In late September 2017, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard was interviewed about the same sex marriage issue. Among other things, Howard spoke of how a 'YES' vote could impinge on freedom of religion. For instance, there seems to be a concern that if same sex marriage was legalised by amendments to the Marriage Act, it might force people, whose religious beliefs were not conducive to this, to do business with homosexuals, such as in the recent example of the baker in the USA who refused to bake a wedding cake for a couple of homosexuals who were getting married and was prosecuted for discrimination.
In Australia, there is a raft of anti-discrimination legislation that forces people to not discriminate against people on the grounds of gender, race, religion, disability, homosexuality, marital status, age, transgender and a few other grounds. So what happened to our enshrined right of freedom of association? It's gone to hell, that's what.
Essentially, the Great Nanny State of Australia, more like the old USSR, has removed many enshrined rights from its citizens. We no longer have the right to freedom of speech and expression. We no longer have the right to freedom of association. We no longer have the right to silence in many criminal prosecutions. We no longer have the presumption of innocence. We no longer have the right to privacy, as now there is legislation to try to force us to reveal passcodes to our smartphones and decryption keys to our private files.
Every day, there seems to be a new law passed that removes one or more of our enshrined rights. And yet there was John Howard, talking about upholding freedom of religion. But for me, there is a far more important principle - freedom FROM religion. Think about it. Most people would uphold the right of other people to believe in whatever brand of Skyspook they liked, as long as it did not impinge on their own lives. But what about religion that is of no interest to us, but impinges on our lives? That's what many people do not consider.
We uphold freedom of religion, but we obviously do not have freedom FROM religion. There are laws that inflict religious practices on us, whether we agree with them or not - and that is so wrong. Here's a few examples.
These are just a few examples of how religion impinges on us, whether we are religious or not. This nation touts itself as being a secular country. The definition of 'Secular' is - not subject or bound by religious rule. There are many misconceptions about Australia in the minds of the people. For instance, Australians think that this nation is a democracy. This is not true, as long as the Head of State is an unelected foreigner and no Australian can aspire to that position.
As for Australia being a secular state, that is not true either, at least not as long as there are laws that force non-religious people such as atheists and agnostics and people of non-Christian religions beliefs to observe Christian religious days, such as Christmas Day, Good Friday and curtail their activities on Sundays.
Nobody is telling anybody in this nation that they have to stop observing their religious holy days and not do things that they need to do for their religious observance. Everybody has freedom of religion. But what we do not have is freedom FROM religion and that to me is intolerable. I don't begrudge anybody not wanting to work on Christmas Day or Good Friday, but why should the state force me or any other non-believers to observe those days by preventing us from opening stores and trading?
So I say that it is high time that all religious observance must be completely removed from anything to do with law or affairs of state. Let people observe their religious holidays, but don't inflict them on us. Let people teach their kids religion at home or at places of worship, but not in state schools. Abandon prayers in parliament, as it is an insult to non-believers who are represented in that place.
It is fine to live by so-called Christian ethics, provided that you don't mention the Inquisition or how religion stifled science and knowledge for many centuries and how many billions of people died because of religion. It's fine to love thy neighbour, turn the other cheek (a pretty stupid thing to do if you are being attacked) and all those other touchy-feely ways to live, but religious observance should never be forced on us in a secular nation. So it's time that we really demanded to have freedom FROM religion.
There is one thing that is certain and that is - nobody can prove the existence of any god. Therefore if the basis of religion cannot be proven, then it is ridiculous to grant special privileges and status to people who cannot prove that what they preach is true. It is then really stupid to grant tax exemptions to people and organisations who cannot prove that their existence relies on something real.
As this is the case, all religions should be treated as private belief systems that have nothing to do with state or national affairs. Therefore all taxpayer benefits should be removed. Religious organisations should be forced to pay tax, except on their proven charity work. Clergy should be treated as employees and have no legal exemptions, such as the sanctity of confession. Clergy should have the status of citizens and residents and nothing more.
If people want to be religious, that's all well and good. But they can do it with their own time and money, as religion should always remain a totally private matter. But really, religion is nothing more than an abject load of medieval superstition. It's time that religion was dispatched to the dustbin of history.