Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

Patrick H
Gormley


Religion and religious people - their quest for special treatment 

What is religion?

Religion comes from a word meaning to bind. Religion is when people are bound together by doctrine. Since nobody is perfect, you can be a disobedient member of a religion. But to claim to be a member of a religion when you believe you know that it is false is to render the term hypocrite meaningless. If belief is not an essential ingredient of a religion then nothing is. Christians, for example, who condemn the teaching of Jesus are not Christians at all.

There is organised religion. There is also unorganised religion.

Those who say, "We are not into religion but are spiritual," are forming unorganised religion. This is true if they understand what spiritual means. There are people who do not believe in spirits who use the term. Spirituality means getting a sense of meaning in life from belief in the supernatural and the more emphasis that is put on the supernatural the more spiritual the person is.

Treatments such as Reiki and Reflexology claim to be beyond scientific verification at this time in history. They talk about invisible mysterious and occult energy. These treatments are really organised religion. The state must not give the practitioners any public funding or state support.

When Religion Seeks Special Privileges

Religion has no right to any special privileges.

A religion often claims to have the truth. If it really does, then clearly the state must use its principles when making laws. What if a Catholic state allows contraception though it is against the Catholic faith? The state might argue that the Catholic principle of freedom of conscience must be taken into account. It overrides the obligation to ban contraception. You have to weigh the rules for not all rules are equally important in every circumstance. But this argument is dishonest and foolish. The state cannot ban every evil so it has to be selective in what it bans. It may legalise contraception if contraception doesn't do that much harm. If it is as bad as the Church says then it has to be banned pure and simple. The state cannot worry too much about freedom of conscience - for example, can it let animals be cruelly bled to death to satisfy certain religious requirements? If freedom of conscience is being considered, then it is not respectful to the conscience of the Catholic majority to allow contraception. Also, do you respect the conscience of the Catholics that they have or the conscience they should have as Catholics? The two are not necessarily the same. For example, some Catholics agree with abortion. Catholics however should not agree with it. To respect the conscience of rebel religionists in preference to the doctrine-makers and authorities of that religion is not to respect the religion. Its the converse.

Religion must not get funding from the state to fund purely religious initiatives. A religious adoption agency may be funded as long as it keeps religion out of it and considers only the application of humanitarian principles. That is one example. It is being funded as a service provider not as a religion. It has no right to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to place children with them. But the state should not fund say the Catholic Church plan to give out free Catholic catechisms.

If a religion gets funding as a religion then it follows that in terms of equality you can invent a religion tomorrow and be entitled to funding. One religion cannot be treated as any different from another regardless of how old a religion is or what size it is.

Many religions today that claim to be supportive of democracy say the state and religion must have a relationship described as follows. The state must do a different job from religion but not a separate job.

The state is to punish violations of civil law not religious law. It is to enforce civil law but not religious law.

Church and state must be different and distinct and separate

Religion often thinks its should say what it wants and tries to impose silence on those who disagree with it.

The secularist allows a religion to say what it wants. The secularist does not give the religion a monopoly on freedom of speech. It gets no special privileges.

Much religion gets special treatment in the UK.

The Church of England gets special treatment in the eyes of British Law. For example, the bishops in the House of Lords have the power to stop laws coming in even if the people
want them. They will stop them just because they contradict the Christian faith.

The monarch cannot be a Catholic.

The non-religious taxpayer funds religious schools along with the religious.

Religious conscientious objectors will not have to fight in war but atheistic or humanistic conscientious objectors may be forced to.

Plays and books that offend religious belief should be banned.

Students are forced to worship together in state schools.

Here are the reasons why religion should not get special privileges.

On what basis is this special position given? Tradition? Just because something has been done a certain way for years does not mean it should be carried on. It is unjust to use tradition as an excuse for favouring one religion over another. Is it the size of the religion? Then why does the Church of England keeps its position thought it is not the largest religion in England anymore?

Religion says a political party should not be given a privileged position.

Religion says religion should be - .

a) because unlike political parties it claims allegiance to supernatural beings such as God

b) because people hold their religious beliefs with passion and would live and die for them. To insult the beliefs is to hurt them deeply.

c) because only religious beliefs become part of a person's identity. No other kind of belief can do that. The beliefs make you who you are. [Don't forget the problem with saying, "Its okay to have an identity as long as it is not seen only as what you are about."  Everybody knows that.  One false identity of yours that  you give enough importance to becomes a hazard.]

d) because secularism has borrowed its values from religion and unless religion is valued and given special rights even secularism itself is threatened.

e) because without God there will only be totalitarianism. In other words, the state then becomes God. The state needs to be devoted to God and admit that it derives its authority from him.

f) because the alterative is to suggest that religious beliefs should not be respected. The beliefs of a Catholic who is forced by the secular state to let gays adopt children are not being respected.

Let us examine these

Religion should be given special treatment because unlike political parties it claims allegiance to supernatural beings such as God.

Religion is political in itself. It's God's political party. It might not be about earthly politics but about heavenly but it is still political.

God claims to be king. Religion says he comes first. That in itself does nothing to encourage true loyalty to the state. Indeed, if there is a conflict of interest it implies that God's interests are the ones that matter.

A religion can be devoted to Krishna, or Jesus or some other alleged God. Just because a religion has a god doesn't mean it must get special treatment. Also, each religion does not recognise the others as worshipping real Gods so they surely can't believe that it means that each religion should get special treatment.

Not all religious entities are religious to the same degree. Some religions are very agnostic and secular. Not all religion is religion to the same level. If you are going to favour religion then it is better to favour the more secular ones! You cannot favour all religions the same if you are going to favour religion!

Religion should be given special treatment because people hold their religious beliefs with passion and would live and die for them. To ignore or insult the beliefs is to hurt them deeply.

If people think the state should give their religious group special treatment because they are passionate about the religious teachings, then they are clearly admitting that they are fanatics and suffering from an obsession. It's therapists they should be looking for.

There are other forms of passionate devotion. Why not argue, "We love our wives and husbands more than anything. Therefore we should get special treatment from the state. For example, we should have a better voice than unattached people have. We should get the jobs rather than them."

Most members of any religion may at times pretend to be passionate about the faith. And others are passionate one week and lukewarm the next.

Do we want to get to the point where audits have to be done to find the most passionate religion so that we can confer special rights on it?

The state hurts wives who passionately love their husbands by exposing their husbands as rapists and thieves for example. If the law should give passionate religion special treatment then it should refuse to try and establish the guilt of those men. 

Religion should be given special treatment because only religious beliefs become part of a person's identity. No other kind of belief can do that. The beliefs make you who you are.

It is not true that only religious beliefs are that important. All our beliefs are built on our secular or non-religious attitudes. For example, your basic beliefs will all be non-religious. You believe that your senses always tell you the truth unless there is something wrong with you or unless you are being tricked. In neither case, is the fault with the senses. For example, if you see red as green. It is not the sense of sight that is the problem but some interference with it. Anyway, the belief is our most basic belief. It makes us what we are.

Some religions claim that once you join them there is an ontological change. Your nature changes. You are not the same being any more. That dehumanises people by refusing to see them as a human being and seeing them as a religious being. The suggestion (for example) of some that when you receive Jesus as Saviour, you lose your sinful nature and get a new nature and become a new being is doing just that. When that change is regarded as morally necessary, clearly there is an element of hate for ordinary non-religious people.

If you consider religious or political beliefs to be part of your identity, that is shows you are suffering from an obsession and need help.

Your sexuality is more important and foundational than your religion. Even your sexuality is not all of you.

There is more to you than your religion, career and skills. For example, we talk about people with disabilities not disabled people. A disabled person does not exist. It is a person who has disabilities.

People have a habit of identifying themselves with things they do. They mistake the part for the whole.

Much religion seeks to manipulate people to identify themselves with the religion. That way, they are able to insulate the person against influences that are hostile or indifferent to the faith. For example, if you see yourself as having a Catholic identity you will see anything that refuses special treatment to the Church as offensive and as a personal attack on you. You will be dead against anybody who says they think the faith is wrong.

In fact, those who say they believe not in men or in their own reasoning but in God's are being untruthful. They believe in their own judgment. You cannot accept what God says unless you make the decision to agree with him. Strictly speaking you are agreeing with yourself and not God at all. Therefore it is your judgment that you can identify with. Not the religion. Identifying with your religion TO ANY DEGREE is an illusion.

Religion can never become an integral part of who you are. You change over time. It is possible to be even a nun or a monk and pretend to believe in the religion. You might have believed once but not any more. The search for special treatment form the state will lead people to feign religious devotion to get power and prestige - money cannot buy those blessings! Devotion however can!

Your religious label is not what you are all about. You are a human being. That is what you are all about. It is dehumanising to see your religion as defining your core and your essence. You are more than an adjective. Secularism necessarily opposes attempts to challenge this.

Many football fans show devotion to their team that is on a par with religious devotion. A teenager may have posters of Lady Gaga all over his room. He listens to a Gaga song in the morning for he finds that perks him up and energises him for the day. He promotes Gaga. He buys Gaga merchandise. He attends her concerts in many different countries. He feels her presence. His devotion is stronger than that of many passionate religionists. He is an example of the fact that people who claim the right to special treatment because they consider their religious faith to be integral to their sense of self have no such right at all!

If your religious identity defines you as a person, if you are your religion, then what about religions that forbid you to go that far such as Buddhism? If Catholics are to see themselves as Catholics and not as people, then what about the huge majority of Catholics that do not go that far? If you get rights because of your identification with your religion, then it follows that the more you see yourself as a member of a religion and the less you see yourself as a person the more the law should legislate to suit you.

Does each religion then want the state to arrange psychological audits to test how people identify with their religion and to what extent so that it can give the most rights to the religion that has the highest number of people who identify totally or strongly with the religion? Every time a religion seeks special and intrinsic rights, it implicitly declares war on other religions.
It is degrading to see a person merely as a Catholic or whatever. They are more than that.

Religion should be given special treatment because secularism has borrowed its values from religion and unless religion is valued and given special rights even secularism itself is threatened.

This is really saying that secularism is rubbish and that the Church and state should be one.

As we have to judge even God himself before we decide that we agree with him, it follows that all values come form humanism not religion. Religion is borrowing human values and pretending they are religious values.

Religion must be given special treatment because our freedom depends on the principles taught by religion and by morality. Men do not give us the right to freedom. God does. Our freedom comes from God's authority. It is ours because of his authority.

This is really just saying we have no intrinsic right to freedom but need an authority to give it to us. But no authority however great can do that. The right to freedom means we deserve freedom. We either deserve it or not. Authority makes no difference. It would be as easy for an authority to make an innocent person guilty or a guilty person innocent as to make us deserve the freedom we are not entitled to.

This is also saying that the state has no right to be free from the control of religion. And it has to be the true religion. Only the true religion can tell us what we should be free to do and not free to do.

Religion should be given special treatment because religious people pay their taxes.

If you pay your taxes, what has your religion got to do with it? It is like saying that because most taxpayers support a particular football team in a nation that the state should give loads of public funding to the team. The argument implies that it is against the rights of Catholics in a Catholic country for the state to appoint non-Catholic doctors and nurses and teachers etc.

There is nothing stopping from a religion educating the children outside of school itself in the religion.

The view encourages the attitude, "I have to pay my taxes. The state will therefore promote my religion by funding schools for it. It is violating my right." It makes the person pay taxes more reluctantly. That is disloyalty to the state.

Religion already gets exemptions from the law. We need to consider giving it more.

That is the same as saying we have already stolen ten dollars so let us steal more!

Here are some of the exemptions from the law religion enjoys in the UK:

- the barbaric halal and kosher slaughter of animals is allowed

- Sikhs are not required to wear crash helmets

- vaccination can be refused on religious grounds

- employment can be religiously specified where is it a requirement

- Clergy and Catholic priests are allowed to do all that counsellors do - and without qualifications and training

- doctors are not compelled to perform abortions if against their beliefs.

Is it not seen that the exemptions actually remove the right to free exercise of religion? The laws fail to be religion-neutral and generally applicable.

The secular state does not identify itself with any religious label

Many countries claim to be Muslim. Many claim to be Hindu. Many claim to be Christian.

How does that fit into secularism? If most people in a country call themselves Christian, the secular state will not say it is a Christian country. There are other religions and people of no-religion. It might say it is largely a Christian country. But the problem is the state is judging what makes a Christian a Christian. This is a theological/religious matter and a controversial one. Anybody can claim the label just as the Pope can claim to be a Satanist. The state must abandon consideration for religious labels. People are not to be objectified with a religion label but seen as human beings and treated on that level. Muslims and some religions claim that all babies are born into their religion and are led away from it say into Catholicism by those who look after them. For the state to label the children say Catholic because they are baptised in a Catholic Church is therefore a violation of secularism.

No religion or Church should be the established or official state religion or state Church.

It is said that if the state does not have religious labels, it still has to acknowledge they exist. After all, if the state has no right to force a Jewish congregation to employ a Christian minister then it would seem that this recognition of labels is needed. It is argued then that the state has to take the label seriously to apply anti-discrimination law correctly. This argument is flawed. Choosing the best person for the job is not unfair discrimination and a Christian minister cannot be of any use to a Jewish congregation. It is not about labels at all.

Secularism sees you as a human being not as a religious being

Secularism opposes the notion: "A person's religious faith is part of who they are." This notion is treacherous and nonsensical. A person's faith is part of what they are not who they are. If you are a Mormon and you quit today and become a Muslim next week then are we to believe that the Mormon you is not the same person as the Muslim you? The person is not to be identified with what they believe. Beliefs are not what you are but merely influences that cause you to be the kind of person you are. You are the same person - you have just changed your outlook. People making their religion who they are, are definitely implying that if their wishes as religious people are not accommodated then they are being disrespected and discriminated against as persons. Would you like to get the suicide cult leader to agree with that? The secularist expects all politicians to keep concern for God out of politics. It is the needs of people that matter not the needs of God.

Some people identify themselves with their religion. They want to be seen as a Catholic person for example. This overlooks the fact that there is more to a person than their religion, their belief, their actions, and their sexuality etc. It insinuates that if the one wanting to be seen as a Catholic person regards Catholicism as the one holy religion, he or she is claiming superiority to Catholics who are lukewarm and whose faith is shallow. And what is more, the further other people are from Catholicism the more inferior it is inferred they are.

See yourself as a human being. You are more than anything you join. You are more than a religious label. Who you are matters more than what you are.

Religion gets its power by influencing the vulnerable such as children. It conditions them for life. Another way it gets power is by being present at the milestones of a person's life. The scheme there is to be important in society and in the psyche. The state must look for loyalty. The state should implement secular ceremonies to mark the naming of a child, the passage of a child from childhood to adulthood, commitment ceremonies for couples and funerals. This would increase and cement people's loyalty to the state and in turn to the people.

Is secularism merely about the law of the land?

No. A culture of secularism needs to be established as well. A culture of apathy toward religion would be great. Apathy is religion's worst enemy.

Secularism advocates and stands for honesty in relation to history. For example, though it is proven that Peter was not a pope and not the head of the early Church, the Catholic Church gets away with lying that he was. If it is shown to be a fact that there is no God, then religion classes need to be banned from schools. Religion should not be given a monopoly on distorting facts and history.

When people of religion advocate secularism...

The believers say that God must take supreme importance in the world and in your life. Even when they support secularism, they teach that it is only acceptable in the sense that God gave the state a separate job to do from the Church. So even their secularism is religious at least in intention.

For the atheist, there is no chance of holding that the state should be secular for God wills it. The atheist is more secular than the religionist.

What is the justification of secularism?

Secularism is what we would have if no religion or religious belief existed. And its because we have so many different religious viewpoints and groups around that we need secularism. We cannot please even if a few of them all the time. Instead of trying to please any religion, we just keep it simple and try to please none. That is the only fair approach.

The state is to serve the people regardless of religious beliefs. If religious people attach too much importance to their beliefs that that is their problem and their own idiosyncrasy. The state cannot pander to every religious whim or spiritual addiction. Does the state permit a pharmacist to decline the morning after pill even to teenage girls who are victims of rape when the pharmacist has religious objections? In surety, the girls come first and the state must put them first and compel the pharmacist to give them the pills.

Politicians and rulers do not approve of everything they have to enforce in the name of the state. They have to put their reservations aside and do the will of the state whether they approve or not. The state cannot function if it gives too much respect to freedom of conscience.

The Christian may argue that the law must not penalise a printer for refusing to print invitations to a gay civil partnership for conscientious reasons. Disapproval needs to be clarified. Disapproval is the attitude - "You pair are gay and I do not approve of you or like you and I want to hurt you by expressing my disapproval. " Disapproval and conscientious objection are one and the same. The law can require that a young mother must be jailed for stealing a bottle of vodka. A prison warden cannot refuse to lock up her up even on the grounds that she is forced to abandon her two toddlers. The law is the law. She is ordered to approve of what has been done to her. Christians don't worry about the warder's conscience or her conscience either!

We are part of our country therefore let us do our bit to keep it secular.

Secularism and clothing

Secularism decrees that the state must try to cater for religious practice and codes of behaviour and dress. For example, Sikh policemen must be allowed to wear the turban. Islamic women must be allowed to wear the burka except when it affects security or how they do their job. For example, an older person in a nursing home would be very disturbed if his carer wore a burka! The woman can wear the burka but remove the face covering for security reasons. This will not be all that often for many.

It is argued that the burka turns women into things not people and robs them of their personhood. This oversimplifies. If a person sees a woman as a thing because she wears a burka or a bikini the problem is in the person. It is not the woman's problem. The law must protect women who are made to wear the burka by their religion or their husbands. It should be a matter of free choice.

Legislation must never ban the burka. What it may ban is the concealment of the identity of the wearer in public when security is a concern.

The state must see you as its citizen and not as a member or non-member of religion

The state should not recognise religious affiliation. It should see its citizens as its citizens and not as Catholics or Protestants or anything. The religion is an irrelevant label.

The state must not care if a child is baptised or not. 

Thus just as the state does not ask you what Tennis Club you are in on census forms so it should not be interested in what religion you claim to be. Besides, if somebody who was baptised a Catholic and who does not believe in that faith or attend its worship ticks the Catholic box that person is lying.

It is not up to the person to decide if he or she is Catholic or Protestant or Mormon or whatever. It is up to the laws of his or her Church. For example, if one has never opened one's heart to Jesus as Saviour and Lord, one cannot be a genuine Protestant for one isn't even a Christian in the eyes of the Protestant faith. A checklist should accompany the census form. Also questions should be, "Do you practice any religion?" And, "if yes, what religion?" A religion with high membership but with low practice should not be taken seriously or considered to have clout by the state or by society.

Abolish blasphemy laws

RELIGION: The holy name must always be respected. Appropriate penalties must be established in the law to punish where necessary.

RESPONSE: If a person insults a holy name that is between the person and the being allegedly offended. You have no business sticking your nose in or getting the state involved. Nobody can ask God how he feels about somebody insulting him. Maybe he doesn't care. Why should people stick up for a God who might not have a problem.

Blasphemy laws must be abandoned for blasphemy is a victimless crime. Protect people not religion. It is the people who make up religion that must be protected not the religion itself.

Blasphemy laws seek to hurt people for the sake of protecting ideas. We know that it is people and not ideas that should be protected. Those laws comprise persecution on religious grounds.

Blasphemy must not be a crime. People who choose to be offended when their doctrines are laughed at or refuted have to realise that their upset is their own making. The people must not tolerate or desire laws against blasphemy. Christians think the Muslims blaspheme for saying that Jesus was not God. The Muslims think the Christians blaspheme for saying he is. Blasphemy laws endanger freedom of speech. Secularism is blasphemous for if there is a God - God means the Great Spirit who is to be Number One for he is great while we are not great like him - it takes no account of him. We must not protect ideas but people. For example, we do not need to punish people who condemn freedom of speech but we do need to stop those who prevent freedom of people such as by false imprisonment or something similar.

Those who wish to censor comedy and critics when they feel they insult their religion plainly do not have the confidence in their faith to live and let live. And they are the ones who claim to believe that truth will prevail for God is truth.

If somebody says something mocking about God or says Jesus was a homosexual this is the sin of blasphemy. The Church has succeeded in keeping the illegality of blasphemy enshrined in the laws of many countries. Though the countries agree with freedom of speech nobody has the legal right to advocate an assassination of the head of state. Religion says that God is more important than any head of state. Jesus said that we must love God with all our hearts and that we must not love others with all our hearts but only as ourselves - that is less than God. Religion says that God is ruler and king of the universe and its maker. It says no country has power to rule unless God gives it power. Thus blasphemy must be high treason of the worst type. God cannot be known adequately without revealing himself in the true religion so it follows that to contradict that religion is to work against God and to insult the truth by calling it false. All heresy is blasphemy. The God concept implies that free speech is wrong - it allows it so restrictedly that it might as well not bother. It demands that religion and religious belief be supported by the state and be placed legally beyond all criticism.

Blasphemy laws should be abolished for they imply that nobody should speak of the defects in any religion for if one religion is protected by such laws then all should be. This cannot be done for every religion is at best an unintentional insult to the rest if guessing that other religions are wrong can be called an unintentional insult! The truth that God is the devil if he exists is considered blasphemous by religionists so such laws are irreconcilable with the fact that people have the right to say what is on their minds. If people are offended when God is mocked that is their problem. Religion hurts truth and decency with its obscurantism and cheating. Reason is more important than God even if there is a God and they do not mind it being mocked and insulted and maligned. Every religion blasphemes itself! For example, Christianity says that Jesus was God but they cannot prove this alleged truth as well as they think they can prove God or the existence of J F Kennedy so that is an insult to God. To foment this hypocrisy, the Devil is doing the miracles in support of Christianity if the miracles reported by that faith are real. Some forms of Buddhism and Hinduism hold that contradictions can be true but if that is so then there is no truth and it is not wrong to blaspheme their gods.

Religion asks the state to protect it from people who mock it and to punish scoffers. Catholics for example take offence at those who might say the mother of Jesus was dissolute. Yet their religion says they should be more offended about people who call themselves Catholics and who do not support the teaching of Jesus that God's rights matter and human rights don't count in comparison. Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God totally and to share no love with anybody else and you only value yourself and your neighbour because God commands it. So it is really God that is loved and not others or yourself. Love of neighbour means only that you love what you see of God in them. Christians are quite arbitrary in what they choose to be offended about. God made animals for us as food according to the Bible but that is a far cry from the Church approved practice of rearing animals in awful conditions as if they were things. If the law is going to limit freedom of speech through blasphemy law, surely it should be concerned with what religion should find the most offensive which is not necessarily the same thing as what they are offended about. The only solution is for the state to ignore religious sensibilities. The possibility of the state only acting against critics who urge that Churches be burned down or who attempt to incite people to commit some other act of violence is separate from all this.

Persecution of religion is wrong and ineffective

The state should tolerate religion but not let it control it. We have to let religion be free because people cannot help what they believe and it is up to us who know better to cure them if they are wrong and if they want to be cured. Church and state must be separated. Information and good example and the promise of happiness and inner peace without God and religion are better antidotes to religion than persecution and history bears witness to that.

Religion says that no matter how free we claim to be, we submit to some authority or authorities. So it says we should submit to its teaching and its God to keep up order and avoid chaos. That kind of attitude urges people to say nothing critical. It has led to most of the religiously inspired bloodshed of the past and the present.

We know that persecuting any religion is wrong. It is simply useless for the only thing that can deal with religion is information and encouragement to those who want to be free from it. We secularists are the cause of the evil in religion for we have not done enough to inform, we have not informed properly or with understanding. If all who contradict the truth are silenced there will be no progress or peace of mind and there will be bloodshed and the suspicion that the censoring is really about stifling the truth. Though error has no rights the people that err do. People who err have the right to be corrected.

If you, as a secularist, respects people's freedom, you will not be afraid to ask them questions through which they will think about their beliefs and challenge themselves as believers. Indeed, not doing so implies that you disrespect them and regard them as shallow believers and hypocrites or that you have nothing to learn from them. The secularist does not get converts. The secularist becomes the occasion upon which a person has to think for themselves.

Many think that we have the right to err because nobody can make our minds up for us. We can only make up our own minds - nobody can do it for us. If we obey somebody else, we are really obeying ourselves. It works like this, "I want to do my will which is what you want me to do." You are still obeying only yourself. It does not follow that we have the right to believe what we want just because nobody can stop us. Rights are based on the concept of deserving. You cannot deserve to be wrong. Error demeans.