so it has been told to me in no uncertain terms that a fair number of people around me are tired of my "schtick". naturally, i assume this relates to my quite vocal positions on religion, with a side order of politics.
first, i can't tell you how insulting it is to assume that my views/beliefs (or lack thereof) are "schtick". one of my main beliefs is that we should try to leave the world better than we found it. my very strong opinion on this is that oppressive religious views, and the attempt to make them into laws, are doing the opposite of this. it is shocking to me that as we close the year 2012, there are still people out there who believe that an entire group of people don't deserve the rights that they themselves have solely because of the attractions to others that they were born with. i want to be part of the vocal group that works to affect change on this and other cases where religious folks want their religion to be put into law, leaving those of us who disagree out in the cold.
whether i do this by posting things on facebook with the intent that others will actually give their positions some thought, or by bringing it up in conversation, i cannot stress enough that i'm doing it out of a genuine desire to make people think and because i wholeheartedly believe what i'm advocating. to suggest that i'm professing these positions only for shock value or to be a contrarian is frankly, pretty fucking insulting and not well thought out. people get angry; no, they get downright fucking pissed when you tell them that you don't believe in god and you find it to be a silly superstition. i'm not exaggerating when i say that i've lost friends over this. why would i bring that upon myself if i didn't really believe what i was saying? trust me, it is not easy being an outspoken atheist in texas.
as an aside, it hasn't happend much, but it has happened before that i was accused of not actually being an atheist; that i really believed in god, but only spoke otherwise to get a rise out of people? really? you think i believe in an almighty god who can and will send me to be tortured for all of eternity for saying the things i say, but that i do it anyway just for kicks? give me a fucking break. and for what it's worth, we don't choose to believe or not believe. it's just something you think you know. i could no more wake up tomorrow convinced that santa claus was real than i could believe in god, as much as it would make my life easier to do so.
this most recent presidential election, i found myself on the side of the democrats for the first time in my life. the obvious reason is that the religious right has hijacked the party and pulled it in a direction that the party founders most likely would not approve of. but a secondary reason, and this is new for me, is the complete lack of compassion that the GOP platform has for our country's poor. i was raised semi-poor in the suburbs of ft. worth, tx. with a little bit of effort, i was able to attend college and not have to borrow any money to do so. this was via a combination of scholarships and pell grants. yes, gov't "welfare" for college students. i only qualified for these because based on my mom's income, we were right near the poverty line. now, what if my mom got sick and couldn't work at all during those years or even during high school? what if i had to drop out of high school to get a job to make sure that my sisters and i had food and shelter? i would have been at a severe disadvantage when it came time to apply for college and pursue the success that a college degree has since awarded me. this scenario is not uncommon.
when it comes to healthcare, i have flipped over to the democrats' side after some thinking. the fact is that a large percentage of us are only one layoff and major illness away from living in our car if healthcare is not considered a right of our citizens. we are one of the wealthiest nations on earth per capita; that even one person could die due to lack of adequate healthcare is sad and unnecessary.
it just so happens that at this point in our history, one party is far more likely than the other to attempt to replace laws with the bible and i can't support that party anymore. the suggestion was made to me that i'm only now leaning democrat because that is contrary to everyone around me. this is just flat out stupid. how do you explain my previous 25 or so years that i aligned with the GOP, just like everyone else in my state?
i want my kids to grow up in a country where they can believe what they want to believe and operate under a set of laws that are based on something other than one specific religion; laws that cannot allow discrimination based on religion. i want them to question everything. i want them to examine all sides and decide what they really believe; not just conform to what everyone around them thinks. i'm asked quite often why i can't just let people believe what they want without making fun of it. this is a key distinction that i want to be very clear about. i don't give two shits what you believe as long as you don't try to make anyone else conform to it. the second that any politician, or any citizen trying to sway a politician, attempts to legislate their personal morality on others, i have a major problem with it and will fight until my last breath. history is filled with examples of religion making otherwise good people do bad things. the crusades, burning of heretics and "witches" and abortion clinic bombings come to mind. if you know your history, you'll know that the bible was used as justification for slavery. in hindsight, we see the absurdity of that. my hope is that over time, with enough vocal opposition, we'll understand that the bible can't be used to legislate hate.
so it really upsets and hurts me to hear that the values that i so strongly hold are only viewed as "schtick" among people who i consider friends, some of them lifelong friends. just because a message might be "shocking" in its delivery, it doesn't mean the motivation was for shock value. just because i'm now a black sheep in my geographical area and among my friends doesn't mean i'm doing so out of some superficial bullshit motive to upset the apple cart and be "edgy". people change over time, some of us more than others. when that happens, take the time to understand why and to what depths someone's beliefs go before you write them off as an act.