I was in high school and in my English class, one of my classmates (I will call him Tex) made comments about his Christian beliefs on an almost daily basis. We were in a public school and most of the students had the patience to listen to what came off as religious dogmatism.
Others in the class hounded him, told him to shut up and jeered whenever he would start to say something. I sat there in an emotional straightjacket until one day, after class, I started crying.
I felt bad for the fact he was being picked on but did not know quite what to say in class. It took me years, but now I have constructed an imaginary dialogue which I could have started to get the class to understand Tex’s background:
Me: Tex, where are you from?
Me: Are you Baptist or Methodist? (Sorry for the stereotype, but it is close to the truth)
Me: Did you attend church every Sunday?
Me: Did everyone else in your neighborhood go?
Me: Did anyone ever challenge the doctrines of the church?
Tex: I never heard of anyone doing that.
With my background of having spent several summers in Texas visiting my grandparents, I had an understanding of how most people raised in the South (and especially those who still live there) think about religious and political matters.
I could have told my classmates that people in the South devoutly believe as they do just as much as non-religious people believe. Attacking a person’s beliefs will get us nowhere. It is better to simply ask a few questions and create a dialogue. No one should be made to feel left out.