In five minutes, I head out to a training session, where I’ll learn how to interview incoming evacuees. I’m told it takes an hour or an hour-and-a-half to interview one family. I don’t know precisely what the interview’s for. I presume it’s to get former address info, family info, etc.

I’m nervous for two reasons. One is that I’m sort of treading on unknown territory here. I’m terrified of confrontation, and I know there’ll be some. I’m nervous around new people. And in particular, I have difficulty dealing with people undergoing some sort of hardship. I find myself awkward around the disabled and the elderly, for example. But this is something I want to do. I’m still trying to wrap my head around why I’m so manic about this effort.

The other reason I’m nervous is that I’m heading out sporting an RET shirt that reads on the back, in big letters, “You don’t need god to be good.” The training is at a church. I worry that some (most) people will find this offensive, but my intention isn’t to offend. I just want to demonstrate that even the godless are good, to be in the trenches working as steadfastly as the religious and to show them that not only don’t I eat babies, but that I’m in fact capable of compassion and have a very strong personal desire to help those in need.

I went to an organizational meeting last night at a church. We were in a cavernous sanctuary whose balcony was as deep as the church I grew up attending. The minister addressed the large crowd from the podium and talked for a few minutes about how the church grew a great deal during the plague because people demonstrated the love of Christ through their actions and brought others into the fold. He paid lipservice to the fact that the Red Cross had rules against prosyletizing, but his emphasis was on growing the church, adding names to the list. It made me a little heartsick, because here I am out of genuine compassion, hurting when I think of these poor evacuees while the head of this major church is thinking of them as targets. He might as well be trying to get them hooked on Amway.

I don’t doubt that many religious people have a sincere desire to help, one very much like mine. But there also seems to be an ugly ulterior motive lurking there. “If I help these people, maybe I’ll get into Heaven.” And I don’t have that. I want to help because I want to help; I’m good because I know what it is to be good and not because I feel as if I’m under the thumb of any god who will torture me forever if I’m not good.

And that’s why I’m wearing the shirt, inflammatory though it may be. If anybody approaches me about it, I’ll try to engage in friendly conversation about it, to explain (in less frank terms) my motivation: that I want to demonstrate that the godly don’t have the corner on morality and ethics.

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