This was written on Wednesday, after a particular upsetting Facebook episode.
In this post, I use the terms “anti-religion” and “anti-religious” specifically to refer to a particular subset of atheists who are becoming increasingly vocal about their belief that religion as a whole is evil, and that no one should believe in any type of deity, ever. I am not referring to perfectly nice atheists who are content to live and let live.
So, about an hour ago, I was in the middle of being informed by an anti-religion “friend” that all religious people are delusional and mentally ill, and should be treated as such. According to her, all religious people should all be sent to therapy and medicated, and if these don’t work, then we should be incarcerated for the good of society.
She did not take it well when I informed her that such a statement was just as extreme as all the extreme beliefs and actions she rails against when she denounces religion.
And she does denounce religion as a whole. Or maybe, she’ll say “extremist such-and-such,” but then throughout the rest of her rant, only speaks of “religion,” and how dangerous “religion” is, thereby showing what she truly thinks. She only bothers to say “I don’t mean that,” when reminded that there are religious people she otherwise considers friends, and individual religious people out there who don’t get up to the types of shenanigans she rants about. Only when someone (usually me) comes up and says, “Um… you do realize you’re including me in this, right?” Oh, then, then, that’s not what she meant, and her words were taken wrongly, and she’s not at all like the religious extremists, and if I can’t see the difference, then that’s my problem. Wanting to medicate and incarcerate religious people is absolutely not at all similar in any way to wanting to medicate and incarcerate LGBT people. Nope. She’s nothing like them.
Today, she finally did come out and say that yes, she is including me in this. She considers me just as delusional and mentally ill as any other religious person, but because my beliefs don’t drive me to kill, or imprison, or deny basic rights to others, then I’m harmless, and it’s probably okay for me to roam free. After all, not all schizophrenics need to be institutionalized.
And then, for no other reason that I can see than to be petty and mean: “Do you understand now, or do I need to put it in a nursery rhyme for you?”
I unfriended her.
Quite honestly, it was the nursery rhyme comment that made me do it, that’s what told me what she really thinks of me. All the rest of it, I could have said was just a heated discussion between two friends who have differing views on a controversial and emotional subject. Until then, I could have just walked away like I intended to, and stayed friend with her. In every other way, she is a nice, kind person, and she has done some really great things for me, and for others; talk of religion brings out the worst in her. I suppose that’s true of a lot of people. This time, the worst was just… plain mean, and mean-spirited, and she had never turned that on me before.
I suppose no one likes being told they are acting exactly like what they hate, but I honestly don’t understand how she can’t see it.
Unfortunately, she is not alone. I’ve seen this kind of attitude all over the Internet, on a slew of articles and blog posts dealing with the terrible things people can do to each other. “See, this is where religion takes us!” “Religion is the real root of all evil!” “Religion is superstitious nonsense!”
I keep trying to remind people that this is very generalized language for a thing that involves a great deal of individuals. Individuals get together, and form small groups, and sometimes these small groups formed of individuals decide to start using religion as a tool to press their beliefs on others, and to legislate their beliefs so others will have to follow their rules. That’s terrible, but that’s not the fault of religion, that’s the fault of people.
Just like any other tool, religion can be misused. It’s a horrible fact that when religion is misused, the consequences tend to be very dire.
This does not mean that all religion is evil, or that all religious people are dangerous.
It means that some people can be, quite frankly, assholes sometimes. Those people will use any means at their disposal to control their environments, and if it weren’t religion it would be something else. In my opinion, the anti-religious message of my now former friend is no better; she’s just using her concept of reason, and mental health issues, rather than religion.
She may have some good arguments when speaking about how damaging fundamental Christianity, or fundamental Islam, or fundamental anything can be… but that argument breaks down when the conversation turns toward “religion” rather than “fundamental [fill in the blank here].”
I don’t care if anyone is atheist. It’s not my business, what anyone else believes. It has no effect on me or my life. I don’t care if someone is Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish, or Buddhist, or Hindu, or Baha’i, or whatever. It doesn’t matter to me as long as you aren’t actively hurting anyone or trying to take away their rights. As for me, my religious and spiritual beliefs have helped me become a better person, by helping me learn, slowly (and I’m still learning) to accept other people. My religion has helped me become the person I am today, and that’s a person I like. This is the good side of religion that people who are anti-religious don’t want to admit exists.
I just don’t understand why this person I considered a friend feels it necessary to label me as mentally ill, and say I need therapy and medication, for something that is none of her damn business. I’m not hurting anyone. I don’t try to tell other people what to do, or how to do it, so long as they’re not hurting anyone, and I certainly don’t tell them what to believe. I just tell them to leave me alone.
This was… a very upsetting thing that happened, at least for me. I was shocked mostly by her pettiness, which was something I hadn’t thought part of her personality. I’m going to be angry and hurting a lot in the coming days.
I hope everyone out there had a better Wednesday than me.