Thoughts on Religion

I am often accused of being anti-religion, which careful readers will know is not true. Religion is not something to which I subscribe, but I respect and defend the rights of others to practice religion in any way they see fit, right up until such practice begins to encroach upon the rights of others.

My parents are active Christians who attend church at least once a week. They’ve gone to the same church for over 30 years, in which my sister and I were both baptized and confirmed. My father is president of the congregation; my mother is the music director. They’re both currently on the call committee to find a new minister, and over the years, they’ve served the church in many other capacities—my mom has been a Sunday School teacher, a Vacation Bible School teacher, a youth leader, a member of the choir, the choir director, a Sunshine Singer, a member of the Ladies’ Guild, designer of children’s bulletins; my dad has held every church office at least three times, and he’s been an elder, a member of the choir, a reader, a greeter. When I was a kid, the church couldn’t afford a janitor, and so the congregation was dependent on volunteers to clean it. I spent many, many a Saturday over at the church vacuuming and scrubbing toilets with my parents and sister. For as long as I can remember, they put their tithe in an envelope each week. They still go to adult Bible study every Sunday. My mom has spent the past year dedicating many, many hours a week to writing a Christmas cantata, including all the music. Their friends are primarily “church friends,” and the vast majority of their social activities are church-related. My mom sings hymns while she makes dinner, and my dad and Mr. Shakes playfully argue about the origins of morality in the living room. Neither of them is ever without their gold crosses around their necks. My parents are 100% churchified, with the love of God, the Ghost, and the Baby Jesus coming out their wazoos, the epitome of Mom and Pop Middle America Christians taking full advantage of the religious freedom guaranteed them in this country. Their lives are all about the Big Man in the Sky.

And neither of them has ever had to trample on anyone else’s rights.

Their religion is a celebration of their faith in God and a moral compass by which they decide right and wrong. My dad in particular tends to be quite a black and white thinker; he believes there is a right way and a wrong way to handle most things. He believes, for example, that homosexuality is a sin. But what that means for him is that he shouldn’t engage in homosexual sex. Period. End of story. It doesn’t mean that he judges our gay friends, or treats them differently than he would expect to be treated by them—we’re all sinners, he’d say. And it doesn’t mean that he believes that the LGBT community deserves to have fewer rights or protections than he has; he unequivocally supports civil unions. His religion guides him, and he finds within it his definitions of right and wrong, and he makes his own decisions accordingly. He believes the word of God is truth, and it’s there to be found for those who seek it; he’ll tell anyone who will listen about what he believes and why, but it’s not meant to be legislated.

My parents and I disagree on plenty of things when it comes to religion, but I don’t disdain their freedom to practice their religion any more than they disdain my freedom to not practice any religion at all. Neither would choose the other’s path, and yet we firmly defend both choices as valid.

The defense of choice is what separates people like me—and my parents, who are quite conservative by this site’s standards—from the fundamentalists. Whether Christian, neocon, or any other inflexible contingent of fundamentalism, fundies are interested only in the restriction of choice as governed by a particular limited philosophy that makes no exception for opposing views.

The fundie view of gay marriage, or abortion, or birth control, or any number of other privacy-related rights, is that they should be categorically banned, the reason being because they believe it’s wrong. Those who believe otherwise would be shit out of luck under the fundie laws.

The liberal view of gay marriage, or abortion, or birth control, or any number of other privacy-related rights, is that they should be legal, with each person having an option to use the privilege or not as he or she sees fit. Those who are against gay marriage, or abortion, or birth control aren’t required, simply because they are legal, to marry a person of the same sex, or have an abortion, or use birth control. They can choose not to, and that ought to be good enough.

There’s no earthly—or heavenly—reason to think otherwise.

So let’s put to bed the notion that liberals who defend choice as vigorously as fundies fight for its absence are two sides of the same coin. And with it, the charges that liberals are anti-religion. I’m not anti-religion; I’m intolerant of those who wield their religion like a weapon, who seek to infringe upon the rights and freedoms of others when doing so offers them no reward but bragging rights. God gave me free will; I’ll never understand what makes them believe they have the right to take it away.

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