March 29, 2016

Is Christianity a Soft Target?

throwing darts at a target

Those of us who use Twitter regularly love to complain about it. At least, we love to complain about some of Twitter's policies and many aspects of how others use the service. But there is a big upside to Twitter. There has to be or I wouldn't continue to use it. I find that it is a great way to get news before the mainstream news media reports it (e.g., virtually anything having to do with Bernie Sanders and almost everything that happens outside of the U.S.). Twitter also provides me with the opportunity to interact with people I'd have no way of finding without it.

My interactions with people on Twitter sometimes inspire the posts I write here at Atheist Revolution. This post is one such example because the question contained in the title was prompted by a tweet I received last week.

I received the following tweet on Friday, and I'd like to provide a more complete response to it here than what I was able to offer via Twitter:
I replied that I oppose all religions, including Islam. I believe that it is imperative that we can and do criticize all religions, and I see no reason to grant Islam some sort of pass. We are perfectly capable of criticizing Islam without engaging in anti-Muslim bigotry. When it comes to Islam itself, I support those who are seeking to bring about reform. Things are a bit different when it comes to political Islam (i.e., Islamism), however. I believe that Islamism needs to be dismantled. That is, the quest to impose Islamic theocracy on others needs to be abolished and not simply reformed.

I also noted that I am no fan of the regressive left and have been writing about it often. We need far more liberal criticism of Islam, and the regressive left has been a significant barrier to this happening. Not only that, but the regressive left stands in opposition to freethought and the free expression of ideas. I take issue with this in many areas that extend well beyond the topic of Islam (e.g., trigger warnings, safe spaces, no-platforming). Although I am a liberal, I have come to consider myself a cultural libertarian. I believe that much of what the regressive left now stands for is destructive and must be challenged from the left as well as the right.

But now it is time for the really interesting part...is Christianity a soft target? I've explained why I write more about Christianity than I do about any other religion, but this does not directly address the question. Is Christianity a soft target? My initial reaction would be to point out that here in Mississippi where I live, Christianity is anything but a soft target. When the surveys show again and again that we are the most religious state in the U.S., they are not talking about religion in general but Christianity in particular. And even then, it isn't some generic form of Christianity but evangelical fundamentalist Christianity. It is so pervasive here that it infuses nearly every aspect of daily life. The fact that I cannot openly speak out against it without experiencing adverse consequences suggests that it is not a soft target, at least not here in Mississippi.

In general, however, I think this tweet was on the right track. If we consider the U.S. as a whole (or even the world as a whole), Christianity does seem to be a much softer target than Islam. Christians, for the most part, are willing to endure some criticism without resorting to violence. Atheists who criticize Christianity can often do so without receiving many death threats. I'm not saying they won't receive any; I know from personal experience that this is not the case. What I am saying is that they will receive far fewer serious ones than will those who criticize Islam. Perhaps this highlights the dire need for reform to take place within Islam.

For people like me who live in regions where fundamentalist Christianity is the norm and continues to exert an undesirable influence over government officials, I believe that continued focus on Christianity is well warranted. Just like we should oppose Islamic theocracy, we should oppose efforts to move us closer to Christian theocracy. The separation of church and state is under constant attack. Where I live, those attacking it are almost always Christians. And yet, I do acknowledge that Christianity is in many ways a softer target than most other religions. For that reason, it would be a mistake to focus exclusively on Christianity.
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