A Christian Response to Religious Freedom

PrayingA Christian sent an email to the Canadian Atheist’s mailbox in response to my post Human Rights Tribunal Fines Alberta Private School for Preventing Students from PrayingThe reader was encouraged to post this remark in the comments section of the post so that other readers could respond, but for whatever reason he/she declined to do so. However, I think this email is worth discussing in more detail, so I’ve decided to devote a post to it.

Here is the email:

Regarding your comments on the muslim students having a right to practice their beliefs and religion on campus at a private school in Alberta. Quote: “The point is that this is not the same as saying the Lord’s Prayer, a religious activity academic institutions once inflicted on students en masse, giving them no choice but to comply. Instead, this is the private practice of students who have a right to their beliefs and a right to freedom of religion.” You contradict yourself. If they have the right, then my daughter does too…and we happen to be Christian who recite “the Lord’s prayer”. If we make “exceptions” for two students, then we should make exceptions for “all” walks of faith, whether it be in private or public schools. I was raised with the Lord’s prayer and reading of the Bible in public school.You make it sound like some horrific ordeal. Never scarred me any, and in fact, taught me to embrace all people and to treat others as I want to be. I’ve been reading and studying the Bible for over 30 years now. I can confidently say, there is no other book in this world that even comes close to teaching people how to live a good, decent, and righteous life. Our school system went straight to hell when these were removed, and crime is at an all time high among young people. Hmph..unfortunately, I don’t think an atheist will understand what I’m saying. You’d have to read the Book.

The first remark, You contradict yourself. If they have the right, then my daughter does too…and we happen to be Christian who recite “the Lord’s prayer”, is typical of those who misunderstand what religious freedoms and “rights” actually are. Everyone has a right to religious freedom, that means that a Christian is allowed to recite The Lord’s Prayer anywhere he or she wants, just as a Muslim is allowed to pray. I never suggest otherwise in my article. If a Christian student was being prevented from praying, I would support a human right’s tribunal ruling to pay damages to that student as well.

Which brings me to the root of the issue highlighted in this statement: I was raised with the Lord’s prayer and reading of the Bible in public school. You make it sound like some horrific ordeal. Never scarred me any, and in fact, taught me to embrace all people and to treat others as I want to be. Great! It didn’t bother you because you are a Christian who has “been reading and studying the bible for over 30 years now.” Good for you! But, how would you like it if every day, you were forced to pray to Allah in your public school? Every morning you needed to get out your prayer mat and do your prayers! That would be unfair because you are a Christian being forced to worship as a Muslim and it would make you feel unhappy that you couldn’t express how you felt and were punished if you tried to do so. So, why would you force non-Christians to pray to your god? Do you see my point? I’m not a Christian and I was forced to practice as one. It was terrible and I never forgot it because it was a violation of my freedom of conscience. You may think that Christianity is the bees knees but you don’t get to force everyone else to think as you.

This is my favourite part: Our school system went straight to hell when these were removed, and crime is at an all time high among young people. Evidence please! When you provide it, please keep in mind that anecdote is not the singular of data and correlation does not equal causation. Also, can you provide evidence that believing in a god or two makes you a moral person? Here is my evidence that you can be good without god: Scandinavia. Denmark and Sweden are the least religious countries in the world, yet they consistently rank high on the International Human Development Index as does more atheistic countries like Australia and New Zealand. You can read more about Scandinavia and belief here. My additional evidence is backed by science. Evolution has produced brains that have empathy (well healthy ones anyway) and that means that I don’t need to be religious to know it’s wrong to kill someone or kick a cat. See my post about how atheists are not automatically sociopaths for more details on that.

And one last thing – most atheists have read the bible. Indeed, many of us think that the best way to become an atheist is to read the bible cover to cover.

I encourage readers to weigh in below with their own thoughts on the email.

15 thoughts on “A Christian Response to Religious Freedom

  1. As you point out, reading the Bible does not predict a consistent appreciation for its content.

    It is much easier for the majority of people to agree on humanistic rules than it is for them to agree on supernatural rules. The reason for this is obvious: humanistic rules are mutually beneficial while supernatural rules tend to benefit the ruling classes.

    One further thought: studying the Bible leaves most readers confused and depressed. If you think that it is the “word of God” then you start to despair of there being any rational, let alone compassionate, deity. If you thing that the authors are just puppets of the ruling classes, then you will inevitably come to more logical conclusions about this ancient tool of the elites.

  2. I like the words of God. For example, I frequently turn to the following when I think of God:

    1Cor.14:34-5 – where God explains that it is “shameful” for a woman to speak in Church.

    Num.30-8 – where God explains that a man must approve of his wife’s words if her words are to have any force or meaning.

    1Tim.2-12 – where God explains that a woman must not teach or hold authority over a man.

    I especially like the last one. We should rid our schools, especially colleges and universities, if they employ women in positions of authority – such as professors.
    This would be the fulfillment of God’s wishes, as he expressed in the bible.

  3. Great post and analysis Diana.

    I’m particularly concerned by this part of the e-mail:

    I’ve been reading and studying the Bible for over 30 years now. I can confidently say, there is no other book in this world that even comes close to teaching people how to live a good, decent, and righteous life.

    There are certainly parts of the Bible that says some good things – the Golden Rule comes to mind. However, much of the Bible is filled with tales that endorse misogyny, homophobia, genocide, murder, polygamy, slavery, child abuse and more. These are not the values of a good person imo.

    If I were to recommend a series of books to teach good values, I’d go with the Harry Potter series.

  4. Don’t forget Star Trek, Wonder Woman, Superman, and The Flash! 🙂

    And if you’re looking for a staunch Christian with good values, Detective Murdoch of the Murdoch Mysteries does a pretty good job, as does the Vicar of Grantchester.

  5. I would recommend the book on humanist values by Tremblay and Kurtz:

    The Code for Global Ethics: Ten Humanist Principles.

    The ten principles are significant updates to the Ten Commandments set down two thousand years ago by desert-living tribes who still believed in a flat earth and had no knowledge of viruses or bacteria. Besides, the last 3 commandments make no sense in the modern world.

    I would challenge our friendly Christian author who seems to think that human values derive from ancient texts written in a language that nobody now understands or uses. Actually, human values derive from human interaction.

  6. I would also like to refer our Christian friend to the Humanist Manifesto 2000. It is chock full of commandments for humans without reference to ancient dogma or rhetoric and it is written in understandable English, unlike the ancient Aramaic of the bible that our Christian friend probably doesn’t even speak.

  7. Read Gretta Vosper’s “With or Without God” for a wonderful discussion of how to live a good and decent life without reference to an ancient document written by humans and attributed to a non-existent god.

  8. I thought I posted here. Did I forget to click Post?

    I ridiculed the last 4 sentences of the email because I thought they really were pretty ridiculous, coming, as they do, from an adult who can obviously read and write with proficiency.

    Thusly the substance of my original point is repeated, though with greater concision.

    I think it is necessary to ridicule widely-held terrible ideas. Most public atheists profess to agree with that, and that religion is indeed a set of terrible ideas. The balance to be struck will lie somewhere between politeness and rudeness, I guess, but if the balance is at the extreme of “polite and only polite” then I think we are hamstringing ourselves in the debate.

    I hope I forgot to submit the comment. If I didn’t and the comment was deleted, I’d appreciate some guidelines (in a comment so everyone will be equally apprised) since there isn’t a comment policy and I think I was within the limits of useful discourse. I find religion to be exasperatingly stoo-pid and I’d like to be able to say so here, without restraining my pithy style of writing, please and thanks.

    • No Rob, we don’t delete stuff here. Sometimes this site has gremlins though. I make sure to copy my text every now and then when I’m writing posts. Sorry you lost your comment. It sounded like a good one.

  9. …crime is at an all time high among young people.

    Seemingly not, according to p. 4 of this PDF.

    • This attitude where the act of asserting something somehow makes it to be true is very Christian in its psychology (psychopathy?). It is just the other side of believing something just because it was written down.

  10. Ahhh, Christian arrogance. Never fails to amaze me.
    This particular sentence actually made me laugh out loud:

    “I can confidently say, there is no other book in this world that even comes close to teaching people how to live a good, decent, and righteous life.”

    …Sure. Because telling people to murder homosexuals and adulterers is totally ‘teaching people how to live a good, decent, and righteous life’?

    I cannot wait for the day Christians become a minority here in Canada so they can finally get off their pedestal and stop thinking that their religion is the ‘default’ religion and should be taught in schools. We are in desperate need of a secular, non-affiliated majority. And we are heading that way. Might take a few decades, but we will get there. This time cannot come soon enough.

  11. And also, a little correction to this sentence from the Christian parent:

    “If they have the right, then my daughter does too…and we happen to be Christian […]”

    Wrong, YOU happen to be Christian and you brainwashed your daughter into becoming one too! 😀
    And, lastly:

    “[…] and crime is at an all time high among young people.”

    Right, it must be the fault of those damn atheists. That must be why our prisons are full of Christians and Muslims?

    • You are so right about the prisons. These public institutions are dominated by faith-ism. Its administration is similar to what one would expect to find in Arabia. I learned this by being a regular visitor; standing in line, being sniffed by dogs, while some doofus chaplain, in gaudy military attire, sneaks past, all the while averting any eye contact.

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