Religion and Fear
A scary thing happened to me the other day. I work alone in a small shop in the city centre. Working alone has its advantages and disadvantages but one of the main drawbacks is that if someone or something dangerous comes into the shop, it is just you and your wits against them.
I don’t think it’s conceited to say that I don’t scare easily. I deal with drunk people (the shop is quite close to numerous pubs), shop-lifters and angry customers on a regular basis.
I have never felt more fearful for my safety than I did on that fateful Sunday.
There were no customers in the shop when a French woman appeared. She stood in front of me looking expectant. I assumed she wanted directions. Boy, was I wrong.
Without any preamble, she started screaming that I was going to hell for opening the shop on a Sunday. According to her, I was disobeying God’s will by working. He died for our sins. I was a dirty, dirty sinner. She said all this while doing this creepy, insane-looking smile. It looked so out of place for her to be yelling angrily and smiling at the same time.
This woman had a look in her eyes that made me think there was something really wrong with her. She looked like the sort who would suddenly lash out at you, start choking you, try to garotte you with a guitar string while singing “You’ve got a friend in Jesus” and smiling that creepy smile.
She assumed I was a Catholic and told me what a bad Christian I was for violating God’s wish for a day of rest. Honestly, I was too scared to correct her as I was worried that she would step up the abuse even more if she found out I didn’t believe in God.
I kept my hand on the closest thing resembling a weapon close to me (a ring sizer) in case she became violent. I was unable to answer her much as there is something really unnerving about witnessing someone who is mentally ill ranting at you. (She was twitching sporadically and her eyes were darting everywhere, like she wasn’t even fully aware of me.)
When she left, I was embarrassed to find my hands were shaking. I couldn’t understand how one woman (who I realistically would have had a height and weight advantage over) yelling at me could scare me so much when I regularly strong-arm failed shop-lifters off the premises.
I have no beef with the religious. I think it’s very much a private affair and it brings comfort to many people, most of my family and friends among them. However, I despise people who use fear and intimidation to spread their beliefs. No matter how many souls they think they are saving. I hold them in the same regard as anti-abortion protestors who stand on public streets holding placards showing decapitated babies and aborted foetuses, while claiming to want to protect the very children they are traumatising by showing such graphic and disturbing images on streets where families congregate. Or the woman who followed me down the street one day, screaming that I was going to hell for wearing trousers and calling me a “fag-enabler” for disagreeing with her protest against the local gay club.
I never wanted to write a post about religion (or the lack thereof). It shouldn’t be an issue, no more than what kind of breakfast cereal you prefer. However, I want to beseech those of you who hold strong religious beliefs: please act as humans first and people of faith second. Feel free to encourage people to explore your faith or faith in general but do not intimidate or marginalise those who don’t wish to or judge or ostracise those within your faith who you feel don’t live up to your standards.
This world would be a lot more pleasant to live in if people were free to believe what they wanted, without fear of reprisal. We are all in this together, after all. We are all earthly neighbours.
“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson