I think by now everyone knows – if not accepts (I suspect that the Catholic Church does not keep finding me where ever I move by coincidence) – that I am an atheist. As a child, I was not intellectual enough to understand the implications of religion, much less to choose actively to subscribe to one. Once those capabilities developed, I rejected all religious doctrine outright. I was a child of Christian parents, never a Christian; this is a very important distinction and the way we should regard all children of religious parents.
As a society, we’ve decided that religion is beyond reproach.
My dismissal of religion is not something I feel I need to defend. Writers and scientists more eloquent than me have made the case for atheism so passionately and so persuasively that anything I could contribute would be writing just to say something rather than writing because I have something to say.
But I do have something to say: something about my contempt for religion and its ramifications on this country. The state of the union is this: America is quickly becoming a nation of religious extremists no different from the religious extremists who have strongholds in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Afghanistan, et cetera. As Americans, we jingoistically tout ourselves as being “the land of the free,” and deprecate the oppressive governments in Islamic (and Jewish) countries.
But are we really all that different, all that free? No, we’re not, and it’s largely because the electorate and elected alike vote with their bibles and not their brains. Who in this country is free, exactly? It’s certainly not the women who have to fight for a constitutionally protected right to make decisions about their bodies; who are raped and abused in disproportionate numbers; who are often treated more like property than people and are murdered by their families for being “impure.” It’s definitely not the LGBTQ population who also has to fight for their constitutionally decreed equality and fight blatant discrimination at every level. It’s absolutely not the minorities who make up a drastic percentage of the US prison population. After all, racism is a legal mandate in the great state of Arizona, and a social norm just about everywhere else. Hell will have to exist and subsequently freeze over before atheists get a fair shake at anything. There are only two openly atheist elected congressmen, and, collectively, atheists are the least trusted group in America. Think about this: only rapists come close to matching atheists in perceived untrustworthiness. Allow me to place this in a personal context: religious people believe that I, an atheist, am less trustworthy than the man, a Catholic no less, who raped me. There are people who honestly believe that I will go to hell and he will go to heaven because he is “saved” and I am a “heathen.” I think we’ve just whittled “the free” down to white, heterosexual, upper-middle class, Judeo-Christian men.
And whence comes all these disparities? From religion. Sexism, misogyny, racism, homophobia, and religious discrimination are condoned in the Bible and other sacred texts alike, and people use these religious edicts as a cloak for oppression and bigotry. It’s one thing to hold beliefs, it’s an egregious thing to attempt to foist those beliefs on others, especially in an ostensibly secular state. I agree completely that Islamic nations are unjust, paternalistic, and dangerous societies, but I don’t agree that we are any different.
As an aside, a personal plea to my family and friends: stop denying my capability. When you said, “God must have been helping you” after I persevered through a very traumatic event during a very trying final semester, it angered me. It still angers me. Like hell. My success belongs to me; my fortitude carried me through disaster because I am a strong and capable woman, nothing more and certainly nothing less. Likewise, don’t tell me, “If [I] just believed in God, then [I] could believe everything is going to be ok.” How does that work out? Do the faithful never experience pain or loss or grief, and does everything always work out ok for them? More importantly, are you implying that being raped is punishment for being faithless?
Is that what you really believe?