I recently joined, and also recently un-joined, a group on FB calling itself Freedom from Religion. The website which explains what and who they are can be found here: http://www.ffrf.org/
I found, within a few comments and fewer days that they were no better than the fundamentalist evangelical, rah-rah believers in how they speak about, to, and with others. Including a harsh and offensive anti-Semitic “joke”, which I challenged and for which I was rebuked.
I didn’t join this Facebook group because I am an atheist; nor am I an agnostic. As well, I was not “trolling”. I do not believe in God as “he” is portrayed in the Abrahamic religions. I am not a Buddhist, nor am I Hindu. I am not Wiccan, although I dabbled in it for a few years in the 1990’s (too formal for me). I am, officially, Catholic, having converted in 2001; however, I am more liberal now than a true Catholic should be. I hold beliefs, ideals, and certain concepts which are directly contrary to their teachings. I do not anthropomorphize a deity; rather, I believe aspects of a Supreme Deity are in all creation, not just in humans. I believe the deity, or deities, can manifest as male or female. While I do believe in a Supreme Deity, I believe, also, in lesser deities, and I have an alter dedicated to my personal goddess in a special place, which I care for with due respect. I believe that Jesus may have been an incarnation of a son of a god. I also believe, if he was, indeed, a real incarnation, he was not the first, nor will he be the last. If the story of Jesus is part of the enduring and diverse mythological story of Mother/Child/Savior, I respect and honor that myth. I believe in “angels”. I believe that there are forces of darkness, largely because, where there is good, there must also be evil to define the good. But I do not believe the myth of Satan. I believe in a Supreme Being as well as evolution; however, I do not endorse the concept of Intelligent Design. I believe strictly in natural selection; but, also that, at one point, certain “laws” were put into effect or evolved which would allow for nature—not just the earth, but the infinity of the universe and all its life forms– to unfold and evolve. I could go on, but it would take a long time to articulate just what I do and do not believe, just as it has taken almost 55 years for those beliefs to becomes words I could put on paper (or a screen).
What I am, if one must put a label on what I believe, is a Neo-Pagan–which I haven’t yet posted on my social networking site because there are a few people with whom I am friends who would have a cow. Probably a few who, if they read this post, will “un-friend” me. Unlike some with whom I have had some rather unpleasant conversations, I do not wish to antagonize, I have no wish to convert, nor do I enjoy offending others, although I have started standing up for myself when I feel my rights as a non-believer are being trodden upon, judged, or deemed “unworthy” because I do not follow the path of Christianity. Or, if I get the sense that someone is attempting to “convert” me. Which has always been those of the Christian faith, as I’ve never been approached by a Muslim to convert; nor have I been accosted by Jews of any sect, and told that, if I do not “see”, I will burn in hell forever, or suffer, die, and be punished at some mythological “last judgment”. I feel strongly that everyone has an inalienable right to believe as their heart tells them to believe in peace, not through coercion or outright force, but through choice. And that I have that same right. I joined the Facebook “Freedom from Religion” site because, 1) I knew about this group long before Facebook existed and I support their cause (they’ve been around since 1978), just as I support the causes of the ACLU, and 2), I was interested in what they had to say in discussions about the political aspects of the Foundation. I found very little about the political causes, but I did find a lot of bad-mouthing of others because those others happen to hold beliefs in a God—specifically , an Abrahamic God. And, I was told—rather impolitely, I might add—that it was justifiable to do so because (paraphrased) “they (the Christians) do it to us”. “The Christians”. But, the “joke” was about Jews. And it was nasty.
One of the problems non-Christians have with many Christians is their annoying, offensive, self-righteous and impolite proclivity to “witness” to non-believers. Some Christians feel is their God-ordained duty to push onto those who do not believe as they, the Christians, believe, their own version of “the truth”. Not all Christians, not all religions, do this. I’ve yet to be accosted by a proselytizing Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or member of any other major world religion. I have asked them about their beliefs, and—in every case—they politely and never condescendingly answered my questions. At least, that has been the case thus far. I have never been “witnessed” to by Catholics unless it was by my own choice—although their history of cruelty in the promotion of Catholicism is well documented. Protestants also have their missions where they attempt to convert those they consider to be “unsaved”. Throughout the centuries, they, too, have used cruelty and coercion in the attempt to “Christianize” the entire world. I think it is wrong, that it is cultural imperialism every bit as disgusting as any other form of imperialism. But, there are also those who do good in helping the poor, helping the ill, and offering comfort. Such as Mother Theresa. And others who have good intentions and selflessly sacrifice their own comfort for others.
Those Christians who are the worst offenders, outside of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, and –in some cases—the Seventh Day Adventists—are the fundamentalist evangelicals. They want the entire world to believe as they do. They want to “convert” the Muslim, the Jews, the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Pagans, the WORLD. I do not want to be like them. I would have hoped a group, who I would think would be sickened by the actions of these religious “soldiers for Jesus” types, and their anti-Semitic, anti-“other” rhetoric would rise above the nastiness and have discussions based upon moving forward, upon reason and logic. I was disappointed when I found they, overall, do not; that many of the posters justify their own actions and reciprocate in kind, taking it a step further and attacking groups that, basically, leave atheists and agnostics, as well as other non-major religions, alone. As for me, I will not stoop to that level. I will be firm in resisting where I need to resist. And, I will have no part of any label that lumps me in with those who “do unto others because they do unto us”, or “do unto others before they do unto us”. Especially when those comments are not particularly anti-religion, but anti-culture. In particular, this “joke” was blatently anti-Semitic. And people “LIKED” it! Unfortunately this is what the very group atheists target most often, the fundamentalists, do with the beliefs and cultures of Muslims and Jews. Or anyone who is not Christian. So, do they mean that everyone should “convert” to atheism? That everyone should be an agnostic? Then they are no more open-minded than the very groups they claim to be against: those who want to combine Christianity and State.
I do not care if one is Christian, atheist, agnostic, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Pagan, Wiccan, or fall under any of the umbrella terms society uses for the articulation and organization of religious beliefs. I respect the rights of everyone to believe as they choose, and I will leave them alone to find their own path. I expect others to afford me the same right. Granted, that is an ideal situation, one which will probably not come to fruition. But, I still have some hope. And, I will continue to stand up for what I believe in and the rights of ALL to stand up for what they believe in, as well. I will let those who try to run over me with their own beliefs know what I think about what they do. And, I might not always be kind. But, I will not tolerate the kind of nasty cultural jokes that I found offensive on the Freedom From Relgion Facebook wall. The “Golden Rule” is not only a “Christian” concept. It is a concept that has defined good people since the dawn of civilization.