An interesting perspective, and the book “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom” by Prof. Candida Moss is going on my “to be read” pile, along with a couple of other ones she’s published (see “tsundoku“).
The most important point of the article, in my opinion, is that presenting yourself as “persecuted” does not exactly foster a relationship of conversation and equal exchange of ideas. It sets up the person who disagrees with you as evil and relentless, when in fact many of the concerns about “persecution” today in the US are about disagreements concerning issues like same-sex marriage, access to women’s healthcare and birth control. While these issues engender a lot of disagreement, it would be hard to classify that disagreement as “persecution”.
But a particularly vocal group wants to portray that disagreement as coming from a fundamentally evil source, and cast opponents as persecutors, which is useful to those making the claim and portraying themselves as martyrs, but completely ruinous to the conversation. You don’t, by definition, have a pleasant conversation about differences in opinion with a martyr.
See “The War on Christmas“, now in its seventh consecutive year of re-runs, or the recent flaps about how Obama is persecuting Christians because he supports access to contraception as part of a comprehensive healthcare package.
The other point of note here is the rejection of a common claim that backs up Christianity as the “one true religion”: how many people have given their lives for the idea. They wouldn’t, they couldn’t do so if it wasn’t true, right? Unfortunately the problems with that claim are two-fold: (a) many different, mutually-incompatible religions have their own martyrs, and (b) over the course of history, people have proved to be quite willing to die for ideas that end up being wrong. People die on both sides of wars and inquisitions, after all. In fact many of the religious conflicts in history have generated martyrs for both sides, which are fighting in direct opposition to each other, and therefore cannot both be right. The fact that we are willing to die for ideas that may or may not be correct demands investigation into why we humans have a tendency to do so, but it serves poorly as a demonstration of the veracity of any faith claim.
An author I’d like to try to get on the radio show, if possible. Her book is available here.
Update: a better article from the Daily Beast here.