A link to a page called “How to stop your kids from becoming Atheists” flew around a couple times this morning on my Twitter feed. I decided to ignore it, as it wasn’t aimed at me directly, but then I thought about it and decided to actually respond to it. Or rather, respond to years of such little links and comments read and heard from people I consider friends or close acquaintances. This isn’t a rant, this isn’t a retort. This is a response.

You decided you do not believe in G-d, and I decided that I believe in G-d. Your decision does not make you any smarter, insightful, wise, accepting, or educated than me. Neither does mine make me all that in relation to you. When you say general statements about believers, remember you are including those who are your friends, those whom you respect and respect you, among them. That means me, Daniel, the guy you play games with, go to school with, chat online with, joke with, even sometimes share a true memorable moment with.

I don’t mind that you’re an Atheist. I honestly don’t care because that is your choice. I respect your choice. I will even talk about our choices, how they differ, how they may even be similar in some ways, and not have a problem with it (heck, in many cases I’d welcome it). It’s your choice and I respect it, especially if you are my friend, even if I don’t believe the same way. That goes for Atheist, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, or Pastafarians. I only ask you do the same.

I am a convert to Judaism. That means I chose my belief, and I did after a really hard and intense–painful, even–struggle with myself about belief in G-d and me as an individual (and frankly, it’s a struggle I continue to be engaged in every day). But even if I wasn’t, even if I’d been born into observant Judaism (or Christianity, etc), my point remains the same. I am not an anomaly, I am simply an example, just like how you reached your decision to be an Atheist isn’t the same as that of others.

“But, Daniel,” you may ask, “what about the Westboro people, or the Jihadists, or the [Insert Religious Extremist Group Here]?” What can I tell you, there’s shitty people in all walks of life. What about Atheists that believe all believers should be killed (I’ve actually heard this, don’t laugh)? I’m sure we’re both groaning right now. Listen, these people are out there. Let’s not be like them, then.

I don’t need you to apologize for tweeting that link today if you did, or for any comment you may or may not have made in the past. I honestly don’t. I also don’t want you to police what you say to be politically correct. Just be aware of what you say, what you forward along, and understand you might be hurting someone you actually esteem.