Why do Christians in the US think they’re oppressed? Easy, it’s science.

If you’re on social media, you’ve by now seen this man’s large scale rallies for Christians to “Come and worship.” He laments the persecution of Christians in the United States, specifically for being barred from churches and forced to wear masks during a deadly pandemic. This isn’t really new, but has taken a more odious form in recent years.

Christians have long lamented that they’re oppressed in the United States, often more so than those in conflict zones. So, why if they’re not in physical danger do they think they’re persecuted?

Daniel Gilbert conducted a study where participants had to differentiate between blue and purple dots. What do blue dots have to do with Christians? Surprisingly a lot.

The control group saw a constant number of blue dots in the midst of purple dots, but the test group were gradually presented with a decrease in blue dots. And a strange thing happened: they stopped being able to as easily differentiate the blue and purple dots.

And this translates to more areas: when subjects were to differentiate unethical and ethical business plans, people in the group shown fewer unethical plans gradually saw even ethical plans as unethical. This is called “prevalence induced concept change”

According to Gilbert: “When problems become rare, we count more things as problems. Our studies suggest that when the world gets better, we become harsher critics of it, and this can cause us to mistakenly conclude that it hasn’t actually gotten better at all. Progress, it seems, tends to mask itself.”

So what does this mean? As the US has gotten better for Christians, they think it has actually become worse. How? Because when you expect persecution, you find it. This plays out in things like micro aggressions, small slights, and even being treated fairly but in a less privileged position being held up as proof that they’re oppressed.

How do you combat that? Unfortunately you can’t. Confirmation bias will continually reiterate that this false persecution is real, despite examples to the contrary, including showing examples of true persecution abroad. The only tool we have to fight prevalence induced concept change is being aware that it exists and fighting our own internal belief system — a tall order, but necessary to accurately assess the world

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