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Calls to challenge the Christian crusade

Brian Morris asks several pertinent questions: “Where is the challenge to an increased Christian influence in politics? What role does mainstream media play in shielding religion? And has the atheist voice been silenced on contesting Christian provenance?”

Tim Wilson is now the Liberal member for Goldstein, but when he was appointed Human Rights Commissioner, in February 2014, he launched a program that now seems out of control. There was considerable doubt about why Wilson pushed so hard for his Religious Freedom Roundtable – primarily for church leaders. It was founded on dubious evidence, and his motivation remains unclear.

Since then, “Freedom of Religion” has morphed into a mantra across all media – and, more recently, has become weaponised by militant Christians. One clear example is the Israel Folau imbroglio that now seems destined for the High Court. Some even suggest there’s an interesting confluence of events.

At face value, “Religious Freedom” is a mere motherhood statement – an innocuous cliché that no one cares to malign. But the temperature has risen markedly since same-sex marriage was legalised. That led to Philip Ruddock’s Religious Freedom Review which incited more frequent rants by angry Christians who demanded even greater sacred privileges – and further inflamed by Folau’s sacking from the ARU.

With Scott Morrison’s re-election – and bolstered by his much vaunted Pentecostal credentials – the Religious Right are in full cry. Of course, it remains to be seen what Morrison’s signature legislation – a Religious Discrimination Act – will actually deliver. But the PM has made it clear he is on a crusade for more protection of Christians, to codify exemptions, push the LNP agenda of more religion in schools.

Religion in schools? Why are we still teaching kids they’re “sinners”, only redeemed by Jesus Christ? Malleable young minds become imbedded with supernatural beliefs which greatly limit their ability to think critically. Growing up to believe all life’s answers are in one book – the Bible or Quran – is divisive. It breeds intractable views that place faith over facts, denies science, and inhibits social progress.

So where is the non-theist viewpoint in all of this?

Typically, the nation’s non-religious citizens are denied any real opportunity to publicly ask serious questions. Such as; “where is the balancing voice of reason – across all mainstream media – that seeks to challenge this current religious overreach; and which increasingly influences the political process?

Alarmingly, an opposing voice is the crucial element that’s missing from this one-sided campaign for religious freedom. Media outlets are mute and seem oblivious to the 78 per cent of citizens who have stated – in a 2016 Ipsos poll – that they want “religion to be removed from the business of government.

So the problem of ‘religion in politics’ applies equally to the media

Where – during the five years of ramping up this Religion Freedom mantra – have we heard clear and articulate atheist voices calling into question the excesses of Christian doctrine?

Mainstream print and electronic media are indeed culpable. They seem to be phased into acquiescence when Christians claim “persecution” by imaginary detractors from the left. The age-old taboo of not questioning religion has been reasserted. There seems to be a predominant view that “being more tolerant of religion” means avoiding even the most basic questions of current Christian motives.

Who can name one media outlet where an identifiable atheist or secular voice has been consistently heard – whether through radio, TV or print? The media know who all the pro-secular groups are, but never call. Media releases are ignored, and worryingly, journalists “unsubscribe” from circulation lists.

Why is that? Do we now have a media problem – similar to that of religiously influenced parliamentarians? Do newspaper editors – or radio and TV producers and presenters – feel it is much safer simply to avoid a possible backlash from Christian militants in their audience?

Christianity has an entirely flawed foundational history. Countless historians, biblical scholars, archaeologists, anthropologists and a dozen other science disciplines have written a complete and comprehensive library-load of books which provide irrefutable evidence of religious fabrication.

No one is trying to take away the “personal and private” faith of those who remain religious – but there is a serious problem here. In this evidence-based 21st century we still provide excessive privileges to religions based on myth. With arcane dogma, they hold political sway to block a raft of social issues; abortion, assisted dying, and push legalised discrimination and tax breaks that are beyond all reason.

Religious schools can freely discriminate against LGBTI students, and hold a Sword of Damocles over the heads of teachers and staff who are divorced, de-facto or gay.  Alone, Catholic education run 1,700 schools with more that 60,000 teachers – all of whom must subscribe to the school’s faith and ethos.

Since when are there such disciplines as Catholic maths, science or technology? Why are secular teachers denied employment, on the basis of religious ethos? And why, in these religious schools, do we still teach children the Christian myths of Moses, of Noah, and a plethora of historical inaccuracies – which include fables and alleged exploits of Jesus of Nazareth? It amounts to intellectual child abuse.

Public education was, for a hundred years, “free, compulsory and secular.” But the influence of church hierarchies on successive governments has meant that these same Christian myths are carried in to public schools by 3,000 chaplains whose fundamental Christian calling is to “make converts.”

Weekly Special Religious Instruction (SRI) is conducted by openly evangelical churches, and fostered by governments in every state. Why is this so? The mission of these evangelists is to give children “a sense of purpose and meaning to life, through Jesus Christ.” If parents are so determined to have their kids indoctrinated they should do it at home, not through evidence-based education in public schools.

Religion has been given far too much latitude by politicians and media executives – many of whom are devoutly religious, or influenced by their religious education; underpinned by Christian myths. It is this grounding in faith that perpetuates the centuries-old taboo not to question religion – to maintain a tradition that seeks to malign and condemn those who challenge these fabricated “biblical truths”.

Where are the more rational politicians and media executive to give greater “balance” to questions that probe the provenance and authenticity of all religion? It is these same legitimate inquiries that remain camouflaged by the seemingly innocuous campaign for Religious Freedom.

In this era of fake news and political spin it is increasingly relevant to examine all religious doctrines that mislead and harm so many, and which continue to divide societies. Science has exposed many fictions of Christianity but they continue to be spread by endless media programs, commentary, and apologists.

Where, one may ask, are the clear secular voices to temper these religious excesses? The rationalists to convey evidence from academics, scientists and historians – and for atheists to publicly debate and question the foundational myths of Christianity. It is an urgent call – in a supposedly enlightened era – for equal media access to articulate the case of “freedom FROM religion”.

Brian Morris is a former Journalist and Public Relations professional and the author of Sacred to Secular, a critically acclaimed analysis of Christianity, its origins and the harm that it does. You can read more about him here.

 

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20 comments

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  1. Phil Pryor

    An ideal. or at least improved, society, would be a socially democratic citizen run collective. with no superstition or religious fiction allowed. Allow primitives seeking faith to seek it, if education fails, but keep the myths, legends, manipulation, lies, exaggerations, dogma, righteousness. assertions and aggressive hatreds out of it all. Romanist and evangelical christianity are among the worst. What have these in common..? Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Salazar, Horthy, Pilsudski, Ustasha, Peron, Pinochet, hundreds of dreadful dictators in Central and South America, Abbott, Turnbull, Pyne, Joyce, Abetz, Andrews, even Cosgrove, and the more fascist parts of government and media?? It is raising as a lay catholic, with the drive of domineering, attitudes to violence, triumphalism, sneering at all others, and fixation on righteous rubbish. Add the ego inflated hot gospellers, a self appointed St. Paul lot of loudmouths and we are all under threat.

  2. Kaye Lee

    They don’t just want to impose their version of morality and spirituality….

    “Radical environmentalists are more than up to the task of moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear. They don’t need church leaders to help them with this, although it is a very effective way of further muting Christian witness. Church leaders in particular should be allergic to nonsense….. I am certainly sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes. Uncertainties on climate change abound … my task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people’s minds, and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes.” – George Pell

    The hypocrisy of that paragraph is gobsmacking.

    Pell also made a submission to the Senate’s Environment and Communications Legislation Committee claiming there were “good reasons for doubting that carbon dioxide causes warmer temperatures”.

    Who the hell is Pell to try to influence our government on climate change????

    “Some of the hysteric and extreme claims about global warming are also a symptom of pagan emptiness, of Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature. Belief in a benign God who is master of the universe has a steadying psychological effect, although it is no guarantee of Utopia, no guarantee that the continuing climate and geographic changes will be benign. In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.” – George Pell

    Howard and Abbott have used very similar phrases regarding sacrifices to volcano gods and the religion of climate alarmism.

  3. Andrew J Smith

    Again, Conservatives in Australia have no original policies except borrowed tactics from the US Republicans whom are manipulated by radical right libertarians.

    According to Nancy MacLean (Democracy in Chains) the latter are using white evangelical conservative Christians as battering rams to further their agenda (along with gun lobby, white nationalists etc.).

    From Counter Punch ‘Beware of Authoritarian Christians’

    ‘For these Christians, it is not about The Golden Rule of empathy between people, but about using biblically-based beliefs to rule over people. It is about the overriding authority of particular biblical pronouncements and required obedience to them. Such authority and obedience are actually fundamental characteristics of anti-democratic tendencies. Claiming that biblical passages are revelations from God does not make them true, nor demanding obedience to them any less authoritarian.

    An understanding of authoritarian tendencies is helpful here. According to Theodor W. Adorno, et al’s classic post-Nazi Germany study of the authoritarian personality, two of the main features of authoritarianism are the demand for submissive “uncritical attitudes toward idealized moral authorities of the ingroup,” and the “tendency to be on the lookout for, and to condemn, reject and punish people who violate conventional values.”

    https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/06/05/beware-of-authoritarian-christians/

  4. Alpo

    The trick that has been always there (for centuries) is to link Religion with Conservatism and the power of the 1%. Since the 1980s, and especially due to an American initiative, the trick has been extended to the link between Religion and Neoliberalism. So far Australia was more or less immune to such link between Religion and Neoliberalism (although broadly retaining the link between Religion and Conservatism), but things have changed quite dramatically with ScuMo and the 2019 federal election.

    This is a very dangerous development for this society, and what’s at stake is not only our freedom to think but also our Democratic system.

    How to counteract that? The solution is simple: do not attack religious persons per se, instead expand Progressive politics to embrace religious voters. Support Socially Progressive churches, be tolerant to Progressive religious people even though you don’t agree with 100% of what they say. The ALP understands this very well, not so much the Greens who are far more secular, but they don’t need to.

    Allow me to tell a little story about the usually very Conservative Catholic Church that has been friendly to the 1% for centuries (nobility, influential entrepreneurs, etc.). Around the 1960s something was happening among Catholics that woke up the conscience of socially Progressive believers in god. There was Pope John XXIII and his Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican that changed the relations between the Catholic Church and the modern world. Around the same time in Latin America left-wing priests (especially Jesuits) were developing the Theology of Liberation that intended to take Christianity back to the People, especially the poor and dispossessed…. In other words, a socially Progressive form of Christian religion was developing. The idea was to make Progressive politics and Religiosity coherent with each other, rather than confrontational…. What happened? Well, the political Conservatives sensed the danger and when the Neoliberals took over they recruited all Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic one to their cause. The turning point was the papacy of John Paul II, who went hard against any Progressive development in the Catholic church under the excuse of the “fight against the atheist Communism/Marxism” (the Cold War was at its maximum back then). John Paul II focused on the Theology of Liberation and essentially destroyed it, alongside most of the Progressive activism in the Catholic church.

    In short, it is essential that we Progressives recover the participation of the Christian churches, by supporting their Progressive views, whenever they appear, especially in the area of social justice and the environment. If we don’t do so, the Neoliberal-Conservatives will keep entrenching their power deeper and deeper into the frame of society, now through the use of Christianity.

    The best way to combat the influence of Christian Neoliberal/Conservative Churches is through the action of Christian Progressive Churches…. Atheists and agnostics will also help, but we are not enough, therefore we must develop tolerance for Progressive churches and religious groups, as they can be allies.

    Spread the word!

  5. whatever

    Bob Katter is OKKK.

    “I am Bob Katter and I am a proud western chauvinist. And it is us who bought civilisation to the world and we won’t be apologising for it.

    “Don’t get in our way,” Katter adds.

    US civil rights group the Southern Poverty Law Centre classifies the Proud Boys as a hate group and previously US law enforcement has highlighted the group’s links to white nationalists.

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jun/09/bob-katter-pledges-allegiance-to-far-right-group-but-dismisses-it-as-larrikinism

  6. Jack Russell

    Longing for the glory days of being the overlords behind every throne in “Christendom” is one thing … but trying to recreate that in the 21st century, by every foul means at their disposal, is quite another … particularly their avid harvesting of children’s minds.

    The sooner the human race can find a way to eliminate the public expression of religion the faster we’ll progress rationally. Ritualised superstition, behind all the window-dressing is, and always been, an unethical tool devised by and for the predatory.

  7. Dr Tristan Ewins

    What we need is an Australian Bill of Rights which enshrines liberal rights (and hopefully some social rights) for all Australians. If Morrison wants Religious Freedom, let it be negotiated in the context of a broader Bill of Rights. Religious liberties, yes, but in the context of political and social rights and liberties FOR EVERYONE. Claims by religious lobbyists need to be taken on a case by case basis. A religious school might legitimately seek to hire teachers of the relevant faith. They may want to be able to quote their sacred texts despite the fact some of this is way out of step with modern thinking. But anti-discrimination law should stop them from discriminating against students or staff on the basis of sexuality for instance. The real worry is not civil liberties for Christians ; which can be pitched in a much broader civil rights framework. It is the subsidization of elite religious private schools by government at the public’s cost.

    In a pluralist society we have to accept a diverse array of religions and peoples’ right to practice those religions. And we have to accept the rights of Atheists as well ; including their right to critique (but not suppress) religion. One of the problems is literalism in religion. Arguably religious texts contain truths communicated through parables and the like. For instance, Jesus walking on water and calming the storm are not meant to be taken literally. It is a mystery which is probably worth understanding. But the literalists inhibit this search for truth. Even though under a thorough regime of civil liberties (under a Bill of Rights) it is their right. Which is worth accepting if it secures the civil rights of society at large.

  8. Miriam English

    One of the best ways to fight fundamentalist religion is with its own religious texts.

    I spoke to some Jehovah’s Witness ladies a few days ago and asked if they believe just 144,000 people will be saved by god to go to heaven, and they eagerly agreed. I answered gently, politely, “Okay, but if that’s so, you won’t be among them and neither will your husbands.” They disagreed, of course, so I told them to read their Bibles. Revelations (14:3-5) says that only virgin men will be going.

    This is the problem. Most religious people never read their religious texts. They simply take the predigested vomit from their preachers.

    Israel Folau speaks out about gays (and drunks, and adulterers, etc) going to hell, but never seems to notice the tattoos he’s covered in are forbidden by the Bible too, along with shaving your beard, cutting your hair at the sides of your head, wearing mixed thread fabrics, touching pigskin (footballs), working on the Sabbath, judging others, and more… so he’s hardly one to speak.

    Pell, Abbott, Morrison, and others think it’s okay to let the world get wrecked by rampant development and climate change, yet Revelation 7:3–4 instructs “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees” until god is ready to take his servants to heaven.

    Those who are anti-gay should read about the marriage of David and Jonathan celebrated in 1 Samuel 18:1-4, 1 Samuel 20:41, 2 Samuel 1:26. Also Ruth’s devotion to Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17) is a pretty clear declaration of lesbian love.

    The thing is, the Bible says anything you want it to say. You can contradict any religious hater by quoting back other passages from their Bible. That’s what happens when you get a loose collection of made-up texts written and rewritten over hundreds of years by many different authors. Even the central texts of the New Testament — the crucifixion story — the foundation of Christianity, come in 4 different, mutually contradictory forms. And we now know the apostles who supposedly wrote them as eyewitness accounts, didn’t. We don’t know who did write them, but it was more than a lifetime later, by anonymous scribes well-schooled in Greek. Those accounts were forged. Most of the Bible is in fact forged. This has long been well known by biblical scholars, but not transmitted to ordinary believers who are encouraged to gullibly accept it all as “gospel”.

    Lately I’ve been considering starting a Church of Reason. It would worship logic, reason, and evidence, and consider all gods and the lies told to support them to be harmful blasphemy. Such a church wouldn’t suffer from the problems of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or the Satanists, which people don’t take seriously, because, although they have done a lot of good, everybody knows they are bullshit. A Church of Reason would be deadly serious. I’m sure a lot of people would support such a Church. We could give talks on astrophysics and quantum mechanics, logic and computer programming, the biochemistry of life, ecological balance, and much more. It would be way more interesting than other churches. And we could use it as a platform to launch progressive change, support of the sciences, and promote humanism… and do it all tax-free.

  9. wam

    I have been to many viewing over the last 60 years and I can believe that the penis and the vagina don’t go to heaven.
    The christians I have spoken with believe that bonking is available in heaven. The muslims believe that god pimps virgins for some deserving murderers.
    My meagre brain suggest god provide the boys with a working penis and the girls with a new hymen each night.
    The church does not rate woman above the navel.
    Scummo’s version has all women to defer to men.
    Trump’s version allows for a pussy grab.
    One day a woman will see the church is by men for men. All that requires is for her to think above her hormones.
    I suppose god thought of that and has wired women so that they cannot think for themselves.
    ps love your post miriam?
    Folau’s presumption of being able to tell god who to send to hell is pretty startling but the christian lobby has got to him and he will now sue rugby.
    I wonder if there are atheist lawyers who could take your line and questions religion and religious beliefs in the courts???? I can only hope???

  10. Zathras

    Miriam,
    I’ve also found that the many self-professed devout people are comparatively ignorant about their religious texts.

    The Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Bibles are vastly different from each other and the popular King James version is more a politically inspired re-interpretation than a translation – deliberately slanted in favour of authority rather than the individual.

    A couple of weeks ago a life-long Christian woman I know was discussing the story of Lot with me and thought that the story ended with Lot’s wife being turned into “a pillar of salt”. She was totally unaware that Lot – the only man worth saving in those two mythical cities – ended up later drunkenly sleeping with his two daughters. It’s just one example of cherry-picking the bits you want and ignoring the rest.
    Religion itself is not a reason for bad behaviour but an excuse for personal prejudice.

    As for Folau, he may rail against certain people and condemn them to Hell (another myth) but considering his $10million claim for damages, he’d better start learning how to thread a camel through the eye of a needle if he thinks he’s heaven-bound himself.

  11. Terence Mills

    A comment on Pell.

    Pell’s charges were split into two trials. The first group related to offending in 1996 at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne when he was archbishop for which he was convicted and is currently appealing.

    The second charges related to alleged offending in a swimming pool while he was a priest in the regional Victorian town of Ballarat in the 1970s.

    These latter were the charges that brought about the media ban on reporting the outcome of the first trial to avoid prejudicing Pell in the second trial. These charges (i.e the second trial) were subsequently dropped after a conviction was recorded in the first trial.

    If, as is being speculated, the appeal on the first trial are upheld and he is acquitted, then there will be no further charges to be answered and he goes free.

    Just saying !

  12. helvityni

    The British comedy duo (Derek and Clive ?) were sitting on a cloud and one of them commented: I’m already a bit bored… Maybe the Hell would have been more to his liking….

  13. Paul Davis

    “A Church of Reason would be deadly serious. I’m sure a lot of people would support such a Church. We could give talks on astrophysics and quantum mechanics, logic and computer programming, the biochemistry of life, ecological balance, and much more. It would be way more interesting than other churches. And we could use it as a platform to launch progressive change, support of the sciences, and promote humanism… and do it all tax-free.”

    Miriam, sign me up.

  14. Peter Morris

    I feel the article focuses too much on atheism versus Christianity.

    In reality the problems caused by religious belief are generally caused by faith in scripture.

    If people could be taught have faith in God and reason and not in scripture, then the contradictions between religion and science and between the religions themselves could disappear.

  15. Terence Mills

    On Folau.

    It seems that this matter will be fought out in the courts based on a contention by Folau that his right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech has been infringed by his employer, Rugby Australia. They in turn will point to their player’s code of conduct which applies to all players and includes the following :

    1.3 Treat everyone equally, fairly and with dignity regardless of gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, cultural or religious background, age or disability. Any form of bullying, harassment or discrimination has no place in Rugby.

    1.6 Do not make any public comment that is critical of the performance of a match official, player, team official, coach or employee/officer/volunteer of any club or a Union; or on any matter that is, or is likely to be, the subject of an investigation or disciplinary process; or otherwise make any public comment that would likely be detrimental to the best interests, image and welfare of the Game, a team, a club, a competition or Union.

    Folau has declined mediation and is going after a $10 million settlement from Rugby Australia which could bankrupt the code.
    It’s an important test case and needs to be resolved as it impacts on so many areas of our day to day dealings, in particular the ability of an employer to demand certain standards of behaviour by employees.

    Just saying !

  16. Kaye Lee

    1 Corinthians 6:10 – “nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    Titus 1:7 – “For an overseer (Elder of the church), as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain.”

    Matthew 23:25 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside are full of greed and self-indulgence.”

    Hell is sure gonna be crowded

  17. johno

    I wonder if I can get a soy latte in hell, always hopeful..

  18. Miriam English

    According to the silly Bible, heaven will be almost empty. Only 144,000 virgin males will be there. (Revelation 14:3-5) No women.

    I guess they could play scrabble for eternity… while buttering up god forever, endlessly praising him, as his chronic neediness requires… actually sounds like hell, doesn’t it.

    The warped imaginations of the religious. For goodness sake!

  19. Pingback: Opinion: Challenging the Christian Crusade | Plain Reason

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