Monday, April 23, 2012

Why I Live In The Bible Belt

So, it's Sunday night and I've just dropped Pam off after watching a movie ("Lock Out") which was so boring to me that I spent more time talking to Pam and getting pretend married to her on Facebook than I did watching the actual movie. (We had the entire theater to ourselves, stadium seats and all, if that gives you any idea how un-popular this movie apparently is, and for good reason.)

We chatted for a while after the movie was over and on the way home after dropping her off, I stopped at the post office to check the mail.

As I often do, I take the mail to one of the tables in the lobby to determine what is junk to be tossed in the trash can. When I arrived at the table, I was greeted by this lovely flyer asking me "?? WHY ??":

I can only presume that the person asking this question is implying that those of us who do not believe in their god should not be living in Tennessee. You'll notice there is an e-mail address ( at the bottom of this flyer, to which I am sending a link to this blog post in order that the person asking such a ridiculous question might understand that not only am I willing to answer the question for her, him, or shim, but also for anyone else who might have ever pondered such a presumptive question.

Why do I live in the "bible belt" even though I do not believe in "God"? (I assume you are referring to the Christian god and not one of hundreds of other gods.)

First of all, I don't actually live in the bible belt. And yet, I do live in the bible belt. Let me explain.

I grew up mostly in the state of Tennessee. I find Tennessee to be one of the most beautiful areas in the country, with much to offer those of us who value mountains and trees and hills and valleys.

The geographical area referred to on maps as "Tennessee" is a natural part of planet earth. It has no belief system, no superstition, no preference for who walks upon its soil, to whom one living on its territory is married, whether or not they use birth control or with whom they have had sex...

The trees and the mountains do not require that anyone gazing upon them hold any superstitious belief in invisible beings whatsoever, nor is there any requirement that I am aware of that one speaks to these invisible deities in order to reside here.

The fact that the land mass known as "Tennessee" happens to be located in an area larger than itself labeled as "the bible belt" has nothing to do with the land mass, but rather with the majority of people who reside upon it.

As evidenced by the flyer under discussion, many of these people fancy themselves to be more worthy of living in this area than those who do not share their superstitious beliefs in invisible beings who make rules about what humans are forbidden to eat (shrimp, lobster, and all other shellfish) and then dictate them to ancient people who have no idea where lightning comes from.

Let me assure the author of the above flyer that, according to the United States Constitution, you are absolutely wrong.

Superstitious people who join clubs called "churches" and engage in group rituals where they drink wine and/or grape juice and pretend that it is the blood of their magical invisible friend and eat crackers or wafers and pretend that it is their magical invisible friend's flesh do NOT own the state of Tennessee, nor do they own any other part of the earth that falls under the label of "bible belt".

The reason certain parts of the geographical land mass of North America are called "the bible belt" is because those areas are known to have a majority of people who are extremely superstitious and engage in the ritual I have just described. The term "bible belt" came about because the majority of people in those areas are known to practice such superstitious rituals and are also known for having little or no tolerance for anyone different than themselves, but long before people ever lived in the area known as the "bible belt" and swarmed and settled there, it was, and still is, just a mass of beautiful land where any human being might wish to live and enjoy the view.

I happen to be one of those people. I also happen to be a humanist who values ALL human persons and believes it is my responsibility to help those whom I can personally rather than simply praying to an invisible friend and hoping they will feed them and provide their needs. I also happen to be an atheist - someone who does not believe in any god or gods.

For the most part, I can live peacefully and respect those who practice superstitious rituals in groups gathered in buildings called churches. I have many friends who do just that, and we get along just fabulously.

However, when I encounter people who do those things who imply that they are morally superior to me because I do not share their superstitious beliefs, that's where my tolerance ends.

I find it extremely disturbing that anyone would think they have any more right to the beautiful land mass known as Tennessee (or any other area contained in what is referred to as "the bible belt") than anyone else for ANY reason at all, whether because of the color of their skin, their gender, their hair color, or whether they talk to invisible people and engage in the symbolic cannibalism known as "communion".

The flyer in the image on this page is the perfect example of bigotry in its most insidious, vulgar form. It is extremely disturbing and vile to anyone who values human beings in general to imply that those who are not in the majority shouldn't choose to live in such a beautiful place as Tennessee.

As someone who has had people who used to be dear friends from childhood turn their backs on our friendship in favor of their superstitious practices which they believe precludes them from continuing a beautiful friendship with someone who does not share their desire to engage in superstitious beliefs, practices, or the studies thereof which teach one that they must do those things, I can tell you that I have every reason to be thoroughly alarmed and disgusted.

I am regularly criticized and even ridiculed by people, some of with whom I am friendly, for being so "militant" and "extreme" and making "incessant posts" and going on "atheist rants".

Nevermind that I don't criticize and ridicule people who post frequent prayer requests for things ranging from illness to job interviews and everything in between... (I usually post encouraging words and practical suggestions for finding quality health solutions and job interviewing techniques and refrain from any commentary on the prayer aspect of the request.) These people nonetheless find that my self-expression of why superstitious things make no sense to be less valid than the self-expression of those who are superstitious.

Sometimes the things I post may seem rather cruel. Sometimes they seem to ridicule and belittle those who practice superstitious rituals as a part of their belief system, but those people who know me and love me realize that my posts are not aimed at those who are merely religious, but rather at those who believe their religion entitles them to attempt to control others and force them to adhere to their religious views via legislative action and encroachment upon the rights of others.

Your right to your superstitious beliefs and symbolically cannibalistic rituals ends where my right to worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster begins. Your right to pray in school ends where others' rights to allow you to pray silently or privately without forcing them to listen to it over a loud speaker begins.

Compared to many atheists I know, I am not militant at all. What I consider to be militant is someone who refuses to have anything whatsoever to do with anyone who is religious or believes in any god or gods, including family members. I believe that to be as ridiculous as a former friend of mine who severed our friendship going back to middle school because I refused to stop expressing my disgust for bigoted behavior in religious people when I see it.

So back to your question: Why do I live in "the bible belt" even though I don't believe in your god? Because I like the view. I may not like the fact that the place is infested with superstitious people who regularly practice bigotry as though it were a virtue, but it doesn't make the mountains any less beautiful.

Of course, there is another reason why I choose to stay here despite the fact that many religious people would like to see all non-believers leave so they can have the place to themselves... It's because I believe it is my responsibility to make sure that this beautiful area of North America remains open to ALL human beings, not just those who hold the belief that their superstitions are superior to anyone else's or that they are better people than those of us who value actual, real, flesh-and-blood human beings over invisible friends.

To that end, I am a brave soldier.

I may not wear a uniform. I may not receive a salary. I may not get any respect from my government or from many of my family or friends. I may not hold a special rank or title. But every day, I'm on the lookout for threats to the freedom of not only people like me who are not believers, but also people UNLIKE myself who ARE believers of a different variety than those who are in the majority in this area often referred to as "the bible belt".

To do that, it is necessary that often I am a disruptor. I am a bucket of cold water in the face of those who engage in the delusion that the world works the way they believe it works simply because that is what they have decided to believe. I am a painful electrical jolt in the solar plexus of those who are content to exclude those unlike themselves from receiving respect and the ability to participate equally in receiving benefits from the government into which they have paid simply because they have found joy in living and expressing physical affection with someone who has the same genitalia as themselves.

Do I get death threats from people who call themselves "Christians"? Yes. Often.

Have I lost friends because I insist on standing up to the bigotry of those with whom I am friendly when I see it? Absolutely.

Does that make me any less relentless in demanding that people stop and take a good long look in the mirror of truth regarding the harm that their superstitious belief system has wrought in the past and continues to bring in the present? Fuck no.

Sometimes I'm a real cunt when it comes to ridiculing the ridiculous. I try not to hurt the feelings of those whom I love and make sure I express the fact that my ridicule is only aimed at those who use their superstition as an excuse for their own bigoted opinions, but I'm learning not to lose too much sleep over the fact that I may inadvertently offend some of those people who don't engage in such practices, and the reason why can best be summed up here:

If that doesn't explain to you why I choose to live in an area that I find quite beautiful despite the fact that it may be overrun with bigoted people who masquerade as morally superior individuals under the guise of religion, and why I choose to serve as a militant soldier fighting for the rights of ALL people to live here if they so choose, regardless of whether they engage in symbolic cannibalism of a zombie raised from the dead or not, then you are far beyond help and all I can do is pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that he will touch you with His Noodley Appendage and cure you of your mental infirmity.