“Don’t assume. It’s just going to make an ass out of u and me“.

Still, they assumed. And it did take an ass out of both of us. They assumed I have the same believe like they do. They assumed I worship the same thing they do. They assumed I celebrate the same religious event like they do. I have been wrongly assumed for more than 8 years now. It’s getting tiring and frustrating. The first time they assumed, I thought it was innocent. I replied shortly, did not want to make a scene.

7 more days to Christmas long ago, fellow coworkers trying to make a small talk:
“Sooo, any big plans for Christmas this year?”
“Nope. We don’t celebrate it.”
“Ooooh.”
Awkward silence.

A year later, same situation:
“Are you guys going to church X or church Y for the mass this week?”
“Neither. We don’t go to any churches.”
Blank stare.
“We’re agnostic/atheist family.”
“Ah. Alrighty then.”

Couple of years ago, when we just moved into our current house, we were invited to a progressive dinner held by some people who live around our block. Done with hors d’oeuvres and coctails, appetizer course, and first course, we came to the fourth house for the main course. Done showing the house (just like the other three hosts), we then settled in for dinner. What do you know, the host offered to Andy (do you think it’s the real name?) if he’s willing to say grace. I looked at my hubby next to me with the ‘WTF?’ look. Everybody started to hold hands. He shrugged and gave me the ‘Are you effin kidding me?‘ look. As Andy was saying the dear-our-father-in-heaven-and-jesus-bla-bla routine, I gave hubby the look of ‘I am walking away from this’. How dare they. Nobody bothered to ask, “Would anybody mind if we say grace?” Hubby quickly mouthed, “Stay. Calm down. Please.”

Months after that, we received an invitation in our mail from the same group of neighbor. Andy and his family is hosting a Kids’ Bible Study in the Backyard. They do have the nicest backyard ini our block; meticulously-mowed lawn with beautiful garden patio and kid’s play house. They even put up a sign ‘Kids Bible Study tonight at [adress here] at 6:30 pm’ on the streets and intersection, like a ‘garage sale’ sign or ‘house for sale’ sign. From our deck, we could see probably 20 people attended. Our kids asked, “Are they having a birthday party? Why weren’t we invited?” I explained to my little ones about what’s going on. I was stunned when my daughter asked, “Do we have to do the Bible thing if we just want to play at the play house?” Yes darling, just like a misionary; you may enjoy or have something they provide or give, but you should listen or follow what they offer.

Days after that event, neighbors asked why we weren’t there. Our answer of “We’re not Christians. We’re atheist” was the end of it. No more invitations, no more phone calls, or even a hand wave when we happened to be at the backyard and saw each other. What makes me sad the most, our kids were shunned from playing with theirs. Usually my kids were invited by a friendly “Hey guys, come over here and play with my play swing” when they’re at the backyard. No more of that. One boy was in the same classroom with my daughter and she had invited him three times (called and left a message, wrote a note and put it in his locker, and a verbal invitation) to come to our house for a playmate or watch a movie. Never happened. All of this was because they assumed, was wrong, and we elected not to join their ‘thing’?

Also just recently, a coworker asked “Cute sandals! Is that your church sandals?” 
Why would she assume that? Is it because the color was white? Do church sandals look like these? I did not purchase them from churchsandals.com, but from Plaza Senayan, a mall in Indonesia.

Fourth of July parade. We were sitting next to a 60 something year old couple. The wife said, “Nice to meet you all. Which church do you go to?” Of course, hubby quickly said, “We’re atheist.” She looked at him like “Oh I feel sorry for you” and stopped being nice.

Did I mention the number of forwarded emails I got from coworkers about religious stuff? Holy shit, there were a lot! Hubby once shared with me about some lady in the other department who was offended by his email reply because he mentioned something like, “… God knows if the Board would agree to it…”  She was so furious and wrote, “How dare you take God’s name in vain?” Sheesh, calm down already, lady!

But seriously, why do people assume that I have the same religious view like them? Is it because Christianity is the majority in the US? Or these people are just plain ignorant? “Don’t you assume in Indonesia that everybody is Muslims?” Mmm… NO. At least I didn’t. Five recognised religions in our country, which based on the 2000 census, approximately 86.1 % were Muslims, 5.5 % Protestant, 3 % are Catholic, 1.8 % Hindu, 3.4 % other or unspecified (source: here). Unless a person is wearing a religious clothing (jilbab or burka), I don’t assume that she’s a Muslim. I don’t go skipping merrily around and ask somebody to join me to go to the mosque. Is this because in Indonesia we are very straight forward on declaring our religion? In every kind of form or identification, you’ll be asked about your religion. ID card, new patient form, or even a memory book when we were little, there’s always that specific field to be filled: ‘religion’. Is this why we don’t assume [in Indonesia]? But United States, with its bombastic ‘freedom of believe and religion’, does it mean you’re free to assume?

Gah, it did bring an ass out of me. I’m bitching now.