When you walk the streets of Manhattan, it's not uncommon to see some street corner preacher type bellowing out Bible verses and exhorting people to accept Jesus. While I find it slightly annoying, it's tolerable when you are just walking by and will soon be out of ear shot of windbag for Jesus.
This morning at the Hicksville train station was a different situation. I had ascended the platform and made my way towards the middle to catch the 7:57 AM. The 7:57 is a double decker train that is much shorter than the rest of the train, so you have to walk all the way to the middle of the platform just to be able to be in position to enter the rear car.
Anyway, seconds after finding a spot to stand and await the train, I hear not to far from me a man talking in a loud voice. I looked to my left and saw a young Asian man holding a Bible in one hand and reading out loud to no one in particular.
I sighed and walked over to him. I don't recall my exact words, but in general I tried to tell him that he was making a nuisance of himself because he wasn't taking into consideration whether or not the other people on the platform wanted to hear what he had to say and that most of the people within the range of the voice already knew what the Bible was anyway. He stopped to listen to me and for a brief moment, I thought my entreaty had gotten through to him. However, no sooner had I walked back to where I had previously been standing before he resumes his Bible bloviating.
I let out an even louder sigh, more of a groan actually, and after about a minute I walked back to him again.
I tried a different tack this time. I explained to him that some of the people on the platform were Jews, Muslims and Hindus and that it was insensitive to their feelings that they should have to hear him when they were basically a captive audience. Because they were waiting for their train, they had no escape until the train pulled in. Asian Preacher Man replied what he was doing was motivated by love.
"Maybe to you it might be," I replied, "but that is not how they perceive it."
I asked him how he would feel if a Muslim started preaching from the Koran outside of his church, though in retrospect, a better example would be if the Muslim bellowed his Koran verses at Asian Preacher Man and his friends at their church picnic at a public park. He didn't really respond to that and I don't remember what else he said.
I continued by acknowledging that I understood how he felt, that he believed he was in possession of some wonderful truth that he felt he had to share with the rest of the world. I pointed out to him that reading from the Bible in public didn't accomplish anything useful and that his time would be better put to helping to feed homeless people or picking up litter. Unfortunately, at that moment, the train was pulling in to the station and the sound of it would have drowned out any further conversation. I shook his hand and told him that I wasn't trying to put him down but just to try and make him understand that he should take other peoples feelings into consideration.
I stepped into the train car without looking to see if he was getting on too or if he was going to remain behind to continue with his Bible reading.
While I doubt I swayed him from conducting any repeat performances in the future, I can still hope that I had an impact.
Though it isn't exclusive to religious people, it can't be denied that quite a few individuals, pumped up by their zealous faith, seem to feel it gives them a license to make a public spectacle of themselves. The atheist equivalent would be to stand outside of a church and accosting people on their way to and from mass, telling them that they're wasting their time and that the god they pray to does not exist. That would be an incredibly dickheaded thing to do.
The vast majority of us just want to go about our daily business without being disturbed by others. I don't think it is too much to ask for.