Who would you like to go back in time and kill?

Oh, the usual—Hitler, Stalin, George W. Bush.

Anybody else?

Well, there might be one or two, but you’d think I was absolutely horrible if I told you.

No, we wouldn’t.


Me and the Internet. You know you can trust us.

Well, alright then, here goes.

I would take out Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and everyone else who ever tried to rule the world. Columbus and all the old Indian fighters (that’s Native American Indians, not Indian Indians, but maybe some of them too). Ted Bundy and all other serial killers and mass murderers (yes, I do recognize the irony) as well as all torturers, drug lords, child molesters, and slave owners. Then would come Jesus, Mohammed, Jim Jones, David Koresh, and a lot of other religious leaders. Everyone who ever killed another human being for reasons of race, religion, or ethnicity.

Let’s see, who else? Demagogues. Union busters. Furriers. Rapists (I would definitely kill rapists even if I do get off on an occasional rape fantasy). Chronic litterbugs (I can sympathize with a great many murderers, but littering is inexcusable). Druggies who have multiple babies that are taken away by Children’s Protective Services. People who breed animals to fight or dump their pets on the side of the road (I would really like to take them out). Men who beat women. Vivisectionists. Bullies who drive their classmates to suicide. People who are mean and/or dishonest their whole adult lives. Every last monarch and rich person who ever became wealthy off the backs of others. Yes, I know this would include Britain’s own dear Queen Elizabeth II. Sorry, Queenie. You’re not the worst of the lot by far, but you are the richest woman in the world, and what the hell have you done to deserve that?

God, Snowbrush, you are one bloodthirsty son of a bitch.

Thanks, but shut up now, I'm on a roll.

I would also kill all psychopaths and sociopaths, and I would euthanize advanced dementia sufferers and profoundly retarded people who are kept alive at taxpayer expense (the money really could be better spent, you know). Oh, yeah, everyone who ever suffered needlessly only to die anyway (I would be gentle with them). And, of course, lawyers—not quite every lawyer, but almost every lawyer. Sarah Palin? She died with the other demagogues.

But enough about me. Who would you kill?

Nobody. It's patently wrong to go around killing people, even mean people. You are one sick s.o.b.

So, you’re telling me that you would let 70-million people die before you would kill one Austrian megalomaniac!!!??? What if your family was being attacked, and the only way you could save them would be to kill the attackers. Are you saying you wouldn’t do it?

I wouldn’t know until it happened, but that’s different from what you’re talking about. You’re talking about the premeditated murders of thousands of people.

I would call it execution (and, in some cases, euthanasia), but putting that aside, if wanting to go back in time and right wrongs before they occur is evil, then I’m evil—and proud of it.

How do you know that killing all those people wouldn’t lead to even more suffering?

In some cases it would. For example, if I kill a child molester who is the sole support of his family, then his family might starve, or 300 years later, the world might be denied the birth of a truly great person. If I knew that would be the outcome, I would spare him, but my fantasy doesn’t allow me to consider the everlasting implications of every case. It only allows me to do what I think would make things better in the big picture. Since none of us can see into the future, this is basically how we already live.

But would you REALLY kill all those people?

You question reminds me of a joke. A man was seated beside an attractive woman at a dinner party. After an exchange of pleasantries, he asked if she would go to bed with him for a million dollars. “I would,” she said. “Well, then, would you go to bed with me for $25?” “Sir! What kind of a woman do you think I am?” “We’ve already settled that. Now, we’re dickering on price.”

Now, you tell me whether or not you would kill Hitler. On the one hand, you have the lives of 70 million people, untold millions of other creatures, and the lifelong emotional and physical impairment of many times that number. You also have incalculable environmental, artistic, historical, and financial destruction. On the other, you have the life of a scumball named Adolf Hitler. Furthermore, imagine that you don’t even have to go back in time and get your hands dirty; you can kill him right now simply by wishing it so. Picture him in his crib in May 1889 (see photo), and wish him dead, and, presto, he’s dead. If you don’t kill him, then I, for one, will think of you as someone whose ethics are so divorced from reality as to be utterly egocentric, but if you do kill him, we will know what you are. The only remaining question is whom else you would kill. Surely, Stalin. Unquestionably, Pol Pot. Doubtlessly, Kim Jong-iI. Where would you stop? Why would you stop?

What of compassion?

"You find out something important about a person when you see how they treat those who are weaker than them. But you find out most about a person when you see how they treat those who have absolutely no power; those who are helpless....the most obvious candidates for this status are animals." —from The Philosopher and the Wolf by Mark Rowlands

What does it say about our species that we subject helpless creatures to short miserable lives that end in brutal deaths so that we might enjoy the taste of milk, cheese, eggs, and meat? If we do this to them for so small a reward, then what might we do to one another for a much greater reward—if we thought we could get away with it?

To those who say that people's religion is their business

Peggy’s sister, Pam, is a morbidly obese diabetic who eats what she pleases and as much as she pleases. She won’t take insulin, check her glucose levels, or see a doctor. Pam can put away more food at one meal than I eat all day. If she dies suddenly, her death won’t be of much consequence to the taxpayer, but if she has a debilitating stroke, her care could cost millions.

Pam thinks that what she eats is her business. People who do drugs or drink too much think that is their business too. New York State has asked the federal government to prohibit people who are on the dole from buying soft drinks with food stamps, but food stamp recipients are up in arms. "What we drink is our business," they say.

Most states now require people in cars to wear seatbelts and people on motorcycles to wear helmets, partly because it is unfair to the taxpayer for them to take unnecessary risks on public roads. Many people say that such laws are unfair. They say that their safety is nobody’s business but their own.

How restrictive the government should be is not a simple question. For instance, should it ban cigarettes and junk foods? Should it outlaw skydiving and rock climbing? Should it send overweight people to fitness camps? Most of us would say no to such extremes, yet people’s risky behavior does harm the rest of society.

Government can’t successfully outlaw religion any more than it has been able to successfully outlaw certain drugs. Yet, those who hold that religion is a private matter overlook its public cost. They say that they don’t like proselytizing atheists anymore than they like proselytizing Christians, but I have the same right to criticize religion that I have to criticize Pam’s overeating. You might not want to hear it, and if ours was a one-on-one relationship, I would honor your request just as I have honored Pam’s request. But my blog is a public forum where I write about what is important to me, and opposing what I consider to be an irrational and destructive worldview is important to me.

But why do you single out Christianity?

Because I see it as the primary enemy of my own place and time. It is also the religion that has caused the most harm to me personally, and the one that I know the most about.

You mentioned the harm caused by smoking and overeating, so why not criticize them?

Everyone who smokes or overeats knows it is harmful because they’ve been warned by people who have a lot more expertise in these fields than I do. I usually avoid writing about politics for a similar reason. For example, I don’t think President Obama has done a good job, but I would be reluctant to debate the matter with someone who has studied the Obama presidency because I would look like an ignoramus. Only one reader ever said that I’m an ignoramus in regard to religion, but since he offered no evidence to support his assertion, I couldn’t agree with it.

I dislike religion even more than I dislike fascism or Communism simply because I know more about it. It was no accident that atheists who took the Pew Religious Knowledge Survey knew more about religion than Christians because the more you learn about religion, the less likely you are to be religious. Ironically, the more I am told that I shouldn’t write about religion, the more inclined I am to write about religion simply because I hope that I can eventually express myself well enough that at least a people who are now clueless will understand.

I sometimes see a bumper sticker that reads, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” I remember that sticker every time someone tells me that religion is a private matter, and that I shouldn’t criticize it. Oddly, these are often the same people who have told me—based upon a spiritual insight they claim to have had—that all life is connected.

I agree with their “insight,” because it seems to me that there are few if any private matters. The only question is whether we use force or reason to oppose those who endanger the public. Both have their place, which is why we have policemen and prisons, but I wouldn’t prohibit anyone’s private observance of religion even if I could. If I weren’t discriminated against by Christians, compelled by my government to publicly support religion, and made to bow to the repressive laws that Christians have put on the books, I would have no reason to criticize Christianity. After all, the world is full of irrational beliefs that I consider unworthy of mention. You can avoid black cats, walk around ladders, throw salt over your shoulder, read your horoscope, swing crystals over your boo-boos, believe in little green men, or play with Tarot cards, and I will but pity you. As long as you don’t try to force me to support your beliefs, we can even be friends. After all, no two people are without their differences.

See Dick. See Dick die.

The “funeral” was a reception held by Dick’s five grown children at his house a few doors down. I arrived on time, and it was just them and me for awhile, but other people eventually began to trickle in. I ate too much; I drank too much; and my social unease probably led me to talk too much. After two hours, I figured I had done my duty, so I walked home.

Dick’s wife died two years ago. I tried to befriend him afterwards, but he showed no interest in such support as I had to offer, so I withdrew totally. Someone suggested that I still try to be there for him, just not so much, but I’m no good at striking happy mediums with people I can’t begin to understand. Dick was like my father-in-law, Earl, in that he was always polite but never present emotionally. I used to try to draw Earl out, but it was like beating my head against a wall, so I gave up. He will be here next week, and I anticipate giving little and expecting nothing because I don’t know what else to do. I met him 39 years ago, and I still don’t know who he is. Maybe he doesn’t either. I suppose that if a person smothers his emotions long enough, they eventually die. I figure that the best part of Dick probably died in childhood, so his funeral was but an anti-climax.

What I will remember best about Dick is that, after his wife died, he read magazines nearly all day everyday while sitting with his back to his picture window. I walked or biked past his house several times a day, and I made a game of trying to get by before he turned around and saw me, but I seldom could. He would wave and smile, and I would wave and smile, but I would mostly be wondering what in the hell he was doing. He spent the greater part of the last two years pretending to read but in reality turning around every few seconds to see who was on the street.

Today is gray as most days will be for the next six months, and my insides are gray too.

What if you had to take a written exam to get into heaven?

You might be aware of the recent Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey on which atheists beat out Christians (I scored 100). Last week, I laughed until I cried listening to representatives from various denominations explain on National Public Radio why the test was unfair and the results were irrelevant anyway.

I mean, come on guys, if you're an American Christian, you have the good fortune to live in the most religious of First World nations BY FAR, yet atheists know more about religion than YOU do! ATHEISTS!!! I mean, aren't you just a little embarrassed? If you are, good for you. At least you're more humble--or, perhaps, just more honest--than the experts on the radio. I can't prove it, of course, but I would bet you anything that if the atheists had flunked, those same experts would be saying, "See there. The reason atheists don't believe in God is that they don't know enough about religion."

"But were the differences significant," you might ask. YES! Atheists barely edged out Jews, and Jews barely edged out Mormons, but other Christians might as well have been riding hobbyhorses in the Tour de France. The poor Catholics were clueless about the role of the bread and wine in the mass, and Protestants were fuzzy on the identity of an old-timer named Martin Luther. Arrrgh! All I can say is LOL.

I remain sincerely yours,
An Insufferably Smart-Alecky Atheist

P.S. Enjoy Sunday school!