Not my secularism

Critics of religion (such as myself) are sometimes not precise enough in our criticisms.

We will sometimes lash out that the “moderate Muslims” don’t condemn fundamentalists enough or complain that liberal Christians only make space for creationists and anti-choicers (in both cases the truth is not difficult to find, for those who look).

So it would be equally remiss if we didn’t take the opportunity to condemn and distance ourselves from those whose versions of secularism, of humanism, of atheism, are diametrically opposed to our own.

First up, Quebec’s separatist government radically distorts secularism to appease it’s own anti-immigrant ends. I’ll reuse Edmonton Journalist columnist and reporter Paula Simons’ words here:

Well, Quebec’s Charter of Secular Fascism is out – and it’s just as loopy and racist as I’d feared. This commentary from the post – with the amazing graphic – condemns it, but not strongly enough, to my mind. I’m starting to grow weary of the efforts of some in the media to try to paint this as an earnest effort to promote humanist values. It’s racist. It’s fascist. It’s wrong. And I don’t think we should be afraid to say so. There’s such a huge difference between the state compelling you to one particular religious belief – which would be wrong, of course – and the state forbidding people from practicing their faith. I am a non-believing secular humanist. But it’s not my job to impose my views on others. One of the major reasons I reject organized religion is because I despise group think. Turning secularism into an extremism of its own is an abomination.

My secularism is multicultural. Not some myth where religious immigrants live in ghettos but an integrating mix of cultures and peoples who are able to learn from one other without enforcing their beliefs on others or fearing persecution for them.

It’s not about leaving the Crucifix in government buildings. It’s not about arbitrary exemptions for small crosses but not other symbols. It’s about acceptance, not discrimination.

If you have to pass laws banning religious iconography, you’re doing secularism wrong.

Second, we have Richard Dawkins saying “I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild paedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.”

While I sure as hell will: Dawkins was raped and it was unacceptable then and now.

It seems he’s fallen into some weird temporal relativism (is that a thing? if not, it needs to be) that conveniently lets his former abusers off the hook because he’s just fine. You hear the same arguments from defenders of spanking that they turned out fine, so we should clearly dispense with the mountains of evidence saying it’s an ineffective and damaging punishment.

His obfuscation sounds more awkward than when he criticizes Christians for defending the violence, racism, sexism, and other bigotry of the Old Testament with the “times were different” defence.

If your argument is as bad as the religious apologists you criticize, stop making it. (PS Sign the petition)

That’s about all for now. I always have more outrage I could share, but for that you can follow my Facebook, my Twitter, my Tumblr, or (if you’re looking for happier news) my Leeds Tumblr.

3 thoughts on “Not my secularism

  1. I vote that all government employees wear uniforms. This way the only statement or belief needed, may be expressed simply by asking, “how may I help?”. Problem solved.

    1. That doesn’t solve anything.

      First, police (government employees) already wear uniforms but have won the right in the Supreme Court (IIRC) to wear religious garb (specifically turbans) during work.

      Second, it makes no sense to force teachers, social workers, and others to wear uniforms. In many cases this seems far more intimidating than necessary (more akin to a totalitarian regime).

  2. It really annoys me to hear this charter referred to as a “secularism charter”, because it’s not. It’s clearly not. Not by any stretch of the imagination. A charter that does absolutely nothing about REAL cases of inappropriate entanglement between government and religion (such as funding private religious schools, having an “office of religion”, etc.) and instead selectively picks on the least empowered people in society (note that while the low-level public employees have to ditch religious accessories, elected officials and people in charge of institutions don’t) is not about secularism by sane standards. I’ll give Marois this much – at least she was honest enough to stop calling it a “charter of secularism” and start calling it a “charter of Québec values” (pardon me, “Québec values” should be in quotes, too). Sadly, most atheists and secularists I see defending this charter don’t get that, and still refer to it as a “charter of secularism” or “secular charter”. It’s not.

    The best way I’ve seen it expressed came from a Québec teachers’ union, when they said (I’m translating and paraphrasing): Secularism means taking religion out of public institutions and their operations, not out of people. There is no rational justification for saying that a person cannot do a secular job in a secular way while wearing a religious accessory that does not interfere with the job. Telling someone they cannot work unless they pretend to be of a different religion (or no religion) is nothing less than unjustly denying them employment due to religious discrimination.

    Making a Muslim woman remove her hijab, or a Sikh remove his dastar will not make the place that they work more secular. A doctor performing a surgery does not do a less secular and more Sikh-ish operation if they wear a dastar while doing it. A person driving a bus does not drive the bus in a more Islamic way if they do so while wearing a hijab. A clerk at the passport office does not get Judaism all over my passport by wearing a kippa.

    And if I see a doctor wearing a turban, I do not assume that the government forced them to, or endorsed it any way. I, unlike most defenders of this charter, am not an idiot; I am smart enough to realize that when a man wears a turban, it is probably because that man is Sikh, not because their employer or place of employment is. So long as that man does his job and nothing but his job, and does it competently and professionally, I don’t see why his headgear should be an issue. Similarly, when a public servant has a goatee which does not have any effect on his job performance, I do not assume that the presence of said goatee means the government endorses goatees, because it has nothing to do with the job he’s doing.

    This is not secularism. Secularism is supposed to be based on reason. We want religion out of government not because we hate it or it annoys us, but because we have good reasons for wanting it out of government – because it causes problems that are unncessary and can be avoided, and because it provides no real benefit by being there. We can justify secularism. We can back it up with good, solid, rational arguments. Secularism is good for [i]everyone[/i], religious or not. But this? This is unjustifiable. This is discriminatory. It’s not just that this isn’t YOUR secularism. This is not secularism at all.

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