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Separate religion and state?

10 September 2012, 11:49

There is a veritable roundabout of discussion/comment on religious topics. The same points are repeated ad nauseum with very little progress in having those who hold differing views accept or agree. Instead of adding to this I present the following for consideration and discussion.

I will open this by saying that I am an atheist. All that this means is that I hold no beliefs for gods. I have asked for years but have yet to be given any scientific proof of the existence of any of the thousands of gods man appears to have invented through the ages. I do not hate any of these gods as they are as dangerous or as unpleasant as the easter bunny or any of the many other mythical creatures. While I hold no views on the gods I do have very strong feelings on the dogmas and religions that have flowed from the belief in these gods. In virtually all aspects of life the effects of others beliefs have an impact usually in a negative manner on most of the population. From the JW door knocker who assume that all are just waiting to “talk about Jesus” to laws restricting rights our days are influenced by religion.

1.       Education.

In the 60’s I was unable to study biology at school due to evolution being against the teachings of the church that owned and controlled the school I attended. This still happens today and has been expanded by the introduction of the “concept” of intelligent design as an alternative. We have children who have home or Christian schooling who are subjected to ID. These children have no hope if they wish to study biologically based subjects at university.

2.       Aids/Sex education.

a)      At numbers of schools life skills programs consist of abstinence only teaching to the children (often tied into the concepts of sin) with no mention of safe sex or contraception. These children were in this aspect being told what to do rather than being given all available information and then allowed to make informed choices.

b)      The RC church until very recently has banned the use of condoms and has even gone as far as preaching against their use together with other forms of contraceptive. This has been an impediment in the fight against AIDS in areas where the church footprint is the biggest. Coupled with the increase in the incidence of AIDs is the increase in family size and numbers of orphans.   

c)       The Republican Administration of G Bush restricted the granting Federal funds to organisations that did not stick to conservative, fundamental “values” in their work with the poor and AIDS stricken in especially Africa. This resulted in many programs not having the funds to carry on with work that had been in place for some time.

3.       Commerce.

Through the years this has improved from being able to only go to the corner café on a Sunday to the full on shopping that exists in this day except for the sale of alcoholic drinks. Sunday is not even the “holy” day of all religions or religious groups.

Relaxation of restrictions on various activities like prostitution have been actively opposed by religious groups in spite of those who work with and study them having good reasons to propose such change. The opposition claims that to decriminalize would go against family values and dogma.

4.       Medicine.

Religious interference in various aspects of medicine has had a negative effect on many from the women who were refused anesthetic in child birth because they were destined to give birth in pain as is stated in the bible to the children whose parents denied them medical treatment while they pray for their recovery. Other areas are.

a)      Restrictions on research. Stem cell research has been banned in some countries for religious reasons. This has in all likelihood put any benefits to be had from this back many years. How many whose lives might have been improved or saved were not?

b)      Acceptance of religious beliefs that endanger the patient. Blood transfusion, laying of hands and prayer instead of seeking medical treatment.

5.       Abortion and women’s reproductive health

In many parts of the world the rights to have control of her body is refused to women. In our country abortion is legal but in many cases the procedure is refused by medical staff who put their beliefs before the welfare of their patients. Many of these women have only got abortion as a means to control their family size as the men in their lives demand unprotected sex as their right.

6.       Religious based strife and war.

Just read the news on any day and tension between believers of different faiths will be found. It is a pity but the three Abrahamic religions seem to always be involved in one way or another. As a result those who travel to some areas are at risk, all who fly are subjected to invasive search and investigation. The wars and outbreaks of religious strife have ripple effects on the world order that indirectly impact on many.

7.       Tax and rate free status.

In South Africa we have vast sums being paid out as social grants. In many cases these grants are nowhere close to enough to allow the recipients a decent standard. While this is the case the religious institutions are on a tax and rates holiday. In the USA the amount of money that was not collected amounted to billions! If all religious property and operations were to be taxed that money could be earmarked for social grants rather than swish cars, houses and airplanes.

8.       One area that concerns me is the weight given to the need to respect the religion, gods and dogmas of the various religions. Having to make laws to protect these things is as ridiculous as all church steeples having lightning conductors! If these gods are as great as proclaimed why do they need the protection of secular law? South Africa was one of the nations that voted for a nonbinding declaration against blasphemy at the United Nations. This declaration was authored and presented by an Islamic block of nations.

9.       The ongoing struggle to ensure the rights of the LGBT group seems to be never ending with the religious throwing a never ending stream of bigotry and invective at them. Thanks to the constitution of our country we have less of a battle to gain and maintain their rights but still have miles to go in order to obtain universal societal acceptance.

10.   Through the opposition of the religious groupings too many people are being refused the right to end their lives when the quality has gone. With the correct checks and balances those who have some form of impairment or illness that has removed the desire to live should be able to end their lives and in cases where the impairment makes this impossible to obtain assistance.

These are few of the areas where religion impinges of the lives of people who are not necessarily adherents.  I support everyone’s’ right to their beliefs. I resist all efforts to impose those beliefs on others and most definitely on society. Groups like the Family Policy Institute that claim to represent family values and do all they can to impose their views on society by means of influencing politicians need to be resisted especially as their leader appears to be virulently homophobic. His utterances about homosexual agendas causing the circumstances leading to the Marikana disaster need to be explained.

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