Ask an Atheist with Sam Mulvey

Christian Privilege: Not Being Allowed to Dominate Others Doesn't Mean You're Being Oppressed.

oppressed christians pie chart

We get a number of comments on the blog entries, including this one in response to Beth’s piece on why we’re thrilled that New York has legalized same-sex marriage:

Here’s the thing. Even Obama says that a “Marriage” should be between a man and a woman. Why do gays have to have “Marriage”. Why can’t it be a civil union? why isn’t that good enough? I understand you are an Atheist and any religious argument is looked upon with disdain, but you are doing the exact thing that you accuse others of doing to you. You are treading roughshod over their beliefs. There was and is a solution. Don’t call it gay marriage. However, as per usual, it seems the gay community must thumb it’s collective nose at everyone else.

This comment so typifies what I feel is the Christian privilege behind a lot of the opposition to same-sex marriage equality, that I felt it deserved to be addressed as a blog post of its own. I don’t know if the author of the comment is a Christian or not, but I think it’s a safe assumption, given the way that majoritarian arrogance just drips from every sentence.

First, I’d tell the commenter that the gay community isn’t “thumbing it’s collective nose at everyone else.” For one, it’s not really “everyone else” anymore since a majority polled now support same-sex marriage rights, but also because human rights are not a popularity contest. The people with the greatest numbers can change the tax system, or affect policy changes on things like roads or healthcare, but they cannot enforce their religious beliefs on any minority.

And this is what many Christians seem to have a real problem with.

No one’s rights are being trampled if same-sex marriage is legalized. NO ONE’S.

If your religious beliefs condemn marriage between two people of the same gender, then you shouldn’t marry people of the same gender. While you have the freedom to limit your own behavior in matters of sexuality, diet or religious observance, you don’t have any power to limit the rights of other people, particularly those in other religions or with no religion.

If someone else is allowed to marry their same-sex partner, the anti-gay marriage advocate is affected in no way, oppressed in no way, their right to hold those beliefs is violated in no way.

Just as orthodox Jews aren’t victims of oppression when other people are allowed to legally watch television and use electric appliances on Saturday. Just as Muslims aren’t victims of oppression when other people are allowed to legally purchase alcohol. Just as Hindus aren’t victims of oppression when other people are legally allowed to eat beef.

You are expecting a level of cultural dominance that is completely unreasonable. You are expecting the right to to demand that your religious practices be taken as civil law and that the prohibitions of (I assume) Christianity be enforced on everybody — including non-Christians and Christians of denominations that accept equality in gay rights.

Our refusal to be dominated is not persecution of Christians. Our demand that the government be neutral and secular on matters of religious belief is not the persecution of Christians. If a man is beating us with a club, slapping that club out of his hand is not “running roughshod over his beliefs.”

As for why they should be allowed to have “marriage,” why do you care what they call their legally recognized relationships? Why do you need to put a velvet rope up around heterosexual relationships to put them in a restricted area so that you don’t have to share a word with anyone else? Why don’t you change the name of your marriage to a “civil union?” Why isn’t that good enough?

Other than the genders involved, there is no difference between a heterosexual marriage and a homosexual one. Both are generally based in love, respect and a desire to spend your lives together.

Your life, again, is affected not one whit if gay folks are allowed to marry their partners. Why do you even care? How are you being harmed or oppressed if gay people are given equal rights?

And you’re right about Obama saying that. And guess what? Obama was wrong. It happens sometimes with the president.


IF YOU LIKE THIS POST: Please consider listening to our most recent episode of Ask an Atheist, “Gaytheism, where Deanna, Keight and Mike discuss the interplay between the gay rights movement and the atheist visibility movement, and why equal rights and protection for gay people tends tends to be important to atheists.

ADMIN NOTE: Poeple have been complaining about comments being paged off.   That’s fixed now.


About the Author: Mike Gillis

Mike Gillis is co-creator, and co-host of Ask an Atheist. He hosts the Radio vs. the Martians! and Mike and Pól Save the Universe! podcasts. He also enjoys comic books, the Planet of the Apes, and the band Queen.

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Here from Shakesville. Well said!


It’s pretty simple. If you take state money, like an adoption agency, christian or not, you are subject to the state’s anti-discrimination laws and thus, cannot discriminate. The problem with the ‘christian’ perspective is that they want their cake and eat it too. They should close their doors. They are providing a STATE service with state money, there are plenty of secular adoption agencies. and to the libertarian. It does not matter if your boss is christian or not, he is of public accommodation and thus cannot discriminate in employment or benefits. If the owner was mormon would it be… Read more »


I think one very important issue has not been addressed.

February 2004, the President issued an Executive Order earmarking an astonishing $3.7 billion to be doled out to faith-based and other organizations. And that number continues to grow as they build a church on every corner.

As long as churches, ministers, pastors, etc receive or are paritally supported by tax payer money, they should not be able to opt out of providing services to any tax payer. Period.


“I would deny a gay military person the right to be married if I had that power. Our bible tells us that people of the same sex should not lay together as a man lays with a woman.
Does that make me a bigot?”

Yes. You’re wanting to deny a group of people equal treatment under the law on the basis of their sexual orientation. This is quite obviously bigotry.

If you don’t like being called the the name, don’t engage in the behaviour.


“The saddest part is that some people are so sure that I am the bigot that they fail to realise they are reacting in such a way that it makes them exactly the names they are calling me.”

Wrong. Nobody is telling you you can’t have your own beliefs. Nobody is telling you you can’t live according to your own beliefs. Nobody is trying to dictate to you which consenting adult you may or may not marry.

You have the right to your own beliefs. You don’t have the right to force others to live according to your beliefs.

james wilson

i think all of u are missing the point….we are all one family in christ, and god says that homosexuality is a SIN, that doesnt mean we have the right to be mad, persecute or oppress anyone. to truly be a follower of Jesus we must embrace all people, regerdless of their beliefs, opinions, or values. true love is to love all equally and without reservation, that is what it means to be a follower of Christ! i am a christian and believe homosexuality is a sin, but…follow me closely…but i dont have the right to judge another, i am… Read more »




So once you can wrap your head around that, it should be easy to see who really is MISSING THE POINT.

[…] time to renew our dedication to the principles of free speech, even if it offends a few people.  As we’ve said in our discussions of religious privilege, a common tactic that religious folks use is asserting that they’re somehow victims of […]

[…] An Atheist has an excellent post about Christian privilege, the important lesson from which is this: just as many men throw their hands up and call feminists […]


No, James, you are missing the point. You may be one in Christ but you need to stop thinking everyone is part of your club, or that you have the right to push your beliefs on them. There are *billions* of people who believe in gods other than yours, or in no gods at all. You think it’s OK to proclaim we’re all part of your group when we’re clearly not. You think your god is the only one, and that everyone does/should kowtow to him. You’re wrong. It’s really offensive when you presume to know us and think you… Read more »

[…] pretend like it’s religious people who are the real victims of the culture war they started. As we’ve said more than once on our show and on this blog, it’s truly amazing to see people misrepresent themselves as victims of persecution because […]

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