I don’t consider myself to be a religious person. In fact, when my friend asked me the other day if I believed in God I just muttered “eh” and shrugged my shoulders. Having gone to an all boys catholic high school I’ve found that people who exit institutions like that either end up really stoked about Jesus, indifferent to religion in general, or completely atheistic. I fall right in the middle. I don’t think about God’s existence or attempt to wrap my head around concepts like Heaven or Hell. I’m far too preoccupied with classes and my personal life to really put any thought into religion. But having gone to a catholic school and seeing how much good religion can do for people, I don’t run around saying “DEATH TO RELIGION” or automatically hate people because they believe in something I don’t. As long as someone’s beliefs don’t infringe upon my own and as long as people aren’t hypocritical about what they preach I am fine with people doing their own thing.
I now go to an incredibly liberal school in the heart of Boston. And I love that Boston is so liberal, educated and accepting. It’s a great environment for people with that type of mindset. But what I’ve also noticed is that there is also a tendency to bury religion in such liberal, educated places. Whenever someone in class mentions that they are religious I can’t help but notice that people roll their eyes at it. To be religious at a liberal school can often result in ostracism. And I think that’s because the word “religion” implies a lot of things, especially when the person chooses not to disclose what particular religion they are. Often times “religious” means closed-minded, anti-gay or against abortion. To be religious means to be backwards or to be hyper judgmental and nasty. The response of peers to religion makes me think that despite Boston being such a fantastic place that maybe, just maybe, we’re afraid of letting in anything that could potentially threaten our balanced, liberal ecosystem.
Perhaps we think that that by being more inclusive of religion that it will breed intolerance or bigotry. Perhaps we feel so close to eradicating prejudicial religious practices from Boston that we are willing to eradicate religion all together. Or maybe religion has just become a taboo topic in general, only acceptable to talk about at the dinner table and our fellow churchgoers. I for one like to believe that not all religion is bad while still acknowledging that some aspects of religion are pretty fucked up. And I try to remind myself that religion is a source of support and inspiration for many people and while it may be easy for some people to abandon it that cannot be said of everyone. Not everyone who is religious is bad and not every doctrine of religion is prejudicial or discriminatory. But it seems like our default assumption is that it is entirely evil and that by pretending it doesn’t exist or rejecting it from our society we think religion will just cease to exist.
You know, we can keep the Chik Fil A out of Boston but we have to ask ourselves how much good that ultimately does? By silencing any opposition, no matter how negative, doesn’t it just make us seem like the nasty, closed-minded ones? And what’s worse- I now have to hear about people complain over the fact that the nearest Chik Fil A is miles away. And that’s distressing to me because I think fast food is shameful in general, regardless of whether or not the franchise hates gays. I sometimes wish that Chik Fil A was brought to Boston because it would have provided the city with an opportunity to take a stance on the issue. And sometimes I can’t help but feel that we didn’t allow Chik Fil A into the city because we knew that it would generate revenue. It’s like we made sure it wouldn’t come so that we could lie to ourselves and pretend that a city like Boston would have entirely rejected it. But the truth is no matter how liberal our city may be, people still would have eaten there. People love to compromise their morality for waffle fries.
I guess my point is that we shouldn’t be afraid to let religion be a part of our culture. I mean we should definitely get religion the hell out of our laws, but we should be willing to have uncomfortable conversations about religion and try to understand each other better. We should give people the benefit of the doubt and not let whether someone believes or doesn’t believe in God color our judgments of them. We should let whether or not they like Pitbull color our judgments of them.