In fact, it’s a thing that I have down to a fine art — an art I used today, in fact!
Will and I were going for a walk, and we passed by two young women on the street. We were all set to keep right on walking, but one of them stopped us. The exchange went something like this:
Mormon: Hey there! Just while you’re walking by, can we talk to you for a sec? *stops walking* Hey, so we’re from Christ’s Church of Latter Day Saints — Mormons —
Me: Oh, yeah. I’ve heard about you from my sister. *puts hand out to indicate how tall Liz is* She went to your church for a while.
Mormon: Oh, did she? What did she talk about? Did she tell you anything about us? (Yeah, that doesn’t sound paranoid AT ALL.)
Me: Some, but mostly she talked about the people she met there.
Mormon: Oh, okay, so you . . .
Me: Yeah, I know a bit what you’re about.
Mormon: Okay. So, do you believe in God? Do you have faith?
Me: Yes. *pause, super-sweet smile* Not that it’s really any of your business.
*Will ducks behind me to hide the fact he’s laughing his balls off*
Mormon: *freezes like she’s just been clocked in the head with a baseball bat*
Me: See, I’m not a fan of organized religion. So you won’t be seeing me at your church. *Will and I start walking away*
Mormon: Well, can I just give you one of our cards?
Me: No thanks. *more super-sweet smiles and walking away*
Turns out, Will was planning on asking them if they had an open-door policy for dykes (my phrasing) — and if they didn’t, they would never see either of us in there. I love the way he jumps to defend me and my queerness, I really do. Gives me the warm-fuzzies.
But, moving in a slightly different direction . . . this encounter bugged me at the time, and it’s still bugging me now. So I’m going to air my views, such as they are, on this. While I’m not an expert, a counsellor, a morally superior humanoid, or anything else that would lend weight to my opinion, I am the person whose been told — many times, and by many different people — that it’s easy and fun to discuss religion with me. That I make complicated religious concepts easy for people to understand. That I have a unique perspective. That I criticize flaws — both theistic and atheistic — with equal rigor.
And that would be because I believe there are a few rules when it comes to discussing religion that should always, always, ALWAYS be followed if you want to have that discussion and come out still resembling a decent human being.
- Never Forget That This Is Private. Religious beliefs or lack thereof are a private matter, something that is part of another human being’s identity and life philosophy. Going up to a total stranger and asking about these beliefs is akin to asking if someone’s gay, or a virgin, or if they’ve ever had cancer, or if their last STD screening came back clean. It’s fucking rude.
- Show A Little Goddamn Respect. If you feel like you can open this discussion with someone — and that someone should not be a total stranger — then do so with some tact. Expect their opinion to differ from yours, even if you both attend the same place of worship, because no two people are exactly the same. If you don’t like what you’re hearing, tough shit, cupcake. You opened this can of worms on yourself because you fucking asked.
- Don’t Push It. I don’t care what the pulpits preach. You don’t win an extra-nice spot in your version of Heaven for every person you “recruit”. Any discussion about this should strictly be about exchanging information, sharing perspectives, and trying to learn how another person thinks/feels about matters of faith. If you are doing or attempting to do anything else, you are being a douchehat. Stop it.
- Have An Open Mind. You know, like the one you want the other person to have. That shit works both ways. If you’re going to open a discussion, be prepared to hear things you don’t particularly like.
And that, my lovely darlings, concludes today’s lesson in How To Be A Good Human. Make sure you know those rules, because you never know when Life will hit you with a pop quiz.
I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.