Christian Moderates and Social Responsibility


I was raised in an atheist environment and my dad was not shy about professing his disdain and irreverence for religion and religious people. My reaction to this was a kind of curiosity regarding religion - I've never experienced a need for religion but I have always been curious about it. At one point growing up, I found myself regularly spending time in a Unitarian church as a kind of 'atheist ringer' for the drama program and found that most religious people there seemed like good people who were very sincere in their beliefs. I grew to respect religious people based on this experience and when I met the occasional fundamentalist quack, I was quick to shrug them off as an unfortunate religious minority.

Through conversations I've had with my partner and other similarly de-converted folks, I've come to re-think my position on what I regard as 'moderate Christianity'. While in my childhood I saw the Unitarian congregation I was exposed to as a representative of the majority of Christians, I realize now that those kinds of loving, happy, accepting Christians seem in actuality to be a minorty within the group. Interestingly, on several occasions I have been told by Christain extremeists that the Unitarians I grew up with and grew to care for were not even 'real' Christians. If they were real Christians, I've been told, they would have cared enough about my immortal soul to agressively try to convert me to their religion, regardless of what my parents wanted and what I myself wanted.

However, it's the moderate Christians that are proving to be more of an issue to me than the extremeists and this is why - though a moderate Christian will, when pressed, claim that they should not be 'lumped together' with those Christian extremeists who tend to make the more outrageous claims in regard to religious control in everyone's personal life, they are very seldom seen publicly denouncing this kind of behavior. This begs the question - is ignoring a problem within your society the same thing as endorsing the behavior you claim to feel is 'inappropriate' and 'not indicative' of your own beliefs?

I feel that as an atheist, I have a responsibility to speak up if I hear another atheist claim that religion should be outlawed - though I feel that religion is generally a negative influence on people on a personal level and on a socital level, I feel that the personal freedom for people to believe whatever they want is far more important than my opinion of what people should think. Were I to remain silent when these claims are made, it seems obvious to me that my silence would and logically should be taken as at best, indifference to the claim being made and at worse, agreement of the claim. I feel that the religious people of this country are faced with the exact same responsibility in regard to what is said in the name of their religion and I feel that in regard to this responsibility, they are failing miserably.