Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Freedom of religion has become a mockery and must be abolished

Lately, we have seen a couple of disturbing developments where freedom of religion has been used to make other people's lives miserable. Muslim staff at Sainsbury in England refused to handle alcohol, Muslim staff at Marks & Spencer refused to sell a book of bible stories, Muslim medical students refuse to learn about alcohol or sexual diseases and finally: Muslim medical students are refusing to obey hygiene rules.

This of course comes on top of all the other problems with religion currently. The discerning reader will know that these are not all traditional rules in Islam, but that's besides the point. Religions have always taken strange paths. Martin Luther and John Calvin did not advocate traditional views, but their then untraditional views became religious branches in themselves. With the fundamentalist climate of Islam today it is important that we say stop before we're stuck with useless holier than thou employees who can't do anything because it's against their religion and who use their rights to infringe on our rights.

I think the solution is to scrap the law of freedom of religion. It is not my idea, the Swedish Humanists (including Björn Ulvaeus) did this earlier. Their point was that the law doesn't actually contribute to anything. I have made a chart below, based upon the universal Declaration of Human rights so you can see that even without a special law protecting religion there is a de facto religious freedom protecting religious people:

From The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 18
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19 Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20 (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
As you can see, going to church or to mosque and listen to fanciful stories about God and believing them, and retelling them will not be outlawed if freedom of religion is removed.
What will become more difficult however is demand an extra privilege that atheists and agnostics can't have.

Can an Atheist teetotaller refuse to sell alcohol at Sainsbury?
Can an Atheist employee at Marks & Spencer refuse to sell religious books?
Can an Atheist prude refuse to show skin during lifesaving operations?

The answer is no. The golden rule is: If you don't want to sell religious books, then stay out of book shops that stock religious books. If you're an Atheist vegan, and you have big issues with selling meat, then work elsewhere. Easy as that. If Atheists or Theists have ideological or religious ideas that prevents them from doing their job, then they have no right to work there.

I must stress that scrapping such a law is not something that I've always wished for. Freedom of religion was one of the greatest achievements of the Enlightenment, and I am a firm believer in that religion is best fought with reason instead of laws. I want to convince people, not outlaw their ideas. But what was once a "live and let live" law has become a law that some religious people use to pester other people with and introduce religious tyrrany from the ground. That's why it must go.


Anonymous said...

Samuel Skinner
Wow- a position more extreme than mine... that makes sense! You just changed my mind. I thought the internet was incapable of doing that.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I have to admit that you make perfect sense.
Being an "aheist" preoccupied with mysticism I fully agree with your arguments. Regrettably, though, I do not believe it is possible to change / remove such a law democratically, to many people will simply refuse to see the arguments presented. Just as it is now "decided" that CO2 is creating global warning and any other viewpoint is quite simply wrong, no matter what hte facts or doubts may be.

Unknown said...

Thanks, both of you. I certainly agree that literally removing the law would be impossible. I think the main thing here is to make people realize that we should not give in whenever people demand special arrangmenets for their religion.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see all religious delusion abolished, but that is not going to happen any time soon.

In the meantime, all these ludicrous cries of "I'm exempt from the law because of my religion" must be legally *disallowed*.

I also think that tax exemptions for religious organizations -- any and all religious organizations -- should be abolished.

Further, I think that the proliferation of nutbar operations hiding behind the guise of being religious "ministries" should be prevented. After all, universities and hospitals require accreditation, and so should religious organizations.

Yes, I am an atheist, but my conviction that there is no supernatural deity is *distinct* from my utter disgust with the stupidity and harm that is perpetrated in the guise of religion.

Anonymous said...

Perfectly right! It's insane that sick/terroristic/dangerous behaviour becomes allowed because it's a result of religious thinking!

It's time to close this creephole through which all kinds of remnants from primitive, barbarian times can invade our modern world.

R.W. Fleming said...

Quite a decent argument; I might have to adopt it myself. I'm a Christian who is regularly appalled at how wrongful interpretations of "freedom of religion" are used to perpetrate absurd practices, some of which endanger others.