November 21, 2009

Invitations to Attend Religious Ceremonies

religious ceremonyA guy I work with but do not know particularly well recently invited me to a religious ceremony for one of his children. I politely declined the invitation because, at least in part, I had plans for the date in question. Later, I found myself wondering whether I would have seriously considered attending even if I did not have a prior commitment. The ceremony was one with which I was not particularly familiar, and the religion itself was one about which I know very little. I could have labeled it a cultural experience and gone to satisfy my curiosity. I might have learned something.

On the other hand, I have been fairly content to avoid religious services of any sort over the years. Ever since I reached the age where my parents decided I was too old to keep forcing me to attend church with them, I've minimized the time spent in such settings. As an adult, I've made the decision to steer clear of such settings completely. I have not set foot in a church of any kind in roughly 10 years.

It is not simply that I find religious services to be painfully boring; it is that I have a genuine dislike for religion, for faith, and for those who demand the suspension of reason in service to delusion. I don't want to promote such activities, and I don't want to be associated with them.

I have always thought that one of the privileges of adulthood is that one should have the freedom to engage in pursuits one enjoys and avoid those one dislikes. Yeah, I know it is never that simple. We all have to do things we don't like. That is part of the responsibility that comes with adulthood. Still, I value my freedom to avoid those activities I really dislike and have no compelling reason to endure. Religious services fall squarely into this category.

Admittedly, I found it strange to receive this particular invitation at all. As I mentioned, I really do not know this co-worker well at all. I've never met his family, been to his house, or spent time with him outside of an organized work gathering. To be invited to something that seemed so personal was unexpected. I figure it must have been one of those situations where he felt obligated to invite several of us so that nobody would feel excluded.

The more I think about the situation, the more confident I am that I would have turned down the invite regardless of whether I was free or not. How do you handle this sort of thing?
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