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Street preachers aim to convert students with attacking words

Every week or so, as I stroll past the student union on my way to class, I am ‘graced’ by the presence of a handful of people who regularly station themselves inside the free speech zone. Their agenda? Promoting their own breed of Christianity to the student body of the University. Packing large signs, propaganda-laden pamphlets and a comprehensive knowledge of what they believe to be true, these people come here in vain and misguided attempts to convert college students (or anyone else who will listen) to their ways of thinking. They’re street preachers, and they’ve come prepared. First off, let it be known I harbor no ill will toward these people. If they choose to exercise their first amendment rights in this manner then they are entitled to do so by the Bill of Rights, and more power to them for keeping free speech well and alive in our nation. But that doesn’t mean I have to like what they say. To be honest, their behavior is a bad reminder to me of just how prevalent religious intolerance truly is in modern society. I don’t mean to imply these people are belligerent or aggressive; quite the opposite, really. Upon addressing them, one will find these people rather benign and eager to share what they know. They are not violent extremists. However, their desire to position themselves at the heart of a secular university while controversially promoting their beliefs is an obvious indicator of their desire to attract attention to their cause and to spread word of their presence on campus as quickly as possible. Regardless, they’re here in vain attempts to convert us, and this alone upsets me. Had my childhood years not been fraught with all sorts of condemning religious dogma being thrown around like pillows at a sleepover, I believe I would hold absolutely no care at all for what these people have to say. I would gladly walk by them while getting to my lecture hall classes, tuning out everything they happen to say. But, like so many other people in this world, I have grown up witnessing religious intolerance for a great deal of my life. I am very familiar with how it feels to be verbally condemned to hell many times, and these street preachers who choose to invade our student union’s free speech zone are a disgusting reminder of the intolerance I have witnessed and experienced over the years. I have never been persecuted or harmed for my faith (or my current lack thereof), but I can confidently say that when absorbing religious attacks, one’s self esteem can drop pretty quickly. I am proof of this. Try being condemned for a day (or being told that everyone else is condemned) and see how you feel. It’s not pleasant; in fact, it sucks. In my latter years of elementary school, I was subject to an extremely dogmatic Catholic education which regularly asserted Catholicism was the only true path to salvation. All other faiths and spiritual paths were decried as inherently wrong. During high school, I worked in a Catholic church where street preachers would regularly gather during the church’s annual summer pilgrimage, disrupting the event. I saw pure, unadulterated hate in the eyes of those who were waving signs around and delivering offensive verbal diatribes to the innocent churchgoers of the event. And now, during my college years, I am forced to deal with those who see fit promote anti-intellectualism and religious intolerance on our campus. With statements aimed at refuting scientific theories such as evolution and discrediting other religions, I think their efforts would be better spent at an institution not populated by college students. ‘ ‘ ‘ The men and women who attend school here at the University are attempting to acquire a liberal arts education, not a myopic and narrow-minded view of the world around them. Based on my observations of student activity, most people here subscribe to the fundamentally sound ‘live and let live’ philosophy in some way or another, giving them a helpful dose of good-natured tolerance against these street preachers. This is an advisable course of action. These preachers have a misguided idea they can convert college students at a secular university to their ways of thinking. They are wrong. Let us prove this by not giving them the attention they crave so much. These people are people just like us. They have freedom of speech rights just like we do. But we don’t have to listen to what they say. If we respect their rights to preach and we peacefully ignore them, they will go away eventually.

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