Better a Devil Worshiper than an Agnostic

“How much Hebrew do you know?”

AJ and I were sitting on the floor playing Connect Four during our most recent session. I always let her go first since she is only 9 years old and takes every game we play very seriously. It’s a surprisingly difficult game to win when you don’t get to make the first move, so I need to truly focus just to win every other contest. Currently I’m down seven games to three.

“Hebrew?”

“Yeah, my mom said it would be nice if we talked in Hebrew while we played.”

Mom is definitely spot-on about the talking part. Play therapy ideally involves conversation about a child’s difficulties while engaging in a playful activity. In fact, the game itself can serve as a medium for conversation. Some practitioners use board games such as the “Talking, Feeling and Doing Game” (which basically involves sharing emotions while moving pieces around a board in a game format that doesn’t allow anyone to win) to help a child express him or herself in a non-threatening environment. I myself prefer to utilize games that a child is already familiar with and enjoys so that he or she wants to return to future sessions. I always let the child win the first game or two so that she feels good about herself, but also will win a few rounds (or at least try to win) in order to see how a child handles disappointment.

In AJ’s case, I’m currently hoping to learn more about her fear of school (called a “Specific Phobia” in therapist terminology). Rather than sit her down on the couch and demand “Why are you afraid to go to school?,” we play and talk about Connect Four while I periodically throw in questions and reassuring statements like, “What are some things that kids your age hate about school?” and “I’ve helped other girls your age who have been nervous about school, maybe I could help you too.” This therapeutic style lets AJ know that sessions with me aren’t all about her explaining or defending herself, and it tells her that she isn’t the only person in the world with this sort of difficulty.


“I actually don’t know any Hebrew,” I confessed, wondering why the conversation isn’t about school, but rather my language capabilities.

“You don’t remember any from Hebrew school?”

“I never went to Hebrew school like you.”

“But you’re Jewish, right?”

“No, I’m not.”

AJ recoiled in horror, like I had just handed her a jar of my own urine. “Are you Christian?”

“No, I’m what they call ‘agnostic.’ Do you know what that means?”

“Everyone is either Jewish or Christian, unless you’re a terrorist,” she said with a hint of fear in her voice.

“Actually, that’s not true at all,” I said, trying to be reassuring. “There are lots of religions in the world.”
“No no no! Terrorist!” she screamed and ran out of the office.

I pulled myself up from the floor and worked my way to the waiting room, empty save for AJ cowering behind the left leg of her very large non-Agnostic (and therefore non-terrorist) father.

“What the fuck is going on here?” thundered Mr. AJ.

“There was a misunderstanding with AJ. She thinks I’m a terrorist.”

“Why would she think that? Are you from the Middle East?” he asked me, probably the whitest person in New York City.

“No, I’m agnostic.”

“What the hell is ‘agnostic?'”

“It means that I’m not sure if there is a God or not. I think it’s from the Greek word…”

“Jesus Christ, Dobrenski” said Mr. AJ. “This isn’t religion class, it’s counseling.”

“She asked me, and I don’t lie to my clients. And I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t use curse words or blaspheme in the waiting room.”

“He’s an Anti-Semite!” screamed AJ.

“AJ, I am not an Anti-Semite.”

“Since when did you turn Goyum, Dobrenski?” queried Mr. AJ.

“I didn’t turn Goyum, I’ve always been non-Jewish,” I said, starting to feel defective for my non-Chosen status.

“I guess it doesn’t matter, just keep the whole anti-God thing to a minimum in future sessions, okay? See you next week.”

“I was just trying to do play therapy…”

By now AJ had heard enough and took off, running out of the office, into the elevator, and presumably onto 6th Avenue.

“Wow, you really scared the shit out of her, huh?” said Mr. AJ. “I’ll talk to her, see if she wants to come back again.”

Mrs. AJ wasn’t as understanding about my agnostic status, and so I was essentially fired two days later, via telephone. “You’re all well and good, Dobrenski,” said Mr. AJ, “but we really need someone with a more religious bent. My wife isn’t too keen on this whole ‘agnostic’ thing. You could be a Goddamn Devil-Worshipper for all we care, but make a commitment for Christ’s sake! Mrs. AJ said she’s pretty sure you’re not a terrorist, but that we can’t be too careful these days. Who knows what you’re capable of!”

That was the first client I lost due to my perceived potential for mass destruction.

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31 Responses to “Better a Devil Worshiper than an Agnostic”

  1. Crystal says:

    That was my favorite one so far!!!!!!

  2. Trevyn says:

    I have to be honest. I don’t believe I have ever had the pleasure of talking to people that close minded and ignorant. Are there really people that stupid? I thought they were only made up for Hollywood comedies.

  3. Soren says:

    That’s pretty shocking. Living in England, I’ve never met anyone who cares even slightly about the religious preferences of others. And if they do, from what I know and have heard, people rarely ever make assumptions based on them.
    Nice blog. I’ll be reading.

  4. Captain Canada says:

    Nice. That is one paranoid little kid. Too much Fox news apparently.

  5. C says:

    Rule 1 of the universe: People are stupid.
    Rule 2 of the universe: For all inexplicable behavior, see rule 1.

  6. Wayland says:

    I’m a Christian. That was messed up but funny. Nice write-up!

  7. Adam says:

    People like this make me embarassed about being Jewish. I’m sure the father was a shitty tipper, also.

  8. Leszek Cyfer says:

    I believe there is something higher than the life we live. I also am very distrustful of any institutional religion. It’s a matter of one’s judgement and one’s search for meaning in life. To make any assumption on someone, based on his religion is not stupid – it is sad.
    Kids are like a sponges. I bet for her parents life is in black and white, no shades at all. Either you are with them or against. there is no neutral. Everybody different is dangerous.
    Bleah :/

  9. Duke says:

    Seriously, next time I hear the word “Agnostic” I’m going to hammer someone in the foot. Being agnostic to a “god” is just as silly to being agnostic to leprechauns. I’m tired of these cop-out defensive words.

  10. Jake says:

    What, wait a minute, everyone who’s different ISN’T a terrorist? Oh my God, my entire moral thought process has just been destroyed!

  11. thumbtacs says:

    In USA people pay WAYYYYYYY tooooo muuuUUUUUCH attention to religion *Jesus in particular* in Europe people generally do not care that much…

  12. Ploin says:

    Duke, being agnostic isn’t a cop-out. Its admitting the truth, that you can’t be certain whether there is or isn’t a God. Its probably the most honest philosophy out there.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Of course we can’t be certain, which is why we have faith, a firm belief in something for which there is no proof.
    Verily, we all hope there is a god, don’t we?
    We all share the desperate hope that something or someone will rescue us from imminent danger, a genie, a leprechaun, god… whatever!
    I know when I was in a car accident a few months back and my car was spinning out of control, I inherently cried “oh god, oh god,” not “oh my lucky charms!”
    ….although they are magically delicious 🙂

  14. Angela says:

    I wonder if her school phobia had to do with hearing other kids whisper doubts about their religion. She would think that she was going to school with terrorists.
    It breaks my heart.

  15. DSG says:

    I’ve seen pictures of Dr. Dobrenski. He looks about as Jewish as the Pope! (Actually, the Pope looks more Jewish than he does, since the Pope wears that yamakah and all. . . )
    Maybe AJ isn’t actually afraid of going to school at all. Maube she is just staying home because of all the Jewish holidays. . . (Seriously, have you seen the upcoming calendar for September. . . ?)

  16. Luke says:

    I wonder what they would have done had you said you were an atheist. Atheists, in a way, make a “commitment,” but unlike, say, devil-worshippers, don’t believe in any higher power.
    I’d be curious to see where they draw the line. 🙂

  17. Ninja says:

    You gotta remember people, if you’re an Athiest you worship the devil!
    Sadly, I have met people that believe that. It is kinda of pathetic.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Wow. I can only wonder if that would have been better or worse if the answer had been “atheist” instead of “agnostic”. I mean, at least then you’re committed to something (in their mind of course. I relate being mostly an atheist with a slight agnostic bent). =\

  19. anonymous says:

    wow, you are an awful writer. you really should stop because your platitude might induce massive soul cancer. it could become an epidemic. you suck.

  20. Simpson says:

    It seems so often to me that it’s the kids from familes with hardcore Jewish parents that get, for lack of a better phrase, the most ‘religiously mind-warped’. With some of the parents you see that border or directly identify with being Zionist, that much zealousness tends to rub off on the child. Then that kid can grow up to hate non-monotheists and blow your head off for the slightest remark that even slightly implies a disagreement with their (possibly harshly instilled) religious beliefs.
    Of course this same formula can apply to many other religions, though I havn’t seen it happen in any other context before. Really unnerving that kids can have something wired into their brains so hard.

  21. Wrath says:

    Wow… just… wow. Kid’s are funny. Personally, I’d have tried to steer the conversation as soon as she mentioned speaking Hebrew, but i’m not a therapist.

  22. Kelson says:

    Damn, that’s sad. Poor kid. She’ll probably grow up like that.

  23. Camille says:

    Hey, I see you’re getting a lot of guff (yes, old person word, I’m under 21 though) from people who probably read a lot of gaijin smash and can’t enjoy the finer, more subtle things in life. I love your stories, keep at it!

  24. Mica says:

    Goyim.
    Goyum is not spelled correctly.

  25. AliceJ says:

    Wow, Americans are weird!

  26. Michael says:

    I envy all you people who claim to have never had to deal with this…

  27. Frank says:

    Another child left behind.
    Wow, this kind of stuff makes my blood boil.

  28. Conrad says:

    Honestly, I was raised in a christian family, but im an agnostic aswell. I have no clueand honestly, dont really care whether or not god is real. When I grow up (Im 11) I want to be either a phychiatrist or a cop. Your hillarious, I like your blog better then that Tucker Max crap for sure.

  29. Anonymous says:

    So there are seriously people, Jewish people, that have enough money for their flipping 9 y.o. to have therapy yet don’t know what agnosticism is and talk like truckdriving guidos? And the Mrs. being so prejudiced concerning your religious affiliation yet much less discerning with her choice of husband… priceless.
    What a disgusting world of dipshits.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for posting this, lifted my day, very funny story.

  31. Ignorance is not restricted by race, culture, or religion. It’s sad that a child that young already has such a warped view of the world, and that her “education” came from people she loves because it will be very hard to change.