December 19, 2016

#WeExist Highlights Experience of Those Forced to Attend Church

St Martha's Methodist Church, Tring T...
St Martha's Methodist Church, Tring (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This post originally appeared on the Mississippi Atheists blog in 2014. Although it describes a social media campaign from that year, I decided to re-post it here to help maintain a record of it. Besides, something tells me that the need for such a campaign has not changed much since 2014.

The experience of being forced to attend church despite my protests is one I certainly had. In fact, I had it nearly every Sunday for at least two years. I had it even after I informed my family that I no longer believed in gods. Reasonable people can disagree about whether this sort of thing is abusive, but it certainly felt abusive at the time. As a result, it strained my relationship with my family for years. Christian parents who are interested in having positive relationships with their children ought to avoid this practice.

I would have thought that the experience of being compelled to attend church was fairly common among atheists who were raised by religious believers, and maybe it is. Strangely, the Catholic League's Bill Donohue seems to want to deny that such experiences happen. Does he really believe that all those children want to be in church?

Donohue's puzzling denial prompted American Atheists' David Silverman to start a Twitter hashtag campaign. Silverman called on those who were forced to attend church to tell their stories and use the #WeExist hashtag. I doubt very much that Donohue will be convinced by evidence contrary to his beliefs, but I hope that the hashtag can help to raise awareness that this sort of thing happens, that it does damage, and that it needs to stop.

H/T to What Would JT Do?