How drug addicts and prostitutes turned a man from atheist to believer

31 Dec

From Chris Arnade:

Shelly Rosary

Photograph: Chris Arnade

They prayed whenever they could find 15 minutes. “Preacher Man”, as we called him, would read from the Bible with his tiny round glasses. It was the only book he had ever read. A dozen or so others would listen, silently praying while stroking rosaries, sitting on bare mattresses, crammed into a half-painted dorm room.

I was the outsider, a 16-year-old working on a summer custodial crew for a local college, saving money to pay for my escape from my hometown. The other employees, close to three dozen, were working to feed themselves, to feed their kids, to pay child support, to pay for the basics of life. I was the only white, everyone else was African-American.

Preacher Man tried to get me to join the prayer meetings, asking me almost daily. I declined, preferring to spend those small work breaks with some of the other guys on the crew. We would use the time to snatch a quick drink or maybe smoke a joint.

Preacher Man would question me, “What do you believe in?” I would decline to engage, out of politeness. He pressed me. Finally I broke,

I am an atheist. I don’t believe in a God. I don’t think the world is only 5,000 years old, I don’t think Cain and Abel married their sisters!

Preacher Man’s eyes narrowed. He pointed at me, “You are an APE-IEST. An APE-IEST. You going to lead a life of sin and end in hell.”

Three years later I did escape my town, eventually receiving a PhD in physics, and then working on Wall Street for 20 years. A life devoted to rational thought, a life devoted to numbers and clever arguments.

During that time I counted myself an atheist and nodded in agreement as a wave of atheistic fervor swept out of the scientific community and into the media, led by Richard Dawkins.

I saw some of myself in him: quick with arguments, uneasy with emotions, comfortable with logic, able to look at any ideology or any thought process and expose the inconsistencies. We all picked on the Bible, a tome cobbled together over hundreds of years that provides so many inconsistencies. It is the skinny 85lb (35.6kg) weakling for anyone looking to flex their scientific muscles.

Read the rest

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: