“If more of us could look past the belief or non-belief to see the person standing on the other side, and see all of the things we have in common, we’d all be more connected and, in turn, there would be a lot more peace in the world.”
I just had a couple ring my doorbell. As soon as I saw them, I knew they were peddling religion. When the woman told me they were here to share something from the Bible, I could have shot her the stink eye and let her know that I’m an atheist. I could have asked what gave them the right to come through my gate, up my walk and ring my doorbell to try and push their religion on me. I could have told them all the reasons why I’m no longer a believer, and then go on to dissect the Bible and everything I’d been taught as a Baptist. I could have done these things, but I didn’t.
Instead, I simply told them I wasn’t interested. And they simply said, “Okay.” I told them to be careful on the ice that seems to never melt in front of the house, and to have a good day. They wished me a nice day, too, and were on their way.
A decade ago, I would have performed the screaming fit described above. That’s because when I first decided I was an atheist, I was damn near rabid in my non-belief. I let everyone within earshot know that I didn’t believe in any god, and would proceed to tell them every single thing that was wrong with religion. I shook my fist and stomped my feet. I was an atheist, and by god, or no god as was the case, you’d better listen to me.
I’ve since let go of my rabidity. I’m still an atheist, and that won’t change. But it doesn’t mean that I hate or even dislike people who believe in their god of choice. I even understand why people choose belief over non-belief. But, when the religious try and limit other people’s rights or try and shove their particular belief onto me or into our political system, I take issue. Overall, if you go about your business and let me go about mine, we won’t have a problem.
That’s why, when the couple rang my doorbell and told me they wanted to share the Bible with me, I didn’t shout, “I’m an atheist! Hear me roar!”, and then proceed to roar them right off the front porch. It wouldn’t be nice, and it wasn’t necessary. Plus, it would have only enforced the belief a lot of people hold, that atheists are a bunch of angry assholes because we don’t have a god in our lives. Instead, by being polite to them and them being polite to me, neither of us made the other mad. We didn’t screw up each other’s morning. They didn’t give Christians a bad name, and I didn’t cast a shadow on atheism. If more of us could look past the belief or non-belief to see the person standing on the other side, and see all of the things we have in common, we’d all be more connected and, in turn, there would be a lot more peace in the world.
Rachel Birdsell is a freelance writer, artist and semi-professional cat wrangler. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.