I work at a public library. To say that the library attracts all kinds of patronage is an understatement. We attract everyone from the frugal upper-middle class (sometimes even the very wealthy, depending on what's going on during any given working day), to the homeless. Of course, this also includes everything from mildly religious people to an alarming number of people who see the Bible as the unfailing, perfect word of God. How do I know this, you ask? Simply by observing the books they check out and the attitude they display toward the secular material in the library. Of course, there is also a population of Mennonites that use the library and you can spot them at a glance because they dress like it's 1872 and the women wear those little caps on thier heads wherever they go (they make some hella-good baked goods and jams for our local farmers market, though - LOL).
What I observe is quite alarming. It makes me feel like there is no hope of this world ever being rid of the mental plague of religion; here's why: The religious people ONLY check out books and materials that do not, in any way, challenge their beliefs. They check out titles like 'Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back' (by Todd Burpo) and 'The Case for God' (by Karen Armstrong)... you get the idea; pretty much anything that is going to affirm their beliefs and not cause them to question anything. You almost never see them checking out any Sam Harris or Greg Epstein. This also applies to the fiction that they read. We have many authors, such as Karen Kingsbury, who write what I like to call "Christian Fluff". These are novels that are 'safe' for Christians to read. They are pre-filtered by the author of any violence, sex, or any other 'objectionable' material. As if ignoring reality will make it disappear. I realize that this is what their religion dictates they do - it's part of the reason that Christianity is self-propagating - but why is this not a red flag to these people? If I were in their shoes, I would want to know why I was not allowed to see certain materials, or why it is considered a sin to look at certain things. But, then, that's why I am an Atheist - I DID question religion. I DID research and came to my own conclusions. I know that a part of them is curious about the secular world, but they are so afraid that if they read materials that question their faith that they will lose faith all together. Well, if you are that afraid that a book or a movie is going to, in a sense, delete your belief in God, then isn't your faith a little shaky to begin with? If you are a TRUE believer and you are absolutely certain that there is a God, then how can a book or any other piece of media change that? And why can't they see this as a problem with the religion itself?
Of course, there is a certain number of them who are just appalled by anything secular and they are not going to give any of it a chance just due to their pure disgust of it. They see anything secular as against God and that automatically disqualifies that material in their mind. It's a loathing that I do not understand, but I see that it exsists non the less. It is a sad, narrow view of the world. I feel sorry for anyone who imposes such a limited world view upon themselves. Of course, most of them don't realize that they are free to chose not to believe this crap. They are too afraid to look any further than their religion dictates. Sad.
That all being said, I really have no problem with them checking out these useless items. I feel sorry for them, but if they want to waste their time and their lives reading and believing nonsense, then they can knock themselves out. I wish they wouldn't, because the more people that turn away from religion, the better our world will be, but to tell them this only makes them dig their heels in further and pray harder. I am not allowed to comment on the materials that our patrons check out, anyway - it is our policy to make everyone as comfortable as possible when using the library. So, they are free to check out their nonsense books without fear of criticism, and that would all be fine and dandy if they would leave the rest of the library (the secular part) alone; but do you think they can? Oh, no!
We cannot keep a nicely stocked section on Atheism, Wicca, Paganism, Islam, Hindu or any other religion/world view because the Christians keep stealing the materials! I am not kidding! At least once a week a patron approaches me regarding a world religion book that is supposed to be in stock - aka on the shelf - and it is simply gone. I wouldn't blame the Christains, specifically, except that we actually caught a man who is a PASTOR trying to exit our building with a stack of these books. He told us that he had checked them out, but upon checking his account we discovered that he did not. That's lying AND stealing - all so people who want to be well informed about the world cannot get their hands on these materials.... as if this is going to cause them to turn to Christianity because that was their only choice at the public lobrary. LOL. Riiiiiight... It also serves the purpose of creating a negative image around people of alternate religions - as if they are the ones stealing the books. That's not to say that this does not happen, but more often than not it's the Christians trying to 'protect' everyone else from something that they deem harmful.
Add to this the fact that there are just some patrons who cannot keep their mouths shut about secular materials. Just last fall I had this man, who was wearing a cross around his neck large enough to crucify a small child, approach my desk. It was around Halloween, so we had many book displays stocked with books about the holiday. This included a display of children's books that contained Halloween themed stories. One of these was called 'Tilly Witch'. This man had a HUGE problem with this book because he believed that it advocated Witchcraft (Wicca) and that it was trying to push it onto small children. Mind you, this is a child's book - I read the whole thing from cover to cover in about five minutes, and it was just a story about a witch who had lost her ability to be wicked and how she found it again. Basically it was about knowing who you are. The man, of course, would never read such a thing so he had no idea what it was about. He just saw the witch on the cover and started assuming things (how does that old saying go?). He gave me the riot act over this book. It did not matter to him how many different ways I tried to explain that this was a PUBLIC library and that we did not censor our materials based on religious or any other content. When that was not a good enough explanation he began trash-talking the Wiccan religion. This crossed the line for me. I am not a Wiccan, but I used to be, and several of my friends are still. This man was trying to convince me that ALL Wiccans/pagans were bad people. That they were liars, thieves, and just evil in general. At this point I explained to him that he was crossing my line of morality and that he had no right to speak of another religion in this manner. At that point he assumed that I was Wiccan and wanted to discuss the fate of my 'imortal soul'. I had no interest in this and I told him so. At this point I was so upset that I was shaking and I had to get away before I blew my top. I retreated into the back room and he walked out the front door. About 30 seconds later he was back. He approached my co-worker, who had seen the whole scene go down, and asked where I had gone. She explained to him that I was not available and that if he needed any help that she would help him. This is not what he wanted, so he got really pushy about it and just kept asking for me. At this point it was clear that he was not going to leave unless a) I came out of the office and confronted him or b) I called security on him. Not wanting it to come to throwing him out of the library (I know, I know... I am TOO nice to these people), I came out and looked him right in the eye. I told him that I was not interested in talking to him about God, Jesus, or my immortal soul. I told him that I was very well informed about the Christian religion and that I did not believe any of it. I told him that there was nothing he could do or say to change my mind. His response to all of this was something like: "You don't know what I wanted to talk to you about! That's part of being a witch! You think you can read people's thoughts! You are an evil witch!" (LOL) At that point I said "You don't know me and you have no right to speak to me that way. I am NOT Wiccan, that is just something that you ASSUMED about me. I am going to walk away now and I am not going to come back. If you persist in this venture, I am going to call security." and I left; so did he. What a wack-job!
My latest iritation comes just this week. I was getting a book called "Unchristian" (by David Kinnaman) ready to send out to another library on inter-library loan. I flipped through the book to look for any old check-out slips and such, and I instantly flipped to a spot where there was a half-sheet of paper tucked into the book. I took it out and -low and behold- it is some pro-Jesus flier that someone had tucked into the book. Now, this book inparticular is written by a Christian about the way that other Christians act and treat their fellow man. It was NOT an anti-Christian book in any way, just the title seemed that way. I hoped that this was an isolated incident and that a Christian reader had just left the paper behind by mistake - perhapse they were using it as a bookmark - but I had to go and check the other books on the shelf that appeared to be 'unchristian' in some way. You guessed it! There was one of these sheets tucked into every book title in the religion section that appeared to be non-Christian in nature. Every. Single. One. This pisses me off to no end. If I were to tuck pro-Atheist propaganda into all the Christian titles, there would be an uproar and an OUTRAGE over it!!! What, exactly, are they trying to accomplish here? Do they honestly think that if they cram this shit in our face enough times that we will beleive it? Most of us turned away from Christianity because of all the cramming-it-down-your-throat behavoir; it is certainly not going to turn anyone the other way!
These people frustrate me to no end. There is no gain to be had by this kind of behavior. All it does is confirm to me that they are all wasting their time studying, advocating, and worshiping something that is, quite simply, not there.