[The following is a follow up to the earlier post from Camp Quest NorthWest volunteer Bridget Lombardo, reflecting on her experiences from her trip to the other Washington for the Reason Rally earlier earlier this month. – Mike]
I feel the need to put mention that, as was expected, there were a handful of protesters in attendance at the Reason Rally, each to their own degree of irritating. After my last shift as a volunteer ended I changed out of my shirt indicating my status as a volunteer and walked around, interacting with a wide variety of people, including three young women who were passing out Bible tracts. I saw what they were doing from a distance and thought “Why? Why are these people so compelled to interfere with our ONE day?”
The thought became so consuming that I needed to ask. They explained that they felt it was their Christian duty to let us know that Jesus loves us. I told them that we are told this on a regular basis; A good number of us were raised in the church, we hear it every day, and in some parts of the country we can’t escape it. Religious individuals are allowed to meet as a community and worship as often as they want, in any way they want. It’s built into our Constitution. No one is denying them that right. No one is telling them they shouldn’t exist or gather as they choose. What is the religious compulsion to interfere the moment a group of atheists forms?
I posed this hypothetical situation for them, in an attempt to get them to understand: “Imagine you are entering your place of worship and there are people standing outside, holding signs and handing out information about why you are evil and shouldn’t be allowed to exist as you are. Imagine that you have to fight your way to the door. Where do you think I would be in that situation? Do you see me as a protester, or would I be defending you?” They all I imagined I would be protesting. “Nope, I would be defending your right to worship, because no one, and I do mean no one, has the right to tell anyone else how or who or what to worship. The moment someone is telling others how to worship, or preventing them from worshiping, we’ve entered a theocracy, and it goes against everything I stand for. And I can guarantee that the majority of the people here would agree with me.” I was lucky to have a few eavesdroppers chime in their agreement. “We just want that same kind of respect from the religious side, give us our one day to gather without protest.”
Two of the women tried to continue to argue. However, I noticed a spark in the eye of the third woman right before she walked away. Maybe she saw the error of their ways (this is what I like to hope), or maybe she just got sick of talking to me (this is really the most likely situation). Either way, I hope I had an impact and they all think twice the next time they have an opportunity like this one.
As this encounter indicates, being secular in this country is never easy, especially when religion is so heavily invested in politics during an election year, and it’s important to find the community that supports you, which is another reason why camp is so valuable, to give the campers and staff alike a place to exist in a world devoid of the constant religious presence. A safe place to explore their philosophies and to learn the kind of arguments they will hear and how to counter them, and more importantly, what kinds of arguments aren’t worth engaging.