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.
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