Have you ever had a religious (or non-religious) seatmate who talked your ear off concerning issues of religion for several hours on a flight?
Late in the boarding process on my Ukraine International Airlines flight from Kiev to New York last week, a Haredi Jewish gentleman entered the aircraft and took a seat next to me. He greeted me and I greeted him back but that was the extent of conversation.
We took off, I ate, and fell asleep for seven hours. A FA gently woke me up over Maine (upon request) to begin the pre-arrival meal service about 90-minutes prior to landing. As I took pictures of my food, my seatmate asked me why.
I explained this blog and he then began telling me about his faith, without really any transition to the topic of religion. I listened for the next hour and a half. It is my understanding that there is no proselytizing in the Jewish faith, but this came close. Every time I attempted to interject my own thoughts on the issues he discussed (mostly Old Testament matters) he interrupted and was not clearly not interested in what I had to say.
Several years ago I traveled with my uncle and brother from Sydney to Los Angeles on United. Our upgrades to business had cleared in the lounge in SYD so we were unable to sit together, though were able to score three window seats in consecutive rows on the upper deck of the 747-400.
Onboard, I found my seatmate was a very well-educated, very-wealthy woman from Aspen, Colorado. I never initiate small talk but will usually engage and this woman began asking me questions. After she found out I had worked in the White House, she began to go on a rant about global warming, most Americans being scientifcally-illerate, and eventaully “the idiocy of most religion”. She claimed to be a recent convert to Buddhism and added–
I hope you don’t disagree with any of this. I have a PhD in biology and have studied all the world’s religions, you know. You don’t want to get into a debate with me.
No lady, I don’t. I don’t want to even talk to you.
Of course I did not say that and don’t think I ever gave her an indication of my religious or political leanings (other than working for the “wrong” administration as a 21-year-old just looking to build his resume). She didn’t care anyway. She just wanted to tell me hers.
Two real-life anecdotes from two very different people. One thing in common: talking but not listening.
The people who say all paths converge on the top of the mountain are rather presumptious — who has a view of the top of the mountain? Thus, I understand and can even appreciate when people are adamant about the exclusivity of their belief system and even want to share it with others.
What I am not okay with is anyone who is so arrogant that they will not even stop to have a conversation. I am also not okay with someone continuing to proselytize when told to stop, especially on an airplane where there is no escape.
Have you had a good or bad experience concerning religion discussion on an airplane? Please share your stories below.