Why do some Christians feel oppressed in the US?

Continuing the conversation from Comments on Does Coyne Need to Apologize to Eddie?.

So, I agree with @Faizal_Ali that in many cases, Christians in the US seem to exaggerate when they claim they are oppressed, especially compared to the many Christians around the world living in countries genuinely hostile to Christianity. That being said, I can offer an explanation for a certain case which is understandable. Christianity is still a powerful cultural force in many parts of the US (e.g. the Bible Belt), but not so much in secular academia. The majority of people in academia (apart from those in Christian colleges) are not evangelical Christians. In addition, a lot of these universities are located in areas of the US which are not very religious (such as the Northeast).

But a lot of the important conversations about science, theology, and society are going on within that context. Among some Christians in academia, there’s definitely a sense of social pressure that one’s religious beliefs have to be hidden when personally interacting with colleagues in a secular setting, which leads to the sense of Christians being oppressed.

It is similar to atheists having to hide their atheism when talking to members of their family who expect them to be religious, yet they are not. In this case, there is often a perceived presumption in academia that everyone is not religious, yet actually one is religious. @Faizal_Ali, I hope that you can at least sympathize for this case.


@dga471 Do you think that there is some anxiety among Christians in this country that Christianity is aging out? That the younger generation is certainly less religious and the old generations worry about that?


@Patrick I definitely think that there is a fear among some older American Christians that Christianity is becoming less powerful culturally, to the point that Christians cannot just expect that laws will perfectly reflect Christian ethics without a huge struggle. But many people have also come to terms with that (e.g. Rod Dreher in The Benedict Option). After all, for two centuries Christianity was a fringe, minority religion in the Roman Empire. It was the outsider, not part of the establishment. That’s the context in which all of the New Testament was written.

I think that many of us who are young but serious Christians are prepared to live with that possibility of no longer being the default cultural option. (After all, this is the situation for millions of Christians in non-Christian majority countries, including Indonesia where I am from!) I think there is an upside to this as well: if you want to be and remain a Christian, you have to deliberately choose to do so, instead of just going along what society expects you to do. This will hopefully create Christians with a more robust and sincere faith.


I think there is a difference between being part of a mainline denomination and being evangelical. As an evangelical, I frequently encounter suspicion, and occasionally outright hostility, from mainline Protestants.


Mainline non-protestant here. In my experience, what puts me off many evangelicals is a mix of anti-science, politicized Christianity and paleoconservatism. Literalism and innerancy of the scripture and predominantly Calvinist views also don’t help.

I need to stress this: many , not all.


It puts me off too, and I’m an evangelical.


I think it is normal for people to freak out a bit when their beliefs move from a privileged position to a non-privileged position. For a long period of time, Christian beliefs were the de facto cultural beliefs within the US. That has changed. The US is becoming more secular, just as has already happened in many European countries.

Perhaps the first step is to help people realize that secularism is not anti-religion.


Or at least it doesn’t have to be anti religious.


I think this best represents my concerns as Christian. I personally don’t feel persecuted, but we seem to be at times heading a direction where secularism is anti-religion (I’m in Canada, where I think we are a bit further down the path of secularism than the US).

I can’t be a Christian and not have what I believe not be reflected in my actions, and my conversations. The state should not be advocating for any religion, or lack of religion but that should prevent people who work for the state from discussing what they believe and the reasons for their actions. Obviously there can be a fine line there, but from my perspective we are swaying to far towards the “can’t discuss” side of the line rather than the “can’t advocate”.


I’m Canadian, too, so I’m interested to hear what you perceive as “anti-religion” here.

I don’t see much evidence of “can’t discuss”. I do think it is more common now that the situation is “can’t discuss without people saying that your beliefs are ridiculous”. But one should take that as an opportunity to evaluate whether one’s beliefs might actually be ridiculous.

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That is to say, there has been a situation thru all of human history in which a select group of superstitious, unverifiable beliefs have been privileged and given a position of respect, often to the point that to question these beliefs would incur the most severe reprisals possible. This position has not been granted these beliefs based on their inherent qualities, but purely on the basis of the power held by the people who hold these beliefs.

It’s long past time this was no longer the case. If someone really feels the need to tell all his co-workers he believes some guy walked on water and came back from the dead 2000 years ago, he should not be entitled to be treated any differently than someone who believes he has a dragon living in his basement.

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What do you mean by “work for the state”?

Do you think it is okay for a county clerk not to sign a legal SSM license because of her religious beliefs?

How about a doctor in a Government funded hospital refusing to preform an abortion to save the life of the mother?

@Patrick and @Faizal_Ali

Those are all good questions, but I have to run to finish my apple and run to a meeting. I’ll get back to you this evening.

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When I wrote this I was thinking specifically of a teacher. While I don’t want teacher’s advocating for any particular set of beliefs, I see no reason why the the right context (perhaps a civics class) a teacher is wrong to discuss how their beliefs would influence their own actions, where those beliefs are Christian,Buddhist,Islamic or Atheistic.

I think allowing this kind of discussion allows us to better understand each other, even if we have to agree to disagree.

Another example that comes to mind is the laws about to be implemented in Quebec banning all public servants from wearing any religious symbols. While not conversation, this in my mind crosses on what is necessary to simply prevent religious advocacy by public servants.

I was thinking of any position that is part of government of funded by the government.

I don’t think the clerk or the doctor should be forced to do something they believe is morally wrong in order to keep their job. Ideally, they would step aside and allow someone else to act in their place. If they believe even that is immoral, then they probably need to leave their job. I also would say they should not take a job knowing they would be asked to do something they consider immoral. Likewise if the job changes after they are already in it, I would hope their employer would do everything in their power to move them to a position where they don’t need to act in what they believe to be an immoral way.


I’m not aware of any laws, or even widespread sentiments, that would be against that.

Yes, that is something I disagree with. However, I also see it as something peculiar to Quebec and its concerns over preserving its “distinct society.”

Quebec is a backward left wing oppressive society nobody in Canada esteems. they are too boring to get mad about.
Everyone can claim to have had some of thier members, of thier group, THEY HEARD were done wrong because of their group connection.
Nerds, unattractive people, tall, short, beautiful, dull, funny, etc
Yes Christians are opprersed in large numbers but still its only somewhat more then a thousand other groups who attacked.
It only counts if your rights, pursuit of happiness, is interfered with.
Surely its not very much.
Yes Hollywood is a enemy , enough, and yes the state attacks Christianity in state institutions by censoring us while allowing opponents to say what they will.
Jesus said men would hate/revile us. prophecy fulfilled.
Yet the founders of america left everybody with the tools to defeat oppresion by rights and democracy and free speech. The latter is interfered with everywhere but still no execuses.
Another Jerry Falwell is needed these days.
America alone has a perfect system to fight for your right to party.
However your efforts must be in proportion to your opponents.
Canada,Britain has a inferior such heritage.

The anti-religious symbol law is being implemented by a centre-right government.

Most Canadians have no less esteem for Quebec than for any other province in the nation.

Just thought I’d correct this for anyone who thought you might have any better an understanding of Canadian politics than you do of science and religion.


It’s a question of constitutionality, not necessarily wrong or right. The core principle is the government should not entangle itself in religious issues, and what you describe would probably cross that line.

A better approach might be to talk in generalities, such as the philosophical idea behind the separation of church and state. A teacher could describe how a lawmaker’s morality could be guided by religious traditions, but when it comes to laws you need something more than religious belief. There needs to be a secular reason for a law to exist.

I can somewhat understand the reason for such a law. There can be ambiguity if small symbols are allowed but larger ones are not. For example, someone could where a T-shirt with a massive cross on it, reading “Jesus Saves”, while another person just has a small cross on a necklace. Are the courts going to decide which is allowed and which is not based on size or appearance?