a wish born out of laziness. I don't want to think about it, don't want to discuss it, don't want it to torment people. That's not really things I can hope for.

*I stole that from Spoony. It makes me giggle.


  1. Anonymous8:17 PM

    From your description my first thought was ".... you met God!Morgan Freeman?"".

    1. Oh if only >_> He was more, "Cool Hipster Jesus" than, "Old and Awesome Morgan Freeman God." I'd put him between the ages of 24-35.


"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.