Content warning: I talk about my experience with harmful religions and say critical things of the idea of Moses!
A while back I talked about how every church had its own conspiracy theory. This is an idea that’s been brewing since I was, like, five, and I noticed that the two major churches I went to depending on the time of year, would espouse the same kinda weird science-fiction sounding ideas from the pulpit. But at the end of that article I noted that synagogues and mosques are their own affair, because if you attend one of those, you probably are the subject of someone else’s conspiracy theory, and I wouldn’t know anything about it.
This is a policy I stick to most of the time. I simply don’t bother talking about Islam or Judaism. There’s a lot of long-winded explanation at work on the topic, like how both are largely just subjects that white supremacists use to serve as a trojan horse to smuggle racism into a conversation, but the real long and short is that I don’t know much about them and my opinions of them shouldn’t matter. I’d much rather focus on the system that raised me that has all the pies and all that.
There’s a term you might hear sometimes, culturally Christian. This is to say, that even if I don’t have any personal relationship to the religion (and I do, and it’s 100% antagonistic on both sides, and they started it), the frame of reference I have is still, itself, Christian. I don’t know the memes, as it were, of the other religions – I’m not acquainted with the, ha ha, shibboleths. This means that anything I say has to be taken into account with that lens.
Now, that means you may ask ‘hey, you dunk on the Catholics and the Mormons and the JWs and the Sevvies a lot, but you weren’t raised in those traditions. You were raised in a fundamentalist christian cult, shouldn’t you only talk about that?’ Thing is, those other faiths, as much as they may argue, are basically Christian. I’m familiar enough with the differences to make meaningful conversation about them, and besides, nobody hates Christians nearly as thoroughly as other, slightly different Christians. I did a literal study of cults growing up, and one of the ‘cults’ we were gunning for was the literal Catholic church. I don’t like the Amish or Mennonites either, but, maybe unsurprisingly, they don’t want to get into fights with me on twitter. Essentially, religions in general get privilege in our society and while, most religions aren’t the most privileged, there’s not a lot of point talking about them when I don’t know them well and it doesn’t do much for the conversation.
The intersection of these faiths is pretty vast too. Like, no matter which of those groups you pick, you’ll find some pretty easily antisemetic stuff going on, because they mostly come out of similar roots that tend to have accumulated power in the same way (often by targeting and attacking the Jews and oppressing different schools of thought). They also have weirdly similar behaviours like oppressing children and marginalised people and reinforcing racist policies and behaviours and you know, the homophobia and transphobia things (up until very recently at which point I might ask exactly what is the point of your fucking divine inspiration).
I’m an atheist but I’m a christian atheist; my background and expertise is in understanding and explaining the base Christian system; that includes a bunch of related spaces.
And this gets thorny when we start to talk about Moses.
See, I don’t think the Bible is a literally true document. I was raised a Biblical literalist. I mean literal literalist. We were told every word was literally true, which, ironically, the people who said it did not mean it as literally true. After all, when the mountains sing, that wasn’t literally true true, that was sort of an expression of a phenomenon or whatever. Look, the Bible is a really weirdly bad book, shonkily edited and extremely boring and tiresome and it has an entire chunk of other religion’s holy book in it, with differences of dubious importance, focusing on some similar characters.
There’s this old joke from back in the day, when I was in the faith where we’d compare the Old Testament to the original Star Wars trilogy, The Phantom Menace was the New Testament (I think we were excited about the Phantom Menace at that point), the Catholic Apocrypha was The Holiday Special and the Book Of Mormon was creepy fanfiction. There’s this interconnected set of texts here, and they all rely pretty heavily on the same origin point, which usually goes through Moses.
I think about this from time to time. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I should just avoid the topic, because it’s possible to take me out of context and use my talk about the christian faith I was raised in with its Moses and then try to leverage my words in some kind of antisemetic way. What if my arguments arm the worst people? Is it not an act of unkindness for me to say things like ‘Moses wasn’t a real person?’
I think about it, and I worry if I’m being cruel or hurtful in doing this.
Then I think: Nah, fuck it.
I’m an atheist, I’m of Christian background, and it means sometimes I’m going to smack-talk characters that I think are fictional. You may not agree with me that they’re fictional. My want to be kind is pretty strong, but I’m not sure it’s strong enough to overwhelm my visceral reaction to being told I need to watch my mouth when criticising religious privilege.