Religious pressure, relatively speaking

August 24, 2011

Quite frequently when I was at school in Chapel Hill I would hear the raging rants of “the Pit Preacher” and other evangelical Christians who set up in the center of campus. Their aim seemed to be to shame people into “renouncing their sinful ways” and taking up a sincere belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately their methods weren’t very friendly, and I’d say the vast majority of those passing by could reasonably take offense at the proselytizers’ all-encompassing denunciations.

Besides these outgoing religion-pushers, there is a fairly high percentage of the population throughout my native state of North Carolina who make a point to speak forcefully in favor of the superiority of their religious beliefs over all others. Many people seek to actively enforce their beliefs over the greater population. A great example is taking place right now, as religious conservatives are attempting to push through the North Carolina General Assembly an amendment to the state constitution that would ban same-sex marriages, even though there is already a quite capable state law to that effect.

I am not a Christian. I’m not completely an atheist, at the moment, but I certainly don’t conform to the ideas of any organized religion. And I must say, who I am, my identity and just the nature of me, Marjorie, would make plenty of diehard religionists rail against my “sinfulness.”

Christians and Muslims alike, of the zealous sort, would take issue with me. But who wouldn’t they take issue with, honestly? Even themselves if they weren’t blinded by their own sense of righteousness… Anyway, that’s not what this blog post is for, so I’ll try to contain my own ranting.

What I’ve been musing about lately is the similarities between religious pressure in my American tamazirt and here in my Moroccan tamazirt. In both homes I’d say I’ve experienced fairly similar religious pressure, or as some might say, religious harassment.

Most Peace Corps Volunteers here complain at least to some extent about the religious harassment we receive. To be sure, it can reach very uncomfortable levels of pressure. As I’ve mentioned in recent posts, I’m very thankful to be in a situation in which I don’t get too much pressure. My host mother, the member of my host family who matters the most to me, has never given me the slightest pressure. Other members of the family have given me some, but I brush their comments aside. Their infrequent comments are just like water off a duck’s back. People in my village who don’t know me or don’t know me well will make comments from time to time, but someone else usually sticks up for me and tells them to leave me alone. Again, water sliding off oily feathers.

People who aren’t from my tamazirt can be another thing entirely. Every once in a while there will be someone I’ve never seen before who takes it upon themselves to be forceful beyond the bounds of propriety, at least in my book. Those would-be-converters who have no respect for another’s personal beliefs are the ones who make me the angriest, no matter the place or the religion to be imposed. But when the religion offers brownie points to those who convert non-believers, and the religion plays such a visible role, officially, in the lives of more than 99% of the population, I’d say more people are inclined to be pushy.

Other religion peddlers I’ve come across don’t make me angry at all, because I believe they sincerely wish only the best for me. The best in their experience and in their world knowledge is the religion they have lived within all their lives. The best example of this sort of pressure is my host grandmother, my host mother’s mother. She’s a wonderful old lady. I care about her and I believe she genuinely cares about me. When she recently said that I should fast during Ramadan this year, as I have in the two years before, I tried to let her down easy. She insisted that fasting was the hard part, so since I’ve got that down I should just start praying and then the way to paradise would open up to me. Even though she was persistent, she never explicitly put down the religion of my parents, as some zealots who lack any sort of respect will do. She just spoke out of wanting my success and happiness.

Some PCVs would hear the story of my host grandmother and rail on about their own disgust at all religious pressure, as it’s all harassment to them. Definitely the vast majority of it counts as harassment, but personally I try to give each instance its own analysis.

And then I always think about the religious harassment I’ve gotten back in America. Knowing that a large number of my fellow citizens there, in all their supposed worldly knowledge and open-mindedness, are actively trying to impose their beliefs on me and others through legal restrictions on our lives, in areas that would truly have no affect on them anyway, makes me a bit angrier than the sorts of harassment that I encounter here in Morocco.

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~ by marjmallow on August 24, 2011.

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