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I'm Sure I'll Catch Hell For This 

One of my favorite pastimes is criticizing other people. I firmly believe that the strength of my marriage has to do with the fact that my husband and I so enjoy criticizing other people together. When we're out at restaurants, driving, or just watching TV at home, we're almost always talking smack about somebody else. Sure, this makes me arrogant and often obnoxious, but at least I can say I'm not a hypocrite. I welcome criticism from others about my own stupidity or bad fashion choices or idiotic opinions. In fact, I've been taking criticism since I was born a colicky and difficult infant, so I'm a highly skilled professional when it comes to accepting criticism, constructive or otherwise. The people to whom I'm closest don't often refrain from offering their opinions about me, and I'm finding that people who don't even know me are no different. Normally, I take all criticism for what it's worth, either incorporating or ignoring it as I see fit.

So I'm not upset about a bit of personal criticism I received recently from a stranger who was irate because I write "against God." But I do take issue with it. Certainly, I have my problems with religion and often with religious people, but I don't recall ever having a problem with God, and I'm fairly sure that I've never expressed in writing any animosity between God and myself.

In fact, God is A-OK in my book. He's never caused me any problems as far as I know. God has never cut me off in traffic, called me a bitch, stolen anything from me, dropped ice down the back of my shirt as a joke, talked about me behind my back, told my friends that I dressed like a slut, held a match under a child's hand and told her that hell would be a million times hotter, left His family for a stranger He met on the internet, shown up in church with a hangover almost every Sunday of His life, or tried to fondle my breasts during church.

Christians, or at least some people calling themselves Christians, have done all of these things to or around me. And that's not all. God doesn't insist that slaves be obedient to their masters, He doesn't harass homosexuals who aren't bothering anybody, He doesn't murder doctors who give abortions to women who are compassionate enough to recognize their unsuitability for motherhood, He didn't burn people at the stake for their knowledge of herbal lore, He doesn't send people to various continents to destroy cultures and traditions, He doesn't think that women are basically inferior to men and caused all the sin of the world, and He hasn't sent countless millions of people to die in wars waged for the purpose of introducing others to Himself.

Christians, in recent and distant history, have done all of these things. Before you get all wound up, like I'm holding you personally responsible for any of this, just chill for a minute. Maybe you're a good person or maybe you aren't. I'm just saying that Christianity doesn't automatically equal good and non-Christianity doesn't automatically equal evil. Christianity doesn't even mean that one's trying to be good, so don't give me that one, either.

What's funny is that I believe in a lot of the ideas put forth in the New Testament and represented by Christ Himself. I try to be nice to people and help those who need help. I don't hurt anybody, human or animal, if I can help it. I value substance over style and honesty over pleasant-sounding lies, which is why few people like me and I like even fewer people in return.

And I am well aware that there are many Christians in the world who are good and decent human beings. I know and love some of them personally. But even those good and honest people are forced to struggle with a religion that is not as good and honest as they are. Christianity is a religion that, throughout history, has been a tool of oppressors. From Constantine, the first Holy Roman Emperor, a man who perceived the power Christianity would allow him to wield, to medieval kings and white plantation owners, who reminded their serfs and slaves that Jesus wanted them to be obedient to their masters, to our country today, where leaders use the Christian Right political machine to get votes, Christianity has been associated with maintaining the status quo and discouraging revolt.

I cannot disassociate the historical context from Christianity. Frankly, I see more people hurt by this religion than helped. But, back to my original point, just because I have little use for Christianity, it doesn't mean that I have a problem with God. It's a common myth among Christians that non-Christians are not spiritual or moral people. I feel that I am both spiritual and moral, whether you agree or not, and there are plenty of other non-Christians, some affiliated with other religions and some not, who are both as well.

It's true that I criticize some people, and that those people are often Christians. Honestly, the hypocrisy I see in the Christian community pisses me off more than almost anything else. But don't go and equate Christians with God. Trust me, you can have problems with Christians and not have problems with God. When you presume that God would be mad about what I write, then you're presuming to know God, -- even according to Christianity, God is ineffable.

Not that I am trying to say that I know what God thinks myself, but He's probably got even more problems with Christians than I do. I mean, here's this whole group of people running willy-nilly around the world, wreaking all kinds of havoc, killing lots of people and generally acting like assholes, all of it "in the name of God."

It's fortunate that God and I are pacifists. *

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