At Bennigan’s With the Devout Atheists

A fifth of atheists in a recent Pew Survey said that they believed in God. 

                                                                      The Wall Street Journal

It’s Saturday night, time for the regular get-together of the Exiles From Atheism, a group formed to support people who have been excommunicated from the American Association of Atheists for–of all things–believing in God!

“You seem confused, my son.”


I’m the first to arrive at Bennigan’s, America’s favorite insolvent restaurant for great food in a fun atmosphere, and I take a booth under the watchful eye of its parent company’s Chapter 7 trustee.

“Hey man!” I shout out to Edmund “Bunny” Whelan, as he scans the room from the hostess’s station.  Bunny is a man who has followed a long and winding spiritual journey from Presbyterianism to atheism, and has recently merged the two under the welcoming rubric of Rastabyterianism.  His new hybrid sect combines mainline Protestant rituals such as after-church coffee klatches with those of the kooky Jamaican cult whose members smoke pot and worship Haile Selassie as god–not that there’s anything wrong with that.

“Fi-a, dem fiackle, manakle, and den go saka!” he says by way of greeting.

“Right back at ya,” I say, not understanding a word he just said.  “I didn’t understand a word you just said,” I say.  ”Perhaps you can translate for our non-Rastabyterian readers out there in internet land.”

“I have no freaking idea what it means, dude,” he says as he grabs a handful of taco chips from a basket on the table.  “It was on the soundtrack album of The Harder They Come,” the movie that introduced American college kids to reggae in the ’70′s.

Bunny takes a seat and starts to scan the menu.  As a Rastafarian, he follows the dietary laws of the Old Testament and abstains from shellfish and pork, except when he eats out, or at home, or on a picnic.  “I think I’m going to have the Cajun Shrimp Skewer,” he says thoughtfully.

“Good choice,” I say.

“You want to split an order of the Bacon & Cheese Potato Skins?”

“What the hell,” I say.  “Saturday night comes but once a week!”  He punches me in the shoulder and we share a laugh.

“I still can’t believe the atheists threw us out just because we believe in God!” he says bitterly as he takes a sip from the glass that the water guy has placed in front of him.



“Yeah,” I agree.  “What did Ralph Waldo Emerson say?”

“Fuck you–I’ve found Jesus?”

“No, that was Garry Templeton–shortstop for the Cardinals.”

“Oh,” he thinks for a minute.  “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds?”

“That’s it!”

“Yeah–who the hell are they to criticize us just because we’re inconsistent.”

We look up as we realize that someone has arrived at our table.  It is Demetrios Panagakis–our Greek Orthodox atheist friend–and a lovely, dark-haired, sloe-eyed young lady.

“Hel-lo Demetrios,” Bunny says slowly, obviously impressed with our comrade’s arm candy.

“Guys–I’d like you to meet my new girlfriend–Misty Fogg,” he says, beaming with pride that he’s finally persuaded an attractive woman to go out with him.  He fingers his worry beads at a rapid clip, as fast as a poodle’s tail wagging in anticipation of a Dog Yummy.

Misty greets us both, then excuses herself to “pluck her eyebrows” with a sly, knowing smile.

“Wow,” I say to him as she sashays her way to the ladies room.  “She’s terrific!”

“I know,” he says with a self-effacing grin.  “She’s the girl I’ve been waiting for all my life.  So fresh.  So innocent.  So–perfect.”

“Where did you meet her?” Bunny asks, his mouth hanging open like an airplance hangar.

“That’s the incredible part,” Demetrios says.  “I called an escort service and told them I wanted a girl-next-door type.  She was ringing my bell in fifteen minutes!”

“They have take-out?” I ask incredulously.

“Who has time to cook anymore?” he asks with a laugh, and I give him the mother of all noogies.

The Agnostic Anglicans were at the very next table!


Misty returns to our table, and we order appetizers and drinks from Bennigan’s wide selection of cocktails, including beer, wine and specialty drinks.  “I’ll have the Fajita Chicken Quesadilla,” Demetrios says to the waitress.  “They’re prepared vegetarian-style, right?”

The woman gives him a confused look and shrugs.  “I dunno,” she says, “I just work here,” then puts her pencil behind her ear and walks off.

“I don’t think she gets it,” I say to him.  “You know–about what Emerson said?”

“Oh, right,” he nods.  “I’ll play first base–third base–anywhere but Philadelphia.”

“No–that was Richie Allen,” I correct him.

Richie Allen and Aristotle


“Oh–you mean about violating the principle against contradicting yourself that has governed Western logic since the time of Aristotle?”

“Right–some people are just very narrow minded.”

The appetizers arrive and everybody starts to dig in, when I interrupt them brusquely.

“Wait,” I say.  “Aren’t we forgetting something?”

There is a moment of embarrassed silence, then we bow our heads and say grace.

Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Oh . . . My . . . God.”

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