A Striking Tale

by stoney

God(s)/Leprechauns, same thing – items of fiction. If fictional entities are the crutch you need – such is your prerogative. However, it would be a grave error to project your needs onto others for, you see, for me, God went the way of Santa Claus a few years later. I’m not alone. The majority of atheists in the U.S. were once theists of one, or more, brands/sects of theism. In the main they were of one, or more, of the Christian variants.

The goals I’ve met, the accomplishments I’ve done, and the screw-ups too, are all mine; the good, the bad, the indifferent. When I’ve screwed up, I’ve tried to make it right the best I can. It’s called taking responsibility for your own actions, unlike many Christians who go to their local magic user (priest/pastor (shaman)) to have the “magic cleansing spell cast” to eliminate the “sin.” Gee, no need to make the wrong right.

Christians also prattle about how much they “love” Jesus. Contempt must equal love in the Christian world since they gleefully keep piling the “load” onto “him” instead of doing their best to lighten it.

I’ve got a very off-beat sense of humour and find the way the Bible talks out of both sides of its metaphorical mouth amusing. For Christians, your screw-ups and hardships, inequities and such are all schededuled:

1 Thessalonians 5 (KJV)

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

How many of you actually fall on your knees and “Thank Jesus” for your heart conditions, cancer, broken bones, job loss, and the like? Very few, I suspect. Have no fear though, since not only is your lapse scheduled, but you’ll be forgiven for it too – unless you say something bad about the “Holy Spook” which would also be scripted.

Matthew 12 (KJV)

31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.

32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

Ah well, the daemon you worship is your problem. Even then, you still might find yourself in Hell since it would be a grand joke to toss you into the “fiery pit” for that loving eternal torture session. Keep in mind that by definition, such is “justice,” “righteous,” and the rest of the claptrap.

But I digress. Many of you folks prattle on about the rubbish told you by your shamans and fellow sheep. Rubbish about how when an atheist is in a life-threatening situation they’ll “find god.” That’s highly amusing.

You, as a Christian, are just like Linus telling Charlie Brown and the gang year after year after year about how “on Halloween the Great Pumpkin rises out of the Pumpkin Patch.”

Would you, a Christian, call upon Ra, Mars, Odin All-Father, Tiamat the Dragon or any of the Hindu, Norse, Roman, Egyptian, Babylonian, Native American or other deities in an emergency situation? These deities are all ones you lack belief in. But then you expect folks who lack belief in your deity construct to call upon it?

Get real here. Oh, that’s right, such is not allowed by your religion. I should utilize the word superstition since there’s no effective difference between yours and the proverbial (cue Hollywood) version of an African Witch Doctor. Religion is merely a nomenclature upgrade. But, hey, you’re into shallowness so we’ll leave it as religion and I’ll show you the courtesy you don’t show to others.

Oh, I bet you’re thinking I’m being quite unkind. Am I though? First, you’re insulting others with the “no atheists in foxholes” bit. Second, one can’t get more shallow than putting superstition before one’s common humanity. Third, I don’t grovel before something that conducts eternal torture sessions for such “heinous crimes” as lack of belief, grovelling in the wrong manner, parting the hair wrong, picking up sticks on the Sabbath, or merely for idle amusement. Nor would I order, conduct, or wish any torture session on anyone for any length of time, but I’m the one that’s called “amoral” and “evil.” Go figure.

The “foxhole” thing is quite amusing and I have to chuckle at theists who not only dig those things, but climb into them. I can’t think of a more direct way to indicate to “Jesus” that you don’t trust him to protect you as far as you could even throw a ball. Ah well, that’s your problem, not mine.

I can’t make a claim about ever digging or climbing into a literal foxhole as I wasn’t in those branches of the U.S. military. It’s pretty difficult to dig a foxhole on the world’s oceans. Yes, I was an “anchor clanker.” I was “black shoe” Navy in the Line area (Engineering) as a low-ranking Petty Officer. Theoretically, I could command a ship but there would be nothing to work with if that ever occurred. But a staff officer of whatever rank would have to follow my orders in such a situation. Hmmm… wonder how often officers were aboard the river boats in ‘Nam?

In time, the “foxhole” rubbish you folks have a tendency to mindlessly prattle about has come to mean “any life-threatening situation.” I’ve been in several, even seconds from death, and neither the Christian or any other “Great Pumpkin” never entered my mind. Surprised? No reason for you to be – if you used your “gray matter” for something other than a storage facility for meaningless prattling and platitudes.

Do you know anything about U.S. Navy ships and their power distribution systems? They’re ungrounded for maximum battle efficiency. In high-temperature areas, like around the 1,200 PSI boilers my second ship was equipped with, armored cable would be used. Instead of the normal
plastic outside sheathing, woven metal was used, which conducts the heat away from the insulated wires. There isn’t a navy electrician that likes armored cable as it increases the threat factor.

One afternoon I was informed a boiler sight glass light was burned out in the after fire room and I needed to replace it. No problem, it’s a ten minute job. Boilers have sight glasses, a glass tube that’s protected by metal which indicates the water level in the boiler. It’s like a carpenter using a water level. Water in a tube, in this case from the boiler, brought out to a remote location will indicate the level of water in the boiler. Having too much or too little water is dangerous. Now, to be able to see where that level is requires illumination from the rear.

A boiler sight glass light has an elongated bulb which is protected by a metal shield that has a thin vertical slit and it’s hooked behind the sight glass. The metal shield is held to the base by four screws with the armored cable trailing behind.

One of the boiler techs showed me which one was burned out and even fished it out from where it was hooked. I held it on a finger and inspected the cable. Pristine. There was no reason to kill power to the lighting circuit as all I was doing was changing the light bulb. So I grabbed the base assembly in one hand and held the whole thing very still while I slowly, gently, and carefully removed the four screws holding the shield assembly in place and put them in my pocket and the screwdriver in the tool pouch.

Very carefully, with the other hand I gingerly grasped the shield and with micro movements wiggled it off, trying to keep the base as stable as possible. After all, I only had to slide it about a half inch, if that, off the base. Both hands clamped to the lighting assembly and a large white-hot ingot of “steel” bored through my chest. AGONY! You can’t even scream. I tried to let go… that part of the nervous system was short-circuited. So, I tried to jump and found my whole body was short-circuited, and the white-hot bar of steel continued to drill through my chest.

I was enraged and fought to escape. A black circle appeared at the outer edges of my vision and inched its way toward the center. I now had to adjust my battle for two opponents – to escape and stay conscious. The black continued its engulfment and I remained rooted to the spot about a foot and a half from a bulkhead separating the aft boiler room from engineering berthing.

Every atom of my body was on “full escape.” It didn’t matter where. Just away. Then the ship tied up to the pier rolled, which changed the parameters, and freed my legs. I slammed into the bulkhead with my feet around four feet off the deck and saw the lighting assembly strike the boiler with the resulting blue lightning ball. Then, black.

It appeared to me as if I had hit the deck and absorbed the shock with my legs before rising to stand. I was most of the way to my feet before I was fully conscious. Looking back on it, what had to have happened was that I hit the deck like a pile of rags and was unconscious for some period of time. I can only tell you I went down there after noon chow (probably the first job after chow) and when I came out from behind the boiler there was no one else in the fireroom. Since we were “cold plant,” boilers not online, there wouldn’t be anyone down there after normal duty hours.

I was in agony. Every breath was pure agony. I climbed the steep ladder out of the aft fireroom to the interior passageway. The ship rolled and that in combination with my still being shaky on my feet caused me to hit the bulkhead just as the Chief Corpsman came out of sickbay. He looked at me curiously, but I said nothing. I regained my balance and headed aft. I figured I’d be ok in a short time.

I went down to my berthing area and opened my coffin locker. Lifting the lid was like lifting the guided missile destroyer (DDG) out of the water. The agony redoubled, if you can visualize that. (A coffin locker is a rack [bed] where the lid [what you sleep on - mattress and such, of course] lifts to give you access to a shallow storage area.)

After evening chow I reported to Sickbay where the duty corpsman (lower ranking) held charge. He indicated there wasn’t anything they could do, but if it persisted to check back at morning sick call.

The next morning I reported to Sickbay where the Chief Corpsman “held court.” Bored, he held a pencil underneath two fingers and asked me, “How long have you had this chest cold?”

I said, “Chest cold Hell! Remember when you saw me stumble after I climbed out of the aft fireroom?”

He nodded.

“I had just came to after full body electrocution.”

The pencil snapped.

He indicated there wasn’t much they could do and gave me some pills to take.

All I can tell you is that I was in bad shape – picture a constant drunk and you’d probably come close. After being awake for four hours I’d be ready to sleep for twelve. A couple days after the accident we went to sea for a few days, a couple weeks, whichever. It would have been local operations. At any rate, after a few days I threw the pills overboard before they got me killed. At sea, a shipboard electrician gets maybe two hours of “lay down” time with a shot at four hours about every four days.

I also discovered weight was pouring off me. So, I started eating four huge meals a day to try to hold the weight loss at bay. In two weeks I went from 167 pounds to 139. My clothes hung on me and I looked like “death warmed over.”

Some time later we were back in our home port (Norfolk, Va.) and I badgered the Chief Corpsman who sent me to a tender for X-rays. The folks there indicated X-rays wouldn’t show anything because the cause was electrical and sent me back to the ship.

I was still in a lot of pain. After about a month I really got fed up with things and one morning I flat-out demanded my medical records as I was intending to go to the regional Navy hospital.

He asked me if I could wait until this afternoon.

“Why?” I asked suspiciously.

“Because a doctor is coming on board this afternoon and you’re his first patient,” was the reply.

“Ok,” I said. Waiting a short time more wouldn’t make any difference.

That afternoon the doctor came on board. He asked what happened and listened. (Oh yes, I should note that I did not have any burns on my hands.) He checked my heart and lungs and said, “Extraordinary.”

I asked him, “Why?”

“That you’re still alive. The current path was the worst possible as it goes through both the heart and the brain. It should have burst your heart and boiled your brain,” was his reply.

He did explain why it hurt to breathe and such. The center of the chest has all sorts of “little fingers” in it and they went from relaxation to “maximum stress” which inflamed the daylights out of the assembly. He gave me some different pills to take.

Fast forward six months. I was roller skating and lost my balance so I did a “windmill” to regain it. That white hot bar of steel once again bored through my chest.

Jump ahead four or five years. I am now in a different branch of the military working avionics (aircraft electronics) and on the west coast of the U.S. A friend’s wife has just started the basic medical courses at a local college.

College instructors tell snippets of stories to break things up for the students a bit. He happened to touch on the above incident. He told the students the surprising thing wasn’t that the accident happened, but that the victim survived.

After class she went up to the instructor and filled in the “blanks” for him and asked if this was the rest of the incident. He told her, “Yes.” And she told him that I was working avionics at the local base. I bet that surprised him.

Postscript:

I was an atheist the whole time I served, although I didn’t know it. I didn’t know what an atheist actually was until sometime after I stumbled across [the Usenet newsgroup] alt.atheism. I had always been taught that an atheist equated to Communist and since I wasn’t Communist but was merely not a theist the term didn’t fit.

I lost my theism, RCC [Roman Catholic Church] and Lutheran, a few years after Santa Claus vanished, but it took me years of “boot strapping” on my own to eliminate the malevolent programming. The only tool I had was my own mind.