Martydom of the priveliged

By Ken Perrott 29/08/2011 7


It never ceases to amaze me how some people who have gained a privilege through an accident of history will whine and moan when they fear their privileges may be removed. We saw this recently in local politics when the idea of introducing a capital gains tax was floated.

I guess it’s not surprising. Many people think with their wallet.

But I also saw this last week at the NZ Diversity Forum on The State and Religion. There was a discussion on the fact that while New Zealand is largely a secular country with freedom of religion and belief, Christians still had some historical privileges over other religions and over the non-religious. Several Christians there argued that the parliamentary prayer be retained – because they “believed in a god.” To hell with what other people believed.

But this defense of privilege gets really childish when conservative Christians present any attempt at removal of privilege or discrimination as an attack on their religion. As an attempt at ’eradication of religion from public life.’

I have seen a local theologian, Matt from MandM, seriously argue that evolutionary science should not be taught in schools because a fundamentalist family with children attending the school would be offended! Everyone else should suffer because a fundamentalist might be offended by reality!

Now that takes a real sense of privelige!

Parliamentary prayers

The same person attacked the NZ Rationalist and Humanist (NZARH) document The Tolerant Secular State for pointing out the “New Zealand parliament opens with a Christian prayer rather than having a secular statement that allows all politicians to reflect on why they are they are there.” He claims this “states religious prayers should be banned from parliament”. He sees introduction of an inclusive ceremony as an attack on Christianity – what warped thinking.

I guess this is the same as those men who opposed universal suffrage because they saw it as an attack on men. Or marriage equality whoicxh recognises same-sex marriage as somehow an attack on heterosexual marriage!

Another privilege described in The Tolerant Secular State is “the advancement of religion as a charitable purpose. This gives religious/supernatural beliefs an advantage over other beliefs in being subsidised by the taxpayer.” My experience is that this is a privilege conservative Christians will defend to the last. They bring all their theological training, their mental gymnastics and obfuscation, into play when they see that threatened.

Wallets as well as dogma – a powerful combination!

Secular education

Madeleine at MandM has also attacked The Tolerant Secular State – using the same tactics of misrepresentation and distortion. She particularly likes to distort the meaning of the word “secular” (meaning neutrality towards religion) into somehow meaning anti-religious or atheist.

Therefore she refers to The Tolerant Secular State statement “The NZARH strongly believes that public education should be free, secular and available equally to all children” as somehow being anti-religious. She says it means “Taxpayer dollars of all citizens must only be used to support their secular viewpoint and their viewpoint alone” (Here she uses “their” to mean NZARH). And whines: “What about citizens (like me) who do not want their tax payer dollars going towards secular schools?”

Perhaps she doesn’t want to pay for children to learn anything – except religious indoctrination which of course is not secular. Actually she is specific – she considers secular education to suppress her “right to manifest one’s religion including the raising of children. This gets overridden by the practice of sex education in schools.” She opts her son out of those classes. Does she also opt her son out of mathematics, science, history, social studies, and all the other secular subjects.

Poor kid.

Madeleine claims that the  NZARH don’t want schools to talk at all about religion. Ignoring completely the document which says:

“While public education should remain free from religious observance and instruction, it is fine to educate about religion. Teaching about different belief systems, both religious and non-religious, is important. Doing so encourages greater tolerance by broadening students understanding of other beliefs, and challenging the notion that any currently held beliefs are somehow superior to other beliefs.”

And Matt  also has a go at “secular eduction.” He claims that “religious parents are required by law to fund a secular education they disagree with and do not use.”

So religious parents and their children do not use their education in mathematics, science, social studies, history, etc.? All those subjects dealing with the real world and therefore defined as secular?

Matt plays the martyrdom card by claiming that “parents who want to teach there child a religious education pay twice, first they are compelled on threat of jail to pay for other peoples children to be given a secular education, and then on top of that they pay for their own childrens religious education.”

Well Matt, any parent wishing to give their children an agnostic, atheist, Marxist, or any other ideological education must do the same. Pay for the secular education (which is required by law and is neutral towards these ideological and religious beliefs) and on weekends or after school give the ideological education they desire.

Matt finally concludes that New Zealand discriminates against religious parents!

See what a mess you can get into when you start distorting the meaning of words.

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7 Responses to “Martydom of the priveliged”

  • Glad you touched on Charitable status, I’ve been looking into this lately and was surprised (though I guess I shouldn’t have been) to see that a group merely has to advance religion to be eligible for Charitable status. WT??
    Does that mean that we can take the fundies claim that atheism is a religion to gain charitable status for atheist organisations?
    I suspect the the rush to proclaim atheism ineligible on that basis would be swift.

  • Basically, it’s about power: thems with the power don’t want to lose it, be they North African dictators or ‘entrenched’ religions. Personally, I’m sick of the religious ‘some rules for some, other rules for others’ mentality. We are all people, and should be treated equally, regardless of our beliefs (or lack of them).

  • Darcy, such a move wouldn’t even get started because supernatural beliefs and advocay are required.

    I wrote about this in Avoiding tax – supernaturally

    Briefly the Charities Commission criteria for tax exemption on the basis advancement of relgigion are:

    “To be charitable under this category, your organisation’s purpose must:

    be for the benefit of a religion; and
    aim to pass on the relevant religious faith to others.

    The term “religion” includes many different faiths and belief systems (for example, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism). Generally, however, to be religious there needs to be:

    a belief in a supernatural being, thing, or principle
    an acceptance of conduct in order to give effect to that belief.

    To “advance” religion, the faith must be passed on to others by spreading its message and taking positive steps to sustain and increase the religious belief.”

  • “It never ceases to amaze me how some people who have gained a privilege through an accident of history will whine and moan when they fear their privileges may be removed”

    What a very perceptive description of the more fundamental Christian religions.

    I was educated at a Catholic high school where we had a class in religious studies (half the classes were on Catholicism and half were on other religions). I think this is a great idea – close examination of religion can often be a first step towards atheism for those who are willing to look at it carefully. For others it may at least create a level of tolerance of those who have different beliefs.

    For those Christians complaining about not being able to educate their child as they want – don’t they have weekends and any time out of school to do that. I wonder if the option were a secular run school or a Muslim school were the only choices which one they would pick? :-)

  • Ah, yes Ken. Forgot about that supernatural clause.

    Michael, yeah. I always found it odd that apparently the religious think public school is where their children should be indoctrinated into personal belief. I guess that sort of thinking lies at the heart of M&M’s thinking.
    They figure if the kids aren’t inculcated in Christianity then it must be atheism that’s being foisted?? (I dunno, that thinking is completely alien to me so I could be wrong, probably am.)

  • Michael, the Charities Commission lists these four Examples of Charitable Purpose

    Beneficial to the community
    Advancement of education
    Advancement of religion
    Relief of poverty Detail

    So, in fact many scientific and sceptical organisation could request status on the basis of Advancement of education. The humanists have done so. In fact, a lot of relgious organisation could do the same.

    At the moment they seem to choose mostly advancement of relgion as apparently the easiest to prove. However, the commission has disallowed a number of organisations, most of which had used the religion clause. So it could be in future that they will migrate to aducation.

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