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Schroedes13's avatar

Why do so many people use such a wide brush?

Asked by Schroedes13 (3866 points ) July 27th, 2011

With anywhere between 20,000–35,000 different Christian denominations worldwide ranging from extremely liberal to radically right wing, why do so many people try to use blanket statements for Christianity?
I myself have seen people from across the spectrum. I’ve seen left leaning, socialist Christians who have set up communes for themselves and I have also known those who are eerily similar to people I’ve seen on the news from the Westboro Baptist Church.

I personally have been scorned for my religious beliefs from people who are Christian. I just think that it’s sad that there are so many wonderful, loving, and tolerant Christians out there and they get the same treatment because of a label.

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59 Answers

jaytkay's avatar

Examples?

woodcutter's avatar

Because it’s easier that’s why. Everyone does it, whether they want to admit it or not.

athenasgriffin's avatar

I don’t think everyone who isn’t a Christian feels like that. I don’t.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Because that’s what the bible promises for you… persecution:

John 15:18–21
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you… If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you… because they do not know Him who sent Me.”

John 16:1–4
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues [today it might be from churches]; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.”

John 17:14–18
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.”

John 12:42–44
“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

Acts 13:48–52
“The word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. But the Jews [the religious establishment] stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. But…the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Schroedes13's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies That doesn’t really answer the question as to why people use blankets statements to speak against Christians.

Jeruba's avatar

And they don’t about Muslims? Jews?

How about women? gays? Blacks? How about Americans?

I think the answer is going to be pretty much the same in all cases.

Schroedes13's avatar

@Jeruba Those will be later questions!

Blackberry's avatar

Well even disregarding christians, our brains are just wired that way for whatever reasons. As far as christians are concerned (totally off topic, but why should I even have to capitalize christian?), the ‘bad’ christians are the ones in the spotlight: the ones in the media, in politics, etc. That isn’t helping their case, either.

Schroedes13's avatar

@Blackberry IMO, we have to start in the school system and try to help kids veer away from generalizations. You are correct that most of the Christians on the news today are those who perform unethical acts.

(Off topic, what is the thanks button? Is this new, I haven’t noticed it before!)

Joker94's avatar

People love generalizations, man. It doesn’t help that the only things you hear about Christianity on the news are negative. Actually, that goes for most religions.

Haleth's avatar

Isn’t this question a blanket statement about non-Christians?

Schroedes13's avatar

@Haleth Sorry, it might be. I used “why do so many people try to use blanket statements”, instead of “all people” or just “people” to try to limit it. You may be on to something though.

Blackberry's avatar

@Schroedes13 You can thank people for answering your question by sending them a message pretty much.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

That doesn’t really answer the question as to why people use blankets statements to speak against Christians.”

Are you seriously wanting an answer to your question @Schroedes13?

If the bible promises that Christians will be persecuted, then “blanket statements… against Christians” are simply one of the tools they use to satisfy the promise.

jaytkay's avatar

@Haleth wins the Internet!

Seriously, that is my favorite answer in a very long time. Maybe ever.

woodcutter's avatar

Why are Christians special? Pretty much every group is done like that.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

The largest voice in mainstream media is that of the secular humanist.
The biggest threat to a secular humanist mind would be Christianity.

Haleth's avatar

@Schroedes13 But I do agree with you, some people, even many people, do make blanket statements about Christians. I just had to say it. I’ve had lots of different experiences with Christians, some that were nice and some that were not so nice, and I’m pretty sure I’ve made blanket statements about Christians before. Christianity is a huge spectrum, all the way from assholes like the Landover Baptists to my grandmother, who prays for me when she gets worried.

But from the perspective of someone like me (liberal, atheist), it seems like certain behaviors are perpetrated again and again by Christians. Some issues that mean a lot to me are women’s reproductive rights (not just abortion, but access to birth control and health care), gay rights, and comprehensive sex ed and evolution being taught in school. At least in America, Christians are the majority of the population, and some Christian beliefs line up against those issues.

So by default, most of the people who are against the things that really get me fired up, are Christians. I think there are probably lots of religious people out there who feel the same way about liberals and atheists. So if you have your head up your ass, it’s easy to think everyone is tarred with the same brush and see them as the enemy. That’s where all the blanket statements come from. Like I said, I’ve done it. My first answer was pretty flippant, but this question actually got me thinking.

Schroedes13's avatar

@Haleth My mom does the same thing too!

Thanks for the reply. I think it hits many points too. I feel that one of the reasons is the number of Christians. For the largest part of North American history, Christianity has been the sole major religion. I think this is one of the reasons that people can easily get on about it.

Your other point too, that Christianity is in conflict with many other perspectives, doesn’t help matters at all.

desiree333's avatar

When I think Christianity, I don’t associate it with the right wing radicals. I might be biased though because I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith, not protestant or evangelical for example.

desiree333's avatar

@Jeruba I love your answer! Wish I could give you more than one G.A.

Haleth's avatar

@Schroedes13 Well, the conflict goes both ways. I have a hard time understanding some Christian perspectives, like creationism. I just can’t wrap my head around how anyone could believe that. Belief in a god is one thing, because the origins of the universe haven’t fully been explained- the big bang is just a theory. But there is so much proof that the earth, and the universe, are billions and billions of years old and there is clear evidence of evolution.

Just like I “know” that I’m right, a creationist probably “knows” that they are right. I’m guessing that a creationist’s faith is so powerful that they take everything in the bible as the literal word of god, and if god is infallible it must be true. There’s something oddly beautiful about that kind of strength and conviction, but both of the viewpoints are extremes. Not understanding each other is the biggest problem.

@desiree333 Everything Jeruba writes is pure gold. Everyone who reads her gets just a little bit smarter and classier. ;)

JLeslie's avatar

I think actually we are not using a broad brush in our thoughts, but it comes out that way in the speaking and writing. Labels are used as a shorthand. Usually the speaker knows it is not all Christians when they are using the label, it is just a generalization. Also, in America we tend to use Christian synonomously with Evangelical Christian, so already the Catholics are not included, and any Christian who believes other religions have a right to exist probably are not incuded.

JLeslie's avatar

So, @desiree333 just wrote on a different Q ”@DominicX The whole bible and the way Christian mass is carried out reminds me of a cult.” That is a sample of what I am talking about. I doubt she thinks all Chrstians when she makes this statement. Just the fanatics who live in a different world than the rest of us. But, Christians think we think it about all of them and get all offended. People get offended too easily.

desiree333's avatar

@JLeslie I was enrolled in Catholic school and had to attend masses and get confirmed by my parents. In the beginning I really did try to believe. I participated in the Church masses, attended youth group, and attended the masses once a week. This lasted about a year or two before I realized no matter how much I read the bible or prayed or went to church I just did not believe in the religion. I want everyone to know that I do not think of Christianity as a cult, or the people to be radical. Only the fanatics (like you said). However, when I am actually at a mass I can’t help but feel uneasy about it. It’s not their beliefs that shout “cult” to me, its the chanting and unison of the sign of the cross. For example “it is right to give praise” in that monotone chant sort of scares me. I grew up in a christian environment and I do respect them, I just silently disagree. There is nothing wrong with not believing in a organized religion as long as you respect it from afar.

EDIT: You said “But, Christians think we think it about all of them and get all offended. People get offended too easily.” People do get offended very easily. And no offense to these people, but they tend to be the ones who think I am a bad person for not believing in their god. The are offended because somehow they are so sure there is, in fact, a god. You don’t see me getting offended when they scoff at me, judge me, tell me I am going to “hell”, and knock on my door trying to push their beliefs on me.

JLeslie's avatar

@desiree333 I was actually thinking in terms of the Christian who is in favor of gay marriage, and would never want prayer in school, and firmly supports separation of church and state, and respect that other people have different beliefs, that they don’t want to be lumped in with the fanatics, and so when we use “Christians” and they identify as Christians, they don’t want people to think they are like the extremists.

I never am including Catholics in when I generalize or use the term Christians. I firmly believe Catholics are Christian, don’t get me wrong, but when I am throwing around the term Christian, I am not including the Catholics.

desiree333's avatar

@JLeslie Sorry about mixing up Catholic with Christian, I meant just Christian in general.

Schroedes13's avatar

@JLeslie I’ve never understood why some people do not consider Catholics to be Christian?

desiree333's avatar

@JLeslie I’m not making the connection of this: “I was actually thinking in terms of the Christian who is in favor of gay marriage, and would never want prayer in school, and firmly supports separation of church and state, and respect that other people have different beliefs, that they don’t want to be lumped in with the fanatics, and so when we use “Christians” and they identify as Christians, they don’t want people to think they are like the extremists.” with what we were talking about. You had these people in mind when..? Sorry, I’m just not following there..

JLeslie's avatar

@desiree333 You were saying the people offended are the narrow minded religious zealouts, and I was pointing out I was thinking the ones offended are the more moderate Christians. I found it interesting.

Schroedes13's avatar

@desiree333 and @JLeslie I enjoy the my question has brought up different subgroups within a group! lol

JLeslie's avatar

@Schroedes13 Here is a Q about that.

Pandora's avatar

I look at it this way. Asians aren’t all the same culture.or even speak the same languages. Africans aren’t all the same culture nor do they even speak the same languages. Hispanics, and Anglo can also all be different cultures or languages. Yet we use these words to describe a certain group with some genetic traits that are common.
The word Christians would indicate that these are a group that have the common belief in Christ. Or at least that he existed. That and God are the usual common factor and that is all. The rest can be extremely different.

desiree333's avatar

@JLeslie I can see both ends of the spectrum (fanatics and the more moderate, as you said) becoming offended as they seem to be quite set in their beliefs.

Schroedes13's avatar

@JLeslie That’s why some Protestants are Anti-Catholic, but Christian means a follower of Christ. Catholics still hold the Bible as their literary standard, so I still don’t see any solid reason to not consider Catholics as Christians.

JLeslie's avatar

@Schroedes13 I agree with you. Catholics accept Christ as their saviour, and so to me they are Christians. What I hear most from Evangelicals is the Catholics pray to others besides God/Christ. Big no no it seems.

In the states many Catholics are moderate to liberal on social issues, while the Evangelicals tend to be very far to the right. This is one of the main reasons I never group Catholics in with Christians when I am making generalizations. I also have never met a Catholic who has tried to convince me my religious beliefs or lack there of are wrong. Catholics generally care about science and scientific discovery, all the way up to the Vatican. The Catholics also live in different regions of the the US than the Protestants. There is some crossover of course, but Catholics are heavily concentrated in the Midwest and Northeast, and Louisana probably has a bunch. The Evangelicals concentrated in the bible belt, which is primarily the south but crosses into the midwest. I guess just that the Protestants were protesting the Cathilic church puts a historical reason from long ago.

Schroedes13's avatar

@JLeslie See, I’ve found the opposite. My sister and her family are Catholic and from the masses I’ve attended with them, and spending two years at a Catholic high school, I have found Catholics to be traditionally right leaning. I don’t know, maybe that’s just an isolated, case study.

JLeslie's avatar

@Schroedes13 Those right leaning Catholics certainly exist, but I find it surprising when I come across those Catholics. During our last Presidential election the Midwest Catholics were brought up as being the swing vote, because they function more like independents I think. How do the religions break down in Canada regarding percentages of Catholics and other Christians? In America there is twice as many Protestants as Catholics if I remember correctly.

Schroedes13's avatar

@JLeslie I couldn’t tell you the demographic information of catholic/protestants in Canada! I would say for the most part it should mirror the United States though. Maybe a slightly highest Protestant level?

desiree333's avatar

@Schroedes13 Just to interject: I’m Canadian and I don’t know any protestants. There is only one small protestant chapel in my city. Although, I’m not sure about the rest of Canada..

Schroedes13's avatar

@desiree333 Really?? where about, if you don’t mind me asking?

JLeslie's avatar

I just looked it up on wikipedia and Canada is fairly even Catholics and Protestants. I would guess for sure Quebec has an extremely high percentage of Catholics, while other Provinces it might be the reverse. I think of Canada as generally being fairly liberal and very tolerant when it comes to diversity and religious differences.

desiree333's avatar

@Schroedes13 I live in Ontario. I remember talking about it in my world religions class back in high school and no one in that class really knew a protestant either.

jerv's avatar

Experience.

If one has mixed experiences with something then they will be more likely/willing to take things on a case-by-case basis. However, if most o their experiences with a particular group are unpleasant and all they see on the news about that group are bad things, guess what?

Personally, I am guilty of this myself a bit, but only because it is hard to separate the decent Christians from the batshit insane Bible-thumpers in three words or less.

_zen_'s avatar

Where did you get those figures from? Source?

_zen_'s avatar

With anywhere between 20,000–35,000 different Christian denominations worldwide

Schroedes13's avatar

Well, I first tried to find the number of protestant denominations, and when I couldn’t find an accurate number. I had to make a scale. The lowest number I found was 20,800 and the highest number I found was 38,000.

Schroedes13's avatar

@zen Here is one of the sites I used.

_zen_'s avatar

Link doesn’t work.

Doesn’t matter – I did a search. It seems that figure does ppp up a lot – I wonder what that means about Christianity.

Schroedes13's avatar

I know. It does. Makes me sad sometimes.

JLeslie's avatar

I had not even keyed into the number. 20,000+? That is a shockingly high number to me.

JLeslie's avatar

Ok, so here is another example. On a question about the Norwegian mass murderer a Christian Jelly writes this: I have been a Christian for almost 40 years. I know a lot of Christians from many different denominations. I do not know one, or ever heard of one who would embrace Breivik’s theology, habits, or political beliefs, or even think of it for a minute.

I haven’t read his manifesto, and I haven’t looked into this groups theology or political stance. But assuming what I’m reading here is true, although he claims to be a “Christian”, the theology he says he believes in, and the friends he says he has do not follow Biblical Christianity. They’re in a world all their own, and the Christian community cannot be defined by his beliefs or actions.

It saddens me that any Christian thinks people would generalize all Christians are murderous fanatics, and feel the need to clarify not all Christians want to blow up buildings and people.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie Look at the problems Muslims face these days too.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv That was actually my point on the thread. That the problem is extremists, not which religion, and no one should take the action of one or a few individuals as an indication of what the group is like. Here is the Question.

desiree333's avatar

@JLeslie That also really dissapoints me. The fact that some Christian people think we all generalize them as fanatics, and feel the need to defend their denomination interests me. It makes me wonder what they’re subconscious view of their religion really is if they need to defend it so aggressively.

JLeslie's avatar

@desiree333 Interesting answer. It does not make me wonder that at all, but I am not religious or Christian. It does make me wonder if the same Christians who feel the need to defend their religion when generalization are made are guilty of making negative generalizations about other groups and meaning it for all members. That they are projecting their own behavior onto others. Hence the comment I made about let’s not do it to the Muslims if we don’t want it done to Christians.

I also think Christians feel under attack in America. I saw Rev. Graham being interviewed and he said the secularization of America is a war on Christianity. It was in regards to prayer not being in our public schools and other battles being faught about religion in public areas. In my mind, and people like me, keeping religion out of government protects the religious, not the opposite. Evangelical Christians (not all of course) think not allowing teacher led prayer in school is trying to rid the country of Christianity, they don’t take the next step in the thought process, what if your town has a lot of Muslims move in, will the children face east to pray? If the Jews move in can we do the prayer in Hebrew?

martianspringtime's avatar

I think it’s hard not to apply blanket statements to religious groups. Not to say it’s right or wrong, but it is hard. There are so many religions, and then further denominations of each of those religions, and then of course each individual will probably differ even further under the label of those denominations as well.
I’m agnostic and although I’m interested in the philosophies of religions, I would be hard pressed to tell anyone the differences between most religions, especially the different divisions of Christianity. I try not to pass judgment on an individual based on their religion though, because generalizations are obviously too vague to be true for each person. I may have certain preconceived notions about Christianity in general, but I don’t think it’s wise to use those in judging people. For example I’ve seen what I perceive as ignorance in a lot of Christians (or at least outspoken Christians, as those in the media, etc) but I don’t assume that every Christian I meet will be similar. I’ve also met a great deal of Christians who, aside from religious beliefs, I connect quite well with.
I think that most people assume that they know what ‘all Christians’ (or most) are like because Christianity is generally seen as a certain set of beliefs and ideals, and beliefs and ideals are often what makes people act the way they do.
I’m not sure I’m expressing this as clearly as I’d hoped to.

desiree333's avatar

@JLeslie I have no doubt that your first paragraph is true for a lot of Christians and I definitely agree with you when it comes to keeping government and religion separate to protect the religious. I find that sometimes Christians feel like they are the main religion, and don’t consider other beliefs in schools. They want all schools to be dominated by religion, even in public schools. So if that happens, what will the Muslims, Jews, etc do? Public schools are meant to be separate from religious influence, and it should stay like that.

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