You’re probably a little insulted by me calling you a “non-believer”. Either that, or you’re going, “hah, I told you guys” at the pretentiousness of the term. To clear things up, that was my ill-fated attempt at making the subject less serious, because let’s face it, this is a tricky topic.
I’m only writing this letter because you keep asking me questions, and keep acting confused whenever I mention I can’t do something because of my beliefs. You seem hostile about it until you later mention, under your breath, that you feel like I’m judging you. Yet, whenever I say I don’t want to join you somewhere (on account of that possibly clashing with my ideals), you look at me like you can’t understand what my problem is. When I tell you I’m not into something you claim all the “cool” people do, my intention isn’t to judge you, belittle you, or make you feel lesser than. I only tell you because you won’t accept a simple “no”. Those (ironically judgmental) looks you give me? I ignore them, or at least I try to. You’ve disrespected me in ways you wouldn’t fathom doing to a fellow non-believer, and yet they comment on your (lack of) character, too. I accept, or at least tolerate, your bad attitude. Funny, isn’t it? Aren’t I supposed to be the intolerant one?
Sometimes I resent you when you say things like, “well, I’m open-minded” in response to anything I mention I don’t do, or happen to believe in. I once used the term “open-minded” like it was my property, but I used it incorrectly. I used it when I meant I was better than other people, but hey, I get it. You’re open-minded now. You tell me you used to be religious, that you too were pro-life and that you even went to rallies. You were also against gay rights, but that’s just because you came from a small town. You’ve since abandoned religion, and have obviously evolved into something better. You aren’t sure if you like being around me, because I openly say I believe in God but say it with confidence. I also remind you of the days when you felt foolish, deceived, stupid, and other negative qualities you associated with yourself. I’m what you used to be.
Except, news flash: I’m not. I have never been against abortion; to me, it’s a woman’s right, and as a woman, I would never stand against the right to choose. I’m also pro-gay rights, and always have been, even before I was old enough to care about political issues. Not what you expected, is it? And no, none of this has been the result of me spending time away from my family in some college dorm where, as you say, you realized how wrong you had always been. You tell me you weren’t popular in high school, and because believing in God just wasn’t cool in “college”, you had to give it up. Guess what? I didn’t have that problem. Unusual as it may have been, I was the teenager who couldn’t care less about what other people thought, to the point where I probably came off as arrogant (a trait I can say isn’t correlated with religion, but is a fault of mine that I can own up to as being my own). That was true to the point where I didn’t realize that hey, I was kinda cool, but I just didn’t care.
The other day, when I told you I couldn’t partake in a cultural tradition in a foreign country, you said I wasn’t being open enough. You, on the other hand, were being completely wonderful and accepting of the locals. The same locals who, when you left, told me they respected my opinion and that there were plenty of things they wouldn’t do abroad, and that they liked that I had convictions instead of being the type of traveler without convictions of my own. You, however, say the traveler needs to forgo their own morals for the sake of understanding the world, because how can you ever learn about the world if you already have your mind set on some arbitrary belief? You say this, yet you don’t actually want to learn anything about many of the traditions that don’t align with your desire to party and be “cool” (a word you keep using so much that I sometimes wonder how you were born years before me). On the other hand, I’ve always been the kid that read about everything – including other countries and religions – after class, tried to make as many foreign friends as possible, and learned multiple languages in school to actually communicate with people abroad. I’m the kid that grew up in a multicultural household, and had to explain my culture to everyone who asked me why I looked so ethnically ambiguous because, damn, they just couldn’t place me. Like you say, and don’t even realize the narrow mindedness of, I’m just so darn exotic.
But getting back to things, I never made judgments regarding things that went against the religion I was raised in, but I knew what I preferred, and that was that. I never had to explain myself to a “liberal” until I met you. I never realized how close-minded many of the people, who claim to be open-minded and liberal, are. Because of you, I started to shield myself from differing views, doing what you did to me: closing my mind. Then, I realized, this went against everything I believed in growing up. No, not even religiously, though my religion and parents taught me tolerance, but you won’t believe that. You look down on my strong connection to God, and the existence of my moral compass. It’s all a little too much for you. After all, it isn’t the 1300s anymore… duh.
I want to thank you, though. You taught me to be more open-minded about the many people who are more religious than I am, as I had so often assumed they were too extreme, when I should really respect their differing opinions. You taught me not to assume that “liberal” and “open-minded” are synonymous with “intelligent”, and that I don’t really even want to label myself anymore. You also showed me that you are akin to the religious extremists you disassociate yourself from. In fact, you’re more like them than any slightly apathetic to moderate to devoted believers are, due to your extreme attitude, hate for humanity, and misconstruction of basic morals. Weird, isn’t it, how that can happen?
I’ll probably see you again, because it’s a small world, and because life is cruel like that. Having said that, don’t worry about those self-loathing feelings resurfacing due to my presence again, because I’ll probably avoid you – that is, unless you can stop yourself from rolling your eyes when I say I don’t do drugs. And hey, anyone born with the right amount of swagger doesn’t have to do anything to convince the world of how awesome they actually are. But, let’s face it, that’s a lesson you’ll never learn.
With all my love (not really, I’ll forget you in a year),
Amin 🙂 “non-believers” are some of the biggest hypocrites when it comes to tolerance and “open-mindedness”.