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Thursday, October 01, 2009

A Cold Day in Hell

Two days before Hitchens and D'Souza's Great Debate I received a phone call from my mother. She wanted to chat and asked about our plans for the next few days. I tried to remain vague but it eventually came out that we were heading to Orlando for the event and would be taking the girls. She offered to drive over and keep Elle, seeing as how she might be a little young and fidgety for such a situation. Fine, I thought, that might work out well; she does get wiggly when she's tired and it was going to be a long night.

The day before the event my mother phoned back and notified me that no, she and my father would not be coming over after all. Her faith was just too important and strong for her to support something like that. Like what, a debate? An intelligent discussion of an age old question? Her side would be fairly represented... No, she insisted, she just felt too strongly about her faith.

But how strong can your faith be if it cannot stand up to any questioning?

Her logic escaped me. If it was such a dangerous intellectual atmosphere, why would she then force me back to my original plan and expose my innocent, impressionable youngest to such radical ideas? How noble of her.

The day of the debate there was an ugly message posted on my Facebook wall, querying about the "athest (sic) bullshit" and accusing me of upsetting my mother right after she had just lost her brother. It was signed, along with a little more vulgarity, by my father.

If my father knew me even just a little bit in this respect, he'd know that these ideas aren't all that new to me. They certainly predate the death of my uncle several weeks ago. In fact, his father, my beloved WASP grandfather, was the first to suggest to me, a wide-eyed nine or ten year old, that things were not all right with my family's religious beliefs when he explained the patently ridiculous idea of immaculate conception and the probable paternity of Jesus: Mary had slept with a rabbi.

(Happy belated Blasphemy Day, by the way!)

A thousand snarky replies went through my head after the initial shock and hurt at the message's tone. I was somewhat flattered. Was I so powerful that my non-belief in an afterlife had doomed my poor uncle to oblivion despite my mother's fervent prayers? Was I God? I decided to take the advice my parents seem to have forgotten about not writing things you'd be ashamed to have anyone read and left the comment displayed, unanswered, as a testament of Christian compassion and unconditional love.

My status was changed to: L____ W______ D____ has a date tonight with Christopher Hitchens.

Grice's school schedule precluded her from attending, but Elle came with us and we all had a very entertaining and informative evening from the time spent in line chucking at the girls ahead of us complaining that their teacher failed everyone in their class on the science test because he's an evolutionist!, to the devastating wit and rationality of Hitchens, to a late night Mexican dinner.

The next day the message was gone. My father not being savvy enough to know how to delete a comment, I quizzed my daughters who know my password thinking they might not have wanted anyone to see the mean-spirited comments, and my brother, who told me he had instructed my father to take it down.

Nearly two weeks passed without a word from my parents until two cards arrived in the mail yesterday, one for my each of my daughters from my mother. For no reason. With money inside. They called to thank Nana for the cards and the phone was handed to me before I could protest. My mother announced they were now ready to drive over for a visit (under the guise of a friendly get-together, but really to use our place as a launch pad for visiting west coast friends.) I insisted I wouldn't dream of asking her to compromise her values by staying with us, I know how strong her beliefs are to her. Apparently her faith is strong, but not her moral fiber; she blamed my father for the rude remarks.

One little word -- not an envelope full of money -- is all it takes.


Snoopy said...

Wow, you're forgiving. I would never speak to my father again after that. My friend K. went to the debate and said it was in-cre-di-ble and that there were tons of atheists there from everywhere in FL. I'm not much for crowds and debates so I'm happy to hear all about it through 3rd parties.

Meg_L said...

Wow. I'm sorry that you have to deal with family like that.