Archive for January 7, 2016

Religion in Private and Public

I’ve been watching some discussion of contrasts in attitudes towards the role of religion in culture in Europe vs. the United States between various polytheists- of course, there’s a big cultural range within both Europe and the U.S.

For myself, I had a secularized Protestant upbringing- as in- we went to church, but prayer wasn’t practiced as a family, and my parents would get Deer in the Headlights looks in their eyes if I asked them questions about religion. Church was a primarily a way to access community in smaller and conservative towns as well as to be involved in social justice movements- yes in those days “social justice” was always a concept with a religious context (from Catholic theology actually!) The Social Gospel and Civil Rights movement were major influences, and to stand up for various oppressed groups and oppose the tyranny of the Religious Right was part of being a good Christian/Methodist and American citizen in general.

I came to associate expressions of Christian religiosity with being  conservative and intolerant. There were here and there more moderate examples of piety but in general it was a warning sign, especially as I grew to question my sexual orientation and religious views.

After going to a Lutheran college, I got more used to the idea that people could be sincerely, devoutly Christian while having a range of social & political attitudes. In some ways, I liked that the school’s religious slant was out in the open instead of the way it is at a lot of state schools, where it’s supposed to be secular, but with an awkwardly unacknowledged Christian slant.

I see pressure both from religious liberals who want to be tolerant and multicultural as well as atheist/nonreligious people to make religion an entirely private matter- this tends to be the Western European approach, as well as the case in certain social and regional groups of the U.S. While I agree we should be careful to not bring up religion at inappropriate times or create unnecessary conflict, entirely sweeping under the rug creates more conflict. It cedes public religiosity to obnoxious street preachers (I’ll include nonreligious ones) However, each religion needs to be treated the same way. I’d ask atheist activists to please stop using the phrase “religious privilege” as if all religions are treated alike. It’s Christian privilege. We support your right to not be religious. No strategy for protection of minority religious rights should be pitted against the rights of agnostics and atheists. I’m all for a more open, civil exchange of ideas- we need to have that in the public square to understand each other. Let’s not let people on the extremes shut this down.


January 7, 2016 at 4:28 am 4 comments


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