I was five when I was first told I was going to Hell. A friend’s mom said it to me. A grown woman said that to my five year old self because my parents had recently explained atheism and that they were atheists to me. Let’s just say, I was completely unprepared for the vehemence and hatred with which people would respond when I answered their questions about my belief system.
It never provoked fear within me. It had all of the impact of someone saying that because you don’t believe in Darth Vader you’re going to freeze in Hoth. What bothered me more was the implication that I was a bad person and that I was doing something wrong, especially as I was a goody two shoes. I’m by no means perfect, but in all honesty the only illegal thing I’ve done is go slightly over the speed limit. I was the Hermione Granger type in school, only my grades weren’t as good. So they were never able to point to bad things I was doing, just that I had a different opinion about whether or not supernatural beings exist. And the implications that I deserve eternal torture for that are, really, sickening.
What further aggravated me was the people who would say that atheist families being happy was not possible. Yet my family tended to get along better than the Christian families I was surrounded with. As a teenager when we’d talk about who had the best parents, my friends always voted my dad as the best in the group, and while some preferred their own moms, others voted for mine. Growing up, I can only think of one Christian family that seemed to enjoy each other as much as we did, all of the others didn’t have healthy families. While my parents had and continue to have a strong marriage, many of my friends came from divorced homes. I don’t think divorce is a moral failing, but they did. Praying didn’t help their family stay together, and not praying didn’t tear mine apart. Yet, because I grew up in Texas, I was surrounded by messages that families like mine were unhappy and immoral.
And to be clear, because when I point out that atheists are moral and can have happy families, Christians seem to hear that I’m saying that it’s not possible for Christians to be moral and happy. It’s not either/or. The thing is, Christianity is associated with morality in our culture, while atheism is associated with immorality. Yet millions of atheists live very moral lives, and we are allowed to say so, because how else are we going to change this perception of us? And when the rights of marginalized groups are threatened because of Christians brandishing the moral high ground, then yes, we’re allowed to point out your hypocrisy.
And lately, we’ve been seeing Christianity at it’s ugliest and not at it’s best, and because Christians have the power, this impacts me and others who aren’t Christian or don’t subscribe to that brand of Christianity in powerfully harmful ways.
Basically, seeing evangelicals on their knees to worship Trump has been particularly galling. All my life evangelicals have falsely claimed to have the monopoly on morality and used it to deny rights that they enjoy to other groups (most notably the LGBT community) on the basis of that purported moral purity.
I do my best to educate myself about racism and to be anti-racist. Trump is openly racist and has supported White Supremacist hate groups and refuses to condemn them. White evangelicals voted and enabled him, and then grabbed their Tiki torches and white robes. But I’m going to Hell.
I have been in a long term monogamous relationship for about seventeen years and have only had one sexual partner my entire life. Trump has had multiple marriages and mistresses and publicly humiliated his wives when he divorced them. White evangelicals enabled and voted for him, and also have a higher than average divorce rate. But I’m going to Hell.
I’ve volunteered since I was in grade school, worked for nonprofits, and gone into the helping profession because I am driven to leave the world a better place than when I found it. Needless to say, this has come at a financial sacrifice and I won’t die rich. Trump is a sleazy business man who has cheated contractors, military widows, and has re-written tax law to benefit him at the expense of 99% of the US population. White evangelicals enabled and voted for him. But I’m going to Hell. Isn’t there something about a rich man, a camel and the eye of a needle in the Bible?
I practice and educate about safe, consensual sex, and as a counselor who specializes in trauma, have worked to help people who have been raped traverse the healing process. Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, has had multiple women come forward to accuse him of sexual assault, and a woman came forward with credible allegations that he raped her when she was 13 and he did everything he could to see that it never came to trial. Eventually she dropped the charges because people were threatening her life and she was scared. White evangelicals enabled and voted for him. But I’m going to Hell.
I believe that torture is unethical and immoral. Trump fully endorses torture and just nominated someone to head the CIA who headed a torture program during the Bush years.nominated someone to head the CIA who headed a torture program during the Bush years. White evangelicals enabled and voted for him. But I’m going to Hell. But then, since saying I’m going to hell is basically threatening me with torture, it’s no big surprise that evangelicals embrace such a harmful practice.
Full disclosure, no, I don’t believe that Trump deserves to be tortured, no do I believe that the people who enabled and supported him deserve to be tortured. Torture is wrong, no matter who is doing it, no matter who is being tortured. But I do think these people need to stop moralizing and start listening.
For many reasons, I distrust top down morality, where someone at the top dictates what is and isn’t moral and prescribes torture as a consequence for people who question or stand up when this person at the top causes harm to others, and the Trump administration embodies why I distrust this morality. Yet it is what evangelicals embrace. So is it any surprise that they have embraced Trump? It’s what they’ve been primed for all of their life.
Evangelicals have lost any claim they had of the moral high ground and moral purity, yet they continue to use this to attempt to roll back the rights of others. And while they are winning battles, they are losing the war. Millennials are less religious than their parents. And Generation Z is even less religious than Millennials. People are starting to run from the evangelical label. And rather than looking at themselves critically in the mirror and asking where they went wrong, evangelicals continue to stick their heads in the sand and believe they just need to stay firm.
Yet it is their blatant hypocrisy that is damning them. When you climb on a pillar of morality and lecture others, condemn them to Hell for no good reason, and harm others by denying them their rights, harassing them, or even instituting policies that lead to their deaths (from conversion therapy to denying reproductive rights that leads to an increase in maternal mortality rate to denying help and assistance to immigrants and refugees) and later ally yourself who is the embodiment of everything they have preached against, people see you for what you are.
Perhaps these people, before being so quick to tell people without power that they are going to hell due to a difference of opinion, should practice being nonjudgmental. I think their prophet said something about that in the Bible.