I’d like every Christian who calls for America to be recognized as a Christian nation to put themselves in the shoes of India’s Christians. Recently, India’s version of America’s Religious Right, the Shiva Sena, called for a significant change to India’s Constitution:
The Shiv Sena Wednesday demanded that the words “secular” and “socialist” be “permanently removed” from the Constitution’s preamble. The party said that the demand is justified as India is a “Hindu nation.”
If you live in America, that kind of rhetoric should sound familiar to you—just substitute “Christian” for “Hindu.” Here’s an article from last year in Christianity Today:
In vast and diverse India, Christians often live freely. Yet India ranks among the 50 countries where life as a Christian is most difficult, according to Open Doors International, a global ministry that serves Christians who are pressured because of their faith. The country is No. 31 on Open Doors’ 2013 World Watch List, largely because of a streak of Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva, that envisions India as a purely Hindu state.
While I recently argued that atheists in America haven’t experienced the kind of oppression that other minorities have, we have experienced, and continue to experience, a significant amount of pressure from the Christian majority. The histrionic denunciations of atheism and secularism by many federal, state, and local politicians as well as the ubiquitous propaganda machine that is FoxNews is in addition to God on our money, in our courts, our sports, and our schools. America is saturated with Christianity.
I imagine India’s Christians feel much the same way as America’s atheists. Fortunately for us, though, we’re not subject to the same violations of our rights here as they are there:
Each month, numerous reports surface of provincial Hindutva militants breaking up prayer meetings, intimidating pastors, assaulting worshippers, and chasing Christian families from their homes and villages. The dates, locations and names change, but many of the elements remain: Christians are accused of forcing Hindus to convert; Church buildings are damaged; area church leaders intervene; police often provide little protection.
I also don’t think Christians will ever have to fear an atheist takeover of the government—we secular atheist just aren’t very prolific breeders, so I doubt we’ll ever have the numbers. But what about Muslims? A Pew study from 2011 claims that
Globally, the Muslim population is forecast to grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population over the next two decades – an average annual growth rate of 1.5% for Muslims, compared with 0.7% for non-Muslims. If current trends continue, Muslims will make up 26.4% of the world’s total projected population of 8.3 billion in 2030, up from 23.4% of the estimated 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.
I certainly don’t want to add to the Christian Right’s Islamophobia, but today’s Christians should worry about future Christian generations. It’s not inconceivable that a hundred or so years from now there will be a significant portion of the American population that is Muslim—certainly larger than the atheist population will be.
I should immediately point out that, just like Christians, most future American Muslims will likely support the same democratic ideals as most Christians do. But what if America’s Muslim population someday rivals the Christian one? Would Christians be OK with American currency that bore a cross as well as a star and crescent, for example? I doubt it.
Wouldn’t it be better to have a religion-free currency? Wouldn’t it be better to have a religion-free government, that treated all religions—and non-religion—equally?
(Image via Matt Trostle at Flickr)