On Religious Privilege

“What about you? Do you want one?”

I turned to face the voice that had caught me off guard. I’d just finished my last class for the morning and was planning on getting lunch before heading to work, so my mind had been elsewhere.

“Uh, sure,” I replied, unsure what I was accepting.

“It’s a copy of God’s word!” he said and handed me a small New Testament booklet. I looked at the New Testament, not sure how to react. I honestly had no intention of keeping another bible around. The only Bible I’d saved when I deconverted was one I had bought for myself when I turned twelve with the money I’d made from working on my parent’s farm, and that was only because of the nostalgia surrounding it. Was I dishonest for taking the booklet just to be polite? Wasn’t I indirectly tricking him into paying for a Bible no one would ever read?

By the time I had any idea of what I should’ve done, I’d already walked halfway across the campus, depositing the New Testament in the first bin I passed by.

So why did I feel such an obligation to accept a book from a stranger? A simple “no thank-you” or “that’s okay, god doesn’t exist” would’ve both been acceptable responses to someone randomly offering Bibles. It certainly has a lot to do with the fact that I do my best in every situation to cause the least amount of conflict possible, but I think in these types of scenarios, it extends far beyond this.

Very often in America, Evangelical Christians feel a certain entitlement to be able to do whatever they want whenever they want in the name of their faith. No other religion should be taught to children anywhere, but the greatest tragedy in schools is that mandatory prayer was taken out. Their religion isn’t just a personal belief that dictates their private lives to these people. Instead, it’s a “get out of jail free” card they use to justify anti-science, anti-democracy, and other bigoted actions.

And yet, despite the detrimental effects that Christian Nationalism has had on our country and our democracy, we still feel that criticizing people for their religious beliefs is “going too far.” We feel the duty to protect religious liberty. Yet, when a secular parent complains about a school policy or teacher using their position of authority to try and convert students, we tend to think they’re overreacting.

Atheism will probably never be the majority opinion in America, at least not any time soon. But by allowing people to claim some right to have a seat at every table, we’ve enabled radical groups in America to seize not just power over science and democracy but also people of different faiths and belief sets. The only way we’ll ever get to a point where non-belief is normalized is for radical Christians to understand that if they want to be included at the table of democracy, they will have to share the floor with people who disagree with them.

2 thoughts on “On Religious Privilege

  1. I’ve tossed so many of those bibles. I figured i was giving them one less to pester someone with. I was being polite then. I tell them I don’t need their imaginary nonsense now. same with the JWs and Mormons who show up at my door.

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