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Religious Discrimination? Want A Fight?

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Watching the antics of various religious leaders over the last few years has been a deeply unedifying experience and has led me to believe that serious conflict between the religious establishment and a largely secular citizenry is becoming increasingly likely. This is something that I, in common with most secular people I know, have little appetite for. Religious leaders such as Carey and Williams for the Church of England and, recently, O’Brien for the Catholic, have made it quite clear that they not only want such a conflict, but that they actually seriously believe that such a conflict Is already underway.


Look back at comments on secularism/atheism over the past few years and you see repeated references to ‘militant atheism’, nonsense about ‘'deep forces at work in Western society', which we are told are ‘degrading the values of Christianity’. Christians, we are told, are being victimised and ridiculed routinely by secularists and are being actively discriminated against.


I am not cherry-picking, or quoting out of context – those are tricks I leave to the religious apologists who are masters of both. This is a concerted and consistent claim being made by many leaders of Chris6an sects (and, to a lesser extent, echoed by Muslim spokespeople).


At first I thought that the charges were so ridiculous and hypocritical that they didn’t actually merit a response, and I was sure that most ‘thinking people’ would see just how self-serving and bogus such claims are. Apparently I was wrong. Numerous non-religious friends and acquaintances appear to believe that the moaning clerics actually have a point. It is, therefore, necessary to respond to this claim in some detail and to demonstrate just how dishonest and hypocritical it is.

Let’s start with the basics. Since the claim is discrimination, let’s examine what this claim is based on. I’ve searched for stories which could possibly be seen to represent discrimination against the religious over the last 10 years. I may have missed one or two, and I’m certainly willing to consider any that I have missed, but I make it a total of four stories in 5 years. I’m not going to cover each one because they are very similar, and obvious attemp0ts at special pleading rather than responses to genuine discrimination. I’ll consider one (probably the most widely covered) to illustrate:


Cross-dressing at British Airways?

An employee of British Airways - Nadia Eweida – conducted a campaign, over 7 years, to overturn the right of BA to specify that she should not wear a religious icon in a visible manner whilst in a public-facing role at work. She went through an industrial tribunal first and lost. She then waited for over a year until BA changed the policy and returned to work, only to then challenge the tribunal ruling and (she hoped) get back the money she spent on the case. BA refused to cough-up and the Tribunal Appeal dismissed her case. She then took it up with the court of Appeal who threw it out, and then again on a separate technicality – which was also thrown-out. She then applied to the Supreme court which refused leave to bring the case and is currently, I believe, preparing to take it to the European Courts.

Far from discrimination, the policy of BA was even-handed and quite sensible. Her complaint has been heard by every competent authority and all agree that there is no case to answer. Christians are not required to wear a crucifix and it was made clear to her that she could wear it under her blouse with no problems. Her complaint is basically that she wants the right to publicly display her religion. This is a form of evangelism and. quite rightly, she was refused. To call this ‘discrimination’ is deeply offensive to those of us who actually HAVE been discriminated against (more on that later). This is nothing more than vexatious use of the legal system to cause nuisance and garner publicity.


The same is true of the other stories which have come to public attention – from a worker who refused to work on Sunday (as her contract required), a couple who thought they should be free to discriminate against homosexuals in their business and a doctor who claims he was sacked for emailing prayers to colleagues (he wasn’t – check the links at the end).


So what we actually have are a few zealots who are upset that the law applies to them, as well as to everyone else, and have screamed discrimination in a tacky and self-serving attempt to gain exemption from such laws.

That is it – the sum total of ‘discrimination’ faced by the poor Christians.


Now, compare and contrast:


I have lost count of the times I have been insulted, belittled and abused for admitting I am an atheist. Over 40 years or so then I guess it is at least 20 times. I have been attacked, spat upon and threatened many times – by Christians of course. Those lovable Christians have also attempted to get me sacked on two occasions, and have written anonymous postings in several forums claiming I am, variously, a paedophile and an AIDS sufferer (both untrue). Bear in mind that I live in England which is extremely tolerant of atheism compared to many other countries – including large parts of the US. In parts of America atheists are routinely beaten-up, denied access to police and courts, and generally bullied in every possible way, up to and including being murdered.


To say that Christians are crying wolf is a rather large understatement, and I am fairly sure that they are not even aware of the dangers of this. There may come a day when a Christian actually DOES face discrimination. In that event I would normally be one of the first to side with them, since I am firmly committed to freedom of expression, including faith, and will fight with anyone who is being denied that freedom – religious or not. I have to say, though, that I am pretty reluctant to treat any such complaint from a Christian seriously now, given that every claim to date has been not only bogus but manipulative and gratuitous. One day the Christians are really going to need people like me who are unafraid to stand with them, but they will find that their lies and deception have made it far less likely that such natural allies will; want to stand with them, aware that they may be victims of yet another attempt to gain publicity and gain special treatment.


As for the notion of ‘being at war with militant secularists’ – consider that the complaints are usually about Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, the late, much missed, Christopher Hitchens and the philosopher Dan Dennett. These individuals are supposed to be the ‘outriders’ of the ‘new atheism’. The notion that Richard Dawkins represents any sort of existential threat to religion is ridiculous. The worst he might do is persuade people that religion really is as dumb as it appears. In fact the complaint is really about something much more basic. The real complaint is that the secularists are no longer willing to grant a special privilege to religion, as has been customary. There has, for as long as I can trace, been an ‘understanding’ that free-speech is a good thing, and can be used to criticise, satirise, insult and offend anyone EXCEPT when it comes to religious belief. One is not supposed to subject belief to the same critique that one can freely apply to, say, choice of politics, football team, dress, car etc. The sin that Dawkins commits is not to call for discrimination against the religious, but to treat religious belief the same as any other belief and criticise it. The complaint of ‘militancy’ is nothing more than the whining of children who find that the special treatment that they have taken for granted is no longer an automatic right and might not always be granted to them. In fact the complaint is indeed about discrimination –the lack of it. Christians seem to think that everyone should positively discriminate in their favour and not subject their beliefs - ludicrous though they are, to the same scrutiny that is routine for all other beliefs, and even the lack of belief that is atheism.


Christians often see no problem in rudely demanding that I explain my atheism, often accompanied by insulting and childish comment from them, asking how an atheist can be moral, how I find meaning in life, why I don’t just kill myself – etc (any atheist will know exactly what I am talking about), but any attempt to subject the religious belief to the same sort of treatment is seen as militancy, discrimination and even abuse.


This is beyond silly, beyond even stupid. It is dishonest and hypocritical and deserving of nothing but utter contempt. Rowan Williams (hands-up those, like myself, who initially thought that he was probably a clever academic chap, and have since discovered how wrong we were), George Carey and most especially Cardinal Keith O’Brien are attempting to rabble-rouse in order to preserve the few vestiges of privilege that their benighted nonsense still commands in some quarters. They are liars and cheats and have lost any credibility or right to be taken seriously. More importantly – if they really DO want to turn this into an open fight with secularism then they must be mad. I really don’t think they have the first inkling of how badly they will be defeated and what REAL discrimination feels like. If these idiots keep up the current barrage of complaints then I worry that they may soon find out.





Carey Whine



Williams Whine



O’Brien Rant




Nuisance cases








Real discrimination








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