Over coffee at the NGO where I am volunteering, the conversation I was having with two girls -both in their early twenties- had turned to religion. I don’t know how we got there, but we did.
The girls: Do you believe in God?
I: No, I don’t.
They: So you’re an atheist.
I: That’s not what I would call myself, but maybe yes, I don’t know…
They: But what do you believe in?
I: Nothing. Not in a God at least.
They: You don’t believe in anything inside [yourself]? That there is a God?
I: No, really I don’t.
They: But what is your religion then?
I: I don’t have a religion.
They: But what are you? Christian?
I: No, I am nothing, I don’t have a religion.
They: Hmmm, interesting…
The girls were obviously having a hard time grasping this and, as almost always when religion is brought up in a discussion, I thought it better to just let the conversation die right there.
This inability to grasp that one can be not religious at all is something that I have noticed more often in Armenia. For Armenians, religion is such a big identification marker, that for many people it is hard to grasp the idea of not being religious at all. Even Armenians who never go to church, don’t pray and don’t “show any other sign of religious activity” will still maintain that they are Armenian Apostolic. I don’t know how strong this link is among Diaspora-Armenians, so any comments on that are welcome.