Tag Archives: persecution

Christian persecution

9 Aug

From time to time I hear somebody, either in person or on this blog, bring up the fact that the early Christians were persecuted by the Romans. This is true. Whether you believe in the religion or not, it is a historical fact that the Romans did horrible things to Christians. Since the formation of the church Christians have used the persecution they suffered under the Romans to say “Look! Look what we went through for our lord and savior! We were butchered whole sale and fed to lions for the amusement of Pagans!” I remember going to vacation bible school where some of the camp counselors would dress up like Roman soldiers and roam the halls of the church. Sometimes they’d bust into our little activity and tell the children that they were all going to die for being Christians. We had to respond by saying that Jesus is the son of god and we’d gladly give our lives for him. (Remember, we were elementary school kids) At this the camp couns….. er, “scary Roman soldier” would be shocked by our courage and we would “save” him. (But I digress)

Yes the Christians initially suffered horribly under the Romans, but I have a problem with modern day Christians trying to use this as an excuse or proof that their claims are somehow valid because they suffered. Here’s the thing. according to the story, Jesus started teaching sometime between 24 and 26 CE, when he was in his early 30’s. The Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, along with the entire Roman empire with him, in 312 CE. If we go with the earliest date, 24 CE, that’s a period of 288 years that Christians were open to persecution.  Yes 288 years seems like a lot, but when compared to the length of time other people were persecuted, it’s nothing special. What Christians seem to fail to grasp is that while they were being persecuted, so were a handful of other people. The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE, after the Christians came onto the scene. It was not just Christians. In fact, the Roman empire was persecuting and killing people centuries before Christianity was invented. They did not build the great arena’s specially for Christians. They were there long before. Even the cross, a symbol of a horrific and slow death, was in use long before the Romans ever nailed Jesus to one. Doing that to him was not giving him special treatment. They did it to thousands of slaves in the Spartacus rebellion almost two hundred years earlier.

The thing that really upsets me is how Christians who like to point out their persecution under the Romans just stop there. They leave out the bit about Emperor Constantine converting to Christianity, about Christians taking over the Roman empire from within. They leave out the part about how they became the Roman empire! Once that happened, the persecution of Christians by Romans stopped. The part that they really love to leave out is how they then turned around and started persecuting their old persecutors. (I guess “turn the other cheek” applies only when you’re the under dog, other wise you’re doing god’s will) Once in power, the Christians went about defacing art work, destroying temples, and forcing conversions under pain of death.

They continued the grand old tradition of killing Jews and burning their temples. After all, they were the Christ killers. (Or at least until the Catholics changed their minds about that almost 2000 years after the fact) At the height of the church’s power (also the darkest period in the “dark ages”…coincidence?) the church encouraged the wholesale slaughter and persecution of Pagans. Teutonic knights, warriors for Christ, hunted down Pagans through Germany and slaughtered entire villages.

Since that wasn’t enough, they invaded the middle east so they could persecute Muslims. Contrary to their modern equivalent, medieval Muslims were a lot more tolerant. Christians could live and practice their faith in Muslim territory as long as they paid a tax. (Much more business savvy than slaughtering them) As if all this bloodshed was not enough, Christians then turned in on each other for new people to persecute. The waged entire crusades against people who were “the wrong type of Christian”. (Google Waldensian crusade for example) This in fighting and persecution went right on up through the 1700’s. Remember why the pilgrims left England? It wasn’t that England was an atheist country, far from it, they were just the wrong type of Christians. What many Christians don’t know is that the bloodiest war in human history, up until that machine gun was invented, was the 30 year’s war, fought between Catholics and Protestants. It depopulated Europe. The death toll couldn’t be matched for another 300 years until we figured out how to mow people down with automatic fire.

But enough of the history lesson. The point is Christians have persecuted a lot more people since their faith took hold than when they were the minority in Rome. The worst part is when the people who bring up the persecution of Christians by Romans try to imply that Christians are still being persecuted. Really? Try being an atheist for ONE day. Don’t just pretend quietly. Be as open about it as you are about your Christianity. Say it out loud like you’re proud. (God will know you’re pretending for the sake of an experiment so you won’t go to hell) Just try it, see how other react and treat you differently. By the way, atheists have been persecuted by everyone since man created god, so we’ve got a couple of millennia on Christians.

***As an end note I just want to make something clear. This is all just an observation. This post is not intended to be an excuse or evidence that Atheists are correct in not believing in a god. That would be doing the same thing I lament Christians for doing when they point out their suffering under the Romans. The problem with these types of arguments “who was persecuted more” “who killed more” etc is that they try and establish validity through a body count. I’m not sure how you can discuss the past without making it seem like you’re trying to keep score. Regardless, these things happened and they should be open to discussion.

Does it not tell you something?

19 Jun

Anyone who knows me knows I love putting up political/Atheist messages up on my car. I usually just print something out in large text and tape it inside my window. It’s free speech and I get a thrill out of doing it.

Currently I have two pro-choice messages up in the back of my window. I really like putting those things up since I live in two areas of the country where I am in the extreme minority. (Politically and religiously) I have to sit and look at all these conservative christian bumper stickers all day, so why not put my counter-views up? A little something to shake people from comfortably thinking that everyone thinks like they do.

But here is the kicker. Part of the thrill I get from putting up my signs comes from fear. Fear that I’m going to be attacked or harassed in some way. Fear that I’m going to come back to my car in a parking lot to find it keyed.

Now this is not just some baseless paranoia. I have been harassed in the past. The first time was when I was 16 and was driven off the road by an angry conservative because I had a sign for the Democratic candidate for governor on my car. That scared the shit out of me. I’ve had “Liberty” “University” students honk angrily and give me the middle finger because of my signs. (How very christian). I’ve come back to my car on several occasions to find little pamphlets trying to save me under my windshield wipers. I’ve even sometimes found angry notes. I remember driving past a church when it was letting out, getting stuck in traffic. Everyone was glaring at me, giving me dirty looks.

That time I sank low into my seat, expecting to be shot at or have a brick thrown through my window at any moment.

Does the fact that I have to fear for my safety by speaking out not tell you something? How many conservatives drive around afraid angry liberals might attack them or shoot them for what is on their car? How many christians are afraid they will get attacked for a plastic magnetic fish?

I see signs that anger me every day, but I don’t honk or flick them off, and I sure as hell wouldn’t attack them. I respect their right to their opinions. I think the fact that I have to fear for my safety tells you something about the people I disagree with. They are willing to harass and sometimes use violence when they are confronted with someone with whom they disagree. It just screams “my position is undefensible, so I’m going to resort to violence and terror….”

To win we must take blows

5 May

This might be one of my more controversial posts. The last post I made was on the subject of discrimination against Atheists in the United States.  Atheists are in a sort of limbo right now. (Pun not intended) The discrimination is there, it just is at a level that is still acceptable to the majority of the population.

This is the horrible part: In order for the discrimination of Atheists to gain public attention, and to be deemed unacceptable, we need to suffer a series of hate crimes, just like blacks and homosexuals. These hate crimes need to be clear and well publicised.

Trust me, I’m disgusted by the thought of my felllow Atheists being attacked in this way, but nobody is going to take discrimination against us seriously until the religious start persecuting us more forcefully in this country.

Just some food for thought. (Even though the idea makes me sick)

Atheist Civil Rights movement?

3 May

Ok, maybe not “civil rights” but definitely social. There has been a steady shift in the last hundred years in America towards greater acceptance of particular groups of previously marginalized people. It started with women, then blacks, and now gays. Is it Atheists’ turn next?

While Atheists don’t face the same type of disenfranchisement that women and blacks faced, there are still 6 states that actively discriminate against Atheists wishing to engage in public service, despite a 1961 Supreme Court ruling on the illegality of this.

Many Atheists also feel discriminated against by things like having “In God We Trust” on our money, “one nation under God” in our pledge, and the opening of many government meetings with prayer, all in a country that is supposed to have a separation of church and state. All we want is equality. We want the state to be neutral like the law demands.

As for social persecution, where to start? I mean, our very language is used against us. “Atheist” and “godless” both have horrible negative connotations associated with them. So much so that many Atheists shy away from the label because of how it is used in everyday speech. The religious work very hard to define themselves as the very embodiment of goodness, and the Atheists the very embodiment of evil.

A good example of this negative stigma attached to Atheists is Elizabeth Dole‘s disgusting campaign ad where she accused her opponent Kay Hagan of being an Atheist in the 2008 run for the North Carolina senate seat:

Another horrible politician is Monique Davis (D) of Illinois.  On April 3, 2008 she attacked Atheist Robert Sherman during his testimony to theHouse State Government Administration Committee in Springfield saying:

“I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings… I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois… This is the land of Lincoln where people believe in God… What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous… It’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists… Get out of that seat! You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.”

The video of her saying this is here. This is the same Sherman that president Bush Sr. had the following conversation with in 1987:

Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?

Bush: I guess I’m pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in god is important to me.

Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?

Bush: No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?

Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I’m just not very high on atheists.

Can you imagine a person who is openly Atheist trying to get elected? It would be political suicide! The mere fact that it would be political suicide should show to you how Atheists are discriminated against. There is currently 1 openly Atheist person in congress. Fortney “Pete” Stark Jr. (D) of California is the only openly Atheist person in congressONE for 16% of the population, about 48,000,000 people! (According to CIA world factbook)

The University of Minnesota’s department of sociology did a(n) (in)famous study in 2006 that found that Atheists were the least trusted minority in the United States. Least trusted! Below Muslims and Gays! What have Atheists done?

I think it centers around this bullshit idea of “well, without god you have no morals and are dangerous.” Funny, considering in 2001 Atheists made up a whopping 0.4% of the US prison population, where as “moral” christians made up a minuscule 76.6%. Oh, and divorce rates? God loving christians account for 51% of divorces, horrible Atheists, 21%, the lowest divorce rate in the country.

People often wonder why a lot of Atheists are angry. Is it any wonder why when politicians able to make such bigoted statements without fear of consequences, the religious push to keep their god on the money, and in the pledge, their monuments on public property, when Atheists are the least trusted group in the country for no good reason? Atheists are second class citizens in this country. A country that is supposed to have a separation of church and state.

The ironic thing is, the religious often claim that they are the ones who are persecuted. To them, the mere existence of Atheists is insulting. They see Atheists’ attempts to gain equality and government neutrality as persecution of them! It makes me sick.