White Christians vs White Atheists: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

If you’ve followed me for any amount of time on Twitter, you probably know by now I have strong feelings about atheists who pick on Christians. I’m just as critical of elitist atheists as I am of toxic Christian theology and abusive doctrine. But one of the particular behaviors that sets me off is when (white) atheists take shots at the intelligence of people who believe in any deity.

Belief in a deity does not make anyone less intelligent than someone who doesn’t believe. Beyond that, it doesn’t make them morally superior either. Just as Christianity should not be able to claim moral supremacy, neither should atheists. Not to mention that for both white Christianity and white elitist atheism, claiming moral supremacy is in itself a form of white supremacy. When white atheists say that all religious belief is a sign of ignorance, they are in fact discriminating against people of color whose entire cultural identity revolves around belief in a deity or deities. And what is that, if not racism? Similarly, when white Christians go on mission trips with the intention of converting people who possess indigenous beliefs of their own already, they too are committing a racist act.

The only way to end the fight over moral supremacy is for both sides to acknowledge that all humans are capable of practicing their own faith & beliefs without causing harm. That is what actual religious freedom is. And the only way for atheists to avoid the same elitist behavior that they abhor in Christians, is to embrace pluralism.

Infographic by Chrissy Stroop available at cstroop.com.

Pluralism “-refers to people of diverse and conflicting beliefs coexisting peaceably, linked by their adherence to a shared social contract which commits members of different groups to treating others fairly and accommodating them equally in the public square,” according to former evangelical and religion journalist Chrissy Stroop. She discussed this in how it related to white evangelicals and the Christian right in an article for The Conversationalist in February 2020.[1]

As someone who was raised in the white evangelical bubble, pluralism was obviously a foreign concept to me. In fact, I might have deconstructed earlier had I known that there were real life people who embraced this concept- including people who practiced a lot of other religions I had been taught were evil or dangerous. Meeting other former evangelicals who understood the importance of pluralism comforted me in an uncertain wilderness outside the belief system I was born into.

To me, pluralism means that as long as you are not violating a person’s boundaries by insisting they believe the same thing you do, then you should be free to hold those personal beliefs. And there are millions of Christians around the world who do just that. There are also millions of atheists who do not go around insisting they have superior intelligence for their lack of belief. However the issue on social media is this: the ones who are trying so hard to convince everyone else to believe the same way they do are the ones who make the most noise. They are the ones creating viral tweets and building huge accounts, and they do so by tweeting hot takes on how gullible Christians are, how smart atheists are for not “falling for religion.” Sure, they throw in the occasional tweet about legitimately abusive theology. But what gets the clicks and likes and follows- is the bullying.

Where do we see this with Christianity? It’s the far-right conservative white male pastors who make viral videos about extremist doctrine and send tweets demeaning women and insulting the intelligence of the far left. All in the name of “owning the libs.” Most of the time they’re not defending their theology at all, but more worried about their right to assemble, or right to carry a gun. But the point here is that they present this caricature of American Christianity, much like the white elitist atheists present a caricature of the Christian-hating, belief bashing atheists. Neither of these represent the whole of the people represented in both groups, but they make the most noise.

So if you’re an atheist, trying to make a case for why atheists get a bad rap, call in your own. Don’t spend all your energy yelling “we’re not all like them!” Start yelling at “them” to stop shaming people for believing anything at all. Because they’re just as much an atheist as you are. And if you’re a Christian who’s out here whining “not all Christians” or calling conservatives “fake Christians,” knock it off. The call is coming from inside the house. Go take care of your own house. Use your energy to take these abusive, racist pastors down. Because they absolutely believe in the same bible you do.

[1] Stroop, C. (2020) The Only Way to Save Democracy From the Christian Right is by Fighting for Pluralism, The Conversationalist. Retrieved from http://conversationalist.org/2020/02/13/the-only-way-to-save-democracy-from-the-christian-right-is-by-fighting-for-pluralism/

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