I freely admit that I am deeply suspicious of organised religion in ALL their forms and extremely reluctant to have direct contact with them. I have not always been this averse to it. My dislike has grown over time and from numerous influences. Where I can avoid it I will, and I will also avoid giving offence where I can but when non-belief and refusal to hide it is enough to cause the offence we have a problem. I used to be a moderate non-believer and held that what people personally choose to believe in or not is their own business after all, if nobody is being harmed by it then it this their choice. But people have been and still ARE harmed by the dogmatic adherence to one religious dogma or another; teenage girls have been murdered by their family members and children are being denied important inoculations and blood transfusions. This ‘Lore’ is being granted a level of protection from offence -or indeed, promotion- over and above common sense of any form. The simple fact that many people will not -out of ‘politeness’- question why these beliefs (that fly in the face of any logic, reason or evidence) are given such protection is worrying on its own merit. It is an unspoken social rule that makes the over-indulgence of this supposed sensitivity acceptable. Religion has no more right to this protection from offence than one’s own personal taste in literature: they are a point of view only, and to expect others to not only believe but adhere to a particular world-view of somebody else’s choice is selfishly unacceptable. To be offended by the fact that somebody else does not share your personal religious belief s and has view of their own is as absurd as being offended by them not liking a particular novel that you have been influenced by. Where the real offence is caused is where one party is accused of being morally deficient in some respect by way of this non-belief. Non-belief does NOT equate to immorality. The mad idea that any religious ethos is preferable, and therefore superior, to any other is propagated at least partially through condoning the proselytising of religion in UK schools, and the protections granted religion within the media .
It is no more my right to tell people that they may NOT believe in the god or gods of their choice than it is theirs to tell me that I MUST. So tell me: why I am approached on the streets by missionaries, have church leaflets litter my doormat (along with the other junk mail), and total strangers knock on my door with the aim of converting me? Freedom of religion seems to have granted them a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card’ to claim the attempt convert as many people as they can as a right. I have a right to express my non belief without somebody telling me I am deficient but where is my protection? By objecting to this behaviour, am I doubling the offence of simple disbelief? I have no right to tell others how to best raise their child -and nor would I- but a law exists that UK schools must still have an affiliation to a local church and observe an act of Christian worship every day. Ofsted has even been pushing to have this law observed. This ‘law’ was brought in by the previous Conservative government (1969 to 1997) and has been mostly ignored by the consecutive Labour Government(1997-2010) in favour of promotion open tolerance (because when it comes to religion tolerance to each other is the best you can expect) to a largely secular attitude in an increasing multicultural environment. The very fact that this law exists should be enough to tell you that it absolutely should NOT. We are told that the bible teaches tolerance. It really doesn’t and those that think that it does should read it again with with 21st century western morals in mind. The truth is that both the Old and the New Testament’s are riddled with misogynistic, homophobic, racism from front to back. Regressing back to ‘Tolerance’; thi same as acceptance. Modern tolerance is merely restraint from action painted over liberally by the whitewash of political-correctness. The Labour Party did not turn out this law that compels children to take part in Christian worship but nor did they enforce it. Had they tried to overturn it, I would bet my last penny that the church would have been all over them in out-rage. These preachers in disguise believe they have the GOD-GIVEN RIGHT fill our children’s heads with their personal world-view regardless of our own beliefs or world view. They aim teach our children that no ‘good’ acts can be considered truly good without a religious belief -preferably theirs- to back it up. It is analogous of the Orwellian Thought Police encouraging children to condemn even their own parents for dissent. This law shows no regard for those of other faiths or of no faith. It is an arbitrary affront and act of force AGAINST reason, critical thinking and true democracy. I have been told that I am ‘close-minded’ when I just walk away from street missionaries who approached me or shut my front door in the faces of those who chose to invade my doorstep. I have no wish to be rude but I if the only thing that will make these people get the point is to tell them to ‘go away’. I have been told that I am a bad mother for verbally defending my child’s right to a secular education. I have been rejected for having the courage to voice my objections and be active in my views. I have had enough.
An article brought to my attention in the last week has again got me thinking about the fact that those who defend religion nearly always cite charities in the list of the virtues. It is as if their acts are virtuous by dint of being religiously oriented. I would not be so cynical as to suggest that the charities have only their religion at the heart of what they do but it would be naive in the extreme to suggest that they do not wish to further their religion. These charities do some extremely good work but who is it really for? Are ALL their volunteers doing it because it is the decent thing to do? If that is indeed the case then it is entirely acceptable for them to feel proud of themselves for what they achieve but why is a religious belief needed? To answer that it is not needed, is to undermine the argument that religion is behind these good deeds. It would be extremely unfair to suggest that NONE of the people who go out and do this work have no right to that pride in their work but ‘doing god’s work’ is not a reason: it is mercenary people pleasing. It is the equivalent of creeping around the boss for a pay rise or promotion above a colleague who is not only more deserving but more capable of the job. These religion-based charities may have had religion at their core at one time or another but what people seem to take for granted when charity is given just credit it equated as an example of religion’s unquestionable virtue and that ALL of the donations were from religious sources. Of course that is not forgetting that the volunteers ALL religious. To assume that good acts only come from religion is as ludicrous as to believe that no act can be good without it. The charity Non-Believers Giving Aid ( http://givingaid.richarddawkins.net/) is a conglomeration of various non-religion based associations who have banded together to aid the victims of that dreadful event in Haiti. ‘What has taken so long?’ I hear you ask. ‘They’re only doing it for some recognition’, I hear apologists mutter. Why should the motives of a non-believer giving humanitarian aid be any different to those of a believer? I wholly applaud them because the help is so desperately needed. I for one am glad there is a charity I can give to now, without having the credit of what I and others do being handed to god. I can donate without being counted as a member of the blind-faithful simply because the cause I choose to donate to is run by a religious organisation.
What is a Charity?
There are some charities whose aims include advancing religion that are currently excepted from the requirement to register as a charity. Changes introduced by the Charities Act mean that this exception will no longer continue and so those charities will, starting in February 2009, be required to register. Initially, only excepted charities with an annual income of £100,000 or over will have to register. Those under the £100,000 threshold do not currently have to register, but are still subject to our regulatory authority.
A charity is considered by UK law, to be an organisation with an ‘outward and inclusive nature’ rather than being only an organisation that does ‘good things’. The standard that differentiates between them is that a charity must be a non-profit organisation with the sole purpose of aiding those in need of the wider community (e.g disaster victims elderly, long-term sick, the blind etc). There is no specific requirement that a charity must have a religious ethos in order to qualify, but it is permissible that a charity’s sole or primary purpose be to further the advancement of religion. In other words if the overall work of a non-profit organisation is intended to benefit of the public then it qualifies as a charity.
What is not made common knowledge is that ALL agendas of that charity and not just the intended destination of the proceeds, must be made clear to both those who donate to them and to those who receive that service. That little snippet of information is buried within section D of the lengthy PDF (provided on the UK Charity Commission website).
Principle 1a It must be clear what the benefits are.
Principle 1b The benefits must be related to the aims.
Principle 1c Benefits must be balanced against any detriment or harm.
The exemption to religion is laughable. The Commission has decided that “it is not relevant for the purposes of charity law whether the substance of religious doctrines be proven ‘true’ as between different religions the law is neutral. However, whether a religious organisation’s aims are for the public benefit is a question of judgement. We have to decide (as would the Charity Tribunal or the Courts) whether there is public benefit in the light of the evidence and facts before us.” It comes down to personal discretion then? I had to paste that as a quote because to summarise would have taken it out of context. So far it is clear that the commission has determined that a religious organisation – with the sole, primary or even secondary purpose of advancing and pushing their own views on the rest of us has the legal right to set themselves up as a charity in order do so. They not have to prove that the doctrines they so fervently wish the rest of us to accept as ‘truth’ and live by have even an ounce of truth. They may even use the claim that their aim to advance their own religion is itself for the public benefit in order to meet the first principle. Who are they to decide what is best for me? To meet the second they may push their beliefs on the recipients of that charities services. For instance a shelter for the homeless run by a religious charity may expect those who use their ‘charitable’ services to listen to the doctrines of a religion provided those giving that ‘advice’ claim that it is related to the ‘aim’ of assisting the homeless.
- What happened to doing the decent thing for its own sake?General helpfulness and courtesy are their own rewards; the hope of currying some form supernatural favour is mercenary to say the least.
- Why is it not acceptable for volunteers to expect some thanks for their time and effort? ‘Humility’ is all very well but the average homosapien is not evolved for total altruism because to be so would deny any survival instinct and we would die out.
Whether UK law is imbalanced on the subject of religion in the UK is a whole debate on its own but there is definitely a social imbalance in favour of religion. Between religiously biased over-sensitivity to any public opposition and the generally held public assumption that the UK is a ‘Christian Country’, there is no wonder that many of my fellow non-believers, free-thinkers, secularists, agnostics, humanists and others are reluctant to speak out for fear of social rejection some even call themselves C-of-E for the sake of appearances. I will always urge people to be honest about your disbelief as there is nothing to feel ashamed of and it has become clear that numbers make a difference . There is no need to march or to threaten believers with dire things (we have the fundies to do that). There is no need to stand forward and be counted as part of any organisation. There ARE people who share your scepticism and you are lacking in no way, shape or form to admit that.
“Since it is no longer permissible to disparage any single faith or creed, let us start disparaging all of them. To be clear: an ideology is a belief system with an inadequate basis in reality; religion is a belief system with no basis in reality whatever. Religious belief is without reason and without dignity, and it’s record is near-universally dreadful. It is straightforward -and never mind, for now, about plagues and famines: if God existed, and if He cared for humankind, He would never have given us religion.” -Martin Amis (British Author, 1949-)
- L.A. atheists helping with Haitian earthquake relief.
- The Quotable Atheist by Jack Huberman (Pg 9&10) (ISBN 978-1-56025-969-5)