November 11, 2011: The Call and Lou Engles disciples descended upon Detroit and Ford Field for a twenty-four hour fast and prayer rally intending to bring about the swift return of spiritually lost Americans to the one true God (read: Christian God), and also to cure societal ills, such as homelessness, poverty, crime, and, of course, homosexuality.
I parked very close, found a great spot in the Brush Park neighborhood. I rolled up my sign, stuck it in my backpack and walked toward the stadium. As I cross on foot over the freeway I noticed up ahead many cars waiting to get into a large parking garage. I thought in front of this captive audience was perfect to display my sign so I grabbed my two-sided, painted poster from my bag, unrolled and proceeded. I started out walking with the side reading a bible verse. Now, before you squirm too much, I carefully selected the verse to reflect a sincere wish—that all people can unite and reason with each other. Isaiah 1:18 ends “saith the Lord” but, after seeing how I shortened it, I think you’ll think it equally effective. “Come now, and let us REASON together!” I visually pleaded as I walked by some cars waiting to park. After a bit of no response, or just puzzled looks, I flipped my sign over, and that’s when the comments came.
“What does your sign mean?” asked a young man in an SUV carrying three others. I stopped my stride, turned and calmly replied that I didn’t need to believe in a god in order to be good and do good acts. He looked curiously then asked the same question again, but with different inflection, as if word emphasis would change my answer. It didn’t so I just asked him what he meant? (By the way, I had turtle-slow parking garage entry traffic to thank for permitting time for this exchange.) The man in the SUV asked me if I thought I was cool for saying I am good without god, if maybe it was a cool thing to do. I saw where he was coming from so I headed off that argument. I said that being good and doing good has nothing to do with being or acting cool. I continued that I am capable of acting in ways benefiting humankind without consideration for a deity weighing judgment of me and my deeds. Furthermore, I added that people are not inherently good or bad, but that we each can learn to think freely for ourselves and choose the best behavior in any situation. I closed with my opinion of belief in god is unnecessary in contemporary society, that Science offers more in discovery than the reading of any holy book. Nothing more was said, by either of us, for a few seconds so I smiled, turned away and picked up walking to Ford Field.
Though I was the only Verusono member who made the trip to Detroit I was not alone in my cause. I was delighted to see other sign-holding folks from various religious persuasions near the gates. As I approached them I announced my assumption that I was the only atheist among them but we were united for the moment under a common theme. They laughed and we made introductions. One man named Bill said people were entering Ford Field from other points so he was going to walk around the facility with his sign, which read something along the lines of cautioning the self-righteous. I walked with him.
Bill, a not-so-strict adherent to the Catholic faith, and I walked and talked and held our signs. As we made the rounds we spoke of our different and similar philosophies and exchanged factoids about evangelism and The Call. I enjoyed that. I felt refreshed having heard his opinions. We came to the last corner before ending up from where we left and, since we saw many folks coming from the parking garage, we decided to camp out there with our signs.
The area had law enforcement and event security, and there was a road blockade prohibiting cars from going down Brush Street. Bill stood right behind the blockade and I stood by a light pole. Oh, Bill received a bit of flack about a misspelling on his sign (“aposte” for apostle) but he refused to admit it was wrong. Whatever. I got some curious looks and a few comments. One came from an elderly woman who said “That’s not a nice sign” when she read the good without God side. I casually replied it was a perfectly reasonable statement. One man said, as he approached the blockade, that he used to be just like me. I looked at him with interest. He explained that he thought he was good with God but then he realized that heaven was real. He continued with an ominous tone, “and Hell is real.” Spooky, yes, but I just smiled and signaled that I understood his point, and that was when his friend urged him to move along by gently cupping his shoulder.
The folks began to just trickle out of the parking garage when I heard signing coming up from behind me. I heard there was another protest scheduled and this was that—Black ministers from who knows what church approached with members of their congregation, all singing a beautiful sounding hymn. They marched down Adams Street, took a left onto Brush, went up to the blockade where Bill and I were, hooked around and down Brush again, finally turned right on Adams and returned from wherever they came. It was kinda weird, but mostly sweet and reassuring. These folks came out, just like Bill and I did, to demonstrate against fanatical fundamentalism, and that was a wonderful thing.