I find it really puzzling when people accuse me of being hostile to religion. I'm hostile to the notion that religion should occupy such a privileged place in our discourse. I'm hostile to plenty of beliefs which are associated with religion in this country, and I'm certainly hostile to plenty of self-styled religious leaders. But religious belief and practice doesn't bother me at all.(I recommend heading over and reading the post in full, along with this one.)
The reason I pulled out that quote is because I could have written it word for word–and yet Atrios and I came to our shared conclusions in vastly different ways. Atrios explains that he "grew up in a household with basically zero discussion of religion and no exposure to organized religion," whereas I grew up in a household that was very and actively religious. I was baptized, attended church every Sunday—rain or shine, hail or snow—going back to my earliest memories, seasonally went to Lenten and Advent services, sang in the children's choir and later the adult choir, performed in Christmas cantatas, served as altar girl, attended and later taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, went through confirmation classes, was confirmed, had my first communion, was a member of the Youth Group, attended countless potluck dinners in the church fellowship hall, said bedtime prayers on my knees after night-time Bible stories, and have read the entire Bible (more than once). At the other end of it all, I came out a non-believer.
That doesn’t mean I am de facto hostile to religion and/or religious people.* My parents are still religious—probably even more so than when I was a child. (They also, for the record, share my views on some things and not on others, some of which are religious differences and some of which aren't.) One of the most fun people I've met in quite some time is their new minister, with whom Mr. Shakes and I have had dinner; he's a former head-banging rocker who sported a Bon Jovi glam-fro (it's true; I've seen the pictures) and then felt called to the ministry, and who finds the Jiz-E Pimpskweez story one of the most hilarious things evah. I like him, and I think the feeling's mutual, in spite of their being no doubt or confusion about the vast divide between our beliefs.
He, like my parents, is a Lutheran. And if I resent and criticize the Lutheran Church's recent decision to force out a gay pastor, that doesn't mean I hate all Lutherans. It means the church supports a policy with which I passionately disagree—and irrespective of the vehemence of my disagreement, short of calling for the decimation of the Lutheran Church and the criminalization of the practice of Lutheranism, it's frankly mendacious and hyperbolic to accuse me of intolerance. Last I checked, Lutherans believed my arse will end up in a lake of fire for all eternity, but unless and until they make it an official church policy to send me there prematurely, I'll be chalking that belief up to a personal disagreement, not intolerance.
In addition to making the point that agnostics and atheists can reach their beliefs through vastly different paths, there was another reason I started this post by quoting Atrios. Every prominent denomination in America has very little to say about Atrios in the abstract, because he is a straight and a man. None of them would deny him employment, and none of them would refuse to minister to him, solely on the basis of what's between his legs or whom he loves. On the other hand, the church in which I was raised told me, in overt and covert ways throughout my eighteen years within its fold, that I was not equal to men. It told me my gay best friend was not equal to me. There are many denominations in this country which still practice sex-, gender-, or sexuality-based discrimination.
That, as a private belief, is something I reject—and so I don't, you know, go to church and give them money and all the stuff that I fully support other people's right to do. But as soon as the church decides it should be a public belief as well, as soon as there are people who seek to impose their beliefs about my equality and the equality of others onto us all, we here in the land of the free where there's meant to be justice for all, then I have not just a right but an obligation to respond to that belief. That's not intolerance; that's self-preservation.
* But, btw, here's how the game was played to make it look like I am: Donohue considered it an offense so grave I deserved to be fired because I said: "…it's difficult to imagine a time in which Christianity wholly submits to the prevailing view of science and ends its reign of persecution against the LGBT community. This time, they are not going after one man, but millions of people, and some of Christianity's most prominent leaders—including the Pope—regularly speak out against gay tolerance. In America, many Christian leaders actively pursue discriminatory legislation, seeking to limit the rights of the LGBT community throughout society. Should they eventually embrace the scientific view this time, they will have a lot more for which to answer—which certainly means their reluctance to admit their error is much greater."
I'm not even sure how that's "offensive," per se, since it's just stating easily provable facts, but wev. Now consider the shocking dishonesty of what he omitted with that quote-leading ellipses: "Although there are certainly small pockets within Christianity (and Orthodox Judaism and Islam, which Thomas also rightfully charges with intolerance) who are ahead of the curve, and either simply don't discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or do fully regard homosexuality as a legitimate and intractable part of the spectrum of human sexuality…" I guess it didn't fit the storyline to let people know I recognize that Christianity isn't monolithic. Perhaps I wouldn't have seemed quite as "offensive" then.
I'd also like to note that this quote, which at least mentions the Pope, was not part of the original press release—to which quotes of mine keep getting added as they are found, even now that I have already quit the position.