After Lancaster mayor R. Rex Parris claimed that he was “growing a Christian community,” he then seemingly backtracked. But on March 1, 2010 the mayor was once again quoted in the local paper, the Antelope Valley Press, alluding to Lancaster as a Christian community and pointedly treating as invisible atheists and agnostics. Here’s what he said (A5):
A true Christian community is one that will welcome anyone of faith.
The meaning of the mayor’s sentence is unmistakable: Christians in Lancaster are set in the privileged and patronizing position of welcoming people of other faiths to live as minorities within an otherwise Christian city. And atheists and agnostics, not being people of faith, but of doubt, are not given the same welcome.
But as an agnostic living in the Antelope Valley, I expect the city government that I support with my tax dollars to treat people of doubt with the same humanity, dignity, and respect as people of faith. Part of the expression of human diversity in the world is that some people find greater value in doubt than faith, and the “doubting tradition” has played an enormous role in our collective human story, including in the United States. Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau, Abraham Lincoln, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, and Stephen J. Gould are just a few examples of Americans who have regarded doubt as a greater virtue than faith.
I’m one of them. I affiliate with a rich cultural and intellectual tradition: I am a person of doubt. And I live in Lancaster, California.
I’m here too.