As none of you may know, one of my many hobbies is genealogy. I find bridging the past to the present absolutely fascinating, and was quite shocked how easily that could be done. My interest started when I decided to research my own family. One side of my family I knew next to nothing about, and the other almost just as little. Once I had started, I realized that many things may actually be nature instead of nurture. Then I began to wonder, what, if anything, do I have in common with my ancestors?
I found that a common theme among both sides of the family was being on the wrong side of religion. Now, before I get into this any further, I should make you all aware that I am an atheist, and with the current climate in the United States, I can also claim the family trait of being on the wrong side.
Two lines of my family both left their home countries in fear of religious persecution. One, being Puritans (and not just any Puritans, but Separatists) in England during the reign of King Charles the first, and the second where Presbyterians Covenanters from Northern Ireland who fled to escape rising rent prices and church burnings in Northern Ireland. The English side arrived in 1632, in Mendon, Massachusetts, and the Irish arrived in 1772 and settled in South Carolina. As you can see, both groups had arrived before the Revolutionary War, with a severe distaste for England, and most notably, the barbaric ways in which religion was forced upon people by the crown.
Eventually, they found themselves fighting against the crown in 1775. 7 of my family members made up the 77 men in Lexington who battled against the British on April 19, 1775, officially starting the American Revolutionary War. Every man of age on both sides took up arms against the crown for their freedom, and I’m sure the stories and experiences of their basic right to faith was never far from their minds in those battlefields. They continued to fight until September 3, 1783, when the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the war. Some stood with Washington on the southern shores of Manhattan while he read the Declaration of Independence for the very first time, some traveled endlessly through the colonies, and all of them buried an endless stream of husbands, brothers, uncles, cousins and sons. You see, I’m an Aldrich, and our history fighting for the freedom of this country runs as deep as the roots on the trees they saw when they first landed here.
I look back now at the state of America and wonder, have we all forgotten their fight? Have we all forgotten why 20,000 English men, women and children fled England and gave many of us the opportunity to be born here? To be as they wanted, truly free to live the dream of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”?
I look around now and see the religious climate in this country as something worth cringing over. How dare anyone try to impose religious law on a nation founded on escaping that same right. Now I’m not saying that I have it as bad as they did. I do not have to worry about being put to death for my non belief in a deity. But when did it become right to be so righteous in this country that you feel the law needs to abide by your God’s standards of living?
I will never understand those who praise those amazing 77 men, and the thousands that fought with them as heros who literally fought for our freedom, yet stand on the next breath claim that we need to live our legal lives by their holy book. How dare you disrespect what those men fought, died and shed blood for. How dare you dishonor their fathers, as well as the generation who founded your founding fathers by implying that we cannot as a country live our lives the way we see fit because it’s against your God. How dare you praise men like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington while attempting to eradicate the very freedom they stood for.
The United States was NOT founded as a Christian nation, nor was it found under any other religion. The original settlers came here to escape that very ideal, and simply wanted to practice their faith within their own communities safely, without fear of law forbidding them otherwise. If you want further proof, perhaps you should read Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptists_in_the_history_of_separation_of_church_and_state), and the NUMEROUS quotes from said founding fathers clearly expressing that church and state should be completely separate, and a relationship with God is a PERSONAL, not legal relationship (http://aattp.org/twenty-quotes-from-the-founding-fathers-on-the-separation-of-church-and-state/). Actually, you can look right to the first line of the constitution, which is the absolute be all and end all on the law of this country.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
Then I realized that not only is standing on the wrong side of religion a common trait, but fighting for the freedom to be there is also something that seems to run literally to my bones, and through my blood.
No, I will not stand by and allow anyone to impose their religious beliefs on me in any way shape or form, but I will fight with everything I have to make sure that you can practice your faith without fear of prosecution, persecution and death.
I will not stand by and quietly allow you to sully the plight of my ancestors, who left with nothing and built this country with their sweat and blood while you claim them to be heros of your plight. I will stand with them, and remind you that you are wrong, and to use dead men’s names in vain for your unfounded need for control is exactly what would have your ass stabbed with a bayonet should they have ever been in front of you.
I see many times a lot of the right wing Christians stating “if you cant stand behind our troops, then stand in front of them”. Why does this only apply to present day members of the armed forces (who, I may add, I have an immense respect for, as many of them are my family and friends, and who I would consider brothers)? Why can you not stand behind the man who created your army, and let everyone live in peace?
The basic right to this country was freedom to practice your own faith, without any other law of faith being imposed on you. If your simple argument for why something should or shouldnt be law is simply “because the bible says so”, then your argument is null and void, and perhaps you should visit a few cities in New England to remind yourself why. There are thousands of gravestones you can walk over to remind yourself that the men beneath your feet would call you a traitor and label you a treasonous fuck.
If you care to live in a land where law is dictated by a holy text, perhaps places like Iran, The UAE, or one of the many other Middle Eastern or South Asian countries run by Theocracy. Then you can tell me exactly how it feels to be on the wrong side of religion and be in fear for your life for your own faith. If you can tell me that is what you want the United States to be, then I in no way could ever call you a patriot.
You see, I am a patriot. I remember and understand what is in our Constitution, even if I may feel it dosent agree with my personal belief. I understand and know the plight of these immensely brave men and women was meant for equality and non exclusion. I understand that the laws and reasons this country was founded on was to give blanket equality to all men, regardless of faith.
I will continue the generational fight for religion for as long as my body physically lets me. I will continue the fight for both believers and non believers alike, so long as your relationship with your God is left as a personal one, and you clearly understand that your right to swing your fists ends at the next persons nose. I will continue to fight for equality, and the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For only when we are truly free to love our own hearts can we learn to love another’s, regardless of differences
Because, you see, I am the same as those men who fled their homes to come here. I am on the wrong side of religion.