I used to think I didn’t get attached to places. The past was a haze, an awful mystery I yearned to escape. My heart was not heavy when my family moved us from New Jersey to Florida when I was 10, and it was lighter still when I finally left Miami to seek my fortunes in Ottawa, Canada. I had much to flee. It was only later that I found something to mourn.
If it were only the different worldview, it might be easier to be a Hispanic-American atheist in the United States. The US was born secular, and that spirit of permissiveness has made sure that no individual faith can claim a majority. Roman Catholicism is the single largest denomination, and they and the agglomerated flavors of Protestantism together claim most of the United States’s people, but no faith can call itself the faith of Americans. No faith is a given of American-ness the way Romanian Orthodoxy is for now built into the Romanian condition, or Twelver Shia Islam into the Iranian. It is only by eliding the differences between Christian sects and pretending that fundamentalist Protestant home-churches have more in common with liberal Catholic non-church-goers than they do with Twelver Shia Islam that the people of the United States become a “Christian people,” and Americans who profess to some other faith, or none, become something Other.
If it were only refusal to partake of the rituals, it might be easier as well. There is more to Hispanic-ness than the Catholicism that characterizes most of us. Someone who doesn’t attend the local church’s Christmas show or baptize their children is still more odd than threatening, if they make the right apologies.
But there’s an elephant in the room that turns a Hispanic-American’s “I don’t believe” from mere blasphemy and cultural denial and rebellious affectation into a writ of enmity against kith and kin, no more and no less than treason. A big, red elephant emblazoned with a hammer and sickle.
Continue reading “Why I am an Atheist – 2 of 3”