First: I do not think that christians are not persecuted in this country in any way.
Second: The only reason I don’t feel like a complete ass for hot-taking here is that I’m kind of on the outside. I’m not rejected, I’m not coolly rejecting the mainstream, though. I just genuinely do not know what I believe. (I don’t have any illusion that this makes me anything close to a neutral observer).
Third: Religion is a topic that I actively avoid discussing; it’s one of the few topics that always found too personal to discuss until I was very close to someone.
The one thing about which I had cold feet before getting married was religion. I was a christian who kept my beliefs to myself, and my ex (at the time we married) was an agnostic who kept his beliefs to himself. We were able to come to an agreement about how we’d handle religion with our children, so I was able to make peace with it.
Over time, his beliefs went from agnostic to atheist. That really didn’t make any difference in terms of relationship; I viewed it as him settling into listening to his truth. However, in the last few years, he became increasingly self-righteous and mocking of christians especially…but also of all people who believed in God. I understand that this was part of him dealing with the anger that some people experience when they realized that they had stifled their core spiritual beliefs because they were raised to think that it was unacceptable to believe that.
However, I never understood how he could be in love with me and have so little respect for that part of me as a person. I wanted him to believe what he believed, but be open-minded enough to not call me an idiot or try to convert me. I wanted him to feel that his truth was his truth, mine was mine, and it was okay as long as we weren’t hurting anyone else with our beliefs.
Obviously, this rant was propelled by that old wound.
I was raised Southern Baptist. I believed all of the “big picture” stuff–the existence of God, Jesus being a wise miracle-worker, and heaven. There were many details I didn’t believe in (pre-marital sex, drinking, cursing, abortion, and homosexual love as sins). There were small- and big-picture things I questioned–in particular, I wasn’t sure that I believed in hell. There was one big-picture thing that I definitely didn’t believe in: I didn’t believe that we were “right” and that others were “wrong” and/or going to hell.
None of my beliefs were a problem for my church. They were big problems with my parents, but my parents weren’t Christianity, so I never felt the need to reject the church in order to reject the teachings with which I disagreed.
At my core, I believed in God and Jesus as providers of hope, strength, and a happy ending via a reunion with the people we loved who had died. Why did I believe this? Because this is what I could live with.
Also at my core, I believed that whatever other people believed was true. I couldn’t explain how that could be possible, but I think that people’s religious beliefs align with what they can live with. Most of all, I know that I know nothing, and I wouldn’t dare to have the profound arrogance that is required to be certain. I don’t trust anyone’s indication that they are “right” in terms of spiritual beliefs.
I’m going to stick with christianity and atheism here. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and atheism are the most prominent religions in my country right now. Religious organizations are privileged because of tax laws. Jewish people experience horrendous individual discrimination. Muslims experience individual, institutional, and structural discrimination based on their religious beliefs. Christianity is privileged because people in power make decisions that affect everyone in the country based on beliefs that are associated with (but not inherent in) believing in God and Jesus as transcending being human. Christians and atheists do not experience discrimination based on their religious beliefs, so this is my focus.
I don’t think christians should profess their correctness. Neither should atheists. I think that it’s critically important that people like Neil deGrasse Tyson (and anyone else with reason–regardless of religious beliefs) shout at the top of their lungs the things that can be proven. However, no one can yet prove or disprove the existence or absence of a higher being. Can’t we just admit that spiritual beliefs–or absence of them–is like taste in music? There are many things you can point out as being worthwhile or absurd about a song…but whether or not it’s a part of you is unexplainable and ineffable. I feel the same way about religious beliefs. Whatever conclusion people come to re: the existence of God has to do with what they can live with.
God might exist.
God might not exist.
There are infinite possibilities even outside of that debate.
It’s possible that literally every person on earth is “wrong” in their spiritual beliefs, and the truth is something that no one has even considered.
It’s possible that every one of us is right, too. How could that be? I don’t know. I just know that I don’t know everything, so it’s possible that things that seem mutually exclusive could coexist.
I understand why atheists are soured on christianity. Prominent people have given so many reasons for this. Also, if the idea of a supernatural being having control over all of us just doesn’t resonate with you, I can see thinking people who believe that are blind. But I still can’t quite grasp truly loving someone and having nothing but contempt for a large part of them, even if other people who have some of that in common are complete monsters.
I don’t think anyone needs to be converted to different spiritual beliefs. I think the people who have power need to be put in check with MUCH stronger boundaries regarding church and state, vigilance to make sure our educational system is teaching only things that are historically and scientifically accurate, and a “live and let live” attitude for people who don’t allow their spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof) to impinge on anyone elses’ rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I think that individuals need to be kind and respectful to the individual people in their lives even if they disagree with their spiritual beliefs–unless they’re being asshole. Then, they need to push back. This is true whether the person is a self-righteous christian or a self-righteous atheist. Self-righteous atheists are not privilege, but that doesn’t mean being a judgmental asshole about it has no effect at all on the people who are close to you.
On a larger level, everyone needs to push back even more against people who expand the scope of their beliefs to include things like abortion and homosexuality that have ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING INHERENT RELATIONSHIP TO BELIEVING THAT THERE IS A DEITY THAT SENT HIMSELF IN HUMAN FORM TO TURN WATER INTO WINE. I know that christians are to blame for making those terrible and dangerous connection, but atheists’ whole point is to have reason. Still, too much energy mocking people who believe in magic (even the harmless ones) like a 16 year old kid in the suburbs who tweets provocative anti-religious and LaVey quotes accomplishes nothing. Our country does not have an official religion, so religious-based legislation is null and void. My uneducated opinion is that relentless focus on that is crucial.
I don’t think more or less of anyone because of what they believe in terms of deities or the meaning of life. I envy people with religious beliefs, because I don’t find the loss of my beliefs to be freeing at all–it makes me miserable. I probably wouldn’t be miserable if I were arrogant to be sure that I’m “right,” but that is something that will never do. I’d rather be miserable than an asshole.
I wish everyone else found religious beliefs to be personal enough to only be discussed openly with people you trust, but the world doesn’t revolve around me, and I freely admit that I don’t know a fucking thing. I would love to discuss this with or simply listen to anyone who finds me worth the voice usage.