We’re living through a time when conservative Christians have a lot of political power, and we see how they’re using it. They’re shoving fellow conservatives, even unqualified ones, to lifetime appointments on the federal bench. They’re discriminating against LGBTQ people however they can; the government is kicking people out of the military and writing Supreme Court briefs in defense of discrimination at Christian-owned businesses. They’re making sure the White House is teeming with as many right-wing Christian leaders as can fit at all times.
For all their talk of “religious freedom,” given more power than they ever dreamed of, they’re using it to instill Christian supremacy.
If you watch FOX News and live in a conservative media bubble, you might think all this is necessary. After all, if atheists were in charge, we’d be doing the exact same thing. We’d shut down churches, and block people from saying “Merry Christmas,” and put pastors in jail for speaking out against homosexuality. Right? Right?!
We know that’s wrong. They don’t. And now a study has shown just how ignorant they are.
Writing for the Washington Post, Denison University Professor Paul A. Djupe says he recently conducted a study with Eastern Illinois University Professor Ryan P. Burge that showed how a majority of white evangelical Christians sincerely believe atheists would strip away their rights if given the chance.
Of those white evangelical Protestants, we found that 60 percent believed that atheists would not allow them First Amendment rights and liberties. More specifically, we asked whether they believed atheists would prevent them from being able to “hold rallies, teach, speak freely, and run for public office.” Similarly, 58 percent believed “Democrats in Congress” would not allow them to exercise these liberties if they were in power. By contrast, 23 percent think “Republicans in Congress” would not respect their rights; those were primarily the views of a small contingent of white evangelical Democrats in the sample.
But in a separate poll Djupe conducted a few years ago, he can say with authority that those fears are completely unfounded. Atheists aren’t trying to take away the civil rights of religious people. We might have passionate disdain for conservatives but that’s a far cry from saying we would use any power we have to hurt them.
Then respondents were asked whether their selected group should be allowed to give speeches in the community, teach in public schools, run for public office and other liberties. Americans are not particularly tolerant of groups they dislike. Only 30 percent are willing to allow their disliked group three or more such activities.
But 65 percent of atheists and 53 percent of Democrats who listed Christian fundamentalists as their least-liked group are willing to allow them to engage in three or more of these activities. That’s a much higher proportion with tolerance than the sample overall.
What did white evangelicals say about atheists when asked the same question?
They would totally strip away our rights.
Thirteen percent of white evangelical Protestants selected atheists as their least-liked group. Of those, 32 percent are willing to extend three or more of these rights to atheists. In fact, when we looked at all religious groups, atheists and agnostics were the most likely to extend rights to the groups they least liked.
To summarize, among atheists who said they loathed Christian fundamentalists more than any other religious group, 65% still said they would be perfectly fine with those Christians having the same rights as everyone else. But among white evangelicals who hated atheists the most — even more than “white supremacists” — only 32% would say the same.
This is a core difference between the two groups and it illustrates why the “both sides are the same” argument is ridiculous. We’re not equally dogmatic but on opposite sides of the spectrum. In fact, these results just emphasize a point I’ve made repeatedly on this site: Atheists fight for religious neutrality, while white evangelicals fight for Christian supremacy.
When white evangelicals are in power, as they are now, everyone outside that particular bubble is screwed. We see that in action now. We hear them say it all the time. And all the fear-mongering that occurs in conservative media and at evangelical churches has made it so those Christians believe they have to keep others down.
That’s not the case when damn near anyone else is in power.
White evangelicals have long believed they’re persecuted. That’s why they overreach when given the opportunity. And yet the irony is that there’s no way they would swap power with any other group. If they truly believe Christians are under attack, I’m happy to trade the number of open atheists in Congress with the number of evangelicals.
No Christian would ever take that bet because it would shatter the myth that they’re persecuted when, in reality, they’re the persecutors. The bullies want you to think they’re the real victims. Don’t fall for it.