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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Labels

I know I don't usually update on weekends, but there's something that's been getting under my skin for several days now.

There are billboards around the country that advertise the existence of secular groups. They all say something along the lines of "Don't Believe in God? You're Not Alone." Another says "Are You Good Without God? Millions Are."

These signs are vandalized, often within days of their being put up. And more than that, the people on whose property they are placed have been threatened. One man asked that the sign be moved from his property to a different location because he'd started receiving death threats.

Classy, Christian/Muslim/Jewish people who are doing this. Real classy.

People who claim their religion promotes peace, understanding and acceptance shouldn't be out threatening people and defacing a group's billboards solely because it presents a viewpoint they don't agree with. If you don't want to be in an atheist group, don't join it. But don't threaten the people in it just because they don't believe in your god. That is, first and foremost, immature.

It also violates the First Amendment, in the event that someone would try to prevent the existence of such a group or atheists themselves.

That isn't precisely what I wanted to write about, although I find it profoundly annoying.

What's gotten to me this weekend is the labeling I'm noticing.

I don't refer to religious people as anything derogatory. I might refer to extreme whack-outs as such, but I don't generalize an entire system of belief based on one or two examples of deranged behavior.

Despite the fact that I think religion is a force for a lot of negativity and evil in today's world, I don't call the religious believers evil, negative people unless I'm pointing to a specific example. Incidentally, if you'd like to see more than a few examples of the crappy side of religion, check out this blog called Deep Thoughts. Or read the news about how the Catholic church in DC is threatening to stop feeding the homeless if gay marriage becomes legal.

What gets my figurative goat is when someone calls me a religion-hater because I'm an atheist. There was a news story someone posted in my Twitter feed directed to "all you religion-haters" about the different levels of religion (I actually went and read the story, and it was nonsense anyway. A lot of justification and no actual logic whatsoever. That somehow made the insult worse -couldn't they have at least picked an article that made a good argument?).

My immediate reaction to being called a religion-hater is to say, "I'm sorry, excuse me, what did you just call me?"

I don't hate religion. I don't like most of the things religion does, and I do have some serious problems with the ideas espoused by religion, but I'm not a religion-hater. I resent being called that on a very personal level, too.

Labeling me as a religion-hater instantly puts me on the defensive in the conversation. I come into whatever discussion is being opened up feeling as though I have already been attacked, and my guard is up. I'm less willing to concede any ground in the conversation, and I'm far more likely to turn my back on it and just walk away. I won't have a discussion with someone who has no respect for me from the outset.

It assumes a lot about someone to label them that baldly without any recognition of their individual personality.

Another offshoot of that is the sudden surge in pro-Christian groups I see on Facebook -maybe it's just the people I'm friends with. I don't really care if you're "A CHRISTIAN AND PROUD." Good for you. That's your business. I'm not going to tell you not to be a Christian or that you should be ashamed of it.

I don't have a comment on your religion until it starts interfering with my life, my rights and/or the rights of other human beings. Outside of that...worship your left shoe if you want to. Be proud of that. I would have the same reaction to shoe-worship as I do to any other religion.

The thing that bothers me about the Christian-and-proud-of-it thing is that whenever I go to the groups and snoop around (because I'm nosy and that's what I do), I don't see fellowship. I don't see welcome. I don't see spirituality, friendliness, joy or giving. What I see is in-fighting, exclusion, nastiness and petty, very petty behavior.

I see discussion topics that say "Christian girls are more beautiful than atheist girls because..." with responses like: Christian girls have long hair, Christian girls aren't sluts, Christian girls don't hate, Christian girls are better people, Christian girls are more submissive to their men/God, Christian girls are virgins, Christian girls are more beautiful than atheists because atheists are immoral and wicked, etc. etc.

These comments are not coming from extremists or whack-jobs. These are coming from everyday people. Allow me a moment to dissect the above comment by comment.

  • Long hair. First off, I can see this one from a purely Biblical standpoint...but that also assumes that all Christian girls consider themselves unclean for the week of their periods, never eat shellfish or talk back to their parents, keep the Sabbath holy and stone those who don't and follow every single other outdated Biblical command for men and/or women. I know plenty of beautiful women, Christian and otherwise, who have short hair. Saying someone is going to hell or is spiritually flawed for having short hair is like saying they're going to hell for wearing a blue shirt on a Tuesday. It's ridiculous.
  • Hahahahahaha. Oh excuse me, was that inappropriate? Sorry. I went to a Catholic school, I had friends who went to a Catholic high school and my town has a lot of Catholics in it. I'm not singling Catholics out for the slut label, it's just a solid example. As a feminist, I object to the term slut on a very basic level, so I'm including guys in my reckoning of the promiscuity tally. Personally, what someone does with their body as far as sex goes is their own business -if someone wants to have sex, then I'm no one to judge them for it. However, from the standpoint of "promiscuity is bad/Satanic/unchristian," there are some people who are sadly misinformed about the sexual habits of their children and peers. If having sex outside of marriage gets you labeled as a slut, there are a whole lot of Christian sluts out there...and I don't think giving people guilt complexes about sex is healthy or moral. I think it's sick and wrong.
  • I have received more hatred from Christians (girls or otherwise) than any other group of people. Christians can be very open and accepting people, but they are every bit as capable of hating people as anyone else, regardless of what the issue is. I once got flipped off in a parking lot by someone who was going to Church (and happened to be in the wrong as far as the driving went), to give you a ridiculous example of Christian girls and their supposed lack of hatred. I'm not saying all Christian girls hate, just that they're capable of it -and many of them do it.
  • Christian girls are often no more moral than anyone else. That's a very subjective standard to hold people to, and I'd like to know what it means on a more specific label. Speaking from my own experience, however, as far as basic morality goes, no one group has the higher ground in everyday life.
  • Christian girls are virgins. Oh really? Since when. All of them, all the time, always? See the above comments.
  • The whole idea of submission makes me sick. I'll devote an entire post to that soon, so check back.
  • I'm an atheist. I'm neither immoral, evil nor wicked. I like to think I have a wicked sense of humor, but that's not really what they're going for. Atheism =/= amoral, evil behavior and it's that stereotype that drives so many of these groups.
I can't understand it, personally. Why am I, as an atheist, perceived as being Antichrist Jr.? I don't kill, steal, lie, rape, pillage, covet, deface, stone or otherwise harm anyone else. I don't encourage women to bow down before a man or anyone else, because that's dehumanizing. I consider myself to be a pretty moral person...I just don't worship your god.

If you want to have a conversation with me about religion, don't start it off by assuming that you can throw insults at me and not get a response to that. Making the assumption that because I don't believe your god exists also means I have no ethical code is going to set a very unpleasant tone for the conversation.

I don't hate your religion. I'd like it if you didn't hate me for not buying into it.

2 comments:

  1. Amen! Er, well, you know what I mean. Pass the pasta! ;)

    ReplyDelete