I was working some overtime hours a month or so ago on a Sunday afternoon and went to Chipotle to go pick up some lunch for the boss and I. Chipotle (for my friends abroad) is a fast food chain similar to Subway except you tell them how you want your burrito or tacos or rice bowls. I had just completed creating the masterpiece that would be my lunch and I was at the drink station filling up my cup of iced tea when an older man approached me smiling and asked if I had just gotten out of church. I was a little taken aback by his comment because, well, why would he assume that I had gone to church?? What a weird and presumptuous thing to say to a complete stranger.
I responded with a smile and a polite, “No”. To which he said, “Oh, no! Missed church this Sunday, huh? Which church do you go to?” To which I responded, “I don’t go to church, I’m an atheist.”
First of all, I just want you all to know that in that moment, I have never been more proud of myself. I am a very non-confrontational person and I also tend to be very private as well, so I typically do not tell strangers that I am an atheist (not to mention that I’d rather not endure the negative connotations that arise with such a confession and the inevitable Christian-like judgement that follows). For the first time in my life I thought, fuck that. It is not impolite of me to tell him that I am an atheist and screw him if it offends him. It is impolite of HIM to approach me about HIS beliefs. So, I said it. I said the ‘A’ word to a complete and total stranger.
His reaction to my confession was even more offensive than asking me about it in the first place. So when I told him that I am an atheist, he said, “Oh, no you’re not. Everyone believes in god, they just do it in different ways. I go to this really great church with a really great pastor that connects with young people like you. You should check out our website and… BLAH…BLAH…BLAH…BLAH…” At this point I am trying so hard to be politely offended that I zoned out and imagined myself slapping him in the face, telling him to shut-up, mind his own business and go back to enjoying his damn burrito (like I was fixin’ to do) and he started sounding like the adults that speak in those Charlie Brown cartoons: WAH WAH WAH WAH.
3 things about his reaction that made me want to slap him in the face:
1. “Oh, no you’re not”
REALLY?! You know what I believe? You — a guy in a Chipotle that I have never seen before, know what I — someone who I see everyday and have a very intimate relationship with, believe in more than I do?!?! Interesting… What a BOLD thing to say. [SLAP]
2. “Everyone believes in god, they just do it in different ways.”
Amazing that this guy knows EVERYONE’S beliefs — that must be exhausting. Also, really lucky for him that everyone in the world is just like him, only different. That must make things really easy for him. Is it just me or does this seem like one of the most idiotic things ever said to anyone ever? I mean, even the most religious, orthodox, born-again person will tell you that there are people that don’t believe in god (or if they do, it’s the incorrect god) and that they are going to burn in hell for it! Now I don’t even get to enjoy the fiery depths of hell anymore? I am downgraded from a satanic non-believer to a naïve “different”-believer? Bummer. [SLAP]
3. “…a great pastor that connects with young people like you.”
As if to say that I am only stating I’m an atheist because I am young and I don’t know any better. Pfff. [SLAP]
I am absolutely appalled by the double standard that people like that can approach people like me in public places and feel perfectly justified in their recruitment and expect me to be a willing and eager listener yet, if the roles were reversed, would be so incredibly offended by my attempts to de-convert them that they probably wouldn’t even hear me out. I don’t know why we atheists have to put up with this. We shouldn’t have to. Sure, we all have the right to free speech but we also have the right to not be accosted against our will.
The worst part about all of this, though, is that this guy went home feeling mighty proud of himself. Probably even bragged about it at church the following week. I leave feeling pissed off and violated and he leaves feeling like he did his good deed for the day. Damn evangelists.
It was a pretty good burrito though…