Religious Attitude, Part 1
This article originally appeared as part of SSA eNews No. 13 - Odds & Ends.
This is the first part of a two-part account. The author wishes to remain anonymous.
"Look down at me and you see a fool; look up at me and you see a god; look straight at me and you see yourself." While it's a frightening comparison, and one I'd never apply to a stereotype or organization per se, I feel my experience with at least one religious group came close.
But please, let me at first set the scene if I may. My alma matter, a Midwest university in the middle of nothing to do (a requirement for universities, it seems), is the setting for this less-than-thrilling ride.
Being an atheist, my seemingly paradoxical interest in religion had been recently piqued by not only the potential for extra credit, but also this liking of a girl. So, to show off my religious intellect (or lack thereof), a friend of mine and I decided to hold a religious symposium. Not only would this fulfill my extra credit requirement and help me pass, it would also for sure capture the heart of this deeply faithful, purely religious, captivating girl. Right? Well, word spread quickly (unbeknown to us up until the symposium itself) about our religious forum. Apparently a good joke was to be made about a symposium on religion that was to be headed by a devout atheist and an adamant agnostic. Despite the ironic humor, we were starting to attract serious attention from the larger religious groups on campus.
While some groups sent representatives to explain their religion (the point of this seminar being "understanding through knowledge"), others were less enthusiastic and didn't bother to even respond to our petition. However, one Christian group (remaining nameless) seemed adamant to throw our small symposium for a loop. When we first contacted our university's chapter of this global-scale Christian group, we were immediately welcomed and were promised not just one, but "a few members" to "help along [our] discussion." We were obviously thrilled at this group's enthusiasm and cooperation, and I was rightfully taken back when I learned from one of my friends (a member of the group) that they had no intention of sending anyone to our seminar.
I inquired, "Your group told me they were going to send a few representatives to a religion seminar we are holding, but it's come to my attention that you aren't planning on sending any. Is this true?"
"Yes," they replied. "And it might be best if you just left too, please."
"But why?" I asked.
"Can I stay for the Bible Study?"
A cold stare emanated from both of their eyes.
I left, bewildered that I was denied access to one of the highest-recruiting religious sects in the world, not to mention the largest one that is said to accept people with open arms. So much for that mantra.
I approached my friend about my rejection into the Bible Study and he said he wasn't aware that it had happened. I assured him that it had. While our conversation ended there, he hinted time and again, although he was perfectly fine with it, that perhaps my atheist status cast our symposium in a mocking light and that the group did not wish to associate with someone who demeaned their religion. I wrote a letter of apology to the group offering my sincerest regrets if I had somehow offended them and their religion by initiating this symposium with my religious status worn so obviously on my sleeve. I never received a response, and to this day I still do not know for sure why this group was so at odds with me.