Jenny's Story

Ever since I came to realization that I am an Atheist, and began wearing it on my sleeve, I've experienced a lot of prejudice, and encountered a lot of people with preconceived notions about me. People have been prejudiced towards me at times in the past for being a woman, for being young, and especially for being from an upper class family, but it's never been anything I couldn't handle. I never really thought about people prejudging me for my religious beliefs, probably because I've never been a very religious person, and just never gave much thought to how people would react to my lack of belief in a god. Recently, I've been confronted with people who can't seem to tolerate my views on religion. I am a good, compassionate, caring person, with a good heart, and being treated like shit plainly for choosing not to believe in God - a right that I have as a free thinker, in what is supposed to be a free country - is absolutely outrageous. I wanted to share some of the experiences that I have had.

I was at my neighborhood pub last Halloween and met this woman, we'll call her Betty, who I hit it off with right away. I've had a hard time making female friends in L.A. for a while now, and I was eager to meet new people and Betty seemed fun and interesting. I was hanging out with her and some of her friends when I started to talk about some of the things that were going on in my life that were troubling to me. Betty started to tell me to just hang in there and ask God for strength and guidance through this rough patch in my life, and that everything would be OK if I did that. I told her, as politely as I could, thank you for the advice, but I don't pray b/c I don't believe in God. She looked at me in disgust and turned around and continued talking to her friends while completely ignoring me. It was as if she never spoke to me in the first place - I became invisible to her. I was livid, and stormed out of the bar (forgetting to pay my tab ... nice!) I felt like shit the next day, mainly because I was treated they way I was for stating my beliefs, and only in response to Betty shoving her "you should pray" advice in my face. How could she be so assuming? Why can she push her God on me, and I can't simply tell her that I don't have a God without being treated like a leper or something? How fucking judgmental. I have a thousand good qualities, and it is so unfair to be judged based on one, and not even get the chance to show who I am. Betty heard "Atheist", got scared, and abandoned the idea of befriending me. It's her loss.

I went to go look at an apartment in March, and when I parked and got out of the car, I noticed huge scratches on the back bumper, the trunk and passenger side of my car. I automatically began crying b/c I felt violated, scared and confused. My mind began to race thinking up all the reasons why someone would do something like that to me/my car. I started to believe that it was a personal attack on me. If it had been a random incident, why would the person go out of their way to fuck up several panels on my car? You would think that when assholes key people's cars, they just kind of drag the key along the side of the car as they're walking by, and then continue on their asshole way. This person took time to key up my car. I truly believe I was a target, but not because I have a really nice car, or anything like that. First I thought someone saw my "will someone please give Bush a blowjob so we can impeach him" sticker and became offended, but then I remembered that I had taken it off my car weeks earlier. Then it hit me ... I was probably targeted because of the Darwin fish on the back of my car. When I left the apartment that day, the girl who lived there (who seemed to be fixed on the idea of having me as a roommate), walked me to my car to send me off. I showed her the damage b/c I was still pretty upset about it, and told her that I thought someone had damaged my car b/c they saw my Darwin fish. She didn't understand what the symbol meant, so I briefly explained it to her, and told her that I was an Atheist. She didn't seem bothered by it, and even said my beliefs weren't a big deal to her. I told her that I would let her know within a week if I was interested in moving in. I sent her an email a week later saying that I wanted to move in if she would have me ... didn't hear anything back. I sent another email saying that I wanted a response, so I could continue looking for a place if she didn't want me as a roommate ... still nothing. Finally, she sent me an email just telling me that she was super busy and that she would get back to me soon with a final decision about her roommate situation. That was the last I heard from her. I truly believe that she was completely turned off by my religious beliefs, or lack thereof, and decided she didn't want me as a roommate solely based on that. I have to keep reminding myself that that's her deal, and I don't need friends who aren't accepting of me, or willing to get to know me before deciding how they feel about me.

Why is it that I can be accepting of peoples beliefs that are different from my own, but those same people can't be accepting of mine? Why is it that believers feel so threatened by non-believers, and so close-minded about being friends with us? Why is it that Atheists are viewed as untrustworthy? An individuals belief or non-belief in God DOES NOT wholly define who they are as a person. Of course it does to some degree, but I know that to me, my character is defined by my actions, my style, my music, my likes and dislikes, my values, my virtues, my intelligence, and a long list of other attributes that I possess. I am a human being for crying out loud! People tend to think that you don't have a soul if you don't believe in God. I say, bullshit! Godless does not mean soulless! There are at least as many believers who are bad people with bad souls, as there are atheists who are bad with bad souls. Choosing not to believe in God doesn't make a person bad, and being a Christian doesn't make a person good. That's just not how life works. People need to start looking at Atheism in a different light, and understanding that we, Atheists, have wonderful qualities. Intellectual honesty, an appreciation for science and process, a strong sense of wonder, and taking responsibility for our own actions and lives.

4 comments:

Chakolate said...

You said,
Why is it that I can be accepting of peoples beliefs that are different from my own, but those same people can't be accepting of mine? Why is it that believers feel so threatened by non-believers, and so close-minded about being friends with us?

I think that some religious people can't accept atheism because they fear they might end up questioning their own beliefs. I think that their faith is so weak and they're trying so hard to hold on to it that even thinking about a person who doesn't believe is too frightening, too threatening.

I have known some Christians (very few!) whose faith was deep and strong and they weren't bothered by my atheism in the least. I almost envy them - or I would if I didn't think it was a fool's paradise.

But I want to encourage you not to believe without proof that people treat you badly because of your atheism. The woman in the pub, sure, that's obvious. But the person who keyed your car could have thought it was his girlfriend's car. The potential roommate might just be a total flake, or she found someone else she liked better and didn't know how to tell you.

After all, belief without proof is what we're fighting. ;-)

J Morales said...

"Why is it that I can be accepting of peoples beliefs that are different from my own, but those same people can't be accepting of mine?"

Clearly, it is hypocrisy in action.

What Christians say and what they do are demonstrably different.

Klea said...

"I have a thousand good qualities, and it is so unfair to be judged based on one, and not even get the chance to show who I am."

As unfair as it is to be prejudged as being a bad person because of your personal beliefs, could it possibly be that people are also picking up on a quality that is lacking in this story -- that of modesty? In addition to the atheist v christian/whatever issue, what else I get from your post is "I'm so wonderful, how dare people not be nice to me!"

Maybe it's not (just) the religious angle. Maybe it's just some normal growing up that is needed.

tina said...

I believe everything she said. I'm sure a lot of us atheists have experienced cold shoulders.