christendom, cultural christianity, and conversion

been reading some cool things (mostly jumblr [Jewish tumblr] and beyond inclusion, beyond empowerment). gonna write them in bold, my thoughts in plain

first and foremost: tryina wrestle with and not avoid but make sense of, christian cultural privilege, and how that gets modified vs “lost” etc.  convo welcome!

also, the word christendom is a useful umbrella for christianity + cultural christianity + christian default creeping into “secular” stuff. ye

thinking about the idea that cultural christianity is an advantage regardless of actual beliefs (yep, social capital, ease of navigation; devoutness pretty irrelevant)

even if you disidentify with christianity… (sure, ok?** plenty of ex-christians still perpetuate christian supremacy, through learned habits)

**well, how do you account for feeling ostracized by the everywhereness of christianity? for feeling alienated by even-Totally-Secular-christmas? even if you haven’t claimed another religious-type identity?

(plus “you can still navigate christian culture” true, but how to differentiate that from marginalized folks learning to/raised to nav dominant culture? (esply folks w newly self-recognized marginalized identities)? aaaaaa)

unless you convert to another religion, and atheism/agnosticism doesn’t count. mmmmnn — yes, ok, converting to a marginalized (usually racialized marginalization too) religion, esply Judaism or Islam right.  and sciencey “secular”ized christian atheist culture is a huge problem thing.

but, uh. so many pieces to try to address here. pagan cultural appropriation? “converting” to a closed religion without engaging w the culture/members, just deciding (mainly thinking white faux-Buddhists)? what about UUs (oh my god so very christian-influenced and grabby, but technically “another religion”)

((tangent: prison rights to religious groups, which are pretty damn restrictive and afai have researched exclude atheism/agnosticism as not religions, not worshipping so don’t need space?))

and what about yknow ppl like me who. what the hell “religion” am i “converting” to? my brain religion. yeah what about us crazy people with our non-religious-but-something beliefs? (is that the ‘separate’ ableism axis? how do race and ability intersections factor here, cuz they are Huge)

it feels Weird that atheism/agnosticism “don’t count” as religions (though it Also feels weird to call them religions?? argh), but it also Kinda Makes Sense that they aren’t “enough” to lose christendom privilege/agent member status (put better: the book says, they don’t acquire target status)

and where do questioning folks fit

and what about the difference between loss of privilege/agent member status, versus being an agent who is an ally and notices and is hurt by the christian default? clear enough when still christian, but when not??

(i’m relatively clear on the whole, spiritual-abuse doesn’t negate that being christianity fluent provides benefits, much like being a cis woman survivor doesn’t negate cis privilege; and raised-as-(culturally-or-devout)-christian and cis-by-default also parallel decently i think.  but i can envision the arguments, blech)

idk i just keep spinning my wheels over this. i need to read some more sources that talk abt complications without dodging the reality of christian cultural privilege

mostly the difference between “disidentifies with christianity” and “identifies with another non-atheist/agnostic religion” weirds me. lines between being a sensitive ally vs marginalized converted person…

…i mean. i know at the end of the day, i need and want to support jewish and muslim people, and cultural christian savvy has tons of benefits. this whole convo does nothing to change what i do

but i want this to make sense so i can…talk to ppl, atheists esply and also UUs and white buddhists (and white pagans) and white ex-christians-who-haven’t-converted-to-judaism-or-islam, and survivors of christian spiritual abuse! abt how this works.

(and just because i’m good at detecting faux-secularism-that’s-default-christianity, and just because i feel alienated by it? doesn’t mean…anything other than that?

god this is getting too big for my head.)


9 thoughts on “christendom, cultural christianity, and conversion

  1. Might it be conceptualized like how some of the comparisons between asexual-spectrum identities and LGB (or especially the LG) have gone? Where some people assume that because aces aren’t being discriminated on the grounds of “gayness” (even though of course many aces do face homophobia), there aren’t any problems that we face as aces? And of course this isn’t true. At present, some of our problems include a lack of visibility, disbelief in the existence of aces, and not taking us seriously. I have a feeling that as aces become more known, embedded into the cultural conscience, taken more seriously, we’ll have to contend with more serious, entrenched anti-ace discrimination more often. But in the meantime, we definitely have problems as we are, even if many of us face “lesser” discrimination. We can be allies, but we’re also in the non-straight category alongside LGB.
    Many non-Christian religions/spiritualities/beliefs might not be discriminated against in the same way as Judaism/Islam/etc….but I also get the feeling it’s because they’re not taken seriously? Except perhaps certain types of atheism are taken seriously (people really don’t recognize how much of an umbrella atheism is enough. But as far as the popular conception of what atheism is, there seems to be a fair amount of hate from some people).
    I’ve had some troubles in this area. I grew up without religion, an agnostic atheist, but also had some other….things…. Well, I’ve had people not take my history seriously when I tell them about it. And it’s still not entirely just history. And ugh, sorry if that’s kinda cryptic but I still fear that not-taking-seriously and looking-down-on posting where people can see.
    But anyway. I don’t think that there needs to be such a huge dividing line between non-Christianities, ranking them. Like the concept of “straight-passing privilege” is not all that great and glosses over other difficulties people have. Sure, perhaps sometimes can benefit from cultural Christianity, but that doesn’t negate other difficulties they have from whatever non-Christianity they belong to. And I don’t know why Christian cultural privilege needs to be ranked above these difficulties…like because you have this one advantage you must be a low social justice priority?
    Well, I dunno if this is the kind of direction of conversaiton you were thinking of, but….yeah. I don’t think Christian cultural advantages have to mean that those who don’t have that advantage always need to be prioritized higher. It’s fine to focus on your own groups because they have real needs.

    I also think sometimes about how religion is conceptualized. How it’s often so Christianized in how people model it. Like by placing a high priority on god(s) in categorization, or in faith over practices. Like how atheism commonly refers to a lack of religion…even though a lack of beliefs in god(s) does not equal lack of religion. But perhaps this is a big tangent and my comment is long enough here XD;

    ( My eclectic pagan friend once wrote about her experience with spirituality and mental illness. It’s not non-religion but perhaps you might find it interesting?)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m curious, in the section about disidentifying from christianity, was that referring specifically to christians who convert to atheism, or to all atheists in general?

    I think there are definitely some cultural advantages to being an atheist from a christianish cultural background, as opposed to say, a culturally jewish atheist. But what I wonder is to what extent is that a matter of religion, and to what extent is it a matter of more general ethnic/cultural differences? It’s hard to puzzle out religious traditions from cultural ethnic ones, especially since religion is so often tied to ethnic/cultural identities.

    I think the ace metaphor can in some ways be used again, because when it comes to like, disadvantages of non-straight sexualities…some of the problems stem from [attraction to the same sex], and others stem from [lack of attraction to other sexes]. An aro ace like me might have disadvantages from the latter, but will have less of the issues associated with the former.

    And similarly, as an atheist [from a christianish background], while I have the disadvantages that stem from being non-christian (that awkwardness at people’s houses when they say grace (I’ve luckily avoided being asked to say grace so far), not being comfortable saying “under god” or swearing on a bible, people repeatedly trying to convert you, etc.) I don’t have any of the disadvantages that stem from being markedly active in a non-christian religion (getting discriminated against for wearing a hijab, being unable to get time off for Rosh Hashanah, having ritual practices declared illegal, etc.)

    I think a lot of it is contextually dependent though. For example, I grew up in a situation where all my close relatives were some form of atheist or nonreligious, probably half my friends were jewish (both practicing and non-practicing), and even among my christian friends talking about religion was uncommon, and just…not proper ettiquette, I guess. So for me in that context, being atheist was never a problem, since I was in a context where there wasn’t much demand for religious conformity anyway (just as I never had problems with being non-straight there either).

    On the other hand, when I was in college I lived with one of my christian friends, and two roommates she knew from her church group, where they occasionally had church events, and I generally ended up a lot more exposed to “jesus-y” situations…and that was often hella alienating, and that was the first time I had people actually try to convert me. But even then I could easily avoid that by just leaving when the jesus talk started and spending time with the rest of my some-form-of-vaguely-nonreligious friends (things get confusing when you start getting people from non-western, non-christian-majority backgrounds where there isn’t that same religious-atheist dichotomy). So I can only imagine what it would be like being atheist in a less secular family or community where there isn’t an easy escape from the pressure…which is a situation many atheists find themselves in.

    There’s also other things that play out only in specific contexts that I probably won’t find myself in. For example, holding elected office is near impossible to do as an atheist unless you stay closeted (much like it is for other minority religions, unless in a minority-dominated area) – but since I never plan to go in to politics, that will never affect me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. queenieofaces says:

    “((tangent: prison rights to religious groups, which are pretty damn restrictive and afai have researched exclude atheism/agnosticism as not religions, not worshipping so don’t need space?))”

    Also tangential, but my super cool senpai is doing work on prison chaplaincy in Japan! Which is, of course, a totally different kettle of fish than in the US, since Christians are a minority there and not particularly privileged and are often the ones fighting hardest for freedom of religion and separation of church and state. I don’t think he’s personally working with any agnostic/atheist groups, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t involved there.

    Also, might I recommend perhaps reading some stuff…outside of the US? Like, a lot of this (“this” being the inheritance of the culturally dominant religion even if you don’t identify with it) became clearer to me when I stopped just looking at the US context and had a different cultural context and understanding of religion to compare to.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I do feel like a lot of the issue here is that the US in general is just…weird about religion. Might be something to do with the fact that christian evangelical protestantism is such a core thing in the US and (seems to me at least) to eschew a focus on traditions or ritual behaviors and instead embrace “belief” or “embracing christ” and making loud proclamations to that end the defining aspect of “religion”.

      Any recommendations for readings or starting points though (blogs, authors, keywords to google)? I actually would be curious to read more, since most of my knowledge of religious issues in other countries comes from informal conversation/pop culture/anime, which isn’t exactly the best source…

      Liked by 1 person

      • queenieofaces says:

        Most of what I can recommend is books, unfortunately. The ones that come to mind first are:

        Shinto and the State, 1868-1988 by Helen Hardacre (which is about the establishment of State Shinto and its dissolution in the postwar period and ALL THE ISSUES surrounding Yasukuni, etc.)
        To Dream of Dreams by David O’Brien (which is about religion and constitutional law, specifically people bringing cases that they believe violate the constitution to the Japanese supreme court, such as enshrining the husband of a Christian woman in Yasukuni)
        The “Greatest Problem” by Trent Maxey (which is about how “religion” came to be understood as a category in Meiji Japan and how the government tried to figure out what to do about “the religion problem”)

        (Those are arranged in order of reading difficulty–Maxey is from U Chicago, and while he isn’t as impenetrable as, say, Harootunian, he has his moments.)

        My advisor also recommended The Invention of Religion in Japan by Jason Josephson, but I haven’t read it yet. (She described him as “Maxey lite.”)

        Liked by 2 people

    • Cool tangent!!

      And ohmygod aaagghh the whole like. Trying to broaden to non-US. It helped you? Every time I try to think about how race relationships are soooo different depending on where you go (and yet? white privilege is Almost universal? I think?) my head just hurts more, and this seems similar to me given how contextual religious prestige is….

      …though true, perhaps quite different re: the disidentification inherited cultural stuff. hmmm.

      (tbh i think i need a Break from reading incomplete western analyses of privilege, esply but not only abt religion… so. good idea.)


      • queenieofaces says:

        To be honest, there are a lot of times that reading US-centric analysis just leaves me…really exhausted, because the view is so limited yet the tone is so often universalizing. And given that I spend a good chunk of my year in Japan (as a non-white foreigner! which, good luck with that!) and almost all of my time in Japan working with a non-Christian religious organization which a lot of US-centric religious theory doesn’t even want to admit is a religion (see: like every comment I’ve ever left on Coyote’s blog), finding stuff that can at least speak to that situation with a degree of nuance and knowledge has been really helpful for me. (Also, sometimes a bit of distance from your immediate context can be really helpful for meta-level thinking. But then again, I tend to like a lot more nuance than most privilege/oppression models have built in.)

        Liked by 1 person

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