“You don’t believe that, do you?”
The person behind the voice was staring at my “Darwin Fish” T-shirt: the fish had legs, and the word “Darwin” was emblazoned inside the outline. I recognized her: one of the volunteer chaplains who roam the hospital, trying to sell their version of the truth to people who were helpless, often depressed, and frequently in fear of death. It was probably a fertile ground in which they planted the seeds of their particular superstition.
“What don’t I believe?” I asked.
“That Darwin,” she said. Her lips pursed. I felt that she was prepared to hear a blistering argument.
“Believe in Darwin? I’m not sure that belief is the right word. But there’s more verifiable proof that Charles Robert Darwin lived than there is that Jesus of Nazareth lived.”
“You don’t believe in God?” she said. I could hear the upper case letter.
“You don’t listen very well, do you.” I said. “I didn’t say that, at all. Why do you think that?”
“You said Jesus didn’t exist!” Her anger was showing in the way she clipped her words.
“You really don’t listen very well. Probably because your mind is protected by with perceptual filters and beliefs created and reinforced by the cultus deorum to which you belong.”
“What?” she demanded. Apparently my diction was too high.
“You’ve been brainwashed by propaganda from the pulpit for so long that you can no longer hear anything that conflicts with your prejudices and preconceptions,” I said. “If you will agree to listen and stop misinterpreting what I say, we can continue this conversation. Otherwise, please leave.”
The woman turned, nearly knocked over a man who had been behind her, and stomped off.
“What was that all about?” the man asked.
“Do you know who she is?” I asked.
“One of the chaplains,” he said. He looked around the waiting room. “As if these folks didn’t have enough to worry about without someone telling them they’re going to hell, or that whatever church they belong to is the wrong one, or that god is all about love and all they have to do is surrender—”
He stopped talking abruptly when he saw me raise both eyebrows and start to laugh.”
He joined me in the laugh, then said, “Yes, I’ve heard it all. It’s not like they try to keep it a secret.”
This is WhatDoctorWho blogging from exile.
[The blog of WhatDoctorWho is a feature of “Holy Fire,” which is further described on the Home Page of this web site.]
Registered Curmudgeon, scientist, skeptic, humanist, and writer.