I have been living in North America long enough by now to realize that religion — any religion — and faith in general is quite important here.
Religion has never been a part of my life. I grew up in an atheist family. My grand-mother’s father was proudly displaying his lack of faith in the small village he grew up in, at a time where it was not that common to not believe in the big bearded guy above. A famous story goes that one day, the priest climb on the parish’s roof because he wanted to fix a missing tile. His ladder fell and, stuck on the roof, he called for help. My great-grand-father was nearby and taunted him:
— This is as close to Heaven that you are ever going to get!
This still makes my grand-mother laugh. Well, I assume he eventually helped the poor guy, but you get my point. We are a family of sinners. Proud sinners on top of that.
So, when I came to North American, I first had to overcome a few prejudices. In France, there is a strong anti-cult law. As a result, French are extremely foreign to any religion that is not plain Roman Christian, Judaism, Buddhism or Islam. Try it: next time you go to France, mention to your waiter, taxi driver or fellow train passenger that you are an Anglican, a LDS or whatever, and see their eyes widen as they mutter something like “poor you”.
How to define a cult and religion — don’t ask me. The fact is that in North America, there seem to be more religions than soda brands and I’m okay with that. After all, why not? Believe in what makes you feel good.
What I have a really big problem with is proselytism.
The other day, once again, I opened the door to see a woman and man standing in front of me. The conversation we had was quite surreal:
— Hi! (staring at me from head to toes) You are not Chinese.
Indeed, I’m not. Glad we could agree on something — this is so rare these days.
— Do you have a Chinese person at home?
I wish I had replied something witty, such as “no, it’s my Indian day“, but I was too surprised for that. Taken aback, I said that yes, a had a Chinese-Canadian Feng. Did these guys had superpowers?
— Is he here? We would like to talk to him about Jesus.
When I assured them that 1) he wasn’t there 2) he really wasn’t into Jesus (he likes the Red Hot Chili Peppers and U2 better), they didn’t believe me and told me they would be back. Can’t wait.
They never bothered introducing themselves (I couldn’t see their name tags) and I didn’t have a chance to see their flyer’s title. Guess I wasn’t Jesus worthy.
Since I live in Canada, at least 30 people tried to convert me. But to me, going door to door trying to explain people they are going to hell is about as useless as a telemarketer who is calling at 11:00 pm to sell AIG stocks. How does shoving your beliefs in my face is going to make the world a better place?
And why this need to convince people your religion is best?
Note that I have nothing against religion. I’m indifferent, the same way I’m indifferent to golf, darts, curling and the Twilight movie. I don’t even care whether God exist or not. We are talking about proselytism and freedom of choice here.
I have never been a militant atheist. I respect various religious beliefs: to each his own. But I do feel I belong to a minority in North America and my position as an atheist puzzled quite a few. “Isn’t your life pointless?” “Is there such a thing as atheist morality?” “You just haven’t found God yet!“.
Give. Me. A. Break.
Trust me, it’s hard being an atheist in North America. Religion isn’t part of private life: it’s everywhere. It bothered me for a while that public buses in Ottawa have religious-supported anti-abortion ads. Abortion is legal in Canada and although it can be your choice not to go that way if you ever find yourself facing this issue, let others make up their mind. I don’t like when people come to my door and try to convert me. I’m busy and you are invading my private space, no matter how nice you are. I don’t like when politicians make a big deal of invoking God. Of course, they can believe, but their job is to serve citizens who are bound to believe in many Gods, or no God at all. It bothers me that moral values are so often associate with religion: seriously, atheists have values too!
Recently, an ad was displayed on buses in Canada and all over the world: “there is probably no God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life“. It was a humorist and positive way to bring awareness about atheism, humanism, and secularism. It was meant in a respectful way, with also the idea that churches and various religions do advertise in the bus, so why not atheist? Yet, religious groups claim the statement was offensive. Come on, guys!
I just wish I didn’t feel like I was walking on eggshells whenever someone mentions religion. Please, let me think freely. And stop trying to convert me. Or the Chinese guy at home.