Religious Privilege Primer – 1 – Introduction: Reflections on Prop 8

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In Reaction to the Passing of Proposition 8:
A Conversation of Privilege around Religion and Faith
Zack Ford – November 8, 2008

Preface: Roots of ZFB
Part 1 – Introduction: Reflections on Prop 8

My world has been so shaken by the results on four ballot measures on Tuesday that it has numbed me to so much else.  After Tuesday night, I could no longer feel anything for how prolific and amazing Obama’s election is.  (The fact that his transition website,, has absolutely no mention of LGBT populations or any related issues doesn’t help.)  Despite my interest in politics, I could not be glad to celebrate the gains Democrats made in Congress.  A wipe of my brow as if to say “Phew!” was the best I could muster for the anti-abortion measures that did not pass.  “Gay” and “atheist” are the two dimensions of my identity that are most salient to me, and I watched 12 million people vote in favor of discrimination against both.  The measures, at first glance, attack only the “gay” dimension: preventing same-sex marriage in Florida and Arizona (helping bring the total to 30 states with such bans), removing the right to same-sex marriage in California (the first time a state constitution has been amended to remove a right already in place), and removing the right for same-sex couples to adopt in Arkansas.  But, then one must ask how these measures came to be: fear, intolerance, ignorance, misunderstandings, and lies, all promoted exclusively by faith-based values and organizations.  So, I also received the message “you must conform to our beliefs.”  I have been seething with anger ever since, never more distraught than I can remember being in my entire life.

I see massive issues of privilege at work here that I am trying to challenge; I feel I have a responsibility to challenge them because I see them.  Many have so far responded by taking personal offense and, in many ways, defending the privilege I am trying to challenge.  This has only energized me further to pursue this discourse, because from my point of view, such a response only confirms the very privilege I am trying to challenge (as I plan to explain).

I have composed this treatise to attempt to explain why I’ve been saying the things I’ve been saying since Prop 8’s passing.  They may seem extreme, perhaps even polarizing. I openly admit this without much regret.  In a way, I’m taking on the world.  I am trying to challenge systems of privilege more complex, entrenched, and hegemonic than any of the other identity-based privileges that are regularly discussed.  Arguably these two interdependent systems of privilege propagate those we are more familiar with such as white privilege, male privilege, heterosexual privilege, and nondisabled privilege.  There is currently no theory that supports what I shall describe, but the model for systems of privilege fits perfectly.  What follows requires some intense critical thinking, so I request you do your best to separate out your feelings.  Simply reading these ideas will likely challenge your own privilege.  Despite the feelings that led me to these new courses of action and rhetoric, the following discourse is intentionally designed to be without regard for feelings, my own included.

Part 2 – What is Privilege?
Part 3 – Christian Privilege
Part 4 – Religious Privilege
Part 5 – Atheism and Privilege of Beliefs
Part 6 – Critical Thinking and Indoctrination
Part 7 – Undeserved Respect
Part 8 – Concluding Reflections

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