In every relationship, there is a level of accumulated emotional goodwill. We’ll compare it to a bank account. We all start out with an empty bank account, and we fill it up with positive interactions with each other. When we ask something of the other person or hurt them, we drain some of that goodwill. If we deposit more than we withdraw, then we have good relationships. If one person withdraws but rarely deposits, we eventually run out of goodwill and then a negative balance occurs- this is when frustration and anger comes up.
Here’s the problem with being a Christian in America– some of you are constantly draining our tanks of goodwill and you don’t even realize it. You assume that we should be totally fine with how you’re treating us, and that we should never complain about it. Then when you make yet another withdrawal on an empty balance, we snap. You can’t figure out why we’re upset because you don’t understand how you’re draining us on a daily basis.
This is how some of you drain our tanks of goodwill:
- When people change their beliefs, you make them feel bad about it. “You’ve disappointed us by changing your beliefs and making decisions we don’t approve of. We can’t be happy because you don’t share our beliefs anymore.” Forcing someone to choose between their conscience and making their family happy is a terrible burden to put on anyone. I am not responsible for your happiness. If you cannot be happy because I don’t share your beliefs, then you have a personal problem and you’re taking that problem out on me. That’s unfair.
- When people change their beliefs, you accuse them of abandoning or betraying you. But we’re just following our conscience, same as you. Just because I started out believing something doesn’t mean I am obligated to continuing believing it. In fact, changing our minds is a normal part of growing up. Of course I started out as a Christian- I didn’t know anything else! One of the worst feelings in the world is knowing that you have failed the expectations of those you love.
- “There is something seriously wrong with you for thinking this way. You are a broken, immoral person for not thinking like us. You must be deceived by the Devil or be mentally compromised somehow; it’s inconceivable that you could change your mind without something being terribly wrong with you. You must be going crazy!” If you have said or implied any of this to your loved ones, then congratulations! You have most likely ripped a hole through their heart and they will forever bear the scars. You have made them feel like a pile of horse dung, destroyed their self esteem and self confidence, and then when they get upset with you for hurting them so much you’ll shake your head and wonder “what did I ever do to them?”
- Unresolved conflict. Problems don’t just go away because we don’t talk about them. If you’ve hurt someone and have refused to change the hurtful attitudes or actions, or if you won’t even acknowledge that the hurt took place and apologize, then the other person will be forced to deal with that pain in silence even if you have forgotten about it. Every time you post or say something that reminds the person of the hurt you caused them, you are reopening the wound all over again. The only way to solve this is to stop avoiding the problem and fix it head on. If you won’t fix it, then don’t complain when the people you’ve hurt sometimes get emotionally triggered and get upset with you over seemingly nothing. It’s not nothing; it’s all the underlying hurt that hasn’t been resolved. You just poured more salt in the wound and then wonder why they’re mad again.
- You knowingly and willingly worship a god that you believe will melt the flesh from my bones because I believe the wrong things. The fact that you think I deserve this kind of punishment makes me sick to my stomach if I think about it for too long. Sure, you have a right to believe this way, but you’re not free from how this makes your loved ones feel.
- You demonize those who disagree with you. It’s one thing to say “I don’t agree with your opinion on this matter.” It’s another thing to imply or outright say that the other person has no morals, is incapable of sound judgment (“deceived by the Devil”), does not deserve compassion if they make decisions you don’t like, and so on. I have many Christian friends, and most of them I get along with perfectly fine because they don’t make me feel inferior to them– we respect each other even when we disagree. So if people are getting mad at how you’re expressing your beliefs, it might be time to reevaluate your methods and attitudes. Don’t blame us for getting mad at you if you’re making yourself needlessly offensive to people.
- You demean us. “Gay people are unnatural and deviant and they are sexual predators. They will destroy society! I can’t have those perverts around my children. Transgender people are abnormal and shouldn’t be accepted by civilized society. Atheists can’t be trusted. They’re always angry and selfish. They can’t possibly have moral standards and they’re going to ruin society.” Listen carefully- THIS IS VERY HURTFUL STUFF YOU’RE SAYING OR IMPLYING HERE. Also, LGBTQ people face high rates of suicide and assault because these attitudes and inaccurate stereotypes keep being perpetuated and used against us. Something to keep in mind.
- You tell me what I believe. When my beliefs changed, many Christians immediately applied their atheist/Pro Choice/Feminist/Liberal stereotypes onto me without even bothering to find out who I really was and what I actually believed. And most of their stereotypes were wrong. So they created an image of me in their head that was based on fiction, not fact, and then couldn’t understand why I was upset.
- You oppress others. Disagreeing with someone is one thing. Even if you’re rude, I can still work around that. But opposing their legal rights? That’s a different story. It’s gone from disagreement to you actively forcing your personal beliefs onto them. Opposing my right to make my own decisions in regards to who I marry, how I plan my family, and opposing my right to not be discriminated against… when you do these things, the message you send is this: “I should make your decisions for you. You aren’t good enough to choose your own path. My personal beliefs are more important than your personal liberty.”
- Your “Us vs Them” attitude. Mainstream Christianity has declared war on the rest of society because they cannot tolerate the rest of us living or believing things differently than them. And many of you align yourself with this movement and say the same things that they do. If we’re not on the same side as you, then we are either potential converts or enemy combatants. And then when we say “Hey! Back off and let us live in peace! Just end the war already and coexist with us!” you claim that we are attacking you. When you start a war, don’t be surprised when people fight back and tell you that you’re not very nice.
- You equate disagreement with persecution. People disagreeing with you or telling you that you’re hurting them is not persecution. People asking for the same rights you have is not persecution.
We hear these messages constantly, day in and day out, sometimes with flowery language but sometimes almost as bluntly as I wrote it here. (Did I tell you about the Christian online who told me that I deserved to lose most of my friends when my beliefs changed?)
There is nothing wrong with me for being an atheist, for being Pro Choice, a Liberal, or for not being heterosexual. And yet so many people have made it very clear that these parts of me are utterly unacceptable to them- there is something wrong with me because I don’t agree with them anymore.
I’m crying as I write this. You cannot tell me that I’m deficient and a bad person for changing my beliefs without hurting me deeply. There is nothing wrong with me– and yet you think there is. I will never be whole again in your eyes.
Well guess what? Being rejected and judged for who you are hurts, and it causes low self esteem and stress. So in a way, people create their own self-fulfilling prophecies. “People who leave the faith are always angry and lash out at us!” Well of course we are angry! You spend so much effort making us feel inadequate and bad for not believing like you- of course we will not be happy with you and will probably be mad at your religion when we finally leave it! Yes, sometimes people go overboard (I did at first), but you are also making it pretty rough for ex-Christians and then blame us when we get upset.
The Tank Gets Drained
So our tank of emotional goodwill gets drained, and drained, and drained some more. What happens when the tank gets empty and then you make another withdrawal? It goes into the negative and we get irritated. We develop a short fuse with you. You’re taking and taking without depositing enough to fill it back up again. So when you are not depositing, but then make a withdrawal (like posting another thing that reminds me of how little you think of me), you have now pushed us into the negative. It should not surprise you when we get snappy with you when this occurs- after all, you have been abusing our goodwill bank for a very long time.
Understand Your Position of Dominance and Privilege.
Yes, this goodwill bank account thing does go both ways. You have a goodwill tank with us too and we also need to be mindful of how we treat you in return. I’ve never claimed to be perfect at this, and I’ve apologized before for responding in ways that I shouldn’t. But you must understand the difference in power and social dominance here, and understand that for the most part we are forced to be on the defensive against you when we would much rather just live in peace.
As Christians in the USA, you are in the majority- 70% Christians (of various sects) versus 3% atheists and 3.4% LGBTQ.
Please read those stats again. WE ARE THE MINORITY HERE. BY A LANDSLIDE.
When we say something against you, it is NOT the same as you saying it against us because we do not have the social power and privilege behind it like you do. You’re in the overwhelming majority; we’re so small that we have to scream to even be heard compared to you. We face social ostracizing and rates of physical violence and discrimination that many Christians simply can’t relate to because they’re never had to personally see or experience it for themselves. They’re so used to their position of social dominance and privilege that they can’t comprehend what it’s like to live in the US and not have those freedoms.
Almost all of our political leaders identify as Christians. They pray and believe in God, like you.
For LGBTQ or non-Christians to earn the SAME rights as Heterosexual Christians, we have to fight tooth and nail for it just like women and people of color have had to fight for theirs.
And even when we finally win and get some equality, mainstream Christianity gangs up on us to take our rights away again. How many Christian politicians talk about reversing marriage equality, or ending safe abortion access?
Do you have any idea how many millions of dollars are spent by American Christians just to oppose LGBTQ equal rights? It is literally a nationwide campaign to make sure LGBTQ people have to live by Christian values. And in return? LGBTQ people have never once tried to pass laws requiring Christians to marry someone of the same gender, or to become transgender. All we want are equal rights and to be treated with dignity, just like women and people of color have fought for. That is not persecution. This is us asking to be treated fairly, and Mainstream Christianity is freaking out that they don’t get to control us anymore.
Mainstream American Christianity is a massive social machine with one focus- to make America a Christian nation. Christians of this sort are constantly pushing to have their beliefs be adopted by all of society- and then they wonder why minorities like me, who have very little voting power or social power in comparison to them, get so angry about it. You’re acting like bullies, guys. 70% Christians vs 3% atheists/3.4% LGBTQ and you act like this is a fair fight, or that you are somehow the victims.
So you and people like you are draining our goodwill all the time even if you’re not talking to us directly. We see the things you say and support regarding people like us, and we’re not impressed. We are a pitifully small minority in comparison to you, and yet you use your massive influence to paint us as awful people and you actively fight our equality. Our goodwill bank account is constantly in a state of withdrawal, and we are expected to put up with this treatment from you even when you give us nothing in return and contribute to immense societal harm against us. If we object, then we are accused of attacking you.
Expressing Your Beliefs Without Oppressing Others.
If you want non-Christians to stop getting so easily upset with you, then look at how much you and your fellow Christians are draining from our goodwill banks.
When you tear us down by constantly telling saying how bad you think people like us are, are you making a conscious effort to build us back up again? (And no, telling us about Jesus does not count. That’s only a good thing in your world, not ours.) If you want us to respect you, then stop beating us down with your Bible and politics and start making positive deposits into our lives!
It’s hard to get angry at someone who makes you feel good about yourself. And you know what? When you build people up instead of tearing them down, they may actually start to open up to what you have to say. Even if they don’t agree with it, they’re not likely to be hostile towards you if you have treated them with respect and dignity and supported them when they’re being persecuted and needed help.
If you align yourself with Mainstream Christianity, we may start out very apprehensive or nervous around you because we’ve been burned by people affiliated with you so many times before. You can show us that you’re different- and we’d love to see that! But if you do or say the same things to us that everyone else does, then don’t get offended when we respond to you like we do to them- with irritation and justified anger. You’ve shown you’re no different than the other millions of Christians that have made the USA an awful place for us to live in.
So how can you express your beliefs without being oppressive?
First, stop crying persecution all the time. This isn’t the Middle East. It’s very frustrating when you say we’re persecuting you when we just want you to leave us alone so we can live in peace. Or, for you to say we’re attacking you when we ask to be treated as equals. Yes, some people are jerks and will argue or throw insults over anything and they’re out of line, but most of us have genuine grievances and have good reason to be angry. That doesn’t mean we’re persecuting you.
Second, make sure you are treating us with respect and dignity. You greatly outnumber us, so it gets overwhelming dealing with stuff like this from all of you all the time. Don’t be another hurtful voice in a sea of hurtful voices. You will not win anyone to Christianity that way. You just make people even more hostile to your religion because you’re hurting us with it.
Thirdly, do not oppose our equal rights. You like having the freedom to make your own decisions, right? You wouldn’t want someone else’s personal beliefs to be forced on you, so don’t do that to us. If anyone ever tried to make it illegal for you to go to church, I’d be right there fighting for your rights. Why? Because I stand for equality- not just for me, but for everyone. It would be nice if you felt my rights were worth fighting for too, but if you can’t support me then at LEAST don’t be one of the ones oppressing me.
Sorry this was long, but there are years of pain and frustration that needed an outlet. If you took the time to read it all, perhaps you’ll understand me a bit better now. Either way, I wish you well.