Her Eye Doctor Wanted Her to See Jesus

Joanna Clark is a part-time calligrapher and full-time assistant language teacher in Japan. She’s been there for almost three years, and plans to return to the United States this summer. When she does, she’s going to be reminded how different the countries are in how they practice their respective religions.

I’ve never heard a Japanese person speak about religion except in a historical context,

…Joanna wrote me in an e-mail.

Most of my friends and co-workers have never mentioned having a religion, or have said outright that while many Japanese people consider themselves Shinto or Buddhist, very few actually practice specific beliefs. It does not seem to have much bearing on individuals’ lives or on society as a whole.

I’d gotten in touch with Joanna because I was interested in something that happened to her in her hometown, Chattanooga, Tennessee, six years ago, when she was 19.

Home from college on a break, she wanted new reading glasses, so off to the optometrist she went. Joanna happened to be carrying a Tokidoki LeSportSac whose two sides represent heaven and hell. Here’s a close look at a similar Tokidoki purse:

After allowing a technician to put a solution in her eyes to dilate her pupils in preparation for a vision test, Joanna was asked to wait. Magazines soon became too blurry too read, but she noticed a Rubik’s Cube adorned with a picture of Jesus and started fiddling with it.

The technician returned with a colleague and the optometrist, and the trio sweetly asked to see her bag. Joanna, not suspecting what was about to come, held it up for them.

Then this happened:

Things immediately got weird. Instead of the praise I had expected to receive for my fashionable accessory, I got teeth-sucking and awkward silence. The doctor picked up the Cube I had put down, and got close.

“I see you’ve been thinking about God,” he said. He twisted the Cube in his hands. “I guess,” I started, unsure and awkward in the face of an examination of my religious beliefs.

As religiously unidentified liberals in the third most Bible-minded city in the United States, my family has always been very conscious of how we deal with discussions of religion. I grew up learning that I needed to respect other religions while keeping quiet about my own beliefs.

The optometrist and his staff, however, had no such scruples.

When the optometrist told me that I wasn’t taking Jesus seriously enough, I nodded numbly, years of silent accommodation informing me. He told me hell wasn’t something to be taken lightly. He never bothered to ask me if I believed in hell; I don’t.

When he asked me if I wanted to pray for forgiveness for owning a bag that depicted hell, I must have choked out a scared noise that he took for assent. One of the technicians locked the door, and they all pulled their rolling chairs close around me.

The medical threesome quickly took care of business. With room lights dimmed,

They made me repeat after them, words that may as well have been nonsense for all they meant to me, until they were sure that I was taking Jesus seriously. I felt powerless to stop them, afraid to offend them, and too polite to try to leave in the middle of an “exam.” My palms were sweaty and my heart was racing.

Afterwards, the optometrist acted as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. He performed the eye exam. When it was over, Joanna, in a daze, picked out her frames, left the building, got into her car, and had a good cry right there in the parking lot.

Those technicians and the optometrist were the authority on eyes, not religion, and no matter how many times I retell this story for laughs at a party — it goes over like gangbusters with non-Southerners who already suspect us all of being religious zealots — I will never see what they did to me as anything but a frightening violation of a young girl who had a cute purse but little power to stop them.

Before Joanna’s eye-care visit, religion wasn’t something she had a problem with. Now, when she hears someone talking about Christianity in a more than casual way, she gets deeply uncomfortable.

Good job, Christians.

In the comments on Joanna’s post on xojane.com, other people weigh in with scarily similar experiences. One commenter, raw from a funeral, had a boss who seized the opportunity to bag a soul for Jesus. The woman suddenly pounced:

“Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal savior?” In my weird state I think I mumbled “Umm… I’m not sure.” And the next thing I knew, she was grasping my hands and making me repeat after her… Taking Jesus as my personal savior and saving my soul. Looking back, I continue to be appalled that she not only took advantage of me in my shocked state of mourning, but she abused the boss/employee relationship.

Can it get more outrageous? Sure it can:

When I was pregnant with my daughter I had to go to a separate place for a pregnancy test to get on medicaid. When I got there, I was put in another room to wait for my results. They said they were going to play a video. I thought OK, must be about pregnancy. Instead, it was an abortion video. A gruesome one. I had not even told them that was what I was considering (and I wasn’t!). They came back in and I was so angry I couldn’t look at them. They then handed me a Bible and asked me to pray with them. I said hell no and walked out, using the bible as an umbrella (it was raining.)

This one, for me, takes the cake:

My husband is a Christian but I’m not. We went in for a biopsy when he had stage-3 cancer and the patient application asked for religion. I warned my husband to leave it blank but he filled it in. Sure enough, we get in and get my husband all set up and the doc comes in and says, “I notice you’re Christian, can we pray?” This made us very uncomfortable because he assumed we must both be. My husband apologized profusely to me afterwards, and promised not to do it again. It was an inappropriate question both on the sheet and in person. Hard to say no to a doc who’s about to have your husband put under and cut him up right next to his jugular.

Christians who sport this kind of conversionist zeal — like a badge — probably feel quite proud of themselves.

The rest of us, however, see them not as ambassadors of their faith, but as overbearing browbeaters we’d do almost anything to avoid.

Spreading your religion (should you deem it necessary at all) can be accomplished by getting as close as you can to leading an exemplary life, full of small acts of neighborly kindness. Those are the Christians I can love and respect. Be gentle and introspective. If your God brings you peace and joy, I’m happy for you. I’ll even be fine with the occasional Facebook post about your celestial friend, no worries.

Just know that when you try to talk me into joining your pervasive cult, about which I must hear every day as it is, you lose me. Us. Millions of us.

Even those who are confused seekers, seemingly ripe for the picking, will probably notice the breezy nerve with which you operate, and conclude that your god is one who attracts showboats and bullies. We really shouldn’t have to talk about how you go from annoying to unethical when you proselytize to vulnerable people over whom you hold power, such as in the four examples cited above.

For the love of all that’s good, stop now.

(Thanks to Dave Hitt for the link!)

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • Mandy

    People who do this will never seen their actions as anything less than trying to help their fellow man, unfortunately. They just can’t imagine life from any perspective other than their own.

  • Beth

    Well these should make for interesting Yelp reviews. “These guys made me say the salvation prayer but double billed my insurance” ;-P

  • Baby_Raptor

    But if you try and stop them, you’re the bad person. After all, they have a constitutional right to “spread their beliefs.”


  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Remember the little girl in Jesus Camp? I wonder how you folks would react during this situation. As for the above stories I would have stopped it all very quickly.


  • cryofly

    Some people live the stories in The Onion that even The Onion might hesitate to publish. Just another example of a religion imposing itself on others. And this trait is so unique to evangelical christianity. Many other religions do forceful conversion, beard cutting, etc., but among the evangelicals the belief is that jesus is given them the ticket to rape (pardon me) another (non)religion.

  • Space Cadet

    When watching Jesus Camp I felt sorriest for this little girl. Throughout the entire movie you could practically see all the indoctrination she’d gone through in her short life. Virtually everything she said sounded like she was just parroting things she’d heard adults say. It was very sad.

    As far as how I’d react (I’m assuming you mean the bowling alley scene and not her fantasy Christian beauty shop), I’d probably do nothing, honestly. Firstly, I’d be too taken aback by her approach, and secondly, I have a difficult time responding to children talking about “their” religion. If I saw her being set up to do that by an adult, though, I might address them.

  • Gus Snarp

    Medical doctors of any kind simply shouldn’t be doing this. It’s a breach of ethics. Just horrendous.

  • Amor DeCosmos

    I am so glad that I live in a modern, secular society like Vancouver, Canada where discussing your religion in public is seen as gauche. I could never live in a backwards theocratic society like Saudi Arabia or Southern United States where primitive belief in the supernatural is constantly on display.

  • Jayn

    The funeral one reminds me of one from a funeral I attended years ago. I don’t remember it well, but the person presiding was trying to use the person’s death to guilt-trip people into converting. Even for a religious function I found that inappropriate.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    This seems to happen often at funerals.

  • Regina Carol Moore

    When my grandmother was in hospice, at the very moment she died, the hospice minister was there, praying loudly, and it really annoyed the shit out of everyone. We wanted to cry and comfort each other, not have this TOTAL STRANGER proselytizing to us. I hated him for being so insensitive. Ironically, the same thing happened at her funeral. The pastor performing the service basically used this opportunity to try to turn us all towards Jesus, instead of comforting the bereaved. It’s sick.

  • Aneres

    Grief Beyond Belief is a great group for secular grief support. My biggest worry as I’m 4 months into a medical tech course, is how I’m going to avoid the fact that a majority of the medical industry is all kindsa religious.

  • Sarabird

    One of my med school classmates is very Catholic to the point that he doesn’t believe in any medical fact that has to do with evolution.

    Also, at our school (and a few others around the country) a little while back there was some to-do about Muslim students refusing to treat sexual health or alcoholic patients. They refused to even learn the material. It’s genuinely terrifying.

  • Tainda

    That honestly frightens me. They seem to like to prey (pray) on people who look innocent and kind. I used to get that a lot until I developed a scowl that told people to back the fuck off. Sad that I have to do that but living in Missouri, it’s a must.

    I want that purse badly though. Too cute

  • Gus Snarp

    Just awful. Anyone who isn’t willing and able to provide the standard of care should lose their license. If your beliefs prevent you from adequately caring for patients then it’s time to find a new job.

  • http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-los-angeles/hugh-kramer Hugh Kramer

    This reminds me of when I was doing volunteer work at a food bank run by an evangelical church and the people there kept pushing me to join their prayer groups. Eventually, they told me to leave because I was not “moved by the Holy Spirit.”


  • Jennifer Galbraith

    I’m not sure why you believe that. I am an eye doctor, and my colleagues are as varied in belief system as the rest of society, if anything possibly a few more than average are atheist/agnostic.

  • Glasofruix

    “Listen kid, go bother someone else, my van is full already.”

  • heather

    WOW! And here I was thinking it was bad when my eye doctor was explaining my optical migraines to me and then suddenly stopped in the middle of a sentence and said “Well…it’s just the way God made you.” Did he think I was too stupid to follow or did he think I would be comforted knowing I was in the hands of a “good” christian?

  • observer

    “[U]nsure and awkward in the face of an examination of my religious beliefs…He never bothered to ask me if I believed in hell; I don’t.”

    Going along with these crazy people may’ve been the best idea in this situation. But if I had Ms. Clark mindset, and I was religious, I’d politly, yet sternly, ask this jackass what business is it of his regarding my personal beliefs? stressing “personal”.

  • sam

    You filthy atheists never complained about us christians emotionally raping & violating your consciences before. Wahhh!! Why won’t you let us now?! You all are persecuting our religion!!! Why are you so mad??

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    “well, I may not be moved by the Holy Spirit but I do know what the rules are here.”

    That is pure gold.

  • Thackerie

    Apparently, your classmate is not really very Catholic at all. The Catholic church accepts evolution, though they add some ridiculous stuff to it, such as evolution being coordinated by God.

    You should tell him. It sounds like he’d be a lousy doctor but there might still be a chance of him rising to become a mediocre Catholic.

  • Garret Shane Brown

    It’s a pretty cute purse…

  • grindstone

    Agreed, or list themselves as a strictly x doctor. Strictly Catholic, Muslim, Fundamentalist, etc. Those that choose to see such doctors will in time sort themselves out of the gene pool.

    (I know this is totally unworkable, but I kinda like the idea.)

  • Gus Snarp

    That was just painful to watch. If I were the lady in the bowling alley, I don’t imagine I’d have done much different. Just nod and smile. It’s simply not worth it to take out any argumentativeness on a child, or on her parents in front of her. A slight discomfort and then I could go about having a good time with my family. On the other hand, if she were to lay that speech on my children, I might react differently. Of course, knowing my oldest, he’d handle it on his own quite well.

    As for her hypothetical beauty shop, I’d just take my business elsewhere. In any of the medical settings described above, I’d have harsh words for them before I took my business elsewhere, but that’s easy for me to say. For the average patient, particularly a young one, it might not be so easy.

  • Gus Snarp

    I want to see the other side…

  • NickDB

    So they want people to help at food banks but only a certain kind of person?

  • Pickle

    I went to a funeral once where, during the service, the minister started preaching about intolerance. He said things like its not intolerance to reject others of different faiths/ orientations it’s exclusiveness because being a Christian means you’re a member of an exclusive club. To hang out with those other degenerates leads you into temptation or some such nonsense. I was utterly disgusted but I was sitting with the family so I thought it would be worse to walk out than to sit there listening to that garbage. It was horrible, We were grieving and here was this asshole telling my friends and family that it was ok to reject me and other members of the family since I wasn’t a member of their “exclusive club”. What’s worse is that a lot of people went up to the minister afterwards to tell him what a wonderful service it was.

  • David Kopp

    I’m so glad I’ve got enough security in my life otherwise to be able to push back against most of this kind of crap.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Silly Gus, personal responsibility is only for those other people. You can’t expect religious people to do that…they have RIGHTS!

  • DougI

    Never trust a fundy.

  • Paul Reed

    How sad that this girl can’t even have fun with her friends without feeling some compulsion to go and bother strangers.

  • snoozn

    My “bad Christian medical professional” story doesn’t even take place in the south. A few days after the Columbine killings, I had to take one of my daughters to Denver Children’s Hospital for a medical procedure. While I stayed with my younger daughter during the procedure, a nurse looked after my older daughter who was six. While we were driving home, my six-year-old told me how the nurse had talked to her about the Columbine killings and had told her that the two killers were burning in hell because they were evil. My daughter didn’t know anything about hell, but now thanks to this nurse, she was terrified that she might do something wrong and go there too. I finally managed to allay her fears, but I was highly pissed. I regret now that I didn’t contact the hospital about this outrageous behavior.

  • brianz72

    That’s why all atheists should be prepared, and eager, to immediately counterargue and aggressively berate those who choose to verbalize their stone age religious beliefs. I don’t bring up my atheism unless a bible thumper says something idiotic… and then I pull all stops.

  • Paul Reed

    Isn’t it about time there was a law calling for a separation of church and business?

  • Baby_Raptor

    I can’t for the life of me understand why people think they have a right to do shit like that.

  • C Peterson

    These kinds of jobs are generally elevated to “professions”. Professional status implies a superior education, membership in a professional society, and adherence to a code of ethics.

    Any issues of legality or ethical code enforcement aside, the thing that strikes me most with these cases is the absolute lack of professionalism involved. Do they have a right to act that way? Maybe, maybe not, depending on the courts and local laws. But should they? Of course not! The fact that these “professionals” are totally incapable of showing better judgment is disturbing.

  • amycas

    We keep getting visits from a local Baptist church. It’s not adults though. It’s about 5 adults, each one with two kids in tow (between 8 and 12 years old). They stand back and listen while the kids knock on doors. Last time they came, they were just reading questions off of some script (my fiance was obviously supposed to respond a certain way). He tried to engage them at first, as he was empathetic to their situation (he had done this as a child as well), but then he saw the adult and just got angry. The kids didn’t know anything other than the little script they were given and a few Bible verses. My fiance immediately started directing questions to the adult, something along the lines of “Why don’t you let these kids figure things out for themselves? Why would you bring children to proselytize your religion? how can you possibly think these kids are old enough to have made this decision on their own? etc.” That was the last time the Baptist church visited our apartment, but we still see them around the complex sometimes.

  • Terry Firma

    Sarabird: Terry here, the writer of the post. What you wrote …my eyes went wide (maybe I should see an optometrist). This is a story worth pursuing. Can we chat? I’d love to use your real name in the resulting article but can guarantee anonymity if you need it. Drop me a line: terryxfirma AT gmail DOT com. Thanks!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Using children as pawns is disgusting. Nobody wants to be rude to a young child and the adults know this.

  • Terry Firma

    When searching for a picture of the bag, I found it on eBay. Active auction, I think. Get thee hence! ;-)

  • Maestro

    Do you often hear these voices? I think there’s someone else you should speak to in that case…

  • Regina Carol Moore

    I’m sad to say that many people probably agreed with him. It’s really horrible that human beings of different beliefs can’t even be civil to each other in times of emotional distress. I wish our society was more caring and loving towards each other.

  • Regina Carol Moore

    I have lived in the Northern USA my whole life except 2 years in Georgia. Even though we were warned ahead of time that people would always ask us what church we went to (It was always the first question after being introduced), I never got use to it. I was raised, as most Northerners are, that it’s an incredibly rude and personal question.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I told a Christian that once and he became quite pissy afterwards.

  • Birdie1986

    Why don’t things like this ever happen to me? I can’t believe anyone would sit there thinking they needed to be polite when it never even occurs to these zealots whether they are being polite. I have to say that occasionally, I like a good confrontation, and this would be so much fun to tell them to shove that crap up their ass.
    I have been in many situations where people have just assumed I was Christian and made some comment that I have politely ignored or politely just told them that it’s not polite to assume everyone is Christian, but if someone tried to lock me in a room, not only would I not be polite, but I’d report them to the police.

  • Regina Carol Moore

    Can I say that it is AWESOME that the atheist author of this article is named “Terry Firma”? Am I the only one who finds that incredibly ironic and highly amusing?

  • Matt

    My wife is a Social work Graduate student here in Tennessee. Many of the women in her class have outright said to her that they will not be able to treat gay people who come in for counseling. Mind you, these are women who want to work in public schools as a school social worker, when these gay kids are going to need the most help from counselors. If you can’t do the job properly, caring for all of those that your profession cares for, you are in the wrong line of study. Just sickening.

  • Matt

    I envy your ability to live in such a progressive city, and hope to someday join your ranks as a Pacific Northwesterner.

  • Matt

    I’m all outta candy, scram

  • Matt

    About :35 in when she first notices the blonde, she gets this serious case of conflicting face, as if she is having this internal dialogue with herself on just how jesus would handle the situation. I feel really bad for anyone having to constantly go through that kind of internal dialogue

  • The Other Weirdo

    Truly. That purse is the cutest thing I’ve seen all day.

  • Paul Reed

    Religiosity is probably different from area to area. However, I don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to just point out that it’s not relevant to whatever medical thing you happen to be engaged in.
    You don’t need to be militant or anything, just refuse to discuss it.

  • Matt

    Also I find the phrase “He wants to take you and just love on you” funny. Its like some guy in a bar sending his friend over to talk to the blonde “Um, hey, yeah, you see my friend over there… well, he thinks your hot, and he wants to take you and love on you.”

  • The Other Weirdo

    Because morality comes from the Bible, the Bible is written by God, and the Bible says that God is good.

  • Jennifer Galbraith

    I am on an email list of colleagues from all over the country, so I am not talking regional. And we do discuss religion and politics, as well as eye care on the list. We’re friends as well as people who happen to be optometrists.

    If a patient asks, I change the subject, if they press, I am honest about my beliefs. I don’t debate them, even if pressed into a debate. Most are surprised that I am an atheist, so I admit to being amused at the stunned look on their face :-)

  • Tainda

    Gone! :)

  • Terry Firma

    It’s a pen name, but a carefully chosen one! ;-)

  • Art_Vandelay

    Why can’t shit like this ever happen to me?

  • ortcutt

    I’ve learned to stop being polite to proselytizers. Let them know that you consider it inappropriate for the situation and that you expect it to stop. If they persist, ask to leave and let them know you’ll be taking your business elsewhere.

  • Sue Blue

    When I was in nursing school, I worried about that, too. We were supposed to learn about all of the “alternative medicine” woo that our patients might be using. I don’t have a problem with knowing the cultural background (that’s part of cultural competence in nursing) of these “treatments”, what herbs are supposed to do what, and what acupuncture, cupping, and “healing hands” are supposed to do and how they may interact with drugs, surgery, or other medical treatments, but I draw the line at “respecting” or using these treatments. Some nurses even claim to be able to “lay on the healing hands”. That’s just unacceptable to me if nurses want to be truly professional practitioners of evidence-based medicine. I once got into trouble for saying, “If alternative medicine worked, it would just be called medicine” in class.

    The only other problem I’ve had with religion or superstition in nursing is the preceptor I had in my first job. She was a fundamentalist christian who kept a bible on the counter at the nurses station and read from it whenever she had a few moments. She was always asking me what I believed in or telling me how nurses had to care for the “soul” as well as the body. I finally had to complain to the nurse manager about it, as it was causing me a lot of stress on top of the stress of being a novice nurse in a fast-paced setting. It was difficult, but I was finally assigned to another preceptor on a different shift. I don’t know if they disciplined the christian nurse, though somehow I doubt it.

  • busterggi

    It is indeed, sort of Ruby Gloomish. BTW, is that little demoness baking brownies because if anything will attract folks to hell its chocolate.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    Malpractice! These sub humans should loose the right to practice. Holding a knife to someone’s throat and telling them to pray needs to have criminal consequences.

  • scallywag

    When I see that religion question asked on a form I always fill in “is retarded”

  • Regina Carol Moore

    It’s an awesome one!

  • sheesh

    If someone got trapped in a room in order to be schooled on how World of Warcraft was the most awesome MMO ever then the cops would be called and a charge of kidnapping or false imprisonment would follow…

    For this offence, religion gets a free pass.

  • jbandsma

    We have a cardiologist here who recommends that women who come in with suspected heart problems just go home and pray. Men get the full medical workup.

  • Terry Firma

    No way. Does no one say anything in protest?

  • onamission5

    It’s not just Baptists. My parent’s vineyard church used to push parents to drag their kids to town, have us point out people we recognized, and send us up to them to ask them about jesus. My parents happily obliged and continued to oblige long after we’d changed congregations. It was even more humiliating than my stepdad’s long, glossolalia filled, fully upright, very loud ramblings which passed for saying grace at the all you can eat buffet. Nothing says “I love jesus and you should too” like swaying and waving your hands around a restaurant dinner table, apparently.

  • Jessica

    The school here bought bibles for all the graduating seniors. Last night they were required to attend an hour long prayer service, where they received their new, tax payer funded Bibles. This is a public school. I’d say something, but I don’t want a cross burned in my yard for standing up to the zealots.
    Remind me how persecuted they are again?

  • Tom

    This is all skin-crawlingly creeptastic, but those sickos at the optometrist went a step further when they locked the door. False imprisonment is a crime.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    We get Ipods and get to bake cookies in hell? Cool. Her purse is cute and I really hate people trying to convert you when you are at your most vulnerable or at the most inappropriate times.

  • Matthew Baker

    Jesus is the last thing I want to think about at those “turn ‘n’ cough” moments in life.

  • Sue

    Last November my husband was about to undergo surgery for what turned out to be stage 4 colon cancer (he is almost done with chemo now; it was very early stage 4 and things are about as promising as they can be under the circumstances). We had talked at length with the surgeon and trusted him. Just before my husband was wheeled into the operating room, the surgeon asked if we would like to pray with him; we demurred, saying we didn’t really do that, so he prayed by himself. He then proceeded to save my husband’s life, twice (a second emergency surgery was necessary 6 days later). I figured that if praying was what he needed operate at top efficiency, that was fine by me. He didn’t seem particularly disturbed that we weren’t joining him, and we continue to have a good professional relationship.

    Not sure what my point is, exactly, except to say that I am still glad he was our surgeon.

  • Heathen Mike

    Re. “If your beliefs prevent you from adequately caring for patients then it’s time to find a new job.”
    …Amen to that! ; )

  • Heathen Mike

    Ugh! Regarding holier-than-thou social workers, As a licensed clinical social worker of almost 20 years, (btw, I’m queer, too) I would like to be shocked by your observation about your wife’s social work classmate, but unfortunately I’ve met a lot of socially conservative-minded people in this profession. It seems that a lot of people like the idea of being some kind of “Florence Nightinggale (sp?) do-gooder” but in a patronizing way in which they don’t really respect their clientele. I blame religion for much of that pattern. Sure, maybe that’s just my own bias, but one of the core tenets of Christianaity and Islam both is to go out in the world and “win souls.” That is inherently disrespectful of the belief systems of the people whom they are targeting. So don’t ever confuse the “mission” of social work with the “science” of sociology. These two professions with like-sounding titles attract quite different mentalities. –I exclude myself from that observations, of course. lol

  • Heathen Mike

    Careful, Baby_Raptor, people might think you’re serious! : )

  • jbandsma

    SC, saying anything will get you some really unwanted consequences.

  • eric

    no matter how many times I retell this story for laughs at a party — it goes over like gangbusters with non-Southerners who already suspect us all of being religious zealots — I will never see what they did to me as anything but a frightening violation of a young girl who had a cute purse but little power to stop them.

    I’m in total agreement. I’m fine with a good redneck joke or two, but this behavior is not funny, its incredibly coercive. They’ve dilated your eyes so you can’t drive without wraparound sunglasses – access to which they control. And, you expect them to very shortly do an examination on your eyes and give you accurate information about a prescription. This is about as coercive as a non-violence-threatening situation can get; if you tick them off, they could potentially screw with your eyesight, or kick you out in a state where you are unable to drive safely. No ethical person would use such a situation to try and sell you something.

  • Heathen Mike

    Hey, I grew up near Seattle, a stone’s throw from you, and I’ve lived in the Deep South for twenty-some years. I think blogs like this one are medicine, to help offset the smothering weight of ignorance. But I have to add that this religious backwardness is not confined to the South; it just tends to be more everpresent here. If you’re stuck in the South, try to be near to some reasonable universities, and preferable in a larger city. That helps keep you closer to other progressive-minded thinkers that DO exist here. Also, there are vast areas of rural America in other regions, notably the Mid-West, that have their fair share of fundamentalist swill. Cheers. (…and I tried so hard to strike a respectful tone. How’d I do?)

  • Heathen Mike

    Hugh, what a great example of the real motive of these people. They are not exercising simple love for their fellow humans, as their Christ tried to teach them. Charity/volunteering is simply a thinly veiled excuse for proselytizing.

  • eriic

    I have to say that on a personal note, all these anecdotes are incredibly alien to me. My experience with both office visits and surgeries has been that doctors are incredibly terse, short on time, and want to be out of there as fast as humanly possible. The idea that they’d want to spend more time with me than I wanted, discussing their personal business…its just wierd.

    I almost hate to say it, but is there some sexism going on here? Are these folks treating women patients worse than men because they think they can get away with it? I’ve seen that type of behavior with car salesmen, but I really didn’t expect it to be the case for medical doctors.

  • JWH

    This actually sounds about right. If a surgeon wants to pray before performing surgery, it’s his right. And he didn’t try to force anything on you. He just offered an invitation, then wasn’t bothered when you turned him down.

  • baal

    I like to think I don’t get anymore aggressive than Minchin in storm.

  • Anarimus

    I write a blog about living in the South as an Atheist and trust me this nonsense happens a lot. If you’re an atheist here they think there is something seriously wrong with you or that you’re just mad at god or you just want license to do what you want or you’re confused. It never enters their mind that there really are people who just don’t believe what they do and worse they accept the prejudices and lies told about us atheists as if they were absolute truths.

  • baal

    I went to a CLE class on understanding ethnic diversity. I was more than a little appalled on the section where we were taught about the difference between ‘faith practices’ and ‘child abuse’. (cupping, herbal packs using tobacco for two examples. In small amounts, neither is a big deal but large amounts are potentially lethal.)

  • Tammy

    Also from Vancouver! Every time I read this blog and others like it, I just think about how lucky we are here.

    I think the ‘worst’ thing that’s ever happened to me was being told I’m going to hell by a Catholic girl I used to be friends with in elementary school (she had asked me if I believe in God or not.) It wasn’t a big deal at the time, it was just weird and a bit unsettling that a “friend” would say that to me. The truly sad part of this story is that later on, after being sent to a Catholic private school, she turned to drugs and kept flunking classes miserably (especially Theology, or so I was told, and I’ll admit I found that part hilarious).

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    The surgeon asked first, and respected the answer.

    He was polite.

    That makes all the difference!

  • Gus Snarp

    There you have it, everything wrong with religion summed up in one sentence.

  • onamission5

    When my grandfather was dying from a brain tumor, my mom called me up specifically to let me know she’d gotten him to accept jesus as his personal savior on his death bed and what kind of comfort that brought her, so she wasn’t afraid of him dying any more. My grandfather, the lapsed Baptist who very much believed in the same deity my mom does, just not apparently in the exact way she needed him to in order to leave him alone about it once and for all.

    I didn’t even know what to say to her announcement. I mean, she was losing her stepdad so I wanted her to find peace and comfort, of course, but is there a worse way to go about seeking comfort than to harangue a dying, elderly man whose cognitive functions are impaired due to the huge tumor which is killing him? Also, self centered much to impose your own agenda on someone during their precious final days of life? I feel like someone’s final moments ought to be about them and what they want, not about the people who are going to survive them.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    Unless it’s changed, there are more atheists and agnostics (and Jews and Hindus who don’t proselytize) than fundagelicals in most medical areas. Heck, even the Mormons at the hospitals in Utah were jack Mormons. They offered me COFFEE!

    I trained at a Catholic hospital, worked at a large Southern trauma center, and the only time religion because a topic of discussion was when we were trying to schedule so those who had religious holidays to observe got the schedule they needed. I worked a boatload of High Holy Days and Christmases and Easters.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    I love the purse! And if there was ever a time to call 9-1-1 and say that you have been locked into an exam room by the doctor and his staff and they won’t let you go until you agree to join their cult, that was one.

    But, like boors all over the world, they too advantage of your naivete and your reluctance to make a scene to push their beliefs on you.

  • guest

    Same here. Knowledge is power and when you know more about their precious book than they do and start pointing out the flaws inside that rag it’s an amazing feeling. A total rush. Using reason, logic and facts on these people is just too much fun. The look of frustration and anger in their faces is priceless. Door knocking fundies are my favorite. Unfortunately, they don’t come around much anymore.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    That’s … a low bar. Not an unreasonable bar, just a low one. I will say that while I enjoy ripping fundamentalists to shreds with logic, I have never offered to self-mutilate if they should be proven correct …

  • Carmen

    Locking someone in a room without consent is absolutely false imprisonment. Joanna can likely sue the optometrist, et al. and get damages for the emotional distress. I bet there are lawyers in the area who would love to take the case, maybe even on a contingency basis. It’s also potentially a crime.

  • Keulan

    Doctors should be trying to treat their patients, not pushing their religion on them. If a doctor who I was going to for medical treatment did something like the examples above, I would find a new doctor. This issue reminds me of this clip from a Non Prophets podcast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwdS4Ngnozc

  • Elddim Eman

    This part sounds like false imprisonment to me, a misdemeanor:

    “When he asked me if I wanted to pray for forgiveness for owning a bag that depicted hell, I must have choked out a scared noise that he took for assent. One of the technicians locked the door, and they all pulled their rolling chairs close around me.”

    From the Tennessee criminal code:

    39-13-302. False imprisonment.

    (a) A person commits the offense of false imprisonment who knowingly removes
    or confines another unlawfully so as to interfere substantially with the other’s liberty.

    Source: http://law.justia.com/codes/tennessee/2010/title-39/chapter-13/part-3/39-13-302/

  • Randay

    Agreed. This is not just pushing religion, it is, as you say, kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment. The young woman should press criminal and civil charges. Imagine that these Jesus Freaks had decided she needed an exorcism.

  • SeekerLancer

    It’s hard to comprehend how people like that can even practice medicine. It’s insane.

  • MD

    No, in my mid-thirties, I also have the confidence to tell predatory bastards to get lost. As a 19 year old, I’m not sure I would have been very assertive. First, women are socialised to be accommodating and to not cause offence. Second, you’re in a vulnerable position, in the middle of a procedure, with a person that you should be able to trust.

  • Aimster

    I quit reading after the part where the doctor who has a RUBIK’S CUBE with Jesus pictures on it said that Joanna was “not taking Jesus seriously.” I’ll try to get through the rest when I’ve stopped laughing.

  • David Kopp

    I agree. I was simply saying that I’m thankful that I’ve never been in a situation that I’ve had that kind of insecurity, and likely never will be. I wish I could help others who are in those situations. Perhaps I could have been clearer.

  • kaydenpat

    I recall a Christian doctor trying to talk me out of using birth control pills. I just rolled my eyes as he went through his spiel about the dangers of contraception and was tempted to ask him if he would raise the unwanted children that would result from me following his religiously-motivated advice.

    Perhaps if more of us complained about these overly zealous professionals, they’d learn to keep their religious views to themselves. But I understand not complaining since you’re pretty much in shock that a doctor/boss, etc., would even go there in the first place.

  • kaydenpat

    I thought the Catholic church was okay with evolution.

  • Stev84

    Yes it is. They didn’t take an official position on evolution until 100 years after Darwin published his ideas. Some in the church spoke out against it and some for it, but the Holy See itself stayed out of it. When the Pope eventually took a position it was to say that there is no conflict.

  • Little Magpie

    Well it seems to be a light-ish brown, so could be a lot of things… date squares or something…. but yeah, I think it’s probably brownies. (OTOH, maybe if we consider rather, “if anything will attract folks to hell it’s nummy homemade treats… then it doesn’t matter.)

    I totally agree, by the way, the purse is pretty damn adorable.

  • Little Magpie

    is that like answering sex: “yes please!” ? :)

  • Little Magpie

    gah, i couldn’t even watch this past about 1:00… too creepy.

  • Little Magpie

    I didn’t think it was funny. I thought it was making God seem rapey.

  • Aviatrix

    I swear, the next time someone asks me if I’m born again or know Jesus or how my prayer life is, I’m just going to ask them if they’ve had any good sex lately and if not, would they like to know how, then add that if they’ll answer my questions about intimate personal details which are none of my business I’ll answer theirs.

  • A Reader

    People pull this crap with me sometimes. I always thought it was because my family’s religious, and I used to be, and I don’t discuss my atheism with people whose minds are already closed…
    Guess I was wrong.

  • A Reader

    Hate to tell you this, but it happens in the Midwest too. I live within driving distance of Canada (so definitely not in the South), but there’s still a religious “flavor” to EVERYTHING out here.

  • Regina Carol Moore

    The “flavor” up north, in my experience, is nothing compared to the constant 24/7 prattle of religiosity in the south. It controls everything they say and do.

  • Deltalyrae

    Please be careful Regina. You almost sound prejudice. Who is the “they” you mention? It sounds like you are judging everyone who lives in the South based on your perceptions. While I share your disgust with the bible-thumping people I encounter here… we’re not all that way. I am a member of a humanist/atheist group in North Carolina and there are a lot of us here who “prattle” against religiosity in the South. I agree with you on your other comments and I can tell by your discourse that you are intelligent… just try not to sound like you are stereotyping… my group and I are trying to make a difference down here!

  • Regina Carol Moore

    Stereotypes are, by nature, generalizations, and I assume people know that. There is a difference between claiming “every single person” in a group is a certain way and claiming that “many people” in a group are a certain way.

    I don’t appreciate the tone of your comment. It’s really not your place to scold or warn people of their behavior.

    I can tell by your discourse that you’re a judgemental person who can’t overlook your pedantic nature to agree with someone who is furthering your own cause because you’re stuck on one issue of the way they choose to express themselves.