I have been bracing myself for today’s “pranks” for a few days now, so I’m ready. While I am something of a fan of the very very obviously false posts, especially the ones on the part of organizations and companies, this day serves as a wince-inducing reminder to me that taking people at their word is considered bad in the world in which we live.I have always been a literal person with an excellent memory for the auditory. I had the misfortune of being born into a family filled with people who think that merely saying a false thing and getting someone to believe it is a funny joke. I’ve never understood how the punchline of “Haha, this person believes stuff I say!” is funny, especially in an immigrant culture where respect for elders is an important value and within a religion where lying was forbidden. Was it really so bad that I believed what the adults and teenagers who allegedly loved me and were looking out for me said to me?
As soon as I found out that they thought less of me for believing them, I stopped taking them at their word. You might call this a good lesson in skepticism, and in a way, it was. I could’ve done with less sneering about how “stupid” I was for, at age 3, believing the word of people I trusted, though.
My childhood experiences with my extended family neatly translated to the attitudes I found in the world at large. Consider the rather meta “Did you know that gullible isn’t in the dictionary?” joke. Its punchline is “I got you to believe me!” with the implication that the person who believed it is somehow lessened for having done so. A lot of the unfunny, recycled “jokes” people are deploying today rely on it. I still am unsure as to why that particular punchline is funny, since I prefer less punch-driven humor, but I’ve come to accept that many people think it is.
Another unintended side effect of my early exposure to the contempt people have towards trust was a deep cynicism towards the religious practice of others as well as the real-life impact of God. For a short while, I took to asking people to swear to Allah that what they said was true, and many of them did while still lying. When I realized that lightning wouldn’t strike down people who lied out of one corner of their mouths while saying “Wallahi” out of the other, I stopped believing as much in Allah’s day-to-day interference in human life. I also stopped believing that other people were as strongly Muslim as they claimed. The latter has been a comfort as I’ve navigated the post-apostasy landscape of my life. The sanctimony some have taken to exaggerating in my atheist presence is more blatantly pathetic in light of how unseriously they take their faith otherwise.