Here you'll find my thoughts on fitness, humanity, nature, nutrition, politics, reason, science and critical thinking.

“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.” -Albert Einstein

Friday, May 23, 2014

Secularism, the foundation for multiculturalism and equality.

Canada is a country that defends a person’s right to believe whatever one wishes, as long as these beliefs do not bring harm or hinder the liberty of another.

It’s called freedom of conscience, we did not need to add “freedom of religion” to our charter as freedom of conscience already covers that. Religion, is after all just... an ideology, yes to millions it is much more than an idea but we cannot make laws based on how deeply a person believes in an idea.

But that’s one big problem we have within our Charter of Rights and Freedom, it gives religion a special status compared to other personal beliefs. Why? What makes religion more deserving of special status than one person who believes in ghosts? Santa Claus? Liberalism? Conservatism, Voodoo or Communism? We have to look back through history to see how religion gave itself this special status, it did so during the past thousands of years when it dominated peoples lives, religion was the ultimate authority and so it gave itself special privileges. Over the past 1-2 centuries this hold over society is gradually being diminished and society is embracing equality for all, irrelevant of one’s beliefs. In the 21st century there is no valid reason for one belief system (religion) to continue to receive special privileges that any other belief cannot have as well.

Now, back to Canada. The Charter of Rights and Freedom was created in the 1970s and passed in 1982, that’s over 3 decades ago, the majority of politicians of that era where children of very religious parents and the majority were likely religious themselves, it would be naive to say religion did not have a significant (if indirect) influence on politics, so putting religion on the same level as any other ideology was not going to happen. We even have the acknowledgement of god written in our Constitution which came at the insistence of religious organizations, clearly showing the churches influence in that era.

I ask you, is it not fundamentally unjust when people get higher privileges than other citizens just by claiming a specific belief? The following are examples we have in Canada where people of religious belief get a higher status than other Canadians.

A Sikh; by claiming it’s his religion, he was able to have the regulations of the RCMP uniform code changed so he can wear his turban, a muslim women is allowed to wear a hijab with her police uniform in Edmonton, they changed the uniform code to accommodate her. Yet if a first nations man wanted to wear his ceremonial feathers on the basis that it is a part of who he is without claiming it a religious belief, he would not be able to do so, even if it was a profound belief EQUAL to another's religious belief (if we had someway to actually know, which we don’t). That’s clearly saying that one person can break regulations or have them changed for a specific type of ideology (religion) while another can’t.

In a second case, a kirpan is a knife that has a blade length that is illegal to carry, as well in most schools ANY blade is illegal. Once again a person just needed to claim “religious belief” and he is now allowed to have a special law based on a personally chosen belief while anyone else could not carry such a knife for any other belief or no beliefs at all for that matter.

Another issue is the fiscal benefits of religious organizations. A charity has to clearly show they are doing charitable work while a religious organization receives fiscal benefits quite easily, as well no other belief system can get such fiscal benefits. If a group who came from a country where voodoo while not being a religion was a fundamental practice of their culture and they built a temple for the practice of voodoo, they would not be able to receive the same fiscal benefits.

One of the worst case is when a person refuses vaccination based on religious beliefs, this puts everyone else in society at risk because of how vaccines functions. Now we actually permit putting others in harms way just on a personal belief.

All of these permissions are done in the name of multiculturalism but as we saw from my examples it is in no way a multicultural position, it's about religion, not cultures.

What do we do the day a police officer goes to the courts to NOT wear any head gear because his religion demands they have their heads shaved and uncovered at ALL times to display their religious markings in the form of tattoos or someone decides to wear a pasta strainer with their uniform in the name of religion, or wear a cloak because they are practitioners of Jedism? They'll have to say yes or now they'll be discriminating between religions!

**Remember, ANYONE can invent a religion.**

NOTE:Pastafarianism is a religion and wearing a pasta strainer is part of its tenets. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster
NOTE 2: Jedism is a relgion and wearing a cloak is part of its tenets http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jediism

One argument that often comes up is that if it does not remove any freedom from others, why should it be a problem? As we've seen from my examples it does remove a freedom, it removes the freedom for other ideas to ask for benefits that religions have.

Some will say why not let ALL beliefs claim special status? I don't think people who say this really think far enough on the implications. Because if we did that then we have to accept that a person could decide that he is a big believer in the Peter Pan fairy tale and dressing up as Peter Pan is fundamental to who he is... Now make that person a police officer or a judge, dressed in green Peter Pan tights... It seems ridiculous, but is it not for us to judge how a person profoundly believes something, not matter how bizarre it may seem to us.

I ask you, in a society where everyone is supposed to be equal, letting individuals break some rules or have them changed so only THEY can benefit from them under the guise of religious freedom, is this not clearly creating two different classes of citizens, those that can change laws for one ideology (religion) and those that can't for other ideologies, be they political, philosophical, supernatural, cultural or none at all?

People, groups and/or entities who chose to believe in either a political, philosophical, supernatural, pseudo scientific, cultural or any other ideology have to take responsibility that if they follow certain rules that are contrary to laws and regulations based on reason and science, well they might miss opportunities in society because of their choices, and yes it is very possible they might not even be able to work or even live in a society that gives their beliefs EQUAL status versus all others beliefs.

Now that is multiculturalism, a place where all cultures are welcomed understanding that they are all equal under laws created to favor no specific belief, idea or culture.

This is why Canada would be better served by adopting a Secular Law, one that would clearly state:

-- All Canadians are treated equally under the law, all Canadians have the freedom to believe and practice whatever they wish as long as they do not bring harm or hinder the liberty of others. As well, no person, group or entity can claim special status or treatment based on personal beliefs or choices.

The state shall never accommodate a person, group or entity for choices and/or beliefs by changing laws and/or regulation or to give special status to one person, group and/or entity.

The state is secular in all regards. --

Canada has been a leader for bringing equality; we did it for sexual preferences, for ethnicity, for disabilities, for gender and now it’s time we go a step further and ensure that using the word religion does not entitle one to get special treatment, because unlike the first four issues mentioned which are not a personal choice, religion IS...

Is it not time we updated our Charter of rights and freedoms for the 21st century?

1 comment:

Isabelle Poulin said...

Very well written Ricky. You make very valid points, with good supporting examples.