Friday, December 19, 2008

Atheists and Allies

Circuitously, I saw the link to this piece on how to be an ally with atheists. I posted a short comment there:
I had a great experience in a social justice training where I shared my experience of exclusion as an atheist child in a very Christian community in the form of being silent during "under god" of the Pledge of Allegiance. Afterward, a participant who is my colleague and also is a minister came to me and told me it had been a life-changing moment. He told me "I said to God 'God, I'm in the room with atheists.' And God said, 'You're right where you're supposed to be.'" And it really made me cry.
And I want to say more about that here. That moment was so powerful to me because it's so the opposite of many many many experiences with religious people:
finding out a close friend was having her church youth group pray for me to find god; a close relative telling me she wanted to "teach me about the Lord" and in response to my answer that I'd like to study more (which was code for "please don't continue this conversation!"), her response that I shouldn't study religion too much; the same kind of public experiences of exclusion that Greta Christina described in her previous blog; being asked about my "religious journey" in a job interview by progressives.... Clearly there is no accurate stereotype of "religious people" any more than there is of any other group; this list is not meant to be representative of 95% of the population or whatever. But it is representative of multiple of my experiences.

And let me also say I've had really wonderful experiences of profoundly religious people standing right alongside me in fighting for the rights of queer people and workers and for environmental justice. Those have been really moving experiences that have made me understand and appreciate at a deep level how important it is to really ponder one's beliefs as I believe these folks have done, so that their actions are really rooted deeply and they won't be swayed by the political risk of standing up within their congregation for gay rights, for example.

And this man who is my colleague, who I've been on picket lines with and in a critical fight this year that's shaped us all--what he was saying to me is that when we are together fighting for social justice and when we are in moments where we can each speak of our own experiences of privilege or advantage and of exclusion or discrimination, and we are really present to listen to each other, so that we can understand each others' experiences and build our analysis and prepare to take actions together toward ending systemic oppression in all forms...when we're together like that, we really are right where we should be!

How's that for a little Xmas or solstice spirit?

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