As I grew up I learned about tolerance, about accepting that people believe different things and that these things matter to them, so that it's not ok to be in your face about your own conflicting beliefs. I even learned that there might be some value in knowing a little about those beliefs you don't share. They are, after all, an important part of what shaped our culture. So I learned about the lives of the Saints and stories from the bible by looking at pictures. Not terribly reliable, I know, but better than nothing.
What I never experienced, was the need to be tolerated. As an atheist, I've always felt I was part of the righteous majority. Those who believed otherwise had to tiptoe around me. I was the norm, they were the ones seeking acceptance. And then, I came across this post. Someone was writing that as an atheist, she had to be very careful about revealing her beliefs - or lack thereof - and worse, had to watch her children's behaviour. I'm not talking about Iran, here, people. I'm talking about America. It turns out that in America, whereas it may be ok to choose one religion over an other, it's not ok to be an atheist.
This was brought home to me again the other night when I watched Glee. So this show is like the Breakfast Club meet Fame. A bunch of geeky kids meet up and sing songs so they can win a competition and become popular. Every week there's a theme. There's been Funk, Madonna, Gaga, even Britney Spears. But this week was God. One of the characters, Kurt, is facing tragedy. The others want to help him by singing spiritual songs. He thanks them but no thanks. As a gay teen he's never felt that welcome by religious communities, and also, he doesn't believe in God. But, says one of his friends, you can't prove God doesn't exist! So Kurt replies:
You can’t prove that there isn’t a magic teapot floating around on the dark side of the moon with a dwarf inside of it that reads romance novels and shoots lightning out of its boobs but it seems pretty unlikely doesn’t it?
A good point, I felt. But his friends were offended. They thought he'd gone to far. And then, they gathered round the place where Kurt's tragedy lays (sorry, trying to avoid spoilers here), and prayed. At the end of the episode, Kurt breaks down, agrees he's been a bad boy and goes to church with Mercedes. The moral of the story is: if you have to be an atheist, make sure no one has to know about it, it's offensive.
Well, I guess it's useful to know what the other side has to put up with. What do you think?