Dear Religious People Illustrated

Yesterday, the first day of 2021, I was out with my roommate running errands following a wonderful breakfast at one of our favorite places. I had toast and coffee. I bring this up because as we drove over to the grocery store, I began experiencing some severe abdominal pain. Given I had two cups of coffee before having another coffee with the toast, in all likelihood I simply overdid it. It wasn’t nausea or anything like that, but rather an extreme tightness, like a very bad muscle cramp. I thought I simply needed to walk it off, but that wasn’t helping.

I bring this up because it helps to give context for the kind of mindset I was in when this happened. My concentration and patience were essentially shot after 15 minutes of trying to walk off a spot of pain. I’ve had my appendix and gall bladder removed, so when I’m experiencing pain in that region, it’s not an easy thing to work through. Of course, there was nowhere to sit, so the best I could do was make it to my car as soon as possible.

As I walked down the last aisle before getting in line at the front, a small family was gathered at the end of it. Among their ranks was this little toothpick likely no older than 12 and probably didn’t weigh more than 60 pounds soaking wet even with her oversized hoodie. Between her hair and how she was standing, I couldn’t see all of what was written on it. The first part of the slogan I could see was “I SUCK.” Those were the last two words, in letters literally as tall as her head. As I got closer, I could see “JESUS” above it. In my addled state, I still tried to parse just what I was looking at, along with trying to navigate between a shopping cart and the people beside it. Finally, as I was maybe 10 or 15 feet away, the full message became clear.

WITHOUT JESUS I SUCK

The moment I finished reading it, her father (I assume that’s who he was) walks up to me, holds out a little pamphlet, and says, “Jesus loves you.”

For starters, I’m not going to take something some yahoo holds out to me. I don’t know where it’s been and it seems to be a rule that religious people are essentially convinced the pandemic is a hoax, so this is literally the last person I’m expecting to take the most basic precautions and wash his damn hands before stapling his folded sheet of badly-xeroxed typing paper together and handing them out to anyone he comes across.

Second, in my experience, there’s rarely anyone like this I’ve come across who takes no for an answer, however polite you are, and leaves well enough alone. I’m not saying I was cornered or otherwise being funneled into some kind of obligation. That they were at the end of the aisle I was trying to get through was just circumstance. The point is trying to deal with physical pain while navigating a supermarket in a time when not enough people are keeping their disgusting aerosols and other bodily fluids to themselves is bad enough, but now I’ve got a Jesus Freak playing ideological Russian roulette with my patience and it’s already been made clear where his views fall.

A parent teaching his child to link her self-esteem to her belief in Jesus, to the point that anything or anyone else falling outside that belief system “sucks.” I’m no stranger to snarky comments on t-shirts, and of course they’re not meant to be taken literally, but this wasn’t some sarcastic remark about reading the fucking manual or calmly alerting people to the fact serial killers look like ordinary people. This was a child proudly announcing to the world (or on behalf of her father) that her perception of herself was so deeply linked to Jesus, she would unlikeable as a person otherwise. How much daylight is there between that and those statements you’ve likely heard along the lines of, “If I didn’t believe in God, I’d be in jail.” or “If I doubted the afterlife for a second, I’d be raping and pillaging left and right.”?

I said, “No, thank you.” and slid between him and his shopping cart. There was no drama. That needs to be the norm. Still, I couldn’t get the image of that little girl out of my mind, so I made a drawing because that’s one of the ways I try to turn negatives into positives, how I articulate my criticisms, and generally how I deal with the fact I have to share this wonderful world with people who can’t see how wonderful they could be if they simply dropped their fucking bullshit.

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