The concept of privilege has gained currency in America and many western nations. Privilege can be defined as an unearned set of social assets that dominant groups tend to possess. The benefits stem from structural power differentials in society that serve to advantage some groups over others. Groups with cultural power implicitly create, disseminate and police the cultural narratives that shape societal discourse. As a result, those with power do not necessarily recognize their own privilege. Since the discourse-shaping narratives tend to reinforce their preconceived understandings of reality, they tend to believe the cultural assets they possess are normative.

Privilege is hypothesized to exist in many forms including, for example, being European American or male. Privilege is not contingent upon majority status. Rather, the central issue is having sufficient power to affect societal norms. For instance, males are not a majority in the United States, but they possess many privileges. For example, if they seek a university education or watch fictional television programing they will likely encounter role models that function to legitimize and validate their existence in society. 

In this article, I focus on a critical but widely unacknowledged privilege, namely secular privilege, along with a few of the associated benefits. The term secular refers to individuals who are unconcerned with spiritual matters. Put differently, secularism reflects an orientation toward the temporal or materialistic world as opposed to the spiritual or transcendent world. 

Secular privilege flows from structural power imbalances that characterize most western societies. In America, for instance, a power differential exists between secularists and Christians and other people of faith. Studies have repeatedly documented secularists dominant the post-industrial knowledge sector. More specifically, a secular orientation permeates the news media, public education, universities, television programming, film industry, governmental regulatory agencies, corporate management, to list just some sectors. Through their dominance in these vocations, secular people play a central role in constructing the stories that inform the broader society. Their ability to define and direct the contours of public discourse plays a pivotal role in shaping perceptions that are considered normative in society. 

The pervasiveness of the secular worldview can hinder the ability of secular people to recognize their privilege, but the benefits that they possess will be readily apparent to many Christians and other people of faith. The following content provides some representative examples that convey the advantages secular people have in America and many other western nations. 

When secular parents send their children to public schools, they can be confident that teachers and circular content will impart their personal values to their, and other, children. 

All education socializes students into a particular value system. Education necessarily imparts a certain set of values. In the same way that private Christian schools teach students to think in Christian categories, American public schools teach students to think in secular categories. The secular education implicitly socializes students to understand the world through a materialistic lens. Religious understandings of reality are typically disregarded, and if presented, are framed as inadequate options relative to the mainstream secular understanding. 

The absence of a Christian perspective tends to delegitimize a Christian worldview in the eyes of students as a valid intellectual option. American public schools are funded by Christians and other members of the public. However, it is only secular parents that have the privilege of having every taxpayer pay for an educational system that socializes all students into their personally affirmed worldview. 

If secular students are interested in starting a student group or otherwise expressing their views, they can count on receiving support, funding and access to school forums. 

Secular university students can count on having access to school facilities, and if funding for student groups is available, they can take it for granted that their group will be able to access the funding without problems. These are benefits that Christians do not enjoy. American school administrators have prohibited Christians from starting Christian groups, denied them funding when such groups do exist, and even banned Christian groups from campus. Similarly, school officials have censored student drawings that feature religious content, banned students from singing religious songs, barred students from sharing religious viewpoints, prohibited students from handing out invitations to classmates with religious content, forbidden religious valedictorian addresses, and prohibited religious publications.

Conversely, officials did not prohibit comparable secular speech or content in these and other cases that could be cited. Since secular content reflects the cultural center, it is assumed to be appropriate. Even though religious views are explicitly protected by the United States Constitution they are treated with suspicion since such views fall outside the dominant cultural mainstream. Thus, secular students can take it for granted that they will be able form secular groups and disseminate secular perspectives, speeches, and publications. Indeed, the privilege secular students enjoy is witnessed by the fact that is difficult to even imagine an official banning student groups or speech simply because it is secular. Concerns that are commonplace for Christians are essentially unthinkable for secular students. 

When secular people watch fictional television programing, they can assume characters from their cultural group will generally be portrayed in a sympathetic, positive manner.

In contrast to Christians, secular people have the advantage of viewing mainstream media content and expecting to see people who share their beliefs and values. Television programing typically frames secular characters as complex, nuanced individuals who are attractive, compassionate and caring. They tend to portrayed as leaders, problem-solvers, and heroes, as individuals one would aspire to emulate. 

Conversely, Christians are rarely featured in fictional programming. Furthermore, when they are depicted, they tend to be portrayed negatively, as bland, shallow, out of touch, and even dangerous. In turn, these implicit messages influence people's perceptions of reality. The characters represent an idealized vision of the world. As a result, secular people can assume that other members of the public will be familiar with their aspirations, goals, and concerns due to the privilege of having their worldview disseminated through mainstream media content that is widely viewed by the general population. 

These and other interlocking privileges work together to advantage secular people relative to Christians and other people of faith. It is often difficult, however, for secular people to acknowledge their unearned social assets. Nevertheless, this is a critical issue for those interested in creating more inclusive, equitable societies.