So, we have finally come to a rather sticky topic that I want to tread upon very carefully. That topic is religion, but moreso than that it is the way people view it. And therein lies the reason I need to be gentle here: I have many friends who are avowed atheists (so many, in fact, that it makes me seriously doubt statistics on religious leanings in the United States) and while we are able to maintain close and loving friendships, I know that I am being judged because of my belief in God. As a general rule, so long as it’s not discussed or I’m not too public about it on Facebook, we do just fine. Honestly, I can’t be too quick to chastise them for judging me because I certainly judge certain people for their religious beliefs. Let me offer you a snippet of recent conversation that made my hair stand on end.
I was at a dinner given in honor of the local Catholic church’s choir director, who was moving to Los Angeles for an internship opportunity. I heard an older Catholic woman, someone around my mother’s age, make this statement:
“She’s unsure, and she goes to this certain college, and she takes science seriously. But at least she’s leaning more agnostic and not atheist.”
As soon as I heard those words uttered, I immediately shied away from this person and grew very uncomfortable. I’d heard similar statements from my mother before. I have many misgivings about Catholicism and this woman was contributing toward every one. Yes, I was judging her – the same way she judged me when she heard about my engagement but refused to congratulate me because for me, “fiancée” has two e’s. When my atheist friends balk at the fact that I attend mass weekly to sing in the choir, I would bet that people like her are racing through their minds. I can’t imagine being upset at my future children for being atheists – it’s a valid choice and produces many moral, intelligent people – just like she couldn’t imagine being happy for someone who is actively violating things dictated in Leviticus and suggested by Saint Paul.
There’s a quote that, according to Google, is very popular in atheist circles and on atheist message boards – “Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.” I believe it originated on a Dear Abby column, but I could be completely wrong about that. Depending on who you ask, there are a few things that could be considered universally wrong or amoral, and the rest depends on the society you’re raised in. People have lines and they need to draw them in order to feel comfortable with their own moral standing. For some people, this means drawing the line at atheist children or gay choir members. For some people, this means drawing the line at people who judge you for being gay or for following a different religion. And for others, this means drawing the line at anyone who subscribes to an Abrahamic religious belief, or any religious belief at all.
Even the ones who are really different – the people who belong to taboo subcultures, who flaunt their alternative lifestyle in the face of mainstream American culture – have to draw their line somewhere. Judgment is an integral part of any society, and what’s acceptable to judge varies from culture to culture, and even within subcultures. My aunt judges me for being gay, so I judge her for subscribing to religious beliefs that she uses to support her discomfort. It’s a two way street and I’m relatively certain we all participate in it. So while I don’t fully understand the militant atheist belief that all religious persons are of lesser intelligence, I can’t necessarily feel bad about my friends applying it to me because to a certain extent, I’m doing the exact same thing. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and maybe it’s about time we judge and let judge.