I have received many interesting emails since I posted my article about religion and have engaged in some thought provoking conversations about the reality of religion in this country versus the perception. I understand that I live in a sort of liberal bubble, residing as I do in the very progressive city of Seattle on the very lefty Left Coast, but I still have a hard time reconciling the Christian Nation being sold on the evening news with the reality on the ground. Maybe if I lived in the heartland or in the Bible Belt, I would feel differently.
I come from a large family in a fairly small town and I have contact with a lot of people each day living in a city and yet I do not know, nor do I meet, many overtly religious people. Perhaps it is a case of likeminded people traveling in the same circles, but I tend to think that organized religion plays less of a part in our everyday lives than is suggested by the media and by the answers we ourselves give to pollsters on the topic.
We are not a Christian country, nor is the foundation of our government based on Christian ideals the way many are purporting. There is, however, a thread of latent Christianity that is pervasive within our culture. References to God are everywhere we look, in our courtrooms, on our money, even in our reflexive responses to people when they sneeze. I think that many people have a hard time articulating where they fall on the religious spectrum and when asked to specify their religious identification, they figure that since they went to church with Grandma a few times and they celebrate Christmas and Easter, Christian fits the bill. This reflex to claim Christianity only makes sense because of the pervasiveness of Christian symbols. These same people would never think, “Well, I celebrate Halloween and I used to do that Maypole dance on May Day, so I guess I’m a pagan.”
Discussions about religion are always rife with danger, but that makes them all the more worthwhile. Those of us who are not Christian must get better at acknowledging our own beliefs and become better at articulating them. It is the only way we are going to be able to avoid being marginalized by a majority that may not be a majority at all.