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Josh Stanton of State of Formation recently coined an excellent new term (in a Facebook comment thread, no less) that I desperately hope will catch on: theonormative.
I love this term because it encapsulates a more nuanced and more pervasive phenomenon that I used to clumsily lump into the dissatisfying catch-all category of “religious privilege.” I don’t mean to say that religious privilege is not a real thing – it certainly is. But I think that a lot of the time, when we talk about religious privilege, we really mean theonormativity. And I think that being able to articulate this problem better will make it easier to address.
Theonormativity is when theism is the default, the standard, and everything else is a deviation from this norm.
Theonormativity is when politicians say that “We all worship the same God” and pat themselves on the back for being so inclusive. It is when people do not realize that this excludes not only atheists, but also many Buddhists, pagans, and other religious/spiritual nontheists.
Theonormativity is why God has invaded our money, our courthouses, our schools, and our government in what New York Times columnist Frank Bruni calls “The God Glut.”
Theonormativity is when sociologists call me a None.
Theonormativity is behind the unsatisfactory word “interfaith” and the awkwardly inclusive phrase “religious and nonreligious.”
Theonormativity is all the forms and websites that collect demographic information with a field labeled “Religion” and offer me a checkbox labeled “Other.”
Theonormativity is people who ask me which church I go to.
Theonormativity is the question “so…what do you believe?” (Um…pretty much everything else you do besides the God part?)
Theonormativity is the crosses on anonymous graves.
Theonormativity is all the psychology and sociology studies that ask me how often I attend religious services, and all the research assistants who are bewildered when I ask whether nonreligious services count.
Theonormativity is “interfaith prayer.”
Theonormativity is the fact that I have to explain this.