I found this at my blog today. I posted it there almost exactly a year ago, when the Presidential election was in full swing. I thought anyone who might stumble across it here would, at the very least, understand where I was coming from when I wrote it.
Originally posted October 8, 2008:
There are many, many things I like about living in the Triad. For one thing, the overabundance of art, music, theater, restaurants, parks, etc. Southern people really are as friendly as you've heard they are (though I fully admit that my good friend [someone] might have a different take on this, as she's Arabic and I'm not). There are also some pretty cool bits of history wedged into all this. Did you know that Winston-Salem State University was founded by a former slave? Did you know that the famous Woolworth's lunch counter strike happened in Greensboro? Did you know that the Empire State Building was modeled after the R.J. Reynolds building in downtown Winston-Salem?
In fact, there's really only one thing I dislike about living here: people are hella Religious. I don't mean they go to church on Easter and Christmas and pray before they eat. That's religious. These people are Religious. Capital "R." It's all they talk about. It's all they think about. And because it's all they talk about and think about, I constantly have to react to assumptions about my own religious beliefs, which are roughly that there is no god. (Which isn't all that rough, I suppose.)
I have lots and lots of other interests--art, writing, reading, Japan, my cell phone, history, the Chicago Cubs (*melodramatic sniffle*), my cat Trebley, politics, music, bad movies, good movies, bento, Shakespeare, stationery, herbal tea, science, lip gloss, and how to steam a perfect bowl of rice--but you'd hardly know that if you spent a typical workday inside my head. I've said it before and it still rings true: living here makes me feel like little more than Amanda the Atheist. Though I rarely say anything (I'll get to that later), my thoughts offer a constant commentary on all of the very religious talk I hear around me.
I work for an insurance company, not a church or a Christian charity. Ideally (even legally), I shouldn't be listening to anything like this as often as I do. I'm not a complete hard-ass; I don't really care if two people who go to church together spend some time on Monday morning talking about the sermon before they get down to business. I figure it's the same thing as me talking about Heroes on Tuesday morning. The problem that has arisen in my office is that, up to this point, it seems everybody who works in my department is of a like mind when it comes to religion, and they've all figured this out. So, while I don't believe they seek to be intrusive, they take it for granted that no one who works with them will be offended if they badmouth Barack Obama for being an "atheist Muslim terrorist" (how he has the time or ambition to be all three, I'm not sure, but I certainly want someone who can multitask so well to be my President. How 'bout you?) They don't think there's any reason not to pass on email forwards full of Bible verses and pictures of some guy's reproduction of Noah's Ark (which actually was impressive from an engineering standpoint, but I could have done without the Bible jargon at the bottom).
Which brings me to an email forward I received this morning from a usually nice woman I’ll simply call “Coworker”:
Subject: FW: SCARY - I'VE THOUGHT SO ALL ALONG
Date: Monday, October 6, 2008, 9:17 AM
This will make you re-think: A Trivia question in Sunday school:
How long is the beast allowed to have authority in Revelations?
Revelations Chapter 13 tells us it is 42 months and you know what that is, almost a four-year term of a Presidency.
All I can say is "Lord, Have mercy on us!"
According to The Book of Revelations the anti-Christ is: The anti-Christ will be a man, in his 40's, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal....the
Prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace and when he is in power, will destroy everything…Do we recognize this description??
I STRONGLY URGE each one of you to post this as many times as you can! Each opportunity that you have to send it to a friend or media outlet..do it!
I refuse to take a chance on this unknown candidate who came out of nowhere.
From: Dr. John Tisdale
As I was listening to a news program last night, I watched in horror as Barack Obama made the statement with pride…we are no longer a Christian nation; we are now a nation of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, . . ." As with so many other statements I've heard him (and his wife) make, I never thought I'd see the day that I'd hear something like that from a presidential candidate in this nation. To think our forefathers fought and died for the right for our nation to be a Christian nation--and to have this man say with pride that we are no longer that. How far this nation has come from what our founding fathers intended it to be.
I hope that each of you will do what I'm doing now--send your concerns, written simply and sincerely, to the Christians on your email list. With God's help and He is still in control of this nation and all else, we can show this man and the world in November that we are, indeed, still a Christian nation!
Please pray for our nation!
Please pass it on to anyone that would find this of interest!
And here is the reply I will never send to her:
Thank you for taking the time to send this email to me. It obviously resonated with you, and I want you to know that it resonated with me, too, but probably not the way you'd intended.
Mostly, I'm struck by the pervasiveness of astonishingly bad ideas. Though much of what the forward relays is twisted, dangerous, dishonest, and just plain wrong, it seems that no one has been able to successfully squash this information like the disease-ridden insect it is. And so, though I imagine I am talking to a brick wall here, I cannot help it; I have to at least attempt to set a few things straight.
1. It's the book of "Revelation," not "Revelations." You're the one who worships the Bible, not me, and so you, the people who passed this email on, and the person who wrote it have no excuse for not knowing that. I can only think that perhaps none of you have actually read the Bible beyond what your pastor dictates to you on Sundays. This would not surprise me, but I do find it alarming that no one seems to have taken the initiative to investigate the entire book for themselves. It's pretty dense reading, I'll give you that, but if I've read it cover to cover three times even though I don't buy a word of it, surely you could have slogged through it at least once.
2. Revelation doesn't offer a laundry list of characteristics of the anti-christ. It doesn't even use the term "anti-christ," and it definitely doesn't say that "the beast" will be of Muslim descent. It couldn't. Revelation was written between 60 and 100 C.E. Islam was introduced in 610 C.E. Don't take my word for it; you're a Google search away from that information. Also Barack Obama isn't a Muslim.
3.To claim that this is a Christian nation shows a vast ignorance of the history of this country. Yes, many of our Founders were what you'd call Christians, but few of them belonged to congregations. They were skeptical of the fundamentalism that characterizes many of the people (including you) who propagate this Christian Nation myth. What's more, several of our Founders--including President Thomas Jefferson--were deists. This is why the only reference to any god in the Declaration of Independence is to "Nature's God." Some people call this "Spinoza's God," and it's fair to assume that the debate in the 1700s was not between atheists and theists, but deists and theists. When it comes to the Declaration, the deists--not the hardcore, congregational Christians like you and the other people in our office--won.
They went a step further in the Constitution, which was the first constitution in history not to include any god or single out any one religion. It was both praised and lambasted as "The Godless Constitution." Jefferson and James Madison drafted the Bill for Religious Freedom in 1777, which was the first law to give rights to atheists and other non-religious people. Later on, the Treaty of Tripoli stated: ". . . the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion . . . " This statement, written by Joel Barlow, was backed by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and President John Adams. The Senate then unanimously approved it in 1797.
I bring this up not because that treaty is still legally binding, but because the email you sent me attempted to cite the wishes of our Founders to uphold this country's Christian values. I have given you evidence (and if you want even more, I can provide it) that what you believe our Founders wanted for this country is wrong. Not mistaken or misinterpreted, just plain wrong.
Of course, you will never see this email. I am writing it merely to kill some time, I suppose, but there is part of me that hopes that, when I post it online somewhere, someone else who has received the above forward will be able to send my reply (or a reply of their own with the information I've provided and any other information they care to add) to the person who sent it to them. I hope that enough people send it on that it eventually makes its way back to you and you read it and learn from it without having to know that it was me who wrote it.
Others who read this might wonder why I won't send this to you. They might think I'm a coward, and, in some ways, they're right. But I am willing to defend the truth when I feel it's necessary, and so this unwillingness to do so at this crucial time just before our Presidential election seems odd and contradictory. There is, however, the matter of my ability to perform my duties at work with your full cooperation, and I fear--if I do not know--that some of what I'm about to say would make our working together in the future if not impossible, then wholly uncomfortable.
I'm an atheist, Coworker. I've heard the way you talk about them, and I've heard the way you talk about me, and I'm not willing to take the chance that, if you knew I was an atheist, your opinion of atheists would change. It is far more likely that your opinion of me would change. You think I'm a good, noble person for moving 1200 miles to help my mother, stricken with cancer. You and several of our coworkers even called me an "angel." How would you reconcile that statement if you knew that I don't believe in angels? I've seen far too many statistics which consistently show that atheists are the single most reviled group of people in the United States to stick my neck out.
Our boss replied to the forward you sent, too. (Though she actually mailed her reply back to you and every other recipient.) She said it was "a wonderful wake-up call to any Obama supporters out there. We can not [sic] have an atheist sleeper cell in our White House."
The woman who sits next to you replied to that with, "how people can support this man is beyond me. He does not believe in our God. If he wins, there will be a slaughter of Christians by the atheists and moslims [sic]."
You replied to both of them with, "I watched the debate last night waiting for him to blaspheme the name of our Lord. How dare he call on us to pray for the troops when he doesn't even believe in our Savior."
So, you have to admit, Coworker, that if you were me, you probably wouldn't want to out yourself, either.
I don't want much out of this job. I just want to come in, perform my assigned tasks, collect my paycheck, and leave. In a perfect world, I could do this without the anxiety that comes with knowing that I would be considered an unwelcome intruder were any of you to learn what I believe (and, more important, don't believe). In addition to my usual tasks, I now have to bypass questions about church and prayer meetings. I now have to sit awkwardly and department luncheons while you all bow your heads in group prayer before you eat, not sure if I want someone to look up and see that I haven't joined in or not. I've had to figure out a game plan for several different scenarios which will invariably present themselves around Christmastime. None of these things are easy because I have to keep in mind that lying about who I am is not an option, but then neither is admitting the truth.
There is a part of me that wants to believe you would feel bad if you knew that you are unknowingly causing me so much anxiety. There's a part of me that believes I could simply excuse myself with a "my beliefs are private," and never hear a word about any of this again. But I know better. Why would I refrain from contributing to the conversation if I agreed with everyone around me? If I bow out, I cause suspicion, and if you suspect that I might not believe as you do, you will look for evidence that supports this. And you will find it in spades.
And then what? I can't be fired for not believing in God, but I can be kept from doing my job, which requires the cooperation--and often the kindness--of all of you. If that kindness was to disappear and I was unable to perform my duties in perfect sync with yours, I could be fired for "not working out."
I can’t afford to lose my job for any reason, and I surely don’t want this job to become more hassle than it’s worth. I don’t want to be preached to, I don’t need to be converted, and I definitely don’t want to be reviled as some godless heathen.
I do like you, Coworker, even if we don’t agree on many things. I know that you believe Barack Obama is a Muslim, I know that you believe the Armageddon is near, I know that you believe that this country is, was, and always will be Christian. You’re wrong on all counts, but I still like you. I just wish I could convince myself that you could know nearly as much about what I believe and still like me.