Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sherman to learn whether he right or wrong, not that any of us really know

I’ll never forget the first time I ever met Rob Sherman – the suburban Buffalo Grove man who made a reputation out of fighting for a person’s right to be free of religion.
Not Congress-bound, by any means
Sherman was the long-time head of American Atheists who was long known for a willingness to sue just about any governmental unit that he felt was trying to force religious beliefs on all of us.

IT WAS IN that context that I met him back in 1988, when I was a kid reporter-type at the now-defunct City News Bureau of Chicago working the overnight shift. I was one of the people who kept my eye on the Second City at 4 a.m., waiting for any slayings or fires or other incidents that could be worth news coverage.

Which is why I was in the old office at 35 E. Wacker St., at about 3 a.m., busily banging away on a computer terminal that is downright primitive to what I use now trying to come up with some copy that would seem fresh for the early morning newscasts when suddenly, I felt a hand touch my left shoulder.

I must admit to being startled. I probably leaped out of my seat as I whirled around to see who put their hand on me. In my wildest fantasies, she would have been blonde and petite.

Instead, it was Rob, who I recall was wearing a jacket with the Atheist logo (which featured an atom, implying that their view was purely about science).

HE WAS BEARING one of those downright primitive tape players that we used to call a “boom box,” and he wanted me to listen to a tape recording he had made.

I don’t remember exactly what was said, but I recall it was then-President Ronald Reagan speaking – having said something particularly vacuous that Sherman wanted us to think of as the controversy of the century.

I remember we actually wrote up a brief story with Sherman offering up his reaction, and I think it got used in a news cycle or two on radio before real happenings occurred that weeded it out.

But I always remembered that incident whenever Sherman’s name came up in the news – the guy so devoted to his cause that he felt compelled to show up at a downtown newsroom in the middle of the night (when normal people were either sleeping or out partying) in hopes of getting a bit of coverage!

SHERMAN IS IN the news again these days because of an airplane crash near Marengo – specifically one involving an airplane he owns that crashed and killed the pilot. Although taking place early Saturday, officials wouldn’t identify the pilot as Sherman until Monday, and the FAA was continuing to investigate.

Sherman, the man who spent his life claiming that life is life and that when it ends, it’s over, will now learn whether the religious-minded crackpots with whom he’d do battle turn out to be right – that when they die, they get to enjoy Heaven while Sherman won’t.

Sherman was dedicated enough to try to promote his cause in many ways, including trying to win seats both in the Illinois congressional delegation and in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Not that he ever succeeded. All of his electoral bids were unsuccessful, But he was one who took his beliefs seriously. He had a cause to fight for, even though it was one that offended a certain segment of our society and had the bulk of us thinking he was in desperate need of a vacation.

OF COURSE, THERE also are others who remember Sherman for a Chicago Tribune story that featured the activist and his son – one in which the newspaper ended with an anecdote in which the younger Sherman Ricky wound up calling atheists “assholes.”

I suspect the people who will most eagerly remember that anecdote will be the ones who have their own hang-ups about life, and often use their religious faith as a way of trying to justify their sense of hatred toward certain others.

As though Heaven and eternal life is only for people who are exactly like them, and no one else. It almost sounds like a segregationist way of thinking of things, which is a way of thought I find bordering on repulsive.

As much as I found Sherman in life to be a bit overbearing, I’ll confess that I'd rather be on his side than with the people who want to view religious faith as an excuse to condemn everybody they don’t like to eternal damnation! Who are the ones that I'd truly like to think will face such a fate at life's end.


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