Social Question

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Why would you not tell the proselytizer to stop preaching on the train?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (38942points) March 29th, 2010

Okay, here’s a pretty common NYC occurrence on the trains: it’s whatever time of day, the train is crowded, everyone’s going to work or back…there’s a lady or two in the middle standing and loudly reciting the Bible, staring into people’s eyes and continuing on and on and on…now, listen, my commute’s about 45 mins to an hour and I don’t always have my iShuffle…it is incredibly annoying to have to listen to this preaching, let alone without end.

I always get angry – why doesn’t someone say something, plenty are annoyed…why is this activity safe from interruption? Why on earth do these people think it’s okay to disrupt everyone’s day and already tired-ass ride home with their version of “truth” – it’s ridiculous…I always feel like getting up and screaming over them something or other about gender norms, veganism, atheism…I mean what difference does it make? I feel just as strongly that some of my ideas can heal/help/change/move the world.

So, either you know of this situation or imagine yourself in one – why wouldn’t you tell to stop and just be quiet? Is it:
1) You think they’re crazy.
2) You think they’re doing great work, praise the lord.
3) You think it won’t help as with these it usually gets worse when you engage.
4) Eh, it’s New York – same shit, different day – at least they’re not touching themselves as they look at you.
5) It’s not your place, everyone’s free to be as annoying as the want.
6) Something else.

Today, after making it clear that I find what they do to be obnoxious, I switched cars but why do I have to do this, why do I have to move? Please tell me, why do we let these kinds of actions go?

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77 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

Too much trouble, and the response could be psychotic.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

It’s the downside of Freedom of Speech. People can say all kinds of things we hate, hate to hear, disagree with, etc.

That, and @dpworkin‘s observation about psychos.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@dpworkin Same difference – it’s already psychotic.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@CyanoticWasp I understand that, for damn sure – however, it seems to me that more often than not it’s not just random epiphanies that people find important to share with others at the top of their lungs but it is always the Bible – I find it to be quite biased.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Stopping the preacher would be a violation of her Constitutional rights. You DO remember those, do you not? Why is it ok for a mob of protesters to block traffic and shout obscenities? Why is it ok for people to picket at the funerals of dead soldiers? It all goes back to the Constitution: freedom of speech, and in this case, freedom of religion.

Brian1946's avatar

IMO, if someone is ranting loud enough to interfere with you having a conversation at a reasonable volume, then they’re interfering with your freedom of speech.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

The answer lies somewhere between 3) and 4).

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Brian1946

So take it to the Supreme Court and let THEM decide. That’s what they’re there for. P: )

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@CaptainHarley This is not that kind of anger on my part – I don’t need to take them to court, I just want to understand why people think this is acceptable behavior. Or do they not think it’s acceptable behavior but all of sudden remember the 1st amendment?

Neizvestnaya's avatar

1) You think they’re crazy.
3) You think it won’t help as with these it usually gets worse when you engage.
4) Eh, it’s New York – same shit, different day – at least they’re not touching themselves as they look at you.
5) It’s not your place, everyone’s free to be as (free speech thing?)

Isn’t there a transit authority you can make complaint to? People like that should be taken aside and asked to either either be quiet or not ride that train anymore, imo but somewhere someone will pipe up with protecting freedom of speech stuff. Grrrr.

liminal's avatar

I don’t think it is wrong for them to do so, I do find it jarring, rude, and unconvincing.

I once walked up to someone and gently asked them if they would stop. (I have freedom of speech too.) He started to hover over me and pray that I be delivered, I looked deeply into his eyes with compassion, and said “In the name of Jesus be still.” He froze in his tracks and I could feel his eyeballs burning into me as I moved to a different place on the train.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ZEPHYRA That’s what it is for me, as well. I just wanted to know what other people are thinking. They cant all be atheists like me – they must have a personal relationship with god and yet this isn’t something they’d ever do.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@liminal Well I’m glad it worked for you – I’d never be able to say that seriously. I don’t say much because if I start, I’ll only get worked up and curse them out.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

I can’t remember the last time I changed my mind about something because some random person on the train was ranting… I have to assume that no one is listening or converting… Insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. They are crazy. I don’t like to mess with crazy.

liminal's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I was simply putting his words back on him. Kind of like “do you know what an ass you sound like.” I don’t always do this, for some reason I felt calm and safe that day. I do think that sometimes people who stand on the corners and trains preaching get affirmation from others and they think any resistance simply affirms that they are being “persecuted for the lord” (whatever that means).

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@liminal Absolutely – you can feel them thinking ‘oh look how people are responding, this is the martyrdom I read about’ – please, seriously.

liminal's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre “I don’t mess with crazy.” lol4rl, wonderful wisdom!

WestRiverrat's avatar

(S)He might get PO’d and pull a knife or a gun. As long as they are spouting off peacefully it is often better to let well enough alone.

Brian1946's avatar

@CaptainHarley

I’d report her to a transit cop or conductor.

If she doesn’t like getting cited for disturbing the peace, then she can take that to whatever court thinks that the First Amendment includes the right to be a loudmouth in a public place.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@WestRiverrat Well, where does the assumption that these people can become violent come from?

WestRiverrat's avatar

Most of them don’t, but it only takes one. If you live through it you learn.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Brian1946

Exactly correct. : )

dpworkin's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I agree with you. It’s already psychotic, but it’s not personal. The first person to challenge the psycho then has the psychosis channeled directly at them, in a one-on-one, very personal situation that could become physically dangerous. At least that’s what I think people may be afraid of.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@CaptainHarley To be honest, I don’t think any conductor around here would consider this enough of a situation to give two craps about – if no one is bleeding, we’re good to go.

Coloma's avatar

Just walk away, ( as you did ) asking WHY you should have to is making yourself into a victim.

You wouldn’t ask WHY you had to move away from a burning building…live & let live, God, nature, the Universe gave you feet to walk away with when something is not to your liking. lol It’s your mind and ego that are still standing there long after your feet have taken you elsewhere. hahaha

Pretty_Lilly's avatar

Tell you what : Just dress up as the Devil and stand behind her so she does not notice you but everyone else does,when people make eye contact with you just smile and say:Don’t mind me,I’m with her ”

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Coloma I find all your lols and hahahahs take away from the point of any of your responses – and I mean that in the nicest way possible
The reason why my ego is up and at it is because I shouldn’t have to move – it is impossible enough to find a seat as it is and to move is to experience an even more uncomfortable ride home.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Yes. And no, I will not elaborate.

hudsong's avatar

Take it as a daily lesson in patience.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@hudsong I am a parent of two young children – they’re my lesson in patience and are much more enjoyable at that. But I understand what you’re saying.

Coloma's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

I sympathize with all you train commuters…2 weeks on the Taipei metro and I could care less if I ever set foot on a train again.

My ‘lol’s & haha’s ) just my cheery humorous nature….however you perceive them is

entirely up to you.

eponymoushipster's avatar

it’s iPod shuffle

breedmitch's avatar

I think the answer is more in the 4–5-6 mix. My reason 6 being, that people can get hurt by confronting crazy on the train. In fact two people were stabbed yesterday when a train confrontation broke out.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@eponymoushipster So I shortened it, big deal

phillis's avatar

This is some sort of herd mentality, Simone. I recognize it when I see it, but I’ve not done any personal research into it. It’s the same reason people keep quiet when they see a child being hit, a gang rape, or some other horrendous act. That means that you won’t be able to count on the other people on the train for support, so plan around that if you decide to blast this woman.

It takes a particular kind of person to speak up and say something. If that’s not like you, then going to another car was a good decision. A confrontation is a very assertive (some would say aggressive) act. We’ve all been taught that those behaviors are not conducive to a smoothly-run society. We’re not to make trouble, not to make friction, not to make waves. Meanwhile, we let people walk all over us. That is not okay with me.

This next bit is a matter of personal preference. I say that once a person starts with in your face bullshit, I am allowed to exploit the same societal and legal loopholes as they. You would be very surprised to see how many people will back down because they didn’t expect anybody to call them on thier bullshit. They counted on everyone staying polite and neatly in place. That means that you have the element of surprise on your side. Most of the time, they’ll sit the fuck down.

A note of caution: She probably isn’t “crazy”. Likely, she’s out of touch with reality, the cause of which does not predispose her to violence. BUT – If she looks disheveled and unkempt, chances are good that she has a serious mental illness that can trigger a violent response. If she looks neat as a pen, screw it. Say whatever you’ve been wanting to say! If you opt for confrontation, you’ll need to do a very quick visual assessment of her as she is first handling it. No doubt, it’s a calculated risk, but just how much of a risk is debatable. I’d take the damn risk.

I GA’d @CaptainHarley because, technically, he’s right. It IS free speech, something I wouldn’t mess with even on my best day. Both sides have good points, boiling this down to a matter of choice. You guys need a transient authority there.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

You can cultivate getting into the zone, and getting past the noise of the voice. Don’t focus on it. Go into your head and tune her out.

eponymoushipster's avatar

Well if you do feel that your ideas are so great, then why don’t you go and tell everyone about them? At least they feel strongly enough about their beliefs to share them with other people; you bitch about them, but your version of “whacky” ideas doesn’t motivate you to do anything but pump the volume on your iPod shuffle and get into a grump.

ninjacolin's avatar

you would have to make it your mission to silence them the way they’ve made it their mission to be heard. it’s not as though they were daydreaming on the train and then decided to stand up and start reading from the bible or whatever. they’ve planned it, perhaps days or weeks in advance. they’ve prepared rebuttals and strongly believe they’re doing something practical. they’re at work! you would have to be equally as prepared as they are or perhaps even more so to shut them up.

i think that’s what people realize they aren’t prepared to do: work to get them to shut up the way these people are prepared to work to be heard.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I really don’t know – I would be saying something.

ETpro's avatar

Because I believe very strongly in his freedom of speech, and in my freedom to not listen.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@ETpro There is an appropriate setting for such things – disturbing everyone’s train ride is not it.

YARNLADY's avatar

It’s none of my business what other people choose to say or do in public.

ETpro's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Accept that premise, and it is a short slide to where nobody gets to say anything others don’t want to hear, because it is never the time or place for them to speak.

WestRiverrat's avatar

The train is private property. The owner of the train, through his agent, the conductor, can tell her to sit down and shut up. No one else on the train has that right.

YARNLADY's avatar

@WestRiverrat What? The only trains I know of that are private property are not available for the public to ride on. What ‘owner’ of the train are you talking about? Here in the U.S. most trains are public property and owned by the taxpayers.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@ETpro I am not suggesting that civil liberties to be denied, I just wish it was socially unacceptable to do so. I don’t think it is a matter of rights at all, it is a matter of common courtesy. Banning them is not the answer, but if enough people politely ask them to stop maybe they would realise that they do not have an audience and move on to greener pastures.

@YARNLADY Here in Australia, the trains are run by private companies that are contracted by the governments. However I do not think they have the right to tell people to be quiet, because they are only contractors and the terms of use and timetables are all written by the government.

DarkScribe's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Here in Australia, the trains are run by private companies that are contracted by the governments.

Someone should tell then then as they don’t seem to realise that. They think that they are Government owned Corporations. In fact when we tender for, win and then create and publish their annual reports, we get paid by the Government. How do you suppose that happens?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@DarkScribe Maybe I’ve got it wrong. I just know that Connex in Melbourne was fined several million dollars for poor service some years back, and was threatened with loss of tender. A government owned corporation cannot be fined by the government, can it?

DarkScribe's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Maybe I’ve got it wrong

No, just partially wrong – with regard to the reference to Australian trains. I thought that you were Queensland based and I was referring to QR – Queensland Rail. Connex lost their contract and it was taken over by MTR (Metro Trains Melbourne.) Over the years we have produced Annual Reports for most of the States’ Rails systems so I have a level of familiarity – I have done a lot of editing on them.

And yes, a Government owned corporation can most definitely be fined if they breach rule or law. Even when out to tender, the tender is for operation only, the Government still owns the rolling stock and other real assets.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@DarkScribe Thanks for the correction. I am actually in Sydney, but the trains here are so bad I have no idea how they hardly work.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Amtrack is a private company with an exclusive contract with the US gov’t. Just like the USPS is a private company that has a contract to do a public job.

Both may have started as gov’t agencies, now they are private and are governed by special exclusionary rules.

Many transit authorities also subcontract with private companies. It is cheaper than maintaining the fleet themselves.

YARNLADY's avatar

@WestRiverrat per wikipedia: The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak (reporting mark AMTK), is a government-owned corporation

WestRiverrat's avatar

@yarnlady It is a Government owned corporation. It is not the government. That one little word makes a lot of difference.

YARNLADY's avatar

Government = taxpayer

Response moderated
phillis's avatar

It might be ugly, but this is how progress is made. I’m all for it.

shf84's avatar

They have free speech rights so the law is on their side. They are full of shit but probably not right in the head either. If you cause a scene on the train its possible that both you and they will end up in jail it’s just not worth it. You could try to complain to the transit authority about what their doing.

anartist's avatar

There seems one obvious reason, exemplified by your question:
Everyone is hoping someone else will do it.
Why don’t you try telling them to cease and desist?
Then you may get a better idea of the answer.

ThrallKiller's avatar

As a guy who believes there is a God out there, I still find that sort of behavior appalling. I think we’re all welcome to our freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but there is absolutely no reason to be standing in the middle of a train preaching to everyone. Save it for the pulpit on Sunday mornings.

Response moderated
mattbrowne's avatar

I would seek allies and tell them to stop.

If this doesn’t work ask your allies to sing a song. I could imagine that even more people might join in. Singing is protected by the freedom of speech, right?

bob_'s avatar

It’s called freedom of speech.

Same reason some of us have to put up with questions about gender, for instance.

Brian1946's avatar

@mattbrowne

Good idea!

What song would you suggest?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@bob_ Very different – you see a q, you roll your eyes (thanks for that btw) and you move on…with this person, I am there for 45 minutes having to HEAR it.

bob_'s avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Think of it as a sociological experiment. But, if we go by your logic, what would happen when someone complained about having to share the subway with, say, black people, or gay people? How do we define what’s okay to be annoyed by?

I’d say that as long as we have to share the same car, we try to make the best of it.

ETpro's avatar

We’ve talked about the rights and wrongs of telling the guy to STFU, but that doesn’t really answer the question, “Why would you not tell the proselytizer to stop preaching on the train?” The answer is because I don’t have any authority to enforce that command. And rather than issue it as a command and then almost certainly have hiom demonstrate that truth before all my fellow riders, I would just ignore him.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Brian1946 – Yellow submarine perhaps?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@bob_ I wasn’t asking you to define it – I still think distrubing silence is a problem – black or gay people (if you want to hate them) just sit there. And we’re not dealing with what else might happen – we still have to deal with this one case. Whey should they be allowed to yell out this crap and everyone else knows how to control themselves?

bob_'s avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I know, I was asking you.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir They shouldn’t be allowed but obviously there is not way to enforce that nor am I advocating this – I just think more people should get up and say shut up.

Trissinger's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, WOW. I’m a Christian and I wouldn’t put up with that. (!) (And I wouldn’t put up with that precisely because I think its incredibly disrespectful to others to force my Scripture (or anything that I’m reading, for that matter) on anyone else.)

What I don’t get is why, in this post-modern age, doesn’t someone, anyone kindly tell this woman to be quiet? What’s the difficulty with that? I don’t get it. ... (Christians would never be able to get away with doing that in my province, the public would never put up with it.)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Trissinger Because nobody wants to be ‘that guy’.

Trissinger's avatar

I don’t have a problem with someone sharing their faith or non-faith with me. But no one should be forced to hear someone’s views. I would be ‘that guy’.

Aster's avatar

I wouldn’t stop them because, as others have said, you could be messing with crazy.
What I would love to have the guts to do is this: stand next to her with my own Bible and start reading from it much louder than she is. Continually. I wonder what she’d do then? Or, stand there and begin reading loudly from an Automobile Repair Manual. LOL
If I have to listen to preaching on a train I would really enjoy it if it were preaching from a pro. In other words, a tv preacher who is really good. That I’d like. You know; someone polished, knowledgeable and smooth. LOL !!

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