Who is persecuting whom?
I want to take you through a little history. There are now organized groups of Christian’s whinging about how they are oppressed in America. In America! Of all places. This is a country where they hold power from the top to the bottom. But the fundamentalists among them have this persecution complex. It exhibits itself by two traits. One is the rabid desire to oppress others, quite literally. The other is to claim they are being victimized because people are free to criticize them.
So I want to take you on tour of American history since the days of the colonialists until today. Pre-colonial history is really not relevant since the Christian issue didn’t arise then.
Ever since the first Christian town was founded in North America there have been campaigns by Christians to ban books that they find tasteful. For much of American history they have succeeded at banning books, burning them and incarcerating authors they find distatseful. Even today the pro-censorship movement in the United States, except for a few radical feminists, is almost entirely made up orthodox Catholics and fundamentalist Christians.
In comparison there has never been an organized movement to ban the Bible. I should note that certain Christian materials have been subjected to the penalties of the law from time to time. But such campaigns have never been championed by secularists, atheists or agnostics. The prime movers in such attempts have always been one sect of Christians attempting to silence another sect.
Consider the so-called sabbath. Christian groups have repeatedly pushed through sabbath laws to force everyone to “honor the sabbath and keep it holy.” Various forms of amusement, activities or employment, have been banned over a period of a couple of hundred years. Individuals could be, and were, arrested for not honoring the Christian sabbath.
Over that same period of time there has never been a law forcing a Christian to violate the sabbath. While there were times that amusement on Sunday was banned by force of law there was never a time when Christians were dragged, kicking and screaming, into movie theaters, baseball games or out to the golf course.
Businesses have been forbidden to conduct their affairs on the sabbath in state after state. Never has a church been forced to close on Sunday. In fact you’d be hard pressed to find any restrictions on when Christians may worship. Some of the extreme sects are constantly in church. They meeting after meeting at their sanctuary and for the most part are entirely left to their own devices. A favor they have rarely returned to others around them.
If we look at how Christians today are acting they are the leading opponents to equal marriage rights for gay couples. You don’t have to go back very far and you’ll find that large numbers of Christians were opposing the right of cross-racial marriage as well. The fundamentalist states were the ones most likely to make it illegal for interracial couples to marry.
Never in the history of this country has there been a campaign to deny Christians the legal sanction of marriage. It just hasn’t happened.
Christians in America today have led campaigns to forbid, by force of law, any private company from giving health insurance to the partners of gay employees. Not only have they pushed such laws, but they passed them as well. Such laws are currently on the books in various states. No one has ever tried to deny Christians health benefits merely because they are Christians.
Around the country there are thousands of Christian radio stations and television stations. They preach their gospel 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. They have been given billions of dollars worth of air waves by the federal government to use as they wish. You can find such programs that bash people for being gay, for being Mormon, for being Catholic, for being secular humanists, etc. Their right to preach this material is enshrined by the First Amendment. And there has never been a concerted effort, of any import, to ban such material from the airwaves.
On the other hand, shows that offend Christians can be fined millions of the dollars by the Federal Communications Commission. Say “fuck” on television or the radio and the Christianists in the federal government will penalize the station that airs the word. Just witness the hysteria when Janet Jackson showed a little boob -- no nipple by the way, just some boob.
America has had a secular school system for a very long time. In addition there are tens of thousands of Christian schools that are, for the most part, left to their own teachings. There has been no campaign, that I know of, of any substance, to force Christian schools to teach evolution. But for decades this country had laws on the books in various states forbidding the teaching of evolution in the secular schools. And there have been numerous well-known efforts by fundamentalists to force their creationists theories onto the public schools.
Never, in this history of America, has there been an attempt to use tax moneys, tax-funded property or the powers of government to force individuals to deny the existence of the Christian deity.
On the other hand there have been millions of instances, literally millions, where non-Christians were required to acknowledge the Christian god either through mandatory prayer (in the past) in state schools, the pledge of allegiance, etc. No piece of government property has ever been used to promote images that deny the existence of a deity. Yet countless times Christians have used tax-funded property to set up their crosses, their Ten Commandments, or their statues. There has never been a public school that had students recite a pledge denying the existence of god. No teacher has ever led his students in a moment of god denial.
Now I can think of times where religious folk in America were persecuted. The Quakers were badly done by in colonial America, as was Roger Williams and other ministers. But the persecution in most those cases were done by the Calvinists, or by fundamentalist Christians. Certainly Catholic immigrants had a hard time and Catholic schools were often harassed by the state. Much of public education got its start as a campaign to inculcate Catholics with non-Catholic ideas. But the perpetrators of those campaigns were Protestants not secularists.
Mormons were badly treated in Ohio, Illinois and Missouri, forcing them to flee to Utah. But the people doing the persecution were other Christians. Then the Mormons retaliated by killing a lot of Christians at Mountain Meadows massacre. Jehovah’s Witnesses were treated terribly badly during World War I as were the pacifistic sects of Christians. But once again it was other Christians who led those campaigns.
I’m not saying that non-believers in the United States can’t be unpleasant and nasty or even intolerant. No doubt some can be. But such people have never led any campaigns of note to strip Christians of the same freedoms and rights that others enjoy. One simply can’t say the same for Christians.