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A cast-iron case for a secular society - Comments

J Mac's Avatar Comment 1 by J Mac

Sounds like the US Military. In uniform one is not to wear anything around their neck other than dog tags and optionally one "religious medallion."

It is written law that they will allow "religious medallions" such as crosses or pendants of a saint, but nothing else.

Of course many pushed this by wearing something else, and claiming it was their religion (nowadays you can imaging an FSM pendant for example). They were always told to take them off, and usually took a few licks for it as well.

There was, and is, a special place in the law for the major religions to get exceptions to any rule they don't like. But atheists, or even minor religions, do not get that privilege.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 08:48:00 UTC | #212122

tybowen's Avatar Comment 2 by tybowen

The difference between racial and sexual discrimination versus religious discrimination is that a person chooses their religion not their race. Thats why its wrong to discriminate on race, because the person had no choice in the matter, and it doesn't affect their performance. Religion is (or should be) a conscious choice as is following all its ridiculous precepts, just like being a vegetarian, liberal, school teacher, or any other life choice. This point has been made adequately in article, but it is akin to a vegetarian working in butcher shop, refusing to do any work, and then demanding to be paid and kept on despite choosing not to do the work.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 08:59:00 UTC | #212125

J Mac's Avatar Comment 3 by J Mac

"The difference between racial and sexual discrimination versus religious discrimination is that a person chooses their religion not their race."

And people cannot make up a race, or rule of their race, whenever they see fit.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 09:03:00 UTC | #212127

J Mac's Avatar Comment 5 by J Mac

I think I'm going to get a job at a christian bookstore, then I'll refuse to check anyone out at the register, as it is against my lack of religion to distribute such crap.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 09:04:00 UTC | #212129

Lisa Bauer's Avatar Comment 4 by Lisa Bauer

On the comments, I see that that there are already a couple of ill-informed people complaining that this is "intolerant" and "imposing our [secular] moral views on Ms. Ladele" and that it is the duty of a democratic society to allow people to live according to their beliefs. There's even somebody complaining that "oh, people are only complaining because it's a non-Christian religion getting this exemption; they have nothing to say about Christianity getting special privileges" (not even close to being true of this article). Ugh!

Someday I'll learn to stay away from the comments section at the Guardian and Comment is Free sites!

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 09:04:00 UTC | #212128

Fanusi Khiyal's Avatar Comment 6 by Fanusi Khiyal

Nice to see people getting it, albeit slowly. A while back there were two little fracas that illustrated everything that's wrong with European multiculturalsim.

Sir Iqbal Sacraine (yes, that guy) said that homosexuality was diseased and sinful and utterly against Islam, and Scotland yard promptly hauled him in for homophobia. Meanwhile one of GHALA's (the Gay Humanist - whatever) spokesmen said that Islam was a 'barmy doctrine' and 'venomously homophobic', and was, again hauled in by Scotland yard.

Got that? If a Muslim says Islam is anti-gay, he get's charged with homophobia but if a gay says Islam's anti-gay, he get's charged with Islamophobia.

This sounds like a stalemate. But there's an unfortunate fact that's being overlooked. If it comes down to a wastelot rumble between GHALA versus Sacraine and some pals of his fresh from training camps in the wilds of Pakistan, who is going to carry the day?

That's what's missing from this article. I applaud the writer for saying the truth, but it is worth stressing that a law - any law - is only a law if it can be enforced. A secular state had better be prepared to crack down and crack down hard on those deciding to use decidely iliberal measures to get their aims.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 09:20:00 UTC | #212137

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 7 by Cartomancer

True in every particular.

The big problem I see with introducing religious discrimination into society (well, apart from the fact that religion is all mind-rotting nonsense and discrimination is de facto unjust) is that there is no fair and reliable way to define what counts as a "religion" and what doesn't, and who is practising that religion and who isn't.

Should we just put names on it and say that only the main six or seven world religions count for discriminatory purposes? Okay, that's christians, muslims, hindus, buddhists, sikhs, jews and maybe taoists. What about minority religions with a national base like mormonism or zoroastrianism or shinto? What about airy-fairy new age claptrap like druidry and wicca? What about extinct religions like manichaeism, catharism or classical paganism? What about people who worship Elvis? What about people who just light a few candles and witter to themselves without bothering to give their bundle of cherry-picked superstitions a name or forming a political pressure group? What about the Welsh?

Furthermore, who gets to decide whether you really are a christian or not? Is there to be some official government test for christianity? Precisely how many ticked boxes do you have to score on your "things in the bible that I believe are true" test? Are there vital ones you can't be without, such as the virgin birth (in which case the Bishop of Oxford for one wouldn't pass the test)? Who decides, the Archbishop of Canterbury? The Pope? Jerry Falwell? Any hatchet-faced blue-rinsed old busybody who can make up several hundred signatures on a forged petition at the local WI meeting? To many catholics the protestants aren't christians. To many sunnis the shi'a aren't muslims. And don't ask what the true followers of the gourd think about those who follow the shoe...

Maybe "any firmly held or deeply cherished personal belief"? At least it's consistent, but it could extend to just about anything. If you accept crosses and stars of David as exceptions to uniform regulations then you also have to accept favourite hats or watches bequeathed by a beloved grandfather, or t-shirts signed by all the members of Steps, or enchanted silver labrys pendants that let you read the thoughts of lesbians. And if a christian is allowed to avoid performing gay civil partnerships because of religious homophobia, someone with an intense dislike of Spaniards should be allowed to refuse to serve them in Burger King. It's all completely and utterly unworkable without creating the grossest of discrimination.

Or we could just ignore religion entirely and go back to running the country based on sensible criteria which actually matter...

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 09:31:00 UTC | #212140

Lisa Bauer's Avatar Comment 8 by Lisa Bauer

Cartomancer wrote:

Or we could just ignore religion entirely and go back to running the country based on sensible criteria which actually matter...


When was this, exactly? ;-)

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 09:35:00 UTC | #212142

Cairnarvon's Avatar Comment 9 by Cairnarvon

The difference between racial and sexual discrimination versus religious discrimination is that a person chooses their religion not their race.

People like to say that, but I'm not convinced it's true. I know I didn't choose to be an atheist; I am one because it's the only position that makes sense.
I couldn't choose to believe in the Christian god any more than I could change the color of my skin.

On the other hand, most religious people don't give quite as much thought to religion as most atheists do, and many do have a habit of living as if they were non-religious and only invoking religion when they think they can get something out of it, so YMMV.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 09:36:00 UTC | #212143

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 10 by Cartomancer

When was this, exactly? ;-)
You know, the Good Old Days. When the chips tasted better, the dice always rolled sixes, everything was covered in gold and the bus into town didn't cost me £1.80 a throw. 1998 I believe.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 09:39:00 UTC | #212144

Oystein Elgaroy's Avatar Comment 11 by Oystein Elgaroy

Comment #223745 by Cartomancer

Furthermore, who gets to decide whether you really are a christian or not?


We have had a few cases in Norway recently where this has actually been an important question. The cases concern refugees from Afghanistan who claim to have converted from islam to christianity. As converts they would be in mortal danger if sent back home. In this case, the Norwegian immigration office decided that they were not christian enough. I am not quite sure how they knew.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 09:41:00 UTC | #212146

Stuart Paul Wood's Avatar Comment 12 by Stuart Paul Wood

Its heartening to see that the Guardian, despite its typical keeness to fawn on religion and "multiculturalism", can find space in its pages, from time to to time, to point out out the growing stupidity in the relationship between religion and the law in the UK. But that's the last of my optimism.

I was fairly stunned last week when the news announced that the Sikh girl, Watkins-singh, had won her case because a muslim schoolgirl had, just in the last year, lost her case relating to her right to wear muslim dress. I would've thought the same court (the High Court) would've found the same way this time too if only for sake of consistency. Obviously, now, muslims are going to be offended because the Sikhs won where they lost. And I can hardly blame them either! You either have a law for all or a law for none.

Labour have dithered into this situation by trying to be nice to everyone. They've allowed this inconsistency to build and in some cases positively endorsed it. The law is now in a mess. Religious intolerance now has a real foothold. It expects and gets special treatment. I don't expect anything to be done about it such is the uniformity and stupidity of the appeasment thinking that now dominates politics in this country. Things are pretty bad when Lillian Ladelle can take her employer to court (and win) for making her do her job. Because her employer discriminated against her! Because SHE refuses to marry gay couples. In a secular institution. Plainly, she should have been sacked. Everybody else, who haven't got a beloved religion to whinge about, hide behind and use as an excuse would've expected nothing less.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 09:50:00 UTC | #212151

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 13 by Stafford Gordon

Cast-iron case indeed! I've never come across a more cogent piece of reasoning.

What the hell do our politicians think they're playing at?

The father of one of my closest friends at school was Plymouth Bretheren. My friend resisted with all his might in his early teens, but they got him in the end.

His brother was a brilliant lab technician, who, among other things, made television sets out of RADA equipment. But he had to hide them otherwise his father would smash them; radio, newspapers, magazines, cinema, recorded music and television were among the things strictly forbidden!

If you went round for tea you were obliged to sing hymns afterwards. Yet, on occasion his father would give him a good hiding; I once saw him punch my friend in the mouth.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 09:52:00 UTC | #212152

Barry Pearson's Avatar Comment 14 by Barry Pearson

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 10:00:00 UTC | #212153

SPS's Avatar Comment 15 by SPS

The Guardian could have gotten the title for this directly from the article:

The obliging Balls...

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 10:21:00 UTC | #212154

padster1976's Avatar Comment 16 by padster1976

The link didn't work but I picked up the observer today and this article was in the back - as a comment piece by the political chameleon that is Nick Cohen.

How come this says the guardian?
I know from Private Eye that they are colliding (or should that be combining?) but how come the different titles?

Confusing.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 10:45:00 UTC | #212161

TIKI AL's Avatar Comment 17 by TIKI AL

This religious influence is nothing new. The catholic knights of columbus got "under god" put into the American pledge in the 50's.

Having a tax free church to sling their mumbo jumbo in is not enough for these delusional godbots.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 11:16:00 UTC | #212179

AdrianB's Avatar Comment 18 by AdrianB

Comment #223758 by Barry Pearson

I've sent my usual "Religions are hobbies" comment.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/03/race.equality?commentid=562950fa-6eb0-424a-b62a-1e7d8a52358b

My web page on the topic: "Religions are hobbies":
http://www.barrypearson.co.uk/articles/gods/hobby.htm

Barry, i just want to say that I really like your "Religions are hobbies" site, and think you are 100% correct.

Thanks.

:)

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 11:53:00 UTC | #212204

Alovrin's Avatar Comment 19 by Alovrin

You know, the Good Old Days. When the chips tasted better, the dice always rolled sixes, everything was covered in gold and the bus into town didn't cost me £1.80 a throw. 1998 I believe


Well in my part of the world it was 1975- 1978.
Ah the good ole days...

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 12:13:00 UTC | #212213

Apathy personified's Avatar Comment 20 by Apathy personified

I can really see the justice system being painted, or painting itself into the corner of a room.

They are going to keep giving more concessions to certain religions - then other religions will want in - until it comes to a point when you have a religious group suing another religious group on the grounds of religious discrimination.

Will certainly be fun, watching that from the sidelines, with a smug smirk on my face.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 12:36:00 UTC | #212225

82abhilash's Avatar Comment 21 by 82abhilash

How Orwellian. Legalizing privilege in the name of equality.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 13:00:00 UTC | #212236

Barry Pearson's Avatar Comment 22 by Barry Pearson

#223810 by AdrianB: Barry, i just want to say that I really like your "Religions are hobbies" site, and think you are 100% correct.
Thanks!

Use it as much as you want. I want to spread the concept around. (So far, very few other people are using it).

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 13:27:00 UTC | #212250

dazzjazz's Avatar Comment 23 by dazzjazz

Right on J Mac !!! I'd love to read about that someday.

I think I'm going to get a job at a christian bookstore, then I'll refuse to check anyone out at the register, as it is against my lack of religion to distribute such crap.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 14:11:00 UTC | #212263

Godfree Gordon's Avatar Comment 24 by Godfree Gordon

Fanusi

What happens to a Gay-Muslim who says Islam is anti-gay?

Does he disappear up his own arsehole?

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 16:43:00 UTC | #212305

Thor'Ungal's Avatar Comment 25 by Thor'Ungal

What happens to a Gay-Muslim who says Islam is anti-gay?

Does he disappear up his own arsehole?


He/she'll either get ignored, killed, persecuted, deconverted, "turned straight", or join a liberal version of his/her religion (I'm sure it exists somewhere).

this isn't far off what has happened (and in some cases still is happening) to Christianity.

Keep the society secular, keep competing religions from killing us all and eventually the majority will drift to liberal faiths. Or am I just being naive?

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 18:29:00 UTC | #212331

AtheistAspy's Avatar Comment 26 by AtheistAspy

Sorry Thor'Ungal, I accidentally reported your 7:29 p.m. post on August 3, 2008 as trolling.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 18:51:00 UTC | #212339

mandydax's Avatar Comment 27 by mandydax

In further developments, a judge has decided in favour of the plaintiff in the case where she was sacked for refusing to sell egg cups that hold the little end of the egg. She claims that such Big-endian egg cups are against her religion as she is a devout Little-endian. The judge in this case ruled that it is discrimination to make the plaintiff do the job she was hired to do if that job forces her to sell things which she considers blasphemous, so her refusal to do so is just and her dismissal from her position unjust. As the defendant in the case is Big-endian Egg Cups, Ltd., the plainiff, a Ms. Nana Nana Booboo, can only be required to do those parts of her job which do not conflict with her beliefs, that is to say, nothing.

Sun, 03 Aug 2008 20:07:00 UTC | #212357

Severus's Avatar Comment 28 by Severus

Europe, until recently had been behaving like a grown adult. a mind that understands equality, scientific truth, tolerance, learning from experience. it is now time that it stood up for itself, the governments must meet, discuss and tell the world; this is what we are now, secularist, humanist, scientifically guided, just, guided by law, if you want to be here, then you must be these things too.

Mon, 04 Aug 2008 00:19:00 UTC | #212386

articulett's Avatar Comment 29 by articulett

I look forward to a time when believers are as "in the closet" as they desire atheists to be. I think believers should keep their beliefs as private as their fetishes and fantasies if they don't want to subject them to the scrutiny of others. What someone believes or doesn't believe should not matter-- what they say and do should.

Moreover, I look forward to the day when no superstitious beliefs are given special privileges... A Catholic will not have a privilege a Witch Doctor doesn't have... If a Muslim can wear a bracelet, then so can the Wiccan... If it says "In God We Trust" on the money, then a certain percentage of the denominations should reflect the corresponding belief of the others using the money: "in Allah we trust" "in no god we trust"... ", "in Satan we trust..." etc. Be all inclusive or don't include any faiths.

If a graduating valedictorian can praise her god-- then a graduating valedictorian should be able to praise any entity -- fictional or not (including the FSM)-- and the atheist student should be able to say, "I owe my success to discovering that faith makes you feel like you know something without knowing anything at all. Once I realized this, I could let go of the delusion and focus on all the wonders of the world that are true for everyone no matter what they believe!"

Doling out rights and privileges based on what people believe is ridiculous. If your beliefs interfere with your job-- you are no longer qualified to do the job. How dare a government decide which religion is or isn't a "real" faith that ought to be kowtowed to?

As far as I'm concerned freedom of religion comes with all the rights and privileges you would allot to all the faiths you don't subscribe too-- as well as the freedoms you'd give to the non-believers who find the whole thing primitive. If you are not going to allow it for those folks-- then don't allow it for anyone. Freedom of speech and freedom of conscience is NOT just for those who believe in "mass supported delusions".

Religions already get tax breaks without showing efficacy-- how dare they get more just because they believe some unbelievable tale. Why is that worth anything at all?

Mon, 04 Aug 2008 00:54:00 UTC | #212392

huzonfurst's Avatar Comment 30 by huzonfurst

This is what happens when "humanists" get elected to public office.

Mon, 04 Aug 2008 01:04:00 UTC | #212398