When I saw this article about non-religious parents pulling their children out of school due to bullying from Christians, I linked to it on Facebook, along with a description of the bullying I experienced in the third grade when I stupidly told my classmates I didn’t believe in God. I didn’t think it was something I would be harassed, bullied, and assaulted for, but itwas. It was so bad that over the summer my parents moved to a neighboring school district to get me away from the school.
Christians are told they will be hated and persecuted for their beliefs. You see this myth played out in the God’s Not Dead Films. And this myth is infuriating to me. Christians strutted their beliefs openly in the hallways and tormented anyone who didn’t conform to them or dared to challenge them. Hell, Christians had pissing contests over who was more godly. I was hated and persecuted for my beliefs at the hands of Christians. I felt like I had to hide who I was, which was agonizing for me. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance was a horrible exercise in cognitive dissonance every morning, because I didn’t want to say “under God” but I also didn’t want people to notice I wasn’t saying it and ask why. I also got very skilled at dodging questions about my religious beliefs. I quickly developed two personas, the boring bookworm so I could hide and hope people wouldn’t notice and talk to me at school and the more engaged and interesting person to those that I knew would accept me.
I learned that every friendship I made likely had a timer on it. As soon as the other person found out I was an atheist, they would refuse to be my friend or start proselytizing to the point that every encounter was a debate. Nothing about me changed, only what they knew about me, and within minutes I would no longer be friend material. I have learned to be very careful about making friends because I’d learned the hard way that as soon as people found out who I really was behind the boring bookworm, they’d disavow me.
I didn’t know anyone other atheists outside of my immediate family other than those I’d met in online sanctuaries back in the early days of the internet when they had chat rooms. I could talk with other atheists who weren’t family members, learned to debate because Christians would often break into our sanctuary to try to convert us, was exposed to different flavors of atheism, and just could talk to others feeling the same frustration I was with the overwhelming Christian culture we found ourselves stuck in.
My other source of safety was the fact that I live in an area with a large immigrant population. I went to school with people from Mexico, India, Vietnam, Iraq, and Pakistan. Among them were Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Jains, and Hindus. I was the only white person I knew who was invited to birthday parties for native Vietnamese girls (and the only one who didn’t speak Vietnamese, but I found examining the cultural differences in the ways birthdays were celebrated fascinating). These people didn’t care what I believed or didn’t believe, they cared about me as a person and how my actions defined me.
One of my dearest friends is a Muslim refugee. When she heard I wasn’t a Christian and didn’t believe there was a god she just shrugged and asked about our history assignment. We later laughed at the way Christians would make fools of themselves trying to convert us.
This is why I have positive feelings about Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Jains, Hindus, etc. And it’s why I have very negative views about Christians. I feel individual Christians can be good, but collectively, Christians are lying, manipulative, abusers who scream persecution when anyone calls them on their shit. But I’m sure in their minds they WISH their children were treated like I was in school on the basis of their beliefs. Because it will conform to their persecution complex. Considering one of my greatest fears is that my children will experience what I did, this makes me sick.
This last Christmas season when some dude lost his shit because the Starbucks cups weren’t Christmassy enough and declared it part of the War of Christmas, I wrote a FB post, addressing the Christians UPSET ABOUT THE STARBUCK’S CUP, pointing out that governments in other countries kill people for their religious beliefs and gave a few examples and that they need to gain some perspective for whining about a private companies’ cup. Several Christians got up in arms that I didn’t do enough to not include all Christians in the umbrella even though I specified those upset about the cup. The validity of my point didn’t matter. The fact that I feared being fired in the past year because I’m an atheist and was still reeling from that scare didn’t matter. The fact that I have been bullied and hurt over and over by Christians didn’t matter. I didn’t do enough to convince them that they weren’t the problem and convince them that Christianity is good.
Folks, if Christianity has a PR problem, IT’S NOT THE FAULT OF THE PEOPLE WHO AREN’T CHRISTIANS!
I have been vocal about the harassment and abuse I have suffered. I’ve never had a Christian apologize for what I went through, but I’ve had plenty get upset for calling them out on it.
And further, if lies, manipulation and abuse are the method Christians use to convert people, how the hell can that religion really have anything going for it? Suppose there was a God backing a certain religion. You’d think it would be plain as day obvious that this religion had more going for it than the millions of others that people wouldn’t need a whole lot of convincing. But if you have to take a little girl’s juice and threaten not to give it back until she agrees to believe in Jesus, really, what does your religion have going for it?
And maybe it’s coincidence, or maybe my suspicions are correct, but after I posted that a very religious former colleague PMed me with an update on how she’s been and asking if I was going to be in her city anytime soon.
I want to believe she genuinely wants to see me. I want to believe that people can really like me. But I suspect she wants to preach Jesus’ love to me and tell me that the people I’ve known growing up weren’t true Christians. As if these aren’t things I’ve heard over and over again. And you know, it hurts when this happens. It’s hard for me to believe that people really want to be my friend when they spend all of their time trying to change my beliefs. I feel like they want me to be a notch in their belt.
Perhaps I’m judging her unfairly. I don’t know. I’m scared to find out.
This cuts into everything. It is so hard for me to socialize and meet friends. I stopped going to the autism support group when, after I had posted something on Facebook about how Buddy’s autism was not caused by vaccines and how the autism movement is causing harm by perpetuating the myth, the leader of the group ranted about how she didn’t judge people for not being Christians and how dare people judge her for not vaccinating her son. She took it down, but I’ve just not felt welcome if I’m supposed to feel grateful for not being judged by my beliefs as opposed to my actions.
And to this day I still believe my potential friendship with people has a timer on it until they find out who I really am.
Christians, until you’re terrified you’ll lose your job for stating you are a Christian rather than losing it because you preached Christianity in a public school classroom, until you’re scared you’ll be harassed or beaten if you’re open about being a Christian rather than being the aggressor, then you need to STFU about being persecuted in the US. And while you’re at it, stop glorify the idea of being persecuted. And finally, look into the mirror and fix your damn PR problem. Start by taking a clue from my Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Jainist and Hindu friends about learning to co-exist.