Why Won’t the Fucking Kipa Stay on my Goddamn Head?! Or On Complacency

Posted on Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It was my sophomore year at Pitzer College, a hotbed for young, freshly de-converted atheist hot-heads like me, and since I’d become an atheist so recently, I found the whole thing ever so exciting.  I was so excited by it, in fact, that I became what others would describe as a “militant” or “evangelical” atheist.  The reality of those labels I won’t go into now.  The point is that I was eager to spread the word of my convictions.

Then crisis hit.

See, like others raised in the Western World, I’d become so entrenched with expressions such as “Thank God”, “Bless you”, or “God willing”, that it actually took a great deal of mental energy both to realize that I’d been entrenched and also to try and do something about it.  See, I’d figured, with perhaps flawed logic, that by even using those expressions, by simply acknowledging the possibility of a god through my complacency in word usage, that I was not just contributing to the problem that I saw of delusional thinking and tolerance thereof, but that I was validating said ideas by expressing them.  It was kind of like how some people think that if you use the “n” word for African-Americans, that you’re contributing to the perceived evil the word has helped to inflict no matter what your usage or intent of the word.

I did something amazing (and by “amazing”, I of course mean a colossal waste of time and energy).  I extirpated the word “god” from my daily usage.

You read rightly.  I said “extirpated” because I tried to figuratively rip the word, by its roots, out of my daily vocab!  At first I was proud of myself.  I’m Captain Non-Complacent! I thought proudly.  I’m not contributing to the bullshit! I proclaimed inside.  But then I realized two things:

1. I was affecting no change whatsoever.

2. It was a massive, bulging, sweating pain in the ass.

Try this.  Try speaking without using any words that are spelled with “e”.  At first you think, ah hell, that’s simple!  Instead of “eat”, I’ll say “devour”–oh, oops.  I guess I’ll say “munch”.  Shew!  Munch!  But “munch” doesn’t quite mean the exact same thing as “eat”.  It’s a pain.

About a month after trying to stop using “god”, I stopped trying.  To be honest, it was more for the second cited reason than the first.  But I recognized the first cited reason as well.

Flash forward a few years and I’m with some Christian friends at some weird dinner theater thing of a play a friend of theirs wrote and directed for the church community to enjoy.  To be honest, it was a shitty play using all kinds of what I’d later refer to as logical fallacies to prove its points, of which it had very few.  But this isn’t about that.  The whole time I was sitting there in the audience, I felt kinda proud.  Like I was a spy or something.  I was seeing how the other side did things.  Or maybe it was I was attempting to bridge the gap between non-theists and theists and I felt that by participating in this bullshit, I could put a kind face on us.  This was rationalization as my atheism never came up, and so everyone else there most likely took me for a guy hanging out with his friends, which I was.  Upon some reflection of the event, I admitted to myself that I was getting nothing out of going to my friends’ religious events, they and their fellow churchgoers were obviously going to get nothing out of my being there, so I stopped going to these kinds of events.

In more recent history, I went to my first Pesach (Passover) with some family friends.  When I say these family friends are Jewish, I don’t mean the Ben Stiller Jewish of his filmKeeping the Faith.  I mean black hats, kipas (yamulkhas), beards, etc.  I wore a kipa, washed my hands, said some prayers, sang some others, broke bread, and even ate it over this plastic bag in order to keep the crumbs off of anything.  The one thought that kept sticking out in my head?  Not, gee, this is good food.  Not, what a bunch of bullshit this is.  Not,wait, you guys actually teach your kids this shit? No.  What was occupying my time was, why won’t the fucking kipa stay on my goddamn head?! I’d come full circle.  From a guy who was determined, fiercely determined, to not even use the word “god”, to a guy who was just as fiercely determined not only to follow the bullshit rules that I knew were bullshit, but to follow them to a tee.  And, to repeat what my friend would advise me on several occasions, the rules didn’t even apply to me because I’m not Jewish!

Obviously, if one is invited into another’s home, it’s only polite to follow the rules.  I would’ve been a total dick had, upon request, I’d have refused to wear a kipa.  But it’s made me wonder, as far as politeness and getting along go, where do we, where should we, where must we draw the line?

My fiancée asked me once, “What’s wrong with an old lady going to church because she takes comfort in it?”  My ready-made answer was that said old lady is being complacent.  By her actions, she’s saying that what the church does is okay.  Telling small children they’ll go to Hell unless.  Telling foreigners they need to follow this other god.  Telling gays that they don’t have the right to marry their life partner.  All of it the old lady is saying is okay as long as she participates.

“What about when you wear a kipa?” my fiancée asked.  I tried to explain it away.  I tried to rationalize it.  At the end, though, I had and still have no answer for the conflict.  When do we not participate because to do so is to indirectly validate that which we truly feel is unethical or immoral, and when do we take part because, well, shit, cutting “god” out of the vocabulary is just too fucking hard?

For now, I’ve narrowed it down to “active” and “passive” complacency.  Wearing a kipa isn’t the same thing as dropping a coin in the box the Jewish kid is holding out for support to Israel.  But even that doesn’t fully take care of the problem.  So until I figure out what will, the best I can manage is being a passively complacent atheist.

My Articles H-Z

%d bloggers like this: