I phoned my friend Arnold to see how his surgery went. “Oh, it was really nothing major – just a removal of an abdominal hernia. They kept me overnight for observation, but it could have been an in-and-out job. Get it, Richard? An `in-and-out’ job – before I knew it, it was out.”
“I see you still have your sense of humor, Arnold. Any residual pain?” I asked.
“Not really; just a little soreness that gets less and less every day. But the real pain was the guy in the room in the bed next to me.”
“So what was wrong with him?”
“I couldn’t get any sleep because he was always yelling for the nurse. Every half-hour he kept yelling for the nurse. I told him to press the call button but he just kept yelling.”
“He must have been in pain,” I said.
“Could be, but I think he just wanted some attention.”
“Do you know what he was in for?”
“Not really,” Arnold said,“ and I didn’t ask. I figured that was private information. But what got him really riled up was the chaplain.”
“The chaplain?” I asked.
“Yeah, before the lights went out, this chaplain came by to ask us how we were doing, which I thought was nice. But he didn’t want anything to do with the chaplain. He said he was an atheist and didn’t have much respect for religion at all.”
“Did he discuss that with you?”
“Oh yes, he sure did. He went on and on about how religion was behind all the wars and all the killing in the world. He said that religion has caused more deaths throughout world history than anything else, and he was glad he was an atheist.”
“So you were his soundboard then,” I said.
“Well, you know, I thought about you and told him I didn’t go to church much, but that I really didn’t consider myself an atheist. And he said, ‘Well, you should; you’d be better off.’ And suddenly I felt like arguing with him.”
“And did you?” I replied.
“Yeah. I asked him if he really wanted to classify himself with atheists like Mao, and Hitler, and Stalin, and Pol Pot, who killed more people than all religious wars in history put together.”
“So what did he say to that?”
“Nothing for a while. Then he finally asked me why I don’t go to church.”
“And what did you say?” I asked.
“I’m too lazy, I told him. I’m too lazy.”
“Arnold, that makes me laugh. Did he laugh too?
“No. But that’s probably why he kept yelling all night.”
“So maybe atheists yell more then believers do,” I said jokingly.
“Well,” Arnold said, “I guess believers would at least use the call button.”