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.

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