Now, right up front, I want to emphasize that I'm not talking about all Christians, here. I have friends who are devout Christians, and friends who are members of various other faiths, and mostly we all get along pretty well. But it seems to me that there is a growing number of Christians, mostly of the evangelical stripe, who are threatened by people like me -- atheists/rationalists/secular humanists who won't just shut up and let the dominant majority religion run things, as it has for the last thousand years.
This all comes up because of two news stories from last week. In one, Anthony Foxx, mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, declared May 2 not only to be a "National Day of Prayer," but a "National Day of Reason," stating that "it is the duty and responsibility of every citizen to promote the development and application of reason." Seems an innocent enough statement, right?
Nope. The backlash was immediate and vitriolic. Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women of America, blasted Foxx's move as anti-religious in general and anti-Christian in particular, ending a screed on Fox News with the quote, "You know the Age of Enlightenment and Reason gave way to moral relativism. And moral relativism is what led us all the way down the dark path to the Holocaust."
Then, there was the story that appeared in Breitbart News that claimed that Christians in the military were in danger of being court martialled if they "shared their faith." The whole thing apparently started with a demand by Mikey Weinstein, of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, that commanding officers enforce the long-standing no-proselytizing rule, explained as follows by Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen:
Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one's beliefs (proselytization). If a service member harasses another member on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability, then the commander takes action based on the gravity of the occurrence. Likewise, when religious harassment complaints are reported, commanders take action based on the gravity of the occurrence on a case-by-case basis.Breitbart, and later Fox News, interpreted this as a "Christian cleansing of the military" by the Obama administration that would lead to the abolition of chaplains, and ultimately to court martial of any Christian in the military. (Weinstein himself was called an "anti-Christian extremist.")
The story was accompanied by the following photograph, in case the plight of the poor, oppressed Christians didn't yank at your heartstrings enough:
Okay, can we just clarify something, here? You Christians are still in the majority. Virtually every position of power in the United States government is held by a self-professed Christian. You have used your majority status to institute legislation that compels public school students to treat your holy book as if it were science. You have mandated prayers before governmental meetings, and are determined to try to work prayer back into classrooms. "In God We Trust" is still on our currency, and "one nation, under God" still in the Pledge of Allegiance. People are still sworn in with their hand on the bible.
How, again, are you oppressed?
The problem, of course, is that you're unused to being challenged, and you're mistaking having someone push back against your hegemony with being persecuted. You have been, for centuries, in sole control of everything in the United States and western Europe, with government and religion so deeply entangled that it was often hard to see where one started and the other ended. But now, what has some Christians spooked is that people like me are becoming more numerous. A recent poll put the number of atheists and agnostics in the United States at 20% -- a new high -- and put Protestants in the minority for the first time ever, at 48%, although Christians as a whole are still an overwhelming majority, at 76%. The increase of non-belief, to the point that we're too numerous to subdue into silence, is terrifying to a group that has long held unquestioned dominance in every sphere of American life. There are more self-professed atheists now than ever before in history, and we're refusing to do what we've always done -- which was to hide.
The ironic thing is how unfounded those fears are. While atheists, agnostics, rationalists, humanists, secularists, and free-thinkers -- and those who hold to all other gradations of disbelief -- are often vocal in their disavowal of Christian ideas, very few of them have any grudge against Christian people. The vast majority of the aforementioned nonbelievers think that Christians, and members of other faiths, are free to believe whatever they want, as long as they accord the same right to us. And that's the critical point, here; we just want the same freedom that you have had for the last thousand years -- to be open about our convictions, without fear of repercussion, and without having to put up with religious folks demanding that we do things their way, or else.
So, to that subset of Christians who desperately want to appear oppressed because you're finally not getting your own way, I'd like to end by saying: no need to be afraid. We atheists have no intent to do to you what you'd like to do to us.