They are part of the national fabric that holds our country together. They contribute to America in many ways, and deserve the same respect as any of us. I pledge to spread this message, and affirm our country’s principles of liberty and justice for all.
Posted by Anni on Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
I am not a religious person. When I was a child, my parents encouraged me to attend religious events, to find my own way. I went to a Catholic church for a while, then to a synagogue, then to a mosque. I read the Bible, the Quran, the Popol Vuh, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Torah. In the end, I couldn’t decide which story made the most sense. Why should I believe in Jesus over Zeus? I realized that, for me, evidence-obsessed as I am, the thing that made the most sense was no story at all. Sometimes I wish I had a shared story with a group of people, so we could all feel connected. For me, the lure of religion (and please forgive me if this is sacrilegious) is more about people, friends and neighbors, than it is about God. Though I do feel connected to other non-religious people, it’s informal and we don’t have a place of worship.
Atheists get a bad rep sometimes. People think we’re anti-religion and that’s usually not the case. I deeply respect people who have found a religion that speaks to them, that feels true. I think we are all trying to make sense of a maddeningly dynamic and changeable world and religion is often a wonderful way to do that. It also offers such a strong sense of community and common purpose, something many non-religious people struggle to find.
An Atheist billboard promoting the separation of church and state:
Being non-religious has also given me an unaffiliated view of the role religion plays in our culture. For example, I find it deeply hypocritical that every single one of our presidents has been a Christian. The separation of church and state is a myth. Christianity and, more specifically, believing in the Christian God, almost seems like a prerequisite to being an American. The presidents stand up there and talk about God and I feel disenfranchised—a president should not be assuming his entire population shares his religious beliefs. It’s insulting and, worse, frightening. If we are all truly free to believe what we choose, why is our government openly choosing to endorse a specific belief structure?
In this context, Islamophobia seems based just as much on an ideological fear of a different religion as it is based on any act of terrorism. We have an African-American president. Gay marriage is legal in some states. Yet, if we listen to people like Rick Santorum or Rick Womick, a group unified by a common religion is still a “danger” to our way of life. Yes, ideology is different from sexual orientation or race, but it is no less deserving of our respect.