Saturday, August 18, 2012

When I Was A Christian...

Before anyone who reads this decides that this is "just another post from the atheist point of view" or that it's about me being "against religion", you need to know that I felt EXACTLY THE SAME WAY about the topic I am about to discuss when I was a devout Christian as I do now. EXACTLY. THE. SAME.

When I was a teenager, I was called to give sermons to the SOUTHERN BAPTIST congregation where I was a member in Ringgold, GA MORE THAN ONCE. I remember one of my sermons dealt with what message we sent as Christians with our behavior, and I posed the question: "If someone who knew nothing about Christianity observed us in our daily lives, what would they learn about being a Christian from us? What would be their understanding of what it means to be a Christian?"

I am now going to answer that question.

If *I* knew nothing about Christianity and were observing many Christians today, my impression of Christianity would be that it is mainly about making sure we made a huge show about praying in public before football games, before school started, and at government functions and political events. Also: a lot of whining about the fact that not everyone gives a Christian-specific greeting during seasonal holidays, even though most Christian holidays have pagan origins...

Forget the fact that the Christian holy book makes it VERY CLEAR that making a big show of praying in public is NOT what Christianity is about:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (6) But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (7) And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (8) Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. – Matthew 6.5-8 NASB
The Christian holy book ALSO makes it very clear that mindlessly reciting prayers by rote is not meaningful Christian behavior, and yet that is exactly what goes on when "The Lord's Prayer" is recited at public events as some sort of obligatory ritual.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. - Matthew 6:7 KJV
It's quite clear that both of the foundations on which all of this noise is being made about prayer before football games is based are discouraged in the Christian holy book. How ironic.

But perhaps the most sad aspect of this drama is that it sends the wrong message not only to non-Christians, who increasingly view Christians as political invaders who wish to force their religion on everyone else, but also to our children.

When your government denies you special privileges when you demand that they treat your religion as though it is the "official" religion of this country (which we do not have, since our forefathers, in their wisdom, made it clear that we were NOT to make an establishment of religion in our government), when they deny your request for special recognition over all of the HUNDREDS OF OTHER RELIGIONS practiced in this country, and you then behave by claiming that you are persecuted, you are teaching children to take on an attitude of entitlement... you are teaching them that if they do not get special treatment as Christians, they are somehow victims.

This is where bigotry begins, folks. It starts with indulging in the delusional behavior that not getting special privileges equals persecution, and it progresses to believing that you are superior because of your beliefs, and/or that your beliefs are superior to those of others.

From there, the attitude grows into the view that other religions are not only NOT entitled to the special privileges that you fancy YOURSELF to be entitled to, but that they are LESS entitled to EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW.

This is why Christians who view marriage between two people of the same sex as PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE (the same way many anti-gay-marriage Christians are FINE with eating shrimp, also listed as an abomination in the Christian holy book) are upset that some Christians are attempting to step on THEIR toes by disallowing THEM to legally marry gay couples in their churches.

And, even worse, the massive efforts and grandstanding that goes into "fighting for prayer" at football games, schools, and government assemblies does absolutely NOTHING to advance the cause of Christianity. In fact, it diminishes its true purpose and everything that it is supposed to stand for, which is practicing kindness and respect toward others, remaining humble in the expression and practice of your faith, (as opposed to loudly demanding that everyone wait while and take notice as you do so publicly) and helping those who are homeless, hungry, naked, and sick.

The only thing that comes from praying before these events is self-satisfaction of the Christian ego.

Now, if the same people who are congratulating themselves for "coming together" as Christians from multiple denominations with the common goal of making a huge drama out of praying before a football game were also putting the same amount of effort into collecting food for the homeless at said football games, it might not be such a vulgar display of selfishness on their part to demand that everyone wait while they recite a rote prayer before the game.

I have no problem with anyone who wants to pray anytime or anywhere, so long as they don't whine about not being allowed to do it over a loud speaker as part of an officially mandated activity on government or taxpayer-owned/funded property. I do, however, find it very sad that so many Christians show such a lack of respect for their own religion by ignoring the truly important aspects of practicing it in favor of superficial shows of power before football games.

I feel that way now, and I felt that way when I was a Christian.

Clearly, being an atheist hasn't changed me. It has merely revealed that my ability to tell right from wrong does not stem from religion, but comes from common sense which we all have the ability to exercise, if only we will shed the ego and focus on what really matters.