Coming Out of the (Non-belief) Closet to My Younger Sister

When I got home this evening my wife was on the phone with my little sister.  I haven’t talked with her in a few weeks, so I grabbed the phone and we spoke about life and kids and all kinds of typical long-distance sibling stuff.  Somewhere along in the conversation, she asked me about how church was going…

I said that I didn’t know.  She reacted in a questioning manner.  I figured that now is the time, if ever it was.

So I told her that I haven’t been to church in several months.  Then I proceeded to explain why.  I explained that the last six or seven years of my life, since leaving oneness pentecostalism have been a search for “the ultimate truth” of god and which version of christianity is right.  I gave her the whole spiel about 40,000 plus versions of christianity using the same source text, but disagreeing over what true christianity is, so there must be some flaws in the source text.

She asked if I had prayed about all of this, and I told her I had done more than my share of praying.  I also told her that I had read the stories of others who had gone through the same things that I had gone through and prayed, and when they got to that point, that’s when they realized god didn’t answer their prayers.  I went through the whole spiel about 90% of prayers aren’t answered, but christians chalk it up to “god working in mysterious ways”.  She said that he also says “no”.  So I asked her how she knows that he actually says “no”.  An answer from silence isn’t an answer at all…

At some point in the conversation, I actually used the phrase, “when I was a christian…” referring to something about praying.  At that point, I knew for sure that it was all or none.  I basically told her that I didn’t believe any of the christian myth anymore.  I said something to the effect of “40,000 versions of christianity disagree over what true christianity is, even while using the same source text, so there must be something wrong with the source text.  And god doesn’t actually answer prayers, except when it’s coincidental, so either there isn’t a god or he doesn’t really care about us.”

I then said something to the effect of “I know you don’t fully understand this or support this or agree with this decision, but it’s the conclusion I’ve come to.”

What happened next really surprised me.  She actually said that still loved me and didn’t want anything to come between us as brother and sister.  I returned the sentiment.

I am very surprised in one way that she didn’t blow up or go overboard, but in another way I’m not.  Her Facebook persona is a lot more ultra-right wing religious fanatic than she is in real life.  Or maybe she is a lot like me and wants to avoid a confrontation at all costs.  Or maybe (and this is the one I like) she really meant it.

Hopefully it stays this way and she won’t hound me or become negative like so many of the stories I’ve heard from others who have become openly secular with their families.  Obviously this recounting of events is a paraphrase and I’ve left a lot out, but overall, I am more than pleased with how it turned out, considering the horror stories I’ve heard from others about the same situation.  I’ll keep you updated when new things happen in this story.


Hell in a Hand Basket

A little over a week ago, I got an email from my former church; the same church my wife and kids still attend.  Apparently I am still on their email list.  The email was a message from the pastor asking for everyone to attend one consolidated service this past Sunday.  Normally they run two services, but apparently god put it on the pastor’s heart to preach some super-important sermon that required everyone to be in the same room at the same time.  This, of course, piqued my curiosity.

So this past Sunday morning, after the wife and kids headed out, I started working on prepping for the upcoming semester, but at 10:00, I tuned in to the internet broadcast of the sermon.  I wanted to find out what all of the fuss was about.

I had my suspicions about what might be going on.  After I left the church, I had a sit-down with the pastor and explained my atheism to him.  He said we’d meet again and discuss it some more, but we never did.  Shortly after that, my wife mentioned that two of the people in a somewhat leadership position left the church for a more fundamentalist church that ONLY used the King James bible.  Then a couple of weeks ago, my wife mentioned that the head of the deacon board (or whatever they call it) left the church for a “simpler” church.  I can imagine that with the recent onslaught of political pandering from the pastor regarding CUFI, bringing a republican presidential candidate to speak, trying to get everyone in the church on board with defunding Planned Parenthood, and many other situations, people might be getting turned off.  In recent years, the pastor has been ramping up this kind of thing.  I think it is causing people to leave the church for other churches.

So watching the online broadcast of the sermon, it became quickly clear that the pastor’s message was all about America going to hell in a hand basket.  He said that America was on the down slope, and wouldn’t last much longer.  He said everyone in the church had to buckle down and get serious with god or bad things would happen (my paraphrase).

Without any real confirmation, I believe my original assumption about the situation was right.  They are feeling the results of people leaving the church and are trying to reinforce their group identity so that more people won’t quit on them.

When we first started going there, it was a great church.  It was easy to be involved without feeling overwhelmed.  Then over the course of time, it became more and more of a burden.  In addition to that, the pastor kept trying to get the church involved in nation movements and political causes.  The former deacon that I mentioned earlier had a particular fondness for a concept called “simple church” where the church just does the foundational things that a church is supposed to do.  That’s how it was when we started going there.  It was easy and enjoyable to go to church.  But prior to my leaving, it was a hard thing to go and listen to the BS that was being spouted over the pulpit and attend all kinds of activities early every day of the week.

Now before you go and say I quit going to church over this, let me clarify.  If this was why I quit, I would have gone to another church.  My story about why I quit is here.

So this post is probably just me criticizing a particular type of church.  I think there are churches that fill certain needs in people’s lives without overburdening them with the extra junk of church.  From what I can tell about the Unitarian Universalist church, they seem to be this way.  It would be interesting to go check them out sometime.  But many churches, I think, require too much from people and make it seem like they’ll be doomed forever if they don’t do everything the pastor tells them to.  Then when a pastor starts telling the people which candidates to support and what political causes to support, there are those who will be able to think for themselves and disagree.  Too much of this and a church will start to fall apart.

This is what seems to be happening at my former church.

A Worldview that Makes Sense

One of the biggest, most important questions I had during my last several years as a christian was “what if the brand of christianity I’m in is wrong?”  This question haunted me for quite a while, and finding the answer to it (although it wasn’t necessarily the answer I was looking for) was essentially what caused me to leave my faith behind.  I posted recently about the multiple versions of christianity that are vying for acceptance by the masses.  My knowledge of these different traditions and their mutually exclusive (in many cases) paths to heaven was a problem for me.  The search that lead me out of christianity was actually a search for the right version of christianity.

You see, I wanted to be right with god.  I wanted my family and I to be in line with his will.  I wanted to make sure that the way we were worshipping him was the way he intended for us lowly humans to worship him.  My search of over six years lead me and my family out of oneness pentecostalism and into a more mainstream version of pentecostalism.  But my search didn’t end there. I kept looking at other traditions to see if they were more in line with the bible than the others.  I considered methodist, episcopalian, catholicism, orthodox christianity, baptist, and many more.  I compared their beliefs with each other and the bible.  I even studied the evolution of all the different faith groups to see how they each emerged from the previous one to figure out which was the oldest and closest to the source.

A guy we went to church with left the pentecostal church for the new anglican movement because of a massive amount of study he and his brother had undertaken.  His brother and parents actually left pentecostalism around the same time for the orthodox church.  He recommended a book to me called Thirsting For God in a Land of Shallow Wells by Matthew Gallatin.  After reading Matthew’s story of a lifelong dissatisfaction with protestant denominations, I actually started to empathize with him.  His story is similar to mine in that he was also searching for the right version of christianity.  As I read his words, I saw myself in his sentiments about not being satisfied with the biblical-ness of a certain faith tradition, then switching to one that seemed more correct only to find himself in the same situational over again.  That was exactly where I was with my search for the right version of christianity.  As I finished his book, I was almost certain that orthodoxy was probably the most correct version out there.  But I still had questions that remained unanswered.  What about all of the versions of christianity that were earlier than orthodoxy?  I mean, when Constantine took over the church and called the councils that wrote the creeds, he fundamentally changed christianity into something that it wasn’t prior to that point.

It was around this point that I had read some of Bart Ehrman’s books along with several others.  They opened up a new line of reasoning for me: what if all of the versions of christianity out there were wrong.  After following this line of reasoning for a while and reading many more volumes about the various aspects of christianity, I finally had to admit to myself that my original question was the wrong question.  There wasn’t “one right version of christianity”.  The reason that there are so many versions is that they are all based on a book that IS easily interpreted in a myriad of ways .  The reason that they don’t agree is that their source material is inherently flawed.

Now that I’ve left christianity, I don’t have any of the questions floating around in my mind about the differences in the faith traditions.  I don’t worry whether I’m wrong that the Earth is 6,000 years old or several billion.  I don’t worry about whether baptism is properly done by springing or dunking.  I don’t worry about whether the correct mantra to say when baptizing someone is “in jesus’ name” or “father, son, and holy spirit”.  I don’t worry about whether once you’re saved, you’re always saved or if it’s possible to lose your salvation.  I don’t worry about whether women should be ordained as ministers.  I don’t worry about whether this or that is a sin.  And frankly, at this point, I don’t even care.  None of these issues that bothered me for most of my adult life no longer matter in the least to me.

Most importantly, I no longer worry about whether I’m right with god in case he happens to come back tonight.  That always seemed to be my biggest worry.  I remember those thoughts lingering nearly constantly in the back of my mind: “Am I doing everything that god wants me to do?”  “Am I living in his will?”  “Am I living up to his expectations?”  “Will I make it to heaven if I die right now?”  But now- I have mental freedom from that constant anguish of worrying.  It doesn’t bother me in the least any more.

When I was a christian, my worldview was always a question.  I was so unsure of anything.  Now, I see that a life without a mythological god to please is so much more satisfying.  There is no weight to bear as to all of these questions that I had been trying to find the answer to most of my life.  No, it didn’t happen overnight.  No, it didn’t come easily.  I have struggled with some of the bigger questions since I’ve admitted to myself that I no longer believe in a god.  But now, when these questions pop into my mind, I think back to all of the disunity in the christian faiths and quickly recover my sense of reason, and along with it my peace over these questions.

This worldview makes so much more sense.  Science provides answers that are reasonable.  If our understanding changes, so be it.  Our understanding of the universe is constantly becoming more clear, so a change in scientific understanding is always a change for the better.  But you don’t have multiple traditions of science arguing over fifteen different ways to be saved or how to be baptized or whether you can or can’t wear a certain article of clothing.  This is the way it is, so says our observation and testing of the situation.  That makes so much more sense.  That is real answers.


There’s a scripture where jesus is quoted as saying “come unto me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” or some such.  Now that I’m out of it, I realize that the burden christianity places on the minds and lives of its followers is a very heavy burden.  Leaving christianity was a pretty massive burden.  It wasn’t easy or light in the least.  However, once I came to terms with my lack of belief in biblical mythology, that burden is gone.  The “light and easy” burden of christianity is gone as well.  Ain’t no burden here, my friends!  I’m free!

A Confrontation at Lunch

Yesterday afternoon I took my boys to lunch at Chick-Fil-A.  We were running around town doing some errands and decided it was high time to get some food in our bellies.

I happened to be wearing one of my favorite T-shirts.  It’s got the word READ across the front, but the letters are made up of little pictures of characters and elements from classic fiction.  After we placed our order I walked over to pick up napkins and ketchup when a man sitting at a table behind the napkin/ketchup area said something to me that I didn’t quite understand.  So I asked him to repeat it.

He said something about liking my shirt, and then started talking about the importance of reading the bible.  I think that him seeing my shirt set him off and gave him a reason to accost a complete stranger in public, as you shall soon see.

“Oh, one of these guys,” I thought.  He was probably in his sixties and sitting with another gentleman and two women, all of whom appeared to be similar in age.  He asked me if I had ever read the bible all the way through.  “Several times throughout my life,” I replied.  Then he goes on, telling me about how much he reads the bible and how important it is to him.  Then he starts talking about how he sees Jesus in everything.  And then he starts talking about geography: “California is like god’s right arm, and Michigan is like his left hand…”  And then I lost track of what he said after that.  Frankly, it was quite confusing.  His wife (I assume) then said to him “Let the man eat.”  That distracted him long enough for me to make my way to where my kids were sitting to wait for our food.

When our food arrived, I distributed the various items to their respective owners; sandwich to you, nuggets to you, sandwich for me, fries all around, and then proceeded to open my ketchup.  And that’s when this guy comes over to my table and starts talking again.  Apparently they had finished eating and were getting ready to leave and he decided to come spend some more quality time with a random stranger…  So before I could take one bite of my food, this guy starts back up about how important the bible is, and how he sees Jesus in everything.  He said something about the bible being the most important book, or some such and I replied “I don’t think it is.”

He asked what I meant, so I started in about how there are so many discrepancies, contradictions, and evil acts attributed to god in the bible that I didn’t think it was that great of a book.  He said something about it being perfect and having no contradictions, so I gave him a few examples: “The bible calls him the prince of peace” I said, “but he ordered the slaughter of thousands of innocent people.  Christianity, in general, is against abortion, but god ordered unborn babies to be ripped out of their mothers’ bodies.  Paul and James couldn’t agree on whether faith is with or without works.  It’s full of contradictions and discrepancies and evil ordered by god.”

“Do you see the bible as the word of god?” he asked.  I told him that it was written by men.  So he said men wrote it after being inspired by a perfect god.  So I asked him why god wasn’t perfect enough to get the men to agree.

“But it’s the perfect word of god” he replied, “and god doesn’t lie.”

“God told the first lie ever,” I told him. “In the garden, god said that when they eat the fruit they would die that day, and when they ate it, they didn’t die.”

“They died spiritually,” He said.

“No” I replied, “he said they would literally die the day they ate the fruit.  It never even insinuates that it’s going to be a spiritual death.”

Then he changed his answer and said that they did die, but it took hundreds of years.  This seems to me to be a typical christian response to looking at evidence for fun little tidbits like this; they change their mind in order to keep their belief system together.  Position A has been soundly debunked, so I’ll switch to position B in order to keep believing what I believe.  Thinking about it now, it seems that may be why there is more than one explanation of so many theological subjects: so that when one is proven wrong, the believer has something to fall back on, except that position B makes less sense than the original position.

We went back and forth for a little while on the same line of reasoning when he brought up Abraham and how he was so faithful.  So I asked him if he had a son.  He said he did, so I asked his son’s name.  It was Mark.  So I asked this guy “If god told you to sacrifice Mark, would you?  He actually said that he would.  So I clarified, “If god told you to kill Mark, you would take a knife and slit his throat open… You would murder your own son because you heard a voice?”  Then I brought my own kids into the scenario. “I would never do anything to hurt these two” (pointing to my kids, who are still sitting here, trying to eat while their dad is trying to destroy their own religion).  “I love them too much to hurt them.  They mean the world to me… But you just said you would murder your son.  That is sick and disgusting!  What kind of person are you?”

He thought for a second and said “Well, I didn’t mean I’d do it in this day and age, but if I was back then, I would have.”  He did the whole switching thing again: position A, position B…

“You just told me you would murder your son,” I said.  “That says a lot about who you are as a person.”

He waffled a bit more and then went back to his original proposition: telling me about how great the bible is and how great god is and how Jesus’ head is somewhere up in Alaska and etc., etc. He seemed to not get it.

Somewhere along the way, he told me about how he was saved in 1973, then he “walked away from the lord”, but now he was back and more sure than ever.  He invited me to First Assembly of God.  I told him that I had been there several times, but that didn’t change my mind about the bible.

Anxious to eat my lunch, I told him he needed to check out the website  I repeated it several times, and then told him I was going to eat my lunch.  He told me to have a blessed day and then reluctantly left.

When I looked back at my sons, one had gone to another table to eat in peace, and the other (the slow eater) had already finished his food and was eating an ice cream cone.  Considering that I have paraphrased the preceding conversation and cut out a lot (obviously I don’t recall everything), that was a long discussion.  So, I finally ate my lunch and went about the rest of my day.  Fun stuff!

Everyone’s “Right”, but Everyone’s “Wrong”…

I remember wondering at several points in my life why it was that I was born into the right religion, or version of christianity, and not into the wrong one, or the version of christianity that had their theology wrong.  When I was in elementary school, I remember a girl on the playground making a comment about how she had been saved that Sunday at church.  I remember thinking something to the effect of, “You couldn’t have been saved.  You don’t go to my church.”  This thought reemerged many times over the years in many different situations.

One particular situation that always made me have this thought was when I would watch television preachers.  They always seemed a bit odd in their theology to me, and I could never quite specify why that was.  Well, except for the obvious examples like Benny Hinn.

This week my family was on vacation, and while staying at the hotel we were at the mercy of cable TV with no menu to look through and choose what to watch.  So while I was sitting there one evening flipping up to the next channel and watching for a moment to decide if that’s the program I wanted to stay on, I came across a TV preacher and for some reason I let it stay there and watched for a few minutes.

This TV preacher, pastor Bob, or Bill, or something like that was talking about prayer.  He mentioned that he had prayed for some lady in the hospital and now she was able to sit up in bed for a minute at a time.  I wondered why she wasn’t completely healed, if prayer had any power.  But that’s another issue altogether.  He also asked for the viewers to call in and make a donation, to “sow the seed into this ministry” so that they could stay on the air.  I wondered why, if they were in the will of god, didn’t he “just make a way.”  But that’s another issue as well.

While watching, these thoughts of why I was born into the right version of christianity popped up in my mind.  Except this time, it was from the outsider’s perspective.  It was a completely different version of this thought.

I realized that everyone who is a christian must have a version of this thought at some time in their lives.  After all, why would you stick with a particular belief if you didn’t think it was correct belief?  So essentially, everyone who believes has to discredit in their own mind any number of others’ beliefs.

It reminds me of the statistic that there are over 40,000 different versions of christianity.  Many of these versions are mutually exclusive, meaning that if you adhere to, for instance, baptist theology you cannot accept the adherents of catholicism as true christians.  The one I know personally is that if you adhere to oneness pentecostalism, you have to think all christians from other sects are going to hell.  Essentially, every christian thinks they are right while at the same time thinking there are myriad other christians who are wrong.  I was not the only one thinking this.  I would venture that if you got an honest answer from 99% of christians they would tell you this is true, although there are some that are more accepting of other sects, but most are a little more tight on the reigns.  So while I was watching this TV preacher thinking he had his beliefs wrong, if he really knew me (when I was a believer) he would think the same thing about me.

The big picture shows a more telling story than the individual picture.  Get out of yourself for a moment and imagine the 2.4 billion people who claim to be christians.  Every single one of them think that they are absolutely right and a large percentage of the rest are absolutely wrong.  Yet they base these views on the exact same texts (with a few exceptions).

Now imagine this scenario from god’s point of view.  Which ones are right?  Which ones are you going to let into heaven?  They all claim to be following your will.  But at the same time they think most of the rest of them are not.  And why didn’t you, as the “omnipotent”, “omniscient” creator of not only them, but of the very texts that lead them to you, be a little more specific as to how to get to you; how to be the right kind of christian?  But alas, I don’t think we are ever going to be able to answer these questions from within the context of christianity.

From the outside, where I sit now, it all makes perfect sense.  That TV preacher’s message seems a bit off for the same reason that my own previous theology seemed a bit off: they are both based on beliefs that have no grounding in fact, common sense, or reason: thus, the cognitive dissonance that I have felt all of my life when relating to others who had a different perception of what the christian faith entailed.

I once had a boss who like to say that “perception is reality to the perceiver.”  In customer service that is true.  But in the christian faith it is only true on an individual level.  When you look at the big picture you see that perception is a set of blinders that keeps believers from seeing their faith for what it really is: individual opinion of what is right and wrong, subjective reality that keeps the christian faith segregated into mutually exclusive denominations.  Now that I see the big picture, I am glad I am out of it.  This side of reason makes so much more sense.  Not only that, this side of reason lacks the cognitive dissonance that I had to deal with for most of my life.  This side of reason is much nicer on the brain!

Morality Comes from God…

Last night while my wife and son were at church, I started watching Richard Dawkins’ Sex, Death, and the Meaning of Life on Youtube.  After watching the first episode, I looked for the second but couldn’t find it.  So I started watching the third episode.  About half-way through, My wife got home.  After changing into her PJs as she does every night when she gets home, she joined me on the couch.  She sat down at about 38 minutes into the above linked video, just about the time when Dr. Dawkins starts talking to Ricky Gervais.  A few minutes later, she said something about “When this is over remind me to tell you something about that…” whatever comment one of them had just made.  So I stopped the video and asked her to say what was on her mind.

“Where does morality come from?” she asked me.

“From what I understand, it’s partially genetic, but mostly cultural.” I replied.  “I mean, most higher animals have some sort of rudimentary morality.  Look at the bonobos who protected the dead body of a member of their group from the human gamekeepers.”  I referenced a video I had watched a while back depicting this scene at a game preserve.  Then I continued, “Morality is mostly cultural.  People decide how they want to be treated and they treat others that way.  It’s been evolving like that for millions of years.”

Then she got to the real reason she was asking.  “Pastor J… said in his sermon tonight that morality can only come from God.”

“Oh really,” I replied.  “I know plenty of moral people who don’t believe in god, not to mention the many immoral acts god is recorded as doing or condoning in the bible.”

She actually agreed with my first point.  “Yes, I know a lot of people who were raised in non-religious homes, and most of them are just as moral as a lot of christian people I know.”

Just then, I recalled Sam Harris’ TED Talk about science being able to answer moral questions.  Since we already had YouTube pulled up on the TV, I brought it up and we watched it together.  She didn’t say much. She did say “Hmmm” every once in a while during the video, however.   Afterward, I was going to bring up Sam Harris’ debate with William Lane Craig, but she was starting to nod off.  So we went to bed without much conversation about it.

I thought it was a pretty successful evening.  I’m glad we can have conversations about our differing ways of believing, and more so that she is actually questioning what she believes.  The pastors I’ve had have always said not to take their word for it, but to go study it for yourself.  It appears she is starting to do that… but not in the way they have always intended.  An open, reasoning, logical mind is always the enemy of faith.

Coming Out as a Non-Believer to my Brother

I had a great visit with my brother and his family this weekend.  He came through town and spent the 4th with us.  The next morning, he and I were the first up, so we sat on the deck with our coffee and had a conversation about the way things are.

He’s actually the one who started it.  Since it was a Sunday morning, and my wife had already left for church, I think that’s what prompted him to talk about it.  He mentioned how much more time he has now that he doesn’t regularly go to church.  A few years ago, he moved from the west coast to the northern limits of the South and started attending my uncle’s church.  My uncle is a dyed-in-the-wool oneness pentecostal who still holds to the “holiness standards”, while my brother is a pretty normal guy.  They had a falling out over a lot of things, but mostly my uncle’s attitude toward other people, especially other christians.  The easiest way to describe it is that my uncle’s stance is “they’re all going to hell because they don’t believe the way we do.”  That didn’t sit well with my brother who is a lot more willing to let all kinds of christians into heaven.

After that, they started going to a small independent church that used to be baptist, but some of the ministers there made my brother reconsider.  My brother got into this “hyper grace” movement (I think as a result of the spat with my uncle), and some of the ministers at the new church didn’t teach that.  My brother finally stopped going regularly about the same time that I finally realized I was no longer a believer in the supernatural.  His wife decided to continue going until the current season of AWANA is over, since she is in charge of it.  The last he told me about his situation is that they are thinking about just having a small circle of friends start a house-to-house fellowship on Sundays instead of doing traditional church.

But in the midst of this conversation, I started talking about my own journey.  I reiterated a few points I had already told him about in phone conversations in the past.  I mentioned the archaeology issue and some of the scriptural non-agreement issues.  Then I started talking about John Loftus’ Outsider Test for Faith and it’s inherent points.  I then told him that this lead me to the point thatI needed something to hold onto about the faith that would make it real.  “The prophesies of Jesus as messiah in the Old Testament” I told him “were the only thing that would keep it real for me.  But when I started studying them, they broke down too.”

Then I told him that I no longer believe any of it.

He almost didn’t react at all.  He just kind of nodded and kept on talking, as if he had already figured that out about me.  No fireworks, no “A-Ha!”, no crazy shenanigans.  Just my brother and me having a conversation.

I really think it’s kind of dead for him too, but he just doesn’t want to go as far as I have.  He still holds on to the love of god.  His Facebook feed is full of posts from Danny Lee Silk, who is all about loving others, and a couple of other hyper grace preachers, who are very similar to universalists.  Back in April he even posted an article about why homosexuals are good for the church, and it’s a positive slant on that issue.  In our conversation he said that he just wants to make the world a better place by being a good person to everyone he meets.  But he didn’t even relate that to being good because of god or religion.  I really think he’s lost his faith in christianity, but hasn’t seen enough evidence in the right places to make his give it up entirely.  As John Loftus says, “Most people won’t find their faith improbable until they find it impossible.”  I think that’s where he is.

The evening before, he mentioned off-hand that while they were living on the west coast they had gone to a market night and were sitting in front of a cafe having a cup of coffee.  While they were sitting there an atheist group started setting up their awning and display for the market night.  My brother said that he got up and helped them finish setting up.  Afterward, one of them asked if he was an atheist, and he said, “No, but you looked like you needed help.”  After a bit more conversation he started to leave.  He shook they guy’s hand and said “God bless you… Just kidding.”  I’m not sure why he brought that up, but I’m sure it had something to do with our conversation the next morning.  I’m still processing it all.