I used to be an atheist, for no better reason than the fact that stories of talking snakes, or men flying through the air on horses with wings always struck me as rather silly. These ideas seemed silly to me when I was 6 years old, and they still seem silly now. So what ? Many people have silly ideas. My next door neighbour thinks his dog is well behaved. The fellow across the road thinks that Collingwood is a great football team. Tony Abbott thinks the pope is infallible. So long as these sad individuals keep their obviously ludicrous ideas to themselves, who could possibly object ? The problem occurs when somebody who is suffering from a delusion not only rejoices in it, but insists that you share that delusion, whether you like it or not.
In the middle ages the catholic church was pretty keen on catholicism. So keen in fact, that when anyone make the mistake of not being catholic, the church felt that its interpretation of a 1500 year old silly idea, entitled it to murder them. That is not to say that the catholics weren't just regular fellows who enjoyed a bit of fun like the rest of us, so sometimes they indulged in a bit of playful racking , or recreational thumb screwing before the burning. Unfortunately, some enlightened spoil sports wrecked the party. They suggested that perhaps it was a bad idea for the church to force its religious views on to those who did not share its faith. The church took issue with this ridiculous suggestion, and launched a series of religious wars on the world, which killed millions.
A good deal later, some of the participants tired of this particular game, especially when it appeared that clerical superannuation strategies might be compromised, so an uneasy compromise was adopted. It remained fair game to hurl vatican sponsored anathemas at offending heretics, but it was reluctantly agreed not to garotte them any more. In return catholics were free to apply their own ideas to themselves, for example, not to eat meat on Thursdays, to say sorry in a confessional for things they did yesterday and intended to do again tomorrow, and to plan their family by sitting with their legs crossed, and refraining from sex for 70% of each month (Unless they found themselves seduced by one of those shamelessly provocative 7 year old choirboys)
So far so good. The problem is that the religious in general, and the islamocatholics in particular were never all that enthusiastic about aspects of the compromise which formed the foundation of our western, liberal , secular society in the first place. They certainly agreed whole heartedly with the clauses which guaranteed themselves religious freedom, but they were never really happy about the idea of your religious freedom.
Put yourself in their place. A magic talking snake specifically forbids them to masturbate, yet on a daily basis they are confronted with doctors who stand up in public and describe the practise as normal and healthy. A 2000 year old jewish zombie instructs them to nibble on his leg, and amoral scientists suggest that things which look like biscuits, and smell like biscuits, and taste like biscuits usually turn out to be biscuits. Even the fashionably embroidered dresses which their ex-fuhrer wears have attracted ridicule (Not to mention his fab little red shoes), and to date not a single one of these critics have been executed. Not one.
So it is hardly surprising to learn that religious extremists have decided to resort to that most foul and degraded of stratagems – politics, to impose their cultist imperatives on people who do not share their regard for magic wine and flying carpets, or who have not even taken the trouble to learn that seraphim outrank ophanim.
I heard a newly elected member of the Tasmanian government comment that his conscience as a christian would not allow him to vote in favour of euthanasia. So an elderly person wracked with pain and facing an imminent and painful death has to have his suffering prolonged because a member of an Australian state parliament feels comfortable about imposing his religious values on somebody who may not share his faith.
When was the last time you heard a pope say “My religion forbids divorce, but I would not dream of imposing my views on non catholics” ? Public support for gay marriage in Australia currently runs at about 65% in favour according to some public opinion polls. Parliaments around Australia have defeated legalisation designed to establish marriage equality as a consequence of an hysterical campaign launched by religious groups. It will harm society they allege. Well, if society is going to be harmed, surely that fact would be pointed out by sociologists, or welfare workers or doctors. Not by a coalition of catholics, muslims and mormons.
This is why I am no longer an atheist. I am now an anti-theist.
If it acceptable for a group of supernaturalists to use our political system to impose their magically inspired encyclicals and fatwas, on individuals who consider their underlying values laughable, why shouldn't normal people in turn, impose their views on religions ? Ban the bible and koran as examples of hate speech. Stop job advertisements for the next pope containing the words 'men only'. Encourage sermons on history and science, but only if they contain reference to evidence. Give equal time in the pulpit to the theory of evolution. Lock up genital mutilators. Apply the same taxation laws to cults that apply to every other single person in Australia. Have a proper enquiry in to paedophiles, not a politically motivated attempt to appeal to a cultist constuency by being seen to try and spread the blame. If somebody suggests that a recently fertilised human egg contains a soul, hand them a microscope and ask them to point it out. As Delos Mckown said “The invisible and the non existent look very much alike”
Not fair ? Well, when Mother Theresa called for contraception to be banned in Ireland, were you one of those people bowled over by the rush of catholics demanding freedom of conscience for non catholics ? I bet you had only just picked yourself up off the ground and dusted yourself off, when a horde of muslims calling for freedom of speech for Salman Rushdie sat you back on your bum again.
When an American legislator recently said that freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion, I think he let the cat out of the bag.
Of course , I don't really want to ban anything, I just want to enjoy the same freedoms which religions claim for themselves. Perhaps we could appeal to religions sense of fairness. Unfortunately asking paedophiles and suicide bombers to behave fairly is like sending the Belgrave under 12's out to face Lillee and Thomson. It will always end in tears.