As of late, I seem to have run into more than my standard share of kooky Christians. Now, before I begin, I would like to let it be known that I have nothing against Christians who go about their business in society, regularly worship, and whose faith actually improves their lives. I am not a Christian, or even a religious man in any doctrinal or organized sense. But my respect is always given for those who believe differently and can still think others are good people.
My respect, it hardly needs to be mentioned, is not reserved for those whose faith removes them from civility. The first recent episode to get me on this line of thinking came a few weeks ago. The world, it seems, shrinks to an incredible size sometimes. As I was walking back into a grocery store in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, someone I had just walked past called out to me. I didn’t recognize him at first, but he apparently recognized me. The man who got my attention was someone I not only went to high school with, but was also a fellow bandmate of mine! Of all the curious things to happen to me, this was by far one of the less likely.
Speaking with him briefly, it turned out he was out in this area on mission for his church. And for that reason, this incredible coincidence went sour. He took the opportunity of speaking with someone from his hometown over two thousand miles away in order to try to sell Christ to me. I told him that it was unnecessary, but that it would be great if he had the time to stop by for a spot of tea and to chat and catch up a bit. I left him my number and we parted ways, for I had ten pounds of beef in my hands I had to return. It haunted me a little that he went into his spiel on ‘talking to me about Christ’, the apparent randomness of our meeting being lost, but I shrugged it off. I was not expecting to hear from him again, and left the incident to stand alone as an odd little memory in my mind.
About a week later, I did wind up getting a phone call from him. Once again, he brought up the idea of coming to my home in order to talk to me about Christ. I told him again it was unnecessary; that I was not a Christian and that it held no appeal for me. It was about at this point, I gave up on the idea of meeting with him again to talk about things other than religion. He had some very kinds words to say about his recollection of me from band, and I had quite nice things to say about him and his brother in return (for I knew his brother better than I knew him). We bid each other farewell, and it would seem that we will never speak again.
It saddened me to think that his religion kept him from taking up an opportunity to speak with someone based on a lucky random chance. I’m sure that it was partly due to him being out here to accomplish this duty of his. But my problem with this incident still remains. I was quite looking forward to speaking with him over a cup of tea, being a proper host, and thoroughly soaking in conversing with someone hailing from the same town and now in the same area of the world as I. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. I say unfortunate, because it seems to be that his faith and views on his purpose in this world stopped him from engaging in a simple pleasantry with his fellow man and former schoolmate. It was a shameful loss, in my opinion.
The second occasion that prompted me on this line of thought came at Halloween. We took our son around the neighborhood for the very first time trick-or-treating from our new house. Everyone in the neighborhood was positively grand, and by the time we got to them, quite generous with their remaining candy. One house we stopped at had a kind gentleman handing out little goody bags, with candy and toy money and a little book. When we got home and inspected the good stuff Austin collected, it turned out that goody bag had an ulterior motive.
First we noticed the million dollar bill that came in the bag, and I originally thought it to be a fun idea for a ‘trick’ gift. Upon further inspection, however, it became obvious this was not simply a fun thing. Written along the edge of the bill, in tiny writing, were lines attempting to forcefully, and in a rather misguided fashion, spread the word of Christ. It opened with text about the sin of lust and pleasures of the flesh and how to reject those evils by following some church’s teachings of Christ. The other object in the now cruel gift was a small booklet on tips for memorizing the Ten Commandments and how they should be considered in one’s life.
The implications of all this did not hit me at first. I had long been used to being of foreign thought among Christians and having to thoughtlessly toss away the self-proclaimed truths they attempted to sell to me. There has never been a moment of my life that I could not see those ancient myths as just that, myth, and that all the ‘truths’ attempted to be taught to me could be torn apart by logical reasoning. (Though that is not to say if there could ever have been a meeting between Jesus Christ and Socrates that I would not have been in attendance.) So unfortunately I just tore up and threw away those unpleasant gifts given to my son (hence the lack of citation in this post.)
It was my wife who saw this neighbor’s gift as a great indiscretion, and leave it to a mother’s instincts to find actual truths in this world. These were not handouts for me, they were directed at my three year old son! Attempting to give messages to a child so new and innocent in this world about lust and sin is truly a horrid act. To this man, ensuring the perpetuation of his own views far outweighs a child remaining innocent in this world. Heaven (apparently) forbid people to be naive to evil, no matter how young they may be.
This is only a small sample of the many examples of why religion never stuck with me. Not only do so many viewpoints touted by religious institutions disregard or turn a blind eye to logic and evidence and science, but to general pleasantries and kindness to those who think differently. Of course, this is not the vast majority of those with faith in this world, and to them and their generosity in my life, I will be forever thankful. But it seems that all major western belief systems have those too-large-to-ignore fringes who would readily be soldiers for their faith, to the point of being against their fellow countrymen and even neighbors.
This fringe, it must be noted, would be utterly impossible for me to police. By me, I mean the secular, civil world. I can do nothing for these people, for my words would be from the mouth of a heathen and be immediately disregarded. It is for the members of their respective faiths, to which the fringe claims to belong, to police. I know it is difficult for those moderate and civil religious members of society to do, as they would much prefer to distance themselves and not make it their own problem.
My small rant here has gone on long enough, and has been a wandering mess of thought over many days. I think the general thought is these sorted situations weigh negatively on my soul. It is so unfortunate that for some, the concept of acceptance and civility towards those who may even think directly opposite does not exist. They will never have peace in their lives. I suppose it is all well and good for them, as they believe they are doing the right thing and though they will never know contentment in this life, they believe they will in their next one, so it is a tolerable condition.
It also hurts me that those who know of my ideas and work their lives to change my ideas. I do nothing to them except personally disagree, yet still they try. I fear that these regular barrages may harden my soul, turning it rough and bitter. I live my life by the view that though I may not be a religious man, I am still wholly capable of being a moral man. Goodness is a logical product of thoughts on potential actions. I try to be moral because it makes sense to be so, not because I am threaten to do so or I am to be rewarded in a way my current life will never experience. To me, this is the only life I will ever get, so why waste it on the fouler things?
Take care, folks~