I went to church regularly for many years. I was taken by force at first by my grandparents before I was old enough to even understand what was happening to me. When I first started going to church because I wanted to, the head of the church was Pastor Allan. He was exceptionally intelligent and well educated. They had this thing there called "children's church" where the kids would leave the sermon and go play games and stuff. I always sat and listened to Pastor Allan instead.
For as long as I can remember, I never really believed the Bible stories. I think I was about six when I told my mom this and she told me her thoughts on ancient peoples and their lack of scientific understanding. She told me to think more about the point of the stories not whether or not the stuff actually happened. I think that's why I enjoyed listening to Pastor Allan so much. He talked about the point of the stories. He was always so kind. I never heard him pass judgement on anyone. I never heard him tell anyone what they should believe.
As I got older, I thought a lot about what I really believed. I started to realize that not only did I not believe the stories, I didn't believe in a supreme being. Oh how awful! If I died I was going to hell! I I told my mom. She assured me she didn't think I was going to hell and that she didn't think I was a bad person. She said that she went through a period where she didn't know whether she really believed or not and told me about how that period actually made her faith stronger in the end, even if her faith didn't come out looking like the faith of many others when it was all said and done. She also told me that some people never believe in a supreme being and that no matter what, my feelings and my beliefs belonged to me and no one else. She told me I should never be ashamed of what I believed and she wasn't ashamed of me either.
I continued to go to church because I wanted to. Then the church got a new pastor. She was a lot different from Pastor Allan. She always had something to say about me. She didn't like that I was homeschooled. She didn't like that I didn't have a bedtime. She didn't like my fashion choices. Nothing about me was right. One Sunday, I had a theater event to participate in and didn't go to church. That evening, there was a dinner at church and I asked my mom if we could go. Let me repeat that. I asked my mom if we could go. The pastor reprimanded me when I got there for not being in church that morning. I do not wish to return to where I am not welcome.
I don't generally walk around advertising that I'm a secular humanist. I'm not ashamed of it at all and I have some T-shirts I wear sometimes, but I really don't find it necessary to say, "Hi, I'm Madison, secular humanist, what's your name?" My family and friends know what I am. Some of them are very supportive, some are not. When people say prayers at group functions, I sit or stand there quietly. I listen to the words, and most of the time they are good words. If someone asks me to say a prayer, I just say, "No thank you, go ahead."
Over the last few years I have made a lot of friends who are secular humanists and other non-believers like myself. Many of them have been hurt by religious people. Many of them have been told they need to be saved, that without God they can't have morals, and that they are going to hell. There are some parents who won't "allow" their children to be around us non-believers and censor what their children see and hear so they are not exposed to "evil" and things the adults don't personally agree with. I find it ironic when some of those who follow a religion based on a supreme being who is supposed to be in charge always feel the need to be in charge themselves. I also find it hypocritical when some of those those who constantly state their faith is so strong act so threatened by the mere existence of people who don't share it.
Did you think this was going to totally be a "Rah rah atheist!" kind of post? Think again. There are atheists out there just as bad as the worst Bible thumpers. They declare anyone who believes in any religion is stupid. They declare anyone who believes in any religion is the source of the all world's problems. I find it ironic when some of those who claim to embrace reason throw all reason out the window when it's time to deal with those who aren't hurting anyone but don't agree with them. I also find it hypocritical when some of those who constantly state their reasoning is so strong act so threatened by the mere existence of people who don't share it.
In this country we have freedom of religion, meaning we can worship the flying spaghetti monster if we want to and have lo mein rituals on Saturday nights if we so choose. We also have freedom from religion, meaning we should be free from people trying to make laws that try to enforce the beliefs of any particular religion, have public schools where you can read the Bible or pray if you want but no one can force you, and not have our tax dollars being used to fund any religion. Our Founding Fathers had no problem coming together as people holding a wide variety of beliefs in order to work for the common good. Did they argue sometimes? Yes. The end product though was what was intended to protect the rights and freedoms of all.
In this country we have a lot of problems and I think it's time for people to decide what is more important, being right personally or being free collectively. Most people would say it is being free but actions speak louder than words. We all have to remember that our spiritual beliefs belong to us and no one else. Christians have to understand some members of God's fan club cause a lot of hurt and that being members of the most popular religion in the US gives them privilege they should not abuse. Atheists, humanists, and other non-Christians have to realize not every Christian out there wants to hurt us, save us, convert us, or impose their beliefs on the entire United States through legislation. Most people just want to hang out and be themselves, find things in common with other people, and learn from one another. It's only by working together that we can all be collectively free.