Duck and cover
When Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson spoke last year on the subject of homosexuality, there was an immediate and justifiable backlash. Though I don’t agree with him at all, I believe he has every right to say what he wants. Now he's taken on atheism with macabre imagery and my guess is people will focus on the gory nature of the speech, rather than the fact he has turned people like me into theoretical rapists and killers who have zero regard for the law, operating on a moral compass which is pointed straight to Hell. Is he a crackpot bigot? Yes, but he voices an opinion many share, maybe not in such a graphic manner, but in some form or another.
The background: While giving a speech at a Florida Prayer Breakfast, Mr. Robertson spoke on faith, specifically on those who have none by spinning a yarn about an atheist family being the victim of a break-in. He presents the audience with the visual of the husband bound to a chair, his wife and children raped and ultimately shot to death. And then, like a cherry on top of a blood-covered sundae, the husband is castrated, all while being told by the imaginary criminals that because of the husband’s atheism there is no right and no wrong and the intruders are “just having fun.” Talking Points Memo on their site included a Soundcloud clip of his talk, so nobody could mistake his intentions. You can hear the snickering in the background as he talks about the family. I have to wonder how many people there were appalled by the tale, how many agreed and how many thought he didn’t go far enough with his story.
So how will the media approach it? My guess, they’ll focus on the violence of his words, because they're awful and disgusting, which makes it salacious and simple to cover. “Why did he have to be so vivid?” “Is he a proper representative of Christianity?” Everyone can get behind violence and religion. Yeah, we might ponder the subject for a moment; MSNBC will embrace us, Fox News will decry us and CNN daytime will fill an hour slot with useless people having an even more useless discussion. This has to happen, it's part of the story. News outlets will refer to his homophobic statements last year. They’ll ignore his ultimate point: people with no belief system have no sense of right or wrong.
It’s easy to utilize images of castration, child rape, and murder to generate a buzz in this clickbait society. What isn't so easy (or sexy) is to take on the topic of atheism, because it incites so much anger and vitriol, based out of ignorance. And it’s this ignorance, which has allowed the media to sweep us under the rug, because we aren’t a group who demands to be heard. Yes there are a few organizations here and there, but overall we don’t march and we don’t scream, because people don’t take us seriously.
We’re viewed as angry, bitter and waiting to be saved. We're misunderstood, hated and feared by so many. We are the children who have a collective chip on our shoulders, teenagers who hate our dad, only this dad happens to be God. I won’t try to compare our struggle to those in countries where atheism can result in death, but in the United States there are no elected officials in the Senate or Congress who openly identify as atheists and no President could ever dare publically say it and there's a reason for this: to proclaim a lack of faith aloud, is a political death sentence. It is my belief that we’ll have a gay president far before we’ll ever have an out atheist in the Oval Office. If you want an example, in 2008 Elizabeth Dole, while running for US Senate in North Carolina tried to ruin her opponent Kay Hagen by spreading a rumor that she was an atheist. This attempt blew up in Mrs. Dole’s face, as Ms. Hagen was not only Christian, but she also taught Sunday school. The backlash was so fierce; it was a major reason why Dole lost the election. In politics you don’t mess with a person’s faith.
I was once a believer. I was born, baptized and raised Catholic. I went to Catholic school for twelve years and served as a youth minister for seven years. Long story short; in 2004 I had a crisis of faith and I began questioned what I believed. I read books on the subject, I spoke to people and I listened to what they had to say. As time went on, I slowly let go of my Catholicism, which for the record was so much harder than when I eventually let go of God all together. But how do you tell people? Though I’m not a huge fan of Richard Dawkins, he says in “The God Delusion” that atheists have their own version of “Coming out” and we expose ourselves to the judgment of others. He’s right, without a doubt. It was hard; some were absolutely accepting, some were concerned, some didn’t care and some just didn’t want to hear it.
I've been told by many to keep my opinions to myself, because it makes individuals uncomfortable, so I traded my ideas for silence, and all because some religious people are absolutely incapable of handling such a simple and possibly enlightening conversation, which makes me doubt their faith entirely. And when I proudly do extol my non-belief, I'm looked at as if there's something wrong with me. Sometimes people say "I'll pray for you" and I find this to be crude and oppressive (Yes, I said oppressive). By saying those words you diminish me; you say what I believe is something which requires some sort of cure from a higher power. If you mean it with a good heart, I get it, but it still hurts and you need to know it, because I don't want the good to be lumped in with those who say it as a joke or with condescension. I know some of you don't like these words, which I understand, but I don't like some of the words hurled at people like myself.
I'm a moral and good person; I think (and hope) you know that. My heart is huge, my love and support for those around me is absolute. My faith is derived from the magnificent works of my fellow human beings and I believe we are capable of so much good, even in the face of what seems to be so much bad. We are all we have and this is the only life we get. I'm not living for an afterlife; I'm living for right now. My moral compass isn't based on the words of deities interpreted by man, words which describe beings in the sky whose moral compasses are just as lacking and awful as the atheists Mr. Robertson created for his speech.
Some of you will sentence me, some of you will make fun of me, some might even unfriend or unfollow me on social media, but I'm tired of holding my tongue to keep from offending others when others have no regard for what offends me. I won't apologize for this post, nor will I compose the requisite "This doesn't apply to everyone" sentence or paragraph. If you can't make the distinction on your own, I can't help you. If you feel judged by my thoughts, that's your problem and if you don't, you get it and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I believe in you, all of you. I just hope you feel the same about me.
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