One of my favorite Facebook friends is Christian and (not to put words in his mouth) apparently feels a little bit uncomfortable when atheists discuss atheism and/or criticize Christianity. (Again, this is a nice person who seems to grok what Jesus said in the Bible about being decent to other human beings and I am not trying to say otherwise.)
I posted a slightly snarky someecards image to my Wall, and my friend was inspired to comment on it.
He recently said (among other things): “I don’t feel “threatened”, per se….sometimes, though, I feel like atheists and agnostics are downright angry when a person presents as a Christian…and it’s interesting that they won’t act like that with a Buddhist, Muslim or Hindu. I kinda feel like Christianity is under attack…likely because so many “Christians” have acted badly and with hypocrisy.”
“I just wondered… I don’t put down atheists. Why do they keep putting me down? Does cynicism make up for old persecutions? I guess it’s okay then. As a believer, I do apologize for the Christians who act crappy and superior and repressive. But I don’t do that… I wish people would stop inferring I’m stupid for being Christian. But, I’ll live. …and I’m not really expecting an answer…not sure there is one… We humans are consciously or subconsciously motivated by 1,000 forms of fear. Religious people are frightened of atheists. Atheists are frightened of religious people….and NEITHER ONE can PROVE their positions….or disprove them. I think fear is generated by the unknown and our desire not to be foolish. I don’t mind if someone doesn’t believe in God. I wish THEY didn’t mind that I do. And I promise, personally, to NEVER inflict or impose my beliefs on anyone. That’s why I jealously guard America’s freedom OF religion….AND…freedom FROM religion.”
See? He’s a pretty awesome guy. The problem here is that he’s also feeling some hurt and offense, which is not cool.
I’m going to say some stuff in a nice tone of voice, which may be hard to “hear” online, but I swear I am saying this all very kindly, and with the intention of responding to your apparent bepuzzlement re: why some atheists / agnostics / other faiths might get a wee bit cranky at Christians when they claim they feel “attacked.”
If you are not currently living in an oppressive Muslim theocracy, you are most likely NOT being “attacked” for being a Christian.
Atheists are generally “live and let live” kind of folks but when theists (believers) make a point of dominating the political and cultural landscape, some atheists do get a wee bit cranky about it. Here’s a thought exercise to try: Compare this to having a neighbor with shitty musical taste. When he (for the sake of argument, it will be a he) plays his music at a reasonable decibel level in his own home, you don’t give a crap WHAT he listens to. When, conversely, he opens every window and blasts it to the whole neighborhood from car or house, the fact that you don’t like Juggalo music or Justin Bieber is suddenly going to become relevant to the amount of irritation you feel being stuck living next door to someone with shitty musical taste. You are likely to be moved to express your opinion about it or to blast your own non-shitty music right back.
When you are an atheist in the United States, it is like your entire neighborhood has the WORST musical taste EVER and also like they simply can’t enjoy their music quietly in their own home but instead have to throw open all their windows and doors and “share” their terrible music with you whether you like it or not and they do so at all hours of the day or night. There is no escape from it, ever. If you move away to a neighborhood with fewer neighbors with crappy musical taste (and this is not something you can know for sure in advance), it only takes ONE GUY playing Slipknot loud enough to drown out jet planes landing to irritate you.
What’s worse? You have no recourse. If you call the cops on your loud neighbor who won’t stop it with the Kenny G and the klezmer bands, and won’t turn it down or shut his windows, you’ll find that the cop is a huge Kenny G fan and won’t understand why you can’t just deal with it.
And that is what it feels like to be atheist in a predominantly theist society. If you choose to blast your own music back, at the same volume, you are seen as the bad guy. You’re the abrasive, obnoxious, argumentative, bad person. All because you were sharing YOUR music just as freely as your neighbor was sharing his. It turns out that this is equally annoying to the other neighbors who hate your neighbor’s shitty musical taste and don’t like the atheist’s taste, either. You are both seen as irritating. Worse, because atheists are a minority and fewer people like their musical taste (lack of belief), they have less support when doing the exact same thing their theist neighbors do all the time (loudly broadcasting their taste publicly). Not fair, but that’s how it goes.
Anyway, in the US, it is the theists who are free to entertain the entire country with their horrible musical taste, and it turns out that since the majority of the population happens to like the same stuff, you’re kind of stuck if you don’t.
If everyone kept their music to a reasonable volume in their own house, or gathered together at the same concerts but refrained from inflicting their musical taste on everyone else at all times, I doubt anyone would complain at all. But that’s not how it works.
Most theists DO keep their music (their beliefs) personal and confined within their own homes or at concert halls (religious gathering sites like churches and temples and mosques). It’s the loud minority of theists who do not, and insist that everyone else tolerate music (beliefs) they don’t like that get atheists upset. And, again, most atheists quietly go about their business and tolerate the aural assault of inescapable bad music (religious beliefs they do not share), but there is also a vocal minority who have just HAD IT and are now insisting on blasting their own music (lack of religious belief) just as loudly.
At any rate, that’s one way to look at it. But, really, theists have no reason to worry.
You can rest easy about your Christianity supposedly being under “attack” (it isn’t) when:
- the dominant religion in the United States is Christian. (From Wikipedia: “”The majority of Americans (60% to 76%) identify themselves as Christians, mostly within Protestant and Catholic denominations, accounting for 51% and 25% of the population respectively. Non-Christian religions (including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism etc.), collectively make up about 3.9% to 5.5% of the adult population. Another 15% of the adult population identifies as having no religious belief or no religious affiliation. When asked, about 5.2% said they did not know, or refused to reply. According to the American Religious Identification Survey, religious belief varies considerably across the country: 59% of Americans living in Western states (the “Unchurched Belt”) report a belief in God, yet in the South (the “Bible Belt”) the figure is as high as 86%. However, despite this seemingly high level of religiosity, only 9% of Americans in a 2008 poll said religion was the most important thing in their life, compared with 45% who said family was paramount in their life and 17% who said money and their career was paramount.“)
- Christianity is so well-established in the US that we actually call a huge section of the US “the Bible Belt” (and another section “The Unchurched Belt”–which was news to me).
- some Christians are busily trying to tear down the wall of Separation between Church and State to enact legislation based on Christian beliefs. This would not fly at all if any other religious group attempted to impose specific tenets of their faith on Americans as a whole. (In fact, some conservative politicians have proposed laws prohibiting adoption of “Sharia Law” in their jurisdictions, even though there is and was no possibility of any such thing happening.) And, yes, some Christians seem to believe that resistance to Biblical rules being turned into laws is somehow an “attack” on their beliefs.
Arkansas, Article 19, Section 1: No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court.
Maryland, Article 37: That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God; nor shall the Legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this Constitution.
Mississippi, Article 14, Section 265: No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.
North Carolina, Article 6, Section 8 The following persons shall be disqualified for office: Any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.
South Carolina, Article 17, Section 4: No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.
Tennessee, Article 9, Section 2: No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state.
Texas, Article 1, Section 4: No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.
- you can’t go more than a few miles without finding a Christian place of worship (there are at LEAST eleven places of worship within a one mile radius of my home and each and every one is Christian and probably 8-9 of these are Southern Baptist).
- US currency since the 1950s has had Christian sentiments on it (“In God We Trust” replacing “E Pluribus Unum” which means “Out Of Many, One”). People got very angry when it was (falsely) claimed that “In God We Trust” would not appear on new dollar coins. Because people are stupid.
- the Pledge of Allegiance added “under God” in 1954 during the McCarthy era to try to weed out non-Christians and Communists. The message is that the non-religious are suspect or unpatriotic or immoral in some way.
Article 6, section 3 of the Constitution states: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” The Founders clearly wanted the United States government to be a separate entity away from the church and all organized religion. While Christianity dominated the personal lives of many Americans, the Founders didn’t base their government on Christianity, religion, the Bible or the church.
Treaty of Tripoli:
In the 1796 Treaty with Tripoli, written under the George Washington presidency and signed under the John Adam’s presidency, the treaty states that the United States was: “not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” Christian extremists often point to the fact that some of the Founders were Deists and [some were] Christians; while that is true, it didn’t have any effect on how they governed or their ability to create a “Christian nation,” which the United States is not.
- Christians claim that we were founded as a “Christian” nation (when it is untrue and, more important, provably untrue if you actually look at the relevant documents): “The primary leaders of the so-called founding fathers of our nation were not Bible-believing Christians; they were deists. Deism was a philosophical belief that was widely accepted by the colonial intelligentsia at the time of the American Revolution. Its major tenets included belief in human reason as a reliable means of solving social and political problems and belief in a supreme deity who created the universe to operate solely by natural laws. The supreme God of the Deists removed himself entirely from the universe after creating it. They believed that he assumed no control over it, exerted no influence on natural phenomena, and gave no supernatural revelation to man. A necessary consequence of these beliefs was a rejection of many doctrines central to the Christian religion. Deists did not believe in the virgin birth, divinity, or resurrection of Jesus, the efficacy of prayer, the miracles of the Bible, or even the divine inspiration of the Bible.”
- our elected officials have national prayer breakfasts and ask God to bless us constantly.
- The White House has an Easter egg roll event and displays a Christmas tree.
- we swear on Bibles (by default) when testifying in court. You can “affirm,” rather than “swear,” but imagine, if you can, what the reaction to your choice might be in some areas.
- our elected officials swear on the Bible (by default) to uphold The Constitution.
- hundreds, if not thousands, of words, phrases and quotes from the Bible are used frequently by all English-speaking people in the world. A SMALL sampling follows (“KJV” stands for “King James Version” of the Bible):
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
A broken heart: KJV, Psalms 34:18 – The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
A cross to bear: KJV, Luke 14:27 – And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
A drop in the bucket
A fly in the ointment
A graven image: KJV, Deuteronomy 5:8 – Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth.
A house divided against itself cannot stand
A labour of love
A law unto themselves: KJV, Romans 2:14 – For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves.
A leopard cannot change its spots
A man after his own heart
A multitude of sins
A nest of vipers
A peace offering: KJV, Leviticus 3:6 – And if his offering for a sacrifice of peace offering unto the LORD be of the flock; male or female, he shall offer it without blemish.
A sign of the times: KJV, Matthew 16:3 – And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
A soft answer turns away wrath: KJV, Proverbs 15:1 – A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
A thorn in the flesh
A two-edged sword: KJV, Proverbs 5:4 – But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.
A voice crying in the wilderness: KJV John 1:23 – He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing
All things must pass
All things to all men
Am I my brother’s keeper?
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
As old as Methuselah
As old as the hills
As white as snow
As you sow so shall you reap
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
At his wits end
Baptism of fire: KJV, Matthew 3:11 – I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.
Be fruitful and multiply: KJV, Genesis 1:22 – And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
Beat swords into ploughshares
Bite the dust
Blessed are the peacemakers
Born again: KJV, John 3:3 – Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Breath of life: KJV, Genesis 2:7 – And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
By the skin of your teeth
By the sweat of your brow: KJV, Genesis 3:19 – In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Can a leopard change its spots?
Cast bread upon the waters: KJV, Ecclesiastes 11:1 – Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
Cast the first stone
Coat of many colours
Don’t cast your pearls before swine
Dust to dust: KJV, Genesis 3:19 – In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Eat drink and be merry
Eye to eye: KJV, Isaiah 52:8 – Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.
Faith will move mountains
Fall from grace
Fat of the land: KJV, Genesis 45:18 – And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.
Feet of clay: KJV, Daniel 2: 31-33 – His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.
Fight the good fight
Fire and brimstone: KJV, Genesis 19: 24-26 – Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.
Flesh and blood
For everything there is a season
Forgive them for they know not what they do
From strength to strength
Get thee behind me Satan
Gird your loins…
- Biblical stories are often retold and used as themes in non-Christian literature / art / film / music*; we also borrow heavily from Greco-Roman and (to a lesser extent, once you get past the five days of the week named after Norse deities) Norse mythology, but nowhere nearly as often as we draw from Christian story arcs and symbolism.
- Christianity is the dominant religious culture world-wide even though, percentage-wise, Christians are a minority globally.
- Christian holidays are celebrated globally even in countries where Christianity is NOT the dominant religion.
- people of all faiths are inundated with Christmas music for about three months straight every winter (and most of it sucks, especially the so-called “secular” Christmas music) and Christian holiday decor every winter and spring.
- there are several cable TV channels devoted entirely to religious Christian broadcasting. There are also several Christian TV shows that are not aired on religious cable channels but major networks (such as “Touched By An Angel”). You can also choose a service provider that offers over 50 24-hour Christian networks.
“Sky Angel is your premier source for Christian and family-friendly entertainment – taking the guesswork out of channel surfing. Unlike Christian cable TV providers, Sky Angel’s primary focus is providing the widest variety of faith-based TV and radio available anywhere. Sky Angel also provides over 20 of the most family-friendly, educational mainstream channels – all brought to you exclusively through our affordable subscription packages.
Although Christian cable TV providers may offer one or two quality Christian channels, Sky Angel delivers over 50 faith-based 24-hour networks that keep your values and budget in mind. Sky Angel sets itself apart from Christian cable TV providers by offering you three reasonably priced programming packages. The Faith Package is $14.99 per month and the Family Package is $19.99 per month. Combining both packages together for the best value, called the Family Values Pak, is only $24.99 per month.”
- there are far more Christian-themed holiday movies and TV special episodes than any other religion (though I hear that The Rugrats celebrated Channukkah at least once. See also Seinfeld‘s discussion of “Festivus.”)
- there are active Christian groups which attempt to censor content in all popular entertainment media based on their Christian beliefs.
- Christian groups regularly attempt to boycott or ban popular books, such as the Harry Potter series, and keep them out of schools and public libraries, rather than just not reading them.
- there are active Christian groups which attempt to censor or boycott various companies and institutions which embrace diversity and tolerance. For example, One Million Moms regularly tries to keep retailers like JC Penney from recognizing homosexual people in their advertising.
- there are Christian parochial and private schools available for parents who want them and they currently can manipulate a “voucher system” in many areas to get taxpayer money to help fund them in defiance of, again, the Separation of Church and State.
- there are Christian groups like The Good News Club that attempt to recruit public school children in some schools, and which teach genocide is a positive thing (not an exaggeration) based on Bible verses
- Christians try on a depressingly regular basis to make textbooks include Christian ideas like creationism / intelligent design (but never bother to demand that any other religions’ creation myth stories be included as well).
- Louisiana private schools that accept taxpayer-funded vouchers are teaching students that the Loch Ness monster is real (this has been debunked repeatedly) and thus disproves evolution.
- This is not the only stunt Louisiana Republicans have pulled while trying to push a Christian-only agenda in schools. Louisiana was cool with subverting Separation of Church and State by using taxpayer-funded vouchers for private Christian schools, but balked at including any Muslim schools:
“It’s an honest mistake, assuming that the Constitution only protects your own personal megachurch faith. But one Louisiana Republican is learning the hard way that religious school vouchers can be used to fund education at all sorts of religious schools, even Muslim ones. And while she’s totally in favor of taxpayer money being used to pay for kids to go to Christian schools, she’s willing to put a stop to the entire program if Muslim schools are going to be involved.
Valarie Hodges admitted that when she supported Governor Bobby Jindal’s school voucher program, she only did so because she assumed the religious school vouchers could only be used for Christian schools. Religious freedom means that everyone’s free to follow Valarie Hodges’ religion!”
- Christians regularly get butthurt when told that no, they can not tell the students to pray nor can they lead Christian prayers in secular / public schools; these same people get upset or angry if devout Muslim public school students request private time to pray or atheist students ask to be excused from group prayers.
- Christian religious leaders regularly skirt the line when discussing politics, though they are not supposed to do so if they wish to retain tax-exempt status; to my knowledge not one Christian church has ever lost its tax exempt status no matter how often its leaders discuss politics or openly support one political party or politician.
- you can easily find symbols of Christianity on car bumpers, in places of business, on clothing, on shoes, on jewelry, on the vast majority of greeting cards, on housewares, in commercial art, in fine art, on pet supplies, on billboards (etc.) It is likely, if you wish to purchase such items, that you can walk into any “big box retailer” and find items with Christian sentiments or symbols on them. If you wish to buy non-Christian merchandise with your faith’s sentiments or symbols on it, or if you want atheist merchandise, you will probably have to go online to order it.
- celebrities, politicians, (some) musicians and (especially) athletes make a point of praying Christian prayers publicly; Tim Tebow actually writes Bible verses on top of his patches of eye black.
- when it is more common than unusual to spot “JOHN 3:16″ signs at sporting events, parades and other large gatherings. Rollen Stewart is in jail now, but there are many others ready and willing to carry on in his footsteps.
- people in jail cynically profess to have “come to Jesus” at parole hearings to get (and often receive) leniency on their sentences or early releases; studies appear to show that the vast majority of people in prison profess to be Christians (however, this sort of assertion relies on statistics which in some cases can be manipulated a bit, so you should look at the stats yourself and draw your own conclusions).
- some sects of Christianity (Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular) actually make a point to come to your house on weekends to tell you that–even though they don’t know you or what you might or might not believe–they are making the assumption that not only is your personal and private religious belief system their business (it isn’t) but it is also unacceptable compared to theirs. In every neighborhood I have lived in that had “NO SOLICITING” rules, religious people would ignore the signs and proselytize weekly anyway.
- some Christians bash people of color, women and homosexuals loudly and proudly and are not tarred and feathered for being hateful and divisive.
- there’s an entire genre of music (with several sub-genres) called Christian music; this in addition to religious music like religious classical music / hymns which, being public domain, are often used to score content which is not even religious in nature.
- there are entire bookstores and literary genres devoted to Christian-themed subjects; there are probably fewer than two dozen bookstores nation-wide that feature ONLY religious content for sale that is not Judeo-Christian, Jewish, or Christian.
- Pope Benedict XVI, aka Cardinal Ratzinger, got caught covering up for pedophile priests abusing children. Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned in disgrace as Boston’s archbishop in 2002 after the priest sex abuse scandal exploded in the United States, was promptly given a huge promotion as head of a major Roman basilica. (He has since resigned, but he got a promotion, folks, after he was chased out of Boston for protecting pedophile priests.)
- a group of Christians (The Gideons) leave Bibles in hotel rooms everywhere; I only know of ONE other group that does anything similar: The cult of Scientology regularly bombards libraries with unsolicited and unwanted Scientology-related literature. An occasional small-scale and short-lived response by individuals leaving Buddhist books (and so on) can not in any way compare.
- some cheapskate Christians leave tracts instead of tips in restaurants. This is bullshit.
“I cannot say enough about how horrible a thing it is for you to leave something like this in place of a tip. You can’t imagine how it feels to work your ass off for an hour or more, providing excellent service, only to find a tract sitting on the table – surreptitiously folded up to trick you into thinking you actually got a decent tip, or a tip at all. Christians are known for being notoriously bad tippers to start with. If you doubt me, ask any server. There’s a reason they dread working the Sunday lunch shift.
I have a bit of enlightenment for you,tract-tippers. This is not clever. You are screwing with the livelihoods of the servers on whom you inflict your evangelism. Oh, and that smirk on your face as you walk away from your table after leaving only makes you more of a pretentious dick.
You want to know what else is not clever? Writing “Jesus Loves You” or some other bogus Christianese slogan to the line on your bill where you are supposed to add your tip.
Oh, and while we are at it, your “let’s eat most of our meal then send it back saying it sucked so we don’t have to pay for it or leave a tip” is a bunch of crap. It’s cheating [and theft], you are a douche for doing it, and the entire staff sees right through you.” ~ Al Stefanelli
- when orgasming, having a bad day, experiencing misfortune or sneezing, someone is going to mention God 99% of the time. Pretty sure they are not talking about Ganesha, Odin, Ra or Papa Xangô, god of fire, lightning and thunder.
- some Christians get mad over the use of “Xtian” and “Xtianity” but often can’t spell “Muslim,” “Buddhist” or “atheist” (or “Christian”, come to think of it!) correctly themselves; it is apparently OK to butcher the spelling of other faiths but it is NOT okay to use an X (a perfectly respectable symbolic relacement for “Christ” since around the time dirt was invented) because that somehow manages to threaten the cultural stranglehold Christianity has on the United States or diss Jesus or something.
- there are museums devoted to promoting creationism that claim that dinosaurs and humans coexisted.
- one of the most popular artists in the US was Thomas Kinkaid, the “painter of light,” whose insipid and pseudo-spiritual art gets far more exposure and attention than similar artists who did / do not deliberately cater to the Christian market. (I admit that my dislike of Kincaid’s art is a personal opinion, and actually has nothing to do with the messages in his art but entirely to do with his style.)
- many states have Christianity-inspired “blue laws” that restrict business / commerce on Sunday; Christians can’t just NOT SHOP or NOT WORK on Sunday, they have to force everyone else, including non-Christians, to follow the same rules they do.
- the work week is also structured around the needs of Christians to (supposedly) worship on Sundays; before unions negotiated for a five day work week, people often worked on Saturday, too.
- we vote on Tuesdays because we had to accomodate Christian farmers who had to travel to vote and would not travel on weekends (not entirely their fault: Sunday church attendance was mandatory in colonial times and people could be and were convicted of working on Sunday or, apparently worse, not being Christians).
- Atheists filed a lawsuit pointing out that a 9/11 memorial should acknowledge that people of other faiths and non-religious people died, too, not just Christians, and that the proposed memorial should reflect that fact as a matter of fairness, prompted over 8,000 death threats from angry Christians.
“According to the lawsuit, among the 2,792 people killed in the twin towers 31 were Muslim Americans, approximately 400 to 500 were Jewish Americans, approximately 500 were non-religious Americans, and an unknown number were Americans of other faiths. (So, about half of the people who died were not Christian.) Additionally, no other religious or non-religious group has been permitted a memorial.”
“American Atheists filed a lawsuit to prevent a cross from being erected at the World Trade Center Memorial site.
The cross in question is actually two broken girders from the original tower that were found in the rubble and roughly make the shape of the Christian cross.
The Atheists’ argument is that people of many religions died in the towers on Sept 11 and should be represented in the memorial.
Last week Blair Scott, the Communications Director for the American Atheists, appeared on Fox News show America Live to discuss the lawsuit. It went as you might imagine.
However, it’s the online aftermath that’s getting much of the attention. Following Scott’s appearance, Fox News’ FaceBook page received more that 8,000 death threats against atheists.”
- The Boy Scouts make no bones about aggressively promoting a Christian agenda and discriminating against gays and non-Christians. (The Girl Scouts, by way of contrast, are notably more progressive (and have been inclusive of homosexual and transgender Scouts), and, as such, are often complained about or protested by Christians.)
- our elected officials are all Judeo-Christian (mostly just plain Christian) with THREE exceptions (that I know of) out of over 550 upper-level politicians: We have TWO Muslims (only) and ONE atheist. That is IT. Again, Christians are in no danger whatsoever of being under-represented in our country any time soon.
- the vast majority of the heroes schoolchildren are taught to revere and admire are not only white and male, but also Christian (and usually Protestant Christian, too).
- school calendars and schedules are arranged to allow students time off for Christian holiday celebrations; if you are, for example, Jewish, well, good luck getting time off for your high holy days of Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. If you are Muslim, no time off for Ramadan (your high holy day) for you, buddy.
- everyone has nationwide days off to celebrate the Christian holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas because, other than secular celebrations, all holidays celebrated nationally are Christian: there are no other faith’s holidays that are celebrated nationwide. To be clear, as Wikipedia puts it: “The United States does not have national holidays in the sense of days on which all employees in the U.S. receive mandatory a day free from work and all business is halted by law.” But what days did YOU get off from work*? Sometimes, when the calendar cooperates, we get Passover and Easter bundled together if our schools or workplaces chose to let us have those holidays, but if Passover (a Jewish holiday) and Easter are not conveniently close together, then the default is to have Easter off. Also, for what it is worth, the now-mostly-secular holidays of SAINT Valentine’s Day and SAINT Patrick’s Day offer a hint about how secular they originally were (clue: they weren’t).
- Christians are not happy with this and also want to turn Hallowe’en into a religious celebration (“Jesusween” being one alternative that some knobhead actually seriously proposed). That it was originally just All Hallows Even(ing) and that it precedes All Saints Day is apparently forgotten. (And yes, that means that these people do not understand that the “w” in “ween” is the last letter in “Hallow,” as in “All Hallow’s Even” or that “een” is the shortened form of “even”, which is itself the shortened form of “evening”.)
- though there is supposed to be no religious test required for taking office, Christians opposed to Barack Obama not only deny his Christian faith but also insist that he is a Muslim, which is supposed to, in some way, make him unfit to be President. (Please note that Muslims do not eat hot dogs, smoke, or drink beer.) Message: Be Christian or else. Remember also that JFK’s Catholicism was seen as too “radical” for other (Protestant) Christians at the time.
A Muslim explains: “Basically all food is halal and allowed for Muslims to eat except what is forbidden explicitly in Quran and what is forbidden by prophet Muhammad['s] saying[s] (Ahadith) or practices. In Islam, alcoholic beverages–or any intoxicants–[are] generally forbidden. Intoxicants were forbidden in the Qur’an, through several separate verses revealed at different times over a period of years. [It] is forbidden to eat (except in cases of severe hunger)…dead animals, pork, blood, and what is not slaughtered under name of God. Smoking is considered also forbidden as…smoking is harmful to health and Quran commands us not to harm our health.”
- The use of “BC” and “AD” (“Before Christ” and “Anno Domini”– meaning “year of our Lord”) denote vast periods of time; though there has been an effort to popularize “BCE” and CE” (“Before Common Era” and “Common Era”), this has not caught on and it still uses “year zero” which is associated with Christ’s reported date of birth (and which might even be historically inaccurate, but that’s another rant for another day).
- religious leaders (usually conservative) are frequent guests on news channels and political news programs; the one liberal equivalent to balance all those conservative religious folk that I know of would be the REVEREND Al Sharpton on MSNBC.
- communities which display public holiday decorations do so at taxpayer expense more often than not and, unsurprisingly, those decorations are usually for Christian holidays AND sometimes even include specifically religious displays like Nativity scenes and not just boughs of holly and pretty lights.
- Christians have tried to place the Ten Commandments into government buildings and courthouses. Actually, Christians have SUCCEEDED in placing the Ten Commandments in government buildings, and most of them are really pissed off that they were told they could not DO that. (Please name one U.S. government building or courthouse that has a monument depicting tenets of a faith other than Christianity. Public libraries with documents and books about non-Christian religions or atheism do not count.)
- it is illegal to discriminate against someone or to fire them on the basis of their religious faith (or lack thereof), but try announcing you are anything other than Christian to some employers and see how that works out.
- it is not uncommon for workplaces to encourage employee-managed “Secret Santa” celebrations and it is even less uncommon for workplaces to have holiday parties that will almost always feature a Christmas tree and Christmas decor and Christmas music.
- it is not uncommon for co-workers to announce what they are “giving up for Lent” or to try to form a Bible Study Group with other coworkers or to display Christian inspirational art and quotes prominently in their work areas.
- some Christians also get all bent out of shape when told “Happy Holidays” (which is inclusive and does not assume you are of any particular faith while intending to be something pleasant and friendly to say) instead of “Merry Christmas” and think nothing of throwing a public tantrum and often do so in a store covered in Christian holiday decor and piping in Christian holiday music. (…Because non-Christians should not be acknowledged at all and should not also have a pleasant winter holiday season? I don’t understand this sort of thing.)
A letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News from a Christian who is “sad and angry” that some people say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”:
“This article made me both sad and angry; sad because we have become a nation that must be so politically correct that we think we cannot celebrate the most blessed holiday of the year by saying “Merry Christmas,” having Christmas trees and parties at school, and celebrating the birth of our Savior with nativity scenes on courthouse lawns. It made me angry because we do not have the wherewithal to stand up for our beliefs.
The spokesperson for the Allen ISD stated, “times are changing,” and, “there’s more focus on diversity and less assumption that everyone comes from the same background.” Is that a reason to do away with the traditions that this country was built upon? What do you suppose would happen if we, as Americans, immigrated to another country whose culture had different beliefs and celebrations?”
Now substitute any other faith (or lack of faith) for “Christian” and see if ANY OTHER GROUP ON THE PLANET is anywhere near as “oppressed” and “attacked” (or “threatened” or “endangered” or “marginalized”) as Christians claim to be.
You might discover that Christians are more likely to oppress than be oppressed; at the very least, you are likely to be assimilated, like the Borg, into a monotheistic culture based almost entirely on Christianity.
DID YOU KNOW? An estimated 35% of born-again Christians do not read the Bible at all, writes the Center for Bible Engagement, quoting Ron Rhodes, President of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries.
Studies by The Barna Group and Gallup indicate that Americans are “illiterate” when it comes to the Bible and understanding the Christian faith: Issues such as teaching creationism in public schools, national days of prayer, gay marriage, women’s reproductive rights and placing the Ten Commandments in the public square are often fueled by “Bible believing” Christians in an atmosphere where the majority of people have not read the Bible.
When Christians feel singled out by atheists for criticism, they forget that many atheists live in Western countries where Christianity has dominated culture, politics, and society for over 1,500 years. Atheists are most familiar with Christianity and have to contend with Christianity on a daily basis in their lives, and perhaps even were raised as Christians.
Some atheists raised Christian were discouraged from doubting and questioning but did so anyway and some discovered that they had been misled, deceived and/or lied to by religious parents or religious leaders. This can easily result in a lingering resentment of a belief system that allowed and continues to allow such deception to occur. Experiences like this can cause anger or resentment towards religion in general and Christianity in particular.
Many atheists suffer from discrimination and abuse from family, friends, or colleagues IF they even feel comfortable enough to express their lack of religious belief at all: They can fear reprisals and ostracization. Some atheists are simply not going to have warm, fuzzy feelings about Christianity when it is misused to foster hatred and repression towards them simply because they are not Christian.Eliminating the institutionalized persecution and hatred atheists endure in the name of Christianity is going to be far more effective than attempting to convert atheists.
All of these are valid and understandable reasons why Christianity is more of a focus for atheist critiques than other religions.
Historically, Christianity was used to excuse:
- appropriating other religions’ mythology and pagan holiday celebrations and revising them to be Christian traditions instead
- slavery (it’s in the Bible!)
- The Holocaust
- The Crusades
- The Inquisition
- cultural appropriation in third-world countries by (well-meaning) Christian missionaries
- subjugation of women
- subjugation of minorities
- subjugation of children
- domestic violence
- more than a few wars
- more than a few land grabs, globally
- disenfranchising indigenous peoples
- torturing / murdering / forcibly converting / hanging people suspected (right or wrong) of not being a particular flavor of Christianity (Puritans hanged Quakers, for instance)
- passing laws that punish or discriminate against non-Christians
- panics over the Apocalypse
- baptizing the dead who were not of your faith in life (often multiple times)
- circumcision (whether you are for or against it, this is why)
- social oppression
- science denial
- denying necessary medical care to the physically or mentally ill
- using exorcisms to treat the mentally ill
…and much more! There are few, if any, other religions that can claim a list as impressive (and depressing). I’m not saying there aren’t ANY (hello, Islam) but there aren’t as MANY with a similar history of cultural domination.
So Christianity is top dog, and that leads to Christian Privilege. What’s that? As Wikipedia puts it, “Christian privilege” is the overarching system of advantages bestowed on Christians. It is the institutionalization of a Christian norm or standard that establishes and perpetuates the notion that all people are or should be Christian. The privileging of Christians and Christianity excludes the needs, concerns, religious cultural practices, and life experiences of people who are not Christian. At times overt and at other times subtle, Christian privilege is oppression by purpose and design, as well as by neglect, omission, erasure, and distortion. U.S. Christians in general and predominantly Protestants, successfully disseminate dominant social constructions as being common sense, as normative, or as universal, even though an estimated 70% of the world’s inhabitants are not Christian.
Here’s where we should reiterate that fact: SEVENTY PERCENT of the world’s population is NOT Christian, but, hey, no worries, the dominant culture world-wide certainly seems to be Christian anyway.
Nice Christians who sense some frustration directed their way by non-Christians are definitely on to something when they (maybe you!) say that it might be because SOME (not all, by any means, and certainly not YOU personally) Christians DO behave badly and make up bullshit like “The War on Christmas” (when people just want other faiths to be acknowledged as simply EXISTING, because GOSH, that takes something away from exactly no one to say, hey, there are people who do not believe exactly the same unprovable faith-based things I believe).
Nice Christians are correct when they notice that SOME atheists get a little cranky at claims that it is Not Okay to get a little exasperated with the FEW (I hope!) misbehaving Christians who refuse to show Jesus-like compassion, love, tolerance and acceptance towards other people IF they are not openly Christian, too.
SOME atheists get grumpy when it is clear that it is Not Okay to resist faith-based initiatives that erode the separation of church and state (it’s a big deal, which is why I have said it more than once), or that it is Totally Okay to force people who do not believe as you do (in Christianity) to follow rules, laws and social conventions based on YOUR (Christian) beliefs. (Also, are there any non-Christian groups that act like Westboro Baptist out there? Look around, and if you find any, let me know.)
Hey, guys…is it making a little more sense now?
What gets really fun (for the uninvolved observer) is when one of the more than THIRTY THOUSAND different flavors of Christianity starts bitching about a different flavor of Christianity. Protestants and Catholics have historically been at odds. Mormons / LDS, Christian Scientists and Jehovah’s Witnesses are called cultists by other Christians. That’s when people who aren’t Christian (or into religion stuff in general) REALLY shake their heads at Christians.
Supposedly a bunch of people who revere the same book (The Bible), and supposedly have read the same stuff in the same book (including a lot of contradictions and scientifically impossible / improbable assertions and a lot of rules and laws that most people only follow when it suits their agenda), still manage to find a hell of a lot of ways to butt heads and scream at each other while arguing about who is correctly interpreting the writings of some desert-dwelling, wandering goat herders who were writing down Jewish myths and stories to share, and who didn’t get around to writing about Jesus until long, long after he was dead (if he lived at all–and there’s some reasons to question that–but I am DEFINITELY not going to open that can of worms). Even more cool is that the standard Bible is missing a heck of a lot of relevant contemporary gospels and writings that have been omitted for…well, um, I don’t know why some made the grade and some didn’t. I’m not a Comparative Religions expert.
Again, find a religious group that acts like this that isn’t Christian, and you would discover that a lot of people get annoyed with THEM, too. (Here’s where you would be right to point out that SOME Muslims are just as pushy about their holy book and religious beliefs. You might also ponder the entertaining fact that it appears to be the most devout Christians who really, really have the most serious issues when attempting to interact with or relate to Muslims.)
What’s worst, in my mind, is how many of my friends and family are Christian and also NICE and not hypocritical, and they are lumped in with the louder and more obnoxious and more offensive Christians (in name only, most of the time) who make them look ignorant or intolerant or mean-spirited. Christians’ worst enemy out there are OTHER CHRISTIANS who, I suspect, have mostly not even read the Bible they like to wave around / thump at other people.
There need to be more people willing to say “you do not speak for ME, even if we supposedly share a common faith” when “bad” Christians act out.
Here’s something else to consider: Some atheists may just have trouble dealing with some of the things they have read directly from The Holy Bible.
Some cool things you can learn from the Bible:
- The very first two stories in Genesis contradict each other
- Slavery is a-OK in the Bible
- Getting your dad (Noah) drunk and having sex with him is OK
- Throwing your female family members to an unruly mob to rape and murder is better than being a bad host to two total strangers
- Bats are actually birds
- There are unicorns and dragons mentioned (A LOT) in the Bible–but not dinosaurs. I’m pretty sure kangaroos aren’t mentioned either, though.
- Playing football is a no-no…if you play with a pigskin football. You should probably also double-check any suede and leather goods you might own to make sure they are not pigskin.
- Leviticus, which is often used by the homophobic and self-righteous to justify condemning homosexuals, also spends several chapters (NINE!) detailing how to properly prepare burnt offerings (wow, some churches don’t even bother with incense burners these days) and, in addition to prohibiting The Gays, also prohibits eating pork, clams, oysters, crabs, lobsters and shrimp; getting tattoos; wearing cotton-polyester clothes, etc.) If you’re going to ignore the sections of Leviticus that ban tattoos, pork, shellfish, round haircuts, mixed-fiber clothing and football, how can you possibly turn around and quote Leviticus 18:22 (“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination”) as irrefutable law? Here is a situation where supposedly devout Christians (who should know their Bible) apparently either ignore what Jesus said about Mosaic Laws or treat the Bible like a Quality Street pick-a-mix chocolate candy assortment box and discard the inconvenient laws (like no eating any delicious pork chops) in order to cling to an equally outdated rule about hating non-hetero people.
- Mules, ligers and non-purebred cats and dogs are a no-no; you shouldn’t crossbreed animals because God hates that stuff. Your labradoodle, cockapoo or Jack Shi’tzu are abominations in the eyes of the Lord your God.
- Growing more than one crop per field is a no-no, so your Victory Garden is also an abomination unto the Lord. (By this logic, God probably also hates broccoli, which was horticulturally created by by some creative Italians who combined cauliflower with rabe (it’s a vegetable closely related to the turnip; it also called rapini).
- Divorce is verboten, so choose your life partner very wisely!
- It’s totally OK to rape someone if you marry them afterwards.
- Adam and Eve were never married.
- It’s also OK to have multiple wives and to impregnate multiple servant women (slaves) if your wives aren’t multiplying fruitfully enough for you.
- Being illegitimate is verboten (even though it is totally not your fault!)
- Being the great-great-great-great-ad infinitum-grandchild of an illegitimate person is also no good (and, again, it’s not even your fault!)
- Women and men without testicles (even if it is totally not your fault, and, dude, we are SO sorry for your loss) are not supposed to pray inside a church or temple
- Wearing gold, pearls, costly (designer?) clothing is–you guessed it!–forbidden
- “Rounding” the edges of your haircut (no bowl cuts for you) and braided hair are verboten
…There’s so much more!
Man, this book full of ancient advice passed down to us by illiterate Bronze Age wandering desert-dwelling goat-herders is relevant to the 21st century, inerrant, totally internally consistent and everything in it should be followed to the letter…unless it is somehow inconvenient (I mean, bacon-wrapped shrimp is so tasty).
(This is not to say there is nothing good in it, of course; there are some good things in the Bible.)
Fun stuff, amirite? The term for the omnipresence of Christianity in our culture is called “Christian hegemony“:
“Christian hegemony operates on several levels. At one level is the internalization of dominant western Christian beliefs and values by individuals in our society. Another level is the power that individual preachers, ministers and priests have on people’s lives. Particular churches and some Christian denominations wield very significant political and economic power in our country. There is a vast network of parachurch organizations, general tax-supported non-profits such as hospitals, broadcasting networks, publishing houses, lobbying groups, and organizations like Focus on the Family, Prison Fellowship, The Family, World Mission, and thousands of others which wield influence in particular spheres of U.S. society and throughout the world.
Another level of Christian dominance is within the power elite, the network of 7-10,000 predominantly white Christian men who control the largest and most powerful social, political, economic, and cultural institutions in the country. And finally there is the level which provides the foundation for all the others–the long and deep legacy of Christian ideas, values, practices, policies, icons, and texts that have been produced within dominant western Christianity over the centuries. That legacy continues to shape our language, culture, beliefs, and values and to frame public and foreign policy decisions.
Christian dominance has become so invisible that its manifestations appear to be secular, i.e. not religious. In this context, the phrase “secular Christian dominance” might be most appropriate, Christian hegemony under the guise of secularism. Of course, there are many forms of Christian fundamentalism which are anything but secular. Often fundamentalists want to create some kind of theocratic state. But the more mainstream, everyday way that dominant Christian values and institutions influence our lives and communities is less evident, although no less significant and certainly not limited to fundamentalists.”
Honestly, guys, Christianity is NOT under any threat or in danger of going away any time soon. REALLY.
I think you can rest easy if someone is disinterested in accepting Jesus Christ as their personal savior. It happens, sometimes, and Christianity is not diminished or in danger at all.
I hope this has proven comforting and enlightening. Some people (atheists) may get a little cranky with some Christians, but you Christian guys are going to be just fine. I promise.
Besides, a faith that can’t withstand a little introspection, examination, debate, and / or thoughtful challenge is not a truly strong faith to begin with.
Lastly, if you are an awesome Christian, please continue to be awesome and please feel free to accept this high five from me.
More on the subject of Christian Privilege.
A critical, skeptical examination of The Bible.