Many unbelievers want to cement a Gentlemen’s agreement between fidelity and infidelity.
One the one hand, the unbeliever wants to pat himself on the back for what a manly, tough-minded boy he’s become.
Unlike those cringing, sentimental Christians, who take pathetic refuge in harps and pink clouds, the atheist is prepared to follow the evidence wherever it leads him, and if that means following the evidence right over the cliff and plunging into the abyss below, so be it.
This is the steely, stiff-lipped front that an atheist likes to present to the church. That’s what he holds the Christian to. The firm foundation of unyielding despair.
On the other hand, he’s rather less appreciative if a Christian leaves the unbeliever strapped into the wheel chair as it goes careening over the cliff.
So the unbeliever plays a selective game of chicken. He’ll dare the Christian to a drag race. But as he approaches the precipice, the unbeliever will suddenly slam on the brakes while his Christian competitor sails over the cliff—or so he hopes.
For when he is staring into his own grave, with nothing on the other side, a militant atheist is the first one to blink. Yet he demands of us that we take no notice. We’re supposed to indulge his illusion of valor.
A militant atheist is like a boy who catches a rattlesnake by the tail and takes it to the birthday party to show it off to the other kids.
He’s very proud of himself for handling such a dangerous animal. And he’s expecting the hostess to honor the Gentlemen’s agreement.
The boy and the hostess both know the snake is a real snake. And a very venomous snake, at that.
But when she expresses mild concern—bordering on polite disapproval—at the prospect of a rattlesnake swimming in the punchbowl, the boy becomes indignant and assures her that it’s only a stuffed animal.
And so the hostess is duty-bound by all that’s good and decent to play let’s pretend.
For her to pertinaciously point out that the creature in question is a real snake, and is distinctly unwelcome at a birthday party, would be a breach of social etiquette—the likes of which have not been seen since Ella-Mae wore a red dress to the square dance. No proper hostess would dream of being so unladylike.
So the boy is free to set the snake on the loose. And so it slithers around under the table, biting the bare ankles of the little boys and girls.
But they’re not supposed to cry. They’re expected to humor the boy and be a good sport about a touch of gangrene. After all, playacting is a natural part of childhood.
When, one by one, they fall down dead, the child in the next chair looks the other way and licks the frosting off the cake.
Finally, the snake bites the boy who brought it to the party. But the hostess doesn’t dial 9/11.
For that would be discourteous. That would hurt his feelings.
Good breeding demands that our hostess play along with the charade from start to finish.
To tell the snakebite victim that he’s going to die—well, that would be rude, you know.
Worse than rude! Why, it would be—cover your ears, now—offensive!
But I have to break it to you, and I confess that this is a blight on the church—there are some unmannerly so-called Christians out there who actually think it’s more considerate in the long run to warn everyone concerned that the colorful critter under the table is not a stuffed animal, but a real live rattlesnake. They refuse to honor the Gentlemen’s agreement. And their impertinence is a stumbling block to many.