Last year, when I was at freshman orientation, we played a game. During this game, the room was divided into two sides. The leader would read statements, and if this statement applied to you, you would walk to the other side of the room. First, the game starts off with silly statements or things that are easily answered. For example, “Cross the room if you have a sibling”. As the game progresses though, the topics become more serious. Eventually, we started talking about if people knew someone who died from cancer or gang related violence. We were asked if anyone in the room identified as transgender, lesbian, or gay. And we also mentioned religion.
At the time, I was heartbroken to see so many people who identified as atheist. I thought to myself, “Are these people really that hopeless? To not believe in anything at all?”
However, over this year, my tune has changed.
I took some religious studies classes that really opened my eyes. In one of the classes, we focused on a different topic each week, and the class consisted of discussion between classmates. People of all kinds of different religious/non-religious beliefs would take the stage and explain their views on the week’s topic. And I learned so much!
You really learn more about religion from its followers than from a textbook.
I learned that people who identify as atheist are not “hopeless” at all. I also realized that thinking of someone with that mindset is condescending. Why is it that we often do not allow others to talk badly about different religions, but we often insult people who do not adhere to a single religion or God?
I learned that people who are atheist are often people who are very logical. These people want tangible evidence for statements, and find it hard to accept broad statements from religions. These people may have also had horrible experiences in their life, which has led them to lose faith in God. These people are not “lost sheep” at all.
It is not acceptable to judge a person on their belief/disbelief in a God. And I am so grateful for my professor and classmates for teaching that to me.