The problem with religious people is not in what they choose to believe. It is their insistence that everyone must abide by their beliefs.
For many of us, genuflecting to statues, chanting responses, burning incense and praying to some ethereal superior entity, is just as unfathomable as sacrificing virgins to the volcano gods.
We don’t need the threat of eternal damnation in order to be kind to other people and to lead good, productive lives. We accept the responsibility and consequences of our own actions rather than absolving them by chanting over a string of beads. The torture and murder of a man thousands of years ago has no bearing on the transgressions of today.
Yet every day, our parliament begins with words of obeisance to “Our Father”.
It was with absolute disgust that I heard the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney describe this year as an annus horribilis for the church.
“For people of faith you might say it’s been an annus horribilis, as our Christian conceptions of life and love have been challenged in the marriage and euthanasia debates; freedom of religion in Australia put in doubt; and shameful crimes and cover-ups in our Church uncovered by the royal commission.”
To even include marriage equality and euthanasia, two laws which have brought great relief to many people, in the same sentence as the rampant and systemic child sex abuse carried out and covered up by Catholic clergy is atrocious.
It seems nothing has changed since Fisher’s predecessor, George Pell, told his audience of World Youth Day delegates in 2002 that “abortion is a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people.”
No-one is suggesting that anyone be forced to have an abortion or to be euthanised or to marry someone of the same sex. People just want control over their own lives.
But that is anathema to the church who want to dictate to everyone.
The ludicrous cries about unspecified threats to freedom of religion are no more than a dummy spit about the church losing its power to deny other people freedom of choice.
And, of course, a political tool for cynical opportunists like Scott Morrison who is trying to grab some of the recent limelight taken by Peter Dutton and Matthias Cormann.
“It all starts when you allow religious freedoms [to be eroded], mockery to be made of your faith or your religious festivals – it always starts innocently and it’s always said it is just a joke – just like most discrimination does. And I’m just gonna call that out. With what I’ve seen happen in the last year, I’ve just taken the decision more recently, I’m just not going to put up with that any more, I don’t think my colleagues are either,” said the treasurer.
“Where I think people are being offensive to religion in this country – whichever religion that might be, but particularly the one I and many other Christians subscribe to – well, we will just call it out and we will demand the same respect that people should provide to all religions.”
This from the man who, in 2011, urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia” and the “inability” of Muslim migrants to integrate.
When it comes to Section 18C of the racial discrimination act, Morrison’s party holds a very different view.
“Our duty is to govern for all Australians, and that includes mainstream Australians who feel that their right to free speech is being infringed by political correctness and the over zealous application of laws such as Section 18C,” said Inquiry Chair, MP Ian Goodenough.
“Mainstream Australians deserve the same rights as racial and ethnic minorities. It is important that the law does not promote reverse discrimination.”
But apparently the rights of the Christian church to discriminate and to ignore our laws must be protected and any criticism silenced.
It will be interesting to see how they try to justify this legal plurality whilst denying requests by Muslims to observe Sharia in family law matters