Imagine a Country with No Christian Privilege

This is a guest post by Clyde Daly Jr.. Clyde is a senior at Gordon College and will be attending graduate school at the University of Notre Dame this fall. When he’s not in lab working on his research project or promoting important conversations, he can be found musing on his own blog, miningasteroids, or on Twitter @cjjc0.

[This piece is adapted from a previously-published article.]

***

Imagine a country that had freedom of religion, but also had a greater than 70% Muslim population. Of course, this would range from “Cover your women from head to toe” Islam to “You don’t really need to pray five times a day, as long as you pray often” Islam, and some groups didn’t see others as True Muslims, but that’s what freedom of religion is for, right?

Imagine that people of no religion were a 16% minority, and Christians were a less than 2% minority. There might have been more Christians, but public sentiment shifted away from them powerfully when a Christian group attacked this country for what they called “crimes against Christian nations.”

Can you envision a place where the opinion that Muslims should get special treatment in matters of religious freedom was not a fringe opinion nor an idea that a few strange people wished was true? What would it be like for a non-Muslim to live in a place where an impressive number of candidates for public office openly endorsed this idea of “Muslim heritage”? What would you teach your minority-religion children when you found that the historical narratives taught in their public educational system supported this Muslim dominance and were informed by it?

Imagine that the national motto, written on all of the nation’s currency, was “In Allah We Trust.” Imagine that in order to pledge allegiance to this country, citizens were required to state that they lived in “one nation, under Allah.” This had not always been. During a nationalistic conflict between this country and another world power that was both Communistic and atheistic, these words had been adopted in an effort to rally the support of the people. Prior to this, the Pledge of Allegiance had no religious wording, and the national motto was “Out of Many, One.” Imagine that when people inevitably pointed out that these new mantras conflicted with freedom of religion, and that the use of “Allah” clearly referred to only to the Muslim Allah, the complainers were labeled unpatriotic, not true citizens of the country.

Imagine that a Google search for “violence against Muslims in the United States” didn’t turn up any results. Imagine that in 2008 and 2009, there had been 212 acts of violence against Christians, specifically for their Christianity, in this nation.

Imagine that a Muslim came to you and told you that Muslims were being persecuted in this country. What would you say to him or her? As a Christian or other religious minority, how astounded, how ignored, how violated and invalidated would such an obviously and deeply untrue statement make you feel?

I often find myself astounded by the level at which Christians in the United States seem to be unaware of their religious privilege. Christians are the group whose religion so pervades the United States that discussions about popular secular morality often quote the Bible for emphasis. Minority religions are accepted popularly because they also lead to God, or truth, or some other thing for which Christianity is normally used, not because they are valuable in and of themselves.

This awareness of Christian privilege comes in highest relief for me when the inevitable discussions come up about worldwide religious persecution. These conversations sometime talk about how Christian religious liberty is ignored in lieu of minority-religions’ liberty in the United States. I think this is blatantly insulting to the subjects of the second type of conversation, Christians in countries where anti-Christian persecution really does occur. The third type of conversation, which is strangely absent, is the conversation about non-Christians who are persecuted worldwide. Why don’t we talk about Muslims in Israel? Why don’t we talk about atheists and agnostics in Iran and Saudi Arabia? Why don’t we talk about Hindus in Fiji, and why don’t we talk about Muslims in America?

Christianity grew out a place of persecution in the Roman Empire, but America is not Diocletian’s Rome. American Christians should take a look around; they must understand that they live in a much more Constantine-esque nation than their words sometimes suggest. If Christians don’t learn to behave with much more compassion for the people who have a right to see their Diocletian’s hand on the Bible each Inauguration Day, they’re going to continue to alienate the very people whom they wish to convert. Non-religiosity and Paganism are growing. Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus are immigrating. And Christianity cannot help but become more offensive to them as long as they continue to pretend they could be discriminated against in such a “Christian nation.” Just like the monuments of racial and gender privilege, this monument of unacknowledged religious privilege must be torn open to reveal the wounds of the truly oppressed.

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.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    It has to be done…

    • AugustineThomas

      Thanks for that friend!
      But don’t get complacent.. The neo-pagans and atheists could continue corrupting gullible Christians and further devolve our society into a sex and drug zombie hell hole!

  • Stonyground

    Christians in the UK are claiming to be persecuted because their rights to discriminate against the gays is being curtailed by the more enlightened society around them.
    Christianity in the UK still has many privilages that are a hangover from the past. We now have freedom of and from religion which has been fought for by minorities over the past 150 years. There are still many situations where asserting this freedom will lead to the pious making life very difficult for you.
    Still, I think that as an unbeliever I am better off than atheists in the US, due to the fact that for the most part, religion is not an issue here. The kind of people who think that religion matters are seen as being a bit nuts.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

      As a fellow Brit I agree and am glad to do so, but feel you understate the reactions Krystyhuns get in the UK when they bleat on about persecution. Here in the UK they are ridiculed or told to shut up.

      An bishop (Anglican I think) has gone on record in the press shutting down these claims and ridiculing them. There is also one of the chairs of the Equality Council who suggested that these whiners needed to go buy a dictionary and learn what the word “persecution” actually meant, and then added it always seemed to be Evangelicals holding extremist and bigoted views who screech the loudest (again in press articles he was quoted on this). Baroness “Waaaah Waaaaah” Warsi supposedly got the elbow from her job after the public backlash and press ridiculing she got every time she bleated on about religion and those nasty secularists.

      We may have a state religion, but it marches on paper. The pews and hymnals are gathering dust, churches become condo developments and carpet warehouses, and being overtly religious is a sure way to be a social and political pariah.

      • AugustineThomas

        As a fellow Brit, I suggest you think about how secularist atheists are bringing your once great race(s) to the brink of extinction.

    • AugustineThomas

      You do realize that secularism and atheism are causing your women to abort your future and that if demographic trends continue, the Polish Catholics will fight (and likely lose) to the Muslims who will band together to take over your country?

  • slaq

    This times a thousand. You’ve managed to capture everything absurd about Christians crying persecution in a country with Christian privilege and condense it in to one beautifully written post. Hats off to you, sir.

  • TheBlackCat13

    If you are open to suggestions, I would add a bit about national holidays and the work week.

    • Robert Freid

      What would you like to add?

  • TnkAgn

    Again, Christians confusing loss of privilege with persecution. They co-opted the Constitution for over 200 years, and now they can’t handle the truth of it.

    • AugustineThomas

      You do realize that Christians (The Pilgrims), founded this country and that your fat, easy secularist life would be impossible without the Christian monks who developed modernity in their monasteries??

      • TnkAgn

        You worked on this silly (monks developed modernity?) response for 8 fucking months before dropping it on us, I see.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

    I would rather imagine a world where difference is embraced and it is not considered a category. Where competition is a part of innovation and not a strategy in battle to amass resources. Where lessons of the past are used as guidance for the future but are not coveted for their idealistic virtues. I would rather imagine a world where curiosity sits foremost on the minds of strangers, where curiosity fuels exploration, innovation, education and its usage is not considered disrespectful against doctrine. Where doctrine and fact are seen as beginnings and not conclusions. I would rather imagine a world where the common attitude is of new beginnings, where each day is thought of as the next step closer to a better future instead of an attitude of conclusions and endings. A world where meaning takes a back seat to experiencing.
    Alas this is only an imaginary world. Where, presently, I must endure to persevere through the absurdities of humanity forever restraining the laughter that would surely be the cause of my inevitable institutionalization.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Ozzy’s answer: “I’m a dreamer, who dreams of better days.”

      Dude, what you said. Exploration, innovation, education, WONDER, CURIOSITY, PEACE, and prosperity!

      I, for one, am proud to be a dreamer.

      • Artor

        You’re not the only one!

    • http://twitter.com/Dan82904 Dan Abrams

      You’re a poet, I think. A wonderful one, at that. Thanks for your words.

  • randomfactor

    I wonder if, instead of crossing out the word “GOD” on the nation’s currency, a better strategy might be to write in “ALLAH” as a substitute. That would certainly convey what the problem is…

    • ChristFighter

      Except, and this bugs me a lot – Allah MEANS God. “In God we trust” and “In Allah we trust” mean literally the same exact thing.

      This would seem like splitting hairs, but I think it plays into the bigoted Christian’s hand. “See, Muslims worship an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT god than I do!” No. Muslims and Christians worship the EXACT SAME god. It definitely plays into the bigoted Christian’s hand by using their bigoted hatred of Islam to shove their own privilege back into their faces.

      I see what you mean to say – if you pointed out Christian privilege by turning it into Muslim privilege, it would maybe open up Christians’ eyes. I don’t disagree with that sentiment. BUT, “In Allah we trust” is, unfortunately, a misguided and, frankly, bigoted approach to the situation. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between Islam and Christianity.

      It might be more appropriate to use an actual god that isn’t the Christian god – Visnu, Shiva, Brahman – perhaps Buddha (though that seems absurd to me, “In Buddha we trust”) or even a Japanese deity – “In motherfucking Hachiman, god of war, we trust.” Or go for the standard, “You don’t believe in Zeus” argument and write “In Zeus we trust.” ANYTHING but Allah, because Allah IS Yahweh IS God IS the Christian deity IS the same exact thing, and only ignorant racists think they are actually different.

      • Kiwi Dave

        Christians worship a triune god; Muslims consider the triune god blasphemous.

        • ChristFighter

          Thank you Mr. Obvious. I know this. Everyone knows this. Christians and Muslims have different ideas about god. It’s still the same god.

          • http://www.facebook.com/joe.renaud.165 Joe Renaud

            I do not see how you can say this, since even different sects of Xians cannot agree on the nature of god. Yes, “Allah” is Arabic for “God,” but it’s not like saying German Catholics and French Catholics mean the same thing when they say “Gott” and “Dieu.”

            • ChristFighter

              “I do not see how you can say this…” since what? Since Muslims worship the same God as the Jews? Which is the same God the Christians worship? Which is why they are called Abrahamic Religions? Which is why Muslims were pretty pissed when Baha’is came along and said that that same God had sent them a new prophet after Muhammed?

              The reason you can’t say “In Allah we trust” is because it plays into Christian privilege. Christians like to pretend that Muslims worship a different god than they do so that they can separate themselves from what they think is the negative image of Islam. It separates Christianity and makes it special. You hear it all the time with Christians. They want to believe that Allah is different from plain old God because their bigotry demands it. If WE play along and act like Allah is different from their god, we simply confirm their bigotry and give in to their privilege.

              I’m sorry, I’m not going to sit here and argue Religion 101 with Captain Obvious and a Christian troll.

            • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

              err actually ALL Catholics must, by definition, follow the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church as set down by its Magisteria – the Pope and his staff of Cardinals and Bishops.

              So yes, German Catholics, French Catholics, British Catholics, and Catholics in Outer Patagonia all believe in the exact same version of God.

              If you do not follow the dogma and teachings of mother Church, like Mel Gibson and his mad dad, you are a schismatic and not a Roman Catholic – what used to be called a heretic.

              • ChristFighter

                Exactly. The word you use to describe your god doesn’t mean that there is a new god – there’s no difference between Gott and Dieu and God.

            • Robert Freid

              Of course, but Christians, Muslims, and Jews all believe in the same creation story (the story of Adam and Eve-in the First Book of Moses Called Genisis).

      • http://twitter.com/cjjc0 C.J

        One comment – Yes, the Muslim God is the Christian God, but no, the Christian God isn’t the Muslim God, just as the Jewish God is/isn’t the Christian God. The same God connection only goes one way (Muslim->Christian->Jewish)

        • Henro 88

          This is a very valid criticism of my point that they are the same god, actually, and I agree that you are 100% correct here.

  • CT

    When I talk to Christians, they don’t seem unaware at all of their religious privilege or freedoms, and they seem thankful for it. The good Dr. must talk to a different group of Christians than I do. If nothing else, they seem keenly aware of their freedoms and liberties that they enjoy, and are more than thankful for the country they have to enjoy them in. Are they concerned about losing them? Sure. Who isn’t? Our nation is a giant fight between every group that imagines every other group is out to get them. If anything, it simply makes Christians American in the modern sense. But this is a case where the Dr. seems to be isolated from most I know and see, who are very much aware, and thankful of their privilege, one born of the predominate religious view that happened to exist when the nation was founded.

    • cipher

      But this is a case where the Dr. seems to be isolated from most I know
      and see, who are very much aware, and thankful of their privilege, one
      born of the predominate religious view that happened to exist when the
      nation was founded.

      I see. Would those happen to be the same Christians who claim loudly and publicly at every given opportunity about how persecuted and victimized they are?

    • Baby_Raptor

      False equivalence. Freedoms and liberties are not privilege. Freedoms and liberties are Constitutionally protected, and nobody is trying to remove those. Privilege is not thusly protected, and is often upheld at the cost of other peoples’ freedoms and liberties, and needs to Fucking go.

      The fact that the religion was around when the country was founded means nothing. So were most of the religions that Christianity steps on. The people who founded this country just ran over here because where they were then, they weren’t allowed to shove their religion down everyone elses’ throats.

      And being thankful for their privilege just makes them asshats. They’re thankful for the fact that they get to step on everyone else? Yeah, that’s really admirable.

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

      Seriously, you really aught to proofread your comments before posting them. Even though I get the gist of what you’re trying to say it is pretty incomprehensible.

      Do you really believe that competing ideologies are a bad thing?

      Is this supposed to read “makes christian’s, (into) Americans” or should I take that in it’s literal context, which makes no sense.

      The predominate theologies of this nation at it’s founding was a mix of
      religions. Namely Anglicanism, Roman Catholic and Animism or Native
      American. The true founding fathers of the nation were the Native Americans who were here nearly 40,000 years ago. So the most predominant religion at the time of the signing of The Declaration of Independence was Animism. The signatories of The Constitution of the United States, not exactly the founding fathers, were mostly Deists. The founding “father’ of this country was King James the First. The United States was not established for another 169 years later. Every single official document describing the religious affiliation of United States declares our nation as Secular. The most current and predominant theology is Protestant. 16% of the population of United States is either an Atheist or is non-religious and that percentage is rapidly increasing.

    • http://twitter.com/cjjc0 C.J

      Oh, thanks for calling me Dr lol.

  • http://twitter.com/Opinionatedcath Opinionated Catholic

    This post is such facepalm.

    • TheBlackCat13

      Thank you for that detailed rebuttal.

      • http://twitter.com/Opinionatedcath Opinionated Catholic

        OK

        “Just like the monuments of racial and gender privilege, this monument of
        unacknowledged religious privilege must be torn open to reveal the
        wounds of the truly oppressed.”

        That is really silly

        • Carmelita Spats

          Forty years ago, you had to have a character reference from your PASTOR to teach in my school district….This was not just Christian privilege but PROTESTANT privilege. Try praying to Our Lady of Guadalupe, reading from Maccabbees I and II, or reciting the sorrowful mysteries prior to a city council meeting: you’d offend everyone in the room as you run up against Protestant privilege. See how it works?

          • http://twitter.com/Opinionatedcath Opinionated Catholic

            Forty years ago if that happened that was wrong. Atheists and similar folks want to get elected to public office take a cue from this louisiana guy that this blog published http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/01/18/after-an-atheist-gets-elected-to-public-office-his-first-challenge-is-taking-the-oath/

            Rural very religious Louisiana and he got elected. I suspect mainly because he did not make his it occupation that his religious neighbors were some threat to the republic which too many atheists blogs and media give the impression. In other words he did come off as an ass

            • Baby_Raptor

              His occupation? How was he going to make a fact his entire job? I think you have some wording issues.

              Further, if calling out religion for wanting to restrict my rights based on a holy book and pseudo-science and their feelings, or wanting to decide what medication I can and cannot get based on same, or who I can marry based on same, or for wanting to rip the Constitution up and make laws based on their holy book, or for wanting to discriminate based on their beliefs, you get the idea…If calling people out for that makes me an “ass,” then I’ll wear that as a badge of honor.

              I’m defending my rights. And whether or not you want to believe it. I’m defending yours as well.

        • Baby_Raptor

          I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you can’t even understand what it means, since your only comment is to call it “silly,” like you’re addressing some little child doing something cute.

          Pro-tip: Talking about peoples’ lives like we’re tiny kids you think adorable is not going to make you friends. It’s insulting, and probably one of the reasons you got called out as a troll.

        • http://twitter.com/cjjc0 C.J

          The theme of the publication this was originally written for was “Monument”. I stand by that sentence, however.

    • http://twitter.com/cjjc0 C.J

      Why?

  • http://twitter.com/Opinionatedcath Opinionated Catholic

    “False equivalence. Freedoms and liberties are not privilege. Freedoms
    and liberties are Constitutionally protected, and nobody is trying to
    remove those. Privilege is not thusly protected, and is often upheld at
    the cost of other peoples’ freedoms and liberties, and needs to Fucking
    go.”

    What Privilege are we exactly talking about ? Lets get specific here if we can

    • TheBlackCat13

      Try reading the OP. He lists a bunch. I listed several more. There are many more but those seem like a reasonable place to start.

    • Jason Loveless

      You get to have your deity mentioned in the Pledge of Allegiance and the national motto. Candidates for national senate and president essentially have to be professing Christians to have any chance at being elected. When you hear a prayer at a city council meeting, it is overwhelmingly likely to invoke Jesus.

      Is that enough to start?

      • http://twitter.com/Opinionatedcath Opinionated Catholic

        Actually the Christian God , Jesus, nor the Trinity is not mentioned ion the Pledge or on coins

        Also we live where non Christians get elected all the time. I think voters ( even devout Christians one like me ) are far more sophisticated than they get credit for

        • dan davis

          and therein lies the irony

        • 3lemenope

          Also we live where non Christians get elected all the time.

          There are four Catholics, three Jews and two Zoroastrians seated in the parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran, too. What’s your point?

        • ChristFighter

          “Actually the Christian God , Jesus, nor the Trinity”

          Typical splitting of hairs and moving of goalposts. Someone did this to me above, claiming that Muslims and Christians don’t worship the same god because Christians worship a trinity.

          The “God” in “In God we trust” is your god. You’re arguing in bad faith and moving the goalposts by trying to say that it isn’t, just because it doesn’t say “Jesus.” Christians put it there with the intention of it being the Christian god. Period.

        • Baby_Raptor

          The Christian god was the one that was intended as the meaning of the word “God” when it was inserted into the Pledge and on money back during the McCarthy days.

          And if you ask any person on the street, you’re likely to get “Oh, the Christian one, of course” as a response. There’ve been polls done on this that prove that.

          So you’re wrong technically and you’re wrong in common belief.

          Also, non-Christians don’t get elected “all the time.” If you pay any attention at all to politics, you would know that. But whatever fits your point, I guess. You’re not going to let reality get in the way of what you think is right.

    • ChristFighter

      The OP lists many, and if you were sincerely reading atheist blogs and not just trolling, you would already know dozens upon dozens of examples. I don’t know, check out FreeThought blogs or something. Or, you know, read the OP.

      • Connie Kane

        I’m sorry I’m not as knowledgable as you youngsters, but what is OP?

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          Original Poster.

          Or Overpowered, but usually that’s in the context of talking about games. Like “that sword is so OP!”. Pretty sure that’s not what this one was, though.

          One could argue Hemant is OP, though … and be nicely ambiguous about it.

        • 3lemenope

          A fantastic, if somewhat ribald, resource for understanding abbreviations, cant, slang, and the way those darn kids talk these days is Urban Dictionary. Chances are extremely good that if you run into an unfamiliar neologism or Internet term, it’s in there somewhere.

      • http://twitter.com/Opinionatedcath Opinionated Catholic

        Not trolling and I read a lot of Atheist blogs

        • ChristFighter

          Sorry, “trolling” must be a new word for you, and, unfortunately, it is what you’re doing right now. I think there are a few definitions of trolling, but I would say “arguing in bad faith, on purpose” is a fair definition of trolling.

          Coming to an article about Christian privilege, that lists many, many examples, and then ASKING for more examples, as if there were none written above – is arguing in very bad faith, and thus trolling.

          Trying to claim that the Christian god mentioned on our money ISN’T the Christian god when it clearly is – is arguing in extremely bad faith (the intellectual equivalent of a child saying, “Nuh-uh, no it isn’t”), and a very good example of trolling.

          So, I don’t want to be, like…overly rude, cuz maybe you’re a sweet old granny at your new computer, but what you’re doing is called “trolling.”

    • Baby_Raptor

      If you wanted a response from me, you should have used the Reply button.

      As was said, a multitude of different was the Christian religions are privileged have been mentioned here already. You’re not owed those things. They aren’t your right as an American. And you don’t have special rights as an American who happens to buy into a certain religion. You get the same rights as everyone else born in the country.

      The privilege needs to go. You can think that’s “silly” all you want, but it won’t change reality.

    • http://twitter.com/cjjc0 C.J

      Hey, there’s an article I wrote about that. You should totally read it!

  • http://twitter.com/cjjc0 C.J

    From the original author: WOW @ 42 comments. Thank you all so much for being interested in my writing.

  • AugustineThomas

    Hemant,
    There are countries with no Christian privilege.. Yours and my homeland, where they stone women to death because their scumbag husbands cheat on them or decide they’re inconvenient for some other reason and Christians are raped and murdered to the point of extermination!
    (Do you dream of a day when there will be no more “Jewish privilege” in Germany? They’ve done pretty well at that in our Islamic homelands!)


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