America, a nation that strives to lead by example. A nation that touts tolerance and strong moral fiber. A nation whose history is based on the understanding of separation of church and state protected by our 1st Amendment. An understanding that our great country should be led by the voices of human understanding, not decided by one’s faith but by the inherent desire to be good to our fellow brethren. As an atheist, I passionately believe in this ideology. So why is it that we haven’t really stood up to this ideal?
In a recent study put out by the Pew Research Center 32% of Americans believe that being Christian is very important to national identity. Those of other faiths or like myself, the godless, have been labeled un-American, unpatriotic, and immoral by some Americans of the Christian faith. With this belief comes intolerance of different cultures, nationalities, religious affiliations, and smug attitudes about who carries a moral high ground. Of a supreme attitude that undermines our long-held values of acceptance and rights of religious freedom and the belief in free thinking.
This intolerance leads to division and fear. Fear that is then exploited by powers that preach hate towards minorities, women, the LGBTQ community, and towards immigrants. Powers that use propaganda and “alternative facts” to define a belief system that the Christian religion is being oppressed. That people running from war torn countries are out to kill you, to impose their fanatical beliefs upon you, and to take over this great Christian nation. This great Christian nation that is in fact not a Christian nation at all. This is where I must remind these individuals that we are a secular nation. Christianity does not rule our legislative process, it is not taught in our public school systems, and it is not embraced by a large portion of this country. You have every right to your religion but you do not have the right to impose that belief onto your fellow Americans.
Among these individuals there is outrage that the local cashier wishes them a happy holiday instead of merry Christmas; that by doing this their rights have been repressed. That there is a war started by non-Christian heathens who are persecuting their American values. I’d like to pose an argument to this line of thinking and say you cannot speak of oppression when your very ideals of those different then yourself are exactly in the same vein. It is hypocrisy at its worst. It enrages those of us that hold the belief that equality for all people is not only important to what it means to be American but a right for all our people. That gays have a right to marry, that Muslims have a right to practice their religion as you do without fear of being a victim of a hate crime, that women have a right to affordable preventative health care and birth control, that immigrants that have been properly vetted are given a second chance at life, that atheists have a right to hold government office, and that children of all races and economic status have a right to a free and fair education.
I challenge those Christians that believe that their religious values are one in the same as their American values to stop. To stop listening to the propaganda that is pushing this divide, to stop looking down upon those that hold different beliefs, to stop trying to force our secular nation into your mold, and to stop pushing your agenda upon the people of this country. People that love America the same way you do regardless of color, economic status, beliefs, sexuality, gender, and political parties. I invite you to open your mind to humanity, to kindness, to believe that we can stand stronger as a nation if we don’t allow those pushing this divide to control you. I long to see the day where we can stand proud in our personal beliefs while respecting those who view the world differently, to admire the differences that create each of our stories, and to understand that our founding fathers strongly believed that keeping church and state separate was one of the core factors of making this country one that is free of oppression for all its people.