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.