Image credit: Foodie Buddha, Flikr

Last week, while I was working on a coworker’s computer, she abruptly dropped the bomb on me: “So you’re an atheist?”

Uh oh. I haven’t had this conversation in a long time and it’s never been brought up at work before. I deliberately avoid broadcasting this aspect of my personal life while at work. It isn’t relevant to my job and those kind of discussions are usually bad for business – especially here in the South.

Of course, I’ve been vocal about it outside of work for years, so I guess it was only a matter of time before it leaked into the company water cooler.

“I don’t call myself an atheist,” I answered.

“Well, that’s good,” she said, looking relieved that she could close this big awkward door that she must have thought God opened for her.

“…I just don’t believe in God.” Her relief was short-lived. Followed by a conversation I didn’t want to have that was peppered with questions that didn’t deserve answers.

Why was this important to her? I played along, being way too nice about the interrogation, until finally she accused me of being too smart for my own good – that it was keeping me from having faith. Well, yeah. Duh. I’ve always thought that was a good thing.

With the conversation at a stand still, neither of us were budging, she said she’d pray for me – for my soul. I said, “Thank you.” I meant it. In her eyes, I was lost. She wanted me to be found. I believe she was sincere even if the premise was based on a delusion. I won’t fault her for caring, but I will fault her for thinking it was any of her business.

Why does it matter to her whether or not I believe in the same imaginary deity she believes in? Or if I’ll frolic in heaven with her when we die? Let’s slide down giraffe’s necks together and then swim in the chocolate river. Oooh, but first…tickle fight! Gee, heaven is swell.

Personally, I don’t care what anyone else believes in so long as it doesn’t infringe on my right or the rights of others to believe whatever we want. Is it really so hard to return the favor?

Apparently it is for a lot of Christians. It’s part of their ideology – the divine mandate: preach the gospel. To all the world. Whether they want to hear it or not. Whether they already have a significant personal belief system or not. (It also says “to every creature” but I don’t see them proselytizing to squirrels.)

Look, if I want to worship pepperoni pizza and believe that eating a slice a day will give me magical powers and eternal life, I should be free to do that. It’s stupid as hell, sure, but that’s what I believe, okay? It’s not hurting anyone else. Just my cholesterol.

But as soon as I start telling people that they have to believe the same thing as I do or else they’ll burn for all eternity in the brick oven of pizza hell, then I’ve crossed the line. I shouldn’t be going around trying to force pepperoni pizza down the face holes of peacefully uninterested non-believers either. Why? Because that’s an asshole thing to do. (I mean, what if they’re lactose intolerant?)

That’s the problem I have with this kind of thinking. It’s completely counterproductive and they don’t even realize it. They’re pushy, preachy and intrusive while believing it’s all divinely justified. It’s okay to be a dick… so long as you win them over. Hmm, that attitude isn’t winning anybody over. They simply can’t accept people who think differently or be content that not everyone is as gullible as they are because that’s what they’ve been taught to believe.

"This is the gospel. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."
“This is the gospel. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.” (Image credit: pizzashooters.blogspot.com)

Sorry, no. I’m going to resist, because I know from experience that people can be kind, compassionate humans without believing in any sort of god. Yes, it’s true. I’ve been doing it for a while now and I haven’t murdered a single baby or drank the blood of a virgin yet. I’ve even donated to charities and volunteered my time to worthwhile causes! (I know, I was just as surprised by these results, too.)

So I’m issuing a public challenge to believers: Be content with what you believe, not discontent with what others don’t believe. If you want to expose a person to your beliefs, do it with your actions, not your words. Do it with compassion, not judgment.

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of being added to dozens of prayer lists…

Thank you. I mean it.