Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Reality oppression

Last Saturday, I wrote about the hypocrisy of far right christianists whining about being “victims”, when they’re absolutely not. Instead, they’re actually indifferent to—or enabling of—real oppression against people they don’t like (women, racial minorities, gay people).

There are two strains to their PR campaign. The first is that those evil homosexual “fascists” are oppressing the poor, beleaguered “Christians”. That’s basically what I was talking about in my earlier post. The second is more subtle: Simply ignoring their oppression of others.

A christianist uproar is providing an example of this second strain. In Olympia, Washington, a multi-faceted religious display in the state capital building includes a sign from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which says: “At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

I’ll be honest: I don’t like the way atheist activists often go out of their way to be provocative and confrontational. I think it’s counter-productive, though I know that they’re trying to spark debate by being jarring. While I think the last sentence is arguably true, it seems to me it was unnecessary for that particular sign. Quibbles over tactics and wording aside, how is what they say any less valid than promotion of the Christian story? Or Hanukkah?

Naturally, extremist christianists don’t see things that way. They say it’s offensive to “people of all faiths” (who they always claim to speak for), ignoring the fact that many of their own activities are offensive to “people of all faiths” and atheists alike. In fact, the vitriol they direct at people who don’t share their religious views can be downright shocking, not just offensive.

As I often say, freedom of religion means nothing without freedom from religion, and no government has any business giving official endorsement to any one religion. Extremist christianists want Christianity—or, more precisely, fundamentalist Christianity—to be the only religious viewpoint allowed, and further, that those rejecting religion must never be allowed to express that viewpoint.

Well, I have a news flash for the far-right christianists: Freedom of religion and freedom of speech don’t give you freedom from being offended. In a truly free society, all of us will be offended by something someone says somewhere while exercising their freedoms. My argument isn’t with right-wing christianists’ beliefs, even though I clearly disagree with them on pretty much everything. Rather, I object to their demand that their beliefs be the only ones permitted. Similarly, even though I may quibble about atheist activists’ tactics, I believe they absolutely have the right to state their beliefs and if a state capital is having religious displays, then they have every right to have theirs included.

It’s not “Christian-bashing” to criticise christianist activists or beliefs—notice how they don’t consider their attacks on atheists “atheist-bashing”? They have no right to avoid being offended—they certainly don’t worry about offending people who don’t agree with them. And, just because they don’t like criticism and are offended, that doesn’t give them the right to suppress opposing beliefs.

Given all that, they’re not being oppressed, but merely experiencing life in a free society. Also, their being the majority in America means by definition that they can’t be victims when they hold the power, and their dishonest claim is highly offensive to people who really are victimised because of their race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

Christians—real ones, as well as far-right activists—often use the phrase “the reason for the season” when talking about this time of year. Just for once, I wish it could also be the “season of reason”. Sadly, that’s one bit of peace on earth I don’t expect to see, not when there are so many points to be scored. Still, this is also called the season of hope—isn’t it?

Footnote: I found the above graphic at Joe.My.God, and have since seen it all over the Internet. Unfortunately, I have no idea where it comes from originally nor who created it, so I can’t give proper attribution. I’ll correct that omission if I find out who the author was. Update: I recreated the graphic, adding footnotes for the data sources.


d said...

"The reason for the season" bugs me. Mainly because the 'season' goes much further back than Christianity. The 'reason' is winter and the fact that much of the Northern Hemisphere 'dies' until Spring.

Jesus was most probably born in August (from things I've read), and by the way, dear oppressed Christians, he was Jewish. *sigh*

Roger Owen Green said...

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2008/12/09-1 Day w/out a Gay

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

D: Yeah, I'm actually with you on that. I prefer a totally secular holiday, truth be known.

Roger: I'm not so sure about the whole "Day Without A Gay" thing, but then it's easy for me to be more circumspect since I live outside the US now. Still, thanks for the link!