Religion in the US
It should surprise no one that religion across the Atlantic isn’t quite the same in comparison with Europe. Being confronted with it as an exchange student in Washington, D.C. is nothing but eye opening…
My name is Jago Kosolosky and I am an atheist. I uphold the doctrine that our life is not influenced by a God or multiple gods. Mind you, I’m writing God capitalized out of respect for the English language. In addition, nitpicking about the influence of faith on language, history and art is, in my opinion, pointless.
I have no stake negating the permeation of religion in Western society, nor do I wish to deny the artistic or personal avails that resulted from it. The same is true for the dark side of its presence.
Told you so…
Forewarned is forearmed and since I am one who prefers to evade conflict and citizens of the United States view religion as a subject for private life, the topic wasn’t talked about at first. Eventually, however, it was addressed in a way that I had not expected.
After a long night, I found myself sitting around the table with two of my flat mates, a loving giant from New Jersey and a playful chap from Panama when both of them decided it was time to pray without warning. Not knowing whether or not there were serious intentions present, I kept quiet and went along with the protocol, not praying or protesting myself. After the prayer had moved through its final phrases, a joke of mine tactlessly sneaked into the conversation and the lack of approval was startling. All intentions surrounding the prayer abruptly became crystal clear.
Knowing that, as an atheist, it’s not my job to convert others, I apologized and proceeded with a question. How important is religion in your life? Throughout the conversation the stakes seemed to rise quickly, and I was filled with an earnest interest in the role of religion in the lives of people who sprouted and are currently flourishing across the Atlantic. The talk quickly derailed after I pointed to several inconsistencies I had found in the Bible and asked how a religious soul is to deal with these. As I see no point in needlessly boring you, I will not address every step of escalation. It did not take long however before I was charged with the unwillingness ‘to understand’ and of being an ‘asshole’. Two of my dearest friends, to this day, were facing me with feelings friends are not to be familiar with.
Although the bomb was defused by the next morning and had never threatened to destroy a deep friendship, I hope the reader will allow me a hasty generalization based on this anecdote. I will only touch upon the subject of the relationship between those of faith and atheists. Although I have become aware of the fact that ‘the religious person’ is but a myth, this is not the place to elaborate on internal diversity within the religious community.
From this experience, it seems that there is only one who will not fail to be accepted into a society dominated by believers: the tolerated atheist. The atheist who is not the least bit rebellious and is willing to assume the role of a sinner in the eyes of others; an atheist who is under constant scrutiny but who will not be targeted and should be quite pleased about this. However, as soon as he or she rises against and proudly displays pride and personal belief, or even has the nerve to cast off the cloak of shame, oppression is waiting around the corner.
When scrutinizing the situation in the United States, I hope the reader will find a country in which Church and State are separated at the political level sublimely, a country that has the right to be proud of this but also has the responsibility to make room in its society for the proud atheist; the atheist who, without any will of conversion, possesses a certain pride and wishes to defend his or her conviction.
Is the responsibility for this anomaly to be found in the acts or beliefs of those of Faith? Not necessarily, it is equally plausible that the American atheist wields a provocative strategy. And before we point the finger at anyone, let us not forget: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”