Christianity, Racism, and Intolerance, A Long and Mutually Satisfactory Relationship?

March 2nd, 2010

The Evangelical Church, Just Not That Into Fighting Racism

The bible is riddled with behaviors that promote the idea of racism.  Beginning with the mythological curse and  ’mark of Caanan’ which has historically been believed to be dark skin, to the New Testament in which the Apostle Paul writes that slaves must repectfullly submit to their masters.   The bible and it’s contents were used by pro-slavery forces throughout the Civil War to justify the South’s use of slave labor.  It is easy to build a case for racism by using the bible and many white supremacist groups continue to do so today.      

America’s churches (and christian schools) remain remarkably segregated by race.  According to a book written by two evangelical christians called Divided by Faith - the evangelical christian church is inherently incapable of creating a more integrated society.  This review written by Austin Cline discusses the reason why the evangelical church is so inept at actively working to eliminate racism.

Cline writes…

It’s interesting that while conservative evangelical Christians are unequivocal in their support for racial equality, the very structures of their faith serve to perpetuate inequality. How and why this occurs is the subject of Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith‘s book Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. The authors conducted more than 2,000 telephone surveys and 200 face-to-face interviews with black and white evangelicals in order to better understand what they believe, why, and how the two groups differ despite both laying claim to the “evangelical” label.

“[W]e argue that religion, as structured in America, is unable to make a great impact on the racialized society. In fact, far from knocking down racial barriers, religion generally serves to maintain those historical divides, and helps to develop new ones. …[R]eligion in America can serve as a moral force in freeing people, but not in bringing them together as equals across racial lines.”

In another section of Cline’s review of this book he sums up the white evangelical response to the Civil Rights Movement…

All through the Civil Rights era, white evangelical leaders attempted to put the brakes on what black evangelical and civil rights leaders were doing.  It’s not that they were themselves especially racist (though some were), but that they felt the confrontational tactics of the civil rights movement were too harsh and that change had to come more slowly. However opposed they were to segregation personally, they refused to challenge the system head-on. As a consequence, injustice prevailed longer than was necessary.  

 So, I guess I am not the first person to notice that Christianity promotes segregation of the races.  Are evangelical churches (and their accompanying schools) racist?  No.  But segregation of the races seems to be inherent in these institutions and no one seems to be particularly bothered about it.  Imagine if public schools operated that way?  Oh wait!  They did!  And as shown above – America’s white evangelicals did nothing as a group to solve the problem. White evangelicals were extremely happy to allow racism to diminish the lives and the education of their African American neighbors.  They did not jump on the Civil Rights bandwagon.  Instead they complained about the ‘methods’ employed by Martin Luther King Jr and prayed that the problem would just go away.  

In many ways, churches are the perfect place for races to come together under the common banner of belief – and yet this does not happen.  Why?  It is clear to any reasonable thinking person that friendship among people of different ethnic groups is one the most powerful ways to combat racially motivated hatred and discrimination.  Why do churches not use their resources and their people to move their congregations towards a less segregated society?  

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Polarization Begets Polarization And How The Internet Helps…

In a recent issue of the New Yorker, I read an article called The Things People Say by Elizabeth Kolbert.  The article speaks to how once people believe in something – even if it is proven to be false – they often still refuse to stop believing in it.  This type of thinking is worsened by the contemporary ability to filter information according to preferences, prejudices, beliefs and interests on the World Wide Web. Before the internet, a person at least had to glance over the various sections of the evening paper to find the articles that were of personal interest or watch all of the nightly news even if some stories were in direct opposition to what the viewer personally believed.  These days the internet allows people to skip all sorts of ‘other information’ and to focus entirely on the information they personally want to receive.  

The example that Kolbert gives is the Obama birth certificate conspiracy theory and how irrefutable proof was given over and over again that Obama was born in Hawaii.  Yet even after the proof was displayed in multiple ways, to a myriad of people, many times over,  a poll at the time of the election showed that as many as 28% of Republicans still did not believe that Obama was born in the US and 30% of Republicans remained unsure. The internet allows people to pick and choose their information.  The other side of the story - any story might as well not even exist.

Kolbert’s article also reported on a psychological study performed at the University of Michigan in 1970.  In this study, high-school students were divided into groups based on their answers to a questionnaire about racism. Students that exhibited ‘high prejudice’ were placed in one group.  Students with ‘low prejudice’ were also grouped together.  The students were then instructed to discuss issues such as busing and fair housing.  The study determined that when like minded people are grouped together they become even more like minded. The bigoted students became more bigoted and the tolerant students became more tolerant.

This study is fascinating in terms of religion as it is a major group that many people participate in and it has tremendous power to sway people towards tolerance or intolerance.  Surely there are churches and religious groups that work diligently to promote tolerance, but I fear that there are just as many with heavy handed doctrine that are far more likely to promote intolerance… which only breeds more intolerance… which only breeds more intolerance… etc, etc, etc…

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Christian Homeschooling Whack Jobs

Take for instance something called Dominion Theology – a Christian movement within fundamentalism and evangelicalism defined by homeschooling and the need to convert (by force if necessary) the majority of the people on earth to Christianity in order to create the right environment for Christ’s return. These people accept stoning, burning and hanging of people who do not believe the way they do, as well as the death penalty for people that disobey the laws of Moses.  By the way, these people are Americans.

Dominion Theology

So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.

These same whack jobs who wish to take away my rights as an American citizen to believe differently than they do, see no benefit in allowing their children to socialize with other children outside the home – EVEN OTHER CHILDREN IN A CHRISTIAN SCHOOL!  

Here is a quote from a rather evenhanded site on homeschooling regarding the ‘McRea family’ and their views on the socialization of their kids.  Bear in mind – these people are not talking about kids from public school – they are talking about kids from a christian school!

“other children had a negative social effect on their children.” They didn’t like the school telling them what to do or having their lives revolved around the schools schedule, they claimed. “We do not specifically get them involved in a social setting so they can meet other kids…we really don’t think children have a good influence on one another.” Quoting their daughter Donna, “I don’t know how to act when I’m around other girls…” While the McReas complained that academics weren’t rigid enough in a private Christian school, it’s obvious isolating their children was the main motive.”

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In Conclusion…

As a brand new atheist, I confess to finding myself a bit intolerant these days (in case you haven’t noticed) when it comes to religion of any kind, but especially forms that are extreme, refuse to allow access to differing opinions (such as homeschooling children) and send people to hell for a lack of like minded belief.  However I am much more tolerant of everyone who is areligious.  In fact, I have a new found and very deep appreciation for these folks.  Hopefully, I will become more tolerant in general as time goes by, but I will have to exhaust my new found love of pushing the Christians’ buttons first. I can’t help but notice and comment on things like a lack of African Americans at a Christian school athletic event, because I am seeing all of this through very different eyes these days.  Before, I would have excused, rationalized and ignored this issue.  Now I see it as one more reason that religion is a ridiculous and worthless pursuit.  It can’t even bridge the divide between two different colors of people who believe in the same god.

I have presented three examples of why segregation continues to be so rampant in churches and church schools today.  On one end we have a sort of built in mechanism for an apathetic response to social ills such as discrimination as evidenced in the white evangelical response to America’s Civil Rights Movement and the continued disinterest of churches to get involved in social reform.  In the middle we have polarization – the new ability to filter out the other side of the story as well as the fact that the groups that one belongs to tend to amplify an individual’s beliefs.  If you attend a church that promotes tolerance, equality, desegregation, and friendship among different races, you will be even more likely to believe those things yourself.  However if you attend an intolerant church or a church that is unconcerned with social problems like racism and it’s associated problems, you are even more likely to be intolerant and unconcerned yourself.  Finally, we have the whack jobs.  Folks who want America to be a theocratic society and who are tightly controlling their children so that they can take over our nation for Jesus.  Diversity doesn’t even exist for these people.  There is only one way… or should we say One Way… or The Way, The Truth and The Light and no man comes unto the father but by him.  And these people will happily burn my atheist ass on a pyre in front of my children if they ever get the chance.

Comments

  • Carol:

    Please don’t confuse Christianity with the Evangelical brand. Martin Luther King Jr was a Christian (of course) and there were a lot of liberal Christian denominations out there

  • Another good book on that cognitive dissonance that prevents people from accepting that they have a false belief is Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.
    On what we believe and why: SuperSense: Why We Believe the Unbelievable by Bruce Hood.
    I believe that we need to increase understanding between people and the internet can facilitate that (as well as make it easier for us to avoid ideas we don’t like). Whenever I meet people from other cultures online, I try to develop a relationship with them so that they will know an American, an atheist, a white person, whatever I am to them – and they can serve as a witness to all the people that they know as to what I am like.

  • Even here in my own liberal city, churches are divided along racial lines, although I don’t see it as a matter of intent but of what kind of worship service people prefer. White people tend to be rather staid for the most part, whereas black people prefer a lot more volume and movement.

  • Of course I’ve noticed your shift from tolerance of one group to tolerance of another, & likewise intolerance of one group to intolerance of another. I have chosen to not enter the fray of comment arguments (although – wow!) b/c this is YOUR blog, & I come here b/c I enjoy reading your thoughts – whether I agree with them all or not. Plus, I just like you, goshdarnit.

    For the Dominion Theology people, however, I have a question. What about the whole thing about being in the world, but not of the world? What about the idea that this world is not our home, but rather heaven is? What about the whole “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s?” I didn’t understand how that meant, “Turn Pat Robertson into Caesar!” I’ve never understood the whole Christian political platform business, or why there even is one…

    Not that you can answer this one, of course, Rechelle!

  • “So, I guess I am not the first person to notice that Christianity promotes segregation of the races.”

    No, and neither are you the first person to allow your own bigotry to take what human nature does and blame religion for it :-)

    “for in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27,28

  • I wish your post on the basketball tournament had been posted more in this vein of composition. It reads much more intelligently than the other. (That one’s a bit more OMG!!!*pointing fingers*) A bit more designed to rile people up I suspect.

    But really…I’m here to suggest a book for you to read! Because I know you love history and I know you love books, and this one should be right up your alley. It’s “Black Like Me” by John Howard Griffin. Literally, white Texas man turns himself black in the late 60′s and ventures into the deep south. It’s fascinating. And a great revelation on society then (both black and white) and some continuing issues we face today.

    One comment on the post – religions are like civil right leaders. Some are MLK Jr, others are Malcolm X.

  • kathy:

    I’m not trying to be mean; but, if you’re happy in your decision, why not give it a rest for awhile? We get it. You’ve lost belief in God. It’s your right to believe what you want. This is also your blog. You have the right to decide it’s content. The stridency is getting really old. Speaking as someone who only checks in every once in awhile, I can’t imagine what every day must be like! I used to read you all the time. I stopped because you were sounding so bitter. I think you are smart and very funny. You can be an atheist and still be interesting and enjoyable to read, can’t you?

  • Potco:

    Rechelle,
    Your blog has quickly become one of my favorites, both because of your friendly approach to religions, sad some people miss this, and because of your wit. The one thing I might add is to avoid absolutes. You are right that there is a lot of problems with regard to race and religion but it is not the only cause, I think adding a qualification might help. Keep up the good work.

  • Ted Powell:

    Take for instance something called Dominion Theology …A couple of the sites I follow linked to this article yesterday:

    Heads Up: Prayer Warriors and Sarah Palin Are Organizing Spiritual Warfare to Take Over America

    The New Apostolic Reformation, the largest religious movement you’ve never heard of, aims to take control of communities through ‘prayer warriors.’

    March 1, 2010 Imagine a religious movement that makes geographic maps of where demons reside and claims among its adherents the Republican Party’s most recent vice presidential nominee and whose leaders have presided over prayer sessions (one aimed at putting the kibosh on health-care reform) with a host of leading GOP figures.

    It’s a movement whose followers played a significant role in the battle over Proposition 8, California’s anti-same-sex marriage initiative, and Uganda’s infamous proposed Anti-Homosexuality Law, more commonly associated with the Family, a religious network of elites drawn from the ranks of business and government throughout the world. But the movement we’re imagining encompasses the humble and the elite alike, supporting a network of “prayer warriors” in all 50 states, within the ranks of the U.S. military, and at the far reaches of the globe — all guided by an entire genre of books, texts, videos and other media.

    Imagine that, and you’ve just dreamed up the New Apostolic Reformation, the largest religious movement you’ve never heard of.

    NAR’s videos, according to researcher Rachel Tabachnick, “demonstrate the taking control of communities and nations through large networks of ‘prayer warriors’ whose spiritual warfare is used to expel and destroy the demons that cause societal ills. Once the territorial demons, witches, and generational curses are removed, the ‘born-again’ Christians in the videos take control of society.” …

    There’s much more, in that article and the Tabachnick article it links to. I would dismiss it all as just something to have a chuckle over, were it not for the amount of money that appears to be behind it, and Palin’s demonstrated ability to get people fired up (whack job though she may be). And this:

    In 2008, [Lou] Engle, at an event he staged at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, advocated acts of Christian martyrdom to end abortion and same-sex marriage. This “apostle” claims LGBT people are possessed by demons. And Engle is not the only NAR apostle with political connections.

  • I have been thinking about similar things lately. I have started to wonder if the real issue is humans tendency towards tribalism and religion is just a tribal banner that people happen to be flying. There could also be political tribalism (conservative tribe vs. liberal tribe) or racial tribalism, brand tribalism (Ford tribe vs. Chevy tribe, Mac vs. Windoze), or any other kind of group that people can form. Once you put up the walls and define who is in the group and who is out and the people in the group all rally around the same symbols, use similar language, and want to reinforce the groups culture at all costs. The groups culture is what defines what you are a part of, and so you have a tendency to want to maintain that culture if you want to maintain your membership in the group. There may be people who are wired for more extreme forms of tribalism then others like the McRea’s who are so hung up on the idea of us vs. them that everyone else is a them. They want to put the tribal compound wall around their family and not include anyone else who might corrupt their groupthink.

    This tendency towards tribalism can be present in any group, even atheist groups. Although, it tends to be magnified in groups that, by their nature, don’t allow for analyzing, critically testing, and evaluating ideas. The Coke Tribe vs. the Pepsi Tribe isn’t as polarizing, because there is no unquestionable doctrine saying that “If any but the true Nectar of the Gods doth pass through thy lips, then thy soul shall surely be cast into the dry parched desert that is the underworld and thou shall be forced to walk the desert for eternity without a single quaff of refreshment…” On the contrary…you can take the Pepsi challenge…can you imagine a church suggesting that you take the “Religion Challenge”?

  • Jill:

    I have to chuckle and say Rechelle would probably not describe her approach to religion as particularly friendly right now! You have been reading the last months’ worth of blogs, have you not, Potco?

    But as Rechelle says, once she exhausts her new love of pushing the Christians’ buttons, she hopes to become more tolerant.

    It’s a process, as is all of life. What Rechelle has expressed in the past two years of her blog is…well, the essence of Rechelle…beautiful, funny, sensitive, complex. Rechelle is letting loose another side that she was struggling with and holding back from her bloggers – it’s blow off steam time. So we are getting more honest and authentic communication from her.

    I have to admit, though, I’d love for the intense negative tone to wind down. Hate to say this, Rechelle, but I react to it the same way I do around the overbearing newly born again Christians! The similarity in intolerance and intensity has struck me more than once when reading your blog. Sorry! Still love ya though, and it’s your blog and we readers can stop reading if we don’t like it. I get that.

  • shel:

    I do believe in God, & find comfort in my faith, and I also agree wholeheartedly in your (paraphrased here) statement regarding your intolerance of extreme thinking that refuses to allow access to differing opinions & thinking people will go to hell for a lack of a like minded belief system. I feel the same way! I reconcile my faith by believing that while God is good, people suck. And doing something in God’s name does not mean that it’s what God would want. As far as I’m concerned, God wants me to love others & do what I can to help those in need. End of story.

    Seriously, I have 3 close family members who are gay, and if I ever get alone in a room with the pope, I’m going to kick some papal butt. Not to mention the stupid stance the church takes on Assisted Reproductive Technology. They can all kiss the cute little bottom of my ART begotten perfect angel of a daughter. I’ve already written too long a comment or I’d go into the time I got into a yelling match with a priest over some aspect of getting her baptized out of state. Good times.

    I really liked this post. I was getting a bit tired of what I felt was an aggressive intolerance directed towards people that lacked a like minded belief and refused to acknowledge that believing in God doesn’t automatically equal bigotry, racism, etc. But just this one post explaining your views in this manner has done wonders for me in regards to deciding if I should bother to keep reading. And I want to keep reading – even when you push christian buttons. Because we can’t grow as people if we don’t get our buttons pushed every once in a while.

  • First of all, I have to say that I rather like what Shelley and Tesauros have already said. Not that it’s going to stop me from leaving my own likely very lengthy comment;o)

    On to the first paragraph. The usage you gave of the mark of Cain is not biblical. Rather, it is an example of how people have twisted the Bible to support their own pre-formed opinions.

    The type of slavery Paul discusses was different than slavery during or just prior to the Civil War as well as at certain other times in history and in various cultures. Some of those slaves whom Paul addressed where more like indentured servants who had served out their period of indenture, were given the option to go free, and willingly chose to stay on as servants. That is not to say I agree with it, but I think you have to look at things in the context of the period in history and the culture to which they belong. Paul telling these people to respectfully submit to their masters was like me telling you that you should obey the laws of this country and also listen to and respect your employer. Should Paul have told slaves to revolt instead? If they were treated well by their masters, why would they necessarily want to? Again, you cannot apply the system of slavery used during any other period or culture to another. This is NOT me saying those slaves brought to America from Africa should have just been content that they were in a good Christian nation with an opportunity for employment with food and shelter provided. (Just to be absolutely clear, I would never say that and would completely disagree with any such statement.)

    Yes, there were people who used the example of slavery in the Bible to justify some very horrible things. Again, many people have twisted the Bible to support their cause, but that does not mean the Bible actually supports these things. I could twist your words to mean something quite different from what you intend just as easily, if not more so.

    Why is it that churches seem to be so segregated? I have often asked myself the same question, but it appears to me that the answer is perhaps more cultural as well as based upon where people live. People tend to choose a church that is close to their home and people of all races tend to choose other people with whom they feel they will have something in commong. Sadly that means that sometimes people choose groups (of any kind) based upon what the other people in the group look like, including the color of their skin.

    As to why private schools are so segregated, I imagine, as someone suggested yesterday, that is due in large part to economic status. We could not afford private school if we wanted that option for our children either. I also wonder if parents choose or do not choose private schools based upon their own school experiences. If the parents of Family A attended public schools and have the overall feeling that they survived them or did well in them, then they are less likely to see private school as a necessity. The parents of Family B, however, may have attended private schools or public schools in wealthier neighborhoods as children and feel the need to shield their children from the dangers (real or perceived) of a city public school.

    Now for the big news! I whole-heartedly agree with some of your points. In fact, I agree with about half of this post.

    Yes, I agree that this polarization thing is a vicious cycle. Witness politics in this country. And, yes, I agree that the internet contributes to that, although I think the real culprit is laziness.

    Yes, churches should help bring people together. No doubt about it.

    Yes, some Evangelicals are whackos and not in the least bit evangelical as you might assume from the name they’ve given themselves. Others are perhaps a bit TOO evangelical and feel they have the right to overstep freedom of will. That’s some serious overstepping since God is the one who gave us free will. (Which is one very big reason you are able to cite references of so many people behaving badly in the Bible.) I have also met some very sane, reasonable, tolerant Evangelicals who wonder what the heck their brethren are smokin’. There are whackos the world over, of every stripe and color. I bet there are at least a few atheist whackos out there too, not that that makes it okay.

    Finally, I think that some people will always fight. Some people will always segregate and discriminate and act out of hate. (Ooh, I feel an INXS song coming on.) It is part of our flawed human nature to do these things, and it is inevitable as long as we have free will that some people will use that freedom poorly. I wouldn’t trade my free will for any robot/zombie-like existence no matter how peaceful it might be, though. And I believe there are just as many if not more of us who would choose love over hate.

    I enjoyed this post today, Rechelle. It was much more thoughtful and even-tempered, which makes it easier to consider what you have to say–and I believe you have a lot of good things to say.

  • Ooh, I like Cat’s Staff’s comment, too. And I will be checking out that book bdaiss mentioned. I’ve heard of it before, but I’m writing it down now.

  • km:

    Cat’s Stuff, you have hit the nail on the head I think. I kept thinking of the Red Sox Nation as I read your comment. I also think about Northern Ireland- the segregation there was not even religious theology as such but a question of political, social and economic power completely skewed to one “tribe”.
    What I find odd here in the US is the tribe’s multiple cast ie conservative, religious, republican for example . It seems like the tribe has numerous facets. It’s almost as if there is one credo and the tribe lines up. There you have the polarization.
    I wonder if it’s the result of marketing lessons learned, the razor-like targetting of message and the tie-ins of thought.

  • Jadehawk:

    On to the first paragraph. The usage you gave of the mark of Cain is not biblical. Rather, it is an example of how people have twisted the Bible to support their own pre-formed opinions.

    well, yes, of course. Except that that’s the only way to get any moral guidance from the bible, since everything in the bible is contradicted by something else in it. it’s a giant chrstian rorschach test.

    and in any case, this isn’t just something that christians do. seems that when people think about what “god” wants, they use the part of their brain that tells them what THEY want, not the part of the brain that helps them figure out what other people want.

  • LucyGolden:

    Very interesting & very well said, Rechelle. You bring out a lot of valid points that have made me think. While I grew up in a diverse community & family, there were no “ethnic” people in the Episcopal church I attended until 20 years ago. I’d never thought of it before…
    Of note regarding President Obama’s birth certificate: I was at a very small dinner party last night (7 people) & I couldn’t believe that all the people, except for me, still believed that the President wasn’t born in the US! One woman even thought he had been adopted! Unreal…
    You’re right, a lot of people only believe what fits into their nice little pristine lives & segregate themselve from what might be a little uncomfortable…Sad…

  • Amber:

    Rechelle~ I feel the same way you do about seeing the world through new atheist glasses. I’ve only been an atheist for about 3 years, but only in the last year did I really start doing research about my unbeliefs =) Especially living in the south, you feel like you have to be prepared to go to battle with the fundamentalists at any time. You feel like your hustling to fill up your knowledge base. It’s a little hypocritical that a person who believes in god doesn’t need any proof, just faith. While an atheist gets drilled about proof that god doesn’t exist, that the bible is fiction, etc. I’m right there with you! Keep up the awesome blog!

    Jenni~
    And to the comment made by Jenni about slavery: Why do bible believers feel they get to pick and choose what parts of the bible are literal and what parts are symbolic? Read Exodus 21:2-21. Sound pretty literal to me. Even Jesus approves of beating slaves in Luke 12:47-48. You also state that even though the bible has these “stories” that it doesn’t mean it endorses it. Jesus just endorsed it. http://www.evilbible.com/Slavery.htm This link has countless scriptures that proves the bible endorses rape, slavery, murder, human sacrifice, etc.

  • Betsy:

    For Rechelle and those upset with her… being upset… speaking from experience, it will simmer down. I went through it a few years ago. There is a period where there is a lot of anger, a lot of “wtf has been going on while I was so enamored with religion?!” The head shaking hasn’t gone away yet, but the anger quiets down.
    In the mean time, there’s no harm in pointing things out so the rest of us can yell, “wtf” and head shake too.
    Don’t consider it all negative either. You can’t do anything about this stuff if you don’t know about it… Rechelle is informing herself and her readers. Nothing wrong with that. Being more informed is the first step to making the world a better place for all of us no matter what we believe.

  • Ted Powell:

    Betsy wrote: For Rechelle and those upset with her… being upset…Right after reading this, I saw that a new Jesus and Mo cartoon had appeared. It turned out to be marvellously a propos!

  • Maria:

    Glad I stopped by today. This post is something I can understand and think about, even if I don’t entirely agree. I’m not hung up on feeling personally attacked (even if you DID mention homeschooling…ahem..I feel I”m a bit off the hook because I am not a fundy homeschooler;) and can actually ‘hear’ what is being said.
    Well done. Not that you needed me to ‘rah rah’ but I figure if I can tell you what I didn’t like yesterday, I better tell ya when I do find something thought provoking.

  • DirtyKSmama - Nikki:

    Good post, Rechelle.

  • Kathy J:

    This is going to seem weird but right now you remind me of when my best friend was “born again” man if I didn’t think I was going to hell before she saw the light I sure knew it after! Anyway she calmed down as time went on and she is still way more conservative than I am even now but we respect each other and have been friends for around 35 years. I think the same will happen to you – not the religious conversion part!!! but the part where you can stay true to your beliefs with out having to yell at people.

    In reference to your wrestling with the angel post – as a public school teacher GASP!! I am uncomfortable with that kind of thing in school – not because I have problems with Christianity but even up here in Nebraska, not everyone is a Christian – and a little sensitivity to other faiths (or lack thereof) is a good thing.

  • RetroMeg:

    Christians,
    Your religion is everywhere. You wear it around your neck, you plaster it on your car, you pull your children out of public schools so you can indoctrinate them, you have your church, your political leaders, your blogs with bible verse in the margins, etc. etc. etc. At what point is it enough for you? It’s not enough that you elect my public leaders based on their religion, now you have to bully people on the internet and try and silence dissent?

    As someone who knows how extremely difficult it can be to be an out of the closet atheist I can’t help but get so annoyed by the comments I read here. Now even the big, wide interwebs is not big enough for Christians who feel that this one little blog written by one little atheist shouldn’t be allowed. Do you know how many blogs I go to and see religion splashed all over them? Thousands. Do I harass those bloggers about writing about their beliefs? Certainly not. I close the page and move on. I dare the say the internet is big enough for all of us, and you people who comment here in a snit look like the pushy, aggressive, haughty, holier-than-thou Christians many atheist have always thought you to be. You really aren’t making a very good name for yourselves. Why not move along and get back to protesting gay marriage or whatever other hate rally you are missing?

  • Erp:

    Jenni,

    Roman era slavery varied. Certainly the highly skilled slaves often held privileged positions and could well look forward to freedom and wealth (especially if their masters/former masters were emperors or other prominent men). Note that most freed slaves still had a legal subordinate relationship with their former master now patron. However the vast majority of slaves were bound generation after generation to the land (such as on the latifundia) with little opportunity for freedom or ease (and the worst off were those working in the mines). The major difference was that Roman slavery was not strictly racial; anyone could end up a slave and descendants of freed slaves could reach high positions. In the US freed slaves and their descendants were/are still second class (unless they pass as ‘white’) though the barriers are breaking.

    This led to denominations often being segregated. AME and AME Zion were splits from the Methodists over treatment of Black members of the church. The National Baptists are traditionally Black while American and Southern Baptists are traditionally White.
    Even the Quakers segregated.

  • brad:

    new to your site in the past two weeks found it looking for small farm related blogs, and how cool is this that in the last year I too have left a christian based religion (after 34 years) now leaning heavily your direction, at the very least a skeptic. any way keep up the good work and give em hell !!!

  • Suzie:

    Rechelle, I am also rather new to your site and I just wanted to commend you for having the courage of your new convictions. It does take a great deal of courage to speak up and speak out about the issues around which we as a nation are most polarized, but it is only through the courage of folks like you speaking out and encouraging this debate will we ever move towards being a more civilized and evolved country. You will emerge from this experience a better person for having it, and all of those whose lives are touched by your experience will benefit, as well. Keep up the good words!

  • Dan:

    Jenni in KS wrote regarding slavery in the Bible:

    “I think you have to look at things in the context of the period in history and the culture to which they belong.”

    Not to pick on you personally, since this is a common sentiment, but it’s one that really bugs me when used as a defense for why holy texts have distasteful things in them. I ran into this a lot when I was growing up going to religious school.

    “Why does the Bible endorse having multiple wives?”
    “Why does the Bible allow slavery?”
    “Why do you used to have to marry your brother’s wives if he dies?”

    And the answer was typically, “Well, that was the norm back then.”

    A while ago, I saw a debate with Stephen Fry (I think?) about whether the Catholic church was a force for good in the world, and he summed it up better than I can (paraphrasing):

    Religions claims they are such moral authorities, but if they can’t be expected to be more enlightened than the time from which they came, then what are they good for?

  • Anon:

    Racism is troubling, that’s for sure. Perhaps I’m headed for trouble and should be worried about where I live, perhaps I shouldn’t be.

    Here’s the thing; I’m white, I believe in Christ (don’t belong to a religion), I homeschool my children – all 5 of them, I’m lower middle class, I’m female and married. I live in a predominantly poor neighborhood that’s about 85% black. In fact I chose to move here 3 months ago. I hated having to travel from my way out in the country home to town. I also live in the Midwest, in a town that’s very divided by wealth and race. A town that’s also known to have a high crime rate, particularly the inner city. Which happens to also be exactly where I moved into. And yes for the most, from what I can tell, the churches are pretty divided as well. My extended family thinks I’m nuts. Maybe they’re right. I don’t think I am.

    I have lived all over this great country and once I lived in an area where whites were considered a minority. What a shock, right? Not really. What I know about racism is that it isn’t just a white thing, it’s a people thing. So are a lot of things that are discrimination based. Perhaps the real problem is that folks just need a reason to hate on someone and well the easiest targets are our differences.

    Interesting conversation you made about the churches you’ve witnessed. Let me assure you that the coin gets flipped both ways. Case in point I wanted to attend a church within my immediate vincinity to worship. It happened to be an all black church. Lets just say my largish white family weren’t the most welcomed guests. And I too have also witnessed blacks not being so welcomed at an all white church. But it’s not just church that this happens at, it’s in lots of areas of life.

    So perhaps my black neighbors will find cause in me to hate. And perhaps my white neighbors will find cause in me to hate. There’s chance though they might not. Perhaps we all need to find a reason to love instead.

  • kathy:

    I just wish you’d stop with all the name calling. Ridiculing people who disagree with you, is ignorant and childish. All people hear is the cattiness, and miss the points you’re trying to make. This isn’t said with hostility or condemnation. It’s only an observation.

  • This was a great post. Interesting with lots of thought-provoking information.

    I taught high school in a rural area from 1969 to 1971. This was, of course, not long after the Civil Rights movement started and only a few years after M.L. King was murdered. The school had started a new humanities course, which was a combination of art, literature, and social studies. One of the assignments was to create a survey (on any subject), conduct the survey and report on the results. I was shocked then (although I wouldn’t be now) to discover that the results of a survey on racial tolerance showed that students were less likely to accept those of another race in church than in school, a social club, sports team, or as neighbors. I once read that 11 am to noon on Sundays is the most segregated hour each week in America, which I believe is true. It’s sad that religions which teach their followers to “love one another” don’t do a very good job of it.

  • Alex:

    Great post! Lots of stuff to think about. Particularly interesting is the black/white evangelical divide.

    And I think you’re spot on about the internet supporting biased and uninformed and opinion. I wonder how the landscape of “fact” might change when the internet takes over completely from (public) TV and newspaper, and people find themselves paying for content that today is free. As more people buy Kindle and iPad devices and books continue to die out, perhaps they will commit even more deeply to one ideology over another; total ideological branding would be a snap.

  • Mindy:

    A comment on the polarization part. As a science minded person who knows that I should go with what the evidence tells us, I still occasionally find it difficult to remodel in my head the things I learned in college and high school. I.E. Red pandas are bears now, not related to raccoons, Pluto is not a planet. And that’s when I’m presented with facts. I can’t imagine how some would change their thoughts when you’re relying on faith(much more subjective) instead of evidence.

  • OMG! (“G” for goodness out of respect for your new view on things) I don’t want to be offensive — seriously, I don’t like conflict — but you’re beginning to sound exactly like the very ones you lamblast on nearly every single post. I don’t disagree with much of what you believe, but I hope you can find a more positive tone in which you can share your beliefs. Everytime I pull up your site (which until recently, I couldn’t wait to read every day) I feel like I’m being brow beaten into atheistic submission. Trust me, this is no different than having to sit through catechesim ALL over again. Isn’t there something else equally as thought provoking/important/humorous going on in the world worth blogging about? And if you think there is, please don’t feel compelled to pull in the Bible, Evangelicals, Homeschoolers, etc., into the scenario. I get it. Seriously, you’re losing me here.

  • Anoria:

    “Hopefully, I will become more tolerant in general as time goes by, but I will have to exhaust my new found love of pushing the Christians’ buttons first.”

    That’s what I’ve been waiting to hear. In the meantime, I look forward to reading your button-pushing, as it’s helping to educate me about all the problems I stopped wanting to find when I realized I was in love with a hardcore Catholic who was better at arguing than me. No doubt many of your other readers are appreciating the opportunities for increased awareness too.
    (I do feel the need to point out that biblical slaves weren’t always of another race and were supposedly required to be set free after seven years, no questions asked. Dunno how accurate that all is though.)

  • Jenni – I know the mark of Cain is also an option for the ‘dark skin curse’ – but I was referring to the mark of Caanan who is Noah’s grandson who Noah cursed even though it was really Ham who was Caanan’s father who pissed Noah off. Which makes the entire story even more ludicrous. Why is Caanan cursed for Ham’s misdeed? Is it because Noah felt bad about naming his son ‘Ham’ and felt like that was punishment enough?

  • Beebs:

    Ditto Jill, Kathy, & jk. Rechelle, you are sounding darned intolerant these days.

  • jamoody:

    “So perhaps my black neighbors will find cause in me to hate. And perhaps my white neighbors will find cause in me to hate. There’s chance though they might not. Perhaps we all need to find a reason to love instead.”

    Excellent comment by Anon.

  • Jadehawk:

    “I believe in Christ (don’t belong to a religion)”

    oh, I’m just dying to know how that is supposed to work.

  • Christine from Canada:

    A bit of a sequé, but has anyone seen M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village”? Same director as “Signs”, “The Sixth Sense”.

    I hope I don’t spoil the plot for those who haven’t seen “The Village”. I will only say that the movie has an interesting sub-plot about the lengths (well-intentioned but misguided) parents will go to to “protect” their children from “evil”.

    Anyway. I don’t think it’s a stretch to see a connection between this film and (everything’s that wrong with) religion.

    Thoughts?

  • Christine from Canada:

    Um…that’s segué, with a “g”….

  • CJ :):

    Speaking as a long term atheist, I do hope you moderate your tone soon. Disparaging atheists don’t do us any good. They do nothing but prevent dialogue and stop understanding from flowing between people of good will, religious or atheist.

  • LucyGolden:

    @Christine…I *loved* “The Village”. Great story!

  • Stephanie:

    I just wanna say, as ugly and frustrating as it feels now, it will pass. It just takes time, and work. I remember when it all happened to me, 20-something years ago. I lashed out at the world for a while. I just had to vent anger, disappointment, frustration, sadness, and express some relief and excitement too. Boy I was a ball of pure joy wrapped in a tangled mess of knots, let me tell ya.

    You will come out on the other side, though. Figuring out who you are after you thought you were someone else all this other time, that’s upsetting. But with time comes understanding. I’m now a much better, happier, kinder person than I ever was, because I purged all that negativity and did the necessary work to rebuild.

    It’ll come. Patience, grasshoppa.

  • Rechelle, Several people suggest that you will become more tolerant with time. Well, maybe. Maybe not.

    I started to have doubts when I was twelve and was an atheist before I left high school. So I have been a non-believer for close to half a century. People think atheists are angry at god —but that’s preposterous. How can I be angry at something I believe does not exist? I’m angry, in general, at religion, and especially in religions that attempt to tell me how to live my life. I’ve been angrier at religion and/or religious folks for the past 20 years than I was for the previous 30. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not angry at every religion or at every religious person. I’m angry at those who attempt to intrude on the lives of those who believe differently than they do.

    I attribute that is part to having more time now to read and think about these things. But most of it, I think, is because more people seem to be pushing religion from the personal to the public arena. I really don’t care if one has a nativity scene in one’s front yard. I don’t care if someone has a dozen of them. I don’t care how often you pray at home or silently to yourself anywhere else. But when religious people insist on putting a créche in the state capitol, want prayers (their own sect’s, of course) in public schools, sponsor prayer breakfasts for Congress, write “In God We Trust” on our national money, then they have crossed the line. I’m tired of politicians who end every speech with “God bless America” as if everyone agrees with that statement. I’m tired of “holier than thou” types telling me how to live —who then go out and do the opposite. (I’m talking about you Ted Haggard, et.al.) I’m angry at moralizing preachers who blame every world-wide natural disaster on gays, feminists, atheists, and abortionists. (Yes, Pat, I mean you.) I’m tired of crazy preachers who pray that President Obama will drop dead. (I cannot express the degree of dislike I had for W. but I never wished him dead.) I’m angry that an open atheist could not be elected to be a public official almost anywhere in the U.S. and that several states unconstitutionally forbid it. I’m mad at the Limbaughs, Coulters, and Becks of this world who spread fear and hatred and have become far more powerful than our elected officials. I’m angry that people who don’t know me make assumptions about me. They think all atheists are immoral, communists, thieves, drug pushers, or child abusers. I am none of these things and not one atheist I know is either. (There are probably some somewhere, but there are also a lot of Christians, for example, who are immoral or unethical —or worse. Remember the BTK killer?) I have friends of many religions and also many non-believing friends. There are no outstanding differences in any of them as far as morality or ethics go.

    So, yes. I’m mad as hell.

    Like you, I try to be polite and respectful of all. I know everyone has a right to believe as s/he wishes. Please, just let me do the same without feeling like a second-class citizen.

  • km:

    speaking of movies I just saw “the invention of lying”, Rechelle. The pizza boxes………..