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Brief Encounter In the Supermarket

Atheisterine teeI was in my local Publix buying a few carbonated beverages for the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry picnic tomorrow, and I was wearing one of my atheist t-shirts. (If you see me in pubilc there’s about a 50% chance I’m wearing an atheist-themed t-shirt.)

A lady stopped me to ask to read it, so I turned and gave her time. She looked like an elegant grandmother, smartly dressed, and was wearing a crystal-covered crucifix. The t-shirt I was wearing was my “Atheisterine” tee which is one of my more assertive ones.

She looked me in the eye very directly and asked “Is that what you really believe?” I looked back as directly, gave my most winning smile and told her yes, ma’am, it certainly is.

She then asked if I was willing to talk for a moment. I have the day free so I said I’d be delighted and pulled my shopping cart over to where we wouldn’t be in the way.

(At this point I’m reporting the conversation as best I remember it; it obviously isn’t verbatim, but should be pretty close.)

“I’m a nurse,” she began, “and I look after a lot of dying people. Most of the believers get even more fervent, some of the agnostics do finally make a decision, and the atheists…”

(At this point I thought I knew what was coming, but she threw me a curveball.)

“… well, they’re no more or less frightened than anybody, but I don’t know what to say to them that would be a comfort and not an insult, and they have enough on their plate without me asking at that point. So tell me, what do you hope for, after you die?”

I told her “I don’t expect to exist after I die, I’ll be over. There are many people I love, and more that I like, and a world full of people I don’t know but who are just trying to get along like I am, who will still be here then though, and I hope I’ll have left a world for them that’s a little better because I was in it.”

She visibly pondered this a moment, then said “So you’ll be satisfied with being over and gone forever, if you’ve done your best for the ones you leave behind? Even though you won’t be there in any way to see them or still love them?”

I said “Yes, I love them now, and when I die as we all do I’ll be happy if I think that I’ve lived well while I was here and left a legacy that’s positive behind me.”

She said, “You’re a moral person. I wish there was more of that kind of thinking among religious people. So many of them get caught up in the rules, obeying the rules, arguing about the rules, splitting themselves up into little splinters over tiny differences. You’re just a normal, nice person. Thank you for talking to me, I think it’ll help me when I’m talking to my patients.”

I then told her about the SHL picnic and told her there would be lots of nice normal godless people there, and invited her to stop by. I doubt she will, but it was such a positive and agreeable conversation I thought I’d share it.

~ by BT Murtagh on May 17, 2014.

atheism, Personal

3 Responses to “Brief Encounter In the Supermarket”

  1. That is awesome!

  2. Very well done Brian!

  3. Very cool! Both of you… 😀

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