My Encounter with the Mormons

Let’s get this straight; one of the hardest things to do is to acknowledge and respect that someone has an opinion that is abhorrent to you.

Now, I know it’s a touchy subject, so please let me begin by saying that this is an article about trying to respect someone no matter how religious or atheist they are, so long as their actions don’t hurt others. It’s really friggin’ hard.

I am not a Mormon. I am not a religious person, per se, but more spiritual. I’ve lived and learned a lot about various religions in this world, and reached this conclusion: Any god or being or system of belief that has anything more important that “be a good person to one another” I take issue with. In this time of hard lines and internet hate, it is so super hard to be tolerant. But I try ’cause I think that bringing a smile to another person is paramount. What am I hear from if not to understand who I am, be that person, and make it so that others enjoy their voyage through the sea of life?

There have been there two Mormon folk walking up and down the main road outside my apartment building. Until last week I’ve consistently managed to miss them. They’ll be on the other side of the street or they’ll be talking to someone. I didn’t wish to speak with them. I thought (and still do a little) that going up to strangers in the street and trying to convince them that the set of morals and the rules they’ve set in their lives are wrong is not very cool. I thought if they spoke to me I’d lose my temper or get angry or start arguing theology with them. I’m not expert, but 10 years of schooling on the topic certainly made me a bit knowledgeable on the topic.  I had people in my life be incredibly intolerant to me because “they have faith”. Even those of the faith I was raised up in. I’ve had been told not to shake a man’s hand because I’m a woman, and he considers them impure. This really boiled my blood. “Nothing personal,” the introducer assured me, somehow thinking that made it better. That time I thought to myself, “I should pretend to forget, and give the person a huge thank-you hug for inviting me to this holiday dinner.”

But then I thought that this would have made me as intolerant to his feelings as he is to mine, and being a dick back certainly never made the world a better place. So I let it go even as it infuriated me. My hug wouldn’t have changed his mind, wouldn’t have proven anything other than give self-gratification, followed by shame.

Another time I was sitting in the mall and was approached by a woman with a little device. The device stated that god is actually two gods, man and woman. After showing me the video, I said “Nice theory!” ‘Cause I really did think that the reference to that bizzare case of plural in the book of Genesis was pretty imaginative. It wasn’t the best way to start that conversation. She was offended, and tried really hard to convert me. I asked her if she believes that the Earth is only as old as civilization, and she said yes. When I asked about dinosaurs, she said “Forget about them.” How can I take her argument seriously if she simply ignores facts that don’t suit her?

I thanked her for the good debate, and even though my heart was riling over what I perceived as willful ignorance I tried to treat her with respect. I was pretty ticked off, so that wasn’t easy.

I’v also heard hard-core atheists bash religious or spiritual people. “I don’t believe in it if I can’t see it” is fair enough, but to go as far as to say “You have to be brain dead to believe” is just as bad as closing your ears to facts. Faith has it’s place, and it certainly is important. Not everything can be explained in science, and if you believe so strongly that you begin to edit out or over-rationalize the parts that don’t make sense, you’re just as bad as the lady who ‘forgets’ about dinosaurs.

So, that Saturday, when I was headed to the mall and it so happened that I crossed paths with the Mormons, who greeted my smiling, I realized something important: I’ve grown up since those arguments. They spoke to me amiably and I replied in kind. When they asked me if I knew about Mormons I said yes, but didn’t mention that I love that musical “Book of Mormon”. When they asked if they could come by and talk to me about The Savior, I said “No thank you! I’m quite confident in my system of faith and I don’t see how anything you can tell me about god supersede my wanting to be a good person.”

And I realized I meant it. I didn’t get angry because I realized I had nothing to prove. I respected their way of life, the choices that I hope they got make out of their own free will. To accost them, demean their faith or challenge them wouldn’t have helped them, would have made them miserable, and would have angered me at its futility. They get this sort of flak from everyone all the time. I had nothing to prove. I am confident in the system of personal guiding rules that strive for me to live and let live, to allow others their folly and their faiths without judgment so long as no one gets hurt, and that try to make this world just slightly better by passing through it and leaving it slightly better than I found it. I don’t always succeed, but I try and I think that counts for something.

Remember that it’s easy to demean and mock something, but it’s hard to understand it. It’s easy to label someone a fool, and it’s hard to still treat them with respect. If anyone tried to shove their opinion down my throat, they’d get a dose of my opinion in kind, but I will not go out of my way to make someone’s day crap if they don’t really effect me in any way.

Hope you found this interesting, and please let me know your thoughts on this tough matter.


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3 Responses to My Encounter with the Mormons

  1. Cadistra says:

    Let me preface this by saying that you’ve always had a Herculean control over your temper, which is something I really admire. At least one of the guys in your story would have walked away with a black eye in my book. >:T
    I think…well, the long and the short of it (I have to leave for work~) is this: whatever you believe in, that’s cool! I am down with anything. Faith is important, and whatever helps you get through the day in one piece is a good thing.
    That being said – if you hide behind your faith, or use it as a Get Out of Jail Free card to hurt or marginalize sects of people, then that is NOT okay.
    The Mormon dudes – they’re not doing any harm; they’re just talking about their faith. Okay! Not interested personally, but keep doing what you’re doing.
    But the guy that wouldn’t shake your hand because he doesn’t see you as a human being? I’d leave to get some chinese food after explaining to him how he can play a nice long game of Hide-and-go-Fuck-Yourself. If you don’t see me as a human being, on the same playing field, then why the hell did you invite me to dinner? Oops, watch out – a ~dirty woman~ touched your things!
    I’m sure he’d defend himself by saying “lol well that’s just my faith!”
    News flash, asshole – your faith SUCKS.
    Times are different right now. Look, you don’t have to like LBGTQ people. You don’t have to like women. But if you hide behind your “faith” and use it as a shield; a reason to not treat your fellow human beings with even a modicum of respect, then you are NOT worth my time, and ~I~ will DAMN SURE let you know that.

  2. Stig Hemmer says:

    I am an atheist, but not a rabid one. For a long time I have thought that we are all irrational about something, about many things really. I’ll not make fun of your irrationalities if you don’t make fun of mine. Live and let live, and all that. So, I would also have been polite to the missionaries.

    However, lately I have been wondering if I am too tolerant. There is a lot of bad things happening in the world in the name of religion and perhaps I should be a bit more assertive about this.

    Equality of the sexes is important. It is one of the great victories of modern culture, but unfortunately still not accepted in very many places.

    If I had overheard the non-handshaker, I would have told him a word or two. Politely, but sternly, adult-to-child voice.

    You write “so long as their actions don’t hurt others.” This is the important part. One man refusing to shake you hand won’t hurt you. However, a woman living somewhere where this is the norm is hurt badly! So, one should protest in solidarity to them.

    This is a very difficult subject.

    • Anat says:

      Thanks for your thoughts about this. I agree. The thought of that non-handshaker is still difficult to me. Had I protested, would that have done anything other than make the social gathering awkward? Would he have learned? I somehow doubt it. Does that mean I was right not to say anything? I don’t know. I mean, some women (and this is bizarre to be) choose this way of life. People go back to the religion and embrace their segregation somehow. Would it be right for me to enforce my opinions on them? I see women with their headdresses in this relatively free country and I wonder if they cover their heads and/or faces willingly? Is it wrong of me to assume they’re all oppressed?
      You summarized the topic fantastically: “It’s a very difficult subject”.

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