For several years, I have felt under attack from the Christian right. Granted, they don't intend to attack me personally, just every idea, every belief, every principle I hold dear. I was raised to respect others' opinions, to allow others their beliefs regardless of how silly or superstitious I perceived them to be. Throughout my life I have deferred to the sensibilities and sensitivities of those around me. I was raised, in short, to be tolerant, to be as accepting as possible of those people with whom I share a planet. In a culturally Jewish, practically atheist household, I realize now with some sense of irony, I was raised to behave in a manner very similar to that suggested by the character of Jesus in the second half of the old, magical fantasy novel the Bible.
When kids in grade school told me that I was going to Hell because I did not believe in God, my parents admonished me not to fight over it, not to argue the point. They told me that Christians find that offensive and there was no reason to actively offend people. I was not to use curse words in public as they offend some people. I was not to talk about politics because some people could be offended. I carried a lot of this sensitivity into adulthood. I have striven over the years to express my opinions gently, to couch them in good humor and have taken care, whenever possible to maintain the high ground. I have put effort into voicing my ideas without ruffling anyone's feathers.
Those with whom I disagree have never shown me the same courtesy. Telling a child that he will be punished eternally for his thoughts is cruel. Eliminating words from the common vocabulary, regardless of the social mores that prompt the action, is censorship unmitigated. I am offended by the basic precepts of religion, the idea that those who believe a certain thing will achieve a reward after death and those who believe otherwise will be punished. The premise that what happens after life is somehow more important than what happens during life strikes me as so absurd as to be laughable. That what we think or what mystic incantations we perform might hold more significance than the actions we take seems a way of dodging personal responsibility, not instilling it. That what invisible power we worship could outweigh our basic behavior toward one another I find so deeply offensive a concept that I am outraged to know that anyone believes it, much less passes it on to innocent children.
The neo-Christian agenda, that of Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Christine O'Donnell and the fundamentalist wing of the Republican party, seeks to take this country in a horrific direction. They believe so strongly in their particular brand of biblical law and sectarian governance that casually throwing around the expression "Christian Nation" feels to them like an affirmation of their commitment to the Constitution. Their facility for rewriting history allows them to believe that deists like Thomas Jefferson expressed the same warped interpretation of Christianity that guides their own actions. Genocide committed against Native Americans simply reflects a just and righteous aspect of the dominion given them by God. America's ugly history of slavery becomes a beautiful step on the sanctified path from African savagery to Christianized civility. Bigotry against homosexuals -- and make no mistake, homophobia is nothing more than a form of bigotry -- justifies denial of equal rights under the law because their big book of antiquated rules and stories includes a line or two in which their deity says he's put off by the thought of two men lying together. These deluded, demented believers have so thoroughly embraced a combative and activist sectarian mindset that when anybody asks for another belief system to be recognized they genuinely believe that war has been declared on their traditions. Under attack as they feel themselves to be, they defend themselves against the imaginary offensive by any means at their disposal. A multi-cultural spiritual center in a major metropolitan area resonates as a threat to the security of their Christ-loving homeland. A holiday greeting card that does not mention their deity by name enrages them as a blow struck in an imaginary war on Christmas. A scientific community that says the universe is older than their book does seeks to undermine the morality of their children by contradicting the literal word of God.
I, for one, am finished being polite. I am done trying not to offend people who offend me constantly and imagine they are justified in doing so because it is their duty to push their deity's agenda on the world at large. When a rabbi says, "How about putting up a menorah near that big cross?" they pull down the cross and say, "There's a war on Christianity." I will now call bullshit every time at the top of my voice. This is not a Christian nation and it never was. America is a secular, politically structured nation with no religious affiliation and complete religious freedom. It includes and welcomes Jews, Muslims, atheists, Hindus, Taoists, Shintoists, Pagans and whomever I'm forgetting to mention.
The truth has greater value than any individual's comfort. This applies to history, to economics and to scientific exploration. For decades America allowed slavery, which is morally objectionable. Homosexuality is a fact, not a condition or an illness or a lifestyle choice. Science has value and if someone wants to pretend that proven facts are wrong because those facts contradict their faith-based insanity, they are allowed to do so. But they are not allowed to foist their nonsense on society at large, not allowed to mis-educate children in the public sector. Nobody has any right to tell anyone else who to love or what rights should be denied to another person. All people are of equal inherent value regardless of race, preference, religion, nationality or personal wealth. To say otherwise on any of these subjects offends me. I will not say those in the neo-Christian movement have no right to say them because censorship also offends me and people are allowed to disagree. There is room in the world for a lot of ideas.
I will not stop saying these things for fear of offending neo-Christians because to remain quiet is to allow my beloved country to continue down the path of religious fascism.
I do not believe in Christ. I do not believe in God. If you do, I hope you will think about the precepts I have put forth here and recognize the possibility that your Christian beliefs are not really at odds with my atheist beliefs. It is possible that the neo-Christians have been using your own belief system to justify behavior that your prophet or your deity or your conscience would find objectionable.
I urge everyone to listen to his or her own inner voices. Check in with your own moral compass. When the reprehensible is suggested, no matter how well supported it seems to be by scripture, speak up against that which you know to be wrong. If a more decent and beautiful world, a world accepting of all people and all ideas, is offensive to some, that is a price I'm willing to pay. I'm pretty sure that a willingness to pay exactly that price for exactly that outcome is the underlying moral of the whole Jesus myth to begin with.