… and I only walked down one and a half streets.
Sin, hellfire, death and bloody foetuses — some of the cheerful topics mentioned on O’Connel Street on a daily basis. In fairness, that’s not the only stuff happening.
I go into town quite often, and I see a lot of loud people on the side of the streets of Dublin. As a lover of music, I am always delighted by buskers. Even those with a lack (or over-abundance) of volume or skill will elicit a smile, and deserve it. Busking takes courage, which I know as someone who tried once. Just once. And drunk guys are scary even in the middle of the day when there are two of them and one of you and you’re already a little bit scared shitless. Also, I’m a really small woman who frankly at twenty still considers herself a child in the world. So: huge props for anyone with the guts to put themselves out there. Even if you’re rapping, or break-dancing, or juggling, I massively respect your will to perform, and I think you ultimately make town a much more awesome place. Please continue. Don’t forget to be awesome, my friends.
However, I wouldn’t be fond of the charity hounds that are really hard to avoid on Henry Street on a Saturday. I mean, I respect that your charity is quite possibly lovely, and that perhaps you’re a volunteer and giving your time to help others. Or, if you’re getting paid (I know people who have a harsh view on this, and am a bit sceptical myself), then for all I know you really care anyway and might just really really need the money and who am I to judge? Not the worst thing you could be doing. You’re just freaking annoying. And you really need to understand that while I feel quite guilty every time I pass … how am I possibly supposed to pick a charity? I have limited funds. And if I give money to the blind, then I’m not giving money to cancer research (for example). And in that case, do I just give the money to the most aggressive salesperson? Because that seems a little … off to me. But either way, while I really dislike being approached by you, I don’t actually dislike you personally.
Then there are those on the street who I view with full disapproval. And no, I’m not talking about drunk people and drug addicts (frankly, while a little wary, I’m sure they’re getting enough disapproval to be getting on with). No, I’m talking about the guys (and yes, always guys for some strange reason) who stand on a box with a megaphone and declare to the street that we’re all sinners who are going to hell. Those people really piss me off. I’m not religious. You may have noticed. Religion frankly doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but that’s OK because if it did I wouldn’t be an atheist. And I’m sure my atheism doesn’t make sense to a lot of people either. We’re not all the same. Tha’scool. Peace and love and all that. However. Hell always seemed to be the most hateful concept imaginable. Especially for those who believe in an all-loving God. Burning for eternity? Really? Either God condemns us/doesn’t save us just ’cause we’re not giving him enough attention (is he five?), or else you think he’s dispensing justice and that I truly deserve eternal hellfire, despite the fact that I try very hard to live good life. And that, I think, makes you a really crap human being. Monstrous, actually. What happened to compassion? Second chances? Redemption? Why do I feel like the person you make Christ out to be would not approve of this? He loves us all, apparently. That’s some seriously tough love, darling.
So yeah, I sort of despise these people. And the fact that people like them are still influencing the politics and social issues of Ireland, my country, is both heart-breaking and deeply unsettling. And this is not me ranting against religion per se. If you want to hang out on the streets singing religious songs and telling everyone about God and Christ and love I will not begrudge you it. I will not believe you, but I’ll think you’re probably a nice person. I just can’t stand those who spread needless hate. It makes me feel vaguely sick inside. It makes my heart hurt. It makes me weep for the children you raise to believe in this hate, who will turn that hate on others or on themselves, or will turn away and be hated by you. I don’t really understand. I’m not sure I want to.
Of course then there’s the anti-abortionists (I have to say, Pro-Life is the most incredibly loaded term I’ve ever heard, for various reasons. I will not be using it), who make me pretty angry. I’m not saying you need to get an abortion. I’m not saying you have to vote for it. I’m not saying you even have to approve of it, though I could give you a few reasons why you should. What I am saying, is that the scare-mongering, dogmatic, idiotic mis-information you constantly spread with your disturbing flyers is simply horrible. You’re lying to people. You’re emotionally black-mailing people when you send your small children to hand out flyers about the death of foetuses and rape. Not to mention indoctrinating your children. They have no idea what they’re handing out, the amount of hate they will get for handing people things like that. And then there’s the terrible parenting involved in dragging your children into your political, dogmatic, fundamentalist agenda, which is completely inappropriate (bringing up rape? Seriously?). Then there’s the fact that YOU JUST LET A CHILD WANDER UP TO STRANGERS in the middle of O’Connell Street (handing them highly controversial leaflets)! A street which I have seen many druggies and drunk people on. And while someone is either arguing with you or praising you for spreading God’s Law, someone could kidnap or injure your child. So you’ll protect unborn life, but not the child in front of you? It seems really illogical.
This just really upsets me, and if you get a dirty look after attempting to give me a leaflet, I … I can’t even say I’m sorry. I might be judgemental. I don’t really know you as a person. But I know one thing about you, and I hate it. I hate what you’re doing to this country. I try not to hate you. But it can be hard. I can be very judgemental, and I’d like to be better, I try to be better. But when you tell people that abortion is murder, you judge them too. You upset people who you don’t know, you hurt them. You know nothing about why they did it, you’re just giving them a label that is untrue. Murderer. I’d probably cry if someone called me that, and I don’t even kill spiders on purpose (there was an accidental incident or two when I was trying to catch some spiders to release into the Wild. A story for another time).
However, while there was the usual hoard of anti-abortionists hanging around with their distasteful flyers, I was positively delighted to see a stand representing Atheism Ireland right beside them. I clung to their stand like a raft of reason in a sea of ignorance. I had a really interesting discussion with one of the guys handing out stuff. They had print-outs about humanism and secularisation and such. I’ll have to write something about my opinion of them once I’ve done more research. While I am a proud atheist, and a firm humanist, I didn’t agree with everything we discussed, but I firmly follow their goals of secularisation of state-funded schools, secularised teacher-training, non-religious oaths for presidents and judges and legislation that is completely without Catholic control beyond the vote of individual Catholics along with every other Irish citizen.
One of the fellow-atheist’s complaints that I disagreed with, however, was that religious people waste their time focusing on an afterlife that doesn’t exist. I’m honestly of the opinion that as long as they’re not wasting anyone else’s time, or hurting anyone, then … why not? If it might bring them comfort of guidance or whatever (though I do believe that their children should get to choose what they believe for themselves). I might not believe in it, but not everything worth believing in is true. I for one very much valued the (embarrassingly long) period of time that I believed in Santa Claus. I like to think about magic. I don’t actually believe in it, but I wouldn’t consider it a waste of time either. As long as religion promotes love and not hate, I can’t dislike it. Anything that makes the world a little kinder, a little more accepting, can only be good. I don’t think you need religion to be good. I don’t think religion makes you bad. And I think good deeds only done for heaven aren’t really good at all. If your religion makes the world better (and I mean by reducing the pain and suffering of people, and helping them to have a chance at health and happiness, not fulfilling the strange agenda of people who died over 2000 years ago — by which I mean specifically the writers of the Old Testament, but also various more recent people), then good. If your cynicism, your atheism, makes the world a sadder place … why promote it? I’m an atheist, but first and foremost I’m a humanist. I believe that we have to make this world good, and I want to work with anyone who will help with that. If your atheism becomes nihilism, the meaninglessness feared by Nietzsche a hundred years ago, then why spread it? I believe that we do not need a god. That there is no god. But we can help each other, and that is what we should do. Because we are each of us human, and have value if only because we feel pain and feel pain for others.
So, I’m going to look up atheism Ireland, and see what kind of message they spread. But regardless, I was very much pleased to see people from my side of the fence about. We can’t find any middle ground or compromise if we only ever see one side out in the open.
So, buskers? Keep on busking. Music is good for the soul.
Atheists? Stay positive. Let’s make life better, shall we?
Theists? Believe in love, and a god who loves. Because you deserve a god who returns your unconditional love — and those around you deserve it too.
Those happy Irish Buddhist guys? Keep dancing if that’s your thing. You seem lovely.
Charity muggers? I like you a lot more when you’re not obnoxious. I won’t give you money anyway. If I give money, it will be because I rationalised it and looked up charity info, not because you were chatty. Hope you find a more fun job.
Scare-mongering anti-abortionists and hell-obsessed preachers? Please just go away. You make me really sad, and kind of scared of the future of this country.
Photo is not mine. Opinions are. However, if you think I made a particular generalisation or unjust comment, tell me specifically why it was unfair and I’ll either defend my choice of words or apologise and revise. My aim is to become less ignorant, not stick to my guns to the point of obnoxiousness.