When I look back on the years I spent in the 1970s as an inmate at a state-operated boarding school for cripples, which I affectionately refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT), I realize there must’ve been a time when one of those litigious atheists sued the place.
Because on Sunday afternoons a priest came in and held Catholic mass upstairs in one of the classrooms. And yes, I attended. But I was only about 14 at the time so gimme a break. I hadn’t quite shaken off the shackles of Catholic guilt.
But then suddenly the priest stopped coming and we were told there wouldn’t be any more masses. Rather than being pissed, I felt relieved. Now I know that I felt that way because the only reason I attended the classroom mass was because I didn’t have an excuse not to. If I was at home on a Sunday, I had a good excuse not to go to mass or Sunday school or any of that stuff because the church had stairs so God forgave me for not going. But at SHIT, all I had to do to attend mass was take an elevator upstairs so Catholic guilt kicked in.
Now it seems clear to me that the only thing that could’ve stopped the priest from coming was an assertion of the separation of church and state. I never went to mass again. So I’m grateful to the litigious atheist for restoring my precious get-out-of-going-to- mass-for-free card and thus hastening my break from Catholicism. I’m confident that break would have happened eventually anyway, but the sooner the better.
However, I also have to say that I’m glad the atheist didn’t strike any sooner than they did because if they did I never would have had a religious experience I had at SHIT that I still cherish. We all gathered in the gym for an assembly. It must’ve been around Christmas because the curtain on the stage opened and revealed various other inmates forming an all-crippled nativity scene. There was Joseph in a wheelchair, a blind Mary, a one-armed angel, etc. There were various crippled barnyard animals. This deaf kid named Teel had on a brown coat with a long brown tail pinned on it so I guess he was supposed to be a donkey. And this polio kid named Randall Harvey who was sitting next to me in the audience leaned over and said, “Look at Teel up there on stage making an ass out of himself.”
I got to see an all-crippled nativity scene without taking heavy drugs. Very few people can say that. It makes me feel special.It was so wonderfully bizarre. If the litigious atheist had prevailed sooner it would never have happened. Or maybe the cops would’ve raided the gym and shut the nativity scene down. In that case, I would’ve been pissed.
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