Facebook reminded me of something that happened a few years ago when a person going door to door to preach in my neighborhood knocked on my door. He asked me if I died today would I have amassed enough good deeds to earn a reward in Heaven. I sighed and said, “You shouldn’t do good things because you’ll be rewarded. You should do good things because they are the right things to do. Merry Christmas.” I then shut the door in his stunned face.
I know a lot of evangelicals who voted for Trump even though they despised him. Why? So he would protect Christian values. So essentially they voted for a man who has been twice divorced, had affairs during all three of his marriages, dragged his first wife through the tabloids, was set to go on trial for the rape of a teenager, bragged about grabbing women by the “pussy”, etc, to protect their moral values.
Whether religious or non-religious, stories are important to our humanity. Before we were watching stories on tv and movie screens, we were reading stories in books and papers. And before we were reading stories, we were telling stories through an oral tradition. Stories help us find a way to relate to our world, to understand it. Sometimes we recognize our struggles in the struggles of fictional characters. Sometimes a story helps us make sense of something tragic that happened to us and helps us to move forward.
One criticism I see lobbed at atheists is that we spend a lot of time calling attention to Christians who do immoral things, such as Catholic priests who sexually molest children. Why can’t we ever point out the good things that Christians are doing? Well, in the United States, we live in a country that equates Christianity with goodness. Christian and good morals are synonymous. It’s one of those things that goes without saying. Further, atheism is equated with being evil and is extremely disliked. As an atheist who grew up with a very ethical, atheistic family, it was painful to hear people calling atheists “immoral” and “evil” and to use the word “atheist” as a slur, all while beefing up their own moral creds.
Until recently, I believed I could quietly live my life as an example of what a Secular Humanist is and have that combat negative stereotypes people have about atheists, and that eventually it would lead to tolerance and acceptance. Because in a lot of ways, I am not so different from a lot of people. I take care of my family, I work, I enjoy my hobbies. My life is meaningful. I have a drive to improve the world, so I went into counseling and worked for several years with people who are impoverished. Now my focus is shifting to reforming schools so they will be friendlier to children who have disabilities.
Two things changed recently that led me to conclude I can no longer be a silent example. One being the realization that just by being a moral atheist, I am a threat to Christians. I know one Christian attempted to dismiss the harassment I experienced by Christians in a previous post by saying they would have harassed me regardless of their religious beliefs. The thing is, Christianity teaches that only Christians are saved and people who don’t believe are condemned to hell.
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.
As I was walking Buddy to his new school, my husband emailed me that our city was having a big homeschooling convention. A few minutes later he emailed me, “nevermind.” I smiled, knowing exactly why he lost enthusiasm for the convention.
I found out I was right when he got home. He explained that when he investigated the convention, he found they were staunchly conservative Protestant. And while it’s a given that as an atheist I wouldn’t be down with the agenda, as a Catholic, he’s not too fond of it either. And he went on for awhile in exasperation with how out of sync their educational goals were to our own (me being familiar with the homeschooling culture in our area was not surprised).
I don’t think I could have made an interfaith marriage work with a conservative Protestant. But a minimally practicing Catholic? Yeah. It works. And I think a big reason is because it doesn’t affect us much on a day to day basis.
Here are the reasons Andy is not fond of religious based homeschooling, or religious based schooling, period. He believes that it should be left to the church to teach religion. Andy wouldn’t even consider sending our children to a Catholic private school. In his mind, schools should teach academics, and religious instruction should happen solely within the church. This is a mindset I really wish more conservative Protestants would adopt!
The other reason is because Andy, like me, loves science. We read Discover and Scientific American magazines. We love Neil DeGrasse Tyson and watch his shows together. Andy doesn’t see any conflict between evolution, cosmology, and his religious beliefs. And he values science literacy and wants our children to have a firm grasp of how science and the world works.
And while he’s not a history buff like I am, he is concerned about the revisionist history that goes on in those circles. He wants our children to have a firm understanding on how the separation of church and state is fundamental to our government. He also understands that it’s important to acknowledge when our country was wrong, such as the issue of slavery. He does not want to whitewash something as horrible as the Civil War by reducing it to a mere matter of “states rights.”
Andy is able to compartmentalize his beliefs from his day to day life. In some ways I think this is easier for Catholics, because their faith focuses on acts (going to Mass, partaking in the sacraments, etc) than many Protestant sects which focus on belief. But whatever the reason, it works for us, because the educational goals we have for our children end up being the same. We want them to be scientifically literate, have a good understanding of history and how our government works, and believe that religious instruction is best left to the church.