Discussion by: jenogWalking through the town centre this Saturday I encountered a woman equipped with a microphone telling the whole street how God and Jesus had helped her cope with her mother’s lung cancer. Her explanations were emotional and extremely loud but rather short on logic.
A few steps farther on an Islamic leaflet was thrust at me, five more people tried to hand me identical leaflets during my short shopping trip.
None of this is particularly unusual, but my attitude towards it has been gradually changing. As a child I was frequently told how important it was to respect others’ beliefs, and I took that message to heart, accepting it without question. These days however I find myself increasingly irritated by those people who inflict their beliefs on others, and to use a loud speaker seems like pure rudeness. While I do respect anyone’s right to hold beliefs that differ from my own, I wish that it was not necessary to tolerate the intrusion of other people’s beliefs whilst going about my daily life. I know that these people would claim their right to free speech if I complained about their presence, but I wonder how they would feel if I brought along my own microphone and pointed out the flaws in their arguments.
I feel that religion is like defecation: best done in private and without drawing unnecessary attention to it. My early training on respect and tolerance has left me feeling guiltily uneasy about this attitude. Am I justified in feeling like this? Am I simply being monstrously intolerant? Am I alone?