Many Christians fail to understand (or more accurately one might say that they have forgotten) that it is possible to use religion in a bigoted way. In other words, there are, unfortunately, some believers who feel that it is okay, and that they are entitled to use their religious beliefs to exclude or discriminate against others who do not believe as they believe in a supernatural god or other so–called celestial beings (such as “the ancestors”). Recently, in response to a situation where another entrepreneur stopped all communication with me and informed someone else that I am affiliated with that she had “concerns” about me (and thus about our ability to work together) when she learned of the fact that I am an atheist (which, btw, wasn’t something that she heard from me), I named that behavior as religious bigotry. Of course, the person who I said that to justified the behavior of this woman (perhaps because he is also is also a believer?), and, he alleged that I was not being objective but rather over–sensitive in my take of the situation. All this and I was not even going to work for the woman in question; we were merely contemplating an opportunity to collaborate on community development projects! As to the one who justified the woman’s behavior (ironically out of an unacknowledged subjectivity or sense of entitlement), if that was not projection and the pot calling the kettle black, then I don’t know what is.
Dear readers, and especially those of you who live in the Bible Belt, what I have described above is religious bigotry. Why? Because on the one hand, while a believer is entitled to his or her opinion about a non–believer, when that opinion leads one to articulate discriminatory actions of exclusion or some form of disparate treatment towards a nonbeliever (especially when one is receiving public or taxpayer dollars to carry out his or her business) then one is using one’s opinion as a tool (or perhaps a weapon) of privilege and exclusion, and as a way to position one’s self over and against others.
These behaviors are divisive and hateful in orientation, which are contrary to the ideals that many Christians allegedly say that they embrace, i.e., love, peace and forgiveness. That many Christians behave in such bigoted ways without even realizing is painful to experience and to accept; I always want to believe in the good of humanity. But, these actions particularly troubling when they are enacted and justified by those who are the descendants of indigenous peoples who were consistently excluded and discriminated against by 1) fear–based and ignorant white religious opinions (that a god intended for there to be segregation and separation of “the races”), and 2) by the violent exclusions and actions of those who feel entitled to their alleged higher power’s scripts about life and the alleged social and political order of that life. Further, it is quite terrifying to see how utterly unaware some Christians are to the reality that their religion or belief system has turned them into the spitting image of their oppressors and thus unable to accept those who are different and not beholding to their gods (without wanting them to be utterly destroyed or punished). No one is entitled to be a religious bigot; to use one’s alleged faith tradition or belief system as a vehicle of hate or discrimination. And some of us who know this are not going to roll over and take such blatant and not-so-blatant displays of religious bigotry without a fight!
© 2014 annalise fonza, PhD