I’m an atheist. Born and raised. And being a good person has always been a deeply embedded value for me. Growing up I was the goody two shoes who never talked in class and was careful to follow the rules. I was the kid teachers told my parents they wished they had a thousand of in class. My atheist parents are good people, my mom worked for nonprofits, I remember how when my mom heard that one of my sister’s classmates couldn’t afford a band instrument and was bullied for having to use the schools my mom went and donated an instrument to her. I remember them pulling over to help a stranded motorist when his tire blew, and my mom administering first aide when someone had a seizure in a movie theater. I also can’t even begin to count the number of stray dogs, cats, even hamsters we have rescued. Moreover, while my friends didn’t get along with their parents or found their parents abusive, I got along with mine and they were loving. We were a family that had a lot of fun together.
So, growing up in the Bible Belt, it hurt a lot when people told me that families like mine were immoral, that we couldn’t be happy or loving, that only Christians could be moral, happy loving people. For one thing is invalidated my whole life experience. For another it attacked the core of who I consider myself to be: a good person.
I believe Christians can be good people. But I don’t believe they have the monopoly on morality. Muslims can be good people. Jews can be good people. Pagans can be good people. Atheists can be good people. And, growing up, the way Christians would claim the moral monopoly, and on such scant evidence, hurt.
It felt as though no evidence of morality on the part of my family and me was enough. Because of what we believed we had to be evil. None of us have been arrested, I don’t even spank my kids (and was not spanked growing up) much less hit or attack others. We volunteer, especially because we believe that there’s no magic god who will fix the world’s problems, we believe we have to act to fix things. And in a lot of ways, this made it harder for me, because I was known as a good kid in school, and the dissonance that Christians who found out about my atheism felt was such that they would stop having anything to do with me and would shun me. They couldn’t point to concrete ways I was destroying my life. My family was more functional than theirs. So I was proof that everything they had been taught was wrong, and for that they had to cut me off. For being a good person who happened to be an atheist I was shunned.
Because of this, I can’t even begin to describe what it is like to see Trump come to power, enabled and supported by those evangelicals who would shun me for having beliefs they disagreed with while upholding good moral values. It’s taken me this long to write about it without feeling overwhelming hurt and anger. Still, hurt doesn’t begin to describe it. I don’t think there is a word that can describe it. It is beyond hypocrisy. It is a focus on appearance and conformity rather than genuine compassion and caring, because apparently professing belief is what matters to evangelicals. Lying, philandering, inciting violence, enabling antisemitism and racism, bullying, tearing children from their parents and locking them in cages, etc, that is all okay to evangelicals, as long as someone professes to have a special relationship with Jesus.
Those evangelicals were never worthy of my friendship.