Recently in Kentucky a cross-country runner from Whitley County High, Codie Thacker, refused to run in a championship race because her coach drew the bib number 666. Thacker said that she didn’t want to risk her relationship with God by running with that number so she forfeited her spot in the race. You can read about the story here: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/highschool-prep-rally/kentucky-cross-country-runner-pulls-regional-championships-rather-111318529.html. interestingly, the writer of the story makes a pretty biased lead (“one of the strangest cases of purported relgious beliefs”) but didn’t provide the most balanced report. It does mention that the race officials deny that she wanted to change her number. If they did actually deny it, though, on one hand I say good for them. They should stand their ground on such an absurd issue. Yet at the same time it wasn’t the biggest problem they could have faced and just let her change the number. I don’t know what the rules are in such an instance but I imagine it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they let her change her number. Then again, 666 isn’t the end of the world, either.
I’m not going to open the debate about how valid the superstitions are regarding 666. How far does one go with the argument that people get their religion wrong? I would have to write a whole book on the subject. But it does strike me odd that in this day and age that people are actually taking 666 to mean something. Then there are those who claim that the number is wrong, that it actually should be 616. Iron Maiden says 666 is the number of the beast, so that’s what I go with. But that’s just it: it’s pop culture. It’s disturbing that there are still religious people who still fear the number (the condition, by the way, is called hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia). It’s referred to in the Bible in several circumstances that don’t have anything to do with the devil. Only one instance cryptically refers to 666 (or 616) possibly having to do with the beast, but not clearly.
Let’s suppose it is the devil’s number. The bib number was picked at random. If there’s any damage to be done, it already happened when the number was drawn. Somehow I doubt that God would be angry for you wearing a number that was picked at random to be your bib number in a race. I don’t think he’ll accuse you of racing for Satan (by the way, I would love to see that story). If she really has this relationship with God that she thinks she does, then she would probably be okay. Just the fact that she tried to change would probably prove to him whatever it was she was trying to prove.
All the same, at least this isn’t another story of the school trying to impose religious beliefs onto the students. She approached the officials based on her own. It’s sad that she feels the way that she does. I’m usually more upset about young people like that succumbing to such nonsense than I do adults. It takes a lot to break them free of such silliness. But still, it’s down to the individual, and if she wants to make this problem for herself then I say let her. The thing that worries me the most now is that she and possibly her coach might blame the officials for denying her the chance to race when it was her own superstition.
When I was in school, the only thing I refused to do as an atheist was say the “under God” portion of the Pledge of Allegiance. It didn’t affect my academic performance any either way. I just didn’t feel comfortable with it. If the school forced me to do it I could sue, possibly with the help of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. It would be discrimination based on my non-beliefs, and the phrase itself is technically illegal to start with. But anybody who doesn’t race based on what number they pick (a number, I might add, exists as a number outside of the religion) to participate in a secular activity doesn’t have a case. I don’t know if this girl is going to try to raise a fuss over being discriminated against. The story is still new and there’s plenty of time for somebody to intervene to try to make money. Then again, there’s also plenty of time for this girl to think over this nonsense.