After a few rather busy days of orientation, I have found a little respite in this calm Sunday morning (of course, it was left free with the intent of letting church-goers attend their services).
It feels like nowadays my mind is so colored by the distinctions of religions. As I entered the campus, I noticed the numerous "Need a ride to church?" posters and the campus ministries' booths as some watchful parents ushered their half-caring eighteen year olds towards their displays. As I navigated around, I tried to find to find the stand of the Atheist/Agnostic club, knowing they were existent, though inactive.
Accepted into a university that is well ranked and tilted towards the natural sciences, I imagined I would find a higher proportion of freethinkers within its grounds. Reminded of Neil DeGrasse Tyson when he stated "We should be questioning why the remaining 14% of top scientists are not atheists," I wondered how anyone who has developed the critical thinking tools to gain admittance into a good college would not apply these same tools when it came to religion and its bogus claims.
Later on the second day, we had a floor meeting where we laid some ground rules about mutual respect in the dorm life. One of the girls in my floor shouted "Be tolerant of religion," as our upperclassmen advisers jotted down her words; I added "or lack of thereof," to get some askance looks from more than one person, including the girl [Cassie] who had previously exhorted others to be mindful of her beliefs.
I felt uncomfortable and critical of Cassie's behavior as she excepted a treatment she wasn't willing to give. I asked myself how far does respect and tolerance of others' beliefs goes when first, those beliefs might be ridiculous, directly harmful, or a deterrent to our progress as a species, and when second, that respect is not responded.
On the next day we had an information session and a short play about sexual education and sexual assault followed by a discussion among students in my floor. As the debate heated, Cassie, (I think) stemming from her biblical ideology, which offers no protection or "greater moral law," no mention whatsoever of the moral repugnance of rape -- a repugnance that even criminals recognize as they deliver their own kind of "justice" against sexual assailants -- insisted in blaming the victim and spouting "asking-for-it," or "she-should-have-taken-responsibility-because-guys-are-more-sex-driven" nonsense.
My mind drifted towards how is rape stopped. Is it really stopped through "girls dressing in a less 'slutty' manner?" Because if it were so, it would rape would no longer be a problem in any of the fundamentalist Islamic areas where women are covered from head to toes, and correct me if I'm wrong, but this scenario seems far from reality. Or is it stopped through the development of a secular mindset of gender equality, where your female neighbor is regarded as more than an ox or a donkey?
Next we talked about the consequences and Cassie questioned whether a pregnant student would be able to attend classes. After the adviser said that there the university would help in pregnancy and natal related problems and making sure that the expectant student would be able to go to classes, Cassie retorted "I went to Catholic high school, and if that happened to you, you'd get expelled." Beside me, my friend's jaw dropped in disbelief; I asked "even in cases of rape?" and she nodded in agreement.
The adviser also explained that if people chose an "alternative plan" the university would also provide assistance and confidentiality if that was the case (to which the Catholic girl countered more adversely than earlier, with my suggestion of tolerance towards atheism).
Shortly afterward, the meeting was disbanded. Cassie secluded herself at the end of the hall, in a distressed phone call. As I left the building to meet with my family, I caught a few words of her conversation as she attacked the "alternative" option.
I found myself frustrated at her expectations. I imagined that her school emphasized the same poorly-working programs of abstinence only, without exploring any birth control options, and when a teenage pregnancy surfaced, a very young girl would be shackled by ignorance, expected to raise a child without access to resources and support. A poor sexual education would cause a poor education in broader areas. Yet, both methods the college uses to address these issues don't seem to appeal to her, as if we should all be hailing sending pregnant teens into a state of darkness as the proper resolve.
I am so annoyed this keeps occupying my mind. I look at myself and I no longer feel "open-minded," or whichever distorted meaning I have attributed to this word. There's a sense of guilt or shame… My conscience lashes against me, berating me for not being as understanding; as a high school student, I was president of the interfaith club and I always considered respect towards people with different ideologies as both laudable and attainable. Over the second half of my senior year and the following summer, I read more atheist texts than anything. With each day, I felt (and feel) I am turning into a more strong and "strident" atheist. Today, I look at "Coexist" stickers and they just reflect a desirable naivety that has become alien to me…