I saw the question/post on the sidebar and felt like flexing Ye Olde Writing Muscle and answering it. Unfortunately for ashes, my answer turned into a rambling rant more suitable to inflict on you people, by which of course I mean my people: Squirrel Haters. Here’s my answer. (My comment, followed by my apology therefor, are still awaiting moderation there as of this posting.)
Reporting from NYC here, that infamous bastion of moral turpitude: feminists, POC, AOC, leftists, queer people, Muslims, godless heathens and all those other notorious devils your mother warned you about. Especially those godless heathens!
Even for me, it’s an interesting and timely question, it turns out. Soooo…I’ve recently had multiple surgeries followed by hospital admissions at an enormous, sprawling, nominally Jewish hospital-and-medical-school complex in Manhattan. It’s the kind of place where the intake forms in nearly every doctor’s office – and I’ve been to a LOT of ’em – ask for “preferred name” and “preferred pronoun,” and the various departments proudly display a rainbow flag or two with messages of welcoming and inclusivity. The staff, from renowned surgeons to janitors, is probably as diverse as the U.N.’s. You get the picture.
Now I don’t know if it’s an effect of cancer and its treatments or just a typical case of don’t-give-a-fuck-itis, but if someone who is responsible for some aspect of my medical care is going to ask me about my religion, and the physician practices all do, I say “atheist” without skipping a beat. I have that privilege here.
Or do I? Two surgeries ago back in November, I remember filling out some form or answering some questioner as usual with “athiest.” I get up to pre-op holding, and various people and teams keep dropping by to introduce themselves, then examine and interrogate me (anesthesia docs, O.R. nurses, surgical residents, etc.). I instantly forget all of their names, faces and roles. As I was being wheeled away to the O.R., one of these people, a woman perhaps in her thirties, leans over and says to me almost conspiratorially, “It was nice to see ‘atheist’ in your chart. I wish more people were so open about it.” Huh?! Okay…
As an aside here, yes yes this is a “Jewish” hospital, but nearly every single Jewish person in my circle of friends is at least agnostic, and some are quite openly atheist. And also Jewish, in the cultural sense. They celebrate and honor Jewish holidays with family and friends, just like other atheists might celebrate Christmas.
FF to my most recent surgery and admission, about a week ago. It’s 6:00am and I’m at the very first gatekeeper: the insurance coverage and your copay’s due now person. She takes my credit card and asks me the usual litany of basic biographical questions, including religion. “Atheist,” I say. She doesn’t blink, but after a few seconds appears puzzled at her screen. A supervisor type behind her apparently overheard me, and comes over to assist. It’s apparently no longer a fill-in-the-blank space, and it’s not on the (new?) drop-down menu. I mean it should be right there after Adventist, Seventh Day. Or whatever. I helpfully pitch all sorts of euphemisms like “godless?” “how about heathen?” “None?” “Listen I can take agnostic, just for today?” They’re both mystified that it’s not there. I say, “Come on, I can’t be the only one here today, there are lots of us!” They sort of mumble agreement and apologies and a “Yeah, I know some…”
I don’t know what religion they finally decided to choose on my behalf. Pretty sure the credit card part was the only real key to getting past them.
Some interesting answers are already there – maybe go have a read and answer for yourself?