Every now and then I see hashtag discourse about supporting kids who are black sheep in their communities. Occasionally, these posts will also mention atheist kids, and OP will get dragged across the coals because atheists are not an oppressed group.
Which is easy to say if you don’t live in a fundamentalist community or come from a religious family. Not all atheists or agnostics are Richard Dawkins, “euphoric”, and militantly hostile towards other people’s religious beliefs. I’m originally from a small, rural town in Mike Pence’s home state, where local churches often exercise a cultish level of influence over the community. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a left-leaning household with agnostic parents who embraced multiculturalism, so I only had to worry about religious abuse outside of the home. Almost all the bullying I experienced at school was because everyone knew I didn’t go to church… kids mocked me, called me names, and kicked me around a bit, while public school teachers told me I was going to Hell. On my first day of kindergarten, my teacher had us raise our hands if we went to church. As the only child who didn’t raise his hand, she interrogated me and then informed me that I needed to find Jesus. I had classmates tell me that they weren’t allowed to be friends with me because I wasn’t Christian and their parents were afraid I’d infect them with my sinfulness.
So, here’s to anyone who grew up in suffocating religious environments, at home or in your larger community. Spiritual abuse is real, regardless of your background, and if your beliefs, behaviors, or identity have made you a target of it, I’m sorry. Just try not to let your experiences poison your tolerance of the healthy religious beliefs of others.