November 30, 2009

Christianity Intruded on my Thanksgiving

religion.jpgHere's a quick story about a recent experience with Christian privilege. This is the sort of thing I keep in mind when Christians ask me why I devote any time to thinking about their preferred religion: I rarely have a day go by when I am given the opportunity to do so.

The family was in town from out of state for Thanksgiving. Hosting out-of-town guests is always somewhat stressful. This visit was complicated by my having one of the worst colds I've had in awhile. I felt awful for the last several days, and I know I was a lousy host. Along with the added stress, I had the guilt of knowing I was no fun to be around.

You may think that this context would be a rather volatile environment for any mention of religion. You'd be correct. To my credit, I never brought up anything remotely related to religion. I knew it could create conflict, and I was hoping to avoid that. Of course, I can't say that everyone exercised the same restraint.

The first and most annoying mention involved me being informed that my immediate family had evidently been discussing my "negative attitudes" toward religion with various extended family members who I never see anymore. Even though I don't spend any time around these other folks, I would like to maintain a cordial long-distance relationship with them. I don't think that is too much to ask. They are family, after all. Besides, discussing my atheism without me being there to speak for myself, correct misconceptions, and the like strikes me as incredibly rude.

I was plenty annoyed with how this had come up so casually, but my frustration peaked when a package arrived in the mail the next day from these extended family members containing a religious book. I'll likely vent more about the particular book in a future post and have already been doing so over Twitter. Basically, it was one of the many efforts by so-called liberal Christians to reclaim their ridiculous bible from the fundamentalists. Content aside, getting this thing in the mail on the heels of learning of this discussion was too much. It indicated that the discussion had been more serious than how it had been presented, so much so that it prompted efforts to "save" me.

I give myself credit for keeping my tirade brief and relatively free of four-letter words. The just of it would have been familiar to you, focusing mostly on the absurdity of claiming that a book is "holy" and then reinterpreting to fit one's purposes to such an extent that the resulting interpretation bears virtually no resemblance to the words contained therein. But I was mad, and I didn't hide it very well. In the end, I told my guests that they should take the book with them or else I would burn it in the backyard hours after they left. They took it.

I plan to ignore the issue as far as the extended family is concerned. Nothing to be gained there. And yet, if I receive phone calls or emails wanting to know what I thought of the book, etc., I will explain that I did not read it and have no interest in doing so. And yes, I will explain why.

So what does any of this have to do with Christian privilege? You see, I get to be the deviant one because I don't believe in souls, demons, angels, or gods. I get to be the subject of discussion when I am not present, as undoubtedly well-meaning Christians try to decide how best to fix me. I'm perfectly content being deviant and abnormal in the sense that I belong to a tiny minority (i.e., atheists). But I am not at all okay with being looked down on for it. I'm not okay with it being viewed as broken because I do not share what amounts to a popular delusion.

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