This is What Actual Christian Persecution Looks Like

Jonathan Merritt at Religion News Service has a fantastic article in which he talks about what real Christian persecution looks like:

As many as two-thirds of Christians in Iraq have fled the country to escape massacres and church burnings. There are reportedly fewer than 60 Christian churches left in the war-torn country, a fact that adds another level of critique to the prudence of waging such a conflict. Just this month, an angry mob in Pakistan torched 40 Christian homes. And even Lebanon, once a safe haven for Christians, is experiencing a mass exodus.

I think I speak for many atheists when I say I stand behind all those Christians who are dealing with those battles. They deserve better than that.

Now, on the flip side, what doesn’t qualify as persecution?

Pretty much all the stuff Christians complain about in the U.S.:

American Christians have a persecution complex. Whenever a public figure criticizes the Christian movement or offers believers in other faiths an equal voice in society, you can bet Christians will start howling. Claims about American persecution of Christians are a form of low comedy in a country where two-thirds of citizens claim to be Christians, where financial gifts to Christian churches are tax deductible, where Christian pastors can opt out of social security, and where no one is restricted from worshipping however, whenever, and wherever they wish.

Damn right. Hearing Christians complain about how tough they have it is like hearing Oprah complain about high gas prices: No one’s going to take you seriously because the rest of us play by the same rules and you have every advantage already at your disposal.

So why don’t Christians focus on the real battles instead of the fake ones? Merritt explains:

The answer, it seems, is that many of their attentions have been focused elsewhere. Some are too busy protesting Target employees who wish them “Happy Holidays” and others have been mobilizing to boycott JCPenney over selecting Ellen DeGeneres, an outspoken lesbian, to be their spokesperson. Isn’t it time that American Christians reinvest their energies in addressing the actual persecution of their brothers and sisters happening outside their borders?

That would be the sensible thing to do… but it must be hard for Christians to focus on issues like that where they’re too busy treating women, gay people, and pretty much everyone else who’s not in their club like second-class citizens.

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.

  • CDP

    Then am I to understand that is what real atheist persecution looks like, too?

  • Rain

    2000 years ago, Paul wrote: “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.”

    I don’t see the problem. The Lord is at hand! Any day now…

    • http://www.facebook.com/sandra.stott.5 Sandra Stott

      to everything there is a season, but I didn’t know Spring is a season for Poes

  • Barefoot Bree

    The thing is, Hemant, there’s two factors (among a cacophony of others) working against American Christians giving up their persecution fantasy.

    1: Americans love victims. We have a strong philosophy of picking up victims, supporting and defending them. (Of course, the victim must be the right color, gender, and sexual orientation.) So concurrently with that, many people have a victim mentality, in that they slide easily into proclaiming themselves as a victim of something (anything) in order to stir up sympathy. It’s become ingrained in society – or at least a swath of it.

    2. And along with that is the glaring fact that nobody likes to think of themselves as a perpetrator, the one victimizing others (like women, people of color, etc). Even when they’re out there publicly demonizing gays, they literally can’t believe that they’re in the bad guy role. So they MUST be getting persecuted!

    This also explains some of the virulence of the anti-marriage-equality group.

  • C Peterson

    We should not overlook the greatest persecutors of Christians throughout history- other Christians! While the modern persecution described in the article is bad, it affects only a tiny percentage of all the Christians in the world (and frankly, it’s less about them being Christians in most cases than it is about them being minorities in totalitarian countries that don’t tolerate any diversity). Historically, nobody has done a finer job of killing Christians than Christians. Catholics and Protestants have gone to war- between nations, or within nations.

    Even today, in the U.S., I’m quite sure that the only religious persecution any Christians face is coming from other Christians- not getting a job because you go to the wrong church, for instance.

    • Carpinions

      Quite true. The internal doctrinal disagreements and arguments have certainly served as cause enough for tanker ships worth of blood to be spilled. Even here in the US there is a latent Catholic-Protestant conflict. It certainly doesn’t take the form of what happened in Northern Ireland, but as a former Catholic living outside Catholic north/northeast/west coast, I’m sometimes amazed at how easily specifically anti-Catholic comments fall out of the mouths of those raised Protestant. Not that I care from a Catholic perspective, but I care from a general “bigotry of any kind sucks” standpoint.

    • Claude

      You deflect from the article’s point that the American Christian persecution complex is ridiculous though elsewhere Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world. After all, it’s not really all that bad and has more to do with totalitarianism than Christianity (well, you do have a point, there). And lest we could ever possibly forget, Christians have been slaughtering Christians for centuries. Likewise often motivated by political objectives.

      I so often get a sense in these threads of love the masses, not much love for actual people. Justice would demand that anyone persecuted for religious reasons, ostensible or otherwise, should not be distanced because history and “only a tiny percentage.” They should be acknowledged with as much compassion as any refugee.

  • Carpinions

    Finally one of their own calls out the appalling stench of entitlement that comes from a US Christian complaining about being the target of persecution in the US. Here persecution amounts to your feelings and sensibilities being vibrated a bit by an unwelcome comment. In the ME, persecution can mean your life, in every sense of the word. It’s why I would never say I face the same sort of bigotry as an atheist in the US, that atheists over there do.

    When I hear of the violent persecution in the ME of anyone – Christian, Jew, Atheist, Sikh, small spurned Muslim sect, whatever – it makes me angry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sara.greenwood3 Sara Greenwood

    It’s hard for many American Christians to see these particular victims as anything other than foreign.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WickedWitchMidWest John A Cobb

    Non-Christians have rights too! These so called “missionaries” have made trouble for centuries converting people all over the world who didn’t WANT their religion, but by-the-Christian-god they got it anyway! I practice Traditional Witchcraft, and I’m persecuted in my OWN country! Down to the last detail, including the auto-correct feature on this page. I never capitalize the word Christianity when typing, but the auto-correct capitalizes it AGAINST my wishes. Persecuted? Please, they don’t what the word means.

    • John

      …I really can’t tell whether you’re being serious or not here. It’s rare to see a non-Christian Poe, but on the other hand insisting the rules of grammar are out to get you is just ridiculous.

    • coyotenose

      Wait, what?

      • coyotenose

        I’m sorry, I didn’t collect my thoughts before posting. I meant… buh?

  • Jhudstone

    Its always cute when atheists pretend to be concerned about the persecution of Christians.

    • TheLump

      It’s not that we are concerned for “Christians”, it’s that we are concerned with people. It’s so cute that you can’t distinguish that.

      • Jhudstone

        As long as they are somewhere else.

        • TheLump

          If, by somewhere else, you mean, as my friends and family that surround me then, yes. The somewhere else of right-next-to-me. I care for the people around me and make no separation of them as people who are “other”. Do you?

          • Jhudstone

            What in heaven’s name are you talking about?

            • TheLump

              It means I don’t separate people away from me because they are different. My friends and family come from all backgrounds.

    • David S.

      If you apply negative reinforcement every time atheists are concerned about the persecution of Christians, why should you expect atheists to be concerned about the persecution of Christians? If you want people to work with you, you’ve got to not attack them when they do.

      • Jhudstone

        When I see them express concern, I will be sure to hold their collective hands and tell them how well they’re doing.

    • Houndentenor

      I oppose the persecution of Christians. There are certainly places in the world where Christians are a small minority and face persecution by the (usually Muslim) majority. American Christians are not persecuted in any way shape or form. They are sometimes criticized. The first amendment does not offer freedom from criticism, just freedom to practice your religion, speak, publish and assemble.

      • Jhudstone

        I suppose we should wait around until atheists start burning churches before we get our undies in a bunch.

        • PietPuk

          Yes, let’s wait on that.

    • Lady Yui

      It’s always cute when a US Christian cries about how horribly persecuted he is because he doesn’t always get his way. Because, you know, fearing for your life is TOTALLY the same as having to sometimes see two boys kissing.

  • Not This Time Succas

    One reason persecutions in the U.S. have to be called out, even is they seem very mild by comparison with what is going on elsewhere, is that we know what atheists would do if the had the political power to do so.
    In EVERY Officially Atheistic Country imprisonment, torture, and murder of Christians has been carried out.
    I had relatives who experienced such things, so don’t try to lie and say it didn’t happen.
    Or that It Can’t Happen Here.
    It certainly can.
    But this time…We Are Going To Be Ready.

    • David S.

      So you persecute so you won’t be persecuted against? How just. How loving. How productive. The fact is that there have been many secular nations where everyone lived happily, and many official Christian nations where Christians were imprisoned, tortured and killed because they were the wrong sect of Christians. But hey, go ahead and make us a Protestant nation so we can murder Mormons and Catholics like Christians have in the past; just hope they don’t get the upper hand.

      • Jhudstone

        I thought persecution is being here defined as physically assaulting a group. There is no indication athiests are or have been persecuted thusly in the US.

  • HJS

    I find the tone and veiled intolerance from some of these comments ironic. Be careful you don’t become just as bigoted (towards those who believe differently than you) as those Christians you disdain. People can’t preach tolerance, acceptance, and equality, but work to remove it from another people group because they disagree with them. It has to go both ways… And these vast generalizations are just that, because not every Christian who agrees with the Bible’s view of homosexuality, or anything else, is a hateful bigot.

    • 3lemenope

      Tolerance is not a synonym for acceptance.

      Tolerance is a recognition that, despite all our differences, we have to share the same space, and so a minimal level of comity must be preserved so people can go about their business despite thinking that everyone else around them is dumb and wrong and destroying the world with their foolishness.

      It does not require respect. It does not require politeness. It only requires the basics; don’t kill, physically violate, or steal the stuff of all those people you think are dumb and wrong. Don’t get up in their actual private business even if in your heart of hearts you think they’re just dragging us all to a hot place with their personal choices.

      You are tolerated. See? I can read your comment, even though I’d wager many people here think that the Christian world-view is dumb and wrong. It didn’t get edited, expunged, or deleted. Here you are, sharing the space with the rest of us.

      Also, about that last part. Every Christian who agrees with the Biblical view of homosexuals (which is, shortly, MURDER THEM), is hateful of homosexuals. They (you?) just are deeply uncomfortable about the fact that their religion, purportedly of love, instructs them (you?) to be hateful. The only way to be a non-hateful Christian on this point is to completely disagree with the Biblical position on homosexuality. Which is not so hard, since there’s nary a Christian who succeeds at even agreeing with, much less following, all of the rules and instructions therein. Just add it to the “ignore” passage list, instead of hanging onto it as something you actually gotta do.

  • Biege

    Don’t atheists know that believing in nothing is the same as making a choice when it comes to life after death. All knees will bow and the teeth will start knashing. We (the christian community) tried to warn you. Soon the christian community will be in jail and you will not have to listen any more.

    • 3lemenope

      Or you wasted large sections of your life worrying about what an unpleasantly characterized fictional substitute father figure thinks you ought to have done with every waking moment, and so your one opportunity to leave a meaningful mark on the Earth was squandered. We (everyone who doesn’t believe what you do) tried to warn you.

      Soon the christian community will be in jail and you will not have to listen any more.

      Even if we did want you to be in jail (and why, exactly, do you think that?), you’d just get off on it. Why would we give you the satisfaction?

  • CW Steinle

    I have just completed a book about the Christian persecution that is rising in America and how it will spread to the image of the U.S. – the U.N. Beasts in Daniel and Revelation are kingdoms. How can an image be made of a nation except that its form of government is replicated. This is all shaping up to be the world-wide persecution of the saints that is the notorious sin of the Great Harlot of Revelation. The book is Come Out of Her My People: Persecution Begins.

  • 5DollaPolaroid

    I am totally telling the truth here; I just had a couple of Witnesses come to my door to spread the Good Word. I was totally nice to them and very respectful and didn’t persecute them for their beliefs. I thanked them for their concern about me, explained my beliefs, and DIDN’T TELL THEM THEY WERE CRAZY AND THAT THEY WERE DISCRIMINATING AGAINST ME! Wow, so easy, a kid could do it.

  • Zulli

    Two-thirds of the country can’t really be Christian if the pre-marital sex rate is 99%. If you research more nuanced stats, you’ll find that a much smaller percentage than 67% consider themselves more than simply a nominal Christian.

    Also, just because the persecution can be worse doesn’t mean that verbal persecution is acceptable. (e.g. – Jesus “freaks.”) Religion is slowly but surely being relegated to the home and the religious are expected to “keep it to themselves.” One of the scariest political developments I’ve seen is the recent mandate that Catholic organizations must cover birth control for in health care plans for employees (when generic is available at $9/mo., no less.) So it’s “believe what you want — but don’t let it influence what you do in the community lest we penalize you.”

    For the large part, are gays being physically persecuted? No, but how often do we hear the uproar when a homosexual person commits suicide due to social bullying — or simply because homosexuality is not universally accepted in society? If there is no Christian persecution then I’d say there is no homosexual persecution, for example.

    I say this as a longtime heathen and not as a Christian.


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