I’ve never understood the point of the proselytizing atheist.
Even as a person of Christian faith, I understand how a person’s life experiences would lead them to decide not to have faith themselves. People, as a rule, are poor witnesses after all, and for many atheists and agnostics, bad experiences with professed Christians serve as their primary evidence to not become one — as sad as that makes me.
But I’ve never fathomed why, for some, the existence of faith in God is such a threat that they aim to convert people away from it.
Believe me, this comes up, or at least I’ve seen it dozens of times — people who actively profess no faith who fervently beseech others to also believe there is no God, heaven, afterlife, etc.
When those conversations come my way, first I ask, “Why does it matter to you what I believe?” Then I take it one step further.
Say you’re right, I tell them, and I’m wrong. I’ll never know it and I won’t lose anything for the trouble. And we’ll both be in the same place when we die. But if I’m right and you’re wrong, our ends will be very different and you will absolutely know about it. So, logically, it makes more sense to believe, right?
Of course, faith doesn’t really work that way. Belief must come from more than hedging your bets. Wearing a mask during a pandemic, on the other hand, absolutely can be summed up with this basic logic.
Let’s look at the pros/cons of wearing a mask in public. Research says it helps keep YOU from spreading the virus to OTHERS, not necessarily the other way around. Multiple scientific authorities have shown mask wearing is effective, especially as a way to mitigate spreading COVID-19 while keeping the economy open.
But what if the research is wrong and masks don’t really help much more than doing nothing? Then, we adjust to something more effective when we discover it, and all you’re out is the inconvenience. At least you tried and showed your fellow man that — using the information you had at the time — you actually gave a damn about whether you might possibly kill them. That’s got to be worth something.
Yet, many anti-maskers are as angry about the prospect of being inconvenienced as proselytizing atheists are about people believing in God. Some show that anger by refusing to wear a mask and calling people who do cowards on Facebook. Others, as we’ve seen, have gone so far as to scream at business owners who require it or rip the mask off another person to yell in their face.
It’s almost like those people want to give COVID-19 to someone just to prove a point. What point, I couldn’t reckon. If that’s the case, then give it to yourself and leave me out of it.
But just for fun, let’s take some of the anti-mask arguments one at a time.
“What if COVID isn’t as serious as the media insists it is?” Well, I’m no scientist, but the virus has killed nearly 700,000 people globally since November, including almost 150,000 in the U.S. since January. Seems serious enough.
“What if the mask suffocates me or poisons me with trapped carbon dioxide?” It won’t. But if you’re that concerned about lung health, maybe you should stop smoking or refuse to be around others who do.
“Well, I don’t have a problem with people wearing a mask. I might even wear one myself. But I don’t think the government should tell me I have to. I should have a choice. What about my rights?”
In the words of one of my favorite all-time TV characters, Col. Sherman Potter, “Buffalo bagels.”
You don’t have the right to hurt other people, negligently or otherwise. It doesn’t matter if you agree with the research. The mere possibility of spreading a deadly virus before we have a vaccine is enough for governments to enact measures to keep you from it.
Besides, that whole “rights” argument is especially bogus when it comes from many of the same people who believed so strongly post-9/11 that we had a “patriotic duty” to give up some of our civil liberties to ensure our national security. What happened to that? It’s not like the government will tap your phone to see if you intend to wear a mask. Although, I guess with The Patriot Act, it could.
I have every right to expect my government — local, state and federal — to implement policies that make citizens protect each other’s safety. In this case, if wearing a mask helps stem a public health crisis, a mandate to do so is no more a violation of civil liberties than a lane divider painted on a highway or a speed limit sign meant to protect driver safety.
An anti-masker’s “feelings” about it should not dictate policy. But that seems to be the prevailing voice keeping some governments from executing their charge. Both that attitude from the public and the government bending to it at the expense of people’s health are disgraceful.
Wear the damn mask.
If you don’t, at least do us all a favor and refuse to take your shoes off the next time you’re at a TSA checkpoint. That ought to keep you out of the supermarket for a while.
Zack Plair is managing editor of The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.