Christian Privilege vs Atheist Suppression

As an atheist, I’ve noticed that many atheists and Muslims have been increasingly persecuted and demonized in the world around me.

Sarah Bowman

Sarah Bowman, Master’s In Theological Studies, Waterloo Lutheran Seminary (2008)

Where I live in Canada, Christians speak freely and openly about their beliefs and expect to be respected, or at the very least they expect not to be hassled for their beliefs. And I confess that as a Christian for the first fifty years of my life, I never experienced harassment for my beliefs. Because I was born into a horse and buggy community where women wear long dark skirts, that is how I dressed for so much of my life and I still feel most comfortable dressing like this even though I now live in the city surrounded by women dressing in pant suits and other clothing from stores. For this reason, people think I am quite religious and I am not hassled at all.

However, I do not believe in God. I am quite sure there is no supernatural realm and I can explain my reasons in great depth and detail. But my mouth, my speech, is muzzled. I can’t be open about my beliefs because people are offended to be in the presence of an outspoken atheist who denies their God. I can’t even ask questions about why they believe as they do, or which church teaches what, because then the conversation turns to my beliefs and they become shocked, taking offence.

Yet theology—what people believe and why—is my great interest. I spent years earning a Masters degree in it but now I must forego discussing it with my friends just to have these friends!

Others cannot speak openly about their non-believer status lest they risk losing their jobs. Or fail to get jobs in the first place. We all know the laws against discriminating for beliefs but we also know how easy it is to frame someone or to invent a reason to fire a person you don’t like. I know an atheist professor who got fired on trumped-up charges after speaking openly about his beliefs. He decided he should have kept his mouth shut till after he had tenure. Christians DON’T LIKE atheists.

In Canada, parliament is opened with Christian prayer. Christians think they are being persecuted if they are not allowed to pray out loud when and wherever they want. Or when one asks them to provide supporting evidence for their beliefs. All this while atheists dare not mention that they have beliefs.

In the United States of America, there are still seven states in which atheists can’t run for public office though Christians of many stripes have served as president. On Dec. 6 2014, the New York Times carried an insightful article “In Seven States, Atheists Push to End Largely Forgotten Ban describing legal prohibitions in the Constitution banning atheists from public office, naming the states with these laws on the books, explaining why and how secular groups are fighting these laws.

Even when one looks at the global stage, it really does seem like we live in a world of Christian privilege, with Christians holding both the military and economic power to force others into submission. This has been the case for at least half a millennium, if not since the Roman Emperor Constantine who died in 337 AD/CE. So comfortable are Christians in their superior position of wealth and power—despite exalting Jesus for being too poor to own a pillow—that when Muslims knocked down a couple of towers on US soil in 2001, the screams of outrage echoed from earth to sky and back. Fifteen years later, North Americans have still not recovered and now that East Asia ripples the global economy, Christendom panics.

Christianity will easily not give up its privileged position in the universe.


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