Three Things that Make THIS Atheist Angry:
I’ve seen a disturbing and growing trend lately on social media and writing sites. These things are not new, and they’re not overly prevalent now than in the previous decades, but as I see them growing in my news feed and in articles, they’re starting to seriously weigh on my chest and cause continual frustration.
Is it Privilege or Persecution?
1. Persecution and Attack vs. dissent of traditional Christian Privilege.
I see more and more Christians on a daily basis claiming that Christianity is being persecuted in the United States, and they need to fight back to keep it from being taken over by an immoral secular system. News flash, Christians – this is a secular country. It is NOT a theocracy, although I acknowledge that many of you would like to make it one. This country was founded on principles of religious freedom – and if religious freedom is to exist at all, it HAS to include freedom from religion as well. The freedom to not have any religion at all is essential to being free to have any religion that you’d like. Christians nation-wide are claiming in growing numbers that they’re being attacked. They cite the fact that mandatory school prayer has been removed from public schools, and spin it to say that Christian children are prohibited from praying in school. They even have the gall to say that marriage equality is persecution of Christian values and morals, while they simultaneously try to restrict and rescind the rights of others. They cite a growing number of atheist and humanist bloggers, who criticize Christianity, Islam and every other religion as ‘attacks’ against them.
Let me explain something. Criticism and even open mocking is not an attack against you. Being beaten to a bloody pulp and being tied to a fence post in the middle of nowhere and left to die – THAT is being attacked. Unless, somehow, that person is gay – in which case it isn’t exactly justified, but they can understand the reaction of two young straight guys who claimed that the gay guy hit on them which prompted them to that drastic course of action.
If you want prayer back in public school, take a moment to think of the ramifications. If blanket prayer is once again mandatory in public schools, it’s not just going to be Christian prayers that are being mandated. Would you like your Protestant, Catholic or Jewish child coming home and sharing the story about how they had to pray to Mecca several times throughout the school day – and that it was mandatory? No? But you wanted prayer back in public schools, right? Did you think that would ONLY apply to Christian prayer? Not only Christian prayer, but your particular DENOMINATION of Christian prayer? No, sorry. If you want mandatory prayer back in public school, it opens the door to all prayers of all religions, and if you try to bar Islamic prayers, you’re claiming special privilege, which is not allowed under the Constitution.
Christians will say that Christian prayer was “traditional” so that should be the only type of prayer allowed. Really? According to “tradition” ‘In God We Trust’ was not on our money until the Red scare in the middle of the 1900’s. If we’re going by tradition, it should absolutely be removed, right? No? Once again, Christian privilege rears its ugly head. The problem is that Christians have been getting away with so much throughout the country that they’ve gotten the mistaken impression that it’s their right, and it lends validation to their particular religious beliefs. Now that Christian privilege is being challenged more and more often, Christians see it as persecution rather than a challenge on the grounds of the separation of church and state.
Tolerance and Respect
2. Marriage Equality is just that. Equality. It is NOT special privileges for homosexuals.
Unbeknownst to many Christians, gay marriage was never illegal until recently. Once upon a time, a gay couple went into a courthouse, looking to get a marriage certificate. They went before a judge, who happened to be a Christian, who refused to grant them a marriage license because it conflicted with his religious beliefs. Thus the fight for marriage equality began. States began passing laws against marriage for same-sex couples. Gradually, those laws are being overturned at the state level, and the Defense of Marriage act has already been overturned federally. Christians can fight this tooth and nail, and cry “abomination” and “destroying the sanctity of marriage” all they want. But we’re still winning. Your beliefs about homosexuality based on your religious book don’t matter. Let me repeat. They DON’T MATTER. Laws are not based on religious ideologies – at least they’re not supposed to be in THIS country. The fact that they have been in the past does not make them right. Marriage is a legally binding contract between two consenting adults. Homosexuals are not demanding that we be allowed to get married in your church. In fact, we wouldn’t want to. What we want is to be treated equally to everyone else. That means that you cannot legally discriminate against gay couples without consequences. If you don’t like homosexuality, don’t participate in a homosexual relationship. Claiming that giving gay people the right to get married is somehow cheapening or destroying your marriage probably means that it wasn’t that strong to begin with. Your marriage does not affect me. My marriage does not affect you. It really is that simple.
Do Christian people really want to see laws based on religious beliefs? Possibly – if they are laws based on their own religion. I doubt they would feel the same way if, say, Sharia law was enacted in the United States, making it legal to perform “honor killings” by stoning of a sexually active daughter or a homosexual. I doubt they would like to see the punishment for theft be chopping off a hand. This is again a perception of Christian privilege. They want THEIR religious beliefs transformed into legal precedents, but no one else’s.
If gay people were getting special rights, they would be asking to be exempt from taxes – as Ricky Gervais pointed out – like churches do. All we’re asking for is the same rights that everyone has – the ability to marry the people that we love, whether you like it or not. Might I also mention that until relatively recently, interracial couples were not allowed to get married and could be imprisoned for simply being together. That changed, despite “tradition”, and we’re a better society for it. Marriage equality is going to happen, and it’s happening sooner rather than later. You’re free to think that it’s disgusting. You’re free to decline any invitation that you may miraculously receive for a homosexual wedding – and we’re probably glad that you decide not to show up. You can disagree with it to your heart’s content, and decide that we’re going to burn in hell – but legally your opinion and your holy book have no standing. There are a lot of laws that I disagree with, but they exist anyway. Slap a smile on your face, deal with it, and go about your day.
3. Blatant disregard for the separation of church and state:
Recent legal challenges have come to light from atheist and humanist groups against Christian symbols on public lands, and in many of these cases, the atheists have won. Why? Because the separation of church and state exists. The ten commandments do not belong in a public courthouse, any more than the laws of Islam or Mormonism belong in them. Counties and cities cannot legally erect a nativity scene on public/government owned property to the exclusion of all other religious or secular displays. If an atheist, or a Jew or a Muslim applies to be given a spot alongside the nativity set and their application is DENIED, it is not equal – it is favoring one religious expression over another, which is exactly what the 1st amendment was designed to avoid. I’ve heard it argued that it only applies to various Christian denominations, and not to other religions, but that’s absurd. Either all beliefs get equal treatment, or none of them do. Would Christians like to see a Muslim display on government lands? They violently opposed the construction of a community center and a Mosque blocks away from Ground Zero. I doubt they would be pleased. Because of this hypocrisy being challenged, a Satanic monument is going up in Oklahoma beside a display of the ten commandments. If it’s okay for one, it’s okay for all, and while I don’t care for Satanism any more than I care for any other religion, I understand the point that is being made by erecting it, and I agree with the premise behind it. Personally, I would like to see no religious iconography on public lands, but if it’s going to exist, it has to be given equal treatment under the law – regardless of whether people agree with it, appreciate it or not.
I don’t hate religious people. I do hate some of the mentality that religions help to create and foster – and have done for centuries. Religion is divisive and exclusive, and it drives more people apart than it ever brings together. For Christianity specifically, it has been like that since its inception. In order for society to evolve, the Christian church had to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the dark ages, and it was faced with a choice. Evolve or die. It chose to evolve. Practices once mandated by the church are now condemned. A new spirit of the Church was born – but it’s still divisive. I see Christians of varying denominations going at each others throats far more than I see Christians or atheists going after each other. It’s once again time for religion to evolve if it’s going to survive. I understand that religion gives comfort and peace to many people. I don’t want to force people away from it. I would never advocate legal prohibition against religious beliefs, but I do believe that something is pervasive and divisive poses a danger for continued growth as a species – and as a society at large.
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© 2014 Julie McFarland