TO THE EDITOR:
In response to “Being a Christian in an increasingly atheist society.”
The secular state is a necessary component of any meaningful idea of religious freedom. Just as orthodox Jews cannot enforce the multitude of laws found in the Torah and Muslims cannot impose Sharia law, Christians cannot establish their religious principles as governmental policy. Secularism means that the government is neutral in religious matters, that people are allowed to freely practice their religion, or lack thereof, without fear of persecution and is enshrined into the U.S. Constitution by the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
Grace Moody believes that Christians feel stigmatized in our society. While the author is perfectly entitled to believe whatever she wishes, we skeptics in the Secular Students of Miami are accustomed to asking for evidence, that is, after all, our raison d’etre. So, what sort of evidence can we find to examine this contention?
Unfortunately, we do not have the power to read the minds of individual Christians and determine just how stigmatized they feel relative to individual atheists. What we can do, however, is examine objective data to see if Christianity is in fact stigmatized in our society. The easiest way to do this is to examine how the public feels about various religious groups relative to each other.
A study by the Pew Research Center discovered while atheists and Muslims are viewed negatively, Catholics, Jews and Evangelical Christians are viewed positively. That should, in principle, settle the question.
Furthermore, considering that Christians form an absolute majority of the U.S. population and atheists, agnostics and so forth less than a quarter of it (using the author’s own numbers) and the fact that Christian religious ideas have been codified into law in the U.S. — the obvious example being the only recently overturned bans on same-sex marriage — it is safe to say that Christianity is not only not stigmatized, but that it is hegemonic among religious groupings in this country.
So, why does the author feel stigmatized? The answer is chilling. The article suggests that the legalization of same-sex marriage, increased visibility for transgender and non-binary individuals, increased access to sex education and support for the legalization of marijuana present challenges to living as a Christian in today’s society. In other words, the author’s central claim is that Christianity being compelled to loosen its grip and give other religious groups a chance to breathe is equivalent to the marginalization of Christianity.
Christianity is not being threatened, it is not being stigmatized, it is merely being compelled to stop stigmatizing and threatening others.
Members of the GLBTQ community, on the other hand, are still terribly oppressed. They suffer from immense discrimination and disproportionate rates of homelessness, sexual assault and violence. In most states, a person can still be fired or evicted for their sexual orientation.
Yet things are not as bad as they once were. A new sense of vitality has appeared. Activists can feel the strong winds of history at their backs. hardline Christians feel this wind to. They instinctively sense themselves to be on the losing side of history, they feel their power slipping away. When the hegemony feels stigmatized, it is because its hegemony is coming to an end and equality is, at long last, knocking at the door.
Naturally, we invite the author to attend any of the SSM meetings at 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays to discuss these issues in person.
Secular Students of Miami Executive Board