Growing up, I was a huge John Lennon fan. In middle school, I did a big research project on him and even came for my presentation dressed in an old 1960s shirt and wire-rimmed pink-tinted glasses. This was thanks to my dad who never gets rid of anything. "Imagine" has always been one of my favorite songs and a challenging song for me when I first listened to it.
I was raised in a Christian home. I went to a Quaker church for the first 12 years of my childhood and then to a First Christian Church until I left for college. My family went every Sunday. I went to Sunday school, youth group, special holiday services, pitch-ins, and anything else you can imagine. Don't get me wrong, my parents weren't fire and brimstone Christians. They didn't threaten me with hell or judgement day. My mother would occasionally pull out the "would Jesus watch that with you" when I was watching a movie or TV show she didn't approve of, but for the most part they were the "love everyone and do the right thing" kind of Christians.
I, however, was always a little skeptical and that's where John Lennon comes into play. His song made me think about the idea of a world without a heaven or a hell or religion. For a young boy in Indiana, that is a pretty wild idea. Lennon's song imagines a world where people just do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. What would that look like? My parents both grew up in the 60s and early 70s, but weren't really into the hippy free love scene we've romanticized in film and television. They were midwesterners, and so was I, until I moved to Florida six years ago.
After getting to college (still in Indiana), my faith was constantly called into question by everything I read, learned, and experienced, and when I turned twenty I realized I didn't believe in God and that I firmly believed organized religion caused more harm in the world than good. My atheist thoughts and beliefs have only strengthened and seem to be constantly reinforced by the actions of Christians and other religious groups. I single out Christianity only because it is the biggest religion in this country and the one I've seen the most harm from firsthand.
Strangely enough, being an atheist seems to shock people more these days than being gay. I've written about this before. Many atheists choose to be quiet most of the time. We don't have many prominent spokespeople. Most us will let a "God bless" or "I'll pray for you" slide by from time to time. We have grown to accept we live in a country where our politicians have to be religious (or pretend to be) to get elected and that they must mention God from time to time in speeches. We actually have to put up with a lot, which is what has brought me to writing this post.
This Saturday, May 21st, is a day that a small, but rather vocal group of Christians believe is the second coming of Christ and judgement day. If you live here in Orlando where I live, you have probably seen the countless billboards all around town proclaiming the return of Jesus Christ (save the date). You can find out more information about this belief by visiting www.familyradio.com. If you can make sense of their website, please let me know (we only have five days left).
If we take this belief to be true, the Christians will all be taken up in the rapture on the 21st. The rest of us will be left here to live in chaos until October 21, 2011 when the world will be destroyed by fire. All of this is proclaimed on their website.
This got me thinking: what would the world be like without all the Christians? What if we really had from May to October without any Christians here on Earth? Well, for starters, the anti-gay movement would lose a lot of power. In fact, we could probably pass equal rights for all people before October. We'd be able to teach people proper sexual education in schools. We'd actually elect people based on skill, education, and ability and not on religious background. I think a whole lot less people would care about Obama's birth certificate and seeing Osama's death photographs. Basically, when you think about it, a good portion of conflict in this country is largely caused by Christians. Imagine a world where people are treated fairly based on being human. Imagine a world where people don't force their beliefs onto everyone else. It doesn't sound so bad, does it?
Of course, I'm partly being silly here. I don't really think the Christians are going anywhere on May 21st, but if they are going to subject me to their beliefs, I'm going to spend a few happy moments imagining a world without them in it.