30 December 2015

An ambiguous poll on religious liberty

A poll conducted by the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center is being interpreted to show growing intolerance of Muslims in light of its finding that only 61% of respondents agreed that "religious liberty protections" were important for Muslims, while 82% said they were important for Christians. These numbers are the extremes on a spread of opinion that shows Christianity well ahead of all other options. Somewhere in the middle, "about seven in ten" said "protections" were important for Jews, while 67% of respondents said the same for Mormons. What about those with no religion? Protecting them was important for a percentage of respondents "about even" with those willing to defend Muslims. What respondents actually were asked is unclear; the page I've linked to doesn't give us the actual poll questions. But while the low regard for Muslims and atheists (polytheist and animistic believers apparently didn't figure in the survey) are unsurprising, my feeling is that the numbers quoted aren't meant to be comparative. That is, I don't think any given respondent is saying that he or she personally is less interested in protecting the rights of non-Christians. Instead, this poll seems to reflect the feeling among conservative Christians that their faith and culture are under particular threat in a way that others aren't. A lot of these people think a "war" is being waged on Christians in the U.S., and they most likely perceive it as a multifront war. There are Muslims out there literally ready to shoot them, but there is also the perception that the U.S. government is out to suppress their freedom of "conscience" when it comes to rejecting gay marriage or reproductive freedom for women. For such people, the struggles of Kim Davis in Kentucky are just as much proof of a "war on Christians" as the shootings in San Bernardino by Muslims and those in Oregon by a guy who simply hated Christians.

In short, if more people say that "religious liberty protections" are important for Christians than say it's important for everyone else, that's because they believe that Christians are uniquely in danger in this country. That is as patently absurd as ever. They are no more in danger from Muslim terrorists than anyone who isn't a Muslim of the terrorists' particular school. They are only in danger from government because they see a government's choice to ignore their dictate on what should be legal or illegal as an attack. If I interpret it correctly, the poll reflects the chauvinistic narcissism of Christians more than anything else. Fortunately, that sentiment rarely expresses itself violently today, but you have to wonder how little it would take -- a too specifically targeted attack or an unacceptable election result -- to change that. A lot of these are the same people who talk about taking their country back, and if anything the numbers prioritizing protection for those of other faiths, or no faith, are inflated by a suspicion that the Christians will come after them all some day. Right now that's pretty close to patently absurd, too, but why should anyone constrain their fear these days?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As was once pointed out, "it's not paranoia if someone is out to get you..."

Show me a muslim willing to publicly denounce the the intolerance preached in the koran, to public state that the koran is wrong in its view of gays, of non-believers (especially those who don't follow the petty and infantile abrahamic douche), that it's view on women's place is incorrect and that it's refusal to denounce slavery is unacceptable. And who will say that, despite the koran, it is NOT righteous or laudable to lie to non-believers, misrepresenting yourself in order to protect yourself or further the goal of islam. Show me that muslim and I might believe there is ONE muslim who may be trustworthy.