It’s here! It’s here! Page 100 is here! And the true reality of my addiction to this park isn’t a secret anylonger. And there’s no better way to celebrate this occasion than by giving you a full, video-packed page of Amazing Strangers with all your favorite regulars. Teenagers with cigarettes and cheap highs, bumfights, gravers, and harassing Christians from the midwest.
Yesterday evening, after the day-long rain stopped, I went to Union Square where TONS of Christians were preaching. This one, “John the Baptist” had been shown one of my God Is Fake pamphlets and asked if he could interview me for the radio show he was broadcasting from the park. Of course I accepted.
You’ll notice he chose to interview me not by standing in front of me or sitting beside me, but looming over me while I sat back on the steps, elbows rested on the step behind me. This positioning led to drool from him plopping onto my camera lens halfway through the interview. Enjoy!
Lately I have been bombarded more than ever by the roving hordes of Jesus’ followers that’re combing the streets of secular NYC and its doomed inhabitants. I love what summer brings! A few days ago, as I was walking into my favorite little coffee shop and my friend Patrick who works there wrote me a note that read “XTREME MINISTRIES AT TABLE 2!” And sure enough, there they were, looking way out of their element here. So I sat down and simply counted down until they found their way to me somehow.
I realize that my tattoos are one of the main draws for these people to come talk to me, and I don’t mind one bit. It’s why I got the little fuckers in the first place. And before I knew it one of them came over and sat at the table with me and sparked up a conversation with a “Mind if I sit here?” and a “So where you from? What’s your name?”
One of the best parts about this meeting was that I was sitting with my friend Brian, and he’s not as familiar with their tactic and ministries as I am. He was dazzled by their forwardness and fake awkward friendliness.
This guy’s name was Josh, and there were several things which stood out from our conversation that seemed worth mentioning. He was being very very gradual and sly with bringing up his whole purpose. He was not jumping into it. And I was also being very gradual as well, more for Brian’s sake, because I had already predicted to him that they were comin’ to get me and I wanted him to witness me stretching it out. For instance, Josh asked what I do for a living, and I told him I was a graphic artist and designed websites. And Josh asked me if I had a website of my own and what was it. And I told him it was a celebrity dressup game where you could dress up the person in clothes like the paper dolls of past, and so on and so on. Until I asked Josh what he did, and he told me he worked with teens, and I asked “Oh, that’s nice. How so?” And at this point Josh couldn’t hold it in any longer and said “I’m a Christian and I work in teen ministry.” To which I replied, “Oh? Which kind of Christianity?”
Josh had a bit of trouble with this one, and so I clarified. “Like, there’s all kinds of religions that worship Christ, like Baptist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics, even Jews for Jesus, haha!” And he laughed and replied “Yeah, I don’t like to label my belief. I just believe the word and worship Jesus my own way.” I responded by telling him, “Well, you gotta label it somehow because each of you believe that if you don’t worship Jesus the right way you’ll go to hell, right?” And he sorta agreed, saying that everyone has their own way of worshipping. And I said, “But, like for instance Catholics believe Priests can forgive sins, and you probably don’t believe that?” He agreed. He didn’t. “Or Mormons have to believe Joseph Smith, and Baptists won’t get to heaven unless they’re baptized. You know?” And he agreed and reluctantly got more specific so as not to be confused with any of them. My friend Brian was so intrigued with how the topic got “casually” brought up, and afterwards he found it hilarious how it was so obvious that I’d gotten in this discussion 10,000 times prior to this but was acting like I hadn’t. Like it was all just common knowledge what I was saying.
One interesting thing was when I brought up the Christians who come to Union Square with their Are-you-a-good-person-test and the easel and the fun “Have you ever lied, then you’re a liar, have you ever stolen something, then you’re a thief” game. And Josh quickly said “Yeah, those are the Way Of The Masters!” Like they were another crazy branch of true Christianity.
“Way Of The Masters?” And he told me about Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort (of which I already knew) and they’re tactics which Josh didn’t approve. But what was even funnier is that Josh used all of their same arguments, with the “Imagine I say there’s no gold in Europe. Now all there’d have to be is one person with a gold tooth yadda yadda yadda” but instead using “A quarter in Tompkins Square Park” instead.
Anyhow, the best thing about Josh was that he kept coming back for more. I saw him again the next day, and the next after that too! I got to tell him how I thought his apocalyptic religious beliefs were dangerous, and he said “Well, one good thing that could come from us all killing each other off is this planet could begin again at its natural state. I was disturbed by this and said “Josh, you shouldn’t be able to think of one good thing to come from the destruction of all mankind.”
Did I also mention that his wife was there? She stayed pretty quiet through the whole thing, but quite often she would nod her head in agreement with what I was saying. Again and again I would stomp out her husband’s arguments and each time she’d nod along with me in total agreement. I found out the following day when Josh came in without her that his wife was going through a painful doubting phase because she’d had two miscarriages. They recently had a daughter, but she’s still having difficulty with it.
The last day I saw them I was walking down Saint Marks Place and I ran into the both of them. Josh said he had finally gone to visit my site and was very happy he met me before he knew of it. He saw the GOD ATE MY BALLS section and asked me how it was that I could put that out there if there’s even the slightest chance that there is a God, for fear of insulting him I suppose. I had to clarify that I was 100% atheist and what that meant.
Anyhow, I said goodbye to them both there on the sidewalk and wished them well. And his final question was-Why am I doing what I’m doing? Why am I being so upfront and aggressive with my atheism?
I responded with, “Because I don’t want to make the same mistakes my parents made and I believe it’s our religious differences that’re the biggest threat to civilization. It’s two uncompromising beliefs that directly oppose each other. And when neither party is willing to debate any longer there’s only one other solution.”
Anyhow, that’s how it all went down, and I found it interesting.
I’ll let you know if I hear from Josh again. He did ask if I had a Myspace.
I believe that this quote from their site summed it up best:
“It is our desire to serve God and not to place a denomination tag on who we are or what we do. Where the Scriptures are not clear, or where the Scriptures leave room for varied interpretation we seek not to make issues out of it, but simply to love God, and to love people.”
So the night before last I was at Union Square, and as I was sitting there on the steps these 3 guys come up and one of them says “Hey! We’ve seen those tattoos somewhere before! Where have I seen those?” So I handed him a GOD IS FAKE and said “You might have seen it on the backs of these before?”
Sure enough, they had, and then they all got very chummy and he asked what it meant and how I felt about it (I have crucified Satan’s tattooed on my arms). So then after I told them how I thought it was just funny sarcasm saying “Crucify Satan!” he smiled and said, “Do you want to know why your tattoos interested me so much?” I’m not sure what I said to that. I think I said “Why does it interest you so much?” knowing what his answer was going to be. And sure enough, he said “Because I happen to be a Christian.” with a bet-you-didn’t-see-that-comin smile on his face.
Of course I faked like they had totally caught me red-faced and it led to a good 2 hour conversation with them versus me. The details are many, but I wanted to tell a few of the interesting moments that occurred during those 2 hours.
First of all, the main guy, I forget his name, so let’s call him Joe. Joe, who clearly was the leader of these guys (who were all in their mid twenties) assured me that if I were to talk with him a while I wouldn’t hear the same-ol’ same-ol’ like I had from other “crazy Christians” in my past. I assured him that I probably would, but was more than happy to talk with all 3 of them for as long as they wanted (“Until the sun comes up tomorrow morning” is how I worded it. I really do love having these conversations face to face).
One of his first arguments was making a circle with his arms, fingers touching, and asking me to imagine that this circle contained all of the knowledge of the universe. I knew already where he was going with this. Then he made the “okay” finger-gesture with his hand and said “and let’s say this is all of your knowledge here in this bigger circle. That’s more than 10%, so you’re happy with that, huh? That’s not bad for just one person, huh?”
So then he waved his hand over all of the remaining area of the larger circle and said, “And this 90% here is everything you don’t know! And that’s a lot of room for information about God to be, huh?”
And that’s where he stopped, impressing most others who fell victim to that analogy. So I went directly to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I said to Joe “Joe, have you ever heard of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?”
“Ha, ha! No!” He said
“Well, he’s a very real thing, and he created everything. From the earth and the stars, to you and me!”
“Haha!” He laughed. “I don’t think so! You’re not ever gonna convince me of that!”
And I said, “Joe, do you see this circle I’m making with my arms?”
“I sure do!” Joe replied.
“Well Joe, let’s say that this is all the knowledge of the universe. Okay?”
“All right.” He said, like he had not a clue where I was going with this. Seriously.
“And let’s say this is your knowledge” Making a circle with my index finger and thumb. “That’s like 10% of all knowledge. Not bad for one guy, right? You okay with that?” I said.
“Sure. Okay?” Joe replied.
“Well Joe, this whole other 90% of what you don’t know is where the Flying Spaghetti Monster is! I assure you he’s real, and that’s my proof.”
That slammed the door hard on that argument. But that didn’t stop ol’ Joe.
So then after him spouting some more useless dribble from the bible, I stopped him and said “Hey Joe, you wanna know something scary that I heard recently?” Like I was about to tell him some dirty gossip about some other religion besides Christianity that he and I could laugh at together. I leaned in and said “Did you know that there are actually Christians out there who think that when you and I and the rest of the human race destroy ourselves, when we blow ourselves up and destroy all of civilization, there are Christians out there who think that it won’t be a bad thing! In fact, they think it will be a wonderful, glorious event because that’s when their Messiah will hoover down from the clouds and raise up all who believed in him to paradise while everyone else burns here on earth. No kiddin’! They really think that and look forward to the end of of the world!”
Joe pulled back a bit and started to talk about something else. But I interrupted and said “No, you’re not listening! These believers in Jesus Christ actually want the human race to destroy itself just so that this moment will happen! Do you hear what I’m saying?”
Joe then said “Yes, I do look forward to Armageddon! And I’m not ashamed to say it! But you’re not understanding what…”
And I shouted out “WHAT!?!? Are you sitting there smiling, saying that you’re looking forward to Armageddon!?! I am so disturbed right now, I’m speechless!”
Even his two cohorts seemed a little shocked by what I had just pointed out!
“No no no! You’re not letting me finish! It’s a good thing, if you think about it. It…”
“What!?!?” I cried. “You’ve got to be kidding me! The end of civilization is a good thing!??! Ail of these people dead?” waving my hand around at Union Square. “This is what your religion teaches? And you can’t see why I’m against it? You’re sounding like one of those Islamic Militants! The destruction of the human race a good thing!??!?!”
And again, Joe was getting quite shaken by my focusing on these small details as if they were important. But the one that broke Joe’s back was while he was trying to explain to me God’s perfect Word I interjected with “Perfect Word? Did you know that there’s passages in the bible which tell parents to stone their children to death if they disobey?”
“Oh, you’re taking that out of context!”
“I am??” I said. “I assure you that in Deuteronomy God gives direct and unalterable orders for parents whose children disobey once should be scolded, and the second time the child disobeys they should stone him to death!”
Joe clearly knew that the passage existed. “Yes, you’re taking that out of context!”
“Please, Joe” I begged, “put it in context for me! Please make it make sense! I must know!”
“Those were different times!”
“What?? It was a time when it was appropriate to stone children to death??”
“No! But it was a social norm that God didn’t go against yet so that he could get his bigger message across first!”
Okay, I know Joe was caught off guard and confused. So were his two friends who also were anxiously awaiting Joe’s explanation. An explanation Joe couldn’t come up with. So then he said he had to go to the bathroom and left, saying he’d be back shortly. He never returned. Instead, when he did come back, he stood about 40 feet from us waiting for his buddies to finish up so they could all leave. But before they did they too tried to explain how the sanctioning of child murder could occur in a perfect book by God.
And then the strangest explanation for this came out of guy #2’s head, let’s call him Monty. Monty explained it like this. He said, “You know how a painter might have a muse? Someone who inspires the painting he’s working on?” Then Monty motioned to my friend Christine who was with me and said “Imagine that I’m working on a painting and your friend here is my muse. She is the inspiration for the painting I am doing. Now my painting isn’t perfect. It’s still a beautiful painting, but there are some mistakes. There are paint strokes that are off, and some colors here and there that don’t totally match.”
“Okay?” I said, not yet understanding where he was headed.
“And then imagine that when the painting is complete the muse looks at it and thinks it is beautiful but she too sees the mistakes and doesn’t like a few of the finer details, but overall loves the painting.”
I had to admit to Monty that I didn’t understand. “Is God the painter?” I asked. Because God had been the painter in another analogy they’d presented an hour earlier.
“No. God is the Muse!” Monty said. “The painters of the bible were inspired by God, but made some mistakes here and there which God disapproves of. But over all the bible is perfect!”
This is where I will end this blog, because shortly after this moment they all had to go. But it reminded me of a statement I had heard Dawkins quote on how the shame isn’t that religion makes bad people do bad things, but instead how it can make a good person do bad things. Or something close to that.
Anyhow, that’s a fun Friday night for one such as me.