Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Least of Us

With the First Amendment, the Framers of the Constitution bridled Congress from making legislation which gives preferential treatment to any religious establishment; Likewise, Congress shall make no law which prohibits the free exercise of a religious faith or establishment-- for free exercise of one faith demands on some level the rejection of another.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .
From the First Amendment of the United States Constitution

For if Congress introduces legislation that gives any religious establishment power over the people, then Congress by default places prohibitions upon any other group which differs from the religious establishment in question.

What better barometer do we have for measuring the true level of our freedom as a nation than to investigate how minority groups are treated? Often the minority is the least popular, least powerful group whose rights are rarely realized to the same, full extent as the majority.

On that premise, I submit the idea that the treatment of the agnostic and the atheist in the United States is a gauge of our true state of liberty concerning matters of religious freedom. If the non-religious don't have freedom from religion in the same way that believers may embrace their faith, then I dare say only the members of the most popular religions truly have the right to enjoy their own religious beliefs to the fullest.

Whenever society decides that liberty and justice is not for all, the treatment that befalls the least of us will eventually become everyone's lot in the end.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Perhaps It's None of Your Business

On my way into the grocery story, I overheard a mom speaking with her son-- who appeared to be around the age of five or six. They were walking right along beside me, so I wasn't trying to eavesdrop. Their proximity made hearing this tidbit impossible to ignore. I've changed the names for privacy sake.
son: Tony is mean to me.
mom: Well, don't play with Tony . . .
son: I wasn't playing with him. He was just mean. I play with Sally.
mom: How is Sally doing? Did you ask her why she didn't come to church Sunday? Did you tell her we missed her?

Huh? Did you ask her why she didn't come to church? 

Admittedly, their conversation was none of my business. But perhaps, that notion answers her question just as well.

I wonder sometimes if the majority of issues between believers and non-believers could be solve simply by people minding their own business concerning matters of faith.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Storm is Brewing

A storm is brewing; I think I may be outed soon.

See . . . evangelical Christians have a duty to evangelize. As a former Christian, I was trained to share my faith, my mom was taught this way, my mother-in-law believes this and practices this, and passages like Matthew 28:19 imply this duty. Over and over, I've heard that parents are charged with teaching their children "the faith"; Christians who are seeking a spouse are admonished to avoid marrying non-believers (1 Corinthians 7) and convert their spouse if neither of them were in the faith before entering matrimony.

To make this duty towards evangelism more complicated, the various flavors of evangelical Christianity have their own outline of creeds and articles of faith which detail the preaching and obtaining of salvation and how to introduce the gospel to others. Some evangelical Christians can accept the differences of other Christians sects while other Christian groups cannot. So then, a strong drive to teach others about the correct Christianity can be seen in some believers. They will attempt to convert anyone outside of their belief system-- even other Christians outside of their specific denomination.

When I stopped looking through the lens of Christian duty, I found it curious when various Christians claimed they are under attack by secularism, the "new atheism", Islam or the government. I say this because many Christians are unaware that they sometimes go beyond simply sharing their faith; rather, they find themselves imposing it. And when non-believers (theist or not) push back in order to maintain their liberty to worship as they please (or to not worship at all), some Christians can become offended by that.

Since Christendom contains members who assume their faith is the only correct viewpoint, such believers tend to unwittingly posses a sense of entitlement for preferential treatment-- for no policy can exist outside the ultimate authority and bridle its overstep; for without their faith, there could be no good or correct policy in the first place. So naturally, these kinds of Christians feel attacked when others simply remind them that the world shouldn't be required to follow suit and adopt their religious faith.

All of which brings me to the problem at hand.

My mother-in-law approached my son about matters of faith recently-- behind closed doors. My son told me and his mom about this incident shortly after it happened. My mother-in-law cornered him and asked him if he believed in God. My son has told me in the past that he does not, but he responded to her question with an emphatic yes. He even recounted that he tried to use such a tone in his voice that made her inquiry sound crazy. She proceeded to tell him that he doesn't need his parents' permission to have a relationship with God. And well . . . I don't dispute that. What worries me is that her probing implies that she doesn't trust that we, his parents, are doing what we should and she feels now that it's her duty to impose Christian faith on our children since we don't seem to be doing so. I also hate to see my son caught in the middle of this issue. He's being pressured to deal with matters that shouldn't be of his concern, yet. Neither of my children deserve that.

My wife, on the other hand, became incensed to the point of planning a day to confront her over this issue. She seems quite ready to revel that she's done with church and God and wants her mother to leave our kids alone concerning matters of faith.

Me . . . I'm not ready to have that talk. I don't want my mother to know that I'm no longer a believer in Christianity-- let alone God. I don't want to deal with all the questions my mother-in-law will have as to how or why I could have come to be this way. And worse-- I'm not ready to deal with my mom's feelings at this point in our lives. I know I don't have a lot of time left with my mom relative to how long I've already had. I don't want to ruin what may be the last years of my relationship with my mom.

Also, I feel my son is grounded in what he does and doesn't believe. I am not opposed to him being a believer; my only hope is that he thinks for himself. I have not forbidden him from believing in God. I have only asked him to make sure that whatever group he connects to, he thinks for himself and chooses which ever deity he worships for himself. I am also teaching my daughter this way. So, I'm not too worried about my mother-in-law converting my children as much as her dragging them off to church when they have decided for themselves that they are non-believers as well. That will become hard to explain and forcing them both to play along for years to come isn't fair to them.

And finally-- right or not-- I feel that I would face discrimination upon being outed concerning my non-belief in God. My place of employment often appears in a local, Christian-based business magazine. Upper management assumes everyone is a believer and they take the liberty to forward pro-Christian e-mail chain letters with the tone that anybody is stupid who disagrees. I've seen non-believers lose their jobs for reasons that to me, seemed to boil down to their being too outspoken about their unconventional thinking. To be fair, I only think one person actually lost their job for being openly atheist on YouTube while in the same breath mentioning his place of employment. Dumb move. But, I think when you make yourself open about non-believe, that becomes a marker against you and may be the deciding factor should you ever find yourself being re-evaluated by management.

It seems an unfortunate destiny awaits me-- that duty bound Christians will continue to pry until they pry away the door to my closet. Waiting for this day is like watching a brewing storm; I worry about the damaged relationships the storm might leave behind in it's wake.