Friday, January 11, 2013

The Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

I don't know whether anyone will ever read this, given the way I've abandoned this blog, but today I feel moved to write.  I'm going to try to balance discretion against the kind of vagueness that makes me hate Facebook sometimes. In short, I'll leave out some details, but I'll try to make some sense on the topic I've chosen: the willing suspension of disbelief.

You see, my beloved son, Thing 1, recently had a whirlwind romance with a young lady.  As is apparently the custom in the present day, they did not "go out" or "date"; they simply decided that they would be "boyfriend and girlfriend," exclusively monogamous and suitably jealous. Since his new young lady is a religious sort, Thing 1 decided that it would be best to blend in; he declared his love for Jesus and his devotion to the churchgoing life. I was tenuously supportive until I realized that he'd put out two versions of his newfound devotion:

  • Parent Version:  "I've been thinking, and I think I want to try going to church with Young Lady. I think it might be good for me. Plus she says it's a lot of fun."
  • Young Lady Version (paraphrased): "Who, me? Oh, hell, yes, I'm washed in the blood!  I've got the Son shining on me, baby! I have a close, personal relationship with Jesus; hell, He built my hot rod! I certainly know all about your particular brand of Christianity and endorse its tenets in full.  What are the odds, huh?"
It didn't take long for that to wear thin; without ever actually visiting a church, he decided about a week later that he would have to come clean. I don't know exactly what he said to the Young Lady, but he told me that he'd made it clear to her that "I'm an atheist so I don't go to church." 


Now, I'm a fairly outspoken atheist myself, but that was news to me. He used to make noise about going to church whenever he wanted to rile me, and I'd simply suggest that he keep an open mind during the services and tell us all about it when he got home.  Somehow, it never reached the point of action, but I figured there were some vague notions of a vaguely Christian God and Heaven and Hell bouncing around in there. We talked about it a bit on a long drive, though, and he does seem to have come to the conclusion that he doesn't buy the Christian narrative.  Whether he sees the difference between that and atheism, an actual lack of any belief in anything that could be described as a god, I don't know yet.

And then . . . . well, last night he showed me that he's still capable of the willing suspension of disbelief.

He was explaining to me that an unidentified (to you, anyway) woman of our mutual acquaintance is actually, despite her decades of lies, abuse and neglect of children, quite trustworthy. I had just finished explaining that he should not take her words at face value because she had, and I think I'm quoting myself accurately here, "been lying both to and about everyone involved in this question since before you were born."  

This wounded him right in his most deeply compassionate feels, and he explained my error.  I had failed to take into account, you see, that she has now changed.  She's told him the truth about everything and made it clear how I, his mother, his grandparents and everyone else who loves him has deceived him.  Actually, when you think about it, she is clearly the victim, here. Unfortunately for him, he tried to prove it with a handy example of her honesty.  See if you can spot the flaw:

"She's been telling me the absolute truth about everything, dad. You don't know. She tells me everything, even when it makes her look really bad. She even told me about her DUI! She told me all about how it really happened, how she was riding in a car with someone else driving and she'd been drinking, and they crashed, and she passed out, and when they found her, she was in the driver's seat and the other guy was gone and she never found out who it was! Why would she tell me about all that unless she's trying to tell me the truth now?"

That's right; although he doesn't believe in God, and he doesn't believe in Jesus, the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, he has clung to belief in one more supernatural force personified:  Sumdood, Punisher of the Innocent.  


Roberta X said...


Matt G said...

You're a funny guy, and if anyone could make the irony of this funny, you could, Don.

You did a great job of conveying the irony.

Yet this hurts me in my heart.

Don said...

You and me both, Big Guy. But sometimes I just have to write it down to keep from going crazy.

J.R.Shirley said...


Of course, going to an earlier part of the story, I am pretty sure there's no faith required to not believe in sonething you've never seen evidence of.