Thursday, December 29, 2011

Religion and the Persecution Complex

My wife and I moved into our new home in 2010, and we’re quite happy with it. There’s nothing we would change… except one of our neighbors.

Sure, the other neighbor is great. She’s a kind retiree. We exchanged phone numbers. She’s told us where her spare key is, in case of emergency, and I plan to do the same, now that we finally got a spare made. She watches for thick plumes of smoke coming from our home when we go out of town. You know, typical neighbor stuff.

But the other neighbor is a cranky old divorcée with what my wife calls “a persecution complex.” I just call her a bitch, but my wife is much more academic and kind than I am. This bitchy neighbor finds ridiculous things to complain about… like when we had our back fence attached to a pole on our property to create a continuous fenced in area, she claims we connected our fence to hers without her permission (though she readily admits the post is on and a part of what even she calls the “neutral” fence in-between our properties, which is actually on our side of the real dividing line of the property, a concrete drainage half-pipe down the property line).

Never mind that her “fence” is several feet on our property (I wouldn’t even think of asking her to move it, because I’m not ever going to have any use for a foot or two of land on the other side of my fence).

And the way she went about mentioning it… with a verbal complaint shrouded in victimhood while my wife and I were working in the yard one day… it was almost like she was looking for a fight. It affected her yard in no way whatsoever. If anything, it all but acknowledged a cession of a small portion of my yard to her (by clearly fencing in a portion of my yard and all but accepting her decision to have built her back fence a foot or two past the property line).

She gets more yard than she deserves, but she is upset that my fence touches her fence.

She has also complained about her vicious pit bull barking at my dogs. No mention of the fact that she was stupid and bought a huge pit bull she is unable to control while walking around her own yard. No, she complained that with my dogs in my own backyard, that she couldn’t walk her dog in her own backyard. She has more than once loudly commented while walking her dog around her yard that, “I can’t even use my own yard anymore.”

Really? Why don’t you get off your fat fucking ass and walk your dog around the neighborhood once in a while? It would do both you and your deranged dog (who is probably nuts because the poor thing never, ever leaves the house or yard) some good.

This is also the neighbor who, as our first Halloween in the neighborhood approached, I asked what time they would be giving out candy. She muttered something about how she wouldn’t be, and she would be going to church.

Then it all made sense. She’s one of those. You know who I’m talking about: those Victims for Jesus. Or at least that’s what a polite person like my wife might call them. I call them Christ Cunts.

You can identify a Christ Cunt by their unending need to feel like they are the butt of every possible persecution they can imagine. Literally every little thing that happens in their world is some sort of conspiracy against them. They live in an egotistical existence of self-pity, and their Holy Book feeds their view that because of who they are and what they believe, they will be victims of cruelty… even when they clearly aren’t.

It’s strange, really, that a group holding majority power and that always seems to get its way is able to convince themselves that they are being persecuted all the time. I don’t know how the thought process works, honestly. These people seem to imagine themselves in a world where they are being constantly attacked for… I guess being what is socially accepted as “normal.”

It’s an irritating mindset to deal with, especially as someone who is part of a group that actually is marginalized. Study after study finds that atheists are not well liked in America, and yet… I can’t bring myself to feel persecuted, and I certainly never feel like a victim. When I think of victims, I picture real persecution… not what I have experienced. I know there are atheists who have suffered real persecution, but I am not one of them.

No, what an atheist like myself has faced can’t measure up to true victimhood. What have I “endured?” Well, name calling for one. Oh, the horror… my poor, delicate psyche. Then there’s the “institutional prejudice,” which I guess amounts to all those studies finding that people wouldn’t vote for an atheist president, or that atheists are just generally disliked. Maybe an employer who might have hired me saw that I was an atheist on Facebook and rejected my application, but I have no way of proving it, and I doubt such a speculative event happened in my case. I’m sure it’s happened to someone, but I bet the odds are good that I wasn’t one.

Then you have the hate mail and angry comments from my blogging, but honestly… I put my opinions in the public forum, and I wouldn’t expect anything less. There’s billboards denouncing my views (I saw an anti-evolution billboard in West Virginia this week) and promoting Christianity all over the place, not to mention countless other forms of Christian propaganda, from car bumper stickers to sign-holding protesters.

I guess these bother me on some level, but other people are free to say such things, and I usually find the empty and mindless rhetoric of such practices to be more amusing than hurtful. I know I enjoy laughing at them more than they enjoy being such annoying pricks.

I think Muslims have a tougher time of things in America than atheists. I don’t end up on no-fly lists, nor have I been called to a room to be strip searched because of my name or clothing. Sure, atheist billboards have been rejected and defaced, but there has never been a public effort to stop something I valued dearly from being built in my community (unless you count the Republican assault on education funding). Muslims face protest if they want to do even the most mundane things in certain areas.

I know for a fact that in many parts of America, and probably in many other countries, Muslims face marked prejudice. In perhaps some rare and isolated cases in America, atheists experience extreme prejudice, and they certainly have in other places around the world. In fact, the same can be said of Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and even Christians.

Yes, some Christians, even in America, experience prejudice. Millions of Christians (and non-Christians, for that matter) don’t even consider Mormons “real Christians.” The same can be said of Catholics from a Protestant perspective, or Protestants from a Catholic perspective. And everyone shits on Scientologists, because they’re like the sci-fi nerd with asthma in what is the American high school of society.

There is literally a small-scale cultural battle –usually just a kerfuffle – going on at all times at the religious level. Everyone is a target, but there are clear winners and losers. If you’re wondering whether you’re a winner or a loser, here’s some guidelines to help you figure it out:

- if every president in American history worshipped the same person (and his Godly father, and spooky ghost) that you do, you might be winning

- if wearing clothing or pendants which depict your religious stance attracts stares of disgust, you might be losing

- if you drive down the road and see a lot of religious displays representing your faith, you might be winning

- if your house of worship or lone billboard in town supporting your view is vandalized on a regular basis, you might be losing

- if people in your church still talk about that one time years ago when a statue got vandalized (by a church member’s kid), you might be winning

- if, due to past experience, you pre-lube your rectum before going to the airport, you might be losing

- if your religious holidays are coincidentally also federal holidays, you might be winning

- if your religious holidays are known in the US military as the ideal time to strike, you might be losing

- if people have thrown physical objects at you because of your religious views, you might be losing

- if people have thrown insults at you because of your religious views, you might be human

Frankly, it’s not about winning or losing (by which I mean, it’s not about losing and winning, which respectively win and lose the game of “Who Is Most Persecuted?”). It’s not even about some sappy bullshit speech I am supposed to give at the end of this rant where I try to pretend we should all just get along and sing camp songs around a fire while roasting marshmellows, because the Jews and Muslims would get pissed off that the marshmellows have pig gelatin in them, but the Hindus can’t eat the cow gelatin kind, and the Jains are just offended by the whole thing.

We can’t all get along; we’re all too goddamned idiosyncratically annoying for that drivel.

No, there will always and must always be conflict. We can’t all just co-exist, side-by-side, without getting on each others’ nerves. We are far too human for such a dream to be anything but a joke. But you know what we can do? We can still respect each others’ basic rights.

Take my neighbor, for instance. She has every right to say stupid little comments about my fence or my dogs, but she didn’t call the cops out here, nor did she sue me, nor does she damage my property or hurt anyone or my dogs. I have to assume she respects that we can handle our differences without the need to elevate things beyond voicing our concerns.

And when her grandchild came to my door this Halloween after I got what I perceived to be a rude remark the year before, I smiled and gave him candy, because that’s what neighbors do. I’m not a saint for doing it, I’m not even a good person, I just did what anyone who wasn’t a complete jack-off would do.

I mean, sure, I did think about turning them away as she watched in horror from the street… but his costume was so cute and I’m only human. Only a God can visit anger and rage down upon multiple generations like that. All I saw was an innocent little kid who wanted to have fun, whose hand was being held by a father who was probably raised to not be allowed to practice such a pagan holiday, and who probably just wanted his kid to fit in and have a good time.

But really, it was easy, because at this point, justice had been done. A branch from my tree this past year fell on my neighbor’s back fence, the very fence which crossed into my yard, the very fence I hooked up to in order to maintain a continuous contained area in the backyard on my side.

Now, I say a branch fell, but the tree has to be over a hundred years old. It’s several stories tall, and the “branch” is thicker than most tree trunks in all the neighborhoods I grew up in. I’d say the diameter is about 12 to 14 inches. It dropped from over 30 feet, and it reduced the fence in that spot to half its former height. Best of all, wind damage from falling tree matter isn’t the responsibility of the tree owner (who happens to be… me). It’s also legally considered an “Act of God,” though I think Hindus would call it “Karma.”

What’s the summation, then? What’s the point? Only this: there’s no need to go through life imagining great problems that don’t exist to blame on enemies you don’t have. If you merely have the patience, something bad will inevitably happen to you (often naturally, by no one’s fault), then you can be the victim, and not just play one on TV.


  1. On behalf of your neighbour and all Christians who make themselves victims, I apologize and I ask for your forgiveness.

    John 16:33 says "in this world you will have trouble" - many Christians take that to heart and live out their lives in those terms but they forgot to keep reading, "but have courage for I [Jesus] have overcome."

    Your neighbour is a wounded woman, and the church is full of them (as are people outside the church as well). It's too bad they haven't learned one of heaven's secrets and that is I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. The verse (Phil 4:13) is speaking about being content in all situations - evidently your neighbour doesn't know this scripture and she finds contentment in nothing.

    BTW, I prefer your wife's term, rather than your own but I understand the frustration that might justify the colourful phrase you've put together and bonus points for alliteration.

  2. I'm not God, so I'm more impressed with people making things right, not confessing and begging forgiveness. I respond more to action... whatever is in your heart is nice and all, but it's all about actually being aware of other people and their needs.

    But you never wronged me anyway, so you couldn't get forgiveness from me. If anything, I should apologize to you for opening the door to you thinking I was directing such words at you.

    Not every Christian is a jerk about it. I imagine the religion wouldn't still be around if that's how it worked.


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