Friday, November 6, 2009

Gay Marriage: Why the responsibility is on me.

This is sick and it needs to stop. What am I talking about? The nasty, vile, infectious, bitter, hate-mongering that is spreading itself around our country in the form of anti-gay marriage legislation. I don't care if I sound like I am exaggerating, because this is honestly how I feel about it. As a group, atheists clearly skew left, but there are certainly conservative brothers and sisters among us. However, I have never encountered an atheist who does not support gay marriage. I would never go so far as to assume it is not possible or does not exist, but I think most would agree that it is highly rare.

So what's gotten me this worked up? Well, obviously the passing of Prop 1 in Maine this past Tuesday, for one. I was so thrilled as I drifted to sleep Tuesday night. As a New Jerseyan, I was disappointed by my state's election results, as well as many of the results being projected around the country. But! All would be worth it, because on Wednesday I'd wake up and Prop 1 would be a distant nightmare. I did not prepare myself for loss, because I honestly did not think it would happen. Not only had I interpreted an easy rejection of the Proposition based on early projections, I had also counted on the wonderful campaign against Prop 1 to have done the trick and on what I assumed was a majority of voters who valued compassion and equal rights for all. I was wrong. It was California and Prop 8 all over again. I guess I set myself up for disappointment when I surround myself with like-minded freethinkers and forget that the rest of the United States as a whole is not as progressive.

I spent Wednesday in dejected helplessness, planning what I'd do and how far I'd go if the same battle ever came to New Jersey. Then today I realized I needed to get my ass in gear. I saw this. I don't know what I will or can do yet, but I have to do something. We cannot let these people force their will upon us. They seem to be mounting a systemic campaign against those of us who disagree with them, and somehow they are getting the voter support behind them.

Why, as a group, do atheists resoundingly support gay marriage? Atheists are forced to look at life through clear lenses. We have no religious tints clouding our opinions, and so our views must be based on rational thought. This is not true for all of us, as nothing ever is, but surely most of us. If we oppose an idea or viewpoint, it must be for secular reasons only, and the secular argument against same-sex marriage is incredibly weak. I am not sure I've ever heard a true secularist make one. It seems to me that any such secular argument is a thinly veiled theistic tactic, and while rational on the surface, it provides very little proof or objective reasoning. When people start yammering on about the deterioration of society's structure, all I can hear is “Wah-wah, I wanna be special! I don't wanna share 'cuz I don't hafta and you can't make me!”

Well unlike the blocks in *kindergarten, there is enough marriage to go around. If you really want to support society, how about we encourage as many families as possible. If a family cannot naturally procreate, all the better, I say. The United States and the world is overburdened by humanity, and there are many children who need a good home. They do not have a single person giving them the attention they deserve at the moment, so how can two fathers or two mothers possibly hurt them? Do these people honestly believe that these children are better off in foster care than in a stable, same-sex parent home?

I do believe that more than fifty percent of United Statesians support gay marriage, but I have absolutely no proof to back me up. I have to believe this, because if I didn't, the fight might feel too overwhelming. The results rest in the hands of the moderates and undecideds. What can we do to sway them to the side of right, the side of progress, and to get really hippie on your ass, the side of peace and love? I think the first step, at least to make the process easier on ourselves, might be to realize that this may take longer than it should. If I could flip a switch and make same-sex marriage legal everywhere tomorrow, I would. All I can realistically do is start lighting fires in individual minds.

My goal right now is my sister. She is sixteen, which we all know is an interesting age. Many of us start to seriously question the ideals with which we were raised. We form our own worldviews, oftentimes very different from our parents'. My parents are right-wing, Republican, Carries Underwood and Prejean-loving, mission-trip-to-Mexico-going, fundamentalist, evangelical Christians. When I was sixteen, I became more socially liberal than I had been before, but continued to hold on to my religious indoctrination beliefs. It might have been impossible not to. It took getting out of the house and going off to college to become the fiercely liberal, lefty atheist I am now. However, I see the same wheels turning in my sister's brain as were churning in mine. How do I capitalize on this situation?

Even though my sister still stands behind the Christian notion that homosexuality is a “sin”, she seems to have a clearer understanding than my parents do on the separation of church and state. I am planting the critical thinking seeds in her mind, and she is a very intelligent teenager. The combination should produce great results, and even better ones if she waters them with good company and a rational environment. Happily, she also has gay friends who can help her along. My parents, on the other hand, are a lost cause. I have a closer relationship with my father's youngest, gay brother than he does, and I don't think he sees anything odd about that. My mother holds fast to her opposition to same-sex marriage, even with a gay nephew and brother-in-law. They are very much the “love the sinner, hate the sin,” sort of Christians. How compassionate of them.

My plan is not much of a plan, I know. I would love to do more, but I don't know what I can do other than what I am doing unless the fight comes to my neck-'o-the-woods. In some ways, we atheists are at the forefront of the issue. Atheists alone have the ability to form our opinions regardless of the whim of some sky daddy or daddies (or mommies). Now the responsibility is on us, not necessarily to disabuse our theistic friends, family, and neighbors of their silly notions, but to bring the debate into the realm of the rational. I know, I know, it's what atheists try to do everyday. But we have to keep trying, because once we get people to think critically, we can't lose.

*This is a completely off-topic story, but when I was in kindergarten, I was not too fond of sharing or playing with others. There is a story I'm reminded of often, in which I was playing with blocks alone and other kids were trying to play with me. Apparently I got so irritated, I couldn't take it anymore, and shouted, "Would you leave me the fuck alone?!" I was four. I've grown up a bit since then.

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