Safe is not something I am feeling right now. I live in a southern, conservative area where people love their guns and it’s pretty much assumed that everyone but me has one. I also often feel like the only Democrat and atheist for miles. And I was rattled this morning when I read about Pastor Mark Burns’ divisive and partisan prayer at the RNC last night. While I truly think it’s very unlikely that Trump will get elected, what doesn’t change is that, even if Hillary Clinton is elected, I will still be in a state ruled by a conservative governor, with conservatives senators and representatives who I do not feel represent my interests and are hostile towards me. Just last night they had a reverend on their stage calling people like me the enemy. This is the party that runs the state and the city I live in, and it’s not likely to change any time soon.
Today, the usual mundane stuff was on the schedule. Wake up, get the kids dressed and fed, get my son to therapy, play with my daughter. I was going through the motions, trying not to let the ugly political climate get to me too much. On the way home from picking Buddy up I stopped by Target to pick some things up. Sissy is at the age where she wants to do everything herself and she is slow. So, as she was slowly clambering out of the van, I noticed a man in the parking lot, proselytizing.
I started getting nervous. I want to emphasize, all I wanted was to get my children into the store safely. And people proselytizing make me nervous. Why? I have been assaulted by Christians, I have been harassed, bullied and threatened. Not because of anything I’ve done, but because of what I believe, or rather, don’t believe. So yes, when I see someone proselytizing in a parking lot, I get real uncomfortable.
It had been some years ago, but I thought about the time when I was in a grocery store parking lot before I had kids, and someone came proselyting. When I told him I wasn’t interested, he started to berate me. Then he saw the Darwin bumper sticker on my car and he really started to get aggressive. My husband had to step in and tell him to get lost.
Another time I was in a parking lot and coaxing my son, who was really being autistic that day, out of the car. Someone came proselytizing, and I told him I wasn’t interested as I turned my attention back to my son. Rather than leaving, he hung around, hovering over me, and waited until I got my kids out of the car and then proceeded to harass me again. Considering how conditioned women are to fear men, and just how scary parking lots are for parents because kids are small, fast, and unpredictable and cars are big and deadly, it was extremely intimidating to have a huge, strange man hover over me as I got my kids out of the car only to preach to me as soon as I tried to get them in the store!
So there I am, with my kids, a two year old, and a five year old with autism, and I just simply wanted to get into the store safely. I don’t want to be ministered to. And I definitely do not want someone to shout at me and get aggressive when I say as much, especially when I am alone and with my two young children. This is something that any parent can relate to I’m sure!
The strange man comes up to minister. I tell him I’m not interested and hope that the fact that I am very obviously busy making sure my two kids do not get hit in the parking lot will convince him to leave me alone. Fortunately he backed off, and I raced to the store with my kids feeling like I just had a near miss.
This is where is get so mentally draining to not be a Christian in the US. Contrary to some big name atheists like Richard Dawkins, most atheists just want to be left alone. Personally, I don’t care what you believe as long as you are a good person and respect my right to hold differing beliefs. And Pew research polls show that most atheists feel the same, we’re the least likely to discuss our views with other people. Two thirds of us don’t!
However, I know from experience if I tell a Christian I’m not interested in what they’re selling, some will get aggressive and hostile. I’ve lived through several instances. As an atheist, I am scared of Christians, and the reason I am scared is because of nasty things Christians have done to me in the past. I learned very early not to trust people who are proselytizing!
As an atheist, I don’t want to force atheism on people. I’m certainly not wandering around parking lots telling people that there is no god. It’s why I won’t debate whether or not there is a god with people. If that’s what gets you through the day, fine. It’s none of my business! Except when Christians decide that my beliefs are their business! I want Christians to start returning the favor. I want Christians to stop accosting me in the parking lot! I want them to be opened minded to the possibility that just because someone might not believe the same things they do, that they could still possibly be friend material. And I want them to wake up and realize that they don’t hold the monopoly on morality! People of different faiths and none just want to get through their day without worrying about having Christianity shoved down their throats. And this goal seems to be getting increasingly harder to achieve.