I look around me and see people. Everyone looks different and acts different. They all believe different things too. I have always tried to accept those different people around me. That’s easier said than done.
Being in a minority when it comes to religion, I have never had problems accepting people of other faiths. I had always seen atheism as just like having another faith, only in this “religion” there was no god. This assumption was torn apart when I became good friends with a boy who didn’t believe in any supreme being. First, I realized that atheism is not a religion because not only do atheists not believe in a god, but they are also not a group of people that have common beliefs, which is the definition of a religion.
While talking with this boy, I always wanted to know more about the reactions he got from others instead of his actual beliefs. He told me that he was often scared to tell people what he really believed because he was afraid they would decide to not like him based on this. I have had similar experiences in which I wasn’t comfortable voicing my own beliefs in fear of not be accepted, so I felt I could relate to some extent.
With this new friend opening up a whole new view to me, I decided to do research on atheism. I was shocked and heartbroken to find my own state’s constitution said that atheists were not allowed to hold a public office. While this law has never actually come into question because atheists running in Tennessee are rare, it still hurt me to learn this. If it hurt me, a non-atheist, I couldn’t imagine what it might feel like to see those words if they personally affected me.
When this whole new world of beliefs was opened up to me, I never imagined it would have such an impact on me. I always try to accept and respect other people’s beliefs as long as they don’t hurt anyone, but it bothered me that other people couldn’t, even to the extent that they wouldn’t date an atheist or even someone of another religion.
By telling me about his life and personal experiences, he drastically affected my life and tested my personal beliefs. When talking to him, I felt as if I needed to grow to become a better person and teach myself to accept everyone under any circumstances. I learned that what I had falsely labeled as acceptance was really tolerance on my part. Now, I truly feel that as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, I can say I believe in acceptance of other people’s beliefs.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.