Why the Christian Persecution Complex Hurts Everyone

To me, the Christian persecution complex is one of the great marvels of American society. It truly is amazing. I’ve talked about it before, most notably here, where I gave four examples of how Christians in America are oh, so persecuted. That post was clearly meant to be satire, but it’s the kind of satire where the topic was so absolutely absurd that trying to laugh about it is the only way to not lose my mind talking about it.

For someone who is so fascinated and, honestly, angered by the American Christian persecution complex, I’d like to point out that as an American atheist, I don’t really feel “persecuted” myself. I know that organizations like the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association have to fight for the separation of church and state constantly, but on a personal level, I haven’t really had religion imposed on me by the government.

Christian churches and organizations claim to be persecuted in our “secular” American society in several ways. One organization, for example, feels persecuted because of the passing of less strict abortion laws, the societal acceptance of referring to transgendered individuals by the pronouns of their choosing, and the controversies between Christian businesses and LGBT clients looking for services, most often related to their weddings.

It really should go without saying that these three topics don’t have to do with the freedom of Christians at all. Straight, cisgendered Christians who don’t want abortions aren’t in any significant way affected by these laws and emerging social norms. But as you might have guessed, gay and trans people, as well as pregnant women who feel that giving birth is not in either their or their fetus’s best interest, are affected. And in gaining more rights, acceptance, and validation, the three aforementioned societal shifts are making life better for these groups of people.

If you’ve been following my logic thus far, then you may conclude that American Christians are indeed not being persecuted as society progresses for the LGBT community and pregnant women. This is why it angers me so much when they claim that their “marriage rights” and “family values” are being infringed upon from these circumstances. Nobody’s forcing you to marry someone of the same sex, get an abortion, or change your gender. Therefore, your rights in any of these areas are not being infringed upon. If you don’t see why this should be clear, please contact me and we can talk about it.

Until this point, I have never directly addressed Christian persecution overseas. Often, the Christian persecution complex arises out of solidarity with Christian individuals living in countries where they are not free to profess their faith. As a matter of fact, the United States doesn’t even appear on the World Watch List, which is a list of all of the countries with the worst Christian persecution.

Topping the list is North Korea, which is listed officially as an “atheist state,” but after some Wikipedia reading, I found that it is more of a communist state consisting of a personality cult for their dictator. Christianity and other religions are outlawed there because they would get in the way of their nationalism. While North Korea is the first on the list, it is also one of the only countries in which the Christian persecution is not due to Islamic oppression.

For the sake of time, I didn’t look through all fifty countries on the World Watch List, but what I did was saddening and shocking. The second country to badly persecute Christians was Afghanistan, which, like many other countries, is professedly Islamic in its constitution. It’s true that Christians aren’t allowed to build churches there or criticize the Islamic faith, and that they must always identify their homes and themselves (in the case of women) as non-Muslim.

But you know who else doesn’t have religious freedom in Afghanistan?

. . . Anyone.

In religiously oppressive nations, no one has either freedom from religion or freedom of religion, unless you coincidentally happen to voluntarily practice the religion of the state. You will be persecuted there for being Christian, or being atheist, or Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, or basically anything but the exact right kind and amount of Muslim.

That is to say, the real persecution of Christians is what happens when a country legislates its citizens’ religion instead of keeping church and state far away from one another.

As I said, the separation of church and state has been the goal of many secular organizations for a long time. And this separation, as well as secularism by definition, means you don’t have to be atheist (remember that an atheist state and a secular state are very different), but you can be atheist. Or Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, or anything else.

We secularists, who advocate for church and state separation, and Christians who want to end the persecution of their Christian brothers and sisters overseas, have something in common. Something big. And it’s the same thing that the LGBT community in America wants, too. All we want is freedom. We want to be able to live without someone else’s religion being imposed on us, whether that means we can freely speak online about atheism, commune in our own religion’s house of worship, or marry who we love.

The sooner that the American Christians who claim that they are being persecuted in this secular, free country (as it strives to extend equal rights to everyone, despite their beliefs, sexuality, or anything else), realize that freedom only begins where state-imposed religion ends, the better.

17 Replies to “Why the Christian Persecution Complex Hurts Everyone”

  1. It’s a weird situation for many Christians. They want freedom of their own beliefs, yet somehow think that other people practicing their own beliefs is impinging on them. But that is the nature of religion – professing freedom whilst true freedom is a day dream.

    Like

  2. If anything, not I’m not saying this is every christian. Some christians are really nice, but they just fail to see all the hatred and contradictions in the bible and that’s what gets them into trouble.

    If anything the religion in itself has caused more harm than good and most atheists and agnostics probably wouldn’t try to harm them in any way because then they’d get the validation that everyone outside of their bubble are a bunch of evil people.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I always try to stay open to the possibility that any given individual accusation may actually be serious, but the shrill narrative that says Christians are under constant assault in America is pathetic. Some people confuse privilege and with rights and deference with respect.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The irony of all of this: if there had been no “separation of church and state”, then most of the US states would have state religions. And, in most cases, the states would be either Catholic or Episcopal. The evangelicals wouldn’t have had a chance.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You said, “I haven’t really had religion imposed on me by the government.” I am pondering that statement. I think I have.
    When I have discussed separation of church and state with those who oppose it, it never occurs to them that a theocracy might not be their religion. I’ve have found that such a mindset makes discussion as futile and trying to explain that shoving their religion down my thought is not part of their freedom of religion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And the crux of it is if your not affiliated with a faith, your chances of being elected are slim and none. Christians day that it’s a separation of church and state, but the vast majority are Christians, and the influence is obvious. I don’t concede the luxury of that separation. The gov’t is run by Christians. It’s not the official religion, but it’s the official religion.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. By your same logic, the queers should shut up too since what “persecution” they face in America wouldn’t even make the charts if compared to the global situation, especially in those same nations that meet your criteria for persecution of Christians.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re right that they’re really doing well in the US comparatively. I guess that’s what I’m trying to show to the Christians that I’m addressing here: LGBT people in America having more new freedom is a good thing.

      Like

      1. I’d agree with you if I saw the same sort of things from Christians as you do or claim to do. I don’t see them – with very rare exceptions – claiming persecution over the privileges granted to queers. I see them claiming persecution when they’re attacked – often by means far beyond mere words – for refusing to approve of the queers’ lifestyle and wanting no part in supporting it.

        See: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/san-jose-airport-chick-fil-a_n_5cb111f6e4b0ffefe3b097bf for the most recent thing, but consider that at least that Chick-fil-A was able to open and didn’t have the mayor calling for a ban or boycott like in NYC.

        But… Yeah, Christians, Muslims, Blacks, Whites, Queers, Trannies, Atheists, Feminists, and “the Poor” all complain about their lots in life and about being persecuted in America when all of them are just bitching about their “First World Problems” while their same sorts elsewhere are going through far, far, far worse. And they all largely ignore the plights of their fellows elsewhere.

        Like

        1. This is pure false equivalency. Christians aren’t being denied rights, they are simply being asked to accept that they live in a pluralistic society. Corporations that support anti-gay legislation or support anti-gay non-profits are certainly allowed to be boycotted. There is absolutely no reason for anybody to tolerate a religion that dehumanizes a certain group of people by their sexual orientation, their own belief system or their color of skin.

          And while things are certainly worse elsewhere, psychologically this does little to improve someone’s emotional state. Should you tell a gay person who has been beaten because of their sexual orientation that they should cheer up, because in other countries you’d be killed? That’s a ridiculous level of logic. Because the poor have it worse elsewhere, that moons the poor should just cheer up here? And there are plenty of places in the U.S. where people have it as bad is in third world countries. Persecution is a continuum not one extreme or another and I think that we have to fight persecution regardless of how extreme the persecution is. Christians are not being persecuted, they can marry, adopt, pray, get jobs, teach their children whatever Christian nonsense they want…there are no laws prohibiting them. They are just losing their privileges over others and to them that’s persecution. If their doctrine is incompatible with the values of a pluralistic society then it is they that have to think about how to adapt to a society that won’t tolerate religious supported hate. Sin, God, heaven, hell, it’s all made up. It fails to compete in the marketplace of ideas. They are allowed to keep their fiction to themselves and until Christians have less rights in our society than anyone else, I won’t shed a tear for them. And if that day comes I will support their fight to get equal rights as any other citizen.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. You said exactly what I was thinking. I would just like to add that even though church and state are technically separate in the US Christians still have a lot of privilege in the system. Christians have a lot of privilege on a social level because if you are a Christian your colleagues, bosses, neighbors, teachers (or your kids’ teachers), and the government officials in your local, state, and federal government are Christians, and they also have a privilege under the law. We aren’t referring to the flying spaghetti monster when we say “under god” in the pledge of alliance, after all.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Indeed being in a non-Christian in many communities in the U.S. is extremely socially isolating, and one loses the benefits that community provides solely on the basis of the fact that you don’t believe in particular set of fantastical ideas.

              Liked by 2 people

          2. Sir,

            Firstly, it’s just this side of impossible to logically argue false equivalency while at the same time describing something as a continuum or spectrum.

            Secondly, your argument falls short when describing the plights of others than Christians since it refutes your original argument, just not for Christians. Apparently, you want believe that “we have to fight persecution regardless of how extreme the persecution is” unless their Christians, in which case you want a specific bar set for what constitutes persecution worthy of fighting.

            Tertiarily, “They are just losing their privileges over others and to them that’s persecution” is a slightly different wording of the same apologetics that every “persecuted minority” uses to justify attacking the normative majority.

            A simple set of related questions:

            Is a queer persecuted because they cannot “marry” if the law states that they can be in a civil union at that a civil union is legally synonymous with a marriage in all ways, shapes, and forms?

            Would the government opting to fly some form of Christian banners outside of an openly queer business be persecution?

            Are the people boycotting the NFL racists and persecuting Blacks for doing so?

            Should a Black, Muslim, or Queer business be required to perform services for specific events that they find abhorrent- or hateful to them?

            Like

            1. Firstly, it’s just this side of impossible to logically argue false equivalency while at the same time describing something as a continuum or spectrum.

              Not sure how you can make this argument. You compared a group not being persecuted to a group being persecuted. That’s a false equivalence. Christians are not being persecuted. You have to demonstrate that and if the article you linked is supposed to be an example of Christian persecution, you don’t understand what persecution means.

              Secondly, your argument falls short when describing the plights of others than Christians since it refutes your original argument, just not for Christians. Apparently, you want believe that “we have to fight persecution regardless of how extreme the persecution is” unless their Christians, in which case you want a specific bar set for what constitutes persecution worthy of fighting.

              This is a strawman because I never claimed that Christians weren’t being persecuted. They just aren’t being persecuted here in the U.S. Should that actually happen I would be all for, as I said, fighting against their persecution.

              Tertiarily, “They are just losing their privileges over others and to them that’s persecution” is a slightly different wording of the same apologetics that every “persecuted minority” uses to justify attacking the normative majority.

              Christians for some time have enjoyed certain privileges in this country compared to others and still due. Losing those privileges is not persecution. You seem to think it is which I disagree. If you hold a belief that cause me suffering and I challenge that belief economically, politically or socially that does not make you persecuted. I’m allowed to challenge beliefs that have the ability to deny me rights and increase my level of danger in society.

              Is a queer persecuted because they cannot “marry” if the law states that they can be in a civil union at that a civil union is legally synonymous with a marriage in all ways, shapes, and forms?

              Your continuous use of a derogatory term for homosexuals speaks volumes by the way.

              Marriage goes back before Christianity, and there is no set definition regardless of what you believe. If the government grants marriages, than homosexuals are equal citizens under the law and they should be able to get married too. Now we could say that the government shouldn’t not be involved at all in granting marriage licenses and that’s fine, but that’s a different argument. Most states didn’t have civil unions. Marriage has meant different things and does mean different things to many people. One religion doesn’t get to define it.

              Would the government opting to fly some form of Christian banners outside of an openly queer business be persecution?

              Yes. In this example the owner to the business does not support organizations that deny rights and discriminates against a group of people. If that owner was clubbing baby seals or something, sure protest the business.

              Are the people boycotting the NFL racists and persecuting Blacks for doing so?

              I don’t think all of them are, but even if they were they have every right to protest. This means nothing in terms of persecution though unless such people also actively cause suffering to black people.

              Should a Black, Muslim, or Queer business be required to perform services for specific events that they find abhorrent- or hateful to them?

              Not sure what that would be, but if they are a public business that has received any tax subsidies, government loans, depend on public roads for people to get to their business then yes I think they should be serving all people. I don’t think it should be required by law though. I just think you just don’t give them business and put them out of business. Protest. That’s fine.

              Liked by 1 person

  7. Good points here CA. I agree with you that the persecution cry here is problematic in many ways, not the least of which is warps what it means to be truly persecuted for their beliefs. Freedom of Religion means that your belief system shares equal footing on the marketplace of ideas. It’s no wonder that when the state no longer protects a particular belief system as being more true than another, then belief diminishes. This is what they are noticing. Let people around them believe in the truth of Christianity before and so any outside belief system or non-belief is seeing as a threat to a worldview they believe to be true. They can then blame in societal problem with this loss of Christianity. In that way they see themselves as persecuted because they are being convinced that civilization is collapsing and it can only be because there just aren’t enough Christians. Yet many of them vote for the very politicians that fail to pass meaningful legislation, or pass harmful legislation that do nothing to solve problems. For them as long as that candidate touts some cheap impression of Christianity (aka Trump) they are willing to fall for it hook line and sinker, because they somehow believe that more Christianity is the answer.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Fascinating: this comes to mind–those people who feel they are being “persecuted” are usually the most vocal about it. They can rail and rant and criticize other religions, or non-believers, they can call them godless heathens and sinners and threaten them with hell, but if you criticize them, they burst into tears and howl about how they are being unjustly maligned.

    These are also the people who have been TOLD by their church,, their superiors, that they are being persecuted. And if you hear somethig often enough you begin to believe it.

    Victimhood, I calls it. “I am downtrodden and victimized and proud of it, yep.”

    Liked by 4 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s