The Tender activist: Whatever gets you through the day

By : Scottie Campbell
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Perhaps it’s just in my circle of friends and acquaintances, but I have been struck lately by the casualness and accompanying entitlement of theophobia.

Theophobia is not a well-reasoned discussion about religion, it’s not someone stating their belief with supporting evidence, instead it’s someone stating things in such a way that implies the stupidity of anyone believing in religion or perhaps certain religions.

Sometimes these statements are couched as science, which is ironic since any scientist worth her salt will tell you all science is really hypotheses waiting to be proven or debunked. Hell, collectively we’ve only been cocky enough to agree on one Law and any day we could discover something to turn that on its apple-bruised head.

With the start of the school year came the institution of 2018 Florida Statute, Title XLVIII Chapter 1003, which states: “Each district school board shall adopt rules to require, in all of the schools of the district and in each building used by the district school board, the display of the state motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ designated under s. 15.0301, in a conspicuous place.”

According to a Fox 35 article, when Rep. Kimberly Daniels, a Jacksonville Democrat and sponsor of the bill, cited the Parkland shooting in her closing speech on the bill, stating “God is the ‘light’ and ‘our schools need light in them like never before.’”

The article concludes: “She added that gun issues need to be addressed, but the ‘real thing that needs to be addressed are issues of the heart.’” Personally I find Daniels’ words hard to argue with, but the Facebook post where I found this article was followed by a thread of intolerant comments. No, I am not saying a plaque stating “In God We Trust” will instantly solve the problem and it is clear Daniels isn’t either, but in the calm faith can bring there could be some sanity and I understand the intent behind the bill. “In God We Trust” is not a spell that can magically shield bullets, but neither is painting a bandshell rainbow colors.

One thing that does bug me about “In God We Trust” being placed in schools, which also bothers me that it’s on our Florida license plates and our money, is that it is limiting. Not everyone believes in a god, or the implied God, and I think the schools should allow for that. Like race, culture and gender, I think our different beliefs should be celebrated.

Certainly the queer community has as much reason as anyone to distrust religion; it has often been used as a weapon against us. Pretty much anytime things are presented as rules someone is going to figure out a way to use it to control others – ask a business owner who has had to hurdle obscure permitting rules or someone who has been arrested for not having a bell on their bicycle.

Still, the fact that religions, spiritualities and philosophies do provide guidelines for how to live your best life – the view of that best life being in the eye of the beholder, of course – validates their followers. The structure they provide can alleviate stress, foster stability and provide comfort. It’s worth noting that scientists studying Blue Zone — the areas on our planet where people are living longer — have found that faith is among the key factors.

My own spiritual journey has gone from next to nothing through Christianity, making a pit stop in atheism, and then finally arriving at Buddhism. To be honest, I’m a half-assed Buddhist right now with fits and starts of meditation and studying, but it has helped me immeasurably. This is always sprinkled with a bit of Mister Rogers, naturally. Throughout this journey I have maintained that people should believe whatever gets them through the day with the caveat that it should be about love.

Joseph Campbell once said that religions of exclusion are doomed and I think he’s right even though it may take ions for that to play out. If your religion isn’t about love and kindness, I just don’t get it. I’ll look at you with my head cocked to one side like my dog trying to understand me after I’ve had several beers.

A friend once went on a social media tirade because someone at a convenience store told him to have a blessed day. This was followed by a comment thread of agreement and not-so-witty suggestions on what he should reply were it to happen again, ironic in their self-righteousness. I’m not sure I understand the harm in the convenience store clerk’s parting words. In this day and age when people are gunning us down in schools, nightclubs and churches, someone wishing you a blessed day ought to give you hope in your fellow man.

Honestly, it bothers me to think I may have told you, sometime in the past, that I didn’t believe in God. I don’t mind you knowing that I gave the atheism label an extended flirt. I don’t mind telling you that because I feel any person who isn’t assessing and reassessing what they believe, questioning and ruminating about what they think they know, is a damn fool. The reason it bothers me to think I may have told you I don’t believe in God is because it was never an honest statement. It’s hard to comprehend this vast universe without allowing for faith, even just a little.

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