Why are we taught to hate others? I can remember being taught fear and hate from the same people who claimed to be Christians. My grandparents were amazing people, fought in WW2, raised three kids, and were highly respected by their community. But I remember being chastised for having a black friend when I was still in grade school. This wasn’t a small comment but instead was in front of my entire family at a thanksgiving dinner. Black people were not allowed in our lives except if they were on one of our football teams and this was reinforced through my parents and siblings. My eyes were opened through years of service in the army and as I deal with my family I can see their wrongs. So why force your kids into a religion on Sunday and then throughout the week shelter them from diversity and instill racism? I believe its all rooted in control through fear. How much time is spent teaching children of the rewards of heaven vs. the punishments of hell? I know that here in Indiana I was told I would burn in hell more often than I would go to heaven. And this focus on hell as eternal punishment was rooted in a society of fear. My point is described in Pascal’s Wager/Gambit where Pascal rationalized that if you cannot know if there is a god, heaven, and hell until after you die then its better to error on the side of caution and go to church. Which makes me wonder how many Christians are really just lying to themselves and society as a means to play it safe so that they can get into heaven or more importantly escape hell? What if the vast majority of the population is only acting to make their parents happy and the cycle is just repeated every generation? We know that church attendance has been dropping over time excluding the C&E Christians we described on our last blog. How long till social pressure to be Christian or any religion is no longer the majority? Nigel Barber theorized in this article that in the year 2038 atheists will defeat theists. His argument is that atheists are born out of developed countries where the standard of living is high so the people do not have to pray for rain, food, or answers. And this is an interesting argument. Not just because it has a happy ending for the world but more specifically I think it ties directly into the role social pressure has in society.
In 1865 the US outlawed slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment. It took another 99 years for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to give true freedom to non-whites. The first event took the bloodiest war in our history and the second took 99 years of repression and hate to be overcome. These are huge milestones in our society as we started to grow up and leave behind the ignorance of the past. But as I stated above, racism is still alive in our society, its just not openly tolerated by the law or the majority. Now we are in the middle of a new change where the LGBT community is fighting for equality against hate. In this article the stance of POTUS Obama towards gay marriage is explored. And the fact I find just shocking is that he didn’t equate the struggles of the black community in those 99 years to the struggles of the LGBT community. It is mentioned several times that the president’s opinion evolved over time. That statement is probably just a lie and what really happened is that New York passed a same sex law showing the country that times are changing. Obama then was placed in the spotlight by his VP’s stance and didn’t want to lose the image he has as a progressive president. My point is that social pressure drove the president to be against or neutral to gay marriage and then drove him to be for it. The people who marched in the streets for civil rights and the images of their pain drove society to change. In the 1990’s when the LGBT community started fighting for equality it was at first met with overwhelming forces against it. But as it became more socially acceptable to be gay the battle is starting to turn. My racist grandparents had a gay son who was initially kicked out of the family but they eventually accepted him, kind of. And therein lies the hypocrisy of the Christian belief structure. They teach to accept and forgive with one hand and cast you out for not complying with the other. Its okay to be gay but not okay for you to be gay and get married. Its okay for you to be black just not okay for you to associate with whites. All of these statements are rooted in fear of change. Change that might mean the world isn’t as cookie cutter as they would like to believe. Yet change continues to happen and it drives what is socially acceptable so that the majority can accept it and not feel like an outsider.
Unlike the struggles of the black community or the LGBT community, the atheist community does not have to fight for basic rights. That is unless you fall into another disparaged group. So what are we fighting for? I think some of what we are fighting for would be the separation of church and state, the end to religion influencing politics, and acceptance. Where we differ is that unlike the black and LGBT community the atheists will actively seek to disprove religion and recruit theists to join our ranks. For those of you reading this and rejecting my statement that we act to refute and recruit my point is that its not what you are, its what people perceive you to be. Society wasn’t scared that being black would spread through literature or touch. Society is scared that openly accepting gays will allow their children to have a higher probability of being gay. This is the change they fear, that if they allow gay marriage that the flood gates will open and homosexuality will spread like a plague. The Christian right still believes being gay is a choice. And although that isn’t the case, it is their belief that it is a choice that can act as a road map to the fight ahead for atheists. Being an atheist is a choice, some may be forced into or brainwashed into a religion as a child but unlike being black or gay, choosing not to believe in god is a choice we make every day. The Christian right will fight back against our acceptance into their homes as we represent the biggest fear they have; there is no heaven and more importantly there is no hell to judge people into.
PS: Its LGBT pride month and specifically gay pride week here in Indiana. Go support your local LGBT community!
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