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Freedom from religion

Over the last few months, we have heard, and will continue to hear, a great deal about religious freedom and how it is supposedly threatened by marriage equality.

In fact, the NO campaign would have us believe that our very way of life is under threat should we allow same-sex couples to marry, which seems to assume that our way of life is dictated by religious beliefs.

As a fallback for when their case inevitably loses, as it must, they want to wind back anti-discrimination laws that have been in place for over three decades to allow them to refuse service to gay couples. They also want to be able to foist their idea of what marriage is – some sort of stud arrangement that reduces women’s role to being brood mares – onto children at school.

A strident message throughout the NO campaign has been that children are greatly disadvantaged, perhaps even in danger, if they are not raised by their two biological parents. Which makes one question why the Church was so complicit in taking so many Aboriginal children from their parents.

According to the ABS, of the 5.2 million children aged 0 to 17 years in 2012-13, 1.1 million (21%) had a natural parent living elsewhere. That’s a lot of kids who are being told that their family is inadequate. The church implies that sharing genes is more important than sharing love and assumes that a biological (white) parent will automatically be a good parent.

In the 2016 census, 30% of respondents reported they had no religion – this represented an extra 2.2 million people since the 2011 census. That figure rose to 39% in adults aged 18-34. Yet it is their future that is being determined.

Our children should not be compelled to attend religious instruction at school. We should not be paying for untrained people to come into our schools proselytising their beliefs. Teachers keep personal beliefs out of the classroom and encourage children to research, analyse, question, and form their own opinions. Indoctrination has no place in schools.

Our parliament should not begin by chanting worship to a deity and we should stop swearing on the bible or any other religious text.

This is, for me, one of the real problems with religion – the amount of time and money wasted on worship. I appreciate the sense of community that a church can bring. I appreciate the charitable works they do. The golden rule is a maxim common to many religions that encapsulates how we should live in one simple phrase.

But chanting and incense and ceremonial robes and bowing to statues, not to mention communion, all repel me.

Having said that, people I love dearly and respect greatly find enormous solace in their religion and I would fight for their right to do as they see fit.

There was a time in history where the church was all-powerful. It made the laws, it kept the wisdom, it was the judge, punisher and absolver of sins, and the teacher of children. It relegated women to a subservient role. That is no longer the case.

Our laws are (or should be) made by our elected representatives and enforced by our police and our judicial system. Our children are taught by trained professionals. Knowledge and learning are available to all (in our lucky country at least). Women now have a voice and some independence.

Freedom of religion is a human right in Australia, but so should freedom from religion be a right as fiercely protected.


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  1. Janet Simpson

    Totally agree with everything you say.


  2. Miriam English

    Freedom from religion. Yes!

    We’re slowly getting there. This inept government’s religious shenanigans will turn more people against religion than any number of prominent atheists ever could. That’s the one bright light I can see in this entire dismal episode.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we end up with a law to enforce the removal of all religion from government. It’s already in the constitution, I think, but routinely ignored.

    We need a law with teeth that keeps the hucksters out of public institutions. One way to push for it is to require that either churches butt out of politics or pay heavy taxes. They won’t want to pay taxes — greed and corruption are endemic in big religious institutions, and small churches are already barely making ends meet, with attendance falling dramatically. The big churches will kill themselves off eventually with their corruption. The small churches have been dying for decades and are being replaced by secular community halls.

  3. kerri

    When is someone going to protect freedom of atheism?
    When are our rights to not have “faith” shoved down our throat at every opportunity going to be fought for?
    Whenever change is discussed the religious right start jumping up and complaining about their rights, when do they consider ours?
    I find the religious crap associated with the parliament not only an abomination but an insult to non religious people and a corruption of government process.
    Religion has no place but in the church.
    If religion is your hobby good luck to you but remember I don’t make politicians do a little beading on a garment or snowplough down a slope or compulsorily attend the latest musical comedy so keep your hobby to yourself it has no place in the parliament regardless of our “judeo-christian” history. This land has more dreamtime history anyway!

  4. Rhonda

    The Church was also complicit in forced adoption and the moralistic f#ckery of “unwed” mothers not so long ago.

  5. Kaye Lee

    Good reminder Rhonda – the other stolen generation.

    The moral hypocrisy abounds.

  6. Zathras

    It’s enough for me that some of my taxes go to support these groups (who pay no tax themselves) without also having them interfere with various aspects of my life as well.

    They speak with a profound sense of authority yet don’t seem to share in any responsibility for their actions or those of their followers.

    Hundreds of children and babies institutionally dumped into an Irish septic tank is just one example of their cognitive dissonance.

  7. Harquebus

    I am repeating myself here. As long as religions brainwash kids, another form of child abuse, I have to completely disagree. Religions and their practitioners should be criticized, humiliated and denigrated at every opportunity. One must be classed as a gullible fool if religious. Except for the kids of course, they are victims who grow up to be gullible fools.
    Religion is blight on humanity. The cycle must be broken. Citing religious freedom and tolerance are just excuses for doing nothing.

  8. Glenn Barry

    It’s such a curiosity that the Catholic Church with it’s deplorable recent history, spanning decades, of criminal concealment of the paedophilia within their ranks, have the gall to make vociferous objections to others defying their definition of marriage…

    Those institutions have surrendered every iota of moral authority as a result of their past, and I certainly have not witnessed a chorus of their institutions members denouncing these abhorrent crimes. Were they truly hoping that we wouldn’t notice or would so quickly forget their past.

    I truly hope that any institution with that calibre behaviour in their past experiences a rapid and terminal decline in their influence – they have been a blight on humanity for far too long

  9. Harry

    Amen to all that Kaye

  10. Kaye Lee


    I find it particularly galling for the Church to be talking about the well-being of children when we know what happened to the children entrusted to their care.

    It is also silly of them to be talking about the importance of children living with their biological parents in the context of this debate. Two factors contributed far more to the rise of this not being the case – women entering the workforce and gaining financial independence, and changes to the divorce laws which allowed unhappy couples to terminate destructive relationships. Another contributing factor has been medical advances in dealing with infertility.

    The church has no reasonable ground on which to base their case – they are grasping at false advertising techniques.

  11. diannaart

    Freedom from religious interference in our lives.

    Needs to be a basic human right.

  12. Kronomex

    How about the –

    Plainly and simply put: I wouldn’t forgive them for 2 years let alone 2,000 years of their existence. Anyway, all the pope has to do is build a confessional big enough to contain the vatican, hear it’s confession, hit it with a couple of hundred hail mary’s and how’s your fathers and it’s past evils are washed away to start all over again committing more sins.

  13. Kaye Lee

    Yes Kronomex, that get out of gaol free card has always been a problem for me too. I understand the importance of repentance, forgiveness, and rehabilitation but I fail to see what role chanting plays in that. How can saying a decade of the rosary make everything ok?

  14. Janet Simpson

    Ronald Reagans’ son’s ad for atheism was rejected in the US.

  15. Kaye Lee

    Well at least Tony Abbott’s daughter has gone public in her support for the YES campaign. It must be a very awkward household.

    I have often wondered how the Abbott women felt about being so shamelessly used during his campaign.

    We also saw Kevin Rudd’s godson punched in the nose for supporting the YES campaign.

    I am proud that young people are having their say and I think the Coalition might find they have woken the sleeping tiger.

  16. Glenn Barry

    Yes there is always that positive potential, the Coalition by manipulating this issue the way they have, will have engaged a lot of young people who’s views are contrary to the colations on a vast array of issues – with any luck they will then suffer their deserved punishment next election at the ballot box, due in no small part to the addition of the younger voters to the electoral rolls

  17. silkworm

    Want to be free of religion? Start with taking scripture classes out of public schools.

  18. Zathras

    The main problem with religion is that most followers get their information and impressions from sanitised Sunday School lessons or from Hollywood.
    The former leaves out all the horrific stuff and the latter distorts,misrepresents and presents myth as historical fact.

    As Pope Leo X is claimed to have said “It has served us well, this myth of Christ.”

    Many hardened atheists are former followers who bothered to actually read what the Bible says and have investigated the true history of the Church.

    What we have is a self-serving organisation that exists only to perpetuate and protect itself and the last time it was allowed to govern society was a period callled called “The Dark Ages” – and for good reason.
    It has recently infiltrated all levels of government and become another version of the Taliban in the West and tries to dictate public policy and control thought for its own ends..

    It also relegates women to be little more than baby factories to produce the next generation of followers, even if it kills them.

  19. helvityni

    silkworm, or attend a Sunday school as a five year old; I did, and it killed the religion for me for good….nasty people telling me to be a good girl…
    You be good first, if that’s what God wants…

  20. Jane Filipovski

    I am bewildered by this governments fixation on marriage equality? Equality needs to tackled on many fronts, and to be honest, if I was ever lucky enough to own a Sydney Harbourside Mansion and Cayman Accounts and support from the media, I wouldn’t want to be the Prime Minister? What’s the go with Turdball, why is he even there? Feel as though we aren’t even being governed anymore?

  21. Bec Brown

    I have a degree in Philosophy and Religious studies. I see a lot of interesting human behaviours around religion and spiritual practices, and in my past I eagerly pursued all sorts of ideas and mythologies. One by one I have had them all knocked down by simple logic. As much as I always wanted to be a ‘believer’, I found it impossible in the end to commit to any kind of faith. These days I would describe myself as anti-theist, however I draw the line at instituting anything as pointless as a ban. People will simply become more attached to their silly beliefs, and develop a persecution complex.
    I would love to see a future in which religion plays a much smaller part in our public life and discussion, and I am seeing that evolve in my own lifetime, although we still have a looong way to go in this regard. Promoting atheism feels like a Sysiphean task, religion is not a rational exercise, it cannot be overcome by revealing truths. Religion engages our emotional brain, and uses psychological tactics to manipulate and reward followers. It is a form of brainwashing and its so pervasive that people take certain assertions for granted. Most Christians in Australia are non practicing, and would most likely have had zero contact with actual scripture or theology. They self identify however because to them, its seen as a truism that being religious means you are a moral person, who tries to do good in the world. They literally have no idea how this works, but it speaks to their ego and their sense of righteousness. So when the census comes around they tick the appropriate box. The other difficulty in trying to counter claims of faith is that religion is a moving feast, from which followers can cherry pick to their hearts content, whether they be liberal minded and compassionate folks, or authoritarian paternalists. It really does have something for everyone. Even people who are utterly sceptical about all of the supernatural claims they make can find something that appeals to them.

  22. diannaart

    I agree with you, Bec.

    Religion plays into a person’s sense of identity – that’s a very intrinsically personal arrow a broad dogma can use to get into a person’s sense of self.

    Threaten religion and one is threatening a person’s core identity. No point in trying logic, that won’t win over those many people who only just manage day-to-day because they believe in a god or some everlasting life.

    The only alternative many of these people see is a cold, greedy, dog-eat-dog world. No good pointing out the manifold faults of religion when there is not much of an alternative.

    This is also why capitalism can exist with religion better than socialism (in complete contradiction to the many socialist doctrines in the New Testament) – capitalism requires obedience and a gullible population.

  23. Jane

    Great posts diannaart and Bec

  24. Zathras

    The only things religion has to offer are a sense of community and a degree of consolation for the loss of loved ones.
    Otherwise it’s nothing but a way of overcoming the fear of death and a convenient blanket explanation for the unknown – and that’s precisely what all religions are based upon.

    However, if a religious person criticises or discriminates against me, they call it “Religious Freedom”.
    If I return the favour they call it “Persecution”.

  25. diannaart

    Thanks, Jane, I appreciate the feed back.

  26. Miriam English

    It’s really annoying that religious people generally think argument against religion is a personal attack upon them.

    If someone tells me that my understanding of an important aspect of the world is erroneous I listen carefully and try to honestly weigh up the evidence. The last thing I want is to be basing my opinions upon false data. I generally thank someone who helps me avoid such mistakes. It’s bizarre that religious people prefer the lie instead of truth.

    I’ve often thought about ways to avoid religion’s alarm system.

    Stories are one useful way of coming in under the radar. I’ve attempted to do this a few times.

    In Honesty (chapter 9 of my ebook Prescription) I explain through two scrupulously honest religious people — one a priest and the other a nun — about the threat to religion of crooks, and why taxing the church is the solution.

    In my ebook flying, my main character is an innocent schoolgirl who goes to a religious school. Gradually things start to unravel and her nice, ordered world is turned upside down. She never explicitly loses her religion or even questions it, but she meets a number of characters in the course of the story who have no religion and I try to subtly convey the impression that religion is irrelevant to her by the end of the story. Hopefully it carries any religious readers along with it.

  27. diannaart

    That’s interesting, Miriam. I have been thinking there is nothing to be gained with pointing out inconsistencies and blatant hypocrisies in religious dogma. Instead of striking at religion from a superior, sciency pedestal, perhaps we simply need more stories on how the, er, godless manage to live their lives without resorting to raping and pillaging. I do believe, although have no statistical proof, atheists do not figure more highly in crime rates than religious – violent crime tends towards the poorer, less educated sector of society, whereas fraud and other white collar crime tends to be the choice of the middle and upper classes – whether they are particularly religious or not.

    There is an alternative to religion; living in the here and now, caring for those around us instead of praying to the invisible. I am not feeling all that imaginative , but we have to find better ways that don’t threaten people’s sense of self.

  28. Miriam English

    Attacking religion directly does help too. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and other prominent atheists get letters every day from ex-religious people who saw the light after seeing their religion challenged. But generally I prefer the less confrontational approach, even though sometimes I must admit I lose patience and just attack religion directly.

    Statistically, atheists commit fewer violent crimes than religious people.
    Societies that are less religious have fewer violent crimes, less poverty, less corruption, less disease, less abortions, less divorce… all these are actually worsened by religion… exactly the opposite to what you’d expect if there was a god and religion helped give a moral compass.

    Humanism is a great alternative to religion. It provides the uplifting feeling of brotherhood without nasty tribalism getting in the way.

  29. diannaart

    In essence, I agree with you Miriam.

    But (bet you saw that coming) I don’t believe direct attack, a la Dawkins & Harris, reaches the majority of average religious people. Even I get a bit tetchy with Harris’ issues on Muslims.

    I was also willing to concede ground the majority of religious people and atheists are good people.

    Also, Humanism would be a great alternative except, maybe, to use corporate jargon, it needs “rebranding”, as Humanism tends to be associated with communism or whatever it is which offends those who do not think a great deal about being human as opposed to being religious.

    Appearing superior aint gonna cut it.


  30. Miriam English

    diannaart, 🙂 Yeah, I agree that directly attacking religion doesn’t reach the majority of religious people. But it does reach some though. I usually prefer the more gentle approaches (except when I’m exasperated and have lost patience).

    Despite what many religious people think, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are not really aggressive. It’s just that religious people have become used to everybody else tiptoeing around them, whereas Dawkins and Harris speak plainly. (Some of Sam Harris’ statements about Muslims have been a bit strong, though he has softened that now, since co-writing with moderate Muslim, Maajid Nawaz, the book “Islam and the Future of Tolerance”.)

    Christoper Hitchens, on the other hand, was happy to be blunt to the point of rudeness.

    One of the good things about having people speak clearly and publicly about the craziness of religion is that it is gradually wearing away at this horrible situation we have where it’s considered rude to speak the truth to religion, yet everybody is expected to simply put up with religious people saying crazy stuff (“I’ll pray for you”, “God will judge you”, “The Bible is the way”, “The lord will guide us”… etcetera, etcetera). Having publicly vocal atheists is gradually undoing this nasty double-standard.

    When I was a kid it was considered rude to ask a smoker not to light up and pollute my air. Now things have shifted to a much more sensible balance. It’s now considered rude to pollute someone’s air with cigarette smoke and perfectly acceptable to ask someone not to smoke near you.

    I long for the day when it is normal to ask a religious person not to pollute the space of ideas with their craziness, and rude of them if they start intruding such noxious ideas unwelcomed — especially if there are children present.

    In the meantime I’m interested in ways to break the spell that religion has on people’s minds without confronting them and generating bad feeling.

    I’d never heard of humanism being associated with communism. I know a lot of humanists and they come in all kinds. Many are capitalist humanists. I even know religious humanists!

  31. diannaart


    We do need high profile atheists – abso-bloody-lutely.

    Still miss Chris Hitchens, he was such a witty curmudgeon along the lines of a Paul Keating – I certainly would never have chosen to argue with him.

    I used to subscribe to Sam Harris blog – good to hear about his collaboration with Maajid Nawaz, maybe I’ll tune in again.

    I, like you, have put together many thoughtful arguments only to have it rejected based upon sheer ignorance on the part of the religious person I was trying to communicate with. These days, I just do not have the same patience to regurgitate similar arguments over and over again (partly due to illness), however, the need to right wrongs still shines brightly.

    Regarding Humanism, in my experience, this has been disparaged as another type of bleeding lefty ideology in previous tussels I have had with the religious and rigid right, therefore, took license to use “communism” because we all know where caring about life, the universe and everything leads to. 😉

    And, like you, I do see improvements. The freedom to call out inconsiderate smokers being among them. I am also heartened to see people from the Middle East or Asia, Africa now speaking out against human subjugation; be it sexism, religious dogma or other odious doctrines. Names are there but cannot drag them up from my subconscious right now.

    Now must have my morning cuppa to fire up my neurons for another day.

  32. Miriam English

    diannaart, sorry, I meant to reply earlier. Sam Harris has been recording very interesting interviews lately, downloadable from his blog. Some recent examples:

    2017-08-29 – Max Tegmark – The future of intelligence.mp3
    2017-09-05 – Joseph Romm – What You Need to Know About Climate Change.mp3
    2017-09-10 – Thomas Metzinger – The Nature of Consciousness.mp3
    2017-09-14 – Ken Burns and Lynn Novick – The impossible war.mp3

    I downloaded the interview with Ken Burns and Lynn Novick a few days ago and have just now realised that I’ve been so busy I haven’t listened to it yet. I’ll listen to it today for brekky, I think.

    Earlier this year he found himself going into angry rants about Trump. He understandably tries to steer clear of that topic nowadays.

    One of my personal favorite podcasts was his interview with Gary Kasparov, former chess champion, famously defeated by a computer. He, surprisingly, embraces artificial intelligence (AI), but spends much time warning about the danger Vladimir Putin represents.

    A few of his conversations went really badly. The talk with Noam Chomsky imploded terribly, with Noam misunderstanding Sam and being very unpleasant. The talk with Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams was illuminating, but horrifying, with Sam biting his tongue while the cartoonist cynically excused Trump for everything. We all thought Scott Adams was Dilbert, but it turns out he’s the cynically evil Dogbert character.

    It’s pretty rare for Sam to get into religion these days, though he still does. I love his careful, measured, thoughtful approach, even as I disagree with him on guns and a few other things.

    You can find a full list of his conversations at:

  33. diannaart

    Miriam, many thanks for the links and the news update on Sam Harris.

    We all thought Scott Adams was Dilbert, but it turns out he’s the cynically evil Dogbert character.

    Nooooooo! Scott Adams once used one of my ideas about bosses (insane) not that he acknowledged it – but he did ask for ideas and I sent two from the plethora of the madness that may occur within some people when they are given even a shred of power.

    Must admit, though I have stopped my Dilbert subscription – trying to make my life simpler in order to stop my incessant guilt neuron blasting me whenever I fail, yet again, because I cannot deal with my chronic illness.

    Oh, and I had forgotten about Sam Harris and guns – I knew there was more than just his religion crusade. I am an atheist, have been since I was 10 or 12 (things are getting blurry) but Sam was bordering on regurgitating Geert Wilders, a man who forgets he is damning millions of people.

    So cheery today… not.

    OK, it is NOT raining, it is not even effing freezing today – I will achieve something (anything) today and not feel guilty for not doing something else.

    What was the topic about?

  34. Miriam English

    heheheh 😀
    Even when you’re uncheery you keep a light attitude.
    Time to watch a rom-com. At least, that’s what I do to recharge my batteries when I feel worn down. 🙂

  35. diannaart

    Mostly, I just sleep…

    But enjoy the TV if low on energy – something like “Glitch” on ABC tonight, something fantasmagorical to counter any reality overload.

    Enjoyed the convo 🙂

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