Found God? No, thank you

Sonali Kudva

I am not a heathen. When I walk down a street, I don’t appreciate those who target me with invitations to “find God” with them, just because my skin tone is different, and I appear to be from a land far, far away.

I’ve found my faith. It teaches me to tolerate and get along with those around me. I’ve found a philosophy that tells me deep inside that all I need to keep the faith is to find it within me.

It’s hard to be different. It’s hard to look different, dress different and speak different. Most of all, it’s hard not to believe everything you are told.

I wasn’t a very religious person to begin with. I was always taught to believe that religion and faith were personal things, never to be thrust on someone else.

And yet, here in the U.S.A., it was different. “God” was everywhere.

As an international student, far away from home, it’s hard to say no to community activities. It’s hard to keep away from places where people appear to want to help you and be your friend.

But do they really? It’s difficult to say. At many of these “gatherings,” one is told to talk about faith. I was invited to share my views on Him at gatherings. I was asked to share what I knew of Him. I believed in Him. But the God I knew was not familiar here.

My dilemma was simple. Should I believe in what I knew, or should I change to something more widely accepted?

Prejudice comes in many forms. It comes when you suddenly feel “othered.” In my life, I have felt “othered” many times. This was one of those times.

The realization that I was happier in my own beliefs came to me slowly.

The realization that those who insidiously thrust their faith on me could not be trusted came quicker.

Sadly, the places where I thought I was making friends were the places I found prejudice where I should have found tolerance. I found a distinct lack of respect for differences in culture, religion and a way of life. And that was what I asked for.

I found pettiness where God was meant to be.

And so I stopped going to these places where I thought I had found friends.

That was when I truly found God.

To those who ask me to find God with them at street corners or hand me a copy of their Holy book, I say no thank you.

Sonali Kudva is a graduate journalism student. Contact her at [email protected].