dreamingfifi: (Default)
[personal profile] dreamingfifi
Dear Person with the Fire of Religious Fervor Burning in Your Gut,

Being an out Atheist comes with the perk of having a target painted on your back when it comes to anyone and everyone wanting to shove their religion down your throat. In the US, where I live, the religion of choice for gullet-stuffing is Evangelical Christianity, so many of my experiences are with that religion, though hopefully what I have to say will be applicable on a broader scale.

Proselytizing is rude. Please stop. I don't mean that you shouldn't have the right to express your beliefs or practice your religion. There are plenty of things that you are free to do that are obnoxious, and for the sake of living in harmony with your fellow humans, you shouldn't do. Especially when the person you're directing it towards isn't interested. There are times, specific times usually with associated places, that I open myself up for religious debates. Just not being in your religion doesn't mean that I'm up for a theological discussion at all times. Also, I'm introverted, so that kind of hostility I especially don't like.

When you proselytize, you tell people: “You're wrong. I'm right.” No matter how you try to dress it up, it has an undercurrent of disrespect. You also are setting up the person you're talking to, because no matter how they refuse you, it'll have the undercurrent of disrespect. You'll be forcing them to say, “No, I'm right, and you're wrong.” So many times have I been confronted by this rude tactic, and the person on the other end of it will start playing the victim card, when it was they who was being rude in the first place.

I get it. You think I'm in danger or need saving from some horrible fate. My life is my own, not yours. Let me do with it what I will. Will you grant me at least that bit of agency? At the core of respecting others is releasing your control over them. By trying to keep that control, you are inherently disrespecting them.

Some of my experiences with proselytizers include:

Being cornered in the library by the “Youth Group” in the highschool. They were meeting there, and I happened to also be in the library, because I wanted to read books. Tip to the wise: if you have to corner the person you're proselytizing at, they probably aren't interested.

I posted a video to fellow Atheists on You Tube, and for some strange reason, a bunch of Christians have posted on it trying to convert me. That video wasn't an invitation to convert me, that was a message to fellow Atheists that it's okay to be an Atheist. It didn't have anything to do with them. I don't go on Christian postings directed at other Christians and tell them what I think of their beliefs, so they should grant me the same courtesy.

Being on my way to class, and having to walk through a volley of people wailing and flailing their bigoted signs. One charmer, because I was walking with a female friend, got in our way and yelled something crude about lesbians.

One time, my spouse and I were trying to leave our apartment to go shopping or to the bank or something, I forget what, and a stranger barred us from leaving our home for an hour or so to yell at us about Obama being a Muslim because all black people are genetically Muslims. As you can tell, we did not feel safe going outside with such an aggressive delusional person outside our door. He did flee when I told him by his logic, he was genetically a pagan and he was talking to someone who was genetically Catholic and Jewish. Kinda a funny story to look back on, but not funny when you're facing a 6 foot, 200 lb raving nutcase that's preventing you from leaving your apartment.

There is a common thread in these experiences. In the in person ones, the proselytizers were trapping me physically. They stick out in my mind so much more, because of the fear of physical violence. Why, when faced with a devout Christian trying to spread their good news, would I feel like I'm possibly facing physical violence?

Because it's happened before.

I was in the playground. They cornered me. Once I was trapped they threw everything they could get their hands on at me, screaming, “Burn the witch!” Same group of people tried to strangle my little brother on the school-bus a few years later, but I was physically strong enough to rip them off of him and give them some scars to remember me by.

So, you want to proselytize.

Remember, traumatizing experiences at the hands of people sharing your religion, no matter how nice you are, will color the other person's perspective of the encounter. Never, ever get in someone's way or make them feel trapped; and if someone shows any sign of disinterest, back off.

Remember that it's essentially disrespectful.

Remember that there are times that it's welcome, and there will be no ambiguity about when it's welcome, because people will ask you to pitch your religion to them, usually starting with the phrase, “I'm looking for a church to go to.”

So, go out there and exist in your religion. Just don't be an asshole. Please?
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