I used to work for a pretty big company. I was an exec and did well, worked hard and made sure the firm was staffed and well-organized.
I found myself regularly walking in on conversations between employees that began with some scripture or hymn from the Bible, which I always appreciated. It was common for religious employees to talk among each other about their faiths in this way, and they would get along well. I would often ask interested questions to discover the intersections between my religion and theirs.
One afternoon I was speaking with a colleague and asked her a question about her faith and how she used its principles. “What would a Scientologist need to know for?” she snapped back.
I gave her a polite reply, but I realized she succeeded in making me feel slightly ashamed for asking her. I realized at that moment she was condemning me for my religion. She wanted me to know that it wasn’t okay that I was a Scientologist but it was perfectly acceptable for her to be a Christian.
I grew up in Scientology and to those who are ignorant, that meant something was “wrong with me.” I’ve had family members ask if I went to a Scientology driving school to get my driver’s license, or to a Scientology library to check out my books, or if I ate only at Scientology restaurants (whatever that means).
“What would a Scientologist need to know for?”
I have many such stories, including incidents in which I have had to actually defend myself, and I would often feel shy talking about my religion, until I realized that was the intention behind such comments and questions. I was being “accused” of being a Scientologist as if my belief was a crime.
But the one principle that I learned at a very young age was to respect the religious beliefs of others. I’ve always wanted to know more about the people around me, what they believed in and why. I have had many incredible conversations with religious people and have many friends of many faiths. I love finding out more about them and gaining a better understanding of this amazing and diverse world in which we live.
No one should have to defend their religion or who they are—not me or anyone. That is what it means to have human rights. These are given freedoms that shouldn’t have to be defended. I have a voice, and by that alone I have the right to speak, especially about who I am and what I believe. Putting another down because of his beliefs means you are seeking to make him smaller.
For some reason, some believe that makes them bigger.
They are terribly wrong.