I usually peruse sfgate in the morning, to get an idea of what’s going on in the world. Especially when you work in the service industry, it’s a good idea to be able to say “oh and I hear the weather down there has been awful!” or “there was a great article in the Chron about the neighborhood street fair, did you go to that?” It makes people feel all warm and fuzzy and important inside. Furthermore, reading the Chronicle allows me to pretend for a few moments that I don’t live in a vacuum.
However, reading the Chronicle comes with perils. I had to stop getting the print edition because the letters to the editor and that damn right wing piece of shit columnist they have for balance were raising my blood pressure. By reading the online edition, I can usually skirt the “journalism” that I know will offend me for sheer stupidity. However, I do now and then like to read about the stupid things people do (otherwise I would have no idea what was going on in this nation, politically). So this morning I read an article about atheists.
So here’s the thing, about me, as the reader. I was baptized Eastern Orthodox. I consider myself currently to be agnostic. I think that Jesus Christ was a really excellent person, and that his lessons of love and respect for fellow men should have been taken to heart. I think it’s unfortunate that Jesus was persecuted and ultimately murdered for being who he was. I usually observe the Lenten fast. However, I also think that Mohammad was a very interesting person, and I especially am fond of his beliefs about kindness to animals. (A tale about Mohammad says that one afternoon, when getting up to teach lessons, he realized that his cat Muezzin had fallen asleep on his sleeve. Rather than disturb the cat, he cut off his sleeve.) I also, however, think that the lessons of Buddha are very important. I think you get my point. I wouldn’t term myself an atheist, because I am hesitant to reject the existence of God, and I have a great deal of admiration for the prophets. But I can sympathize with the atheist position, and I would like to see a truly secular government, for the sake of the many religions that coexist here.
So here I am. Reading the atheist article. And being, quite frankly, disgusted. Because there’s a movement among the atheist community that wants to liken being atheist to being gay or lesbian, Jewish or black. The author of the article seemed sympathetic to the cause as well: “30 of the Bay Area’s “out” atheists were recasting themselves as the protagonists of America’s newest civil rights struggle…As they described the strain of being openly atheistic in an increasingly religious culture…”
So look people, here’s the thing.
I don’t think it is reasonable for atheists to compare themselves to gays and lesbians pre-Stonewall. I don’t think it’s ok for them to compare themselves to gays and lesbians now. Because to my knowledge, nowhere in the United States will an atheist be killed for being atheist. Nowhere in the United States is “coming out” as an atheist a dangerous political act which could be life-threatening. Atheism is a choice. You can’t readily identify an atheist by looks, like you can an African-American or a member of the Hispanic community. Atheists were not enslaved by upper class white assholes in the 1800s. Atheists are not being paid under the table to clean the houses of upper class white assholes today.
“Atheist” does not carry the same social connotations that “dyke” does, and I’m sorry kids, but that’s the way it is. We don’t need an “atheist pride” movement, because atheists are not being oppressed, damnit.
Now, I may occasionally make fun of overt religious gestures in the United States, and bitch with good nature about religious symbolism in the government, and I am bothered that conservative Christian morals are dictating the actions of much of our legislature. But I do not think that the United States is excessively religious. We do not exist under Sharia. No one is being put to death for not believing in the state religion. There are not ghettos filled with atheists anywhere in the United States, to my knowledge. And yes, most of the members of our government are religious, and most of those religions are sects of Christianity, and that’s because traditionally in the United States, that’s where the base of power is seated. That’s because, yes, if you run as an atheist in the Bible Belt, you will not win. But you don’t really need to fake it, either. I don’t see most of our government behaving in a very Christian way, after all.
I think sometimes people forget that when someone says “I will pray for you” or “God bless you,” that it is meant ultimately as a gesture of love. I am not in the least offended when conservative Christians tell me they will pray for me in regards to my bisexuality. I am honored that they would offer a prayer to their God on my behalf, and I hope that in their communion with God, wisdom will be exchanged. Prayer is a private matter between God and the supplicant, and who am I do dismiss someone’s choice of personal communion?
And I am really not a fan of this white middle class “I want to be oppressed too!” trend that I see going on. Because you know what? We aren’t being oppressed. We have it pretty fucking good. We get lines of credit (at dangerously high interest rates which border on usury for the lower middle class), decent jobs, and a lot of social power. Us white ladies have a little harder, but we’re not doing as badly as, say, the Mexican cleaning ladies at one of my previous jobs. I don’t understand why the white middle class is so into being oppressed. I really don’t. Conversations with my African-American friends have me pretty well convinced that social oppression sucks, in every sense of the word. Even when you are participating in a pride movement, even when you are fighting for your civil rights. Black is beautiful, but sometimes white is a lot simpler. While I don’t regret being obviously marked as “youth” and participating in youth movements, I’m stoked that I am capable of passing now. That doesn’t make me any less dedicated to working for youth rights, but it does mean I can have a respectable job and make some money while I do it. I had a taste of social stigma, and found the flavour decidedly not to my liking. At least my other social kinks are not as obvious to the eye, so I can pick and choose who knows about them–which is, yes, a conscious choice to avoid oppression, but it’s also because every facet of my being doesn’t need to be on display all the time. I don’t need to be forcing my out and proud self on others constantly or be labeled a traitor to the movement. All of the aspects of my personality make me who I am, but all of them don’t need to be on display all at once. (Which is good because it would make dressing every day a nightmare.) Sometimes it is better to exercise your freedoms in respectful ways. I take my shoes off when entering a mosque, even though I am not Muslim. I don’t feel oppressed in the process. In order to function as a society, sometimes individual members must make personal sacrifices for the common good, and those do include being respectful of others. I have never been treated in a disrespectful way by a Christian, even when engaging in religious dialogue. I’m sure others have, and that is unfortunate. But the way to combat that is not found in being a dick about religion.
While I’m sure that in deeply religious parts of the country, being overtly atheist may be a bit uncomfortable, out here on the coasts we don’t really care all that much about your religious leanings. But there are an alarming number of people, even on the coasts, who are troubled by queers and blacks. Especially black queers. Thems dangerous! Do we remember when Gwen Arujo was killed? Good. If you’re so into being oppressed, maybe you can come back as Kurdish in your next life, ok? Oh, wait, you don’t believe in next lives.
Just get over yourselves, my fellow honky friends. Our time for oppression is not now, unless the black power movement makes some serious strides in the next few years. Or the lesbian liberation front pulls out a serious can of whupass. Instead of whining about your oppression, why don’t you go and see if there’s something you can do for people who are, you know, actually oppressed, ok?