Delusions of Persecution

Late last year on Freethought Radio, Dan and Annie Laurie played a remarkable clip from James Dobson, talking on his own radio show about their program:

The problem is that the Christian ethic is literally hanging by a thread. I heard just a few weeks ago that Air America, the very leftist radio entity… have come up with a program that will be aired across the country that is atheistic – admittedly atheistic in nature.

Freethought Radio was on the air for some time before it was picked up nationally by Air America, but never mind that. What I find most amusing is Dobson’s claim that Freethought Radio’s debut has left Christianity “hanging by a thread”. When last I checked, there were more than 2,000 religious radio stations in America, many of which play Christian programming twenty-four hours a day – not to mention the Christian TV channels, magazines, book publishers, megachurches, private colleges, evangelism programs, political lobbying organizations, and so on. Who’d have thought that this multibillion-dollar infrastructure was so fragile that one hour a week of radio pitched explicitly to freethinkers could bring it all to the edge of ruin? Shades of David and Goliath!

Dobson isn’t the only one making noise like this. Last year, Ed Brayton reported on a hysterical column written by Janet Folger of the right-wing site WorldNetDaily, in which she imagines a future where Hillary Clinton has become President and has outlawed Christianity. No, I’m not making that up. In a similar story, the creationist Discovery Institute complains about the “unprecedented wave of persecution” it has suffered from nasty, mean scientists – as if academia’s refusal to take them seriously was the worst thing that had ever happened to anyone. And again, Greg Laurie of WorldNetDaily wrings his hands over “the ugly results of banning God from the culture”.

Another right-wing site, Hal Lindsay’s Oracle Cartoons, has comics with titles like “Jail For Jesus“, in which the cartoonist fantasizes about Christianity being outlawed worldwide and himself and other Christians being jailed, persecuted and tortured. In fact, judging by his strips with titles like “Another Illegal Cartoon“, he seems to have persuaded himself that this is already in progress.

This is not to say that fears about the restriction of speech are entirely meritless. There are some legitimate threats to free speech in the world, and these need to be treated with the seriousness and gravity they deserve. What we do not need is the shrieking hysteria of Christians who treat the situation all out of proportion to its seriousness, as if their entire religion was on the very edge of being stamped out. A rational person would take the view that, while persecution of individuals is still atrocious where it exists, Christianity constitutes one-third of the population of this planet and commands a substantial portion of its wealth and power; it is not in danger of dying out any time soon. Even worse is the odious, conceited belief held by many Christians that everyone is against them and that their religion is the only one whose free speech is under threat. (Most tyrants suppress differing views indiscriminately.)

There is no global tide of persecution poised to sweep down on Christians, as these people ridiculously imagine. They should recognize that protections on free speech have always been a patchwork at best. Some nations are strong bulwarks of free speech; others allow it in some cases but restrict it in others; and in a handful of totalitarian states, there is no free speech at all. Every infringement on free speech is serious, but to assume that Christianity as a whole is in dire peril or is prevented from communicating its message is a delusion in stark conflict with reality.

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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Arc of Fire, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.