19 August 2008

The Day I Lost My Faith In Man

I can't pinpoint the date, except to say that the events of this story happened on a bright summer afternoon in 1993 or 1994...

I was pumping gas in Cedarburg, WI, and happened to be wearing the Kill Your Idols t-shirt you see above. A minute or two after I had started, a mini-van pulled up on the other side of the pump with a WELS bumpersticker on the back bumper. For those of you unaware, WELS stands for Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

A middle-aged man got out of the van, and as he grabbed his pump nozzle, noticed my t-shirt and gave me a rather dirty look, which wasn't a new experience for me, as this shirt has certainly drawn plenty of dirty looks over the years. I figured his glare would be the end of it, but of course, it wasn't.

I finished pumping, and went into the station to pay for my gas, and as I was walking out and back to my car, I was about to pass the WELS man on his way in to pay, when out of nowhere, he SPIT on my shirt, managing to also get some of his spittle on my face.

I fought hard against the anger that was welling up inside of me, and instead of beating the shit out of the man, which was my first inclination, I flashed him the peace sign and simply said, "Jesus loves you, and God forgives you."

This obviously pissed off the man to no end, because he shouted back at me, "Fuck you, what do you know about God?"

It was a good question, I must admit. What did I know about God? What do any of us know?

I grabbed one of those blue paper towels from the window washing station next to the pump, and wiped the spit from my shirt and face, got into my car, and drove away, thinking...

Many of my thoughts were trite, but then, many/most of my thoughts are trite...

I thought, who we are and who we think we are are usually two entirely different things. This Christian man acted extremely non-Christian that afternoon, while I, the agnostic struggling with my own faith (as I still am) quickly decided to quell my animal instincts and simply turn the other cheek with a sarcastic comment meant to point out his inappropriate reaction to a fucking t-shirt. A point I doubt he even comprehended. If I had beat the man down, right there amongst the gas pumps, he may have actually understood THAT.

As I drove, I thought, a Christian who cannot endure the slings and arrows directed at his/her religion and God surely cannot have much faith in that religion and God. This is an idea which remains strong and true in my thinking to this day, some fifteen years later. In general, Christians in America, over the past couple of decades, have exerted their influence on our politics and culture moreso than ever in our nation's past, and yet they constantly portray themselves, their religion and their God, as victims of a secular society rife with sin and evil. To me, this is undeniable proof of a distinct lack of faith. In regards to this particular story of mine, I have to say that a strong faith in a strong God should and would certainly be able to withstand a harmless t-shirt.

I titled this post The Day I Lost My Faith In Man because I believe it was on this sunny summer afternoon that whatever misgivings I had about humans and their general behaviour suddenly became quite clear and real in my thinking. There are simply alot, too many, weak and irrational people in this world. People who are hypocritical. People who are incapable of nuanced and reasonable thought. People who are incapable of empathy, or even sympathy, because they are too full of themselves. People who would push others down rather than lift themselves up.

And that includes myself, because I am a human, after all.

Of course, these are all generalizations, because there are plenty of genuinely good and humane people in this world. The problem is, from my perspective, that as I get older, I seem to meet and know less and less of these kinds of people. In general, I assume the worst in people, and I cannot help but consider myself a misanthrope, no matter how much I dare and dream myself not to be. This makes me no better than the WELS man who spit on me that afternoon, and yes, I realize the hypocrisy of this very blathering post of mine.

But what of the t-shirt itself? Why did I choose to wear it? In it's way, it is a confrontational idea, and like I said, it certainly garnered plenty of dirty looks over the years. To me, it represents some of the ideas I touched upon in this post - the very notion that too many people are incapable of recognizing their own hypocrisy. The idea that we too often destroy the very things and people we profess to love.

But ultimately, the idea that religion clouds out rational thought, and oftentimes leads otherwise good people to do very bad things. In the end, I believe the message of the shirt is that we are better served as individuals and as societies, when we eliminate organized religion from our lives, and meet and treat others from a more purely human and humanistic perspective. This does not mean that we shouldn't embrace God, or any sort of spirituality, if we so choose, but rather that we are fully capable of leading ethical and morally sound lives without religion, or even God.

Of course, as a self-professed misanthrope, I have my doubts.

But mostly, I bought and wear that shirt because it alludes to Sonic Youth's Kill Yr Idols EP.

I am a simple man.

Hotcha! Hank

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Blogger choochick said...

stumbled across your blog... what a find! Brilliant post - at first it made me laugh - then it made me think - now it's just making me stay up way past my bed time.

note to self "must read while at work"

August 21, 2008 10:40 PM  
Blogger Hank Mohaski said...

Glad you enjoyed, choochick!

September 06, 2008 8:46 PM  

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