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← Admitting you're an atheist while travelling in the Middle East

RDfan's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by RDfan

Finding myself in the Middle East, my experience on the "I'm an atheist" issue has been to take the path of least danger. By this I mean: make your decision on a case-by-case basis while bearing in mind the potential harm your answer might bring to you and others -- it can be that serious.

So, for instance, when I was at a friend's house and his mother asked me if I was a Christian, I replied that I was an atheist. We carried on chatting and eating dinner and the matter never arose again -- even though I felt her regard for me dropped just as her suspicions of me rose.

When asked randomly by a guy in a shop if I was Islamic, I replied that I was a Christian. We talked for a while, shook hands, and made off our way -- again, I felt that if I had answered "Islamic" we would have had a "Ah, my Brother!" moment, but we didn't. I could tell he was a little disappointed that I was not part of the clan.

In a different setting, while having dinner and drinks with mainly (but not exclusively) Western educated young professionals and students, we were able to have a serious and jovial debate about religion. There were Islamist, Christians, and non-believers (including myself and another two people). As it turned out, most of the group was rather liberal in their beliefs and were able to thrash out our differences before moving on to other things.

On the other hand, I've found myself caught up in a political/social situation where tensions were rising between different political/religious groups and, had I been question about my beliefs (I was in the middle of the crowd), I would have answered in any way to ensure my safety. Call me a moral coward if you will, but I've encountered seemingly "normal" situations in that area that suddenly turn violent. I dare anyone in that situation to do anything other that self-preservation.

My point is: the situation determined my answer every time and I calibrated the degree to which I was willing to defend my stance on religion to reflect the danger to me that my answer may have caused.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 03:33:38 UTC | #937123