Free speech vs… assholes with bike locks »« Religion meets the courts

That’s not what persecution means

I have had a few back and forth discussions with Christians in the short time I have been an open and notorious atheist (open to everyone, notorious to only a select few) regarding the current clime of opinion regarding Christianity in North America. In a nutshell, Christians in the United States (particularly) and Canada (occasionally) complain that Christians are being ‘persecuted’ for their faith. It is a ridiculous claim, and a poorly-disguised attempt to re-brand themselves as victims of some kind of concerted effort to stamp out Christianity. Even the friggin’ Pope buys into this nonsense.

As “evidence” for this claim, Christians often point to the fact that secularists and atheists talk most often about Christianity, when there are a number of other perfectly bad religions to complain about. The response to this claim is so trivially easy to supply, it honestly makes me question whether or not the people who repeat it have put any thought into their argument whatsoever – it’s because Christianity has been the dominant religion in this continent for generations. It is deeply entrenched in our history and our culture, so much so that people try to claim that it is the foundation of our heritage (a ridiculous claim I have refuted before).

If you look to another country where there is a different religious tradition, you’ll find the same kind of whining:

One of India’s leading Muslim groups has appealed against a ruling over the Ayodhya holy site, where a Hindu mob destroyed a mosque 18 years ago. Two months ago, Lucknow High Court said the land should be divided, and that the razed 16th century mosque should not be rebuilt. Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind says the judgement appears to be based not on evidence but on the professed belief of Hindus.

The whiners, in this case, are the Hindus, who have tried to bring their totally ridiculous beliefs to bear in a land dispute. The Lucknow court appears to consider superstition worthwhile legal evidence. I want to try that – break into someone’s house and when the cops come to arrest me say “but I really believe I live here!” I’d be lucky to escape a mental institution, let alone jail.

I’ve made this point before, but the so-called “persecution” of Christians in this country is essentially just a reflection of privilege. They (though surely not all of them) complain that they’re being “oppressed”, when what’s really happening is that people are not letting them get away with whatever they want anymore. You’re welcome to believe privately that homosexuality is a sin, or that abortion is murder. You can even go out in the public square and scream your head off about it. However, you’re not allowed to impose the consequences of your personal beliefs on others, particularly if there is specific legislation against it.

Some people on the other side of this conversation will reply with something ridiculous like “well if a Christian gets discriminated against, nobody says anything!” Nobody says anything because that never happens! It’s like when men complain about being the targets of sexual discrimination because they aren’t allowed to make sexist jokes at work or when conservatives say that universities are “intolerant” of conservative viewpoints. It’s only by stretching the definitions of those words beyond what any reasonable person would recognize that these become even passably accurate claims. Not being allowed to offend others is not “discrimination”, it’s politeness. Not tolerating opinions that are based on fallacious reasoning and intentional twisting and cherry-picking of facts is not “intolerance”, it’s logic.

Not having your personal beliefs (founded on unprovable assertions and easily-recognized logical fallacies) recognized as legitimate is not “persecution”, it’s fairness.

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