“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
– The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A Dude attended a presentation sponsored by his weekly job search group today. It was about how to make brain science work for, not against us. The presenter asked an attender if she had faith. She paused and said, “Well, if you mean like in organized religion, no.” The presenter said something like, “Well, do you have faith the sun is going to come up tomorrow?” “Of course,” she answered. And that got me thinking. (I have a thinking problem, actually. I’m trying to cut back. Ha ha!) Thinking usually leads to writing, and lately not journaling as much as weblogging. So in what do I have faith?
The truth is, I don’t think about faith much. I may lose a few true believer followers by saying this, but they will have to forgive me. A Dude is not a member of any organized religion and has not been for some time. The reasons don’t really matter. I call myself agnostic – which literally means “not knowing.” But I say that because some people cannot handle the fact that I’m an atheist – “not believing in a deity.” In fact, I was raised and have spent my whole life as a rational person. To some, a “heathen non-believer.” Whatevs.
Does God Exist? I Don’t Know, and Neither Do You!
That heading was on a bumper sticker I saw once, after the words “Militant Agnostic.” A year ago, comedian Ricky Gervais, who also identifies as an agnostic athiest, stumped the CBS Late Show host Stephen Colbert, a devout Catholic, in a debate:
GERVAIS: “… Atheism is only rejecting the claim that there is a god. Atheism isn’t a belief system. So this is atheism in a nutshell. You say there’s a God. I say, “Can you prove that?” You say no. I say, “I don’t believe you then.” So you believe in one God, I assume?”
COLBERT: “Uhh…. in three persons, but go ahead.”
GERVAIS: “Okay. But there are about 3,000 to choose from… Basically, you deny one less God than I do. You don’t believe in 2,999 gods. And I don’t believe in just one more.”
Do athiests and agnostics believe is there a “higher power”? Not in the Judaeo-Christian sense. But at least the Universe (if not the science fictional multi-verse), or just that life has purpose and meaning? Will politicians say and do stupid stuff? Do I get on an elevator with faith that the engineer who designed it made sure it will work? Do I have faith in science? And even unprovable things like the affection of a dog, that wind exists even though I can’t see it, global warming, that we put people on the moon, or that 9/11 was not an inside job? And how about faith in my bike not falling over every time I ride it? Science still can’t explain that one. Yes to all those. Maybe that makes us/me a fool. Who the hell are you to say, Judgy McJudgerson?
So yeah, I do have faith in plenty of things, although not in some “invisible best friend / space god,” to paraphrase famous atheists Bill Maher and George Carlin. I actually admire people who have such a firm belief that they follow the path of their leader and live by their example. However, I meet very few fellow self-identified pacifists who are also religious. (Folks who are pro-war, death penalty, anti-sensible gun law supporters, but anti-woman’s right to choose – I’m talking to you.) Look, challenging anyone’s beliefs is usually a waste of their time and mine. Same as it would be for someone to try to convert me to their views. This is a blog, not a pulpit, and speech is still kinda free-ish.
“A man’s got to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another drink.”
— W.C. Fields
Ain’t Dead Yet
My point is that sometime soon, perhaps tomorrow, I could find myself bicycling on a country road. Despite my bright yellow high visibility helmet, a drunkard could make a mistake and run me over in a second. I could be murdered like Leonel Hernandez or Andrew Tilin. I could be in the city, in a bike lane, following all the rules, signaling, biking defensively, but I might still get run over and killed. Or driving my friend’s car when someone cuts me off; although I’m an excellent driver thanks to all the bike-riding, I could still become a dead person. Or worse, in a coma. Or a Fox-news watching, Republican voter. Sorry, gots to call ’em like I see ’em. (I’m no damn Dem, either.)
Do I have faith the drunks, speeders and texters will do the right thing and spare my life? I guess I do, but it’s a tentative, and blind faith. I also look in my rear-view mirror and over my shoulder — A LOT. Because the odds are actually pretty low that a cyclist will be killed in Austin. People on bikes ride up and down these roads frequently, and I’m not a novice. But maybe it’s “my time”, if there is such a thing. I don’t think so, and let’s hope not. I’ve got words to say, a blog (and books) to write, books to read, TV shows to watch, music to make, abundance to create… and miles to bike before I sleep. Even tyrants to help overthrow – money changers like Tinyhands Orangehead who should be thrown out of the temple and into jail, even already!
If you’re out there reading this and pooh-poohing my alleged godless, worthless existence, go ahead and pray if you wish. I have a belief and faith (and some scientific studies I could Google) that it won’t matter. But hell, I don’t know, maybe it will. I’m an agnostic athiest, remember? I’ll say the same thing a Catholic bishop I knew did. He used to sign letters in response to contentious mail he received, “You may very well be right.” But I’m Jewish, I’m among the chosen people. And if there’s one thing we Jews, secular or not, have faith in, it’s in our Jewish mothers raining down righteous holy hell upon anyone who dare harm their precious progeny. Yes, that may mean lawsuits and lawyers, some of whom may be Jewish. Or not, Stereotypey McStereotyperperson.
No One Makes it Off Planet Earth Alive
So is death by car in the cards for A Dude? No one really knows. But I have faith it’s not. I may have some doubt about my physical fitness and health these days. Or even my sanity in not taking the first shitty job I can get instead of having faith that this blogging / writing / bike business thing might hold some promise of eventual income. But after bicycling 10,000 miles in 2 years, I do have reason to believe in my awesome bike handling skills. Which reminds me of a scene in the movie Napolean Dynamite:
Napoleon Dynamite: I don’t even have any skills.
Pedro: What do you mean?
Napoleon Dynamite: You know, like nunchuck skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills. Girls only like guys who have great skills.
Pedro: Like what are my skills?
Napoleon Dynamite: Well, you have a sweet bike. And you’re really good at hooking up with chicks. Plus you’re like the only guy at school who has a mustache.
— from the movie, Napoleon Dynamite
In summation, I’ll say that no one makes it off of Planet Earth alive. And I plan to live as long as possible, or at least as long as I can ride some sort of bike. But if deadness happens to me prematurely (whatever that means, if it’s even accurate to say, because who really knows?), shed no tears for me. OK, maybe a few. Like my dad’s dad, who died playing golf drinking beer with his buddies, if I do get run over, at least I’ll go out while doing one of my favorite things. Pumping my legs, fresh air in my lungs, wind in my hair, sun on my face… riding my bicycle. Now that’s something in which to have faith.
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