reposted from: BHA Bulletin 24th January 2011:-
There exists a narrative that, in this country, religious groups and especially Christians are somehow being marginalised, discriminated against or even persecuted because of their 'faith'. This false and misleading narrative has largely come from political Christian groups (anti-choice, anti-gay rights, anti-secularist etc etc) who are supporting a relatively small number of court cases, tribunals and disciplinary hearings of Christians who allege religious discrimination when they are prevented from behaving as they wish, even in the workplace, according to their beliefs. In almost every case taken so far, rather than finding religious discrimination against them, they have been found to have acted unlawfully or in breach of contract when they refuse to provide a service or discriminate against others, often on grounds of sexual orientation (see below for two news articles just this week for example!)
This fallacious narrative of religious marginalisation or persecution is not only replicated in the press, but will be discussed at the Church of England's General Synod. A number of Bishops, including the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, are backing a paper and plan to combat the 'increasing secularisation of society' and to fight the 'new atheism'.
Perhaps even more concerning is that some at the highest levels of government seem to be buying in to it as well. This week, the Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi said that this government doesn't just 'do God' but that it 'gets God' as well - and at the same time condemned the 'sloppy religious illiteracy' of the rest of us! This statement is an addition to others from the Baroness, such as last year's proclamations that this government will 'defend people of faith' and her public criticism the year before, describing the secularist position as 'intolerant' and 'illiberal'.
Secularists, whether humanist or religious, need to stand firm against this narrative. We need to fight for the right to people to hold beliefs, even those we profoundly disagree with, and at the same time recognising that there have to be limits to acting on those beliefs so that all people can live their lives free from irrelevant discrimination by others. This means that we need to expose the narrative for what it is. We all of us need to be clear and say that it is not acceptable for registered therapists to try to 'convert' gay people to heterosexuality; that hotel owners cannot refuse board to gay couples just as they cannot refuse people on grounds of race; that governments should stop making a fetish of faith.
In order to create the good society where we can all live together and celebrate our diversity, we do not need more religious privilege. We need less.
Welcome to Dorset Humanists
Dorset Humanists is a welcoming group for humanists, atheists and agnostics who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. We meet in Bournemouth for informative and enjoyable presentations, debates and discussions on a wide range of subjects including ethics, science, religion, philosophy, politics, our environment and much more. We also organise regular social events.