Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Acknowledging Atheism

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm an atheist.  I'm very outspoken about my beliefs and I'm not ashamed or afraid of letting people know that I don't believe in a god.  Given this fact, I am starting to get really annoyed when people who know me very well either gloss over or completely ignore my beliefs when having a conversation.  This isn't necessarily happening when talking about religion, so much as it is in general conversation.  The most recent example of this is a discussion my sister and I were having on vegetarianism.

The specific topic we were talking about was the fact that everything that humans eat is alive at one point.  I was saying that it would perhaps be better not to kill animals for food because they have minds and are conscious, whereas plants are not, but when it comes down to it we must kill to live.  She agreed and said something about it being the cycle of life and that's just how God created it.  I let the comment go at the time but it really bothered me.  My sister doesn't really go to church or read the Bible but she believes in the Christian god, and she knows full well that I don't.  I don't think that she made the comment with the intention of starting a debate or in some vague attempt to sway me to agree with her, but it still felt like an attack on my beliefs. 

By stating that "That's how God created it," she pretty much glossed right over the fact that I'm an atheist.  Am I wrong in thinking that was rude?  It wasn't like she was trying to shift the topic of the conversation to religion.  The existence of god isn't something we often discuss, but she often makes comments like this one where my only options are to either start a debate or agree with her, which would be hypocritical and a lie.  In another recent example we were talking about a few certain people we thought were doing things that were wrong and she said "God will give them what they deserve." 

If she wants to discuss religion or the existence of a god, that is fine with me.  I have no problem talking about it with anyone.  She's not doing that though.  She is interjecting God into the conversation as though it is already assumed or believed that he is real.  Given that she knows I'm an atheist, it is, in my opinion, a total disregard for my beliefs.  It would be vastly different if she had said, "I believe that God will give them what they deserve."  Had she phrased it like that there would be an acknowledgment of my beliefs but the way she actually did say it was akin to ignoring the fact that our beliefs differ.

Every single person has the right to believe anything they want, especially in the United States where the First Amendment of our Constitution guarantees us the right of freedom of religion.  On a base level, when people don't acknowledge that a person is an atheist, they are denying that person their freedom of religious belief.  It is making the claim that God exists and saying that they don't have to provide any evidence.  The rest of us are expected to just go along with it and not disagree.  The source of this, in my opinion is the rule of the Christian majority in the last 50-60 years.  Beginning with the addition of "In God We Trust" on our currency and putting "Under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance, and going all the way up to recent years with the controversy over the Ten Commandments monuments placed in public places, Christianity has enjoyed a long period of being in charge.  Over 75% of the United States is Christian so for more than half a century the separation of church and state has repeatedly been violated with little opposition.  Many people that I have encountered make the claim that this is a "Christian Nation."  Because of all this the idea that the Christian god exists is perceived by so many as the default. 

The fact that a person may be in the majority does not mean that others deserve to have their First Amendment rights trampled upon.  Atheism should be acknowledged even though the people who want to ignore it may find it confusing, scary, and difficult to deal with.

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