Christian Privilege and the Fox who cried wolf

By Freedom From Religion Foundation


Fox News is not known for its accurate reporting. One of their recurring segments, “The Fight for Faith,” is especially detrimental to their reputation for fairness. The segment often discusses what they call the “war on religion” or, more specifically, “the persecution of Christians.” There are instances of real Christian persecution around the globe, but no convincing instance here in the U.S.  But that does not stop Fox News from claiming otherwise. In that segment, Fox News personality Elizabeth Hasselbeck highlighted FFRF’s victorious campaign persuading the U.S. Navy to comply with the Constitution by removing bibles from guest rooms at naval hotels.

Hasselbeck complained, “You know, in light of what’s going on in the world and the persecution of Christians right now, how close do we want to get to eliminating religious freedom in the globe? Particularly here.”

Let that sink in. “Particularly here,” in the United States, where the majority of citizens are Christian and where Christians are vastly overrepresented in the halls of power. Meanwhile, in Iraq, ISIS is actually persecuting non-Muslims, including Christians, forcing a real exodus (as opposed to the biblical myth). Hasselbeck and Fox News are giving the American Christian persecution complex a disproportionate voice, and they’re saying the wrong things.

Let’s be clear, removing Christian privilege so that our government complies with the Constitution is not persecution. Eliminating religious privilege is not the same as eliminating religious freedom. If “ministers of the gospel” get a tax break that is not available to anyone else, the government is correct to end that break. This is simply ending unconstitutional favoritism the government is showing towards religion, as FFRF’s successful lawsuit against the parsonage housing allowance has shown. This is not hostility, it is equality.


  1. Oh come now, suffering and persecution are part and parcel of being religious, especially Christian; I mean, it just wouldn’t be the same without it.

    And where does one seek the source of atrocities against religions? Why, where else but within religions themselves; and it has to be said, that they make a jolly good job of it.

    I submit that rational individuals just want to get on with enjoying their lives.

    What’s the point of beating yourself up all the time?


    • What’s the point of beating yourself up all the time?

      This is admittedly highly speculative, and so I can’t guarantee there’s any strong research behind it, having not yet found any, but I think there is an answer to that question.

      David Brin, who by his own account was trained as an astrophysicist, has suggested that self-righteous indignation is an addictive mindset. According to this view, it feels good to think you’re right, they’re wrong, and that an injustice is being committed and emotions trampled over because the other side doesn’t appreciate your arguments.

      But the notion of self-righteous indignation being a drug high seems to develop naturally out of recent scientific results that show that addiction is actually the most natural of human processes. You’ve heard the phrase “addicted to love.” Well, you can deliberately enter less salubrious mental states. You can deliberately go to Las Vegas, and the slot machines are now tuned to track the pattern of your behavior at the slot machine and change their rewards pattern so you start getting more rewards when it calculates that you’re about to stand up and give up and leave. So there’s gambling, thrill addiction. Well, it turns out that there’s substantial evidence that self-righteous indignation is one of these drug highs, and any honest person knows this. We’ve all been in indignant snits, self-righteous furies. You go into the bathroom during one of these snits, and you look in the mirror and you have to admit, this feels great! “I am so much smarter and better than my enemies! And they are so wrong, and I am so right!”

      And if we were to recognize that self-righteous indignation is a bona fide drug high, and that yes, just like alcohol, some of us can engage in it on occasion — as a matter of fact, when I engage in it, I get into a real bender — but then say, “Enough.” If we were to acknowledge this as a drug addiction, then it might weaken all the horrible addicts out there who have taken over politics in America, and allow especially conservatism to return to the genteel, calm, intellectual ways of Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley.

      (BTW, this is from an interview with Brin here: Just note that he says there’s lots of research evidence, but I haven’t found any yet, so take it with a pinch of salt)

      More interestingly, Gary Longsine and Peter Boghossian from the the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry took up the idea in 2012 and incorporated it into one of two fallacies: The Twin Fallacies of Appeal to Righteous Indignation and Appeal to Sanctity.

      So the point of beating yourself up all the time is that it feels good to fume over how you’re Right, your opponents are Wrong, and you’re being picked on or having your emotions trampled over because some people are failing to see that. This can even work for bystanders, who aren’t the targets of offence themselves but who otherwise buy into the logic and side with the indignant one because they agree with the logic of the Appeal to Righteous Indignation.

      By the way, here’s a drinking game: Go onto the thread A hundred walked out of my lecture and take a swig each time someone who criticizes Blackmore fits this description for the Appeal to Righteous Indignation:

      An Appeal to Righteous Indignation similarly attempts to place an idea beyond the reach of critique, but it employs a different mechanism. Rather than suggesting that the idea itself is privileged and thus must be immune from criticism, an Appeal to Righteous Indignation implies that a critique of an idea is equivalent to an attack on a person. Intrinsic to an Appeal to Righteous Indignation is the notion that attacks on an idea are morally equivalent to verbal or physical attacks on people, that an attack on an idea justifies a response at least proportionate to an attack on a person. Credible threats of violence often accompany displays of righteous indignation and are sometimes viewed as justified by members of the community. Consider the odd case of a man who burned a VFW flag in a drunken fit. He was taped to a flagpole for several hours the next day by an indignant VFW member, who then spoke about his actions openly to a local television reporter (Gardinier and Martínez 2009), apparently unconcerned about any possible legal repercussions.

      Those who engage in these fallacies believe that becoming indignant, or refusing to question a particular belief, are virtues. In other words, one should become indignant, and not becoming indignant indicates a moral flaw in one’s character; one should refuse to question privileged beliefs, and persistence in questioning represents a character defect.

      I lament that I have yet to find the relevant research on this topic that Brin mentions, as it’s such a wonderfully clear explanation of the phenomenon. I shall have to keep an eye out for it.

      Also, sources:


      This is where Brin writes “an open letter” urging research into this area, given what we know about the mechanism of addiction. He’s certainly a peculiar guy, but oddly interesting for it.

      • Moral indignation nets an easy reward. The left may be indignant at at violations of fairness and unfair harms but the right have a broader choice in violations of loyalty, attacks on the status quo and insufficient submission to authority. (These are drawn from Haidt’s first five moralities.)

        The right tick all the boxes of their moralities simply by vociferously pointing out any transgressions against them. (Submitting to authority you must not assume responsibility to author any substantial actions of your own….)

        I imagine out-group transgressor detection to go something like this. No sweat and lots of feelgood.

      • Oh dear, Zeuglodon.

        Although I meant the kernel of my comment to be taken seriously because I think it’s true, I also intended it to be flippant; especially the bit you cite.

        I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to deal with the activities and pronouncements of the adherents to religions is to ridicule them; mainly because they long for what they do and say to be taken seriously and debated, an exercise which I consider to be about as fruitful as trying to sweep water into a pile.

        • Zeuglodon understood you and your very good rhetorical question. …and then took your point even further, by explaining how it can actually be – that some do experience a gain in feeling victimized. (“beating themselves up”)

          • Timothee Aug 20, 2014 at 10:59 am

            – that some do experience a gain in feeling victimized. (“beating themselves up”)

            It is a long standing religious tradition!


            The practice of mortification of the flesh for religious purposes was utilized by some Christians throughout most of Christian history, especially in Catholic monasteries and convents.

            In the 13th century, a group of Roman Catholics, known as the Flagellants, took this practice to its extreme ends. The Flagellants were later condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as a cult in the 14th century because the established church had no other control over the practice than excommunication. Self-flagellation remains common in the Philippines, Mexico, and one convent in Peru.

            Some members of strict monastic orders, and some members of the Catholic lay organization Opus Dei, practice mild self-flagellation using an instrument called a “discipline”, a cattail whip usually made of knotted cords, which is flung over the shoulders repeatedly during private prayer.[1] Pope John Paul II took the discipline regularly.

            Some also like to provoke others so they can play the victim or martyr.

        • Although I meant the kernel of my comment to be taken seriously because I think it’s true, I also intended it to be flippant; especially the bit you cite.

          Maybe so, but I thought it interesting enough to answer anyway. It’s a good question, especially in the context of the persecution complex discussed in the article. Besides, knowing is half the battle… 😉

          I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to deal with the activities and pronouncements of the adherents to religions is to ridicule them; mainly because they long for what they do and say to be taken seriously and debated, an exercise which I consider to be about as fruitful as trying to sweep water into a pile.

          Depends. I think religion should be as viable a target for comedians and general public mockery as politics and other topical issues are in the mainstream. Otherwise, I think that’s just playing into their hands. “Look how nasty and callous they are! They disrespect us because they have no real answers!”

          No, the best thing is to treat them as a valid target of rational inquiry, to take them “seriously”. Like pseudoscientific drivel which has been debunked and is being debunked by that process of rational inquiry. They rely on avoiding head-on rational discourse because they won’t last long. Whether they know this or not, I can’t be sure, but either way they avoid such fatal critical enquiry by invoking Righteous Indignation and Sanctity.

          The point is to shoot down the religious pretensions of Righteous Indignation and Sanctity, and then once those distractions are no longer publicly acceptable, let them have it with both barrels. That’s because we know they won’t survive the onslaught, and the RI and S are just smoke and mirrors they’re hiding behind. Take those down, expose them for the underhanded and sloppy distractions that they are, and the religions don’t stand a chance.

          • You make some excellent points, but each to their own, and I prefer making fun of them, partly because it’s the easiest option.

            To destroy their arguments effectively one has to become well versed in the holy texts etc, and although I have made attempts to familiarize myself with them it’s just too boring for words, and since the foolishness of it all is in plain sight I go for the open goal.

            Those of the calibre of Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, et al do such an excellent job, it would be silly for me to even attempt their kind of approach.

            Thanks anyway for your complimentary comments.

      • @Zeuglodon
        That’s a really interesting insight into a particular type of behaviour. I can see it playing out in my mind’s eye; in fact I’m pretty sure that I’m one of the guilty culprits over on the Sue Blackmore thread. Nah! Maybe not! One to keep in mind nonetheless.

    • Andrew Seidel, of the Secular Student Exchange.

      I got that from right-clicking on the image. The SOURCE button is unclickable for me. I would comment about that but the moderators might take it as a slight against them and I don’t want to antagonize them any more that I already have. I do mean well, honest, even if I am sometimes a pain in the bum. :(

      For the record, the mods, I think most of us regulars know that the new site isn’t your fault, even if you are the ones who bear the brunt of most of the criticism.

        • I’ve seen his cute mug here before FFRF.

          Yes, a colon betwixt the two would work. Many requests I’ve put forth to bring back easy to spot ‘continue reading’ link – the answer basically was ‘but there is a link’, argh(!). To paraphrase Phil Rimmer, it seems akin to pencil-pushing CEOs who’ve no idea what’s going on in the front lines.

  2. The segment often discusses what they call the “war on religion” or, more specifically, “the persecution of Christians.

    Richard. I’d take this as a pretty good report card. If the Christians are circling the wagons and calling in the FOX propaganda warriors, the rational of this world must be doing something right, and those who adhere to the Right to (Control Your) Life, must get getting some negative feedback. Don’t let up.

    Christians. Persecuted in America. Give me a break.

      • Do you think they would feel persecuted if the Faux channel was persuaded to broadcast a series from your namesake on my earlier link?

        I’m thinking outrage. Boycotts. Burning effigies of Rupert Murdoch. They might even go off an invade another middle eastern nation trying to provoke the rapture….

        I’ve lived with my name, and the requirement to always have an Irish joke handy, because it was expected of me. Now only folks my age remember Dave Allen and his irreverent show.

        What’s the difference between God and Bono?
        God doesn’t wander around Dublin thinking he’s Bono.

  3. On a recent news broadcast from an Atlanta station a student from the school in question solemnly informed us that none of the students had a problem with prayer at school: she knew a girl who is an atheist who joined the big group prayer protest.

    This issue comes as a startling new idea to a group of people who never imagined any reason to doubt their longstanding cultural practices. The literally don’t know what they are talking about.

  4. I may be tempted, though not very often, to turn on FOX News, just to see what kind of hogwash is being presented. However, when I hear about people at that station complaining about the “persecution of Christians” I have a series of gut reactions that frustrate me so much that I realize I should never go to that station. It is always important to give some time to opposing viewpoints, but when things that are presented are so ridiculous and predictable they seem to defeat the purpose of giving some equal time to the perspective that is so diametrically opposed to mine.

  5. I do believe the Shiites Muslims are being “persecuted also” but.. I don’t think the Christian community cares to much about that…I could be wrong but all the web sites I visit are trying to get everyone all upset over the Christians beheading only and not anybody else.

  6. ‘Christian privilege?’

    Wow, as a highly educated, financially secure white man, I hear about white privilege and male privilege and how the rest of the world is victimized by it.

    Now, finally, as an atheist, I can get in on the victim game and claim to be the victim of ‘Christian privilege.’ Damn those evil Christians with their tax breaks and such!

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