No such thing as a free breakfast

This morning I was in the McDonald’s drive-thru, waiting to purchase my Egg McMuffin and Diet Coke. When I arrived at the window, I was informed by the cashier that my meal had been paid for by the people in the van in front of me. The cashier then handed me a business card, informing me that the van’s occupants had instructed her to give it to me. The card is for the Greater Hartford Church of Christ in New Britain and invited me to “Join us on Sundays as we study God’s Word and his plans for abundant and fruitful lives.”

I don’t know what to think of this.

Should I be grateful to them for generously purchasing my meal?

Were their actions truly generous, or was this merely a recruiting campaign?

Does the Greater Hartford Church of Christ have a budget for this kind of recruitment?

If so, is this the best use of parishioner’s contributions?

I asked a friend about this, and she suggested that I simply appreciate the generosity, regardless of motive.

This seems to make perfect sense, except for this:

What if my benefactors had not been from the Greater Hartford Church of Christ?

What if they had been a Mormon fundamentalist sect promoting a polygamist center of study?

Or a cabal of Satan worshipers?

Or a group of Islamic fundamentalists?

Or leaders of an offshoot of Heaven’s Gate?

In these cases, you might not be as comfortable with this act of generosity and the attempt to recruit you to their cause. Yet each of these groups would be acting out of religious belief, just like members of the Greater Hartford Church of Christ.

And for an atheist, an agnostic, or any other non-religious person, does it make sense to distinguish one religion form another in terms of validity? Is there any difference between a religion that espouses transubstantiation and one whose members believe that God is riding on Halley’s Comet?

Both beliefs seem pretty ridiculous, though admittedly only one can get you killed.

In the words of a good friend upon exiting a church following the baptism of a friend’s child:

“When you don’t believe in God, all of these religions seem a little bit like cults. Don’t they?”

Perhaps not exactly cults, but I understood what he meant.

It’s easy to assume that your beliefs are sensible when they are yours, and it’s therefore also easy to assume that your beliefs are palatable to all, which was why I left the McDonald’s drive-thru feeling unsure about the act of generosity bestowed upon me.