‘More-Persecuted-Than-Thou’ Attitude

Today I was taking part in a Facebook debate (reasonably well-mannered, considering it’s Facebook) on faith and atheism and whether people are harassed or persecuted in any way because of their beliefs.  I commented that in my experience in the UK it was easier to say you were atheist or agnostic than to ‘come out’ as a Christian.  As I said a while back:


you open yourself to ridicule or scorn and are often held to account for everything from the Inquisition to latent homophobia.

However one person on the Facebook thread believes that the persecution is all on the other side.  Atheists get it in the neck much worse than the faithful, apparently, and Christians who complain of criticism are being whiney (my word) and confusing argument with personal attacks.

I think there are some double standards here (my persecution is real but you’re just being whiney) and I have to say it doesn’t accord with my experience.  I can’t speak for the US but in Western Europe Christianity is on the back foot and has been for several decades.  In spite of the establishment of the Church of England and the protected status of faith schools (both of which I disagree with, by the way) in society at large atheism has become the default position.  You are assumed not to have a faith unless otherwise stated.

Generally when you mention your faith to people they start to edge away as though you’re about to lay hands on them and start praying.  Of course historically the church has a lot to answer for and I wouldn’t dream of defending it: even nowadays you can see some examples of pretty bad evangelism, usually carried out by some very thick-skinned people.  But there is a level of scorn aimed at the religious which I don’t see directed at atheists (not that I’d want it to be) and led by the high priest of atheism, Richard Dawkins.

To sum up, the zeitgeist is not friendly to faith.  I wouldn’t call it persecution, but I wouldn’t call it acceptance either.

Kirk out

Are You a Closet Christian?

It is generally assumed that if you’re a white Northern European, you are Not A Christian.  Anyone who’s educated, enlightened and forward-thinking is automatically presumed to be either atheist, sceptical or at the very least agnostic: with Richard Dawkins preaching on every (virtual) street corner, it’s not a good time to have faith.  And yet according to the Guardian last year 43% of the UK population identify as having a Christian faith


and according to a Gallup faith survey in 2014 30% of the UK’s population identified as ‘religious’.


However we unpick these figures, the trend continues to be downwards; and the assumption is still that if you have a brain you believe in science, and that if you believe in science you cannot possibly be religious.

If you do declare a faith you are likely to encounter one of two approaches: either people may edge away from you and regard you as a freak who is likely to jump on them and start speaking in tongues; or they come at you with a barrage of questions such as ‘what about homophobia in the church?  How can you believe in god when there’s so much suffering?’ or ‘look at all the terrible things done in the name of god!’  In other words, you become an apologist for religion, expected to answer for all the evil committed in the name of God, as well as being expected to have an answer to all the big questions.

As I have previously said I think ‘do you believe in God?’ is the wrong question.  I have developed an answer to this which I have outlined here:


Interestingly I’ve found it much easier since I’ve become a Quaker.  People seem to have different associations with Quakers than they do with Christians in general, so the usual response is one of interest, not fear or hostility.  But it remains difficult in certain circles to ‘come out’ as a Christian.  Tracey Ullman has perfectly captured this in a series of sketches in her latest show (it’s 16 minutes in:)


This in itself is interesting.  I don’t know whether Tracey Ullman has a faith or not, but for a mainstream comic to do such a sketch may indicate that the tide is turning, at least in favour of more tolerance.

Kirk out