Pop quiz! Test your knowledge of persecution! In which of these situations are you being persecuted?
1. Other people are granted the right to marry even though you object to their marriages on religious grounds.
2. Wal-Mart stays open on Sunday even though you do not shop on Sunday for religious reasons.
3. Someone expresses skepticism at your religious beliefs, and asks you straightforward but difficult questions that you can't answer.
4. Public schools teach scientific facts about natural history instead of teaching the creation myth of your religion.
5. Someone pays for a bus advertisement or billboard promoting a religious point of view that contradicts your own.
6. You are denied the right to marry because other people object to your marriage on religious grounds.
7. Because of your religion, you are forced to fight against armed combatants and wild beasts for the amusement of others.
8. Most of your family is killed and your village is burned to the ground by a neighboring tribe whose religion tells them that God is on their side.
9. You are tarred and feathered and run out of town because you claim God told you to marry other men's wives, and you follow through on it.
Time's up! How did you do? If you answered that you are being persecuted in all of these situations, you're not alone! But you're wrong. The correct answers are #6, #7, and #8. You might be able to make a case for #9, but I tend to think that if you're doing that sort of thing, you have to expect a little heat to come your way. In all the other cases, no one is taking away your freedoms, your rights, or anything else you are entitled to. This is not persecution. This is part of living in a secular society that protects individual liberty.
Incidentally, if you are being persecuted (or, to use the vernacular synonym, criticized), it is not necessarily an indicator that your ideas are true. If being criticized were an indicator of truth, then some of the most correct people in the world would be Nazis, Scientologists, George W. Bush, opponents of vaccination, and people who use the center turn lane for merging into traffic. Hell, if antipathy polls are any indication, atheism must be the most correct philosophy on earth, and we know that can't be right. By itself, criticism or persecution is not necessarily evidence of anything at all. Think carefully before you claim you're being persecuted, and think extra carefully before you claim persecution as evidence of truth.