I always forget about Easter. Even as a kid, if my school didn’t remind me every day the week before, I’d be surprised one Sunday morning by a sudden basket full of chocolate. Nowadays, the only thing about Easter that matters to me is the pre-Easter ham sales and the post-Easter chocolate sales.
My family tried to raise me religious, and I can’t say I ever had a bad experience at church. It was a decent place. Church Camp was fun, even. It was one of the first places I actually felt safe being out. I didn’t even feel safe at school, where half of my classmates identified as Bi-Curious, because at school it was ok to not be sure but it wasn’t ok to be super sure. Unless you were a gay boy. Gay boys were very popular. There were definitely problems with parents and the older generations, and being kicked out for being gay was very much a thing, but among our own peers, things would have seemed quite progressive. And, well, they were, for the time.
No, my departure from religion happened very early. In 2nd grade or so, a Sunday School teacher felt it appropriate to bring up the story of Job. You know, the story where the ever-perfectly flawless Christian deity made a bet with the Big Bad of Christianity and, as a result of that bet, Job lost literally everything. Including his family, and his kids. And that’s far from the only time the deity decided to slaughter innocents (see ‘all the firstborns of Egypt’). I tried to shake the discomfort, but it never truly left me. Then I grew and learned about the true history of the Christian religion, and I learned about other ancient religions, and I learned about the world, and I just knew.
I’m not a Christian. I don’t believe any of it.
I’m sure that sounds like an attack to people whose identities are deeply rooted in the Christian religion, but it’s really not. Go on believing if you believe. That really doesn’t bother me, and I really don’t care. I don’t have to believe the same things you believe, and you don’t have to believe the same things I believe. It’s ok. Go forth and do good in the name of your god and I will go forth and do my best just because it’s the right thing to do.
What gets to me is the people who use religion, any religion, to harm or to justify harm. A quick look through history shows that religion has been used at almost every turn to cause harm in some way. While some may try to reason with themselves “oh not my good religion! not in the modern era!” religions are still very much being used this way
Even Christians who consider themselves to be progressive are still shackled by the ‘go forth and spread the word’ clause. That parasitic attitude means that, at best, the deeply religious constantly feel the urge to try to explain to me that I just haven’t truly experienced Jesus and try to fix me or prove to me that religion is actually really good, even when they already know that I didn’t leave Christianity because of a dislike of the people. I left it because I dislike the Christian deity. It’s kind of hard to follow a religion when you don’t like its god, after all.
The pressures to go forth and assimilate is everywhere in the Christian religion. Even in the entertainment created for ‘worship purposes’ and even the entertainment created just for the sake of entertainment.
For example, see God’s Not Dead, along with most religious movies. The movies tell Christians that they’re doing good, they’re blessed, they’re fighting the good fight. They’re victims, even though they are the ruling class in America. They must also save the rest of us heathens, whose lives are empty and painful and pure suffering without Christianity. Sure, most good Christians will use those attitudes to go and help others, but even good Christians will, say, go on missions to other countries, where they ‘teach children to read’ using only the Bible, or do jobs for free that would otherwise have been done by locals and helped boost their economies. Because they must spread their god’s words.
But the movies tell them they are good, and doing good. The movies tell them that these others are lost, and will be happier when brought into the fold.
It’s creepy. And the movies are generally vague enough that most protestants, and some more specific subsects, can self-insert their own religion into it. It’s like Religion Swan. A blank enough slate that they can see themselves in it, but also a slate with enough of a message to still try to pretend that the steamrolling of all other cultures, beliefs, and ways of living is the right thing to do.
It’s how those in power keep and spread their power, and it’s foolish to ignore that religion is very often used in this way. When I say I want to fight Quiverfulls and their ilk, it’s not an attack on Christianity. When I try to talk about how ‘religious rights’ law are actually laws to try to legalize discrimination, I’m not telling you that you can’t continue to believe what you believe. I’m trying to ask you to consider people that don’t live the way you live are still, well, people. The Christianity I was raised in would never deny a family medical services just because it wasn’t the sort of family they would have built for themselves, and yet that is one of the very things that ‘religious rights laws’ fights for. The ‘right’ for doctors to just let a baby suffer because that baby has two moms or two dads. Or the ‘right’ for a landlord to refuse to rent to LGBT+ people. Or the ‘right’ to deny other important services. Keep your cakes. There are other places that deserve the money more than you do. But the cruelty of religious oppression needs to be stopped.
I don’t usually ruminate on these thoughts. But Easter is a day when Christianity cannot be escaped. It’s trending everywhere. Oh, how good was your god, to create a willing child sacrifice? Oh, how great it is that It will forgive all that which you do wrong, if only you just praise It enough, and believe in Its existence?
That’s not good enough for me. I don’t need Narcissus, I need to know that I’ll be treated if I go to a doctor, that I’ll be able to find housing, that I will be judged on the quality of my work and not on who I love. I need a planet to live on, too.
If anything, I feel closest to pagan religions that are built around the natural world and thank the planet itself for all that it has given us and expect for us to give back in kind. Those are the kinds of religions I like, and people who live that life, under any religion, are the people that we need more of.