Dear Atheists: Stop Looking Down On Those Who Are Religious

[Disclaimer to all my friends who will read this article and immediately get mad at me: This isn’t directed at any of you. It’s directed toward everyone in general, and it’s called an OP-ED for a reason.]

Religious freedom is a highly controversial subject right now, especially when it comes to fighting against islamophobia in the United States. However, it seems like religious freedom and tolerance ends immediately, and I mean immediately, after the legal stage, or as soon as the rights to worship are guaranteed. This may be because I go to a nonreligious school where a lot of my friends have graduated from rigorously religious middle schools, but please bear with me.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. This whole post is my opinion, and if you disagree, that’s fine. But an opinion doesn’t need to be rude, and it doesn’t need to be a personal or psychological attack, and that’s what it feels like to me when I hear comments like:

“People who are religious aren’t intelligent. They just listen to what other people tell them to believe.”
“Imagine being so full of yourself to think that a God created you specifically.”
“Religion brainwashes people and makes them less interesting. It’s forced and makes life boring.”
You may not have heard any of that before — or maybe you just haven’t paid attention — but I’m going to pop off anyway. Hang on.

Being religiously tolerant and being respectful go hand in hand.

Most of the religious people I’ve met don’t simply follow orders blindly; I certainly know I don’t. I’m Christian, and I grew up in a Christian household, but my faith only became true and strong when I made the decision to follow God myself. It’s far from forced, and it’s offensive when people assume that it is, because that’s assuming that it’s not possible for me to be passionate about something, and to believe in something, of my own accord. But I know people who have become religious even though their family isn’t, or vice versa. It all comes down to: is it any of your business?

Why are you so bothered and hurt about what other people believe in?

One of the most important things I’ve learned as a person is that every single person interprets things differently and that there is rarely a black and white right or wrong. That’s true for everything, including interpreting religious texts or teachings, and as a Christian, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to agree 100% with 100% of everything in the Bible to be a Christian. The same goes for every other religion, so stop calling religious people hypocrites just because you don’t know exactly what we believe in and don’t care to ask.

This isn’t a theology lecture; I’m asking for basic respect, and to think before you speak.

I’m proud of my religion, and it took me a long way to get there, and yes, a lot of doubt at times. Believe me, a lot. But in the end, I believe in what I believe in because of personal experiences that not everyone has been through, and I understand that. It’s a big part of my life, and many, many people feel the same way. If it’s not something you participate or believe in, that’s fine. Power to you. There is nothing wrong with that. But why do you feel the need to criticize others for something that they find hope and happiness in?

Being attacked for believing in something that others may not agree with or understand hurts, and nobody deserves to feel that way. Ignorance isn’t an excuse to be disrespectful, verbally abusive, or rude; if you’re going to preach religious tolerance for all, make sure it carries into your daily life.

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Alice Zhang
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15. Midwest. Dislikes include the Midwest, country music, and the alt-right.

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