Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Religious Tolerance and Evangelical Christians

As an atheist, I have a lot of philosophical issues with religion. But I also have some "reality-based community" issues as well.

However, while I think religion inevitably leads to division, intolerance, and dehumanization of adherents of other faiths and atheists, I still respect the right of Americans to worship as they wish, as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

This respect is too often not shown to atheists by theists, particularly evangelical Christians, who constantly accuse America of having a"secular culture of intolerance" towards them, even while they make every effort, as is often required by the tenets of their faith, to circumvent the First Amendment and use the government to promote their own faith and establish a government and laws based on their own faith.

Despite my distaste for religion, I support the freedoms provided Americans by the Bill of Rights. While I do not believe the government has the right to support religion, it also does not have the right to ban or get rid of it, no matter how harmful I may believe it is. I would, in fact, oppose efforts to ban religion, such as a constitutional amendment mandating a secular nation, despite my personal feelings. I respect the right of others to choose for themselves what to believe.

However, in my experience, radical theists, such as evangelical Christians, often have little or no respect beliefs differing from their own. As such, they try to legislate Christian ethics and impose them on all Americans, Christian or not. They try to use the power of the government to indoctrinate every child into Christianity through organized prayer in schools and posting of the Ten Commandments. (Anyone who claims to you that they want the Commandments posted purely as a moral or ethical guide is full of crap. The First Commandment is, "I am the Lord thy God and thou shalt have no other gods before me." If that's not an endorsement of the Judeo-Christian religion, I don't know what is).

Evangelical Christians, in fact, mandate that adherents "witness" to nonbelievers by trying to convert them against their will and without their consent. Atheists generally don't go around trying to tear down the faith of theists, and would be harshly criticized for doing so. But going around disrespecting others' beliefs by "witnessing" to them is no different.

Now, admittedly, not all Christians believe or do such things. But when the fundamentalists and evangelicals agitate and speak in the name of Christianity, Jesus, and God, Christians who differ from the evangelicals and fundamentalists must speak up and not allow the evangelicals and fundamentalists to speak in their name. Otherwise, they are giving the fundamentalists and evangelicals their tacit support and then become just as guilty.

Muslims have and still do speak out and disavow the actions of Al-Qaeda and other terrorists in the name of Allah, but mainstream Christianity in America sits back and does nothing while evangelicals push a radical agenda in their name. That's what makes me sick.


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