The sound of thunder awake me, and when I got up, my feet sank into muddy water up to my ankles. Mother took Buster and Helen to high ground to pray, but I stayed behind with Apache and Lupe. We barricaded the door with the rug and started bailing water out the window. Mother came back and begged us to go pray with her on the hilltop. To heck with praying! I shouted. Bail, dammit, bail!Mom look mortified. I could tell she thought I'd probably doomed us all with my blasphemy, and I was a little shocked at it myself, but with the water rising so fast, the situation was dire. We had lit the kerosene lamp, and we could see the walls of the dugout were beginning to sag inward. If Mom had pitched in and helped, there was a chance we might have been able to save the dugout - not a good chance, but a fighting chance. Apache and Lupe and I couldn't do it on our own, though, and when the ceiling started to cave, we grabbed Mom's walnut headboard and pulled it through the door just as the dugout collapsed in on itself, burying everything.Afterward, I was pretty aggravated with Mom. She kept saying that the flood was God's will and we had to submit to it. But I didn't see things that way. Submitting seemed to me a lot like giving up. If God gave us the strength to bail - the gumption to try to save ourselves - isn't that what he wanted us to do?

~ Jeannette Walls

I used to read in books how our fathers persecuted mankind. But I never appreciated it. I did not really appreciate the infamies that have been committed in the name of religion, until I saw the iron arguments that Christians used. I saw the Thumbscrew—two little pieces of iron, armed on the inner surfaces with protuberances, to prevent their slipping; through each end a screw uniting the two pieces. And when some man denied the efficacy of baptism, or may be said, 'I do not believe that a fish ever swallowed a man to keep him from drowning,' then they put his thumb between these pieces of iron and in the name of love and universal forgiveness, began to screw these pieces together. When this was done most men said, 'I will recant.' Probably I should have done the same. Probably I would have said: 'Stop; I will admit anything that you wish; I will admit that there is one god or a million, one hell or a billion; suit yourselves; but stop.'But there was now and then a man who would not swerve the breadth of a hair. There was now and then some sublime heart, willing to die for an intellectual conviction. Had it not been for such men, we would be savages to-night. Had it not been for a few brave, heroic souls in every age, we would have been cannibals, with pictures of wild beasts tattooed upon our flesh, dancing around some dried snake f

~ Robert G. Ingersoll

Princess Cookie’s cognitive pathways may have required a more comprehensive analysis. He knew that it was possible to employ certain progressive methods of neural interface, but he felt somewhat apprehensive about implementing them, for fear of the risks involved and of the limited returns such tactics might yield. For instance, it would be a particularly wasteful endeavor if, for the sake of exhausting every last option available, he were even to go so far as resorting to invasive Ontological Neurospelunkery, for this unorthodox process would only prove to be the cerebral equivalent of tracking a creature one was not even sure existed: surely one could happen upon some new species deep in the caverns somewhere and assume it to be the goal of one’s trek, but then there was a certain idiocy to this notion, as one would never be sure this newfound entity should prove to be what one wished it to be; taken further, this very need to find something, to begin with, would only lead one to clamber more deeply inward along rigorous paths and over unsteady terrain, the entirety of which could only be traversed with the arrogant resolve of someone who has already determined, with a misplaced sense of pride in his own assumptions, that he was undoubtedly making headway in a direction worthwhile. And assuming still that this process was the only viable option available, and further assuming that Morell could manage to find a way to track down the beast lingering ostensibly inside of Princess Cookie, what was he then to do with it? Exorcise the thing? Reason with it? Negotiate maybe? How? Could one hope to impose terms and conditions upon the behavior of something tracked and captured in the wilds of the intellect? The thought was a bizarre one and the prospect of achieving success with it unlikely. Perhaps, it would be enough to track the beast, but also to let it live according to its own inclinations inside of her. This would seem a more agreeable proposition. Unfortunately, however, the possibility still remained that there was no beast at all, but that the aberration plaguing her consciousness was merely a side effect of some divine, yet misunderstood purpose with which she had been imbued by the Almighty Lord Himself. She could very well have been functioning on a spiritual plane far beyond Morell’s ability to grasp, which, of course, seared any scrutiny leveled against her with the indelible brand of blasphemy. To say the least, the fear of Godly reprisal which this brand was sure to summon up only served to make the prospect of engaging in such measures as invasive Ontological Neurospelunkery seem both risky and wasteful. And thus, it was a nonstarter.

~ Ashim Shanker