14 November, 2008

Progress Report: Ooouuuucccchhhh


In less than two hours, I've written nearly two thousand words, and my fingers are swollen, my eyes gritty, and my stomach wondering just when it'll get some of that food it was promised. I love nights like this.

This is how I NaNo: screw the daily word count, it's a trickle here, trickle there, the occasional spurt, and then, come next week or so, there will be the "Oshit, I'm thirty thousand words behind!" moment and then will come the mad run to the finish.

All of you glumly looking at your paltry little word count about now, remember that. It's amazing how galvanizing a looming deadline can be. Your pride will be your prod. You'll get this done.

Now that we've had the pep talk, here's a bite o' the fruit of tonight's labors:


I sincerely wish we could.

I wish we could just celebrate the beauty of faith together: even though we don't share faith, we share appreciation of the beautiful things it's inspired. Some of my favorite works of art have Christian and other religious themes. Some of my favorite music was written for churches and for God. One of my favorite buildings in the world is the Haiga Sophia, which used to be a Christian church and is now a mosque. There are religious poems that bring me to the verge of tears.

Religious stories have inspired me, and I've used elements of them as themes in my own stories - one of my characters is very deeply influenced by the Norse god Odin, for instance. I've got favorite verses from the Bible, the Qu'ran, Buddhist sutras, and the Tao Te Ching, among others. I'm a sucker for mythology, and I think that these religious stories teach us a lot about what it means to be human.

You're about to pounce on that to say that I must be secretly religious, or long for God. That's one of the reasons I can't celebrate the beauty of religion as much as I'd like: religious people use it to prove the superiority of religion or the weakness of my atheism when it does no such thing.

I love these things not because they're religious, but because they're human. Humans created them. Human imagination inspired them, even when they believed they were inspired by God.

And those beautiful things been tainted by those who insist on literal truth and dogmatic purity.

Religion is considered sacred, not subject to the same critical examination that other human ideas are. That's a dangerous thing, especially since religious belief is used to justify so much harm.

We atheists can't ignore religion and let you go on about your worship for a simple reason: your religion impacts us. It threatens us, and it often harms us. We can't live quietly in a world full of religion because religion won't let us.

Deeply devout Christians believe they have a mandate from God to tell me what I can do with my body. They believe they should be able to control my reproductive choices. Not only do they believe their morality dictates whether I can or cannot have an abortion if such becomes necessary, but they believe they have the right to deny me access to birth control. They believe they can tell me whom I can and cannot marry. They believe I must believe the way they do in matters of sexuality, and if I disagree, they believe they have the right to force my compliance. They are trying to get laws passed that will limit my access to birth control, abortion, and marriage. Religion threatens me as a woman, and it is a real and immediate threat.

Deeply devout Christians believe God has told them all they ever need to know about science. They are actively trying to introduce creationism into science class under a number of guises - Intelligent Design and "teach the controversy" are great favorites just now, and when those are defeated, they'll come up with other euphemisms. I have no children, and I graduated from school a long time ago, so you might think this isn't my battle to fight. But it is. All of modern medicine is based on the proven theory of evolution. Without a thorough understanding of evolution, students can't go on to become medical researchers who will find breakthrough cures for the diseases that will destroy my mind and body. And it's not just that. Science underpins everything in our lives: the energy that powers my appliances, the computer I'm writing on, the phone I call my mother with, and endless other examples. If Americans allow religion to water down science, we will no longer be on the cutting edge of science. Our economy and quality of life will suffer the consequences. Religion threatens me as a beneficiary of science, and it is a real and immediate threat.

Deeply devout Christians believe they know what is morally pleasing to God. They believe God tells them what music is appropriate to listen to, what books are appropriate to read, movies to watch, and themes to explore in art. They launch crusades to censor things they find morally offensive. They constantly try to craft legislation that will defeat the First Amendment in order that things offensive to them cannot be created. Religion threatens me as an artist, and it is a real and immediate threat.

Deeply devout Christians believe that Armageddon will happen in their lifetime. Some of them are so eager for this that they want to push up God's timetable. They destabilize the Middle East because a stable Middle East is contrary to what they believe their prophecies say must happen in order for Christ to return. They support Israel blindly because it's part of their prophecies, and reject policies that would truly be in Israel's best interests. They risk starting a nuclear war, they do not care about the suffering of millions, and they encourage dangerous foreign policies that threaten to plunge the world into war because they believe they, the chosen ones, will survive. Religion threatens my life, and it is a real and immediate threat.

How can I ignore these threats? How can I agree to live and let live when religion threatens my very survival?

This is the reason I fight to keep church and state separated, why I debunk fundamentalist beliefs, why I'm often relentless in criticizing the churches. This is why I insist that religion not be held sacrosanct, but be subjected to scrutiny, reason, and criticism. I can't possibly respect religion when it doesn't respect me. I can't ignore it when it refuses to pay me the same courtesy.

No atheist can.

To be perfectly honest, neither can you. If Christianity triumphed and imposed its unfettered will on this country, there's no guarantee it would be your particular flavor of Christianity that got to do the imposing. Be glad me and my fellow freethinkers, along with our strict separationist religious allies, are fighting so hard to protect you.
All right. Maybe that was a tad more than a bite. I hope it was tasty, even though it's raw and a bit green. Shine the light of your critique upon the remains so that it may ripen, etc. flowery language etc., and I'm going to bed before I die.

Thank you again for your insights, my darlings. Make me do you proud.


Efrique said...

Minor typo - Haiga Sophia -> Hagia Sophia

Woozle said...

This seems relevant -- Favorite religious music (me being an uppity atheist and all but liking this stuff anyway and finding some meaningful depth in it):
* "My Sweet Lord", George Harrison
* "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)", George Harrison
* "Even in the Quietest Moments", Supertramp
* "Morning Has Broken", Cat Stevens
* "Spirit in the Sky", Norman Greenbaum
* "Tears in Heaven", Eric Clapton
* "Let It Be", The Beatles

Can I count Hopi Indian mythology? If so, I'd add:
* "Prophecies", Philip Glass

I always took Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" as a sarcastic attack on televangelism -- but then Johnny Cash covered it, sounding absolutely deadly serious... so now I don't know.

I've left off a lot of music which seems (to me) very spiritual without actually being religious. Maybe that would be a good list to help illustrate where the faithful might find common ground with the non-religious?

Just my 75 cents worth (3 plays for 25 cents).

Cujo359 said...

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