Holy Knapsacks
May 31, 2009 9:50 PM   Subscribe

Christian Privilege: Breaking a Sacred Taboo discusses the dominance of Christianity in America, including a privilege checklist, and a longer standalone list was previously linked. More writing focuses on secular college campuses. In American jurisprudence, such as in the case of Sheri Klouda, fired as a language instructor from a Baptist seminary when a new president decided she should not be teaching men, religious freedom often supersedes other rights. Moving away from the specific case of Christianity, some articles from a British secularist viewpoint criticize the special consideration given to religious views and practices. When the last article was reprinted by Kolkata newspaper The Statesman, there were riots and the editor was arrested under a law against "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim (148 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
PDF warning on that first link.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:57 PM on May 31, 2009


Reaction to "secular college campuses"...

Bwahahaha!

A core tenant of Christianity is that it's faithful are justly and uniquely privileged, and indeed that this is the very purpose of the creation of the world.
posted by phrontist at 10:17 PM on May 31, 2009


Why are these privilege lists so often inflated with duplicates and irrationality? How does "I can have a 'Jesus is Lord' bumper sticker or Icthus (Christian Fish) on my car and not worry about someone vandalizing my car because of it." count separately from "I can openly display my religious symbol(s) on my person or property without fear of disapproval, violence, and/or vandalism."?

I'm no fan of Christianity, but how I do loathe dumb arguments about privilege. Take this one "It is likely that I can find items to buy that represent my religious norms and holidays with relative ease (e.g., food, decorations, greeting cards, etc.)." Well, hell, of course it makes complete sense for every merchant in the world to have equal shelf space for every religion known to the planet. We all have infinite expanding shelves and a warehouse.

Similarly, "If I wish to give my children a parochial religious education, I probably have a variety of options nearby." would imply that the sensible thing to do is for Asatru School for the Mighty-Thewed to emerge from the bare rock in a town of ten thousand.

"I can worry about religious privilege without being perceived as 'self-interested' or 'self-seeking.'" I don't even know what this means.

Christianity has an overwhelming influence in the US, sure, but that list is not a spectacularly insightful way to represent that.
posted by adipocere at 10:20 PM on May 31, 2009 [10 favorites]


This is a big topic I haven't seen to much on metafilter. I hope to see some insightful conversation here. :)

I hope folks are not afraid to speak out about this topic.
posted by Chorian at 10:24 PM on May 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


More special treatment from the state, in this case, Ireland.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:37 PM on May 31, 2009


A core tenant of Christianity is that it's faithful are justly and uniquely privileged, and indeed that this is the very purpose of the creation of the world.

Which is why Jesus kept saying things like:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.

Luke 6:20-26.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:42 PM on May 31, 2009 [18 favorites]


"I can worry about religious privilege without being perceived as 'self-interested' or 'self-seeking.'" I don't even know what this means.

It's harder to claim that someone criticizing their own privilege is seeking advantages for themselves or their group.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:46 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I can worry about religious privilege without being perceived as 'self-interested' or 'self-seeking.'" I don't even know what this means.
It means that if a Christian person notes that Christians have certain privileges in American society, nobody is going to say that the Christian person is just whining or looking for special treatment. If Joe Christian says "hey, Christians don't have to take a personal day if they don't want to work on Christmas, because the whole office closes down that day. I think that members of other religions should also get their religious holidays off without having to take a personal day," nobody will accuse Joe of being self-serving. Whereas if Jane Jew says the same thing, people will accuse her of wanting special treatment.
posted by craichead at 10:51 PM on May 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


Child Sacrifice in Oregon. If you can convince the court that you killed someone for superstitious reasons, your penalty will be less or there will be no penalty in Oregon. I say superstitious to keep it inclusive, but so far only Christians have taken advantage of these laws.
posted by eccnineten at 10:53 PM on May 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's harder to claim that someone criticizing their own privilege is seeking advantages for themselves or their group.

Ah, but their group is actually the "sensitive-rebelling-multiculturalists-that-don't-like-the-default-cultural-majority-group-they-happened-to-have-been-born-in."
posted by codswallop at 10:54 PM on May 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


That privilege checklist applies to pretty much any religion that is the dominant religion in a given country, e.g. Islam in just about any Islam-dominated country, Hinduism in India, Christianity in any country in Europe etc.

What was the point of that list again?
posted by sour cream at 10:55 PM on May 31, 2009


That privilege checklist applies to pretty much any religion that is the dominant religion in a given country, e.g. Islam in just about any Islam-dominated country, Hinduism in India, Christianity in any country in Europe etc.
Yeah, exactly.

I'm confused about why this is so confusing.
posted by craichead at 10:58 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


A core tenant of Christianity is that it's faithful are justly and uniquely privileged, and indeed that this is the very purpose of the creation of the world.

Source, please? Because it is not true in any of the multiple versions of Christianity I was subjected to as a child. Many of them, in fact, revelled in their "persecution."
posted by small_ruminant at 11:01 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think, small_ruminant, is that the persecution comes because of the specialness.

In my parents' church they used 1 Peter 2:9 as the important verse.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.


I suppose that the verse is supposed to engender some sort of humility about such a lofty obligation, but everyone at their church seemed to make it out to be about how much more fabulous they were than everyone else. It is the 'people are mean to you because they're just jealous' school of thought.
posted by winna at 11:26 PM on May 31, 2009


But did they feel the world was created becaues of their specialness? I seem to remember: Heaven, yes. World, no.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:32 PM on May 31, 2009


How does "I can have a 'Jesus is Lord' bumper sticker or Icthus (Christian Fish) on my car and not worry about someone vandalizing my car because of it." count separately from "I can openly display my religious symbol(s) on my person or property without fear of disapproval, violence, and/or vandalism."?

I agree that the questions as worded contain much overlap, but I see the issue of display of symbol on property as entirely separate from wearing it on one's person. A bumper sticker still carries some measure of anonymity with it for the driver, and also a car is easier to casually trash with no hostile witnesses when in a parking lot. A t-shirt or religious emblem or other worn on one's person requires a more immediate ownership of the display, as well as a lot more juevos on behalf of potential naysayers or attackers.
posted by hippybear at 11:37 PM on May 31, 2009


Ah, no not in my memory.
posted by winna at 11:37 PM on May 31, 2009


The point of having lots of examples is to demonstrate both broad sweeping themes and instantiations of those themes. You're more likely to hit something with a shotgun than a hunting rifle.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:43 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to me that my atheism is usually assumed to refer specifically to a Christian God, when it applies equally to polytheism, pantheism, or non-Christian monotheism.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:44 PM on May 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


These privileges lists are idiotic. They reduce to "you are advantaged because you are not disadvantaged." It amounts to a strange form of social double-counting.

Furthermore, they assume that the particular shibboleth in question is all that matters. Is a poor white person more privileged than a rich black person? Of course,we are never told this, because once you do so, you quickly realize that the computation of privilege becomes endlessly personalized an idiosyncratic. What if you are an overweight, balding, introverted, short person with small genitals, mommy issues, a middle child, and white? What are the discounting factors for each of those characteristics?

And the case against religion is particularly noxious. Yes, Christianity has a unique position in the religious hierarchy of America. That does not mean Christians are privileged. It means that cultural progress is path dependent. The "American work ethic" that built the nation's industrial and economic might is the politically correct phrasing of the "Protestant work ethic," which is what it was originally called. Understanding this is to understand why the civil rights movement was led by ministers and preachers, rather than by lawyers or politicians.

But it also means that Christianity is a target more often than other religions. The current atheism arguments are almost always framed against Christianity, not Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, or Buddhism. This reflects a tremendous amount of religious ignorance as well, as the debates tend to focus on the teachings of the Old Testament (genesis, etc), which are far more important in judaism than they are in christianity. Furthermore, attacks on religion generally are framed as attacks on christianity.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:52 PM on May 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


Furthermore, they assume that the particular shibboleth in question is all that matters. Is a poor white person more privileged than a rich black person?

This is a question that has been answered repeatedly on Metafilter, by myself and by several other people, and goddammit it's annoying to see the same people ask it over and over as if it's not been answered; it's like the creationists who still make the same long-discredited arguments from a hundred years ago. Shit, let me quote myself, because I don't feel like reformulating:
Something I'm seeing in this thread is the idea that privilege is unitary or fungible; that because a particular white person lacks a particular privilege, they must not have any privilege, or that because a particular nonwhite person has a particular privilege, they must not be suffering from a society in which whites are privileged.

There are many privileges. White privilege, class privilege, heterosexual privilege, ablebodied privilege... it goes on. "[x] privilege" is the set of unearned advantages that you get just for being part of set [x]. Just because you're poor doesn't mean that you don't get white privilege. The "well my parents had to work therefore white privilege isn't real" line of bullshit is obnoxious.
That does not mean Christians are privileged. It means that cultural progress is path dependent. The "American work ethic" that built the nation's industrial and economic might is the politically correct phrasing of the "Protestant work ethic," which is what it was originally called. Understanding this is to understand why the civil rights movement was led by ministers and preachers, rather than by lawyers or politicians.

Actually, there were thousands of lawyers and politicians involved who worked very hard for it; that the pastors were held up as the leaders of the movement doesn't mean that they were the only ones doing anything. And this paragraph is incredibly offensive, as you're basically claiming that hard work is something particular to Protestant Christianity. You are displaying an immense ignorance here.

But it also means that Christianity is a target more often than other religions. The current atheism arguments are almost always framed against Christianity, not Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, or Buddhism.

You don't know what you're talking about. The current arguments for atheism that you're being exposed to are primarily originating from English-speaking countries where Christianity is absolutely dominant among faiths. It is natural, then, that arguments against religion address religion as people live and believe it, rather than restraining themselves to speaking against abstract ideals of religion.

The really fucking ignorant thing is that there are movements against religion in cultures all across the globe; just because you don't personally hear about the books and arguments that are current on the topic in, say, India doesn't mean that those are being made against Christianity also.

You don't know what the fuck you're talking about and you would do well to sit quietly until you do.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:03 AM on June 1, 2009 [39 favorites]


"It is natural, then, that arguments against religion address religion as people live and believe it, rather than restraining themselves to speaking against abstract ideals of religion."

Strike the "it is natural, then, that" part and I agree whole-heartedly.
posted by klarck at 12:33 AM on June 1, 2009


24. I can be fairly sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge,” I will
be facing a person of my religion.


I'm confused. I thought the Jews ran everything.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:02 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Strike the "it is natural, then, that" part and I agree whole-heartedly.

I would also note that the religious, when confronted with argumentation, will switch between "Well, my religion isn't like that!" and "Well, religion as a whole is..." at the drop of a hat, depending on which frame of reference- either specificity or vague abstraction- is more useful.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:09 AM on June 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


Help, help! I'm being oppressed!
posted by moonbiter at 1:57 AM on June 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


This reflects a tremendous amount of religious ignorance as well, as the debates tend to focus on the teachings of the Old Testament (genesis, etc), which are far more important in judaism than they are in christianity.

Yes, but that's largely because it's probably more difficult to impose false conservative morality using evidence from the New Testament only. The first five books of to Bible are filled with rules and regulations, strict policies, and clearly lay out what is and isn't allowes. Jesus, on the other hand, was some kind of goddam hippie.

The people who still think the "Old Testament" -- but don't let any Jew hear you call it that -- is a big deal aren't generally interested in making the laws in the Bible into political policy. As a result, while evangelicals piss and moan about premarital sex, which as far as I know is never criticized in the New Testament, or homosexuality, or anything else that is "Biblical" but not mentioned in any of Jesus' teachings, no Orthodox Jew is going to be fuming that linen/wool blends are readily available, that people drive cars on Saturdays, or that meat is available as a topping in nearly every pizza parlour in the US.

I don't think religion is the problem, and I don't think we need another "religious people are like this, atheist people are like that" debate. Obviously there are different perspectives here, and the topic in this thread should at least make a weak attempt to address Christian privilege.

I think it is real and it's meaningful to talk about it in the context of the West as well as the rest of the world also. A majority of the world's most powerful countries are Christian, and this religion probably informs, to some extent, their behavior and attitudes. More importantly, though, like "whiteness", Christianity is just one of those things that is taken for granted in so many contexts that you don't even see that it's there, which is the whole point of "privilege". Privilege does not always a "good" thing to be real. I am white and non-poor, and if I were to walk around in a mostly black, poor neighborhood, I'd probably stick out like a sore thumb and, depending on the neighborhood, I might wish, for just that period of time, to be black, or raised poor, or maybe both. Does that dissolve my class privilege or my white privilege?

Yeah, I realize the text of my post pretty much mirrors what Pope Guilty was saying above.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:25 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah, but privilege lists are ever Metafilter's rosary.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:21 AM on June 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


I would also note that the religious, when confronted with argumentation, will switch between "Well, my religion isn't like that!" and "Well, religion as a whole is..." at the drop of a hat, depending on which frame of reference- either specificity or vague abstraction- is more useful.

Not to mention "No True Scotsman". For instance, the murderer of George Tiller is already being called "not a Christian" even on the front page of DailyKos. (Fortunately there's another post calling them out on that.)
posted by DU at 4:29 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Actually, there were thousands of lawyers and politicians involved who worked very hard for it; that the pastors were held up as the leaders of the movement doesn't mean that they were the only ones doing anything. And this paragraph is incredibly offensive, as you're basically claiming that hard work is something particular to Protestant Christianity. You are displaying an immense ignorance here.

As someone who has lived on both sides of the pond, as well as in Quebec I think you are quite wrong in your dismissal of the impact of protestantism and are perhaps letting your atheism blind you to hugely obvious social cultural trends. There is no bigotry in pointing out the incredible power that the Protestant work ethic had, and still has, in North America even among non-Protestants. Spend some time in Europe and notice which countries had and still have strong work ethics. Spend some time in Ontario and Quebec and notice the difference. Pastabagal may be wrong about why it was ministers who were viewed as the civil rights leaders (I suspect it had more to do with religion being the only real route for intellectual black leadership at that time rather than work ethic) but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Protestantism/Purutianism is probably the single largest driver of the social differences between the New World and the Old Country.

I say this as a French Canadian who was a christened Catholic but quickly became an atheist and who has every possible motivation for disliking religion in general, and puritanical protestantism in particular. I'm no fan of religion but I have to admit I really tend to miss the Protestent/Puritan work ethic when it comes time to get my ceiling fixed or plumbing repaired.

You don't have to be a Protestent/Puritan to work hard but it does help increase the likelihood if you are raised in a culture that has absorbed those values.
posted by srboisvert at 4:48 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to me that my atheism is usually assumed to refer specifically to a Christian God, when it applies equally to polytheism, pantheism, or non-Christian monotheism.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:44 AM on June 1


Interestingly, according to _A History of God_, early Christians were accused of being atheists because they denied the existence of all the other gods everybody was worshipping.
posted by Comrade_robot at 4:53 AM on June 1, 2009


The "American work ethic" that built the nation's industrial and economic might is the politically correct phrasing of the "Protestant work ethic," which is what it was originally called.

No, it was the "Puritan work ethic". Protestants believe that works are irrelevant.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:17 AM on June 1, 2009


What if you are an overweight, balding, introverted, short person with small genitals, mommy issues, a middle child, and white?

Hey, no need to get personal, Pastabagel.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:19 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those ethical Protestants really got a around, to get so much empire-building work done in ancient China, not to mention Greece and early Rome.
posted by DU at 5:23 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't know much about core tenants and all, but I do hear the Catholic Church is still the biggest landlord in New York City.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:25 AM on June 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


I can be fairly sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my religion.

You know, I'm willing to bet that most of the people killed in ethnic cleansing in Iraq could say this very thing.

In fact, I'd say the odds are about even that I would be facing a person who, in 1630, I'd be trying to put to the sword for religious reasons.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:29 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Really?

Religion = hard working? Is that line of argument really being made?

Some religions were associated with hard work because that was what the church advocated at the time. Similarly, our western conceptions of capitalism also promote the work-work-work lifestyle. Those two worlds have long collided and to attribute a person's work ethic solely to their religious background is seriously delusional.
posted by Grimble at 5:33 AM on June 1, 2009


It must be good for Mennonites to know they're privileged, and that all of the bullet-items on the checklist apply to them, being Christian and all. Roman Catholics in rural Kansas can go out to the local luncheonette on Friday afternoon, and know there's a few fish or vegetarian items on offer, because hey, it's their privilege, and on the list.

This is pure baloney.

The largest and/or wealthiest cultural group has the privilege that their numbers and money give them, and this is true in every society that's even just a little bit heterogeneous. Don't get me wrong, it's good to remind ourselves of this... but implying that it's a christian problem, or a whiteness problem, is stupid. It's a human problem.

"Naming Names" like this doesn't work, because you'll spend a few hours wheedling out exceptions, and then it becomes, "Methodist and Episcopalian and Lutheran (except Missouri Synod) Privilege Most Places, and Baptist and Pentocostal and Lutheran (except ECLA) Privilege Other Places" by which point the list has to be re-written again.

It's a problem of culture, not of faith.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:36 AM on June 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Roman Catholics in rural Kansas can go out to the local luncheonette on Friday afternoon, and know there's a few fish or vegetarian items on offer, because hey, it's their privilege, and on the list.

Nice switcheroo. First you want to say that Catholics and Protestants are the same thing, so you can predict that the Catholics would have the knapsack in a Protestant area. Then you pull the rug out and point out that they are missing items from their knapsack, because the surrounding dominant religion considers Catholics to be "other".
posted by DU at 5:49 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Puritan work ethic came about because they believed that worldly success was evidence that a person was predestined for Heaven. So they worked their asses off to look like they were saved.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 5:52 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Catholics have their own cultural tradition... as do Protestants, which is why I brought up the Mennonites. Despite being christian by any definition of the term you care to use, they are not able to claim all, or even most, of those items on the list.

Using "christian" as a catch-all for this sort of cultural examination is an intellectual lazy exercise that produces much heat, but little light.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:55 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, it was the "Puritan work ethic". Protestants believe that works are irrelevant.

It was indeed "Protestant" in one very influential early formulation of the idea.

(You're right that most Protestants believe in salvation through grace alone. But Weber's talking less about theology and more about psychology. The idea was that Calvinism led to a lot of anxiety precisely because it took your salvation out of your hands and left it entirely in God's. People tried to soothe that anxiety and reassure themselves that they were among the elect by acting like they imagined the elect would act — which meant lots of hard work and no greed or luxury. All those anxious Calvinists, busting their asses working and not spending the proceeds on themselves, suddenly had a lot of money to invest — and hey, presto, Capitalism.

That's the idea, anyway. Might be right, might be wrong, but one way or another it's why we're left with the phrase "Protestant work ethic," theologically odd though it may strike you.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:59 AM on June 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


I should add, too, that the connection Weber draws between Protestantism and Capitalism is a historical accident and not a necessary truth. The idea was not that all and only Protestants were hardworking. That's total, obvious bullshit.

Rather, the idea was that in one particular place and time, circumstances conspired to drive a particular group of Protestants to work hard in a way that had big historical consequences. No doubt, there's an alternate universe where it went down differently and we're all arguing about the economic consequences of the Asatru Pillaging Ethic instead.

Kidding. Mostly.

posted by nebulawindphone at 6:04 AM on June 1, 2009


Using "christian" as a catch-all for this sort of cultural examination is an intellectual lazy exercise that produces much heat, but little light.

So you agree with the substance of the claim but you don't like the name that some give it? What was that about heat vs light?
posted by DU at 6:09 AM on June 1, 2009


No doubt, there's an alternate universe where it went down differently and we're all arguing about the economic consequences of the Asatru Pillaging Ethic instead.

You consider Congressional Hearings to be an alternate universe?
posted by srboisvert at 6:11 AM on June 1, 2009


I'm not certain what it is you have me agreeing with. Set up straw men, much?
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:28 AM on June 1, 2009


Questions for everyone who thinks the notion of religious privilege is hogwash: Where do you live? Is it very dark there?
posted by shakespeherian at 6:33 AM on June 1, 2009


Anyone who gives any credence to knapsack lists is a failure looking for excuses. There, I said it.

This is an issue of power and cultural influence, not of "privileges". People who whine about intangible privileges are envious. I do not want the the useless benefits of belonging to the dominant religion, I want the religion's influence destroyed.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 6:33 AM on June 1, 2009


Despite being christian by any definition of the term you care to use, they are not able to claim all, or even most, of those items on the list.

I took this "claim" to be in the sense of "ownership" rather than "say". Meaning "they are not able to put those items into their knapsack, which I acknowledge they own".

Despite being christian by any definition of the term you care to use, they are not able to claim all, or even most, of those items on the list.

In any case, it's pretty disingenuous to impose your categorizations onto the knapsack evaluations of others. Yes, bigotry is nonsensical. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
posted by DU at 6:38 AM on June 1, 2009


Attention academic theorists: if you want me to take you seriously, avoid using the term "knapsack" over and over, because all I can think about is what a funny word that is.

Knapsack.

Knapsack.

Knapsack.

Seriously, even "manpurse" would be better.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:48 AM on June 1, 2009


This is an issue of power and cultural influence, not of "privileges".

it's worse than that - it's an appeal to envy and divisiveness, as are the other lists - and in the case of christianity, it's a peculiar kind of "privilege" that offers itself to all people who want it, isn't it?

it can't be a privilege if anyone can have it
posted by pyramid termite at 6:49 AM on June 1, 2009


As far as I'm concernse, Christianity equates with Terorrism.

Every terrorist we have walking around in this country is a christian who is willing to kill for christ. How fucking sick is this? Very fucking sick indeed.

Christianity officially makes me sick.
posted by Tena at 7:02 AM on June 1, 2009


it's a peculiar kind of "privilege" that offers itself to all people who want it, isn't it?

it can't be a privilege if anyone can have it


So, if you moved to Saudi Arabia where Muslim privilege dominates or back in time to Soviet Russia with the state atheism, you'd drop Christianity?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:08 AM on June 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


it can't be a privilege if anyone can have it

Straight privilege also doesn't exist because you can just stay in the closet.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:10 AM on June 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


If a senior in high school turned this paper in to me I would grade it a C. However Dr. Schlosser is far beyond that education level. Sad.
posted by caddis at 7:12 AM on June 1, 2009


if comparing the united states to an oppressive theocracy and a totalitarian state while calling me an asshole are the best arguments you can come up with, that really says something about the irrationality and weakness of the cant that passes for anti-religious thought here

Straight privilege also doesn't exist because you can just stay in the closet.

being gay is not a choice, being a follower of a religion is

try again
posted by pyramid termite at 7:18 AM on June 1, 2009


being gay is not a choice, being a follower of a religion is

I keep forgetting that I have a higher opinion of what religion is than most religious people do.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:21 AM on June 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


by the way, what kind of alternate universe is this where a person with a jesus fish on their car doesn't have to worry about vandalism?
posted by pyramid termite at 7:21 AM on June 1, 2009


So you're saying that if people don't like Christianity's dominance in US culture, those people should become Christians?

Do you see why that proposal is really dumb?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:22 AM on June 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


if comparing the united states to an oppressive theocracy and a totalitarian state

The politics of Saudi Arabia or the USSR is a red herring. The question is about the dominant religion of the area. Would you convert to Judaism in Israel? Greek Orthodoxy in parts of Europe? Hinduism in India?
posted by DU at 7:25 AM on June 1, 2009


I keep forgetting that I have a higher opinion of what religion is than most religious people do.

are you claiming that it is only an opinion that people can choose their religion? - if you don't believe they can, why do you despise them for something they have no choice in? - if you believe they can, why are you labeling a fact as mere opinion?

do you ever think about what you're saying?
posted by pyramid termite at 7:25 AM on June 1, 2009


MY KNAPSACK: I HAZ HAMR AN NAILZ IN IT
posted by Decimask at 7:27 AM on June 1, 2009


do you ever think about what you're saying?

I think what he's saying is that the implication of your argument is that if you don't like how society treats your worldview, you should just switch your worldview.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:28 AM on June 1, 2009


The politics of Saudi Arabia or the USSR is a red herring.

exactly my point - we're not discussing political oppression and the only cool tim was comparing apples to oranges

---

So you're saying that if people don't like Christianity's dominance in US culture, those people should become Christians?

i'm saying they shouldn't indulge their self-pity and envy by calling it a "privilege" when after all, it's something they can have too

at the least they can realize the futility of getting the culture to change for them
posted by pyramid termite at 7:33 AM on June 1, 2009


exactly my point - we're not discussing political oppression and the only cool tim was comparing apples to oranges

IHBT
posted by DU at 7:35 AM on June 1, 2009


Your honour, we submit that in the current matter the defendant's Jesus privilege is fatally compromised by our client's Buddha advantage, and, notwithstanding the other side's appeal to Mohammad rights, our client's Vishnu permission and Jehovah immunity clearly establish that an Odin benefit is due. In the alternate, the defendant's Zeus obligation merely complicates his Horus detriment and leaves his position open to some kind of Ahura Mazda disability.

My client also has a sonic boom attack and a hundred-hand slap, and may it please the court to check that fucking shit out sometime.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:35 AM on June 1, 2009


I think what he's saying is that the implication of your argument is that if you don't like how society treats your worldview, you should just switch your worldview.

or you can accept that you're going to be at odds with what others think and look for those who are like-minded

looking through the offerings on network tv and what's playing at the movie houses and playing on the radio, i really wonder if this culture is as christian as people are claiming it is

---

IHBT

your inability to tell political oppression from cultural dominance does not mean i have been trolling you

this is a hopeless conversation
posted by pyramid termite at 7:42 AM on June 1, 2009


9. I do not need to worry about the ramifications of disclosing my religious identity to others.

... except on the internet!
posted by symbollocks at 8:10 AM on June 1, 2009


...you guys...you can just....fake being a christian...gay ppeople....can pretend to be straight....women...can dress up as men....black people....could pretend to be white....i guess those last two are pretty hard....lol.....

OH NO I RAN OUT OF ELLIPSES AND LOWER CASE LETTERS
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:14 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


or you can accept that you're going to be at odds with what others think and look for those who are like-minded

Okay, let's back up a tick. I think maybe you've just missed what this conversation is about: This conversation is about the fact that, because of Christian hegemony in western culture (and Muslim hegemony in Arab culture, etc), members of that hegemony have certain taken-for-granted expectations of their day-to-day lives that are, in fact, results of that hegemony. This is not necessarily a 'bad' thing, but it is a thing: Because I am a Christian in a country that is predominantly Christian, I can mention my religious observations without people scratching their heads and going 'What?' or chuckling because it's not a 'real' holiday. The purpose of discussing this is that cultural assumptions always represent ignorance, and diminishing one's ignorance is good. The more that members of a hegemony become aware of their assumptions, and the exceptions to those assumptions, the more tolerant, intelligent, and careful they will be (in theory). It is these assumptions and expectations that are being referred to as 'privilege' in this conversation: you should not interpret the use of this term to be a complaint, but rather a description.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:24 AM on June 1, 2009 [11 favorites]


Even better than invisible manpurse is invisible fannypack. Haha fanny! What a great word.
posted by Mister_A at 8:27 AM on June 1, 2009


Crom laughs at you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:29 AM on June 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


The question is about the dominant religion of the area. Would you convert to Judaism in Israel? Greek Orthodoxy in parts of Europe? Hinduism in India?

As an atheist, this is kind of an interesting question. Part of me finds it surprising that anyone wouldn't. I mean, if you know you're going to be disadvantaged as a result of a religious choice, why do it? People change religions all the time; it's not even slightly comparable to skin color or sexual orientation / identification. Even if you don't actually convert in any meaningful sense, there's something to be said for nodding and smiling along with the locals, at least enough so that they don't see you as a threat and decide to marginalize or kill you.

Of course, I'm not saying that such a situation is good. I'd much rather live in a purely secular society, where I don't have to nod along to anybody's batshit insanity. On a societal level I'd really like to work towards that, and drive religion out of the public sphere as thoroughly as possible, so that people are free to believe whatever they want or nothing at all. However, the individual case — what I think is actually advisable, as opposed to 'correct' in some sort of objective sense — is a different question.

I don't think it's inconsistent to believe in iron-hard secularism as a matter of social policy, but also understand that there are pragmatic considerations when living in a world where people will still shun you — or worse — for not paying homage to the right superstitions.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:38 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


This article is great!

As a Caucasian male in today’s society, I enjoy many invisible advantages (McIntosh, 1998).

It is well established that I have an extremely large penis, which I twirl with panache (Klienfurter, 2002). I am also extremly talented in the arts of sporkbending and silhoutte puppetry (Schnitzelfusser, 1999). In summer months my temperature drops by 3 degrees and I fart cooling breezes onto the blotchy faces of heatstroke victims (Thurp, 2003), who recover to press grateful pfennings into my bottom cleavage (Bisz, 1973).
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:54 AM on June 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


You don't know what the fuck you're talking about and you would do well to sit quietly until you do.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:03 AM on June 1


Whatever. I wrote a long diatribe and deleted it, because there's no point. The way you argue is poison. You chase everyone out of the room because no one wants to be insulted like this. So I'm going to ask the question of everyone else. Does anyone see any possible benefit from arguing with a person who writes like this?
posted by Pastabagel at 8:58 AM on June 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


Because I am a Christian in a country that is predominantly Christian, I can mention my religious observations without people scratching their heads and going 'What?' or chuckling because it's not a 'real' holiday.

Much is lost in generalizing this to the superset. You'd be hard pressed to find other Christian celebrants of Pioneer Day, for example. Holidays like Ash Wednesday are not observed universally nor with the same rites. And Jehovah's Witnesses are not even allowed birthdays - is this what it means to grow up at the top of a 'cultural hegemony?'
posted by kid ichorous at 9:00 AM on June 1, 2009


Does anyone see any possible benefit from arguing with a person who writes like this?

The very first thing you said was "These privileges lists are idiotic." Don't whine about being insulted when the very first thing you write is insulting.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:07 AM on June 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Pastabagel - the comment you're referring to has currently been favourited 21 times.

What do you think the consensus is?
posted by Grimble at 9:08 AM on June 1, 2009


As far as I'm concernse, Christianity equates with Terorrism.

Every terrorist we have walking around in this country is a christian who is willing to kill for christ. How fucking sick is this? Very fucking sick indeed.

Christianity officially makes me sick


Holy crap, Tena. I remember you from back in my Eschaton commenting days, and was really surprised to see this statement come from you. All I can say is that there are plenty of Christians out there like me, who are just as incensed about Dr. Tiller's assassination, and who do not see it as a Christian act in any way, shape or form.
posted by Biblio at 9:16 AM on June 1, 2009


The comment you're referring to has currently been favourited 21 times. What do you think the consensus is?

You may wish to investigate Digg. I hear they reach well into the thousands.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:21 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Biblio: "All I can say is that there are plenty of Christians out there like me, who are just as incensed about Dr. Tiller's assassination, and who do not see it as a Christian act in any way, shape or form."

Extremists can only exist with a moderate base to draw strength from.
posted by mullingitover at 9:32 AM on June 1, 2009


Much is lost in generalizing this to the superset. You'd be hard pressed to find other Christian celebrants of Pioneer Day, for example. Holidays like Ash Wednesday are not observed universally nor with the same rites. And Jehovah's Witnesses are not even allowed birthdays - is this what it means to grow up at the top of a 'cultural hegemony?'

Pointing out that particular sects of the dominant culture adhere to non-universal traditions does not undermine the fact of that dominant culture. As has been pointed out above, yes, there are groups of Christians that are culturally Other in the US (the Amish is a great example), but that does not mean that Christianity isn't the dominant mode. There are plenty of powerful black men in America-- hell, the president is black!-- but that does not mean that white culture has no dominance in American culture.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:34 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to me that my atheism is usually assumed to refer specifically to a Christian God, when it applies equally to polytheism, pantheism, or non-Christian monotheism.

“Everyone in Lake Wobegone was a Lutheran, even the atheists. It was a Lutheran God they did not believe in.” -- Garrison Keillor
posted by straight at 9:37 AM on June 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


yase teh buttsex lmao good sir u riasing teh discourse

copy & paste this 20 times and yuo will get ur 1 true wish....if u don't ull be herartbroken 4ever ;(
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:46 AM on June 1, 2009


Well, I wear a very prominent "Nuke a Gay Whale for Christ" button on my hat, and I've only received compliments for it:

http://www.stickergiant.com/nuke-a-whale_b0114.html

Of course, I do live in West Hollywood.

I also expect to receive compliments for it when I go on my across-the-south-in-a-car trip this summer - I'm hoping for the same audience that gets Colbert wrong, wrong, wrong.
posted by VikingSword at 9:55 AM on June 1, 2009


yase teh buttsex lmao good sir u riasing teh discourse

you don't have to try this hard to be stupid

i had a reply to another poster's much more intelligent comment ready, but there's no sense in trying to have a real discussion in this kind of atmosphere

pastabagel is right - this thread's been poisoned
posted by pyramid termite at 10:13 AM on June 1, 2009


being gay is not a choice, being a follower of a religion is

No, it really isn't. I can't choose to believe any more than I can choose to be black. Well, I suppose I could choose to identify with a religion while not believing any of its tenets, but then I'd just be a liar and a hypocrite. No, thanks.

You chase everyone out of the room because no one wants to be insulted like this.

Holy Christ, pot to kettle.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:14 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


As someone who has lived on both sides of the pond, as well as in Quebec I think you are quite wrong in your dismissal of the impact of protestantism and are perhaps letting your atheism blind you to hugely obvious social cultural trends. There is no bigotry in pointing out the incredible power that the Protestant work ethic had, and still has, in North America even among non-Protestants. Spend some time in Europe and notice which countries had and still have strong work ethics. Spend some time in Ontario and Quebec and notice the difference.

And just how do you determine which variables were responsible for any differences between f.ex. the economic success of one country vs another? Because we know that the vaunted Protestant Work Ethic could not be responsible for the work habits of the Japanese, now could they? Or South Korea. And if you prefer Europe, then take a country with exactly the same ethnic make up, exactly the same cultural and religious background, the same shared history for centuries - and cleave it in half. Give each half a different economic system - and presto, you have a thriving West Germany, and the economic basket case of East Germany. People work when they have an economic incentive - the "work ethic" follows quite naturally, without any religious magic. And from the other direction, a heavily Catholic country like Spain, or indeed Ireland, rocketed from poverty to riches in an amazingly short period of time, all due to a change in economic incentives (and Ireland is especially interesting because it's divided by religion, and the Catholic part is more successful economically than the Protestant). In other words, the grand Protestant Work Ethic as an explanation, which used to be popular in the propaganda of certain countries during their time of colonial expansion is pure bunk.
posted by VikingSword at 10:23 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


pastabagel is right - this thread's been poisoned
posted by pyramid termite at 10:13 AM on June 1


With Pastabagel saying "this is stupid" and Hovercraft eel saying, literally, "you're gay," I don't think you can blame me and PG for this one.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:27 AM on June 1, 2009


The very first thing you said was "These privileges lists are idiotic." Don't whine about being insulted when the very first thing you write is insulting.

Pastabagel has a point. The problem with these threads is not their quick decay so much as the starting conditions, which are now so rote I could produce their like by feeding a few bloggers to a Markov chain. These conversations are always held under the shadow of a List, a salad of specious little pronouncements from some internet being - Tim Wise, Racialicious, Biting fucking Beaver. They are always voiced in the first-person to aid us in donning their worldview, seating ourselves within their affect. They are always built with the canonical ad hominems that only certain classes can see privilege, and that to deny privilege is to have it. They are general laws that are somehow justified by anecdotal testimony, but not invalidated; this is the scientific method run in reverse. And though some are as thin as playing cards, the superstructure of privilege remains so airy and poorly-defined that no matter how many laws are knocked down, the thing must still stand. Think about that.

The harder sciences can tolerate thought experiments because they are harder, because the processes of mathematics are such that you might jump from the deep end and still find your way back: you must be well-defined, concise, and internally consistent; you must provide objective evidence, avoid rhetoric and anecdote. This does not seem to be the pattern here. Privilege lists are data with a methodology buried in someone's brain, data that allow review only to those who promise to fundamentally agree. Go back and read the Invisible Knapsack essay again, and question whether in any other field and context this sort of behavior would make you famous, or important, or a scientist - or a crank.

Pastabagel swiped at the logic, you took the foul. Do not be insulted. There's a reason why few except the true believers even attend these threads anymore, and it has more to do with the game than the players.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:30 AM on June 1, 2009 [8 favorites]


I don't think you can blame me and PG for this one

i sure can - your reply to me was half-brained parody and his was to call me an asshole

it's bad enough you've got to post such things, but don't lie about it

---

They are always built with the canonical ad hominems that only certain classes can see privilege, and that to deny privilege is to have it.

not to mention that privilege itself is a rhetorically loaded word - and that "christian" is a straw man that ignores the diversity of those identified as such
posted by pyramid termite at 10:42 AM on June 1, 2009


your reply to me was half-brained parody

Pretending to be an adherent of whatever the dominant religion is in a particular time and place is the half-brained part.

And if you actually believed what you're saying here, by the way, you'd pretend to be an atheist.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:52 AM on June 1, 2009


I don't like privilege lists. I think they are kind of scrappy and not that convincing, and immediately trigger the reaction of "this, this, that, and the other thing aren't true for me/my friends/anyone I know". Which proponents say is missing the point, but in this case I think they are missing the point, which is that privilege lists are tools for thinking and persuasion (which is great and valuable), but they aren't fulfilling that role if people immediately and naturally react with "huh? that doesn't ring true".

Also, they tend to smoosh together very different sorts of "privilege". There's the inverted "bad thing that happens to outgroup" (represented in this list by "I can be financially successful and not have people attribute that to the greed of my religious group."). I'm not a Christian, but I have that privilege. And if everyone overnight stopped stereotyping whatever religion they stereotype that way... I'd still have that privilege.

Then there's the "this group is a numerical majority". If you live in a majority Christian country run on roughly democratic principles, the odds are that your boss is a Christian, which if you're a Christian, gives you the "if I talk to the person in charge...." privilege. Short of changing society to be run by Atheist, Muslim, and Jewish overlords, this seems to be an unchangeable fact of statistics. And also, the point isn't that. The point is that, regardless of the colour/gender/religion of you and the boss, it should make no difference to the way you're treated. I'm not saying it isn't a problem, or indeed I guess an advantage. Just that the way it's phrased makes it seem like the very existence of numerical majority is the problem.

There are also things I agree with: "I can talk about my religion, even proselytize, and be characterized as 'sharing the word,' instead of imposing my ideas on others.". And we could add "terrorist attacks by my co-religionists will not make me afraid to go to work today".

I agree completely with the ideology behind the list, but I don't think it does what it intends to. If you're going to make someone uncomfortable and you still want them to take your message on, you need to use unimpeachable logic.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 10:52 AM on June 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


Pretending to be an adherent of whatever the dominant religion is in a particular time and place is the half-brained part.

i said nothing about pretending - quit projecting your dishonesty onto me
posted by pyramid termite at 10:56 AM on June 1, 2009


Extremists can only exist with a moderate base to draw strength from.

Well, I suppose that's technically true...but what to make of it? Does that mean there should be no moderates? That even though my denomination is pro-choice we're somehow responsible for the extremists? And couldn't this logic be applied to any group, religious or not?
posted by Biblio at 10:59 AM on June 1, 2009


i said nothing about pretending - quit projecting your dishonesty onto me

You said "it's a peculiar kind of "privilege" that offers itself to all people who want it, isn't it?" The consequence of you believing both these things to be true, simultaneously, is too horrifying to comprehend.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:01 AM on June 1, 2009


not to mention that privilege itself is a rhetorically loaded word - and that "christian" is a straw man that ignores the diversity of those identified as such

I said this already, but please do not see mentions of 'privilege' as a complaint but rather as a description. And, again, despite the fact that there are many, many kinds of Christians, many of which disagree violently with each other, this does not mean that Christianity is not the dominant mode in western culture. The fracturing and sectarianism of western Christianity is evidence for Christian hegemony, not against it: I'd be pretty surprised if, say, North Korea sees the kind of ecumenical bickering among Christian sects that we see over here. Simply because Christian A attends liturgical service, Christian B thinks infant baptism is an abomination, and Christian C is a premillenialist doesn't mean that they don't all expect to get Christmas off at work, or that they won't assume people will get their jokes about Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:01 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree that the privilege lists are a blunt instrument, and I think that a lot of them are kind of clumsily put-together and not thought through very well. But for me, as a non-Christian, I find the idea of Christian privilege very useful. I sometimes find myself asking for things that look to mainstream Christians like "special treatment," like extra days off of work or not to be expected to participate in religious rituals that are perceived of, but aren't, as universal or neutral. People who are more observant than me have to ask for even more stuff. The idea of Christian privilege, that the culture is built to accommodate Christians and so non-Christians need those "special privileges" just to be on equal footing with the dominant religion, seems to me to be a good way to explain what's going on.
posted by craichead at 11:10 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I said this already, but please do not see mentions of 'privilege' as a complaint but rather as a description.

no - own your rhetoric - if it's not suggesting what you mean to say to people, find another word for it

clearly, if some are privileged, others are not - clearly, if someone is making a list of privileges that some have, inherent in that is the suggestion that it's not alright that these privileges exist for some and not others, thus making it a complaint

you can't have it both ways - it's either a political statement that means to change the culture - a complaint - a statement that things are not as they should be and that others should do something about that - or it's not, and it doesn't mean anything

privilege is NOT a neutral word in this context
posted by pyramid termite at 11:13 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can we leave aside the word "privilege" for a second, pyramid termite, and just address the issue of whether the culture is structured to better accommodate people of some religious beliefs than of others? Do you accept that contention, leaving aside for a second both the question of "privilege" and whether all Christians fall into the better-accommodated group? And if so, do you think that those of us whose religious practice is less-accommodated are entitled to any extra consideration?
posted by craichead at 11:17 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


You said "it's a peculiar kind of "privilege" that offers itself to all people who want it, isn't it?"

yes, which means that one can become a christian

your interpretation of that is that one can "pretend to be one"

that says much more about you than it says about my statement
posted by pyramid termite at 11:17 AM on June 1, 2009


Can we leave aside the word "privilege" for a second, pyramid termite, and just address the issue of whether the culture is structured to better accommodate people of some religious beliefs than of others?

the answer would be quite different in rural mississippi and los angeles, wouldn't it?

what is this monolithic "culture" you speak of?

And if so, do you think that those of us whose religious practice is less-accommodated are entitled to any extra consideration?

by the government? - the government should treat you with strict neutrality when it comes to your religious beliefs

by people? - it might be good for people to show you consideration, but "extra"? and "entitled" to it?

no

you have every right to have your rights recognized by the government - and that employers will follow the government's laws when it comes to religious discrimination

but that individuals change their culture to please you?

no, no more than you should change yours to please them
posted by pyramid termite at 11:27 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


no - own your rhetoric - if it's not suggesting what you mean to say to people, find another word for it

It isn't my rhetoric. Except for my sarcastic one-offs earlier in the thread, I've tried to avoid using the word 'privilege' exactly because of the baggage. I would rather talk about the issues brought up by the FPP than simply bicker about semantics. craichead does a much better job of framing this than I have.

yes, which means that one can become a christian

But your assertion that one can simply become a Christian has at least two problems: One, that I cannot merely choose what I believe (I cannot, for example, simply 'believe' in the Easter Bunny, for a whole host of reasons) but rather have to believe it: religious faith isn't an on/off switch that I can toggle for cultural convenience; Two, you're just dodging the issue of whether western culture has religious assumptions built into it: The answer to the question 'Does western culture have religious assumptions built into it?' is not 'People can freely choose their religion.'
posted by shakespeherian at 11:28 AM on June 1, 2009


by the government? - the government should treat you with strict neutrality when it comes to your religious beliefs
But the whole point here is that the government doesn't treat non-Christians with strict neutrality when it comes to religion. Christmas is a Federal holiday. Eid isn't. So what you're saying is that we should ignore that fact and pretend that inequality is actually equality?

Anyway, thanks for clarifying.
posted by craichead at 11:33 AM on June 1, 2009


your interpretation of that is that one can "pretend to be one"

that says much more about you than it says about my statement


Come on. Myself and others have pointed out to you that belief isn't just a switch you can turn on and off. If it doesn't come naturally, you can choose to pretend, but that's the only choice you can make. Do you have any argument to make to the contrary?
posted by adamdschneider at 11:34 AM on June 1, 2009


OK, one can change religion much more easily than changing race. That's trivially true. But for psychological reasons many people consider it impossible for them, and I'm sure nobody in this thread would seriously suggest changing religion as a way to avoid discrimination. Can we at least agree this is a discussion about holding religion constant and varying society, rather than holding society constant and varying religion? That religion isn't genetic isn't relevant to this discussion, IMO.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:39 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


But the whole point here is that the government doesn't treat non-Christians with strict neutrality when it comes to religion. Christmas is a Federal holiday. Eid isn't. So what you're saying is that we should ignore that fact and pretend that inequality is actually equality?

it's a federal holiday - and people are free to petition the government to add more holidays

---

Myself and others have pointed out to you that belief isn't just a switch you can turn on and off.

i said that where?

i have to go to work - where at least i get paid for people misconstruing what i say
posted by pyramid termite at 11:44 AM on June 1, 2009


On non-preview: I don't mean to jump on the "it's a switch" side of the fence, adamdschneider. I just mean that if one thing is rare and difficult, and the other is impossible, the rare and difficult thing is much easier by default. Probably should have phrased it less sweepingly.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:49 AM on June 1, 2009


it's a federal holiday - and people are free to petition the government to add more holidays
Wow. Ok. I think the problem here is that this is meant to be a conversation between people who accept basic premises, like that people shouldn't be coerced into changing their religious beliefs or that accommodating minorities is a worthy goal, that you don't seem to share.

I'd be really interested in having a conversation with people who do share those fundamental premises, but I'm not sure that I have a lot to say to people who don't.
posted by craichead at 11:49 AM on June 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


You are being willfully obtuse. You're also arguing in bad faith by dancing around things and being catty rather than stating outright what you are trying to say. Nevertheless, I will make one final attempt to converse with you.

You state that one can choose to become a Christian. You also state that pretending to be one is somehow a perversion of the intent of your previous statement. Please, tell me how you think there is some alternative besides a.) becoming a Christian "naturally" (i.e. by honestly believing), and b.) pretending to believe and simply calling yourself a Christian, because I don't see any other way it could go.

Do you think that honest belief is a choice? Do you think I could make some kind of free choice right now to believe, wholeheartedly, the tenets of, say, Roman Catholicism? If so, please state this.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:53 AM on June 1, 2009


All of that was, of course, directed at pyramid termite, if it wasn't clear.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:54 AM on June 1, 2009


can we [...] just address the issue of whether the culture is structured to better accommodate people of some religious beliefs than of others?

Sure, but I feel like doing so would only be to talk about gay marriage, or our singular treatment of Muslim POWs, or certain discrete violations of the establishment clause, all of which would be very different things from trying to enumerate a 'hegemony' of invisible Christian privilege. I have no interest in the idea that our social maladies spring forth as an indivisible one, from one secret flaw in the majority's heart, and can thus be corrected as one.

When we build scarecrows and dramas and 'narratives' instead of trying to discretely understand things, we underestimate our social malfunctions. We can advance bad laws under the flag of identity politics (among other things), and later rescind them for the exact same reason. And if we then ascribe such mistakes to the same force that puts too few flesh-tone crayons in a box, we've turned a historical lesson into an impossible cartoon that has the Congressional Black Caucus operating under the spectral hand of White privilege.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:31 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


>Myself and others have pointed out to you that belief isn't just a switch you can turn on and off.

i said that where?


Here: "it can't be a privilege if anyone can have it"

and here: "being gay is not a choice, being a follower of a religion is"

and here: "i'm saying they shouldn't indulge their self-pity and envy by calling it a 'privilege' when after all, it's something they can have too"

It sounds like you're saying: "If you don't like the way your religion (or lack thereof) is treated compared to the majority religion, you have nothing to complain about -- just convert to the majority religion." That's absurd on its face, and of course you're getting some pushback.

...at least that's how I interpret your arguments, and I don't think I'm alone. If I/we got you all wrong, please state your position more clearly.
posted by LordSludge at 12:42 PM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


kid ichorous--

I don't think anyone was trying to ascribe all (or even many) of our social ills to Christian hegemony, merely to describe it in order to arrive at a more nuanced approach to American living. The idea is to recognize that when, for instance, the President says 'God bless America' at the end of every speech, it is reinforcing the dominance of a particular worldview in a way that some people find very uncomfortable, in no small part because it's largely expected of him by a sizable bit of the US population. I think this is an issue that we can discuss and attempt to improve, as a people, and I don't really see how strawmen figure in to this discussion, because we aren't accusing anyone of anything-- merely attempting to more fully understand the cultural assumptions that underlie the day-to-day activities of those who are members of the majority.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:48 PM on June 1, 2009


Oh, and to answer the question:

by the way, what kind of alternate universe is this where a person with a jesus fish on their car doesn't have to worry about vandalism?

South Carolina, for one.
posted by LordSludge at 1:00 PM on June 1, 2009


Extremists can only exist with a moderate base to draw strength from.

You know, I feel this exact way. There are too many people in the world who are more than a couple standard deviations from the mean and making us all less safe. You only have to look at the normal curve to realize that we must do something to eliminate that moderate base! That's why, on my way home tonight, I'm going to take a bold stand to reduce extremism and poison my city's water supply and then....

No, wait, that seems extreme somehow. Oh, I know, after we round up the moderate Christians, we'll go after the moderate Atheists because....no, that isn't it either.

I mean seriously dude, I once met a guy who was, aparently, absolutely livid about some shit that went down between England and Scottland when Norman wasn't the first name of a guy with a woodworking show on PBS. Where does the logic end? Do you think we should round up everyone who has seen Braveheart more than twice for re-education?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:17 PM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been thinking about this fpp for a while. While I believe that privilege in all forms is a concept that bears examination, I admit that I balked at the concept of "Christian" privilege, primarily because I am a Jehovah's Witness. Now I am a Christian, but the vast majority of items on the CP list don't apply to me; in fact, for most, the opposite is true. And it isn't like these are minor points; my experience with this lack of "privilege" has had a profound impact on my life. I had to wonder, perhaps my issue is with the catchall term "Christian" when what is really meant is Protestant "Christian."

Upon further examination, even if the vast majority of items on this list don't apply to me, I do have some measure of privilege in the United States. For example, when I go to people's doors, I can assume that they are familiar with my holy book. If people see me reading my holy book out in public, I won't be the target of animosity and in fact may receive praise for reading it. In fact, I can always have a conversation that includes central tenets of my faith without being perceived as abnormal. I can talk about the presence of Jesus as a central figure in my life without people looking askance. The shared lingo makes much of my life easier. And just last month after a trip to the South I was considering moving there in part because it would be so much easier to share my faith. I didn't examine this until this fpp, so thanks for that.

I agree with Wrinkled Stumpskin that the lists are problematic, even if the concept of privilege is useful to consider and examine. This list didn't really apply to me at all, but because I accept privilege as a reality I was prompted to examine the issue further.
posted by Danila at 3:33 PM on June 1, 2009 [3 favorites]



“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.

“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.


Pater Aletheias: I don't see how this contradicts what I was saying in the slightest. Isn't the message of this text that those who are poor and believe will see their suffering rewarded? Blessed are those who [have various problems] as long as they [worship Jesus].

That this once marginal and oppressed group has now become mainstream and powerful in some parts of the world is ironic, considering their doctrinal (and all too often unpracticed) alignment with the temporally downtrodden. But the core message of this and many similar faith groups is that the world has an anthropocentric purpose, and that believers within the group are exclusively approved of by the human-like force that ordained it. Christianity makes a big deal of it's ecumenical spirit, but the fact remains that most believers consider the vast majority of humanity to be in violation of the precepts necessary to cull divine favor. If they believe they are metaphysically special, part of a rather small contingent of the species On A Mission From God, I don't think it's too surprising that they feel some moderate entitlement in daily life.

Most leaders of the faith would not feel comfortable endorsing that, but it seems to remain a central element of the lay belief system. Why else do people pray for the curing of illness, or ensure the success of a student in school? If such weighty matters are susceptible to divine intervention, why not small favors from God like having the best location for a chapel or faith statements on government issued money? After all, look what he did for the Jews, and those lepers, and what was all that about mountains and mustard seeds? I think most Christians carry on about their way after seeing these things, and the indignation they inspire in outsiders, with a nod and a wink skyward.

From my very basic understanding of the new testament there are frequent admonishments that believers should not expect material reward, but what we're talking about here is cultural hegemony. I'm ignorant of the theological views on this, but if spreading the gospel is such a righteous action, and god routinely intercedes on behalf of the righteous, does it not then follow that the privileged position of Christianity, culturally, is divine will? In the time of Jesus the church wasn't doing so great, so a lot of what he says conveys a spirit of "hang in there downtrodden group!" (which, amusingly, resonates with many modern Christians). But he also seems to be implying that divine intervention will be there for those who carry out this mandate :

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28)

Does "with you" here just mean moral support? That just doesn't jibe with the general themes I took away from the gospels... but I'd be curious to hear what this all means to you. How does one interpret the bible to conclude that Christian belief doesn't deserve a special position in the popular consciousness?
posted by phrontist at 3:53 PM on June 1, 2009


Sure, but I feel like doing so would only be to talk about gay marriage, or our singular treatment of Muslim POWs, or certain discrete violations of the establishment clause, all of which would be very different things from trying to enumerate a 'hegemony' of invisible Christian privilege.

How many sheep do you have to see before you accept the existence of a herd?
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:41 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


phrontist, I am not Pater Alethias and I am pretty sure I do not believe the same as he does, but I wanted to respond with what I believe. I disagree that the dominance of "Christianity" is to be expected. I would argue that the dominance such as described in the privilege list is a sign that they are not actually Christians. Having a government kow-tow to your "holy days" and being represented positively in mass media are all bad signs to me, not good ones.

Life is not supposed to be good and easy for Christians. In fact, the subsequent verses that you quoted makes clear that if life is good and easy, and if one is reaping rewards for their "Christianity", then they are in danger.

Isn't the message of this text that those who are poor and believe will see their suffering rewarded? Blessed are those who [have various problems] as long as they [worship Jesus].


But they are blessed with treasures of heaven, not of earth. They are blessed with God's favor, spiritual blessings (such as a clean conscience), and support to do God's will. And yes, a promise of future material reward in a world of their own. The meek will inherit the earth, but they rather obviously don't own it yet!

That this once marginal and oppressed group has now become mainstream and powerful in some parts of the world is ironic, considering their doctrinal (and all too often unpracticed) alignment with the temporally downtrodden.

I would argue that true Christians have not become mainstream or powerful. And yes, I am clearly arguing over who is a Christian and who is not. But I also do not expect to be spared the harsh judgments that are due this "Christianity" that has caused so many problems, judgments I often read on sites like this. However, my mandate is not to reform the image of this group, but to bring the truthful kingdom message to as many people as I can, and God will work on their hearts.

but the fact remains that most believers consider the vast majority of humanity to be in violation of the precepts necessary to cull divine favor

That may very well be, but where "most believers" fall short is in expecting that nothing can be done about this. Resurrection is promised to both the righteous and the unrighteous (Acts 24:15).

But the core message of this and many similar faith groups is that the world has an anthropocentric purpose, and that believers within the group are exclusively approved of by the human-like force that ordained it.

I think there is a lot of truth to this statement (although I'd probably quibble with your language, I understand what you mean), but I do not believe the world is yet fulfilling that purpose. As it is, humans are "ruining the earth" (Rev. 11:16).

Why else do people pray for the curing of illness, or ensure the success of a student in school?

Because they're wrong? Solomon asked for wisdom, not the material success and earthly blessings that he also received. And yet that material success did not stop him from behaving unwisely and losing out on what was more important. We should pray for what is in line with God's will.

and what was all that about mountains and mustard seeds?

If the mountain a Christian wants to move is the mountain blocking his or her success in this system of things, or the mountain keeping him or her from becoming president or ruling the world, then the mountain will remain.

I think most Christians carry on about their way after seeing these things, and the indignation they inspire in outsiders, with a nod and a wink skyward.

My reaction to this is complicated. I would agree that "most Christians" do have this attitude, but that's just another sign that they're "not really". Yet I would not dispute your observation, just the conclusion that this attitude is Christlike. A lot of the indignation that "Christianity" inspires is rightful indignation. So when "Christians" get mad that people refuse to say "Merry Christmas", want to "take God out of the pledge", or when they get mad because they can't run science classrooms the way they want, these "Christians" are in the wrong, from my point of view. They're not supposed to be mandating holy days for the world and they aren't supposed to be having their way in government-run schools anyway. That they perceive this indignation as the persecution of which Jesus spoke is a problem on their end. And he warned that not everyone saying "Lord, Lord" is a true follower of his (Matt. 7:21,22).

If they believe they are metaphysically special, part of a rather small contingent of the species On A Mission From God, I don't think it's too surprising that they feel some moderate entitlement in daily life.

Entitlement to what? The entitlements of Christianity, such as they are, spring from our fellowship with God, Christ, and other Christians. So in that sense, there is an "entitlement" but not for earthly success or riches. And on an individual basis, I do not expect material support at all, and certainly not praise and prominence. But yes, I expect that when I am feeling downtrodden, I can turn to my brothers and sisters for kindness and support in a troubled world. This is because true Christians love one another.

I have had a very good month and been very happy, even though I am broker than I've been in a long time. But my month was so good because I had the opportunity to attend a Bible convention and learn and have fellowship with other Christians. These are the "entitlements" and blessings we can expect.

From my very basic understanding of the new testament there are frequent admonishments that believers should not expect material reward, but what we're talking about here is cultural hegemony.

Well they really should not expect cultural hegemony either. Jesus' followers are "no part of the world" (John 17:16). The fact that something called "Christianity" has achieved a privileged cultural status in some parts of the world is a sign that it is not really "Christianity" at all. The signs of Christianity are:

- "By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35)

This would include not killing each other in wars.

-"If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples,”(John 8:31)

This would include obeying his word and remaining separate from the world, not achieving prominence in it.

“You will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name.” (Matt. 24:9)

All nations, not just "all nations except Western ones, where you will dominate".

Does "with you" here just mean moral support?

My interpretation is that this is spiritual support. Especially support in the mission to preach the good news and baptize sheeplike ones. The concept of spiritual support means nothing in our world, but as Christians we have a wrestling with spiritual obstacles that mean a lot more than material or mental ones.

In addition, that promise to be "with you" is a conditional one. It is conditional upon actually being a Christian (see the limits on who is a Christian) and fulfilling the work that he is blessing with his support.
posted by Danila at 5:47 PM on June 1, 2009


Danila: Good points.

I think what I said pertains mostly to "christianity" as a cultural phenomena as I see it (and would be willing to defend with examples), which is a nebulous and multifaceted thing that many of the "christians" I respect disavow. Then there is the argument over what attitude ("we're entitled to a christian culture" or "we are not of this world") the historical Jesus would have endorsed, which I can't speak about in an informed manner (working on it).

The first discussion is about what christianity actually looks like, by and large, in the modern era, and whether the form it's taken is good for humanity. The second is what christianity should be, what someone should really believe if they want to be authentically christian. It seems like we both agree that much of what is called christianity is not a good thing. It also sounds like your stance on the first question is to decide the second, and then convince christians of that view.

Since I don't care about the first question (I don't think christianity or any other form of dualism/mysticism as I'm familiar with it is meaningful or true) I can't endorse your stance on the second. But if it's any consolation, we both oppose the vast majority of what is called christianity, I just oppose a little more of it.
posted by phrontist at 8:13 PM on June 1, 2009


(whoops, in the last paragraph switch first and second...)
posted by phrontist at 8:16 PM on June 1, 2009


To rephrase, I set out to criticize a poorly defined "christianity", and you pointed out that you have another conception of christianity that does not have these issues, and admitted it is a marginal one. I acknowledge that such alternative views using some similar nomenclature and claiming the same origins exist, but am still left concerned about the state of the much more popular forms of christianity, which I think we can both agree are not to be encouraged. I would go one step further and deny the truth/value of the christian tradition as whole, at which point this argument becomes a tired one which I'm sure there is no sense in hashing out on metafilter once again.
posted by phrontist at 8:27 PM on June 1, 2009


Do you think that honest belief is a choice?

yes

if we aren't choosing our beliefs, what is the point of discussing them? - in fact, how can we be said to choose words to discuss things with if we're not choosing our beliefs? - if we can't choose our beliefs is there anything we can really be said to choose?

it's utterly amazing to me that i can make the simple statement that people choose what to believe and that some here are literally unable to understand it - that they think i mean that people can pretend to choose or that there must be some 3rd alternative i'm not mentioning or that i'm suggesting that people can turn beliefs on or off like lightswitches

you. can. choose. what. you. believe.

got it?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:49 PM on June 1, 2009


you. can. choose. what. you. believe.

Okay but no one was talking about free will vs. determinant universe. The contention is that you make religious faith out to be something arbitrarily chosen, as in, 'Christianity is the norm in my culture. I am a Jewand am therefore uncomfortable. To be comfortable, I will become a Christian.' This is the recommendation that you made, and that is not how belief works, despite the fact that one has choice in the matter.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:40 PM on June 1, 2009


This is the recommendation that you made

no

this is a dishonest charade of a discussion and i refuse to participate in it any further
posted by pyramid termite at 10:05 PM on June 1, 2009


The contention is that you make religious faith out to be something arbitrarily chosen, as in, 'Christianity is the norm in my culture. I am a Jewand am therefore uncomfortable. To be comfortable, I will become a Christian.' This is the recommendation that you made, and that is not how belief works, despite the fact that one has choice in the matter.

And yet, history is littered with stories of groups which have disappeared into a more dominant religious culture. Crypto-Jews have been found in Colorado and New Mexico as the descendants of Spanish Conquistadors. Many of these families have "traditions", rites they perform which they must keep strictly secret and which harken back to their Jewish roots. Jews also denounced their heritage and joined the Nazi party in order to try to survive the Third Reich. Christians foreswore their religion in order to avoid the Colosseum. Pagans submitted to baptism rather than suffer under the Catholic Church as it expanded. This isn't a new idea.

Heck, be an exchange student to a family with different beliefs, and you likely will celebrate their festivals with them rather than rock the boat and insist they all change.

So, yes, people don't just alter their beliefs that easily. But they often alter their BEHAVIOR, which is where the whole notion of privilege fits in. If it's easier to live in a "religious closet" because of the friction and difficulty you experience if you "come out" as someone of different beliefs, then the culture is filled with privilege.
posted by hippybear at 10:20 PM on June 1, 2009


it's worse than that - it's an appeal to envy and divisiveness, as are the other lists - and in the case of christianity, it's a peculiar kind of "privilege" that offers itself to all people who want it, isn't it?

it can't be a privilege if anyone can have it


What does this mean if not that people should become Christian in order to fit in?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:23 PM on June 1, 2009


phrontist, I get what you were saying and doing. I only jumped in on the discussion because it seemed to me that you were speculating a Biblical backing for "cultural Christianity" as it exists. I really am not trying to make you jump through hoops. You're right, I am aware that my conception of Christianity is a "marginal one," although to me the fact that it is Biblical is more important. And since the Bible was brought into it, I was just presenting a different view and interpretation of the scriptures you presented. I'll bow out now, as I am not going to defend or interpret Christianity as it is perceived in this culture. It's an interesting discussion, where they get their ideas of superiority.
posted by Danila at 11:16 PM on June 1, 2009


So, yes, people don't just alter their beliefs that easily. But they often alter their BEHAVIOR, which is where the whole notion of privilege fits in

Sure, but if disproportionate privilege is a problem, religious closets is not a solution. pyramid termite made it out to be a no-brainer: Just deny your faith, it's simple!
posted by shakespeherian at 4:50 AM on June 2, 2009


How many sheep do you have to see before you accept the existence of a herd?

I'm not sure this is quanta, but qualia. I realize that certain Christian factions, among others, persecute homosexuals. This persecution, however, does not exactly act on the non-Christian population as a rule; there are still many Christians who are gay, and they are every bit as ineligible for marriage as the non-Christians, and are perhaps more eligible for other sorts of public humiliation. And so calling the superset of Christians the recipients of a privilege doesn't really describe the problem. There are Christians both among the moral-atavists, and among their targets and sympathizers. In fact, I really can't imagine a worse place to fall on the these particular axes than both gay and conservative Christian; if one could pick freely, why choose to be so skewered between two identities?
posted by kid ichorous at 5:50 AM on June 2, 2009


Sure, but if disproportionate privilege is a problem, religious closets is not a solution.

You are correct, religious closets is NOT the solution. But the problem is, and has been amply illustrated by this thread, that the notion of there even BEING a dominant religion in our society, and the subsequent discussion of the accompanying privilege (and closets), is one which many would rather deny than examine the ramifications.

Even here in the US, which supposedly thrives on religious freedoms (something which is much more clearly stated than practiced), or even here on the Blue, where ideas are regularly turned and twisted and examined like a communal rubik's cube, the level of vehemence and denial surrounding the subject is far out of proportion to the actual scale of the topic.

"What, in countries like the US, it is easier to be a practicing Christian than Druid, because the entire society is built to support the dominant religion? You're KIDDING me!!!"

I mean, really, those last couple of links from the OP about riots, injuries, and arrests? It seems we've metaphorically ventured pretty close to that ourselves, just in this thread.

pyramid termite's points are not what anyone wants to hear, because many believers (in whatever) hold that belief to be central to their being. The notion that someone could just *change* those beliefs in order to achieve greater integration with the dominant culture seems to those believers as a betrayal of everything they hold dear. But it isn't. It's been going on for centuries, long before our current culture of personal salvation came to be.

Remember, for most of history, membership in the Church was not about your relationship to Jesus Christ. It was about fear and violence and forced conversion. The concept of believers having a one-on-one encounter with Jesus in order to "be saved" is very new in the scheme of things -- priests and rites and sacraments used to hold the keys to heaven. The modern concepts of personal salvation didn't even begin with Martin Luther, but began to manifest with the Great Awakening, which wasn't really all that long ago.

Mostly this seems to me like another "fish don't know they're in the water" discussion.
posted by hippybear at 7:42 AM on June 2, 2009


pyramid termite's points are not what anyone wants to hear, because many believers (in whatever) hold that belief to be central to their being. The notion that someone could just *change* those beliefs in order to achieve greater integration with the dominant culture seems to those believers as a betrayal of everything they hold dear. But it isn't. It's been going on for centuries, long before our current culture of personal salvation came to be.

Remember, for most of history, membership in the Church was not about your relationship to Jesus Christ
That was a very odd comment, hippybear, because it kind of illustrates the point of the post. Who is this "our" in "our current culture of personal salvation"? Why have you totally overlooked the existence of people whose beliefs have nothing to do with a personal relationship with Jesus? And do you have any interest at all in those of us whose ancestors resisted pressure to convert to the dominant religion, or were they just really stupid and perverse people, the way that pyramid termite's comments would seem to suggest?
posted by craichead at 7:58 AM on June 2, 2009


you. can. choose. what. you. believe.

got it?


Yep, and we're done here. That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen someone say on Metafilter.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:35 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it just me or is the idea that one should alter one's religious beliefs to fit the mainstream a total derail to the topic at hand? It's simply not an option for anybody who takes their religious (or non-religious) convictions seriously.**

That's a shame, because this is an interesting topic. "Christian Privilege" has a definite impact here in the U.S., particularly in my part of the country. It's a pity we couldn't get past the "its not a problem you can just change" nonsense and have a real discussion.

** Should I explain WHY this is isn't an option? It's very straightforward, and it seems incredibly condescending to break it down explicitly, but maybe it's truly not understood.
posted by LordSludge at 9:24 AM on June 2, 2009


Remember, for most of history, membership in the Church was not about your relationship to Jesus Christ. It was about fear and violence and forced conversion

Right, but um... that's bad. My point wasn't that it's not possible, but that pyramid termite was saying it was a solution.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:30 AM on June 2, 2009


craichead: I think you are misconstruing two points of my post.

1) We [in Westernized countries ]DO live in a current culture of personal salvation, whether that is to be found through Jesus or capitalism or mindfulness or whatever. We no longer have a greater social structure which portrays itself as being The Organization To Belong To In Order To Know You Have It Made. In fact, here in the US, we are especially suspicious of any one person or group who claims that its members have some special pass. Culturally, we leave all the responsibility for each individual's "soul" or whatever up to that person. Whether this is a religious salvation or not, it is individual, not corporate. This is new in human culture.

2) Membership in the Church (here the historical meaning would be predominantly the Catholic Church, but that has splintered a lot in the past 500 years) was NOT about Jesus, but was about performing the correct set of chants and rites to conform and therefore receive salvation. God had gatekeepers (priests) who interceded on behalf of the parishioners -- which is why confession was made to a person, and not individually through direct prayer.

Do not mistake my interest in keeping the discussion moving forward with any personal belief system on my own part. To do so is, at best, a false step on your part.

do you have any interest at all in those of us whose ancestors resisted pressure to convert to the dominant religion, or were they just really stupid and perverse people

Since the original thread was about Christian Privilege, specifically in the US, I thought it was best to frame all my comments within that context. I'm not certain anything about what I have written implies that I bear ill will toward those who maintain their religious identities in the face of cultural hegemony. I'm certainly not in favor of assimilation, and if my any of my posts in this thread have lead you to that impression, then either I am a poor writer, or you are seeking to pick a fight where none is to be found.
posted by hippybear at 10:54 AM on June 2, 2009


Is it just me or is the idea that one should alter one's religious beliefs to fit the mainstream a total derail to the topic at hand? It's simply not an option for anybody who takes their religious (or non-religious) convictions seriously.**

It is, however, a pretty good illustration of Christian privilege that someone could make that suggestion and expect to not be laughed at. This simply isn't a place where that works, though.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:57 AM on June 2, 2009


The thing is, hippybear, that before the modern era, religious minorities existed and resisted pressure to assimilate. So the novelty of "our culture of personal salvation," whatever that means, seems beside the point. There have always been people who resisted the dominant religious culture, even when nobody recognized their right to do so. What's novel is not religious diversity but the recognition by most people that people shouldn't be punished for failing to adhere to the dominant religion. I think that's a good thing, but I'm a member of a religious minority that has a long history of being a religious minority, so I guess I would.
Since the original thread was about Christian Privilege, specifically in the US, I thought it was best to frame all my comments within that context.
Ok, that's interesting to me. Because for me, the context of this discussion is not one where we assume everyone is Christian. It's one where we acknowledge that some people aren't, since the entire discussion only makes sense in a context in which we exist.
posted by craichead at 11:22 AM on June 2, 2009


craichead: At no point during any of my posts did I assume everyone is Christian. It IS the common assumption in the US that everyone IS Christian, which is the point of the OP to begin with -- that there is a base assumption which establishes religious-based privilege within US culture.

Perhaps you are as guilty of submitting to this privilege as you accuse me of being, by reading a subtext into my comments which is not actually there. In fact, I am unsure why you are taking me to task to begin with. For recognizing the current religious hegemony that exists within the US? For noting historical examples of persecuted minorities hiding their true faith under the trappings of the dominant culture? For using the paradigm established by the OP as the context for my comments about religion in the US?

This isn't about whether subgroups managed to maintain their traditional spiritual identities in the face of cultural imperialism. It's about whether the current cultural climate contains (what possibly ought to be extinct) vestiges of an outmoded system of thought which need to be examined and named before they can be set aside and open a wider door for all believers, or non-believers too.
posted by hippybear at 12:19 PM on June 2, 2009


I'm reading that subtext, hippybear, because you cited approvingly pyramid termite, whose whole point seems to be that religious minorities aren't entitled to anything because we can just choose to comply with the dominant culture. And in the face of that, it's really hard to switch gears to what appears to be a totally pointless academic discourse that riffs on pyramid termite's pretty appalling suggestion without acknowledging its basic ugliness.

If you have a point, though, you're welcome to articulate it. I'm not clear what you think you're adding to the discussion right now.
posted by craichead at 12:31 PM on June 2, 2009


craichead: um... "approvingly" is certainly a value-loaded term, is it not?

I was underscoring pyramid termite's point that people can and have disappeared into the larger culture in order to "be more comfortable", as I believe he put it. Stating historical facts is not equal to condoning of those situations, is it? If so, I must remember NEVER to talk about the holocaust with anyone.

Most of what I have "added to the discussion right now" has been as part of an effort to stop YOU from causing others to think I said things which I never said.

I believe the rest of my words were pretty clear. I'm sorry you don't find my contributions helpful. Maybe if you had a real question instead of an assumption followed by a dismissal, we could move forward?
posted by hippybear at 12:42 PM on June 2, 2009


I was underscoring pyramid termite's point that people can and have disappeared into the larger culture in order to "be more comfortable", as I believe he put it.
Fair enough. To pyramid termite, the significance of that fact is that it disproves the possibility of religious privilege. Quote: "it can't be a privilege if anyone can have it" What is the significance of it to you?
posted by craichead at 12:57 PM on June 2, 2009


The significance of it should be pretty obvious in the context of a discussion of privilege. Whether the approved "in group" is of made of voluntary members, such as a political party or religious organization (note, I did NOT say faith or belief set), or whether that group is created out of inborn traits (White Male Americans, etc), the extent to which privilege runs through a culture can be so great as to cause people outside that group to feel pressures to "conform" in order to "be more comfortable." It is this pressure which causes misunderstandings such as ours to happen, which caused gays to enter into "opposite marriage" for generations in the US, which caused blacks to try to bleach their skin, and which causes riots such as the ones mentioned in the OP to take place.

pyramid termite's implication that privilege does not exist simply because the privileged group can have voluntary membership is, of course, nonsense. The number of stories about people being pressured to join the Nazi party, and eventually doing it in order to get food rations or escape other persecution are legion. The same can be said for non-believers who move to a small Baptist town and who find there is no social venue available other than church activities. I'm sure many other examples, perhaps even specific ones, can be gleaned from the record if one were to look.

The fact that this discussion is happening AT ALL means that the foundations of Christian privilege are beginning to crack within the US culture; without a minimum demand for attention that comes from outside the dominant paradigm, the "fish" will never even think about discussing the "water".
posted by hippybear at 1:11 PM on June 2, 2009


Yes, you can choose what religion you ultimately end up ascribing to, but you can't choose what religion you're raised with. To imply that you can move to X Country and convert to Y Religion to "fit in" makes the assumption that you are wholly without religion of any kind. This person rarely exists. By the time you're at a point where you're mentally able to exercise a choice in your beliefs, you've been shaped by your environment in a way that your beliefs will be a reaction to the dominant religion in your life. This is kind of a clunky way of saying that if your family background is Religion Q, by the time you start forming your own beliefs, they will broadly be in terms of "I agree" or "I disagree" with Religion Q.

Religious beliefs aren't formed in a vacuum. If you're raised with Religion Q and develop an identity within that religion, you're not going to have an easy time convincing yourself that Religion Y really is the same thing. You may honestly believe that Religion Q is the One True Way, or Religion Y may have tenets that you find to be heretical. So, saying you could convert is a vast over-simplification of what it means to have religious belief.

Would any of you, honestly, convert to Christianity to "fit in?" I doubt it. I wouldn't. Not because I don't have free will, but because what I truly believe goes against the resurrection of a man for any reason, son of G-d or not. And it's hard to have a son of G-d when the idea of "G-d" as one entity with a will of "his" own isn't something that I can get behind either.

PS: MetaFilter is one of the few places where I think we could seriously discuss Atheist Privilege. Just admitting that I have Religious Beliefs, as opposed to a lack thereof, makes me feel like I should put on my helmet after commenting.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:13 PM on June 2, 2009


Yes, you can choose what religion you ultimately end up ascribing to

Really? You can make a concious choice to believe or not believe something? For me it's the outcome of a process- the most "choice" I have about what I believe is in what information I choose to seek or not seek.

MetaFilter is one of the few places where I think we could seriously discuss Atheist Privilege.

Atheist privilege? Are you drunk or are you schizophrenic?

Just admitting that I have Religious Beliefs, as opposed to a lack thereof, makes me feel like I should put on my helmet after commenting.

The fact that you can and will be called out for believing things is not the same as lacking privilege. It means that you are held to the same epistemic standard as everyone else, something which feels different because in the larger world you exist in, Christians are not held to the same standards.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:16 PM on June 2, 2009


I'm pretty sure that grapefruitmoon isn't Christian, Pope Guilty. The giveaway is the bit where she said she couldn't be a Christian because she doesn't believe in the resurrection or Jesus being the son of G-d. Part of the phenomenon we're talking about here is the fact that if you say you have religious beliefs, people automatically assume they're Christian religious beliefs.

Having said that, I don't think I buy the idea of "atheist privilege" anywhere in America. I do think there are some isolated spaces, like academia and maybe metafilter, where religious people are sometimes unfairly stigmatized.
posted by craichead at 6:28 PM on June 2, 2009


Really? You can make a concious choice to believe or not believe something?

You didn't read the rest of my comment, did you?

It means that you are held to the same epistemic standard as everyone else, something which feels different because in the larger world you exist in, Christians are not held to the same standards.

I'm not a Christian. Funny that you would assume that since I merely mentioned that I have religious beliefs. I've mentioned my religious affiliation about twenty thousand times on MeFi, I don't feel the need to correct you on this other than to say that it's interesting that this is the assumption that you would make.

As far as atheist privilege, what I mean on MeFi is that it's one arena where my first assumption about anyone (and yes, I've been wrong) is that they are an atheist and it's up to the "believers" as such to defend themselves against attacks that clearly! We are all wrong! even if we're not necessarily trying to convert anyone. So, the "privilege" that I'm talking about might be better defined in the queer jargon of "safe space." MeFi is an atheist safe space. You can pretty much guarantee that atheists on MeFi aren't going to be called out for their beliefs (or rather, lack thereof).

Maybe this has happened, and I'm sure you'll point it out if that's the case, but the tone around here is that the obvious choice in terms of religion is no choice at all, that is to say, that religion is bunk and anyone with a brain knows that. That's how the tone reads to this long-time user anyhow. I've never seen a religion thread where atheism wasn't the predominant trend, and I'm not trying to change that, rather I'm simply pointing out that this space is an exception and the rule is *not* for atheism to be the default stance.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:36 PM on June 2, 2009


craichead: Yeah, I was talking specifically and *only* about MetaFilter.

And yes, Pope Guilty obviously skimmed my comment, especially the part where I point blank stated I'm not a Christian.

(Not that there's anything wrong with that...)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:37 PM on June 2, 2009


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