Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Open Letter to Reverend Leon Luis

To the honored Reverend Leon Luis:

My name is Matthew Medina. And I'm calling you out. You gave the closing benediction at Monday's presidential inauguration, and in the space of four minutes, called atheists and people of no faith everywhere hateful, arrogant, prejudiced, suspicious, despairing bigots. Let's go to the tape, shall we:

The Reverend tells us how he really feels

For those so inclined, here's the highlights of the points you hit. First, you trot out the standard Christian canard that all atheists are angry and arrogant:
"We pray that you will bless us with your continued presence, because without it, hatred and arrogance will infect our hearts."
Admittedly, upon hearing this, I felt pretty angry. But my anger had nothing to do with a lack of God's presence in my life and everything to do with the fact that you, Reverend, have been given a national platform to spew such ignorance with the implicit blessing of the President, sitting a mere ten feet away with his head silently bowed in assent. Yes, I said ignorance - for how else can I explain the fact that you think nonbelievers must naturally be hateful and arrogant because they don't believe in your deity? How dare you presume to know what's in my heart, or how much I can love? How about you ask my son if he thinks I'm full of hatred, and maybe ask my wife who's been by my side for almost 15 years if she thinks I'm just an arrogant asshole? Hmm?

Oh but it doesn't stop there, does it Reverend? Another gem falls out of your mouth:
"We pray for your blessing today because without it, mistrust, prejudice and rancor will rule our hearts."
Ah, yes - I'm completely and utterly incapable of trusting anyone, and boy you should hear the racist things I say throughout the day. And yes, the bitterness is just oozing from every pore. Ah reverend you know us atheists SO well! We're wretches who don't deserve to know friendship or kinship with anyone; we're so heinous and vile. You've seen through the facade of the atheist lies, to our true nature.

What else is within that sainted pate, my dear Reverend?
"We pray for your blessing because without suspicion, despair, and fear of those different from us will be our rule of life."
I'm sensing a pattern here, my man. Why, it's as if you've held up a mirror to show me my blackened soul, my life devoid of any goodness or light, and isolated by my depravity. What shall us atheists do in your view? Suicide seems a noble solution for those sins of ours! Pray, good sir, do you have another gem of wisdom to share about the lack of divine oversight in the lives of nonbelievers?
"We pray for your blessing, because without it, we will see only what the eye can see."
Uhh, OK. You've confused me on this one. Given that the eye can see many wonderful and glorious things, like sunsets and waterfalls and rainbows and grumpy cat, I'm not really seeing the downside of your argument here. Ah, but of course, you mean to suggest that you, as sacred servants of your god, can see BEYOND what the eye can see. Well, it's true, I myself cannot see beyond what my own eyes can see. Of course, that can change with the aid of a little tool I like to See, there's this thing called Infrared. Or Ultraviolet. Or X-Rays. Hell, there's an entire spectrum of electromagnetic energy we can see beyond what our eyes can perceive. Take your pick. We happened to evolve on a planet with a sun with a particular wavelength of light, so our ancestors only evolved enough of an eye to see what was needed to survive long enough to procreate. That includes you, by the way. Long story short, you, dear Reverend, still see with the same eyes as everyone else.
Anything else to share with us awful human beings (aka atheists)?
"We pray for your blessing because without it, we will only see scarcity in the midst of abundance."
The fuck are you talking about?! Seriously brother, it wasn't bad enough to insult our character, now you're going after our eyesight again? Oooh, I's a metaphor! You mean that we petty atheists are only capable of seeing the shallow surface of things, and how we can't possibly understand the subtle beauty of a child's smile, or the majesty of an inspired piece of art. How sad that without god to show me truth, I can only ever know the color of the forest before me, and not the grand history of the trees arrayed like silent sentinels, and I can never experience the enriching pleasure of the cool earth beneath my bare soles. If only...

Oh but wait, I skipped over something. Let's go back to this nugget of joy, shall we Reverend?
"But with the blessing of your presence, We know that we can renew the ties of mutual regard which can best form our civic life."
Humph. OK, let's set all the joking aside. I've been deliberately playing the "bitter, angry" atheist you seem to think we all are. In truth, all the comments above are pretty typical of what we hear again and again, and they've long since ceased to get under my skin.

So, up until now, I've been playing with your words a little, Reverend. Look, I know you didn't mean to belittle us atheists and our lack of a godly presence in our lives (but let's make no mistake, that's exactly what you did). I'd have even been willing to give you a pass on your other comments and call it ignorance, as it's very possible you don't actually know any atheists, other than the ones you might see on TV, who may admittedly come across looking angry, arrogant, and bitter (but as you can hopefully see from my words here, sometimes we have reason to be). But this implication - that only through the presence of a god can we best achieve a civic life? This...this is bullshit. Atheists, agnostics and the religiously unaffiliated make up a significant chunk of the American population. How dare you suggest that we are somehow inferior at participating in a civic fashion? This attitude is provincial, and backwards, and why most Americans say they wouldn't vote for an atheist for public office.

My dear Reverend, it's a good thing for you that I don't have hatred in my heart - I forgive you your ignorance of what atheists are really like.

And Mister President, lest anyone think I'm picking on the Reverend here, I must also say that I'm ashamed that you would sit there with head bowed, hearing these divisive and petty words, and remain silent. You're lucky you don't have to run for re-election, sir.