Morality is not spelled C h r i s t i a n i t y, A Holiday Message

As an atheist I find people often question my morals and beliefs as though they somehow lack substance or a foundation. This is extremely frustrating for many of us who are non-believers and I suspect its frustrating to many theists who encounter other theists who assume similar things of them. I ask you to ask yourself and anyone you know to reflect on what goodness and moral behavior is. Many people think of goodness in a one-dimensional way, like in in-group out-group politics.  A very black and white type of thinking that makes enemies of outsiders for being outsiders. And so if any of us had any doubt about the conservative religious right movement its sexist, racist, homophobic, islamophobic, anti-everyone who has never been baptized with the holy ghost agenda, we shouldn’t now.The recent decision by Lowe’s Home Improvement to withdraw its advertising from the show “American Muslim” after the Florida Family Association pressured them to, is one example. I mean how is it possible that a show that shows patriotic, hardworking, family oriented muslims any more of a misrepresentation that the notion that christianity offers more morality, charity, and humanity than other faiths? I’m not arguing that religion is responsible for evil in the world but to point out the evils committed by some who practice Islam while acting as though Christians are blameless is the height of hypocrisy. Its especially hypocritical when you consider that the religious right would have you believe this when they supported the war with Iraq. And that leaves out the hypocrisy of celebrating the birth of a savior who’s supposed sacrifice was to pardon humanity for its sins while expressing or holding views which favor the torture of those perceived to be enemy combatants or terrorists, even when evidence shows that torture is ineffective. I could go on but I think you get my point.

From phony accusations from unintelligent politicians about the war on religion or Christmas to the supposed war on marriage, the religious right is doing everything in its power to preserve christian privilege, diminish the voices of people of other faiths and secularists, and to deny rights to other Americans based on their rigid interpretation of the ancient works of desert tribesman. This brings me to Jesse Lee Petersen one of a few minor players in this scheme but who recently conducted interviews with three atheists of note, Debbie Goddard, of the Center for Inquiry, Skepchick, and African Americans for Humanism, Tom Flynn, of the Council for Secular Humanism, and Ayanna Watson, founder of Black Atheists of America.  Some of you might know Jesse Lee Petersen from remarks he made to the effect of being grateful for slavery. I know, I know…Yikes! Right? Among the ridiculous assertions he made during these interviews is that atheists are acting “like homosexuals” and were insecure because they choose to organize around particular causes or socialize with others who share our views. Petersen also asserts incorrectly that atheism is a belief in no god, but it is the way in which he defines goodness that most troubles me. He defines Christianity as freedom. According to him a person can be evil for simply not believing in god or lacks a belief in goodness by virtue of disbelief.  This from a man who says  that “god” is all good in one breath and  that he would kill for god in another. And this man thinks he can define goodness?

Good and evil are not forces. They aren’t like gravity or electromagnetic forces. They merely describe the effect of an action. Actions that promote the well-being of a person or group are generally seen as good, while those that cause harm are generally perceived as evil. Intentions can also be judged as good or evil as well. And it gets murky from there, for example, someone can have good intentions but commit an act that is harmful. And one could ask is that person good despite the negative impact of their actions or is intent enough. The picture is less black and white than most of us are inclined to think. And although most people would say someone isn’t a good person if they only do good to avoid punishment from the justice system but many people think its perfectly fine to do so to avoid punishment from “god”. Is that good? Is it moral?
I’ll share a situation that happened to me… About a year or so ago a relative of mine send me an e-card. This relative had apparently learned from my profile on Facebook that I was an atheist and found what was the most preachy card they could find. After several lines of evangelizing the card ended in “Happy Birthday” and a personal message of concern for what I imagine they believe to be my soul. After thinking about it and being a little incensed, I remembered my love for this person. They taught me how to play tennis, tickled me to tears, told me jokes and stories, shared pride in my accomplishments and the young woman they have helped me to become. And when I thought of that, my heart softened and I realized that I couldn’t be angry but I did feel sadness. Despite the joys they shared and the love they had for me they couldn’t recognize that I was good without god. And so I reminded them in a letter of all the things we commonly believe in- love, family, honesty, integrity, generosity etc.  I asked them like I would ask anyone else to try to reflect on those things, the things that matter. And to build community and family around those things because those are the things that matter. Those are the things Jesse Lee Petersen and the Florida Family Association  and others forget, the things they lose sight of when they encounter people who don’t believe as they do.
In addition to being Christmas time and the celebration of other holidays we have the winter solstice signifying the  end of another year, a time when people tend to be a little more forgiving and generous to their fellow human beings. If only we could carry that spirit throughout the year to everyone, we could see the good in them. Maybe then we could have “peace on earth, goodwill towards [everyone]”.

*Yes I know the title should be “Morality is not spelled C-h-r-i-s-t-i-a-n-i-t-y”but unfortunately the theme I am using makes the dashes look like needles. I found it distracting so I went another way.

**Yes I know Luke 2:14 reads “glory to god  in the highest, on earth peace, goodwill towards men”. But if you are nitpicking the first part you missed the point and the second part… well don’t get me started on how many languages assume maleness.

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5 thoughts on “Morality is not spelled C h r i s t i a n i t y, A Holiday Message

  1. AWESOME MISS RHOADES! I loved it. You are on fire!

  2. Emelyne says:

    Hey, Raina! I’ve been lurking on your blog for quite some time now, but I was compelled to comment on this post. It was brilliant and so well-written/thought out! Kudos and thanks for so eloquently expressing so many theist hypocrisies and atheist grievances.

  3. Raina’s killin’ it! Beautifully stated. Excellent work (as always). Now, if you don’t mind, I must be going. I have a few daycares, I need to set fire to. You know… just your run of the mill, typical Atheist activity All in a days work.

  4. OMG, do you see whats transpiring in Syria? In spite of a brutal government crackdown, the manifestations continue

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