40 Examples of Christian Privilege

It is likely that state and federal holidays coincide with my religious practices, thereby having little to no impact on my job and/or education.
I can talk openly about my religious practices without concern for how it will be received by others.
I can be sure to hear music on the radio and watch specials on television that celebrate the holidays of my religion.
When told about the history of civilization, I am can be sure that I am shown people of my religion made it what it is.
I can worry about religious privilege without being perceived as “self-interested” or “selfseeking.”
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.
I can share my holiday greetings without being fully conscious of how it may impact those who do not celebrate the same holidays. Also, I can be sure that people are knowledgeable about the holidays of my religion and will greet me with the appropriate holiday greeting (e.g., Merry Christmas, Happy Easter, etc.).
I can probably assume that there is a universality of religious experience.
I can deny Christian Privilege by asserting that all religions are essentially the same.
I probably do not need to learn the religious or spiritual customs of others, and I am likely not penalized for not knowing them.
I am probably unencumbered by having to explain why I am or am not doing things related to my religious norms on a daily basis.
I am likely not judged by the improper actions of others in my religious group.
If I wish, I can usually or exclusively be among those from my religious group most of the time (in work, school, or at home).
I can assume that my safety, or the safety of my family, will not be put in jeopardy by disclosing my religion to others at work or at school.
It is likely that mass media represents my religion widely AND positively.
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.).
I can speak or write about my religion, and even critique other religions, and have these perspectives listened to and published with relative ease and without much fear of reprisal.
I could write an article on Christian Privilege without putting my own religion on trial.
I can travel without others assuming that I put them at risk because of my religion; nor will my religion put me at risk from others when I travel.
I can be financially successful without the assumption from others that this success is connected to my religion.
I can protect myself (and my children) from people who may not like me (or them) based on my religion.
Law enforcement officials will likely assume I am a non-threatening person if my religion is disclosed to them. In fact, disclosure may actually help law enforcement officials perceive me as being “in the right” or “unbiased.”
I can safely assume that any authority figure will generally be someone of my religion.
I can talk about my religion, even proselytize, and be characterized as “sharing the word,” instead of imposing my ideas on others.
I can be gentle and affirming to people without being characterized as an exception to my religion.
I am never asked to speak on behalf of all Christians.
My citizenship and immigration status will likely not be questioned, and my background will likely not be investigated, because of my religion.
My place of worship is probably not targeted for violence because of sentiment against my religion.
I can be sure that my religion will not work against me when seeking medical or legal help.
My religion will not cause teachers to pigeonhole me into certain professions based of the assumed “prowess” of my religious group.
I will not have my children taken from me from governmental authorities who are aware of my religious affiliation.
Disclosure of my religion to an adoption agency will likely not prevent me from being able to adopt children.
If I wish to give my children a parochial religious education, I probably have a variety of options nearby.
I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence and importance of my religion.
I can be sure that when someone in the media is referring to God, they are referring to my (Christian) God.
I can easily find academic courses and institutions that give attention only to people of my religion.
My religious holidays are so completely “normal” that, in many ways, they may appear to no longer have any religious significance at all.
The elected and unelected officials of my government probably are members of my religious group.
When swearing an oath, I am probably making this oath by placing my hand on the scripture of my religion.
I can openly display my religious symbol(s) on my person or property without fear of disapproval, violence, and/or vandalism.

Schlosser, L. Z. (2003). Christian privilege: Breaking a sacred taboo. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 31(1), 44-51

You can download a PDF of this list here.

November 21, 2011  |  Christianity, politics, religion, society  |  31 Comments

New Symphony of Science Video: Onward to the Edge!

A new Symphony of Science was released today! I love this lovely ballad featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox, and Carolyn Porco. When I listen to this series, I feel a swell of inspiration and excitement about the future of our species. Thank you, science.

P.S. Happy birthday, Carl Sagan! We miss you and your vision and your passion. Thank you for taking our minds and hopes beyond this pale blue dot.

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.
– Carl Sagan

November 9, 2011  |  science and skepticism, videos  |  4 Comments

I Do Care.


photo by Paul Kelly

I’m sorry I haven’t been writing actively as of late. I sit here in my chair after a weekend of relaxation, escape, and nature only to find myself back in the machinery of life—the mechanical nature of my habits, my job, and my schedules.

And it makes me ponder a bit. I’ve found myself falling into an apathy related to my atheism lately that I’m not sure should be there. I’ve attempted to explain why atheism isn’t a big deal. Even with the mentality that our non-belief is just fine, normal, and not worth a huge stink, I still feel a smoldering passion within my gut when I consider my own story, my past, and the plight of other non-believers who truly are struggling in their current situations. For instance, I received an email this week from a distressed reader:

Over the past year I have began to question my beliefs that I have had since childhood and I’m down right confused and ridden with guilt mainly… Waiting to be “struck” down I suppose. I am working through it slowly, but being married to a “minister” doesnt help.. again.. riddled with guilt… and fear.

It breaks my heart that the search for truth leaves anyone feeling this way, but it especially pains me to hear it from someone who is afraid to leave religion and faith behind. I know just how conditioned Christians (like my past self) are to fear doubt and deviation from the faith. The guilt is tremendous, and it feels like failure to be going against something you’ve been accepting as an authority all your life. I remember hearing that small voice in my head that told me I was “just rebelling” or “going through a doubting phase” or that I shouldn’t make any certain decisions based on my doubts because I could be punished (for lack of a better word) by God for straying and not being strong enough in my devotion. I recall those emotions with a shudder and a sigh.

No one should feel this way.

It’s becoming more clear to me that I may not care as much about debating theology or commenting about other beliefs I find ridiculous (as fun as that may be—especially on the internet when the quick jab and the snarky wit are king) as others do. Instead, I am coming to deeply care about the journeys and stories of others in the atheist community. Where have we come from, and where are we going? Do we have enough support and friendship to spare for those who are not quite strong enough to go it alone? Can we move forward together? Is my dream of atheist community  just a silly, romantic, and futile idea in this period of individualistic living?

So I may not be writing much, but I’m still figuring this whole atheism thing out… day by day. As we all are.

Religious Firing Decision Stands, and I Revamp My Resume

supreme court

Photo by Phil Roeder

The United States Supreme Court will not be hearing Sylvia Spencer et al v. World Vision, the controversial case of three World Vision employees who were fired for not believing in Jesus as God or the Trinity as required by World Vision’s company policies. World Vision won the appeal in 2010 in front of the Ninth Circuit, and that decision stands.

In the World Vision case, all sides agreed that the nature of the firings were religious, but the fired employees argued that World Vision was not truly religious since its work was humanitarian rather than religious, and not significantly different from groups like the Red Cross.

So what about jobs that do not involve religious work at all, such as a shipping worker or a web developer? The Court says [PDF],

The nature of the Employees’ duties is irrelevant to our analysis. If World Vision qualifies for the exemption, it is entitled to terminate employees for exclusively religious reasons, without respect to the nature of their duties.

What does this mean for people like me who are closet atheists in other Christian companies? It means I need to find a new job or risk being fired. I already knew this, but I think it’s getting to the point where I can’t put it off much longer. Despite the poor economy, I’ve got to get out of here.

According to the decision, firing someone based on religious beliefs is not limited to places of worship or schools.  As cited in the court’s decision (pages 7-8), here are nine factors considered in determining whether an entity qualifies for religious exemption.

  1. whether the entity operates for a profit,
  2. whether it produces a secular product,
  3. whether the entity’s articles of incorporation or other pertinent documents state a religious purpose,
  4. whether it is owned, affiliated with or financially supported by a formally religious entity such as a church or synagogue,
  5. whether a formally religious entity participates in the management, for instance by having representatives on the board of
  6. whether the entity holds itself out to the public as secular or sectarian,
  7. whether the entity regularly includes prayer or other forms of worship in its activities,
  8. whether it includes religious instruction in its curriculum, to the extent it is an educational institution, and
  9. whether its membership is made up by coreligionists.

You can read the Ninth Circuit’s Sylvia Spencer et al v. World Vision decision here [PDF].

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October 3, 2011  |  Christianity, news, religion  |  9 Comments