A normal looking guy wearing sunglasses stops you on your way to class and asks if he can ask you a few questions. Those that do not say no are then usually coaxed into a theological discussion of their beliefs, usually with the intent of conversion.
This has happened to me consistently this semester, to the tune of just about once a week so far. Sometimes I just reflexively say no, sometimes I have quite a calm disagreement, and sometimes I get fed up and just try to make the guy angry (which I apologize for, by the way). But mostly, I am just tired of rehashing this same discussion over and over again.
So here I am to make a plea for mutual respect on this issue.
I am non-religious, meaning that I have no set of particular religious beliefs. If pushed, I would probably classify myself as an agnostic. The idea of a god, or gods, or spirits, or some supernatural destination after I die is mostly irrelevant to my everyday life.
I don’t have any problem with your faith; what god(s) you believe in, where you go to worship, or how dire it is that I find your god(s). That is, until you get in my face about it. That is when I start to have a problem with you guys.
It is probably safe to assume that you wouldn’t appreciate it if I showed up at your place of worship to “ask you a few questions.” I am sure you would not appreciate it if I tried to convince you that this world has been visited by a crazy man in a blue police box who has saved the planet hundreds of times over, and that you should convert to Whovianism. You probably would not appreciate it if I told you that you should repent of your sins and accept the Flying Spaghetti Monster into your heart.
I’m pretty certain this might make you more that a little peeved at me, especially if I made this a regular occurrence.
Which is not to say that I am planning on doing this, quite the opposite. As I said, I have no problem with you believing whatever you want to believe. That is the great thing about the United States. We have the right to practice whatever religion we choose, or not to practice at all.
So please do not take this as me being some sort of anti-theistic fascist trying to tell you that you should not believe in a god at all. That is neither my intent, nor desire.
Instead, I am asking that you treat my non-belief with the same respect that I show to your belief. I give you deference to believe in whatever you want, with the expectation that you give me the same sort of deference. That has worked with pretty well with my friends and family that are religious, and it can work for you guys and the wider student body as well.
It is not like the student body here at CSU is not unfamiliar with the idea of religion. If the demographics from the country as a whole translate to the demographics of CSU’s student body (and I suspect that they probably do), most of the students here probably agree with you anyway.
For me personally, this is a discussion that I prefer to leave where it is. You are not going to convince me that your god(s) exist, and I am probably not going to convince you that may be wrong. It is an unstoppable force meets an immovable object kind of scenario. Nobody wins and everyone ends up annoyed.
So it is probably best that we just let sleeping dogs lie. You walk right by me, I walk right by you. We both have places to be and things to do. I choose what I want to believe, you choose what you want to believe. We could both be right, we could both be wrong. Neither of us will know for certain until we pass on, at which point it is probably too late to discuss it anyway.
That is, after all, the point of free will. Choosing what we want to believe. I respect your choice. All I ask is that you respect mine in return.
Editorial Assistant Caleb Hendrich is a senior political science and journalism double major. His columns appear Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.