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FXdukveAs far as irritation goes, this one comes close to being a mere amusement. I am talking about a challenge issued by The Atheist Advocate, the terms of which are fairly well explained by the illustration here, and I have to admit it’s tempting to just get behind this one. Seriously, I can almost go along with it.

…almost.

If only I had a nickel for all the times I have seen Christians complain about petty grievances or pass along outright falsehoods about this or that attack on their faith, well I could certainly afford another nice meal on that change. Hell, the non-existent war on Christmas alone ought to earn some believers a permanent subscription to “Cry Wolf Daily” (which actually wouldn’t be a bad blog project, come to think of it). Anyway, the point is that it gets damned tiresome to hear a dominant religious majority whine about how religious minorities are oppressing them.

But of course it isn’t really a dominant majority that spreads these cries of repression. Rather it is a small and highly vocal group of political Christians who would like very much to define repression of their beliefs so broadly as to include the failure to bow to their every Goddamned whim.

Taken at face value, I can’t help thinking this little gambit doesn’t quite rise above the difficulties it seeks to address. This whole thing really strikes me as something of a contest over First World Problems. One would hate to run into the occasional lunatic that might make either of these T-Shirts cause for real violence. …or the occasional workplace bigot that might actually use less violent means of putting someone from the wrong camp in their place. In any event, I expect most folks here in America would probably face little other than an uncomfortable conversation or three over wearing either of these shirts. There are some definite regional exceptions to be sure (cough! …deep South! …midwest!), but for the most part I think we are talking about a war of words.

Yes, I do figure those wearing an ‘atheist’ T-Shirt will have quite a few more of those unpleasant conversations than those wearing a ‘Christian’ T-Shirt, but I am open to the possibility that I am wrong about that, and I certainly wouldn’t estimate the flack for wearing the Christian shirt to be zero. Oddly enough, I expect some of the grief given to both Christians and atheists over this sort of thing could come from the same sources. An awful lot of people seem to want to have their sin and get to heaven too, so to speak, and they can be equally testy with religious fundamentalists and non-believers alike. This ‘moderate’ bunch can be especially testy if they believe someone else has brought the issue to the table and tried to force the question, …say by advertizing their (non-)beliefs in public.

That said, yes, I do think Christians are more likely to get a free pass on public expressions of their views f for no other reasn than that they have had their foot in that door for longer than those of us in the just-say-no camp. What strikes me as far more important is the fact that the list of people who have found out what ‘persecution really is’ would be unlikely to include anyone whose main worry of the day is what people will say about an ugly T-Shirt. There are people out there who face real consequences because of their belief-stances, and both atheists and theists are among them. That list also includes plenty of people who face real suffering as a result of things over which they have absolutely no control whatsoever. So, I think people should count themselves blessed if they live somewhere that you could actually play this game and expect life to continue in the wake of it.

As a general rule, I think anyone who wants others to appreciate the struggles they face could do better than to start by trivializing those of others people. I also think we would all be better served if folks spent less time claiming the title of most-repressed and more time thinking about what constitutes reasonable treatment of those with whom we disagree.

Oddly enough I’m not really opposed to the challenge, per se, just a certain over-billing of its significance. Still, if this leads a few of the more self-important Christians to rethink their narratives of martyrdom, then perhaps it’s a good thing. If it leads some people of either camp (or any other) to think carefully about their own bully-triggers and what we can do to help those under the gun for such things, so much the better.