Who Ya Gunna Call?

I cannot remember the last time I bought a cake for a social event. If I did find myself in the market for a commercially made cake for an LGBTQ+ friendly event, I would probably ask around. Why would I bother with a bakery that I know will refuse my business for any reason, much less a religious one? Litigation is not my gig.

People are going to want to eat this thing. I need someone I can trust. I’m not saying that anyone would poison the cake, but people have been viciously beaten or murdered for being gay or black, atheist, Jewish, trans, or even a friend or ally of such people. Why risk it? I would be responsible.

As I’ve read about litigation over such things, I wondered how religious beliefs would work when more critical things are in question: health care, for example.

I noticed that South Carolina recently passed a law allowing medical personnel to refuse providing healthcare based on their conscience (faith, religion, beliefs, morals). This law amends existing legal code. State and federal laws already provide such protection. No doctor can be forced to do what they don’t agree with, except in an emergency.

Personally, regarding me, I don’t want medical staff doing anything they object to, are not skilled at or familiar with. I don’t want to be their first case—a guinea pig. I prefer no students, interns, or even residents practice on me, based on past experiences. I should have the right to decline treatment by students, but that is another argument.

Over the years, I have been hospitalized several times, I’ve had surgery and procedures where I have been helpless and/or unconscious. On a few of those occasions, I met the doctor and the rest of the surgical/procedure team for the first and last time in the OR/Lab.

I was able to glean some things about these people. Sometimes I knew one, but never all. Of those I knew, I could guess that maybe their native language was not English. I could also guess about gender/sex, but little more. I knew nothing of their religious or moral beliefs. It was a don’t ask, don’t tell situation. No doctor or nurse ever clearly prayed in my presence. That might be bad for business.

In one case, I met with the head of cardiology. As part of the discussion, he asked what I wanted them to do, if the pending procedure went south. I verbally approved extreme measures to keep me alive (unnecessary as it went well). He was not my attending physician/surgeon, but no one else asked me that question. I felt that if I had said, “No extreme measures. Let me die.” He would have made the note and been okay with that. I knew nothing about his moral or spiritual beliefs, nor the policy of the hospital regarding such issues.

Except for interns and residents, I expect medical professionals to know what they are doing. I hope they had good training, and I hope we get along in our provider-patient relationship.

But I wonder how often doctors are forced to perform non-emergency procedures their religion or morality prevents. Why are existing laws insufficient? Is this SC law political grandstanding and a waste of time and money? I don’t know. I live in Texas, so I also don’t care. But I did ponder some things.

I can’t say for other countries because I don’t know. But I’ve noticed that medical facilities/organizations, doctors, other medical professionals, and insurance companies always seem to get their way in the USA. I know there are such things as various patient rights, but what are they and what are the consequences of non-compliance?

I would like to believe that hospitals and doctors are dedicated to keeping everyone alive and healthy. I want to think that at least the doctors, if not the entire medical staff, will apply the best medical science to treatment. If a facility or doctor will place religion before my health and welfare, I want to know up front. Must I ask such questions?

Happy St-Jean-Baptiste Day to all my friends in Quebec,


If you really want to get into this topic, HERE is a JAMA study on people considering religion in selecting medical care (Guess what? Care quality matters more than religion).

And THIS is a list of traditional religious guidelines regarding healthcare (rabbit hole warning).

Shorty: Skeptical Evangelicals

That headline got me to reading about that huge homogeneous group of American citizens and why they had little faith in science.

The definition of oxymoron is “a combination of contradictory or incongruous words.” Okay. Maybe the idea that the deeply religious can be skeptical of things other than their god is not so incongruous. But in a way, this is a clear lack of faith: in science, in government, and in this case, big pharma (and who likes them?).

It sounds to me like these thumpers want Jesus to ensure they win the lottery without buying a ticket (gambling’s a sin, ya know).

They want god to protect them from the COVID-19 virus and variants without taking the shot. While there are certainly anti-vaxxers who are Christian of one brand or another, nothing in Christianity specifically forbids taking injections to use the human body’s natural defenses to prevent the spread of disease. While some may interpret it that way, or shoehorn in some weird, twisted interpretation, the shots are working and saving lives. THANK YOU, JESUS!

I might have bought the “let’s wait and see if it kills everyone else first” strategy for a while. But we have passed all that. All they are doing is giving atheists like me ammo to gun down religion as evil and dangerous.

I’ve been criticized before for my bizarre thinking about masks and medicine, about religion and gods, about baseball and apple pie. But here is what I think: if you don’t get the shot, you either have a good reason, or you are a dumb shit who cares little about human life. If you also refuse to wear a mask, you either have an excellent reason, or you’re an asshole who…. I can’t say it.

None of my bitching will convince anyone to do right. But it feels good to me.


It’s All About How We Feel

All life is full of an unbalanced distribution of pain and suffering. Few, if any of us, intentionally seek out such afflictions. Yet misery finds us. Most animals, certainly humans, avoid these troubles. Unfortunately, many find suicide to be the only recourse to end hopeless permanent misery. While virtually all cling to life, the US suicide rate is at its highest point since WWII (lowest among people of Asian and Pacific Islander groups, highest among Alaskan native people).

Pain has its place. Doctors have denied me relief medication so as not to mask symptoms. I’ve sought medical treatment due to the pain I felt, which signaled something was amiss. I’ve sought support to alleviate my emotional distress, and many of life’s lessons came in the form of pain or shock.

Often, people who become chemically addicted had been seeking pleasure, pain relief, or withdrawal mitigation provided by the substance, either medicinal or nonmedical. Much the same can be said of social addictions. People often help us to feel better.

The goal is the pursuit of feeling happy, whatever that happens to be. A problem is the lie of some drugs, especially alcohol, provide in the form of temporary relief followed by dependence. While relief is the intent, loss of control accompanied by legal transgression is often the result.

And then we have the perverse, unwise, and often injurious idiom, no pain, no gain. I much prefer, listen to your body.

But I want to mention how religion, particularly Christianity, looks upon pain and suffering.

I was religiously taught that experiencing pain and suffering was good, perhaps blessed. While my secular world never supported this acceptance theory, my elementary school teachers, who were Catholic nuns, emphasized the suffering, sacrifice, and martyrdom of saints: holiness.

The passion (read suffering) of Jesus is emphasized dramatically as being caused by human sin. Thus, much, but not all, of Christianity is enamored with pain and suffering. I won’t over-do that here. It gets deep. There must be books and books about the art and science of suffering. Some even claim that one’s suffering contributes to the quality of one’s art.

Like most Catholics, I was taught to offer it up. They could have simply said, just deal with it. But on the mystical road to God works in mysterious ways, one must make life’s pain and suffering serve a useful purpose. That’s religion. And let’s not leave out the it’s your fault, and you should feel guilty and repent. Penance. More suffering which ironically may include prayer.

Fortunately, none of the physicians working in pain management tell their patients to do that, although many cautiously allude to it. However, I have not recently checked any Catholic hospitals.

I have had discussions with my medical providers about some of my pain, and we jointly decided I should endure exercise pain and work through it as it is the best alternative to dangerous surgery. Most properly done exercise is beneficial. I agreed, but dang! I wrote a poem about it.

Still, my goals are to feel good or at least free of most pain and suffering, to remain healthy, and to live as long as reasonably possible. I ascribe to the idea that there is a long enough or too long, but we only seem to know that point when we reach or pass it.

Religions want to tell us what and how god is, and how we should feel about life, death, and god. Some seem to want it both ways. The health and wealth folks are into get mine here and now, but most Christians and Muslims seem ready to accept that heavenly gratification will happen after we die. That is when we will be truly happy and pain free—and dead. I mean cold stone dead.

Many have decided that god is all for the good, and whatever it is they chose to believe is what they want to believe because that is what makes them feel good. And that’s my point. We all want to feel good. They see the wealth and well-being of theirs juxtaposed with their own suffering as God’s will or his mysterious ways.

Be it religion or reality, it’s all about how we feel. I feel as though I am championing the obvious, but for some, this is controversial.


Keep those people away from me

Have you noticed that the god squad is everywhere? It seems like the secular hospital is a thing of the past. I don’t like it. Whatever happened to good old General Hospital?

My personal wish: keep those people away from me. The god squad I don’t want.

I had filled out all the forms before checking in for surgery. I was waiting for the ignorant service crew at my GM dealership to tell me they did not know how to fix my car.

I answered my cell phone ring and the lady from the hospital said I had checked none on the religious preference list and she wanted to be sure that was correct.

“What is it about the word none that you don’t understand?”

“Excuse me?” Says she.

“I want you to keep those people away from me.” Says me.

“Excuse me, Sir?” She seemed confused.

“I want a sign on my door that reads: Atheist within: may be contagious with reality, reason, common sense, and armed with anti-woo-woo.”

“Mr. Reynolds, that is not going to happen.”

I said, “Then I suggest you try to understand that there are at least 100 good reasons for you people to call me. This is not one of them. I am atheist, but that option is not on your list. For now, none will be fine. Thanks for calling.”

“I’m sorry to have bothered you.”

“I bet you are. Goodbye.”

Have a wonderful day,



A to Z Challenge: Vampire Victims Vital to Vastu (V)

Vampires – bite people on the neck, thus making more vamps, drink human blood, cannot endure sunlight, and seem to be distant relatives to zombies. Let’s not forget the effect of a crucifix, or a stake in the heart. These fictitious beings used to be evil and ugly, but Hollywood has worked hard to make them cute and cleaver and all cuddly like, except when the vampire hunter is the protagonist in the fictional story. Fun stuff, but not real.

Vastu – is India’s version of feng shui. It may also be known as vedic architecture, sthapatya ved, vastu vidya, and vastu shastra. The goal is architecture in harmony with nature (sounds good to me). However, apparently, that can only be done with astrology and numerology. If your house is not aligned, you ostensibly get sick. Sure, poor workspace design can cause stress. But your west facing front door? Nah.

Last year a real estate agent explained to me that people with these beliefs do not want to buy homes with kitchens on the southwest side (as mine was). It could lead to divorce or a bunch of maladies. It’s woo-woo but not the exclusive superstation of people of India.

In a similar way, a German cemetery in New Braunfels, TX has the oldest graves canted about fifteen degrees to the right of the property line (newer gravesites don’t do this). This was done so that when Jesus comes again from the east, the graves will be properly aligned directly perpendicular to due east, for resurrection purposes. They wouldn’t want to be missed. This factual explanation is posted with the history of the cemetery at the visitor’s station.

Victim souls – are people who suffer pain or sickness for other people. The logic is a clear reference to Jesus as a scapegoat. But people believe this of other people, and it is supposed to be a good thing, in a martyr-ish kind of way. More popular in the 18th and 19th centuries than today. Audrey Santo (Little Audrey) was a victim soul.

Vitalism – is the metaphysical doctrine of a nonphysical inner force of energy. It goes by chi, qi, rana, ki, orgone energy, and animal magnetism (vital force). Many kinds of alternative health practices (or energy medicine) are based on a belief that health is due to this alleged energy. It focuses on good juju – not science.

Essay: Proof God Exists

A young man, a believer at the time, once asked me regarding my skepticism of the existence of (in his case) the one true god, what kind of proof I would accept. My answer was simple: God. You, me, the neighbor’s cat, the magnificence of the universe, the remarkable unlikeliness of human existence (much less me being one), all of nature and the cosmos are not proof or even evidence that any god exists.

About one year ago I had a lump on my arm that appeared to be a one- or two-centimeter cyst. I asked my primary care doctor if I could have it removed since it detracted from my otherwise magnificent handsomeness, called my vanity. He said and wrote into my medical record that I had a small sebaceous cyst on my left forearm. He went on to say that he would refer me, if it was bothering me. I said it was. I agreed that it was a cyst.

I reported to a surgeon who said it was a cyst. She measured it and found it to be of the necessary size to qualify for surgical excision. I delayed the appointment slightly due to other overlapping medical issues, and since this was still only about my ego. I thought the other issues to be more important.

I eventually had the surgery, and with a local anesthetic, she skillfully removed the lump, showed it to me, and said, “See? It is only a cyst.” She sewed up the two-inch incision and placed the ugly cyst in a sample bottle for analysis by the pathology laboratory. She could have tossed it in the trash.

When I met with her again ten days later to remove the stitches, the surgeon explained that the lab sample was slow in being returned by the path lab. She said that was because it was determined to be soft tissue sarcoma, an uncommon form of cancer that grows on soft body tissue, as opposed to bone (another form of sarcoma). The tumor was determined to be aggressive growing with only minimal margins showing in the sample. She had already scheduled my appointment with an oncologist. Everyone thought it was a cyst, but I had cancer, and still would if my ego had not stepped in. I believed it was a cyst, as did every person I knew and every doctor in my medical chain. We were all wrong. Everyone was wrong.

It took the path lab about a week to complete their review. The only proof anyone had that I had cancer was a scientific lab report. After more time and referrals, I ended up with a sarcoma surgeon. Wait and see was one treatment option, but not the one I chose. We decided on 25 radiation treatments to the affected area on my arm followed several weeks later by radical surgery to remove all soft tissue, including skin, from wrist to elbow. It turned out to be much less than that, but the removed area was about three inches long by two inches wide. I don’t know how deep. All removed tissue was sent to pathology for review.

Driving home after surgery I told my wife that all of this was based upon one lab report that may have been mistaken. It happens, maybe, right? If so, all this radiation and surgery and hospital stuff was for naught. Maybe I did not have cancer at all. I believed I did. I am a skeptic but in this case, wishful thinking is something I was willing to entertain. No one had questioned the first lab report.

After a few days I spoke with the sarcoma surgeon, and he reported that the second sample lab report was back and it indicated that residual cancer cells were present in the second sample, meaning that the original minimal margins had not removed all cancer. But he did. Now I had two reports claiming that sarcoma cancer had been in my body. That is all the proof anyone has, but now everyone agrees that the lump on my arm was cancer, although one doctor explained that it may have originally started as a benign cyst and later became malignant. I don’t know. Maybe.

There was a lump. It was removed (twice) and bombarded with radiation. But the only proof I had was what others had told me after pathology had weighed in. I believe I had cancer and now I take regular tests to monitor for more. I believe this because I have reports written by experts I have never met. I don’t know how the lab tested the first or second sample or made their determinations.

I have read a lot about sarcoma. I have read much more about the existence of a god or gods and how humans should believe and behave because one or more of these gods exist. I have no scientific report. No one claims to have seen the God of Abraham, not even Abe. Scripture was written by men, or perhaps women, we don’t really know who wrote it. The only proof anyone offered regarding god is faith and miracles that allegedly (no evidence or proof of them) happened long ago.

What proof do I need? No one has ever seen a god. I have tried, but I get nothing. For now, I would want to see a god for myself, because I have no believable scientific evidence that any god exists.

Empty metaphysical arguments are not enough. Noisy religion is not enough. The unsupported opinion of the majority is no longer enough. The possibility of any gods existing is further exacerbated by what I experience, see, and hear in the real world.

I believe I had cancer based upon the evidence I have. I also believe I may be cancer free today. I’m optimistic for now. That is my faith, but now everyone wants evidence that is ironically referred to as no evidence of disease or NED.

If you have proof god exists, show me if you want. Otherwise, there are no gods because there is no evidence of god (NEG). I could be wrong. But if I went with what everyone thought to be true, I would still be walking around with deadly cancer growing in my arm. Maybe.


“Relationships prove that God exists.” ― Nityananda Das, Divine Union
(Well now, that is about as good as it gets. Silly me! How’d I miss that?)