christians, education, religion

It’s Official: Religion = Discrimination

I’m a little slow on following up on this landmark decision by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, so bear with me.

On March 31, the Toronto Star reported that York University’s long-standing tradition of cancelling classes on Jewish holidays discriminates against students of other religions. An interesting passage from the article in question:

While the investigator’s report must now go before the commissioners themselves for consideration, her findings are seen as vindication for York history professor David Noble, who has complained for years it is unfair for today’s diverse multi-faith campus to scrap classes for three days and nights each year to honour one group’s religious holy days, but not others.

So, we have established without question, through the judgment of an official government body, that imposing religious holidays on everyone discriminates against some individuals. Keeping in mind that the acquiescence of a government department was all it took to confirm the existence of Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street, I will expect the following things to occur:

Classes on Sundays will be a go for students at York. Why not? Sundays are not holy or sabbath days for everyone, not to mention that they are just another day for us heathen atheists. Why should any day of the week be any different from any other? In fact, this could serve as a justification for Sunday shopping: if you forbid me from partaking of raw, unfettered capitalism due to a religious prohibition, well, then, you are discriminating against me, aren’t you? Help, help, I’m being repressed!

I expect (nay, hope beyond hope) that this will be the end of commercial religious programming, particularly that which exists solely to imply that if I don’t avail myself of your saviour’s phone number or get on his friends list on Facebook or something, I am somehow worthy of eternal punishment. That is slander, that is a hate crime, that is discrimination in its most textbook definition. I don’t believe your superstitious nonsense, I’m not going anywhere particularly hot or cold when I die (unless I could be shot into space after I croak…note to self…), and I consider myself a good person who has led an honest life according to a solid non-invisible-man-in-the-sky-based moral code. If I can be condemned for the crime of not agreeing with you, well, slap the cuffs on, sparky. Guilty as charged.

No more Xmas holidays, classes should continue unabated at York and in other universities, with the exception of one day, maybe two, after the New Year which I will call ‘Hangover Day’. It will be a day (or two) of relaxation, of recovery, of telling your relatives to shut the fuck up before you murder them in cold blood with whatever is closest to hand at the moment. A rash of forced asphyxiations by TV remote will doubtless result, but, hey, at least you get the day (or two) off. And 20 years of privacy, if you’re lucky.

Anyway folks, this is an important ruling that isn’t receiving the attention it deserves. There are many more implications than are addressed in the article itself. If you think about it, we are living in a society that primarily organizes itself according to the values of one specific religious code, which for the most part is innocuous, but at times can become annoying and troubling to those of us who agree fully with Richard Dawkins and think religion is given far more respect than it deserves.

I’m not anti-semitic, or anti-muslim, or anti-christian, I’m anti-religion as a concept. The very idea that someone or something imaginary can tell you to shut off your rational mind and accept anything a particular elite group of spokespeople tell you goes against everything I hold dear. The ability of a small cadre of robed or spiffily-dressed mouthpieces to dictate behaviour without question must lead to abuses of power and the suppression of any concept of equity or justice that human beings are entitled to. The difference between Chairman Mao’s communist China and christianity is that China has more people and occupies more space, and is less skilled at manipulating people to their own ends across international borders. And the Big Book ‘O’ Communism probably hasn’t been translated as often as the bible, although it has been used to justify an equal (although probably lesser) amount of persecution and murder.

It’s time we grow up as a species and recognize the freedom from religion as a human right as a first step in ensuring all of the most basic human rights. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has started the ball rolling, let’s hope it gets picked up.


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29 thoughts on “It’s Official: Religion = Discrimination

  1. Flash,
    You’ll like this. Apparently a Democratic state representative in Illinois got in a piss-up with a local atheist who complained about a large chunk of taxpayer jingly going toward a church. She foamed:

    I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln…where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children.… What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous to the progression of this state. It’s dangerous that our children even know that your philosophy exists.

    Yes, indeed, it *is* dangerous that children know our philosophy exists, because it will set them free from religious superstition and bigotry. I am beginning to agree more and more with Dawkins and Harris when they call religious education of children child abuse.

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  2. I find it disturbing and unfair that people equate Atheism with immorality or just plain evil. We follow a code of conduct which is probably not unlike those of religious folk, except we are obviously doing it out of a sense of real civic duty and care for our fellow human beings, rather than the threat of eternal punishment after we die. Most acts performed under the threat of pain or torture (coercion) can be ‘forgiven’ – that is, if you rob a store while under threat of force against yourself or your family, the law will generally excuse you from responsibility, and punish the person or persons responsible for forcing you to commit a criminal act. Therefore, supposedly ‘kind’ acts performed by the religious population are not performed sincerely, and are not recognizable as altruism, just self-centred acts committed while afraid of punishment. Unfortunately, the criminal responsible is imaginary.
    Religion is coercion, and does not bring out the best in people – quite the contrary, it makes them more focused on how much trouble they would be in for on the day ‘when your father comes home’.

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  3. The idea of even equating religion and morality is interesting to me. Taking the Bible as an example because I’m familiar with it, there is a ton of shit in the Old Testament – killing disobedient kids and whatnot – that most modern Christians find abhorrent. The act of cherry-picking which moral lessons to follow and which to ignore in the Bible is an action that demonstrates that religion is not the source of morality.

    I agree 100% with you Brother Flash. It has a nice ring, doesn’t it?

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  4. “Can never get enough of that…Hmm…Time to start my own belief system?”

    Where do I sign? Can I be a Bishop? Or a Cardinal? They get all the chicks…

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  5. It’s the snazzy robes, Mike. Does it every time. I’m wondering, though, if it’s actually chicks most of them are after…
    First order of business is the Super Double Secret Thoughtcrime Police, to enforce my every whim without question. SuDSThoP will be the real power base.

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  6. I guess I’ll have to check the link at home. Darned firewall!

    By the way, isn’t a non-belief system what we’re really after? You can have the snappy robes if you want, Flash, but I will mock you without mercy. (Says the guy who plays D&D about 1/3 as much as he wants to!)

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  7. Choosing to believe there is no supreme creator/ entity is still a belief, dude. Which incidently has yet to be definitively PROVEN. Lack of evidence for one doesn’t provide absolute evidence against one.

    Besides I thought Flash was more interested in the menas to get chicks… I kinda favor the Raelian approach. ;o)

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  8. Choosing to believe there is no supreme creator/ entity is still a belief, dude.

    Ummm, no, it isn’t. I’ve seen it written in the ‘sphere that atheism is a religion (belief system, if you will) in the same way that not playing soccer is a sport.

    As for proof, if we are to apply scientific logic to the premise of G(g)od(dess), then the onus is on the believer to prove H(h)is existence, not me to prove non-existence. I can prove something exists, but it is devillishly difficult to prove it doesn’t.

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  9. The burden of proof is always on the party that has the most outlandish claim – and the claim to the whole ‘invisible man in the sky’ horse hockey is about as outlandish as one can get.
    The ‘easy’ way out is to propose something like “the universe, ecosystem, etc. operates according to natural laws and function without supernatural intervention”. I’m probably not phrasing it right, but the idea is to force someone to prove there IS a god, which is impossible when every phenomenon has an alternative explanation that does not resort to the supernatural as a cause. Occam’s Razor carves off the extra stuff.
    Thoughts, gentlemen?

    BTW, Graven, I read the Cracked article too – good stuff, if slightly disturbing. I visit there at least once a day when I can. Kevvy, I’m done with worrying about the whole capitalization thing – elves and gnomes aren’t capitalized, so god isn’t entitled to it either.:) That said, yes, your point about a non-belief system is a perfectly valid one. Press Secretary, maybe?

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  10. “Ummm, no, it isn’t. I’ve seen it written in the ’sphere that atheism is a religion (belief system, if you will) in the same way that not playing soccer is a sport.”

    So you are presenting the blogosphere as an authority on the english language and the absolute definition of the word “believe”? I don’t think so, Timmy. If you apply basic logic, and the definition of the word (Oxford dictionary: Belief – Mental acceptance of a proposition, statement, or fact, as true, on the ground of authority or evidence; assent of the mind to a statement, or to the truth of a fact beyond observation, on the testimony of another, or to a fact or truth on the evidence of consciousness; the mental condition involved in this assent. Constr. of a statement, or (obs.) a speaker; that…; belief in (a thing); persuasion of its existence.
    ); believing an idea to be true, is believing an idea to be true, irrespective of what said idea happens to be. You still BELIEVE it.

    “As for proof, if we are to apply scientific logic to the premise of G(g)od(dess), then the onus is on the believer to prove H(h)is existence, not me to prove non-existence. I can prove something exists, but it is devillishly difficult to prove it doesn’t.”

    Precisely. I never said there was an onus was on you to prove the non-existence of a deity, I just said you weren’t in possession of definitive proof there isn’t one. Under Popper’s system of scientific rigour, you actually can’t PROVE anything, you can only support or refute a hypothesis of why something may or may be true (the way it is), failure to support something does not necessarily lead directly to refuting it.

    If you assert the idea that “there is no supreme being/ deity” as an absolute truth… I’d say, yes, there is an onus on you to prove that statement as a fact – present your evidence. If you assert that there is simply no proof to support the idea that there is a supreme being (which I think Dawkins is careful to do), the onus of proof is on those who claim the contrary. It sounds like semantics, but it is a very different statement. Its the whole basis for scientific method and the peer-reviewed system we depend so heavily on.

    Just saying “They can’t prove there is.” is the same argument (albeit reversed: “They can’t prove there isn’t”) that the theists and creationists use when they actually sit down to the farce (because usually neither side presents absolute proof one way or another)of a logical debate. If that is the basis of your argument, you have no call to ridicule the other side. ;o)

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  11. By the way Flash:

    “The burden of proof is always on the party that has the most outlandish claim ” doers not equal Occam’s Razor. The principle states that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory. usually paraphrased to,”All things being equal, the simplest explanation that supports all the facts is usually the best”
    See my response to Kevvy above.

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  12. In truth, according to Popper, the question of the existence of god is by its nature unscientific because it is unfalsifiable – which is to say, it can never definitively be proven wrong.

    The difficulty seems to be one of pure semantics – we don’t have the words necessary to express non-believing belief. I suppose I would consider myself a ‘positivist philosopher’, if I had to label my position.

    Basically, I ain’t putting money on there being any sort of supreme being (Diana Ross?), not even an ‘insurance’ bet – no recanting on the deathbed for me. Part of the reason Ms. Flash and I get along so well is explained by this example:
    As some may be aware, Ms. Flash was stricken by what at the time was an unknown but extremely serious illness (ultimately diagnosed as MS) which rendered her aphasic, or unable to speak. The possibilities included a tumour or a stroke, both of which scared the bejeebus out of both of us – I was having actual kittens (which will be the basis for my sainthood in years to come – but I digress), and we sat together in her hospital room under quite a cloud of fear. At one point, the hospital chaplain, responding to Ms. F.’s religion of ‘catholic’ in the records, dropped by for a chat and a prayer or two.
    Ms. Flash looked up at her and basically told her to take a hike.
    She is just too cool, lemme tell ya. I hope I can live up to her example.:)

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  13. And, yes, Graven, I was aware of that – the reference to Occam was in regard to adding supernatural explanations to phenomena where simpler, more natural explanations will suffice.

    Aren’t you supposed to be, I don’t know, writing a thesis or something, Mr. Webster?:)

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  14. Graven,

    believing an idea to be true, is believing an idea to be true, irrespective of what said idea happens to be. You still BELIEVE it

    Please do not conflate or confuse my belief that gods don’t exist with religious belief, semantics aside. Religious belief is *not* the same as saying that I believe a premise to be true or false because there is an issue of provability and evidence – you cannot prove God doesn’t exist because evidence doesn’t penetrate that kind of belief. However, if someone were to prove God existed, sign me up – all I require is evidence.

    I am not in the religious belief game – I do not “believe in nothing” as the reglious like to denigrate atheism as. I believe that there is nothing there worth believing in – not the same thing.

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  15. Flash:

    “In truth, according to Popper, the question of the existence of god is by its nature unscientific because it is unfalsifiable – which is to say, it can never definitively be proven wrong.”

    That is still just Popper’s BELIEF. He doesn’t have any evidence to the contrary (of God’s existence). He just points out that theother side’s idea of God isn’t falsifiable – meaning they can’t prove it. It doesn’t refute the argument I presented to Kevvy – about the defintion of what a “belief” is. I don’t give a rat’s a** about the God/ No God thing.

    “the reference to Occam was in regard to adding supernatural explanations to phenomena where simpler, more natural explanations will suffice.”

    ‘God did it’ is about as simple as it gets. Doesn’t mean its supportable, but it is simple (there is a joke there but I’ll leave it for Kev).

    And yes, I am working on my thesis. Since all my work is predicted on the scientific method
    proposed by KP, this argument about scientific method is all very educational for me, so there.

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  16. The phrase ‘god did it’ is unsupportable as a cause to whatever effect you are referring to from the Occam’s Razor perspective – to accept that, you would have to accept an entire cosmology that operates according to laws that would allow/be created by a supreme being – the opposite position, one of natural phenomena specific to the effect in question, is simpler.

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  17. Graven,
    In this statement:

    Choosing to believe there is no supreme creator/ entity is still a belief, dude.

    you directly conflate my *disbelief* with religious belief. That’s where you did it.

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  18. Finally, those jackasses at UNB computing services have the net back up…

    Kev: No where in that statement is the phrase “religious belief” evident. You set that tone by following the silly discussion of systems of belief and religions with a statement of non-belief. But this one may be semantics, as it could be considered to be implied. What started me off is your use of a “system of non-belief”, which, in its generic state, implies something more along the lines of… willful ignorance, and is preposterous, unless one takes the position “I don’t believe in ________ (anything or everything), just because…” everyone believes something, but not necessarily ‘in’ something. NON-belief and “I believe that there is nothing there worth believing in” implies a more active, definitive, antagonistic/ opposing stance than ‘you have not proven your belief in a supreme God(ess) to be valid”. My point was simply about that being a *non*-belief, you simply, believe the opposite; which by strict definition, is a belief, whether you are religious about it or not. By your arguments, a more accurate phrase would have been a system of non-belief-in-a-supreme-being.

    And that concludes todays episode of “bait the Kevvy”…. maybe.

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  19. Flash:

    “the opposite position, one of natural phenomena specific to the effect in question, is simpler”
    alternative cosmologies aside, that statement may be more valid (and I believe it is, or what am I doing getter a Doctorate in science)… but “God did it” is simpler… see, only 3 words, much simpler…. ;o)

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  20. Flash: Hey, the list of acknowledgements is so long now, what’s a few more names? It’s not like anyone who looks at them is going to be looking for anything other than their own, anyway. I wonder if anyone would notice if I added my Guild wars characters? “… for stress relief during the creative process…”

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