This got me thinking about religious bumper stickers, which I’ve started to notice recently. I saw another one the other day which read: “Without the Bread of Life, you’re toast!” Most of the time I chuckle appreciatively at the clever play on words used on bumper stickers in general, even for some of the religious ones, but the bumper sticker above got me thinking about the underlining belief that motivates some religious phrases. The phrase “Real men follow Jesus” is a statement about Christian males. But if you think about it, it is also a statement about non-Christian males: the phrase is effectively making the implicit statement that males who don’t follow Jesus are not real men. I don’t know about you, but there are millions of Muslim, Hindu, atheist and agnostic men – who are loving husbands and fathers; living honest, moral lives – who might take offence at this statement.
I’ve noticed that some religious language promotes segregation; it demeans individuals by making negative statements (explicit or implicit) about those who are not part of the group. I remember, as a Christian, referring to my non-Christian friends – with much sympathy – as those who were ‘lost’ or ‘unsaved’. Such religious language is based on the erroneous belief that if you don’t follow Jesus, you cannot be fully happy or fulfilled; if you are not a Christian, you are somehow incomplete as a human being.
For millions of people Jesus might be the answer – and I have no problem with this – but for many atheists like myself, not only is Jesus not the answer, he isn’t even a viable option. The most important thing that I’ve learnt since loosing my faith is that it is very possible for someone to live a healthy, happy, fulfilled, and complete life without religion. I wonder if Christian language can ever come to a point of recognising this fact.
I’m not one for bumper stickers, but if I ever wanted to stick a bumper sticker on my car, I would choose one that – instead breaking down another person or group in order to raise the attractiveness of my own belief – promotes positive values, respect, and celebrates what it is to be human.
See an update of this post: Bumper stickers 4 Jesus revisited