Another Bold High Schooler Speaks Her Mind About Religion and Politics

High-schooler Elise Brown recently wrote this fantastic opinion piece for her community’s local paper regarding celebrating Christmas as an atheist and the importance of religious pluralism in our country. While it’s not online at the paper’s site, she reposted it here.

I love this excerpt, a response to Rick Perry‘s “Stronger” ad:

A statesman who insists that the national dialogue about religion must be limited to Christianity is no statesman at all.

We all have different beliefs and ways to celebrate the season of giving, but as Americans, we have shared values like respect and liberty that apply to us all. I may not agree with your belief structure, but I will always respect your right to believe it. Respect my right to believe what I believe in return.

I wish all of you a very merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ashura, Yule, Festivus, Solstice… whatever you celebrate, be proud that you have a right to celebrate it. Let nobody take that from you. Because liberty, especially of the mind and spirit, is the greatest gift of all.

Her dad tells me the mayor of West Linn, Oregon sent her a personal email thanking her for the piece and expressing his support for what she said. Nice!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • BO

    Well said, indeed!  I am a Christian theist and I applaud this girl for having a true grasp on the classical idea of “tolerance”.  I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.

    • Newavocation

      “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it”? Really??? 
      If you don’t need to believe in Jesus the Savior what makes you a Christian then? Isn’t converting and saving others part of the Christian job description? Where is it in the bible to believe whatever you want to believe? Also I don’t buy into tolerance. Tolerance = To put up with. What we really need to work on is understanding that leads to ACCEPTANCE. Unfortunately, this takes open mindedness and inquiry which just doesn’t seem to be an option for followers of the ancient texts.

      • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

        Ok, then instead of legally ‘tolerating’ people who speak against homosexuality, will you ‘accept’ their message?

      • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

        Ok, then instead of legally ‘tolerating’ people who speak against homosexuality, will you ‘accept’ their message?

        • Newavocation

          There’s the rub, understanding does not lead to accepting everything. It helps if both sides or all sides are willing to have an open mind. Of course that’s asking a bit much of people not willing to change their views even when presented with real evidence.

        • Newavocation

          There’s the rub, understanding does not lead to accepting everything. It helps if both sides or all sides are willing to have an open mind. Of course that’s asking a bit much of people not willing to change their views even when presented with real evidence.

        • Newavocation

          There’s the rub, understanding does not lead to accepting everything. It helps if both sides or all sides are willing to have an open mind. Of course that’s asking a bit much of people not willing to change their views even when presented with real evidence.

        • Newavocation

          There’s the rub, understanding does not lead to accepting everything. It helps if both sides or all sides are willing to have an open mind. Of course that’s asking a bit much of people not willing to change their views even when presented with real evidence.

          • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

            Open minds and investigation are great, but we still need to live with each other in the meanwhile. That’s where tolerance as distinct from acceptance comes in.

            • Newavocation

              Tolerance is why 2000 year old texts are still valid today. Whose doing the tolerating? Quote from the following article: 
              http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/articles/tolerance/
              ” tolerance denies groups equal standing within society, for the implications of the word are subconscious and unspoken: we are separate and not equal. Therefore, rather than creating bonds of solidarity, the concept of tolerance forbids solidarity by denying equality, and in doing so it promotes a relationship comprising the dominant and the dominated.”

              • Dan

                I hope this is a quote-mine, because that is the dumbest quote I’ve read recently. Tolerance leads to inequality? So intolerance leads to equality and solidarity?
                I’m sure the civil rights movement would have been surprised to learn that African-Americans weren’t treated as equals because of too much tolerance (sarcasm). Has the author read any history?

                • Newavocation

                  I think the author tries to explain why tolerance doesn’t solve the problems. It’s a first step, better than killing people and being intolerant but look around it still hasn’t solved the problems of inequality.

                • Dan

                  You might be .able to tell if tolerance solved problems like racism, sexism, and homophobia if everyone was actually tolerant. In the context of civil rights, which is what we were discussing, it is the intolerant people who are the problem, not the tolerant.

                  This is way too much like the Christians always saying tolerance is stupid, because it is intolerant of intolerance. No one calling for tolerance is calling for excusing every action, no matter how hateful. We are calling for the rights of the individual to be upheld, the right to do or believe something unpopular, as long as it doesn’t take away other people’s rights. We are most assuredly NOT calling for discrimination, violence, and abuse to be tolerated.

            • Newavocation

              Tolerance is why 2000 year old texts are still valid today. Whose doing the tolerating? Quote from the following article: 
              http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/articles/tolerance/
              ” tolerance denies groups equal standing within society, for the implications of the word are subconscious and unspoken: we are separate and not equal. Therefore, rather than creating bonds of solidarity, the concept of tolerance forbids solidarity by denying equality, and in doing so it promotes a relationship comprising the dominant and the dominated.”

            • Newavocation

              Tolerance is why 2000 year old texts are still valid today. Whose doing the tolerating? Quote from the following article: 
              http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/articles/tolerance/
              ” tolerance denies groups equal standing within society, for the implications of the word are subconscious and unspoken: we are separate and not equal. Therefore, rather than creating bonds of solidarity, the concept of tolerance forbids solidarity by denying equality, and in doing so it promotes a relationship comprising the dominant and the dominated.”

        • Newavocation

          There’s the rub, understanding does not lead to accepting everything. It helps if both sides or all sides are willing to have an open mind. Of course that’s asking a bit much of people not willing to change their views even when presented with real evidence.

      • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

        Ok, then instead of legally ‘tolerating’ people who speak against homosexuality, will you ‘accept’ their message?

      • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

        Ok, then instead of legally ‘tolerating’ people who speak against homosexuality, will you ‘accept’ their message?

      • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

        Ok, then instead of legally ‘tolerating’ people who speak against homosexuality, will you ‘accept’ their message?

  • Sware

    She’d make a far better candidate than Perry already.  Wonderful!

  • Brit

    Good for her!

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    Nice letter!

  • http://stochasticscientist.blogspot.com/ Kathy

    Right now I just feel a great sense of relief that a teenage girl spoke her mind and got a positive response.

    • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

      Wait.

      I’ll do it for you.

      Rebecca Watson.

      There, I said it, let the shitstorm ensue. I’m a privileged white male. I distrust and loathe everything that bleeds for days and doesn’t die.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1246074098 Elise Brown

    Thank you for your feedback, everyone. I’m just floored by the response I’ve gotten to my column. Simply put, you guys are… awesome.


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