an interesting argument you shouldn’t take part in

A student came into the tutoring center a couple days ago with a well-structured argument that I didn’t totally agree with, but was interesting to hear, about how she’s pretty religious and she hasn’t been able to go to church during the quarantine on account of local government forbids it. She says that this violates our First Amendment Right to Assemble (do you capitalize the letters there?).

Which, again, I didn’t agree with, but I was glad to hear it.

I think I found it interesting because I’m so secular in my daily life, and all of my intimate friends are so secular, that I honestly forget that a lot of the people around me, young people included, are religious, and that their faith is a big part of their daily life.

            Except I think my surprise runs deeper than that. I think part of the reason I’m so consistently taken aback by people’s religiousness is that the world seems so objectively like a thing that was born of chaos, of geologic and bacterial happenstance, that it’s extra hard for me, during a global pandemic and a period of almost unprecedented social unrest in America, to believe that there’s a benevolent governing force overseeing things. It honestly never occurs to me. I never look up at the stars and wonder if someone’s looking back down toward me. Whenever I look at the stars I just worry about money.

Two Woman at a Window by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.

            The question of a god’s existence is one of the few topics that exhausts me the moment it comes up because we know from the outset that neither side is going to change the other’s position, we know the exact arguments that are going to be raised and how we’ll respond to it, and the whole dance is underscored by a risk risk of causing offense.

            When I was in fifth grade there was a substitute teacher named Ms. May who came to look over our class on the same day that a cop would be coming in to lecture us about the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program and it was between the two of them, at the front of the class, that I first head why it’s a bad idea to discuss religion. Not because they bickered (though that’d make for a better story, especially if she arrested Ms. May, just for kicks). They just explained the social hazards in a clear-headed and uncondescending way.

            Though they left out the fact that it’s just exhausting, which oughta be mentioned more often.

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