Playing the Victim

This is in response to a friend’s comment about an editorial I posted on Facebook (a great forum for stirring controversy, apparently). I am a closet Christian by Ada Calhoun begins by relating the author’s experiences of covering up her Christianity in New York City. Odd, I’m sure, since NYC is the largest American city with the most religious houses of worship. But Calhoun thinks that, since she’s a liberal with liberal friends, she can’t possibly be a proud Christian. Nevermind the fact that plenty of liberals also wear their religion on their sleeve. The Panel Study of American Religion & Ethnicity cites 26.5% of those participating in its poll as having liberal religious views, and 37.4% as leaning to the left. Of those confirmed liberals, almost 40% consider themselves “very liberal.” Calhoun also uses the Panel Study of American Religion & Ethnicity to validate one of her points, but more on that later.

So my friend notes that Calhoun isn’t playing the victim here since her points seem to be valid. And my belittling of the editorial adds to the “outrageous vehemency of the anti-religious.” I’ll admit it: I am a lot more vocal than most about my atheism. And when a suppressed, discriminated minority begins speaking up for itself, I can see how some would interpret that as “vehement.” But that doesn’t mean we’re not correct.

But on to those points that seem to be valid. Here they are:

1.“All of us need help with birth and death and good and evil, and religion can give us that. It doesn’t solve problems.” Yes, but it definitely creates problems.

2.“[Closeted Christianity] definitely exists in Manhattan, some Democratic corners in Washington, and I’d bet parts of Northern California.” Really? Manhattan, where just today I saw a woman praying on a rosary in the subway and walked by 3 churches in a 4 block radius? And DC, where there is only one open atheist in Congress, Pete Stark from CA? Not to mention the whole world of politics, where almost 50% of Americans would never vote an atheist into the Oval Office and religious people recently tried to usurp open atheist Cecil Bothwell from his elected position as Asheville, NC city councilman. Why? Because the NC state constitution, plus at least 6 others, bars atheists from holding public office.

3.“The Panel Study of American Religion and Ethnicity asked people how they felt about those outside their close friends and family knowing they were religious. About 2 percent said they didn’t want people to know, and that percentage is higher among people with liberal politics and people, like me, who are part of Generation X.” Maybe Calhoun should have added that over 40% of those polled want people to know they are religious. I also find it interesting that Calhoun provides links to promote a religious book and a reverend’s personal website in her article, but fails to provide the link to this piece of evidence that would expose her narrow-mindedness – but I digress. To address the point that more than 2% of liberal Gen-X’ers don’t feel comfortable wearing their religion on their sleeve: I can’t think of a college that doesn’t have a religious group on-campus. In fact, there are colleges specifically for religious people! And if those +2% of liberal Gen-X’ers are finally listening to criticism, then that’s not a bad thing.

4.“But if you’re in a place like New York City…the ‘new atheists’ surround you.” Calhoun then goes on to point out the recent poster campaigns by the Big Apple Coalition of Reason and by Richard Dawkins in London. And that atheist authors criticizing the religious is like “shooting Christian fish car magnets in a barrel.” Okay, a few posters on buses and in subway stations does not equate “surrounding” you. Over 6,500 houses of worship in NYC is more like it. You don’t see atheists handing out the next Dawkins best-seller, but plenty of people hand-out pocket-sized Bibles and pamphlets proclaiming the “Word.” As for shooting fish in a barrel? It’s not the atheist’s fault that so many people are religious. If religion didn’t corrupt politics and education, there’d be a lot less of us pointing out the fallacy of faith.

5.“The Creation Museum is a riot. The psychos shooting up abortion clinics and telling gay couples they’re going to hell are evil, and anyone of faith has an obligation to condemn them. Abominable stuff has been done in God’s name for centuries. The Bible has a lot of crazy shit in it about stoning people for using the wrong salad fork. Up with science and reason!” Really the first and only valid point Calhoun has made.

6.“atheists are at least as fundamentalist and zealous as any religious people I know, and they have nothing good to show for it: no stained glass, no great literature, no great art, no comfort in the face of death.” Let’s see… “fundamentalism” as defined by Merriam-Webster: skipping over the blatantly obvious definition relating to Christianity, “a movement of attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles.” The only principle we have is that we do not personally believe in a supernatural deity. There is no adherence to a set of rules. Atheism may be a movement, but it is by no means fundamentalism. But even disregarding Calhoun’s warped dictionary, it is a slap in the face to the world of art and literature that she thinks only religion can inspire great works. There have been, and still are, plenty of nontheist authors, entertainers, and musicians, some of whom are professed atheists.

7.“When I’m getting a ride from some friends and they start talking about how stupid religious people are and quoting lines from ‘Religulous,’ do I have an obligation to point out how reductive and bigoted they’re being, the way I would if they were talking about a particular race?” Yes and no. Yes, you are obliged to let your friends know that you are religious so that they can finally have a worthwhile conversation about religion with you. No, you are not allowed to equate your religious “persecution” with racial bigotry. Why? Simply because religion is not the same thing as race. You cannot choose or abandon your race; you have every freedom to choose your religion (or lack thereof). So freethinkers criticizing religious dogma and their adherents is in no sense similar to racists insulting ethnic minorities.

So there is my response, certainly too lengthy to put on my profile. I suppose I would have respected Calhoun’s editorial a little more if she were actually insulted by her friends for being a Christian, but she wasn’t. She hides her practice like a dirty little secret so she can still partake in the carpool gossip. So if Calhoun wants to play the victim, she should postpone her acting career until an atheist is president, the Pledge of Allegiance is restored to its original glory, Trinity Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral become meeting places for American Atheists, and theists are barred from public office in 6 states.