The Course of Reason

Atheists Know Math, and They Know What is Right

July 24, 2011

There is a magical store that has a no-candy checkout aisle for grabby children, umbrellas you can borrow to get to your car, and probably the happiest employees I have ever seen at a grocery store. That store is Wegman’s and it is new to me, since I came from the Midwest where Meijer was king.

I was checking out the other day and had only bought a few things. I needed cash to get on the subway the following day, so I asked for ten dollars cash back on my debit card. The cashier confirmed my request, hit a few buttons, and handed me my receipt and a twenty dollar bill.

I walked forward one step and noticed that he gave me a twenty. I checked my receipt to see what had been debited, because twenty would have been fine, too. Nope; it clearly said that my account had been debited $10.

I have to admit, I stood at the end of the checkout for a minute. I thought to myself, “You’re broke. Just take it! No one will ever know!” but I knew that I couldn’t walk away. I knew that there was no way I could accept the mistake in my favor. I knew this because I am incapable of not considering the cashier’s perspective. I was a waitress, a cashier, and a general service prole for many years and I did occasionally have an awful day because my drawer was off. I felt awful for even considering taking the extra money because I knew that this poor guy would have a bad day, or possibly get in trouble for not having a balanced drawer if I didn’t point out the error. I virtually can’t do that to someone.

So, I definitely did point out the error. The guy looked like he had seen a ghost. He froze for a minute and I said, “It’s okay. I can wait until you’re done with this person and can open the drawer.” He thanked me a few times and I just kind of shrugged and said, “No problem.” I really legitimately hope that everyone reading this would have done the same thing.

The reason that I am writing all of this is because I am an atheist. Hell, I am what some would even call a professional atheist. I’m no authority on where morality comes from, but I don’t have any thoughts of sin or karma or bad juju when things like this happen. I don’t expect a reward or pat on the back. Even blogging about it makes me feel weird. It’s nothing. It’s minutiae, but I wish that more people would recognize that the reason they are “moral” is actually because we have been taught the golden rule and we are creatures with empathy and sympathy that have a hard time screwing-over total strangers.



About the Author: Dren Asselmeier

Dren Asselmeier's photo

Dren Asselmeier does student outreach as a campus organizer at the Center for Inquiry. She got her start as an organizer while interning at Center for Inquiry–Michigan in 2008. She stayed until 2010 as a volunteer campus coordinator, and was CFI–Michigan Freethinker of the Year in 2009, as well as president of Center for Inquiry–Grand Valley State University. Dren has a B.A. in English from Grand Valley State University. She is the president of Buffalo Area Non-Profit Professionals, an event volunteer at Buffalo Subversive Theatre, and a contributor to the Buffalo Storyteller Hour. 




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