Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Letter to Christians

Dear Evangelical Christians*-

When I was 8 years old, I asked my mother what our religion was, and her reply was simply "our religion is that you don't get in anybody's face". This small statement has always made sense to me, which is why I do not tend to get very Richard Dawkinsy about my atheism/skepticism. For instance, I am not going to tell my 80 year old grandmother that a miracle of St. Anthony is not the reason she found some lost item. I am not going to tell someone whose mother just died that she's not up there in heaven or whatever waiting for them. That feels gross and wrong to me. I would never deliberately hurt someone just to further my own belief system. I don't seek to change anyone's mind or personal beliefs, and am very much in the "whatever gets you through the day" camp.

It would be kind of you to give the same sort of consideration.

It's hard for me to understand why you feel it is important to insist that people who are not followers of your religion abide by the rules of your religion. If you want to believe that the earth is 6,000 years old, I am totally fine with that. That is your religious belief, not mine. You personally believing that doesn't hurt me, but it is, nonetheless, a religious belief. One which you have no right to try and sail past the rest of us as being, in any way, grounded in science. You do not have the right to insist that schools teach this to children not of your faith. You may take your own children aside and say "Yes, this is what school is teaching you, but let me tell you about what I believe." and then give them the proper resources to research it for themselves. You may even request that they not be present for that particular lesson. You may also enroll your children in parochial schools that will not teach evolution. You may homeschool them. You may not, however, demand that children not of your faith be taught the tenets of your faith in public schools. It is apparent to me, and to all other non-Christians, that the point of this is not to ensure your own children's continued belief in Creationism, but to proselytize to non-Evangelical Christian children. School is not the time for that- it is not a science teacher's job to indoctrinate children whom you do not know with your personal beliefs. If you wish to proselytize, I suggest you stand on a street corner, or go door to door as the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses do.

We get it. Same-sex marriage is against your religion. La-di-dah. No one- literally, not one person in the whole country- is going to demand that your church marry a gay couple, or that you marry a person of the same sex. In fact, no one is demanding that your church marry anyone that is not a congregant of your church. Your issue with same-sex marriage is a religious one- and I am not going to tell you that you cannot believe that. I will, however note, that if your marriage could in any way be threatened by same-sex marriage, then obviously you've got more problems than that. Yes, for some people, marriage is a religious institution. Not so for others. I am an atheist, and I am perfectly free to get married should I choose to do so. Non-Christians get married pretty much all the time. If you do not believe in gay marriage, don't have one. You are free to not associate with gay people, just as they are free to not associate with you. You are free to disagree with people, but you do not have the authority to enforce your personal religious beliefs on those that do not share them. This is the equivilent of Jewish people trying to demand that non-Jewish people keep kosher, or of the Amish insisting we all give up buttons and electricity, or Jehovah's Witnesses trying to pass laws against blood transfusions or national holidays. Yes, you are the majority in this country, but that does not give you any more right than anyone else to insist that others follow your religion. I don't want to be a Christian anymore than you want to be a Scientologist.

The same goes for abortion. Over 75% of all abortions are had by women who identify as some kind of Christian. You deal with your own shit/glass houses first and then come talk to us. It is, once again, your religious belief that abortion is wrong. I could care less if you have whittled your anti-murdering commandment down to where it actually only applies to fetuses (as it seems most of you are in favor of war and the death penalty but opposed to gun control), or that you really don't seem to care too much about taking care of children once they exit the womb. That is not my business. My body, however, is my business. If you do not believe in abortion, then I suggest you don't have one.

Regarding environmental issues. I just read a thing about how some Christians in Florida were deeply upset over the government issuing some protection to the manatees. Why this is any kind of big deal really confounds me. Like, really, I get the whole thing about how god gave you dominion over the plants and animals, but is it really that big of a deal to maybe not drive a motorboat over where some endangered animals are living? Is it really going to decrease your quality of life in any way? Manatees are pretty cool. They've never done anything to you. I mean, even if the earth is just god's present to you... generally when people give you gifts, they like you to take care of them. For instance, if I gave you a lovely brooch for your birthday and you took and smashed it, I would find that to be a little insulting. While you may be sure that the apocolypse is nigh, the rest of us plan to be here for a while, so we'd like to take care of things. I promise you, should your god exist, he or she is not really going to be all that offended by your neighborhood recycling program.

As far as the argument that this is supposedly a "Christian Nation" goes- please note that we do not have any established religion. Whether or not the founders of our country were personally Christian or not (most of them were "Deists," but whatevs.) does not even matter (I mean, the founders of Greece believed in Zeus- you do not see modern day Greeks going around believing in Zeus simply because that's what people believed when the country was founded). None of them were saints. What they would personally feel about gay marriage, abortion, evolution, prayer in schools, etc. is about as freaking relevent as how they would feel about women having voting rights, a black man being president, the internet, or processed cheese. They are dead. They were also human beings- human beings with flaws, differing ideas, and totally weird fashion sense. Neither you or I can say what they would have said about our present culture. They were at least smart enough to know that, which is why they made the constitution a living document that was meant to change with the times. We are not living in colonial times, as evidenced by the fact that none of us are wearing powdered wigs. We are not living in Mayberry. In fact, no one in the 1950's was living in Mayberry- it was a fictional town filled with fictional people. You have about as much of a chance of living in Mayberry as you do living in Narnia or Oz.

Everyone has the right to an idea about what their own ideal world would look like. Unfortunately, odds are that your ideal society probably doesn't match up with mine, or with the person sitting next to you on the bus. So all of us have to make some kind of compromise in order to live together, and understand that someone else's beliefs don't diminish or take away from our own. The best we can all do is to be our own ideal person and act in accordance with our own personal ideals, values and morals. And just not get in anyone's face.


Miss Robyn Pennacchia

*I specify Evangelical Christians, because I just don't personally see many individual Catholics or most Mainline Protestant sects going around trying to force people to convert, or to adhere to their faith regardless of whether or not they believe in it. Also, they tend to not be so opposed to evolution. Yes, the Catholic Church just as weird about abortion and gay rights as evangelicals are, and it's done many things that I find absolutely abhorrent. Still, on the whole, as individuals, they're usually a lot less scary/intimidating for me to talk to, and- in my personal experience- a bit more openminded and aware of the fact that not everyone believes what they do. Oh, I do also recognize that there are plenty of born-again and evangelical Christians who do not oppose gay rights, or women's rights, believe in teaching Creationism in schools, or desire to drive motorboats over manatees for funsies. This is just for the ones that do.