Another Everyday Feminism piece! EF doesn’t have much material on secular identities and Christian privilege, so I’m trying to expand it!
There are a few defining moments that come to mind when I think about my journey to (and through) atheism. And one of them came when I was seventeen, on the phone with my then-boyfriend, who had said he had some “concerns” about our relationship.
This can’t be good, I thought. He finally came out with it: “Well, it’s just that I don’t think I can be with someone who doesn’t believe in anything.”
I knew exactly what he was talking about. We’d argued about religion plenty of times before, and I knew how important Catholicism was to him.
But “doesn’t believe in anything?” I believed in plenty of things. I believed in science, in altruism, in the goodness of people, in the importance of family, friendship, and culture. That’s “nothing?”
Back then, I didn’t have the language and the confidence to push back against what he was implying. I didn’t even identify as an atheist, because I’d never met an out atheist before and probably didn’t realize that identifying that way was a real option for me.
I knew I didn’t believe in god, but I mumbled something about how I do believe in some sort of vague power that controls the universe (probably thinking to myself that that “power” was the laws of physics), and that seemed to satisfy my boyfriend.
It took me a long time – much longer than that particular relationship ended up lasting – to understand my own reaction and to forgive it.
For a while, I thought that I’d been cowardly, or even that I’d lied. But in the moment, I’d really believed what I was saying. And later on, I understood that high school me lived in a social context where openly professing atheism was absolutely not okay.
It wasn’t until later that I learned about privilege, oppression, and microaggressions. These concepts helped me understand a lot of the dynamics that feminists often discuss, such as sexism, racism, transphobia, and other ways in which our society marginalizes certain people based on their identities.
They also helped me understand my experiences as a Jewish atheist growing up in a society where Christianity is privileged and all other forms of belief and nonbelief are marginalized.
Read the rest here.