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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All of your comments/responses.. and its still just your bigotry coming through. Gay people getting married in no way affects you. Period.

Please get over it and realize you are just being hateful towards an entire group of people that in no way effect your life. no matter how many times you comment or try to give some half assed argument on why gay marriage is wrong you just come off as a bigot and hatemonger.


Funny…I never once said anything about how marriage has been for the last 1000 years. I am perfectly aware of the fact that I belong to two minority’s who have and still are fighting for their rights; Women and Native Americans. To compare segregation to the fight for gay rights is laughable though. We fought a civil war largely over slavery, we killed blacks in tragic numbers, we tortured and raped and committed atrocities against them to try to stop them from fighting for their rights. Gays are pissed off because the Government does not want the added cost of… Read more »


Mr. Gillis I have few arguments for banning same-sex marriage. 1. My religion 2. The cost during a time when so many are struggling, losing their homes, going hungry…ect. 3. Fear. Honesty is one of the attributes that my friends and family appreciate about me. I simply cannot support your cause. I would agree to call you but for a couple of things…One, I will be camping this weekend. Two, I am not just a Christian. I am a Christian who disagrees with gays being married. Your show is an Atheist show. If the comments above are any indication I… Read more »


to Elly

Your are in no way a Christian, Jesus believed in love and not being judgmental and hateful which is the total opposite of what you preach.


The argument that gay marriage would end up costing the government more money is a load of bullshit. First off.. It would put more money into the economy by way of marriage licenses.. bolster uses of public halls, wedding services (florists, bridal shops, bakeries, and all other things associated with weddings) and that is just the start. In fact lobbyists/religious nuts (think Prop 8 and the mormon church, people like Elly) are wasting the governments time and money by fighting this thing by way of propositions, lawsuits,etc.. and if they would just legalize gay marriage we could actually focus on… Read more »


@Elly – You claim that you do not pick and choose which parts of the Bible you want to follow, and yet you are quoting Leviticus. I love Leviticus. Let’s leave aside for a moment that more than 70% of Leviticus is about how to prepare sacrifices to God. (which I’m quite certain you don’t do) Let’s also set aside that a good portion of Leviticus is rules about how Polygamy should work, and just stick with some of the stranger rules it dictates, shall we? -Ever have sex with your Husband while you were on your period? Ever let… Read more »


Obama can say that marriage *should be* between a man and a woman – and he is entitled to his opinion. After all, he is a man and is married to a woman. Good for him.

I haven’t heard or read him say that gays should be prohibited to marry, or that federal government should regulate who gets to marry who.

If more people learned to distinguish between their personal opinion that they are entitled to hold, and what they are reasonably allowed to let/not let other people do – ours would be a more civilized society.


I agree with Art. Right now I call myself an agnostic. I’m not interested in proving or disproving God. But what I do understand about christianity is that yes Jesus loved everyone despite their differences…hello lepers. And if you look at past wars they are all based on some slight of religious difference. With an open mind check out the book by Christopher Hitchens “God is Not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything” Its a good read that will get you thinking. And if you wanna strip religion to the bare basics they are pretty much the same. The differences pop… Read more »


@Biggs – Mike Gillis said that, not Elly.


@Bee – Elly said it too…..

June 29th at 17:28 – Elly said –

“My bible has two parts that causes a ton of controversy within my own religion. I am aware of this and do the best I know how to be a good Christian. To date, as far as I know, I have not “picked and choosed” which portion of the bible that I would follow. I follow a non-denominational Christian belief system.”


I’m not a Christian. Nor am I an atheist. I am like many others a follower of another religion which will at this time go unnamed. It’s just easier that way. My religion has nothing to do with how my neighbors make their toast, fold their towels or live their lives behind closed doors. They wanna get married — let them. It does not affect me nor does it affect my relationship with a higher power I could call God. I found several of the readings here very thought inspiring and some of them really insulting even though I am… Read more »


Beth – my experience with this comment board, as well as those of a few friends of mine, is different from the version you and Mike are telling here. I look forward to continued name-calling from you as you dispute my version of events – it’s as productive as it is mature. Mike – let me preface this by saying I am all for equal treatment under the law. It may seem like a paradox for me to say I prefer government to get out of the marriage business while at the same time saying government should allow contracts between… Read more »


First I want to say, Thank you Elly. Thank you for having a belief & standing up for it. Simply put, if people are allowed to have opinions, and there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to legalize same-sex marriage, then there isnt anything wrong with someone (or any group of people for that matter) who want to say that same-sex marriage is wrong. it’s sad today that in 21st century America, the only ideology that is ABSOLUTELY intolerable is.. “intolerance”.. If I am liberal, then I have every right (because of the opression of the “majority”) to stand up for… Read more »

Ask an Atheist

Hey everyone– comment pagination was broken.

I fixed it. Along with a few other things.

Bow down, etc.

Sammi Jo

@Elly, You seem like a conservative Christian from your numbered list of reasons for opposing gay marriage, so my replies to your arguments are based on that understanding. I can understand when you say “my religion”, even though I would disagree with a religious reasoning. I don’t understand your “fear”, but I think I see where you’re coming from. It seems conservative heterosexual Christians have huge issues with their own sexuality. Sex is for procreation only: no nudity, no masturbation, no sensuality, and you certainly aren’t supposed to enjoy your sexuality or the naked body. Gay sex and the fear… Read more »

Alexandra Napoleon

As the author said, “Human rights are not a popularity contest.” It doesn’t matter what I believe; it doesn’t matter what you believe. “Liberty and justice for all” means just that. It doesn’t mean that you get to choose the people you like or the people who share your opinions or beliefs to have liberty and justice. With all due respect, there is separation of church and state for just this reason and many others. The president is wrong on this one. If marriage is really the objectionable word, perhaps all legal marriages should be civil unions (past and present).… Read more »


Here’s the thing that the people who are arguing that, “We’re only against people being gay because it’s harmful to them” fail to realise: Being gay is only harmful because PEOPLE LIKE YOU MAKE IT THAT WAY. When you create a social climate that portrays being gay as being the worst fate that can befall somebody; when you refuse to treat gay people as equals under the law, thus reinforcing the idea that they’re not deserving of it; when you turn a blind eye to anti-gay bullying; when you compare being gay to being a child molester, or a drug… Read more »


Jeff – We have never censored anyone besides a single individual who was beginning to abuse other posters. We did move comments around in the past, ended up apologizing for the confusion and did our best to make sure that didn’t happen again and that people were aware of where the original comment ended up. We even dedicated entire posts and portions of several shoes on that topic to be sure no one was ignored or felt silenced. Is that the unfair censorship you’re referring to? If so, I disagree with what you seem to think censorship is. If it… Read more »


…And by shoes, I mean shows. 🙂


Also Jeff – what else do I call someone who is arguing that gay people don’t deserve equal rights? Am I misusing the term? I don’t think so, considering the refusal to allow gays to marry is an intolerant position and a bigot is defined as – a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance. I’ve never said anyone can’t dislike gays or think they’re wrong, but actively arguing against… Read more »

David Miller

@Jason-C. S. Lewis was the quote’s author.


As a Christian myself, I wondered while reading the comment where the author got the idea that marriage is a Christian institution. Has he not noticed the vast numbers of Jews, Muslims, Hindus and atheists getting married all around him, every day? Not to mention Wiccans, which I’m sure he would have a problem with. What seems oddest to me about this debate, is how one side always starts from the assumption that Christians invented marriage – as if Hindus did want to outlaw beef, but started their debate about the subject with the position that they invented eating.


Many Christians claim that because atheists don’t believe in God, then we don’t believe in anything. So I have a question for Christians. Since the majority of atheist are heterosexual why do you suppose it is that, not all, but most of us support gay marriage?


Since this is “Ask the Atheist” I don’t believe this will go far but hey… RobC: You seem to be a “whatever makes you happy” do it and let nobody oppose you type of extreme libertarian. Society is allowed to make societal judgments that put limits on that. If killing someone makes you happy, sorry you cant’ do that. If you want a certain politician in office you can’t vote for them 10 times like you can on American Idol. A person cannot have 3 spouses. Should we allow all of that so that we make certain that everyone is… Read more »


Darren: As a christian I know Atheist’s don’t believe in God, but it would be silly to think they don’t believe in anything. Of course you do. And if you are a reasonable human being, which I assume you are, then we probably agree on most things that we believe in. But not everything.


While I am a deist, I would point out that I think in regards to public opinion the pie chart above is way off. Most people who actively describe themselves as “Christians” and for whom the term is salient in ways the affect gay marriage, are not 75% of the mass. I would suggest, having seen their damage, that these are fundy viewpoints that represent a very vocal and loud 40%. You can argue about nuances and what Christian means (the legitimate boundaries), but as someone who does survey data I would suggest to you that most people who are… Read more »


Mike Gillis: I get your anger toward Christians. Unfortunately you can’t have a reasonable debate and agree to disagree. Your graphic underscores a bias that is rampant in our world today. If you are a large group then you must suffer the slings and arrows of anything anyone else desires to throw at you. Because Christians won’t cut your head off or plant an IED under you then it’s “Katie bar the door”. And if any Christian speaks up against those slings and arrows we’re accused of say “we’re being oppressed” “have pity on us”. As a white male I… Read more »


Dave, I agree it would be silly to think atheist don’t believe in anything but you would be surprised how often we hear that from Christians. My question remains, why do Christians believe so many straight atheists support gay marriage?


Darren, well from this Christian I apologize for all those who take zealotry to ridiculous levels. We must have compassion for one another even if we don’t see eye to eye on everything. To your question? Yup, that’s a good question. If I were to guess I’d say that many Christians connect marriage with the church/Jesus/God. Because most conventional marriages are performed in a church before a minister and in the Bible Jesus uses the institution of Marriage as symbol of how Christ views his church/children. The Bible compares the relationship of Jesus and His church to that of a… Read more »


Elly, your pathetic imaginary jesus can suck my fat faggot cock.


To all those who came down on me for 1 man and 1 woman for thousands of years. OK, but I was speaking about western-type cultures in the large. You can find pockets of polygamy and other types or “marriages” though the ages but when we think of western-type cultures we generally see 1 man and 1 woman marriages. I’m not talking about cultures such as Asia, Aztecs, Huns, Zulu’s, etc.


We already have civil unions. We call them marriages. Our nation does not require someone get a church to sign off on your marriage. In fact, you can get married in a church, but if you fail to file the proper paperwork with your state, then the government doesn’t consider you legally married. Every legal marriage in the US is actually a civil union. Therefore, there is no reason to force gays to call their marriages something else.


Just reading the arguements between everyone on here is rediculous. Stop and look at how everyone is acting towards each other. Yes, I have an opinion on this and it is more with the minority for this site, but blantantly forcing it upon others and making incisive comments to one another is going to leave us torn apart. I’m sorry, but I am disappointed in the way people carry themselves at times. Are you really helping bring people together?



You think that there hasn’t been a “blood bath” in the gay rights movement? Ever hear of Matthew Shepard? How about Tyler Clementi, and all the other teenagers who’ve killed themselves because of harassment and homophobia? Tell me, how many more people have to die before you feel that gay rights is on par with the civil rights movement of the 1960s? (BTW, for those keeping score at home, marriage IS a civil right! Ever hear of Loving v. Virginia?)


I just found this through Reddit. Absolutely wonderful argument for equal rights.

I’ve been hearing a lot lately from social conservative Christians who feel that their religion is being threatened (especially after the Prop 8 fiasco). I don’t understand the argument. This is most likely because I feel physically threatened when I’m out late and a group of dudes is yelling “faggots” at the top of their lungs.

Ms. G

I refrained from reading a good deal of these comments because some of them seemed to be repeating stubborn statements and some of them were just making me angry, so forgive me if I am in fact repeating something someone else has pointed out. Alot of Christians are under the impression that marriage is a Christian institution, and that by allowing same-sex marriage, it is an affront to a sacred ceremony. I have a christian friend who is so invested in the idea that it is a christian institution that she has ranted that the government should never have called… Read more »


One of the big difficulties with the notion of “privilege” – be it white privilege, christian privilege, WASP privilege, hetero privilege – is that it is most often ego dystonic ie we’re not aware that we’re reacting from it because it’s all we know. It takes a lot of rubbing up against otherness to help us see our perspective is skewed by our membership in a given group. So to be told we are “privileged” (there’s got to be a better term for this) almost always brings up serious defensiveness. Re: marriage equality in America. When it is being debated… Read more »


regarding: Dave’s comment (#3845) You set a strawman that the author is a ““whatever makes you happy”” libertarian and then proceed to assume that the author is pro-murder and pro-voter fraud and as other have inferred, pro-bestiality and pro-incest and pro-polygamy and probably pro-slavery. So first off, what is right and wrong isn’t about what society or our government says. Nor is it about what some person or other’s holy book says. Right and wrong in this country are based on RIGHTS. Human Rights. Each of us has a right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. How does that… Read more »


@ Karen To say that all religions are basically the same and that the difference is in the details is a very broad statement. If u could support it with a few points that would be great :). I grant that there are similarities and that understanding them is important but there are so many different religions and belief systems that people take part in. They all have very different origins and were created in response to very different historical conditions and systems of thought. You can have theistic religions (which can be monotheistic, polytheistic, etc.) and you can have… Read more »


I have not read thru all the comments but noticed the one by Elly that states how she is Native American. If that is the case, why do you not know anything about the history of same sex marriage in Native Americans? Here is a quote from an article on the history of same sex marriage. ‘In North America, among the Native Americans societies, same-sex unions have taken the form of Two-Spirit-type relationships, in which some male members of the tribe, from an early age, heed a calling to take on female gender with all its responsibilities. They are prized… Read more »


Also Elly you mention how it would be an added cost to the government to allow gay marriage. How would it be any more of cost than if say you have two couples, one – two men, one – two women, for one of the men to marry one of the women, and the other man marry the other (which they could legally do right now) as opposed to the two men getting married and the two women getting married? In both cases you have two couples. How would it be more of a cost if the two couples are… Read more »


Now about the term ‘marriage’. Any same sex couple can use that term even though the government does not legally recognize it. And many do. Guess what, there is not a damn thing you can do about it. Try and get a court to order them to stop using that word.


To those who are wah-waahing because “the only thing that’s intolerable is intolerance”, think about it. What are these “intolerant” laws about? Why, they are about the group in the majority deciding to impose their will on everyone. When “intolerant” social restrictions are broken down, how does that impact you? Answer: it does not. It does not mean that the minority is suddenly imposing their will on you and making you do something. The minority is simply asking you to leave them the fsck alone to be human beings on their own terms. When gay people are finally allowed to… Read more »

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