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Moral compass: a guide to religious freedom - Comments

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Comment 1 by HardNosedSkeptic

I think that was a very clear and helpful discussion of the issues, se well done to Kenan Malik for writing that.

I have a comment about Point (2):

Many believers point out that faith plays a unique role in their lives. That is often true. Those atheists who dismiss belief in God as no more credible than belief in Santa Claus or in fairies miss the point. Religion is more than an intellectual exercise or a matter of logic; it often has, for believers, a vital social and spiritual function. But acknowledging the vital and unique role of faith in the lives of believers does not commit us to providing it with a privileged position in society.

Atheists miss the point do they? Not by as much as certain kinds of religious people I think. I don’t care if religion plays an important or “unique role in their lives”. That doesn’t mean it should play any role in my life or in other people’s lives. What I say to theocratic bigots is it doesn’t matter how strongly you feel about it and it doesn’t matter how passionately you believe it, at the end of the day your religion is only your opinion, and there is no reason why it should affect anybody else’s life apart from your own.

Sat, 23 Jun 2012 21:55:34 UTC | #947980

raytoman's Avatar Comment 2 by raytoman

Religion has no important or unique role in peoples lives, except where they are the ones who use it to exercise power and control over others (typically the inventers, perpetrators or leaders of the 9,000 plus versions of the parasite).

For everyone else, except athiests, they have been indoctrinated to believe that they are eternal and that this life is only important as a test (determined by their religious betters) to decide if their real next life is as a toad or a worm or in paradise or in the inferno of hell.

Yes, 6 billion actually believe that crap and will kill and die to ensure they remain slaves to their particular parasite and will indoctrinate their children as they were indoctrinated.

The only expenditure of time energy resources and wealth that even comes close to that spent on religion is the expenditure on developing, improving and using weapons to kill other humans - typically for religious reasons or by using religion for propaganda.

Stop making excuses for the parasite that is religion. Those ancient Shamen, the original inventers, were only trying to gain a quantum of power in their tribe. The current Shamen seek armageddon - the end of our species.

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 00:17:01 UTC | #947982

raytoman's Avatar Comment 3 by raytoman

Should people be banned for wearing a Burka?

Why do people wear Burkas?

Basically, religious people cannot have morals - they divide humans into 9000 odd groups (and atheists who are outside all of these) and view all other groups except theirs as inferior and only their "rules" as being right.

Atheists of course can have morals since, at a minimum, they believe humans are all one species with other fauna and even flora, as relations for the one and only life they will have on a small pebble in a vast universe that they are trying to understand. Human understanding has been held back by religion (which still culls our brightest and best who question) for tens of millennia with progress mainly limited to the past 5-600 years of the 3.7 billion years of life on our pebble.

What people need is education, literacy, access to knowledge and to know what we are and where we are so that we can each determine a reason for our own personal lives. As a gregarious species, so closely related that we may as well be clones, we are compelled by our genes to cooperate to survive and have the intelligence (if not removed by religion) to ensure an increasingly better life for all and to ensure that our pebble remains liveable.

We should also know that our cousins, however far removed, have their place and indeed are essential for our survival (for food if nothing else). Of course we could do without some species (disease, parasites) and we must somehow find a way to do without the worst parasite, religion.

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 00:32:26 UTC | #947983

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 4 by Red Dog

Comment 2 by raytoman :

Religion has no important or unique role in peoples lives, except where they are the ones who use it to exercise power and control over others (typically the inventers, perpetrators or leaders of the 9,000 plus versions of the parasite).

One of my favorite living American writers is Elmore Leonard. In his short story "Fire in the Hole" the hero US marshall Rayland is talking to a white supremacist named Boyd who is ranting about how the Jews control the world and are destroying the lives of decent white folk. After Boyd rants for a while Rayland looks at him and says "Boyd, have you ever even met a Jew?"

I'm reminded of that passage every time I read something like that on this site. If you think that religion "has no important or unique role in peoples lives, except where they are the ones who use it to exercise power and control over others" I have to wonder if you have ever talked seriously to many religious people. I have. I'm an atheist myself but some of my best friends are religious. And I can tell you that religion plays a very important and unique role in their lives in ways that have nothing to do with controlling others.

I used to work in mental health. I saw that religon can play an enormous role to help people turn their lives around and get off of drugs and alcohol. I have and still am active in politics. Some of the most dedicated people I've met are Christians who believe that Christ's mission meant you work hard to bring justice to the people who need it the most. I've known theists who put me to shame in their dedication to working for others. Oh and they didn't judge me because I was an atheist. As long as I was willing to help they were more than happy to accept me and work with me.

None of this means I think religion is true or something we should preserve. I just don't want to start acting like an atheist fundamentalist who views anyone who disagrees with me as automatically evil or stupid.

Also, ethics aside if we really want to move beyond religion we need to understand it. To understand it we need to use the same scientific methods we use to understand any other pheonomena. If we just start with the bias that religion has never contributed anything positve to humanity we can't be any more objective than a Christian fundamentalist trying to understand evolution.

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 00:56:13 UTC | #947984

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 5 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

He makes some good points that religions and religionists should not receive any special treatment or privileges, but then seems to conclude under point 14 that employers should not normally have the right to ban employees from wearing religious symbols whilst at work!

Why not? Surely most people would agree that an employer should have the right to require that its employees do not wear a swastika, if it feels it doesn't represent the company or portray the right image, so why should they not be able to do the same with any religious symbol?

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 08:53:37 UTC | #947991

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 6 by Jos Gibbons

Not every quotation of Malik herein is due to my disagreeing with him, but I often disagree with his analysis, as well as often feeling he doesn’t have the faintest idea what he’s talking about. He often makes very confused comments. He also often overlooks the diversity of conceptions of secularism.

religious freedom

What does that mean? I know what freedom of religion is, and what freedom from religion is. But in my experience, the term “religious freedom” is often used to mean, “the freedom to take away other people’s freedoms for religious reasons”. And no such freedom exists.

Is it legitimate to ban the burqa? Should an employee be allowed to wear a cross at work?

The problem with both of these questions is the phrasing misses the fact that the “bans” were always in specific contexts for purely practical reasons. You can’t wear the burqa if we need to see your face, e.g. on a passport photograph; you can’t wear a cross if that means violating health & safety regulations concerning necklaces. We can argue about whether the underlying concerns are valid, but that’s not how the “debate” is ever framed. Instead religious persecution is alleged by dishonestly avoiding the real context. Given a commitment to health and safety, it is those who want crucifix-laden necklaces to be allowed who are asking for people to be treated differently on a religious basis, as it asks for an exemption.

(France’s burqa ban is a bit thornier because, in addition to their “we need to know who everyone is all the time” ID attitude, which is part of why they consider it worth banning burqas in public, they also hate Islamic oppression of women. But even if that’s not a good enough reason for a public ban, don’t pretend the other reason is religiously discriminating. In other words, there is a secular argument for what France did. We can critique that argument, but we can’t claim it isn’t religiously neutral, although there is a not so neutral argument too.)

guide to the logic of tolerance

I’d prefer a guide to morality. What if sometimes doing the right thing is intolerant? Should we tolerate intolerance, or the intolerant? “Always be tolerant” isn’t trivially a valid answer here.

Should a Catholic adoption agency be allowed to turn away gay prospective parents?

Should a KKK adoption agency be allowed to turn away Black prospective parents? It would go against their beliefs, to be sure; but a secular state expects everyone’s behaviour to fall in line with the same laws, whether or not our beliefs can stomach it. And before you say that religion is different from racism, (i) you have to explain why (they’re both evidentially baseless), and (ii) the KKK had a religious basis for its racism anyway.

Should Christian bed and breakfast owners be allowed to turn away gay customers?

Only if atheist homophobes should be granted the same liberty. Which forms of discrimination are allowed for private companies while not being allowed for the State is a major debate, but we have to keep our stands consistent regardless of what answers we give in that debate.

the competing claims of a commitment to the truth and the facts to personal freedom

Does this mean, “only giving people what they want if their beliefs are correct?” That’s not something I’m on board with.

Many believers point out that faith plays a unique role in their lives. That is often true. Those atheists who dismiss belief in God as no more credible than belief in Santa Claus or in fairies miss the point.

If your beliefs are stupid and important to them, it’s not the person who points out they are stupid who are missing the point; it’s the people who allow themselves to have stupid beliefs on important topics. Racism is stupid and important to groups such as the KKK or the EDL; I’m not the one who’s missing the point if I note that stupidity.

Religion is more than an intellectual exercise

In other words, it matters whether or not we get the right answer, which means we should be told off when we clearly don’t. The importance of religion to people is an argument for, not against, laying into its doctrines’ stupidity.

Modern ideas of freedom and tolerance are usually seen, particularly in the West, as having derived from Locke.

By the tiny minority of people who bother reading old philosophers, yes; but what it means to run society properly is a concern for everyone, and it literally doesn’t matter who invented the arguments the debate uses, but only what the arguments are and how credible they are.

Questions of freedom and tolerance are no longer about how the dominant religious establishment should respond to dissenting religious views, but about the degree to which society should tolerate, and the law permit, speech and activity that might be offensive, hateful, harmful to individuals or undermine national security.

This assessment of how society has changed is overly optimistic. Religions still manage to get illiberal legislation passed even in Western nations, and many nations around the world are going backwards and not forwards in their liberalism because of such religious influence. Further, many criticisms of religion, and demands religion play the same game as the rest of society, are condemned for harm to the religions themselves when individual people are not even argued to be the least bit harmed.

Whatever one’s beliefs, there should be complete freedom to express them, short of inciting violence or other forms of physical harm to others.

It’s easy to say that. But some people’s beliefs are pro-violence in some contexts. Under the recommendation I just quoted, can a Muslim publicly appraise any Koranic verses they like, with the exception of “violent” ones? And this isn’t just an issue for Muslims; it is an issue for people in many religions and in many political movements. In fact, just about everyone wants to see violence in some contexts; full-fledged pacifists are far less numerous than those who on at least one occasion have advocated a war.

Whatever one’s beliefs, secular or religious, there should be freedom to assemble to promote them.

Why doesn’t this have the same “except when advocating violence or harm” exception?

there should be freedom to act upon those beliefs, so long as in so doing one neither physically harms another individual without their consent nor transgresses that individual’s rights in the public sphere. These should be the fundamental principles by which we judge the permissibility of any belief or act, whether religious or secular.

So do Mormons get special access to polygamy under this principle? Others’ negative right not to be harmed is far from the only plausible constraint on one’s permissible behaviour. Again, to be sure, the debate regarding whether polygamy should be legal is nontrivial; but if the quotation above would allow polygamy precisely to those who think they deserve it, I can see there being problems with that being “fair”.

Many atheists want to deny religion the rights accorded to other forms of belief.

I’d like to see some proof of that. Show me an atheist who thinks people should face penalties for publicly saying they think Jesus was resurrected, but not for publicly saying a monster lives in Loch Ness, and I’ll take this accusation seriously. Like all other claims, the claim that both sides are partly wrong needs to be evidence; as with many other claims, this claim’s adherents often forget such evidential responsibilities.

Some atheists argue that secularism requires that religion be kept out of the public sphere. It is an argument that cannot be right any more than the claim that the views of racists, conservatives, communists or gay activists must be kept out of the public sphere.

I think he literally doesn’t know what “the public sphere” means in the context to which that first sentence refers. No-one says religious people should shut up (except, in many cases, rival religions or their members); what is said is that a religious argument for a political policy makes no sense, and should not be treated as if it does, whereas policies should only be passed if an argument which does make sense is offered for them. And this is the sort of concern which makes it invalid to place religion, racism, conservatism, communism and gay activists all on the same pedestal. Gay activists call for equality, and the burden of proof is on those who dispute that. Again, if it can be shown some atheists think religious beliefs should be illegal to bring up in political discussions, I’ll admit it.

It must also be one, however, in which no religion is disadvantaged with respect to another religion, or with respect to secular philosophies and ideologies.

Interestingly, not all secularists agree on this. I once attended in Oxford a talk by Julian Baggini in which he defined secular politics as requiring that cases for policies be based on publicly appreciable facts rather than in-group doctrines; as he put it, public policies must have public reasons. Baggini went on to argue some religions could, in such a state, be treated differently from others, e.g. because some religions represent a public menace. Now Baggini may be wrong about this, but I wish Malik had at least noted that the implications of secularism aren’t as trivially a matter of consensus as he seems to think herein.

Many atheists demand also that religious symbols be banned in the public sphere. Many states and corporations have imposed such bans, from the refusal to allow the wearing of the cross in the workplace to the outlawing of the burqa in public places.

Literally every cited example at the corporate level I’ve ever known turns out, under factual analysis, to be a case of there being some underlying concern with regards to which no discriminatory double standard is being practised. Instead the “persecuted” employees turn out to have been unwilling to be treated just like everyone else. States have violated secular principles often, to be sure; but then, not all states are secular. Of course, France calls itself a “secular” state, as does the United States, but Malik’s conception of secularism and their two are three different ones (at least if our definition of the US “conception” of secularism is the way they behave; you’d think on that basis they don’t even have a First Amendment). Again, Malik’s guide to secularism omits the breadth of conceptions of secularism among its advocates.

The belief that homosexuality is a sin requires that one refrain from gay relationships or gay sex. The belief that life begins at conception requires that one does not have an abortion or help anyone else to do so. And so on.

No it doesn’t; sinners exist, but then they confess or otherwise make amends with their deity. In any case, making others refrain from such things, or denying people rights because they won’t, is another matter altogether.

A racist pub-owner cannot bar black people from his pub, however deep-set his beliefs.

Whenever the gays vs Christian B&B issue comes up, someone claims legally companies can have, for example, no-blacks policies. I bet there’s a lawyer on this forum; could someone who actually knows the law (state in which country, please) say what the situation really is? Of course, Malik may be referring to what should be disallowed in a secular state.

An atheist bar-owner should have no right, whatever his conscience may say, to bar people of faith

Why would his conscience say that anyway? “Only people whose beliefs about metaphysics and eschatology are in line with Big Bang cosmology should buy my alcohol”? No-one thinks like that! Malik forgets that, where religions discriminate against each other, they do so not because they think inaccuracy in beliefs should be punished, but because they think God has placed true believers in a special moral class.

Is it legitimate for a state to ban the burqa? It is not. … Some suggest that burqas cause harm because they may pose security problems, or be incompatible with the needs of particular jobs. Such practical problems can usually be solved on a case-by-case basis without the need for draconian legislation.

Consider again the case of France, which is incredibly security-conscious. This is a society where you need to carry papers at all times, and where you can be trapped where you are if you don’t and there is a perceived security threat. The argument there for not covering faces is religiously neutral (although some adherence for the burqa ban was probably also based on a concern for pernicious effects of Islam, but see above my reference to Baggini’s conception of secularism). When Malik says, you can’t ban the burqa but can make a case-by-case ruling against it, he clearly doesn’t understand that for France the “case-by-case” approach is just not going to work, because they have a universal view on a security issue.

Should an employee be allowed to wear a cross at work? In almost every case the answer should be “Yes”. There may be a pragmatic case for, say, banning loose chains that in certain workplaces may be dangerous

How does Malik know “almost every case” doesn’t have such health and safety issues? What percentage do?

Should a Catholic adoption agency be allowed to turn away gay prospective parents? If the agency receives public funding, or performs a service on behalf of the state, then the answer is “No”… If, however, it is a private agency – if it is simply performing a service for Catholic parents who subscribe to its views on homosexuality – then the answer should be “Yes”. Should Christian bed-and-breakfast owners be allowed to turn away gays? Such owners, even if they are turning their own home into a B&B, are providing a service from which a gay couple could reasonably expect equal treatment. The answer, therefore, is “No”.

Now he’s not even keeping his story straight. Do “don’t discriminate laws” apply as much to private groups as to publicly funded ones or don’t they? How are adoptive agencies unlike hotels?

Should gay marriage be legalised? Yes. … What the state should not do is to force religious bodies to accept or consecrate gay marriage.

Incidentally, this shows how important it is for British secularists that the Church of England lose its primacy not only as a state religion, but also as a religion of the monarchy. After all, if the Church of England doesn’t wish to accept or consecrate gay marriage and the state cannot force them to, and if monarchy marriages need to be within the Church of England, that effectively blocks royals seeking the throne from gay marriage.

many of these conflicts would be better resolved through the pragmatic use of common sense

Apart from the fact that common sense is no more likely to get ethics right than it is to get physics right, religions’ contribution to the debate shows no interest in common sense. It does not persuade the Church of England if common sense is in favour of gay marriage; and, insofar as it has political power, the political process doesn’t give common sense primacy either.

A religious believer should not normally have the legal right to discriminate. But if it is possible to arrange matters so that a believer can act according to conscience without causing harm or discrimination to others, then we should do so.

When would one be able to discriminate without causing discrimination to others? This isn’t a legal question; this is a logical one.

a Christian marriage registrar should expect to have to perform gay civil partnerships… However, it might make pragmatic sense to roster others to perform ceremonies for gay couples, not because we should accept prejudice, but in acknowledgement of the fact that genuine social conflict exists on this issue, and that many oppose gay partnerships or marriages as a matter of conscience and not simply through homophobia… The law should not make such an accommodation. But as individuals, or as organisations, it may be wise to, though not at the cost of causing harm, allowing discrimination or endorsing bigotry.

Why should a registrar expect to have to do what their Church doesn’t? Why should “genuine social conflict” matter more to pragmatists than to the law? Insofar as it should, this is so in any context, not just a religious one; why has Malik missed the umpteenth opportunity to add, “by the way, this is the same as everything else”, as he normally does? All in all, it was a very confusing paragraph.

we should not expect a doctor or a nurse, even in principle, to perform an abortion, if they feel to do so is against their beliefs. Whatever we may think of the belief that life begins at conception, it would be unreasonable in the extreme to expect those who do hold that belief to commit what they consider to be murder.

Malik’s making up these rules as he goes along. Where in the “people should all obey the same rules, whatever their conscience says” rule he gave before does “oh, but not if it’s abortion?” come from? There is no serious thinking happening here.

A pragmatic approach to matters of religious conscience is neither a sign of “weakness” nor a matter of “accommodating” the devil. Standing by political principle is vitally important, including the principle that people should have the right to act upon their conscience if possible.

So, even on the subject of whether you have to keep your ethical story straight, Malik can’t keep his ethical story straight. “People should do as the law tells them, except when not so”, doesn’t tell us anything. Maybe religious doctors needn’t abort. Or maybe religious managers of hotels needn’t allow in gay people. How do you tell which exceptions work and which don’t? Allowing people to act on their conscience “if possible” doesn’t answer this, because it’s always possible to let them, and also always possible not to.

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 09:13:21 UTC | #947992

mmurray's Avatar Comment 7 by mmurray

Is it legitimate for a state to ban the burqa?

The arguments on both sides are more complicated than presented here.

Should an employee be allowed to wear a cross at work?

In almost every case the answer should be “Yes”. There may be a pragmatic case for, say, banning loose chains that in certain workplaces may be dangerous; but it is difficult to see what right an employer has simply to ban the wearing of a cross as a religious symbol.

The question is not clear. Does the employee wish to wear it visible or not ? An employer has the right to demand that staff follow a uniform policy. If that policy says no jewellery then that includes representations of torture implements.

but it is difficult to see what right an employer has simply to ban the wearing of a cross as a religious symbol.

Really ? Your first commentator got it in one. Many employees are the public face of their employer. The employer might quite legitimately want that public face to be neutral from a religious and political perspective. That's one of the reasons employers want uniform policies. For example if I go to the bank to borrow money to set up my new business selling Islamic head scarves I might well feel uncomfortable if the person making the judgement on my loan is wearing an I Love Jesus badge.

Should a Catholic adoption agency be allowed to turn away gay prospective parents?

If the agency receives public funding, or performs a service on behalf of the state, then the answer is “No”. It would then be legitimate for the state to insist that the agency does not discriminate, despite Catholic views on homosexuality. If, however, it is a private agency – if it is simply performing a service for Catholic parents who subscribe to its views on homosexuality – then the answer should be “Yes”.

Adoption is always going to involve the state as it requires the state to agree to the adoption. So the second case should never occur.

Should gay marriage be legalised?

Yes. .... What the state should not do is to force religious bodies to accept or consecrate gay marriage.

Nope. You already covered this in the adoption agency example. The religious body is performing both a religious and a state marriage in one because it has been given a license by the state to perform marriages. With that license comes a responsibility to obey the state's rules about discrimination. Of course it can always refuse the license and perform only religious ceremonies that confer no legal marriage on the participants.

Michael

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 09:57:28 UTC | #947996

RJMoore's Avatar Comment 8 by RJMoore

Is it legitimate to ban the burqa?

The state has absolutely no business involving itself in matters of attire. Obviously it can say that a woman's face should be visible when, for example, she is driving, using social services, or in court; but if a woman wants to go about her business fully covered she shouldn't have to explain herself to anyone. However, if a shop-owner insists that all customers' faces are visible when they are in his premises, the state should have no right to butt in and dictate his 'policy' either.

Should an employee be allowed to wear a cross at work?

Of course....unless his employer doesn't want his staff to wear one. If an employer has the right to ask employees to cover tattoos, remove facial piercings, be clean-shaven, or wear a shirt and tie, he should be able to insist that staff remove any piece of jewellery, religious or purely cosmetic.

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 13:03:50 UTC | #948003

jel's Avatar Comment 9 by jel

Many believers point out that faith plays a unique role in their lives. That is often true. Those atheists who dismiss belief in God as no more credible than belief in Santa Claus or in fairies miss the point. Religion is more than an intellectual exercise or a matter of logic; it often has, for believers, a vital social and spiritual function. But acknowledging the vital and unique role of faith in the lives of believers does not commit us to providing it with a privileged position in society.

It may have an important role in their lives, but that doesn't make it any truer than fairies, Jack Frost or the Easter Bunny.

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 13:18:22 UTC | #948004

nick keighley's Avatar Comment 10 by nick keighley

Comment 2 by raytoman :

Religion has no important or unique role in peoples lives, except where they are the ones who use it to exercise power and control over others

this is untrue. Religion does indeed play an important part of many peoples' lives

(For everyone else, except athiests, they have been indoctrinated to believe that they are eternal and that this life is only important as a test (determined by their religious betters) to decide if their real next life is as a toad or a worm or in paradise or in the inferno of hell.

not all religious people believe in eternal life.

Yes, 6 billion actually believe that crap

no. Much of the world's population is non-religious

and will kill and die to ensure they remain slaves to their particular parasite

most religious people are perfectly amiable and don't want to kill anyone. I'm beginning to think you just don't like people.

The only expenditure of time energy resources and wealth that even comes close to that spent on religion is the expenditure on developing, improving and using weapons to kill other humans - typically for religious reasons or by using religion for propaganda.

no. The reasons for wars and the deployment of weapons are multi-various and not confined to religion. Typically violence is not caused by religion.

Stop making excuses for the parasite that is religion. Those ancient Shamen, the original inventers, were only trying to gain a quantum of power in their tribe. The current Shamen seek armageddon - the end of our species.

you are being ridiculous

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 13:54:41 UTC | #948006

nick keighley's Avatar Comment 11 by nick keighley

Comment 3 by raytoman :

Atheists of course can have morals since, at a minimum, they believe humans are all one species with other fauna and even flora, as relations for the one and only life they will have on a small pebble in a vast universe that they are trying to understand.

no. atheists are characterised by not believing in god (or gods). The hippy cosmological stuff is your own invention.

Human understanding has been held back by religion (which still culls our brightest and best who question) for tens of millennia with progress mainly limited to the past 5-600 years of the 3.7 billion years of life on our pebble.

I don'tthink religion held humans back for most of that 3.7 billion years as neither humans nor religion existed for most of that time. Modern humans have only been around for a few million years.

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 13:59:29 UTC | #948007

nick keighley's Avatar Comment 12 by nick keighley

Comment 5 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee :

He makes some good points that religions and religionists should not receive any special treatment or privileges, but then seems to conclude under point 14 that employers should not normally have the right to ban employees from wearing religious symbols whilst at work! Why not?

because it does no harm to others

Surely most people would agree that an employer should have the right to require that its employees do not wear a swastika,

a ridiculous comparison

if it feels it doesn't represent the company or portray the right image, so why should they not be able to do the same with any religious symbol?

how far do you take it? crosses, fish symbols, hindu good luck symbols, wedding rings, jewish head-gear, sikh turbans, hindu face markings, hindu hand painting, horse shoes, rabbits feet.

I worked with a guy who had a bible on his book shelf. Would you ban that? Would you ban evolutionary or atheist works?

to be honest I don't want to live in your society. To me the good thing about secualrism is tolerance.

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 14:15:21 UTC | #948008

nick keighley's Avatar Comment 13 by nick keighley

Comment 6 by Jos Gibbons :

Not every quotation of Malik herein is due to my disagreeing with him, but I often disagree with his analysis, as well as often feeling he doesn’t have the faintest idea what he’s talking about. He often makes very confused comments. He also often overlooks the diversity of conceptions of secularism.

he seemed to make a lot of sense to me.

Is it legitimate to ban the burqa? Should an employee be allowed to wear a cross at work? The problem with both of these questions is the phrasing misses the fact that the “bans” were always in specific contexts for purely practical reasons.

no.This isn't true. The banning of crosses seemed purely arbitary. Employers exercise a great deal of control over their employees as it is. This arbitary extension of power is unwarrented.

The French and Swiss burka bans were without justification and an extreme example of religious and cultural predjudice. In Amnesty's opinion many of these laws are in violation of the European Convention on human rights. The Netherlands is another (surprising) violator. The UK (so far) is pretty good.

You can’t wear the burqa if we need to see your face, e.g. on a passport photograph; you can’t wear a cross if that means violating health & safety regulations concerning necklaces. We can argue about whether the underlying concerns are valid, but that’s not how the “debate” is ever framed.

because that is hardly ever what is going on

[...] (France’s burqa ban is a bit thornier because, in addition to their “we need to know who everyone is all the time” ID attitude, which is part of why they consider it worth banning burqas in public, they also hate Islamic oppression of women.

fighting oppression with oppression...

But even if that’s not a good enough reason for a public ban, don’t pretend the other reason is religiously discriminating. In other words, there is a secular argument for what France did. We can critique that argument, but we can’t claim it isn’t religiously neutral, although there is a not so neutral argument too.)

I don't believe the French (or Swiss or Dutch) had good secular reasons for what they did. It is naked religious persecution. The so-called secular reasons are window dressing to try and disguise their actual intent (preventing moslem women from receiving an education).

guide to the logic of tolerance I’d prefer a guide to morality. What if sometimes doing the right thing is intolerant? Should we tolerate intolerance, or the intolerant?

what I call the liberal paradox. I'm intolerant of intolerance. Hence the present rant!

“Always be tolerant” isn’t trivially a valid answer here.

Whatever one’s beliefs, secular or religious, there should be freedom to assemble to promote them.

Why doesn’t this have the same “except when advocating violence or harm” exception?

yes, I thought that!

Many atheists want to deny religion the rights accorded to other forms of belief. I’d like to see some proof of that.

read this forum!

Show me an atheist who thinks people should face penalties for publicly saying they think Jesus was resurrected, but not for publicly saying a monster lives in Loch Ness, and I’ll take this accusation seriously. Like all other claims, the claim that both sides are partly wrong needs to be evidence; as with many other claims, this claim’s adherents often forget such evidential responsibilities.

Some atheists argue that secularism requires that religion be kept out of the public sphere.

I'd prefer my politicians to keep the religious clap-trap down to a dull roar. I don't want my public institutions to be run on religious grounds. But I don't see why someone shouldn't cry their beliefs openly on the street if they wish to.

[...] what is said [about religion and the "public sphere"] is that a religious argument for a political policy makes no sense, and should not be treated as if it does, whereas policies should only be passed if an argument which does make sense is offered for them.

and who decides what "makes sense"? You and your super-rational atheist play mates? Democracy doesn't work that way.

And this is the sort of concern which makes it invalid to place religion, racism, conservatism, communism and gay activists all on the same pedestal. Gay activists call for equality, and the burden of proof is on those who dispute that. Again, if it can be shown some atheists think religious beliefs should be illegal to bring up in political discussions, I’ll admit it.

It must also be one, however, in which no religion is disadvantaged with respect to another religion, or with respect to secular philosophies and ideologies.

yes. That to me is secularism in a nutshell. If I buy a house, get arrested, sue in court, vote, work etc. etc. than I should be treated no differently than a moslem, jew, hindu or zoroastrian.

What I call "strong secularism" is the denial of people's rights (or rites!) because you don't happen to like some of their beliefs. Several hundred years of european wars should have knocked this out of us.

Interestingly, not all secularists agree on this. I once attended in Oxford a talk by Julian Baggini in which he defined secular politics as requiring that cases for policies be based on publicly appreciable facts rather than in-group doctrines; as he put it, public policies must have public reasons. Baggini went on to argue some religions could, in such a state, be treated differently from others, e.g. because some religions represent a public menace. Now Baggini may be wrong about this, but I wish Malik had at least noted that the implications of secularism aren’t as trivially a matter of consensus as he seems to think herein.

Many atheists demand also that religious symbols be banned in the public sphere. Many states and corporations have imposed such bans, from the refusal to allow the wearing of the cross in the workplace to the outlawing of the burqa in public places. Literally every cited example at the corporate level I’ve ever known turns out, under factual analysis, to be a case of there being some underlying concern with regards to which no discriminatory double standard is being practised.

Britsh Airways?

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 14:46:09 UTC | #948009

Net's Avatar Comment 14 by Net

a burqa is an outward symbol that you belong to a group who advocate and practise misogyny, homophobia, forceful conversion to islam, etc etc, etc

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 17:00:01 UTC | #948014

RJMoore's Avatar Comment 15 by RJMoore

Comment 14 by Net

a burqa is an outward symbol that you belong to a group who advocate and practise misogyny, homophobia, forceful conversion to islam, etc etc, etc

And?

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 17:14:28 UTC | #948015

Hobomidget's Avatar Comment 16 by Hobomidget

Religion helps people feel things they normally couldn't gasp at all. We all know how idiotic believers in religious superstitions actually are, but what I don't think we realize often enough is their lack of emotional intelligence. You often hear of religious people acting in a cruel way, but don't understand why. They are, after all, doing what their god told them to do.

I do however believe that more strict guidelines deserves to be placed on religions, so they don't interfere with the rest of society. Athiesm is growing so fast that we should respect them in the same way as people in English speaking countries respect Christianity. (I will remain forceful about that statement.)

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 18:47:39 UTC | #948018

DocWebster's Avatar Comment 17 by DocWebster

we should not expect a doctor or a nurse, even in principle, to perform an abortion, if they feel to do so is against their beliefs. Whatever we may think of the belief that life begins at conception, it would be unreasonable in the extreme to expect those who do hold that belief to commit what they consider to be murder.

Medical professionals are supposed to be basing their medical opinions upon medical science. Furthermore every reason they perform or do not perform a medical procedure should be based solely on medical science. If they can't perform within those confines they should not be medical professionals. If they decline to practice their profession in such a manner they are committing malpractice. There are no allowances here, you are a medical professional who performs by medical standards or you're not a medical professional, that's the end of the argument.

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 19:12:28 UTC | #948020

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 18 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #948009 by nick keighley

It’s clear you’re unwilling to believe the French would want to follow their security-conscious fears to their logical don’t-cover-your-face conclusion, because you just know what was really on their mind. The funny thing is, law doesn’t work that way; the question isn’t whether you harbour at least one bad reason for entertaining a view, but whether you can present at least one good reason for it. Arguments must be dealt with whether or not they are suspected to be pretexts. In this context, incidentally, “good” means in line with the principles on which the state is run, e.g. in line with secularism. That’s why you deem those reasons you don’t dismiss as excuses to be bad ones the excuses are meant to cover up.

who decides what "makes sense"?

See the Baggini points I made; arguments are meant to convince more broadly than within the adherents of a societally contentious metaphysical position.

As for the corporations issues, let’s look at the example you give of:

Britsh [sic] Airways

Who had a policy jewellery not be worn outside of clothing. Seems pretty fair to me. We can argue about whether it’s a good rule, just as we can with French security regulations, but we can’t claim it amounts to religious discrimination, because it has the same verdict regardless of what jewellery depicts.

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 19:20:35 UTC | #948021

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 19 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

Comment 12 by nick keighley Comment 5

by Jumped Up Chimpanzee :

He makes some good points that religions and religionists should not receive any special treatment or privileges, but then seems to conclude under point 14 that employers should not normally have the right to ban employees from wearing religious symbols whilst at work! Why not?

because it does no harm to others

It's got nothing to do with others. It's to do with the employer's company. If the employer feels that a symbol (whether or not it's religious is irrelevant - that's the point) does not present the right image for the company, surely they should be able to prohibit the display of such a symbol. I don't see how anyone is harmed by the banning of any personal symbols whilst they are at work.

However, I'm not proposing that all employers should go ahead and ban all personal items, and I don't think many would wish to. It's every employer's decision. I'm an employer and I don't care if my employees wear religious jewellery. But I think every employer should have the right to do so if they feel it presents the wrong image for them. Nobody is harmed by being asked not to wear a necklace or bracelet at work, regardless of whether or not it is religious.

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 22:40:43 UTC | #948023

mmurray's Avatar Comment 20 by mmurray

Comment 13 by nick keighley :

no.This isn't true. The banning of crosses seemed purely arbitary. Employers exercise a great deal of control over their employees as it is. This arbitary extension of power is unwarrented.

When were crosses every banned ? The examples, like BA, I have heard of were bans on jewellery being visible to the public. Standard employer uniform policy. No arbitrary extension of power. No brave new world.

Michael

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 23:03:43 UTC | #948024

VrijVlinder's Avatar Comment 21 by VrijVlinder

I don't think these issues are moral issues. They are Ethical issues which require a utilitarian approach to provide the best result for everyone.

That said, each society should be able to decide and regulate activities as they see fit. Even if they go against what other people may believe or think. Majority rules. Sometimes the majority is in error . When it is a big error others must intervene . As with Human rights issues. Which are much different than religious rights that commonly fall under freedom of speech protection.

My personal opinion on Bur-qua, according to the reasons for wearing it, protection from lascivious men even looking at the woman and causing indecent thoughts to the man who may lose control and rape them. I was told that by a Saudi man in Amsterdam about why they wear it. He said young girls under 12 do not need to wear it but that they want to be like their mothers so they ask to wear it from very young.

I would think it is like a disguise to the children. It is not strange they would want to emulate the mothers. Maybe where they come from this has to be due to the bestial nature of men in muslim countries.

However I think they go too far when they want to force a liberal society into accepting that kind of thing when it is not needed because men are not bestial if they see a woman's face . Further more it is perpetuating the inequality of these women in a progressive society where they will be left behind and suffer who knows what kind of abuse. Those who (women) vocally disapprove of being ordered by society not to cover their face, should simply return to their country of origin where the practice is not only allowed but also enforced.

There has to be an Ethical limit to "Freedom of Religion" Like there should be about other issues which people converted into religious libertinage imposing illogical ideas on a society which already has a Working Ethical Structure and for the vast majority of the people it works.

Wearing religious icons is way to publicly identify your religious orientation and have others of your own religion identify with you. It does not have to even be a religion, it can be an Atheist A. Who would know it meant atheist? Maybe only an atheist or an anti atheist. Does it matter ? unless that is a way to identify people to be executed like the nazis did, or if in an intolerant country, then it would be best to be neutral.

I think everyone has a right to wear what they want unless it interferes with something As has been stated. Or the Employer wants to present a neutral Image. Should an employer who is a devout christian expect his employees to wear jesus shirts to work everyday? Or pray with him before your shift? It would be obvious an atheist would not take that job unless they enjoyed hell on earth.

People wear things depicting their pride in something they believe or are. They should be able to wear or not wear what ever they want in a manner which is not negative towards anyone else or the established Ethical rules of conduct.

Mon, 25 Jun 2012 01:03:27 UTC | #948026

raytoman's Avatar Comment 22 by raytoman

Comment 4 by Red Dog

Comment 2 by raytoman :

Religion has no important or unique role in peoples lives, except where they are the ones who use it >>to exercise power and control over others (typically the inventers, perpetrators or leaders of the 9,000 >>plus versions of the parasite).

ethics aside if we really want to move beyond religion we need to understand it. To understand it we need to use the same scientific methods we use to understand any other pheonomena. If we >>just start with the bias that religion has never contributed anything positve to humanity we can't be >>any more objective than a Christian fundamentalist trying to understand evolution.

But we do understand religion! - Read The God Delusion.

I have been an atheist for almost 50 years and have discussed and read about religion, with infected people and normal people (atheists) and it's purpose is quite clear.

Individuals may interpret their religious leaders to kill people or help people to gain reincarnation as a pretty bird or to win the Harp and Cloud or the 74 virgins - whatever- but they are still following the dictates of their parasite. The same paedophile Priest may actually help a young boy to read but will still torture heretics for the Spanish Inquisition - all the same shit.

Neandrathals had religion and more versions are invented every day as individuals carve out their own flock to flece. You can trace almost all atrocities and wars to religion, or the use of religion as propaganda to ensure no mercy for the "infidels" "pagans" "gentiles" etc on the other side.

All religious creeds start with rule number one. We are right and everyone else is wrong and should be eradicated. Today, in at least one country, anyone can legally kill anyone who even suggests questioning this law.

The only remaining mystery about religion is why anyone believes.

The answer is simple, they are indoctrinated from birth, tortured or killed if they question and given status if they unquestionly obey. With everyone in their cultural group also brainwashed, it is almost impossible to deviate and actually wise up.

The power this parasite weilds keeps others who may question quiet. Religion infects our planet to the extent that even rational people are afraid to question and you will find that most atheists actually pay for religion to be practised and indoctrinated into children (through their taxes).

What more do you need to know?

Many on this site try to analyse why people believe or how many devils an pass throuigh they eye of the needle, with or without their camels.

Religious people are typically kept ignorant and iliterate and led to believe that they should enoy their place in society and follow their (religious) leaders advice. Most will kill and die to remain slaves to the parasite. Many just follow unquestionly and gain satisfaction from helping the poor, killing opostates, or feeling sorry for the rich and wealthy who spend eternity in the inferno of hell. DUH!

Mon, 25 Jun 2012 03:07:30 UTC | #948028

raytoman's Avatar Comment 23 by raytoman

Comment 10 by nick keighley

Comment 2 by raytoman :

Yes, 6 billion actually believe that crap

no. Much of the world's population is non-religious

and will kill and die to ensure they remain slaves to their particular parasite

most religious people are perfectly amiable and don't want to kill anyone. I'm beginning to think you >>just don't like people.

According to the World Atlas of Religions, there ARE 6 billion religious people including 3.5+ billion Jews (mostly from the Christian and Muslim Sects), a billion Buddists, almost a billion Hindus, etc

Only 140 million atheists (I believe this to be a exaggeration given the small percentage on this site) and I suspect most of the rest are agnostics or the leaders and perpetrators of religion who just utilise the 9000+ versions (more every day, especially on-line) to excercis the power and control mechanism for their own ends.

The amiable Muslims cheered worldwide when the Twin Towers fell killing thousands, the amiable US electorate ensured Guantanamo was kept open to continue the torture, the amiable Western World cheered Shock and Awe as Iraq was bombed back to the stone age for being ruled against their will by a tyrant, ..need I continue.

Religion is a button that can be pressed and turn any infected person into a mindless member of masses that religion controls - the only reason for it's existence.

I actuall love humanity. I think people can be anything their genetic inheritance and subsequent nurturing can encompass. Unfortunately religion takes over for most and they lead limited lives (if not lives of illiteracy and ignorance.).

However I F*****g Hate religion and those who invent and perpetrate it!

Mon, 25 Jun 2012 03:27:28 UTC | #948029

Pete H's Avatar Comment 24 by Pete H

Whatever one’s beliefs, secular or religious, there should be complete freedom to express them, short of inciting violence or other forms of physical harm to others.

Well, this is at least one defective component in the argument. Unfortunately any arguments ‘so far’, when extended to real situations, must inevitably be flawed owing to the inclusion of this error. Owing to unstable foundations there may be some ‘right’ answers in the list, but arrived at by accident instead of logic.

Mon, 25 Jun 2012 11:22:21 UTC | #948035

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 25 by Jos Gibbons

Could you elaborate, Pete H?

Mon, 25 Jun 2012 12:31:20 UTC | #948037

parkerjwill's Avatar Comment 26 by parkerjwill

The only ones that aren't easy to answer are the first and the last. The other questions are so stupid they're offensive.

Mon, 25 Jun 2012 14:54:20 UTC | #948043

Bobwundaye's Avatar Comment 27 by Bobwundaye

Comment 17 by DocWebster

Medical professionals are supposed to be basing their medical opinions upon medical science. Furthermore every reason they perform or do not perform a medical procedure should be based solely on medical science. If they can't perform within those confines they should not be medical professionals. If they decline to practice their profession in such a manner they are committing malpractice. There are no allowances here, you are a medical professional who performs by medical standards or you're not a medical professional, that's the end of the argument.

I think that as atheist we might need to concede that there is no ultimate right or wrong, but that everything we wish to see in society is a result of our own prejudices and how we wish others to see the world and to act. Taking the example of forcing a catholic doctor to perform an abortion:

If it were illegal to perform an abortion, yet as an atheist you thought it in the best interest of the mother and valued the life of the mother over the non-life of the growing non-human blob, would you not be compelled to perform an abortion. Now what if you were told that even admitting you would do this means that you can't be a doctor?

And yet, this in its opposite extreme is what some people advocate: unless you as a doctor are willing to perform everything that is mandated for you to perform, you cannot be a doctor.

Or what if it becomes acceptable to euthanize. Should every doctor be compelled to do that if they were asked?

I think that the idea of being pragmatic in legislation as well as in enforcement of legislation is an idea that is still to be realized in its full and may be the best way forward. Perhaps we are too caught up in finding a coherent philosophy and legal system and not realising that every system has its flaws. We can only hope to progress to a stage where laws, although not being attributable to any greater moral enforcement, are laws which seem agreeable and have pragmatic alternatives where there is a grey area.

Mon, 25 Jun 2012 15:42:17 UTC | #948045

xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 28 by xmaseveeve

Comment 21, Vrij,

However I think they go too far when they want to force a liberal society into accepting that kind of thing when it is not needed because men are not bestial if they see a woman's face . Further more it is perpetuating the inequality of these women in a progressive society where they will be left behind and suffer who knows what kind of abuse. Those who (women) vocally disapprove of being ordered by society not to cover their face, should simply return to their country of origin where the practice is not only allowed but also enforced.

Apart from the fact that they may have been born here, I totally agree. Choosing to obliterate your identity by wearing a burka - and I don't mean the ugly clothing itself - I mean covering your face in public because you are a woman - is an insult to women and to men. Choosing to wear it condemns others to being forced to wear it. It condones and perpetuates sexism. Allowing the choice is too great a luxury for a free society to afford. It makes integration impossible, and is not even a religious requirement. The security risks are clearly substantial.

In this country, we have laws against sexual harassment, rather than blaming the victims. If men can't control themselves, they can get castrated or wear blinkers.

I've been without a computer since the 28th May, and I've been back and lurking for a week now, catching up with all I'd missed, but I had to come on and say - you go Vrij! Well said. We must stop pussyfooting around this sick abomination against women. It's nice to be back.

Mon, 25 Jun 2012 16:10:01 UTC | #948046

EvN's Avatar Comment 29 by EvN

…It should not, however, impose a ban on those who have chosen to wear the burqa. Some suggest that burqas cause harm because they may pose security problems, or be incompatible with the needs of particular jobs. Such practical problems can usually be solved on a case-by-case basis without the need for draconian legislation.

Nonsense. These practical problems cannot be solved in an impractical manner. How on earth does one solve such problems on a case-to-case basis? Run to court in every case? In Common Law jurisdictions the law and precedent beds down the principles and in Civil Law jurisdictions the text of the law does the job. The “cases” all need to be evaluated according to the same law for different people.

I am also not aware that any of the legislation can be described as “draconian.” What is draconian about expecting people not to hide their identities in public or to ban garments that obscure sight when other people’s lives may depend on unhindered sight?

Whatever one’s beliefs, there should be complete freedom to express them, short of inciting violence or other forms of physical harm to others.

Only physical harm? I wonder what would happen to my business if my sales staff wear their pentacles and other supposedly “satanic” symbols when they visit my clients? My staff are welcome to their religious freedoms – not on my time and not on my dime.

I will certainly not allow a woman covered in a burqa in my office. I am not discriminating on the basis of race or religion. I need to see who I am dealing with in order to prevent harm to myself and my business. I really, really do not want to explain to a court why I cannot identify my own client. I also do not allow hoodies that obscure faces in my office.

Comment 6 by Jos Gibbons

Whenever the gays vs Christian B&B issue comes up, someone claims legally companies can have, for example, no-blacks policies. I bet there’s a lawyer on this forum; could someone who actually knows the law (state in which country, please) say what the situation really is? Of course, Malik may be referring to what should be disallowed in a secular state.

In South Africa, a company may not discriminate on the basis of skin colour or sexual orientation for any reason (legitimate affirmative action on basis of skin colour excluded). We have had such cases and the companies lost every single case in the courts.

I understand that this is the case in just about all Common Law and “modern” Civil Law jurisdictions and even more so in countries with written constitutions.

@ xmaseveeve and Vrij

I am getting more and more irritated by the burqa-wearing women in Western societies being seen as victims. They are often portrayed as downtrodden and indoctrinated etc.etc. by Western women. However, they themselves state clearly that they choose to wear the burqa. Let’s take them at their word and require of them everything that we require of other women who make their own choices. If they want to drive a car, let them be subject to exactly the same requirement regarding unobscured vision. If they want to pick up their children at school, let them identify themselves properly as all other parents must do. If they then want to retire to their houses in misery as they made a silly choice, let them bloody well do so.

I am sick of these women, who help to perpetuate discrimination against ALL women, having their cake and eating it.

What do you think?

Mon, 25 Jun 2012 18:10:05 UTC | #948049

VrijVlinder's Avatar Comment 30 by VrijVlinder

@Comment 28 by xmaseveeve: Apart from the fact that they may have been born here

Girl !! you have been sorely missed !!

I thought about that believe it or not the fact they may have been born on British soil or French etc. Some are converts and it is hard to believe as much as nunnery . The same solution applies, as far as I know a muslim can go live in Egypt or Jordan, Iran. I mean Their entire oppressive subjugated garments are accepted there in the event they love their faith or beliefs so much.

I see where this will go next, they claim that being a UK citizen automatically gives them extra rights. They were born there and deserve to be accepted...

If we use Ethics to resolve this issue there is no issue. It would be as simple as "Sorry but the Law of the land is mightier than your religion based law comply or face penalties."

What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Why should women anywhere support the Bur-qua? When I see this it hurts me. I feel bad for these women like you can't imagine. I wrote a script called "The Freedom day" about women in muslim countries organizing to kill all the men in order to free themselves from subjugation. I imagined that ALL muslim women felt that way. In my mind the only solution was the total annihilation of all the males who were responsible for the continued perpetration of oppression .

The wake up call about this solution being wrong is shocking. They want to continue like this. The majority does in any event. They could have been brainwashed from children to think they want to. The problem is until all the women want to be free nothing will be done to change. It is something that has to happen en mass. Like the struggle for women's rights in the USA.

Until they all burn their Bur-qua in unanimity, they will continue to be oppressed in any society they live in. Free societies Must not sponsor the continuation of this whether they want it or not. It would be Un Ethical to allow this on the grounds of religious freedom. It is religious oppression not freedom.

If my life was in danger from uncontrollable men raping at the sight of an eye through the embroidered breathing holes of a bur-qua, I would wear a double one !! How about just punishing those men instead of vilifying the women? That already happens in these societies where these women demand to wear them which makes the need of to wear one unnecessary and reasonable to ask they do not.

Mon, 25 Jun 2012 20:25:20 UTC | #948053