The Great Chain

The Great Chain

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Atheism 104 - Christian Privilege

Rule No. 1.  You do not talk about Atheism.
Rule No. 2.  You do not talk about Atheism.

One of the things that you have to get used to as an Atheist is the fact that if you ever speak about Atheism you are automatically being confrontational, militant, aggressive, harsh, nasty, rude, disrespectful, etc.  An Atheist speaking is ipso facto insluting and degrading to everyone around them.

Of course the reverse is never, ever true.  Religionists have been actively conquering countries, forcing conversion, actively proselytizing, knocking on doors and haranguing passers by for millenia, but those activities are never, ever, aggressive or militant or confrontational or disrespectful.  Becuase Religionists generally, and Christians in the United States specifically, are entitled to Christian Privilege.

This is one of the many things that you have to get used to as an Atheist.  When Christians actively attempt to proselytize, when they knock on your door, when they yell at you on street corners, when they tell you that you are going to Hell, that is socially acceptable conduct.  When Atheists don't keep their opinions to themselves, that is aggressive, militant and mean.

The Jeohvas' Witnesses of all people actually made this explicit in one of their recent Awake! publications, where they actually complain about how a "new group of atheists has arisen in society. Called the new atheists, they are not content to keep their views to themselves."  See, those evil Atheists now actually think that they can talk about their opinions.  This from a cult of Religionists who are most notable for harassing people at their homes and on streetcorners to peddle their Faith.  This is Christian Privilege at its finest.

American Christians possess a strange duality.  On the one hand, they endlessly whine and complain about how their Faith and values are under attack, how they are being persecuted.  As proof, they point to the so-called War on Christmas wherein they are not properly greeted with Merry Christmas by shopkeepers, to sex and swearing on film and television, to vulgarity in music.  They point to the fact that prayer in schools is not allowed, to the teaching of evolution, etc.  American Christians complain endlessly about their alleged persecution.  On the other, American Christians represent the uber-majority in the United States.  Nearly ever member of the political and media establishment professes Christianity.  Indeed, it is virtually impossible to be elected to any high political office without expressing Faith in either Christianity or Judaism.  Christians have ALL of the power in this Country.  So why do they feel so put upon?

Because many Christians feel a profound sense of entitlement.  They feel as though their particular religious beliefs should be reinforced by every single person they encounter regardless of what that person believes.  Failure to acquiesce to this Christian Privilege is a horrible and grievious crime.  Anyone who fails to provide reinforcement of Christianity's basic precepts or who fails to say Merry Christmas, is clearly engaging in persecution of Christianity.

This victim mentality is the true genius of Christian Privilege in that it acts as both a shield and a weapon.  The uber majority gets to impose its will, achieve a sense of moral superiority AND get to feel persecuted without the inconvenience of actual persecution.  As a final, added theological benefit, their faux-suffering also brings them closer to their zombie lord.

They feel entitled to have their beliefs endorsed and propagated by the government.  And they feel as though those who disagree with them, those who do not believe as they do should keep their opinions and beliefs to themselves.  This is the essence of Christian Privilege.  The selfish and entitled belief that despite our secular and multicultural society, that their specific Faith should receive special treatment and should be shielded from criticism, dissent and disagreement.

I have grown used to the double standard applied to atheists (and any other non-christians) that anything you say, no matter how nicely, how civilly, how eloquently and politely you phrase it, represents an existential threat and is therefore aggressive, militant and most likely mean spirited.

That doesn't mean I have to like it.

And it certainly doesn't mean I'm going to shut up about it.

Update:  I almost neglected to mention the fact that it is also decidedly not militant or aggressive when Muslims in Palestine decide to imprison an atheist blogger for life.  While I am sure some will use this incident to illustrate the difference between Muslims and Christians, I would caution Christians to tread lightly because no one wants or expects the Spanish Inquisition.


  1. Thank you for posting this. It is important that atheists remain vocal.

  2. The more I look around, the more I think that there are actually a LOT of people who really don't buy into any of this theological nonsense, but don't want to give up the social institution of curch. I think we need to be vocal so that people who don't believe can know they are not alone and can become comfortable expressing their non-belief.

  3. YESSSSSS!!!!!!!!!! ~M

  4. Not only does no one want the Spanish Inquisition, no one expects it either.

    I think it comes from a deep, deep sense of insecurity. Their faith must be shored up at every opportunity, and anyone who does not profess the faith by their very existence calls into question the fundamentally shaky foundation that all religions share. That, and it gives you the opportunity to both look down on and control others, which few people can seemingly resist.

    I've been enjoying your stuff Jeff, when I get a chance to look. Work is insane, but I'm hoping to have more time to look at your writing later on. Hopefully we'll have some time to catch up during the holidays, we should be back in Portland.

  5. This entitlement mentality you speak of became obvious to me when I moved to a bigger, slightly more diverse city. Here people are very kind, polite in public, and not overbearing about their faith. In the hyper-religious small town I came from, we knew not to go into town on Sunday any time after church. The restaurants were packed with selfish, angry people and Wal-mart was a disaster. Well-dressed churchgoers congregated there after services to talk about the experiences of the morning and who did or didn't show up. They hogged the aisles, giving people nasty looks and crashing their carts into everyone else. This is not the exception - it was the norm. My family witnessed this many times until we finally got a clue and did our shopping on Saturday.

    I'm reminded of one restaurant employee who waited on us one Sunday after church. He had tears in his eyes as we thanked him for bringing us refills. He said he hated working on Sundays because the people were so mean. A group that had just left had been rude to him, treated him like garbage, and then didn't tip. He said he couldn't understand why church people acted that way. I wanted to say, "Welcome to an atheist's life."

    Part of me wishes I could go back in time and publicly confront those people. I'd love to raise my voice right in Wal-Mart and say, "Are you a Christian? You sure don't act like it!"

  6. Very good post, and from what I can gather, insecurity is their biggest issue. They feel that being challenged will hurt their church numbers (and faith of current members), because even they (whether they admit it or not) have some kind of doubt as to whether or not their religion is the truth. Only geniuses and retards actually (100%) believe what they say they believe.

  7. I've noticed this all my life. I finally got so sick and tired of it that now I freely speak out. If it offends someone, oh well, not my problem, they've been offending me for 57 years. There are more atheists every year so the religious nuts had better get used to it.

  8. They are just so insecure, it's astounding. The slightest application of critical thought or rationality immediately sends them into this defensive existential panic. They really need to grow up.

    200 to 300 years from now, the Abrahamaic religions will likely be viewed the same way we look at Zeus and Poseidon. Long term, multi-generationally, we will prevail.