It's a Horned Frog World

Thursday, May 05, 2005

How religion causes trouble in Fort Worth

As soon as I got off at the Fort Worth downtown stop, someone asked me my religion. Then he told me how I was going the wrong way and that I should change it. All of a sudden a bunch of people surrounded me and started praying. Of course I was scared but I refused, and they told me that I'll go to hell.

The other day someone from another religion said if I don't accept her religion, I'll go to hell.

It's weird how religion, which teaches us to love and embrace peace, can become the cause of trouble and tension. It's sad but this happens all over the world. As an international student, I have dealt with students from 80 different countries at TCU. Sometimes their view offends me, and sometimes it just amuses me. Then again I have met people who would not reveal their religious identity due to awkwardness. At least that's what they've told me.

However, I know there are people who are totally open to different cultures and religions. I have a deep respect for them. It's because of these good people I have learned that it's not a religion that's wrong, it's just a person's thought. If everyone could be so open-mined, things would definitely be better.

Sona Thapa

(Editor's note: Sona Thapa is a second-year TCU student from Nepal.)


  • Ms. Thapa,

    Permit me to be the first to apologize for disgusting behaviour of some of my countrymen. I can't tell you how appalled I am.

    Unfortunately, we in the West have a long and bloody tradition of trying to inflict a religion on someone else, and have learned nothing from the exercise. Europe went through the Reformation and the Counter Reformation, the inquisition, and a host of local exclusionary laws culminating in the holocost.

    Our founding fathers knew of the misery caused in the name of religion.

    Apparently, their wisdom has been lost.

    By Blogger Tom in Dallas, at 11:57 AM  

  • Ms. Thapa,
    I assume it was overzealous Christians who licked their chops when they saw what looked like an easy target. I apologize also, for their behavior.

    I am a Christian...but the fun kind. You and I would go shopping, take in a movie and hang out at Starbucks on a weekend.

    But as always, Long Live Free Speech! I always loved it back in the days when "Hairy Krishna's" jumped around outside the airports in their little Tibetan-colored frocks beating their tambourines, and two gates down Jehovah's Witness were passing out tracts about the apocalypse. We do not see that anymore, but I remember those days.

    It is a great thing to live in America. You will see the good, the bad and the ugly. But in the end, we remain the greatest nation on the face of the earth. A wonderful mix of people, a pretty darn good place to live!

    Tammy Swofford

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:10 PM  

  • Ms. Thapa:

    The religious persons who confronted you did precisely what they believe their faith requires of them. They were expressing their love for you. Instead of being offended, angry, or fearful, accept their concern as heartfelt. Learn to tolerate, even affirm, those whose visions of eternity that differ from yours. They did not crash a plane into a skyscraper, abort an unborn child, whip you with a stick because of the way you were dressed, or force you to pay a tax to support whatever religious institution they represented. They merely witnessed to you and prayed for you. Some of them may still be praying for you. If they tried to give you gold, you would probably have been overwhelmed by their generosity. Instead they offered you spiritual treasures as they understood those treasures. They reached out to you as best they could. They said, "You have a choice. Choose life." However clumsily expressed, it was love you saw there on that street in Fort Worth.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:48 AM  

  • I was surprised to learn that their religion requires them to frighten and intimidate. That kind of love is the same kind practiced by the stalker who sees nothing wrong in trying to force his amorous attentions on someone who doesn't want them.

    Where is it written that these people should enjoy spiritual comfort at the expense of their victims?

    Is the Message so weak that converts must be shangaied?

    What is next, Mr. Carter, actual kidnapping and reprogramming camps?

    By Blogger Tom in Dallas, at 8:00 AM  

  • tom in dallas

    I suspect their religion requires them to tell its truth. Perhaps that truth is frightening, a bit intimidating, but there is a huge difference between telling an unpleasant truth and kidnapping and/or sending someone to a reprogramming camp. (Odd name for a camp, by the way. Does it suggest the person has already been programmed?) I don’t know what faith the people who witnessed to Ms Thapa professed, but it seems plain enough from her post that they believed their message was urgent and they cared enough about her to share it. How credible would they have been had they had a message they believed was urgent and had not shared it?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:39 AM  

  • Mr. Carter,

    Disengenuousness ill-becomes you.

    You sound rather like Rush Limbaugh attempting to extricate himself from the disgusting act of proclaiming 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton to be the White House dog on national television.

    Truth should not be frightening or intimidating, but threats of damnation is designed to be.

    How far is it from assulting (and, make no mistake about it, we talking about assult) a woman on the streets of Fort Worth, and kidnapping her? Not very far at all.

    In plain language, your comments boil down to: since these people are trying to expand the true religion, their acts are acceptable. People should accept curses because they are delivered out of love in the cause of the only acceptable belief.

    As I said earlier, we have been there, done that, and hundreds of thousands died because of it.

    To paraphrase Justice Brandeis, the right to proselytize must stop where someone else's rights begin.

    By Blogger Tom in Dallas, at 12:36 PM  

  • Tom,
    And what breed of dog did Mr. Limbaugh say Chelsea looks like? I have said I look like a marmoset.
    After reading the see-saw between you and Mike, I swing the pendulum a bit more in favor of Mike. In India back a few years ago, a Christian missionary and his two youngs sons were burned to death as they slept in their van outside a church. Hindu radicals committed the act. Vicious acts in the name of religion do occur in some nations, but for the most part not in America. I do not consider it an act of aggression, what was done to our lovely Ms. Thapa, but rather an act of attempted proselytization. Aggression, would have been if she had received a threat (which is assault)for non-conversion. I have aggressive people stop me in the mall hawking cell phones, knocking on my door at home on week-ends. One learns the skills to forcefully say "move it along, buddy. Take a hike."


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:56 PM  

  • Ms. Swofford,

    I am afraid that, in this instance, your opinion as to what the proselytizers intended or did is not as important as what Ms. Thapa thought they were about.

    We will have to await a ruling from Mr. Romero, but, based on the description of the event, I believe it was assault.

    The point is, although we live in a marketplace of ideas, no one has the right to use fear and intimidation to force an idea on another. One should not have to say, "get away from me."

    By Blogger Tom in Dallas, at 4:20 PM  

  • Assault Tom? That is what happens to a woman on a hospital elevator at two a.m. Ask me, I know. Believe me, I would rather be assaulted by prayer any day. snort


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:07 PM  

  • tom in dallas

    Where on earth did you get the idea that truth should not be frightening or intimidating? I can think of lots of truths that are both. And what rights trump the rights of another to proselytize? In a civil society, proselytism is central. Or is it only religious proselytism you object to? And your claim that Ms Thapa suffered assault seems peculiar. On what do you base it? That she felt uncomfortable? Does any speech that makes one uncomfortable qualify, or just religious speech? I think billboards advertising "gentlemen's clubs" are quite offensive. Are the clubs that pay for such billboards assaulting me? Should I sue to have the billboards taken down? I think the answer to the assault question is obviously no, and a yes answer to the "take 'em down" question is totalitarian. But then I am a pretty tolerant guy and missionary activity does not appall me in the least.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:24 AM  

  • Since this is a blog of, by and for, journalism students, perhaps a former student (CSU '73)can inject a bit of pedagogy. I therefore put forward for your consideration Tom's first law of journalism: When you don't know what you are writing about, find out as soon as possible. This is a purely individual rule. Ms. Swofford and Mr. Carter don't follow it.

    Ms. Thapa described a situation which is assault under Sect 22.01(3) of the Texas Penal Code: "intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another person when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative"

    Contrary to Ms. Swofford's beliefs, assault is not only something that "happens to a woman on a hospital elevator at two a.m."

    Mr. Carter declines to entertain the possibility of assault and tries to make the victim guilty. His advice, not only get over it, but give in to the assaulters because their hearts are pure.

    Surely no one but the antinomian Mr. Carter and assorted criminals still believes that the end justifies the means. Every thief in history purloined property for the very good reason that he needed it more than the person who owned it. And now, according to Mr. Carter, innocent people minding their own business on the public street should be grateful for being accosted by zealous yahoos.

    Mr. Carter, who does not know these "religious persons," presumes to know their souls, without even the benefit of having looked, Bush-like, into their eyes. "The religious persons who confronted you did precisely what they believe their faith requires of them. They were expressing their love for you. Instead of being offended, angry, or fearful, accept their concern as heartfelt."

    Mr. Carter goes even further. He says that people subjected to such assaults should "learn to tolerate, even affirm, those whose vision of eternity differ from yours." We are told this is a oneway street. The assualters have no obligation to tolerate, much less affirm, the beliefs of other people. The smug and self-assured Mr. Carter sees no reason to countenance the views of others.

    The laws of the State of Texas, and I, beg to differ.

    By Blogger Tom in Dallas, at 8:32 AM  

  • tom in dallas

    The religious affiliation of the witnesses does not matter. But it is fair to assume that if they were witnessing in the manner Ms Thapa described, then they had a message they believed was important to her. It is, I suppose, possible they were frauds. Perhaps they were out for a lark, saw Ms. Thapa, and decided to frighten her by pretending to be street witnesses. That of course would be a form of harassment since their intent was to harass. But nothing in her comments leads one to seriously entertain such a possibility. Hence one does not have to know the souls of those who witnessed to her. One only has to believe Ms. Thapa's account. Also notice how you have twisted the incident she described. According to her, she disembarked in downtown Fort Worth, someone asked her what her religion was (a question she did not have to answer - she could have kept walking), told her she had the wrong faith, then several people came around and prayed for her and warned her again that her eternal destiny was in jeopardy. This is assault under the Texas Code you quoted? They had provocative physical contact with Ms. Thapa? Why then does she never make that claim? Better yet, why do you infer it? I have encountered street witnesses of various faiths all my life (and not just in the US). Never once have I been touched by one. Also nowhere do I say that Ms. Thapa should have given in to them. I do not know what her faith is or if she should change it. I simply say that in our culture where she is a guest, street witnessing is a common way to express concern for others. It is part and parcel of free speech. Not only that, it is common in many parts of the world. Let us say I walk through the streets of Katmandu (as I in fact have). People run up to me. They want to sell me things or change money. Some may urge me to take religious literature of one stripe or another. Are they assaulting me? The assertion is absurd. Were it true, a walk in Asia would be one relentless assault! So lighten up. There are all kinds of ways to look at things. We can seek to be offended or strive for tolerance. In a pluralistic and cosmopolitan society like our own, tolerance is by far the best option. Indeed, I recommend it to you. And that includes tolerance not only of sexually suggestive billboards but of street witnesses as well.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:22 AM  

  • Gawd! Huh, Tom? I do not even know what the adjective "antinomian" means. I will look it up. But penal code aside, if that is indeed assault, then every panhandler that ever grabs a sleeve asking for a dime should be hauled off. Though I think we have kind of taken care of that problem in Dallas.
    I have been roughed up worse than Ms. Thapa by four mean brothers as I survived my childhood. She will indeed, also survive this! This whole long blogging debacle on this topic just shows that we all enjoy the best of all freedoms... free-flapping vocal cords.

    Remind me not to throw my coffee cup at you on the way to TCU on Thursday...


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:28 PM  

  • The key phrase is, "knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative."

    Take my word for it, a stranger asking such a deeply personal question as "what is your religion" is about as offensive as you can get. Some things are nobody else's business. And how one walks with one's God is at the top of the list.

    I am amazed that I should have to explain that to two people so determined to tell everybody else just how they should live. Motes and beams, dear friends, motes and beams.

    By Blogger Tom in Dallas, at 7:39 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Tom in Dallas, at 7:40 AM  

  • tom in dallas

    In your world a stranger's question about another person's religious faith is about as offensive as it gets? It is so offensive that it should be interpreted as physical contact intended to be provocative, so offensive that it constitutes assault under Texas law? Well, your world and welcome to it. Also, what makes one's religion nobody's business? Surely if a person's religious faith impacts the way that person lives in society (and religious faiths have a way of doing that), then religious faiths are society's business. If you do not believe me, start practicing human sacrifice, or spreading the cult of LSD or (the Rastafarians) of marijuana, or start crashing planes into buildings. Crimes, as defined by society, are not excused simply because they are done in the name of religion (I expect the Native American Church here which has legal protection to use peyote). The question is: what constitutes a crime? Is street witnessing assault? Then why not advertising, politicking, or soliciting for charity? Black Muslims occasionally pass through my part of town spreading their word. They think I am the demonic product of a failed experiment. Are they assaulting me by promulgating such a message and even offering their publications to me? I don't believe that for a minute, but then again, I have heard and heeded Ms. Thapa's plea for tolerance.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:53 AM  

  • Mr. Carter, You most certainly have not heard or heeded Ms. Thapa's call for tolorance or her feelings and beliefs because you are too busy trying to get her to put up with being frightened on the streets of Ft. Worth. Nothing in your voluminous correspondence even suggests that Ms. Thapa has the right to go about her business without being accosted. Instead, you go to great lengths to say that the accosters are within their rights.

    It seems to me, belatedly, that all we have done is to compound the wrong done Ms. Thapa by adding embarrassment on top of the scare she got from the street proselytizers. She did not ask to be a battleground. All she asked for was to be allowed to go about her business in peace.

    Again, Ms. Thapa, I am sorry,this time for any discomfort I may have caused you.

    By Blogger Tom in Dallas, at 7:57 AM  

  • tom in dallas

    By posting here, Ms. Thapa certainly invited responses. By responding, we've done nothing to compound some wrong you imagine was done to her in the first place. I also find it interesting that Ms. Thapa's pleas for tolerance seem to end with Ms. Thapa. She wishes that people tolerate her religious practice, but she does not wish to tolerate the religious practice of others. Nor do you. I can understand Ms. Thapa a little bit here. Winds from the French revolution have only recently begun to waft over Nepal. Your case is harder to fathom. There seems to be something positively Cromwellian about it. I can imagine you smashing the stained glass windows of Catholic churches because you thought them a public offense, something that happened all to often in Protestant Europe during the Reformation. If you don't like stained glass windows, don't look at them. And if you don't want to hear the one who hails you in the street and asks what your religion is, walk away.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:21 AM  

  • I agree with Mike, everyone has the right to be informed of better alternatives in life. I hope he would be as understanding if I decided to surround him with my friends and informed him of my religious beliefs; how my religion is the right choice, and anyone who refuses partake in would face eternal damnation. Mike I also hope you do not have the ‘spam blocker’ switched on, because you should also be informed of all those products and services companies are trying to e-mail you about, and hopefully Mr. Carter also leaves his pop-up blocker turned off to fully exercise his right to be informed.
    Mr. Carter, religion was never meant to be a justification; you cannot justify a bunch of men surrounding a girl at a bus stop, forcing their faith upon her. If you can justify acts of harassment through religion then I am sure you also believe acts of terrorism are justified by religion. They might not have flown planes into a building, but they flew planes into a sacred space, they invaded an innocent girl who didn’t ask for any religious propaganda. Irrespective of how urgent they perceived their message to be, Ms. Thapa has the right not to be informed about it until she wants to know. If I were to start air-dropping religious pamphlets I would be labeled a religious fanatic or worse a fundamentalist, and that’s what happened; fanatics surrounded a girl in broad daylight, but no one came to the rescue (because in this country you have to match physical requirements to be a fundamentalist, skin color: brown, must have beard, turban preferable for easy identification).
    Mr. Carter, your country knows nothing about secularism and religious tolerance, and I say this out of experience. I hail from a country where the President follows Islam, the Prime Minister practices Sikhism and the leader of the house is Catholic (all three religious groups are minorities), I don’t see America even coming close to doing that. I have been attacked with stones, books, words and much worse here in Texas because of my skin color and my faith, yet that does not make its way into the international press, yet when missionaries who convert people against their wishes/ by enticing them get attacked it makes its way all the way to my T.V.
    Irrespective of what their religion asks them to do, they must obey societal norms like not spamming people. My religion urges me to smoke marijuana in order to attain higher levels of awareness, yet you would never see me breaking the law. Billboards advertising clubs leave the choice to you, if you wish to find out more you go to them, then why do religious groups come to you? I believe religious fanatics need to learn from these clubs and not harass people, let people who are interested in your truth come to you.

    - G-Unit

    P.S. I am Ms. Thapa’s boyfriend, I hail from India, and unfortunately, I was a distant, helpless eye witness for the assault! In the last three weeks, I have had people mistake for a Mexican and hurled books, stones and racial slurs at me, I have had three attempts to convert me (which I declined as Mike asked us to). If this is the how tolerant America is (where one denomination of Christians fights another) then I am sorry I came!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:07 PM  

  • To Ms. Thapa's boyfriend:

    Someone else might be impressed by what you say, but I am married to a woman from South India, have been since July 1982. For some reason she has never been attacked by stones, bricks, books, words or anything here in Texas or in any other place in the US. Being a Texan, I also know a lot of Mexicans, work with a bunch of them in fact, and they have never complained about people throwing anything at them. Yet in the last three weeks this has happened to you, and apparently more than once? Maybe you are doing something to provoke people. Your experience seems, well, unique.

    Not only would I understand if you and your friends surrounded me and wanted to talk to me about religion, I would welcome it! Maybe we could pass a joint, talk things over. A little joke, but people have witnessed to me on a variety of occasions. And I have been called many things by evangelists included a pervert. I was charmed. And that is a fact! Think how difficult it must have been for that woman to tell me I am a pervert. What decent person could be offended by that? Anyone could tell how concerned she was.

    Pop-ups and unwanted emails are different. I worry the emails will contain viruses that would interfere with my computer's performance. In fact, I did not use such protection until my computer was infected! But mail might be a better example for you, and, like all of us, I get "junk mail" all the time. Why get upset about it?

    You do not know much about American perceptions of fundamentalism. The word fundamentalism was actually coined here in 1920. It applied to a movement within North American Protestantism. Do a little research about the nation you are living in before lecturing on the subject.

    As for my country's knowledge of secularism and tolerance, well, I notice that none of the leaders of your country that you used as examples was a secularist. How can you speak from experience about that unless you got the experience here?

    As to why religious groups proselytize? Well, they do it because they understand their religion requires it. Try to exercise a little tolerance toward them. That should be easy for someone who has given up smoking marijuana while here. Again I would point out what should obvious: talking and attacking are very different things. Tolerant people understand that intuitively. Sometimes intolerant people have to be reminded. Oh, and by the way, g-unit, I use my name.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:58 PM  

  • Just as you suggested that there might be something wrong with what I do...that provokes people to attack me maybe there was something wrong with what you do..maybe that is why you were perceived as pervert (just a thought)
    Just as all your fingers differ in length experiences differ, your wife might not have been through what I have been through (and just to prove to you that these attacks were not instigated, I can show you the police reports!) I believe the so called 'truth' these people were trying to force feed Ms. Thapa was nothing more than a virus, a sort of ad ware, stuff they want you to know but you don’t want to know about!
    As far as the word fundamentalist goes, I was referring to the mental image that unfortunately pops up whenever (most) Americans hear the word, if you claim I am wrong about that I would suggest reality therapy for you Mr. Carter
    I would be as understanding and receptive as you (of course I realize you are the greater man, and a not to who ever wrote ‘hairy Krishna’, it is hare/hari Krishna) the day Americans realize that this country isn’t for the people of a particular faith but for everyone, and yet haven’t received a response as to how people who refer to themselves as Christians despise and fight each other? I still haven’t received an answer as to why the cost of a missionary’s or an American’s life is greater than that of a non-Christian and a non American…and if it is the same then why doesn’t the media give the same importance to my countrymen who die by the hundreds everyday preserving our secular, democratic way of life in Kashmir and other parts of India where China and Pakistan have made life worse than hell? I am sure since you know so much about India and the US you would be able to provide me with perfectly logical answers (I know you have the logic Mr. Carter, all you got to do now is to display it! I hope you don’t try to circumvent the questions and the issues this time)

    - G-unit

    P.S. My name is Raveen Bhasin, from New Delhi, India…Hindu, and a liberal at heart, I have lived in the middle east, in most parts of India (including Bangalore which is in south India), but I am a Punjabi Kshatriya(if you know what that is) and I aint scared to use my name

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:06 PM  

  • To Raveen Bhasin:

    All Ms. Thapa had to do was walk away. That is it. She needed to make no response to the initial question. And, when the witnessing began, all she had to do was walk away. Since you saw this but were unable to reach her in time to rescue her, I suggest that the incident was of brief duration, and beyond causing her some mild upset, created no particular problem for her. How does it qualify as an assault? It was certainly no more unpleasant, and probably less unpleasant, than the sight of Indian men exposing their genitals to passing trains. Also it occurred on a public street, not on her computer or home telephone. Anyone can approach you on a public street and try to talk to you. If you do not want to talk to that person or those persons, all you need to do is walk away. Simple.

    As for American tolerance and Islam: after the 9/11 attacks, no one bothered my wife. I know a number of Muslims but I know of only one, an American convert, who was harassed. The harassment consisted of a car swerving past the place where she worked one night, the driver sounding his horn. When she expressed alarm, several Americans, some of them Christians, agreed to stay with her at her work for the next few nights. There are several Muslims in my place of work. None were bothered. I have a copy of the Qur'an clearly identifiable as such. For some days after the attacks, I carried it with me and left if prominently displayed in my car. No one vandalized my car or ever bothered me. By way of contrast, someone did tear a political sticker off my car during the last election. Meanwhile my wife and I began to make it a point to eat at local Muslim restaurants to show our solidarity with the Muslim community. Not only that, we invited non-Muslim friends to eat with us, our treat. Also I continued to take the garbage of our Muslim neighbor to the dumpster. Now understand that during this period, Muslim terrorists had just conducted the worst attack ever on American soil. Today a large mosque has been built in Irving. No problems with that mosque at all. Indeed, there are some sixteen mosques, I believe, in the larger Dallas/Fort Worth area. They seem to have escaped vandalism nor have their members been attacked. Contrast this with India where deadly Hindu/Muslim riots erupt periodically, where in recent memory Sikhs and Tamils have assassinated government leaders, and where low grade wars smolder in the northeast, the northwest (where life is worse than hell and hundreds of your country die everyday), and the Punjab, and then tell me again about the tolerance that characterizes "secular" India.

    As to why the media does not pay the same attention to the deaths of non-Americans as it pays to the deaths of Americans, well, that might be because it is the American media. Could be the same kind of mentality that causes the Dallas media to pay more attention to a murder in Dallas than to one in, say, Cincinnati.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:59 AM  

  • As to the "man" who wrote "hairy krishna" it shows two areas in which you remain obtuse about America. My name is distinctly the female gender and Americans would recognize it as such. Also you do not understand American humor. The misspelling was intentional, and Americans would catch this and understand the humorous underpinnings.
    I would assume that there is much you do not understand about Americans and their culture. It would serve you well to assimilate prior to making such broad-based accusations without much foundation regarding a nation of which you understand very little, as discerned from your writings. Bias usually does spring from lack of knowledge

    Tammy Swofford (Female)

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