I didn’t start out as an atheist. Like many Hispanics here in America, I was indoctrinated at an early age. I remember quoting scripture at the age of 7-8 on the public train in New York City. I was kind of like a monkey doing palor tricks for the delight of strangers that shared the metal wheeled rocket. Life was simple. My idea at a young age of what it was to be an american was simple.
As I got older of course things became a little more complicated. Hormones, social diversity and racism became the norm. My view of America was still very limited. Naively I believed that my little world should be the only thing that mattered to me. If there was not immediate need for anything then nothing was done. Now that I am in my 30’s I am faced with a bigger America. An America where people kill, hurt and slander, not only because of skin color but because of religious beliefs. I mean, we heard about it as a kid, but in the great melting pot of NY, living in predominately Hispanic neighborhoods, who ever see’s a Jew or Muslim get hurt? As a Atheist, I know the reality of all this now and see it almost every day. This is the subject that I want to address.
Many (christian) people today claim that this country is founded on christian principles. That is something for someone else to argue (at this point in time). But many atheist feel that in this country, if you are not a Christian, you are not an American, not a patriot. I have served this country for six years as part of her Naval force and loved every minute of it.
Does American patriotism equal christian beliefs? Is what makes this a great country the fact that we believe in a monothesic god? I hope not. I think that this country is fostered first and foremost on a sense of brotherhood. The cry “WE ARE AMERICANS!” stands out more than “WE ARE A CHRISTIAN NATION!”. There is incident that comes to mind when I think about what America truly stands for.
When I was about 16 or 17 I lived in upstate New York, which at that time was predominately white. There was one particular young man named Eric Rendi who was just a little more racist than some of the others that I had encountered. It was so bad that every time we saw one another there would either be a fist fight or people on both sides restraining the both of us. After about a year Eric signed up to the Marines and left for bootcamp. In as small of a town that we lived in, it was a relief to not have that added stress to my life. One day, several months later, I was sitting in a play ground just hanging out and enjoying they day when I heard someone approaching my area. I looked up and there was Eric walking casually in my direction, eyes locked on me. Now you have to understand that every time Eric and I met up it was instant confrontation, instant violence. I stood, curled my fists and prepared for a fight. Eric walked calmly up to me and shook his head. “I didn’t come here for that.” He stated to me quietly. Before I could say another word Eric offered his open hand to me and said to me, ” I have been really unfair to you and I apologize. My time in the Marines has shown me that it doesn’t matter if someone is black, white, yellow or red. All that matters is that that someone has your back when you need them there. When your life is on the line.” In my flabbergasted silence I shook Eric’s hand. What else could I do? He nodded at me again and finished off with, “I don’t know if we can ever be friends but I have no problem with you and you will get no problems from me. Be safe.” With that being said, Eric turned walked away. I had seen Eric a few times before he left again for where ever the Corp has sent him. And each time he acknowledge my presence with a slight nod and nothing more. I wasn’t offended at all. I was in awe and in a lot of ways, that day, Eric became a hero to me or rather the embodiement of what a hero does.
At some point he realized that nothing else mattters. Race, religion or creed is all irrelevant. In a silent word he screamed “WE ARE AMERICANS!” and it meant more than any other label or belief out there. It was stronger than his upbringing or beliefs about different people. Eric learned a lesson that was so fundamental that he felt compelled to honor that lesson and let it take him where many may want to go and do, but few have the fortitude to hold true to.
This is the point of this blog. You will see me argue points on religion and other things. Realize though it’s with an understanding that we are all Americans. At the end of the day does it matter if you are a theist or an atheist? Does it matter if on the dollar bill it say in God WE TRUST or maybe a better saying would be ONE NATION INDIVISIBLE. We are one great nation people! A nation that people far and wide come to so that they can escape persecution. We were a nation that everyone believed we held fair play close to our hearts and that the underdog does not have to be the underdog. We need to find a common ground that expresses the melting pot that America is and cry with our hearts to the rest of the world that WE ARE AMERICA! And we will not be swayed by the petty differences that divide the rest of the world. We should be leaders in science, ethics and set the social standards in which the world models itself. If your a theist; God bless America? This is your belief and of course, in your faith, he does! Why else would you still be here? As an Atheist I know that there are many a great people here in this country. I call them brothers whether theist or atheist because they are my patriotic brothers. Just like Eric Rendi. It took me years of learning and military service to understand how speacial you really are. I never thanked you, but I do now. I hope life has lived up to your expectations and wish you nothing but the best.