That was the original full title of an old Posterous rant in a small fit of rage, regarding religious people who insist they’re being “unfairly marginalised” and other such stupid phrases, just because their (actually unfair) institutional privilege is being eroded a bit. Toys out of pram, etc. [Update Aug 2013: ex-archbishop agrees!!]
So I’m reposting it here with some significant adjustments in light of recent events – hoping that not everyone who saw it first time will remember it, and that it will reach some new people.
First, this week we have had the utterly shocking and disgusting news that some Pakistani militants decided to shoot a 14 year-old girl in the head because she was a secular activist who spoke out about the problems in her country. As a friend said, surely you can be fairly confident you’re holding a better position when you are not scared into shooting teenage girls?
Second, do read this excellent piece by Martin Robbins in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s suggestions that because they’re not allowed to discriminate against the gays, the christians are being discriminated against. It’s a short but difficult read and it needed saying.
On to my (somewhat sweary) rant, which I’ve edited a bit to update and worked in some of the following discussion at the end. Feel free to continue it!
There was a story doing the rounds some time ago about a man who was told by the police to remove a little A4 printed sign from his window. I just wanted to use it as a springboard to complain about something that’s really been getting on my nerves lately. It said:
Religions are fairy stories for adults
It turns out, according to the police, that it wasn’t actually true. Regardless, I can see why people don’t like that kind of statement – if you think your religion is all about the truth and the greatest philosophy and moral this and purpose that, I can see why you wouldn’t like such a statement.
But, you know what I don’t like?
I don’t like people in town centres shoving flyers at me that are all about how only the people who believe Jesus was the son of god are the righteous ones, and they’ll be rewarded after death, while the firey pits of hell are reserved for the likes of me, my friends and all the other cool people in the world.
I don’t like adverts on the buses, on the underground, on the side of the road – saying that your church is the best one and the only way to salvation is through joining your social club.
I don’t like people knocking on my fucking front door when I’m busy (or not) doing my own thing in my house.
So I’m sorry if you don’t like something someone printed on a piece of paper and put in their window.
You know what else people can put in their own windows? Pretty much whatever they want. Religious symbols; statements of political leaning and for whom you plan to vote, thus hoping to influence others; flags of this nation, another, or some random sign of allegiance like to a sports team or something.
That’s fine really, because it’s your house to do with as you will! Within the bounds of the law. And guess what? We don’t have blasphemy laws any more, thank the invisible pink unicorn.
You know what else pisses me off?
We’re being persecuted for having faith! We should be allowed to show it and be proud of it! You militant atheists/secularists/satanists, you’re ruining it for us!
Again, no, shut your wafer-hole.
Persecuted? Really? Hmm, let’s see, when I walk around London, for example, what can I see from lots of places? St Paul’s Cathedral, there are churches all over the place, you can barely move for them. Similarly in many cities. Not just churches either, the mosque dominates one direction of views from Regent’s Park as well. Plus everyone knows the joys of Tottenham Court Road – there be the Scientologists’ lair! And If you want to cross the Millennium Bridge to go to the Tate Modern (opposite St Paul’s), you’ll wander past the Salvation Army headquarters, a big spangly glass place.
Apart from people who’ve actually been there, I doubt anyone can name any of the humanist hubs in London; there’s Conway Hall, an old lecture theatre that holds talks and the like, there’re the BHA head offices on Gower St, a squished terrace building with about 4 storeys (where I used to sing, incidentally).
Both of them are inconspicuous – you’ll only notice Conway Hall’s agenda if you stop at the window and start reading the posters and things. Compared to the churches that reach for the sky, the temples with their huge (and often patronising) signs, I fail to see how anyone is being restricting in showing off or practising their faith here.
But a man puts a poster in a window? Fucking militant atheists shoving their non-belief in our faces!!
How many presidents of the US have been Christian? Hmm. How much of an absolute revelation was it for Obama to even acknowledge that people of no faith even exist? Being an atheist in America is one of the worst things you could possibly admit to at the moment. It can lead to bullying, discrimination and far worse.
Following the state religion, or in some cases any religion (where secular values and personal freedoms are generally upheld, I’m not going into religious feuds/wars and such here) tends to give you a fucktonne of privilege, people.
So, if you start talking to me about religion-things, and I eventually get bored or ask you to be quiet, because it’s nonsense to me, don’t tell me that I’m the militant one. For one, I despise violence, it rubs my moral compass the wrong way (guess what, I have one without a god-book, so do you – how else did you know which bits were worth following and which weren’t??). So militant is probably one of the poorest word choices you could have made in the first place.
Tell me next time you get handed an atheist flyer that tells you you’re a bad person, or you see a massive sign telling you you should become an atheist right now or else!
Secularism upholds your right to have a religion, as well as mine not to have one, so kindly gtfo with your persecution tosh, live, and let live.
The story I originally mentioned may not be accurate, but we need not look far to find stories that most certainly did happen; people being angry about losing their jobs because, er, they weren’t doing the job (see the refusal to perform civil ceremonies because onoesthegays that’s against my religion – well you better do a job you can do then, don’t expect the world to change for you).
There’s the rage about not being allowed to display your religious symbols wherever and however you like – whatever the situation. Sometimes it’s inappropriate. Yet somehow this translates to persecution?!
How many people do you see walking down the street, whom you can identify as non-religious? Very few indeed (with the advent of the stylised A and some funny tshirts, sometimes you can spot a few, but I still think these are largely confined to specific events.
Signs of religious affiliation are all around us – sometimes I do find it a bit intimidating, but I’ve never bothered to complain to anyone because, well, so far it hasn’t hurt me. And I hope it never will.
The idea that people are discriminated against for being religious is just madness, they need to open their eyes. We’ve still got religious schools for fuck’s sake, where kids are discriminated against based on their parents’ religion, and even teachers refused jobs. Religious groups have hugely unjust influence in government and policy… need I go on.
It’s the same deal as with the “men’s rights” movement. Traditional privilege-holders getting upset that their (literally?) god-given elevated status over everyone else is being challenged and the balance redressed.
No special status for anyone; freedom for all – separate church and state!!
Here is the most excellent Popehat discussing the aforementioned somewhat shocking legal standpoint:
“What is the character of a person who sees a sign like that in a pensioner’s window, and runs to the police to complain?
Could a person with such character stand up, against great odds, in the face of the the very casques that did affright the air at Agincourt? Could such a person do his duty, as England expected, at Trafalgar? Could such a person keep calm and carry on? Would such a person fight on beaches, on landing grounds, in fields and streets, in the hills, and never surrender? Is such a person capable of having a finest hour?
I ask because of this: societies that make rules like this one, encouraging its citizens to scamper mewling behind the skirts of the government when faced with the least offense, produce people with the character necessary to take them up on the offer. It is hard to imagine how a nation run by people of that character can endure — or at least, how it can endure as anyplace you’d want to live. “
And from a friend who is a somewhat high-powered lawyer as well:
“Any law which opens an individual up to prosecution for making a statement needs to be justified as dealing with a real harm that outweighs freedom of expression. This law just doesn’t make the cut, so yes, we need to reform it (the civil liberties/human rights groups were screaming about this at the time).”
Essentially, any time I hear someone whining about their religious ‘freedom’ being ‘attacked’ just because they’re being made to fall in line with the progression of society, with the law, with not-being-a-bigoted-dickhead – they get zero sympathy from me.
Edit Jan 2014: Robin Ince says it concisely and (surprisingly?) with less swearing over on New Statesman.
“Just as some men bleat that they are the oppressed because of feminism, Odone confuses a loss of advantage with an act of oppression. This is the shock of those who are losing their divine right to dominate.”