Broken Bay Writers – Stories of NSW Central Coast and beyond

Scribbles on life, the universe and everything… Woy Woy, Ettalong, Umina and teh Central Coast that is!

Discrimination against Atheists!


January 20, 2009

I arose this morning at 3:40 am to witness a great moment in history. I refer, of course, to the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America. As a student of public speaking, I was not disappointed. President Obama is a great orator. He seems a great man. Time will tell.

His speech was laced with words chosen carefully for their symbolism. Positive messages for the whole world. I was struck by one line in particular. America is a hard place to live as an atheist. Many have written about this. Support organisations exist in the “land of the free” for “non-believers”. President Obama embraced people of all beliefs and included the words, “Christians, Muslims, Jews and non-believers”. This is a rare inclusion by an American President.

I find it amazing that people who do not believe in fairy stories, fables that are not supported by any creditable evidence, need to even have a name for their “non-belief”. To me, “non-believer” is insulting. There are still people who believe in a flat earth, does that make everyone else a “non-believer”? Is a person who does not believe in alien abductions a “non-believer”?

My point is, religion enjoys a level of acceptance, priority and importance that is above most other beliefs and issues in our society. Why is it elevated? I find this attitude particularly hard to understand in, so called, free societies. You are free to practice and believe in a religion if you choose to. No problem there. The problem comes when certain freedoms are granted only to people who are claiming a religious significance to their request.

In Australia today there is controversy over the wearing of burqas and hijabs. As they are Islamic traditions, it is considered a breech of religious freedom to prevent the wearing of these garments. There have been cases where these people have worn them for identity photos and into places like banks.

The problem with this situation is, why is the “freedom” only considered if you practice a certain religion? The question should be, as a free society should we allow “anybody” to wear these things if they choose to. That is freedom!!!

Freedom is indivisible! As soon as you give a right only to one group of people, you discriminate against the rest. Atheists are discriminated against commonly. Last week an advertising company refused a campaign of messages on buses from an Atheist group in Adelaide. Imagine that happening to the Catholic Church.

When Barack Obama mentioned “non-believers” today, he opened the door another small way to genuine freedom. He took a step towards correcting a form of discrimination that has survived for centuries. I am a believer! In the question of a god, just show me the credible evidence and I will consider it. In the mean time, I would like to wear my motorcycle helmet where I please. Do I need an imaginary friend to justify this?

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