A few years ago I worked at a department store that I don’t care to name in this blog. Let’s just say that I no longer spend money at a certain chain whose initials are “W.M.” Anyway, I was working with some merchandise on a shelf throughout the store somewhere when a customer passed me. I don’t know if I expressing frustration with something or if he just spoke randomly, but when he passed he said “God loves you. Remember that.” I just politely smiled at him as he walked away. I knew not to bother. Of course behavior like that makes me sick but if I said anything I could have gotten in trouble. Besides, he kept on walking so it wasn’t like I had to interact with this guy.
I put it out of my mind for years until working at my current job. We were short handed and I was working on the sales floor putting away a new line of rugs. I didn’t think I was showing my frustration this time–I’ve gotten better at it over the years and I don’t hate this job as much as I did the other one. Out of the blue a woman picking through the floor mats on a wall near me said some phrase about God. I don’t remember it verbatim but it went something like “When there’s no work man can do God will do it.” It was probably a catchier saying but the gist was the same. I looked up at her in response, not sure what I was going to say.
It turns out that it was written on one of the floor mats we sell. I think she bought it but I wasn’t sure. We’re not a religious store but we are a closeout store and buy things in bulk. It’s not unlikely that we’ll get things like that from time to time. So don’t think I chose to work in a religious store. It also turns out that this woman talked her head off as she was shopping to everybody around her and nobody in particular so I didn’t take it personally that she read the mat to me.
But then I had to wonder about why she read it. Was she trying to relay the message to me? I can’t wear my inverted cross to work, nor was there anything sacrilegious about my Misfits t-shirt I was wearing. Was she expecting me to agree? She did immediately defend herself as I looked up at her by saying that it was what the mat said. Was this why she continued to talk out loud? Probably not, but I have to wonder about these things. There’s something about religionists that they can’t keep it to themselves.
What exactly did that guy expect to come out of saying to me what he did all of those years ago? Was he trying to console me? Was he trying to spread his message? Do I just emit “atheist” to passerby and those trying to spread the disease instantly recognize me as a target? When I worked at the convenience store I did get some people trying to “spread the word” as it were to me. At least there, though, I did get to wear the cross and t-shirts with more blasphemous messages on them. I wasn’t exactly inviting controversy but I was putting the information out there about how I feel.
In that sense, then, one could argue that I was doing the same thing as the religious people by putting the message out there. Well, if they weren’t trying to convert others I would possibly agree. I’m all about expressing oneself. While I find the “God loves you” message vile I don’t argue with the guy’s right to say it. However, more often the religious are trying to suck people in. I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s something to do with that cliche of misery loves company. The difference is that I don’t try to convert people to my point of view. If they do start to question their faith because of the things I say, that’s great. If they don’t, then whatever. I really don’t care either way.
George Carlin had a bit in which he revised the ten commandments down to two and then added a third: “Keep thy religion to thyself.”