Let’s be honest for a second. It’s not easy to be a humanist in Mississippi. For starters, 83% of Mississippians identify as Christian, so we are definitely in the minority.
Add in the fact that some people on the religious right like to spread lies about nonbelievers and there are days when it can seem downright impossible to carve out an existence in the Magnolia State.
As much as you might want to hide under the bed every time you see a believer holding a bible, you have an important job to do. You need to be on the front lines, discrediting myths when they pop up.
The truth will eventually prevail, and that will be sooner rather than later if you speak out when you hear lies.
Let’s look at some common myths and the truth behind them.
Myth – God Was Taken Out of School
This is one of the most popular myths out there.
It’s because God was taken out of school.
Natural disaster that killed thousands of people?
The list could go on and on, but here is the fact.
God has not been taken out of schools. In reality, he’s more present than ever before thanks to the Pledge of Allegiance.
God wasn’t always part of the pledge, but in 1954, the “secular” government decided to add the phrase “Under God” to the pledge. That means God actually has a bigger presence than he used to have.
OK, but what about prayer? Nonbelievers got their way and had prayer taken out of school, right?
Schools cannot initiate or sponsor prayer or other religious activities, but students can pray freely on their own. That’s part of their right to free speech.
When people claim that God has been taken out of school, tell them this.
Every public-school student gets a small dose of God in the morning with the pledge, and students can remain as Godly as they want throughout the day. Prayers are allowed, but teachers can’t lead them.
Myth – There is a War on Christmas
This is one of the strangest myths out there. It’s amazing this myth has any legs, but it’s helped the right shore up its base. Nothing can get the religious right up in a frenzy quite like two little words.
Those two little words have been deemed as an insult to Christianity.
This alleged war on Christmas has been used as a talking point on conservative radio and cable channels for a decade or so, but it hit the mainstream during the last presidential election when then-candidate Donald Trump promised that future President Trump would make sure the country went back to saying “Merry Christmas” again.
And guess what? His base ate it up.
They ignored the fact that Christmas is a federally recognized holiday.
They also ignored the fact that “Happy Holidays” isn’t some new liberal propaganda. It’s been an accepted Christmas greeting for over a century, although it has grown in popularity in recent years.
Finally, they ignored the fact that most people, regardless of religious affiliation, are just pleased with a pleasant greeting, whether it is “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hoilidays.”
Knowing all this to be true, you’re probably scratching your head.
Just where did this whole “war on Christmas” myth come from then?
It started when a book with a crazy title got Bill O’Reilly’s attention.
Radio host John Gibson wrote a book called “The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought.” Bill O’Reilly picked the book up and started talking about it on his show.
This book was focused on schools and local officials that banned Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and other non-religious items because they thought they violated the constitution. This is something that happened in the past, but it’s not something you see anymore. Still, O’Reilly ignored the facts and used his show to propagate the myth.
O’Reilly has been like a dog with a bone over this issue, and he won’t let it go.
Of course, Fox let him go from his show, so maybe there will be a little less about the war on Christmas this holiday (errr…Christmas) season.
Myth – You Need to Be Religious to Be Moral
The Christian right likes to say nonbelievers aren’t moral because they don’t have God to guide them. This is absolutely untrue.
First, consider all of the terrible atrocities that Christians have justified by citing the bible.
Slavery is one of the first that comes to mind. Many slaveholders were Christian, but they didn’t think twice about owning human beings. They used Genesis IX, 18-27 and Ephesians VI, 5-7 to justify their abhorrent practices.
The bible has also been used to justify racism, misogyny, and so much more. How’s that for morals?
It goes beyond that, though.
Religion teaches people to act with a certain set of morals so they can get into heaven. Being moral is a means to an end.
Humanists and other nonbelievers live for this world and this world only. We do not believe we will get rewarded with an afterlife for doing good, and yet we do good deeds anyway.
We do good because it is the right thing to do. We value this life because it’s all we have, and we strive to do the right thing at all times.
When a humanist does good, it isn’t a means to an end. It is the end in itself.
Which sounds more moral to you?
It’s Time to Fight Back
Being a nonbeliever in Mississippi can be overwhelming, but remember, you have facts on your side. Let your voice be heard by fighting back against the myths.
You can also strengthen your voice by joining the Mississippi Humanist Association. For just $25 a year, you will be part of a group that is fighting for change in this state. Help us build a coalition to spread the truth about humanism.
Join the MHA today to help create change in Mississippi.