Believe What You Will

You usually have to read the alt press to be made aware of attacks on non believers. This is why I was happy to see that ABC had reported on the events in Cranston RI and the ostracism of young Jessica Ahlquist. Atheists and agnostics are some of our societies favorite punching bags in public discourse. We can usually avoid out and out discrimination on an individual basis because, being the pragmatists most of us are, we don’t feel the need to announce our lack of faith in every discussion.

Still, this ill will directed at us by the general public takes its toll. I have never felt ashamed for not believing despite the constant barrage of religious iconography and ideals shoved down our throats. Ashamed or not though, I felt bullied and abused even by people I otherwise admired every time I was pressured into taking part in the “Lord’s Prayer” before a track meet. Jessica was taking a stand against that kind of pressure, so of course those whose position of supremacy was being questioned pushed back, as I wrote about in this blog piece.

What I find endlessly galling is the insistence on the religious right that somehow, our asking for a little respect is disrespecting them.  They cite tradition (so let’s bring back stoning, I believe that was a tradition at one point), they cite the majority rule (despite being against it when they are in the minority, which in this case, they really are), and they cite bogus claims (no one is denied the right to pray of their own volition in schools, just the power to force it on others by any means.)

I don’t care if kids pray in school. Nor do I care if you, based on your holy text, think being queer is wrong. I do begrudge you expecting others to bow to your beliefs, especially in light of the fact that they are ultimately beyond proof. All faith comes down to “just because.” While I cannot understand why anyone would choose to live their lives by “just because” I would never deny them the right to do so. What I do deny is the insistence that other people should have to live their lives on the basis of your “just because.”

It may be presumptuous but I believe I know where a lot of this comes from.  Non believers have grown as a percentage of the population in the last fifteen years.  Add to that the notion (perceived or real) that secularism even among religious folks is on the rise and it is easy to see why someone who believes that their view is “the inerrant word of God” would feel the need to lash out. If you truly believe that the Bible is “inerrant” then you don’t allow yourself much flexibility in your thought. If you don’t allow yourself much flexibility in your thought, then those that think differently must be in opposition to you which does not need to be the case if you let go of that whole “inerrant” thing. It is a good way to turn someone who is simply and innocently not like you into an enemy.

We don’t need to be enemies. I may not think that Mohamed moved a mountain, or that Christ brought Lazarus back from the dead, but that doesn’t mean I hate you for believing that. All I ask is for my right not to believe, and for you to respect that. Insisting that public funds be used to create monuments to your belief is not doing that, nor is threatening with violence my fellow non believers and myself when we demand that respect.

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