This is in response to the daily prompt. It’s more something I never want to talk about than something I’d never write about.
Something happened to me the other day that I’d hoped would never happen again in my life: something I try to avoid. It has reconfirmed to me that I can never fully get along with people who, upon meeting me and having me tell them my name is Jenny, instantly and forever after call me “Jen.”
My condo has a big common area near the parking lot, and some of my neighbors gather at the picnic table out there regularly. On Friday they invited me to drink wine with them, which sounded fun and kind of naughty because we aren’t supposed to “consume alcohol in the common area.”
We were all having a nice time, drinking box wine and gossiping about the neighbors we don’t like (such as my next door neighbor, who’s known as the HOA Nazi), and suddenly one of the neighbor women started freaking out about Creationism. It was random and not random at the same time. I’m unclear as to how it started, but I do remember that someone asked the guy who lives downstairs from me what he does for a living. He’s a physicist. Someone asked him to explain what he actually does all day. Mention of science compelled the one lady to inform us that she’s something something something Jesus, something something “a believer.” And another neighbor nodded, “Me too.”
Things are a little hazy in my memory because at this time there were anywhere between seven and fifteen people coming and going from our gathering, some bringing food, some with dogs. I’m a compulsive dog petter and had to meet every dog that passed by. I feel it’s very important to meet every dog and cat (“Hello, I’m going to pet you now, you fuzzy-wuzzy widdle boo-boo”). Also, let me reiterate about the wine: there was very much of it.
So anyway, the physicist mentioned something about being an atheist in response to the “believer” comment. And that’s when the lady started freaking out: “But don’t you need to believe a person created the universe? How can you rely on what scientists say, since the stuff they deal with is too hard for regular people to understand? How can you know that a molecule is billions of years old? Do you really believe we crawled out of the ocean?!” And so on.
It went on all night. It got uncomfortable, even though it was just a “friendly debate.” I couldn’t keep my fat mouth shut and had to volunteer that I, too, am an atheist—probably because I was appealed to by the believers in their arguments against the physicist. There were some interesting exchanges, which I won’t share for various reasons, (lengthy, boring, confusing, it’s mean of me to even be writing this…wine), but the physicist wouldn’t let go either. Here are some examples:
Physicist: “Have you ever actually read the Bible? It’s incredibly bloody and oppressive.”
Believer 1: “What do you mean?”
Physicist: “It tells you how to enslave people, how to beat your slaves, how to beat your children, etc.”
Believer 2: “Oh, no! You’re misinterpreting it! That’s God telling you what not to do!”
Physicist: “There was no language in those passages that said ‘don’t do this.’”
Believer 2: “Oh, but there is! You just missed it! The way it’s written is confusing.”
Physicist: “And you know off the top of your head which passages I’m referring to?”
Me, in my head: “Perhaps those parts of the Bible were intended as black comedy…”
Believer 1, appealing to me: “How can you believe that someone didn’t create the universe?”
Me: “I have a Literature degree. It’s all mythology to me.”
Believer 1: “What do you mean? The Greek gods—we know all that stuff isn’t true!”
At one point in the evening, Believer 2’s five-year-old son turned to her in alarm and said, “Mom! Why are they saying that Jesus doesn’t exist?!” and I felt like a heel, even though I didn’t start the conversation and I kept trying to change the subject. And yeah, I probably shouldn’t even be writing this because I’m not some indignant 22-year-old, and I know what people are like, but you know, human behaviors that drive me crazy, and all that.
Look, my whole point in writing this is not to be an asshole, despite the fact that I’m totally coming off as one (I won’t deny being an asshole sometimes, anyway). I don’t think my neighbors are assholes either. My point is that if given a choice, I would not ever enter into a conversation like this and I think the only reason I stuck it out is because even though I was uncomfortable, there was nothing mean-spirited going on, and it would have been ruder to get up and leave rather than have a friendly debate.
But, for the record, I am not a person who likes to have a “friendly debate” about religion, (my neighbors said they don’t like the word religion because “It’s not what God intended”), or politics. No one is ever swayed by these types of encounters; instead they become more entrenched in their own beliefs. And I’m not interested in the whys and the hows of other people’s beliefs, (but I think this lady sums it up really well). I really don’t care. I think the world would be a better place if people stopped caring so much about other people’s faith or lack thereof.