Saturday, February 11, 2012

True Secularism: a Manifesto

I’m fed up of the League of Godless Atheists and their picking away at the fabric of the country and culture like an agitated dement carphologising at a fraying sofa. The latest has been a successful bid to stop prayers before council meetings in that hotbed of religious fundamentalsm, Bideford, Devon.

I think they neeed to come clean and I think they need to put down what they want. But no half measures. If, as is their stated demand, they want religion to be an entirely private business and there to be no religion in the public square then I suggest the following as a manifesto:

[1] No public prayers or religious services as part of public life. This includes the end of the Remembrance Service each year – 'remembrance' is a private act and everyone should be allowed to do it in their own way. The State has no role conducting or organising ‘spiritual’ acts in any way;

[2] All schools to pass to secular control. No religion to be taught in schools, but also all mention of religion, including any anti-religious texts to be removed. No spiritual or moral guidance about behaviour to be given at all. These are private matters and not a matter for the State;

[3] As a matter of justice, of course, the communities that paid the capital costs for schools should be recompensed for the nationalisation of schools.;

[4] The removal of all art, painting, sculpture, books or films with any mention of religion- either pro- or anti- to be removed from public libraries and galleries (this will include Bibles, Korans, Works of Philosophy with religious , anti-religious or metaphysical themes, religious works of art and anti-religious works of art). No public funding for any art , theatre or film with a religious, or for that matter anti-religious subject. No broadcasting of anything on State media of anything with religious or anti-religious messages (including Prof Dawkins, but also including A Service of Nine Lesson and Carols). This is not the business of the State.

[5] All marriages to be secular and conducted in municipal property without any ceremony at all, merely the exchange of promises under affirmation. No restriction on marriage to anyone or anything - men may marry women, men or anything in between; adults may marry animals, children or inanimate objects. It is not the job of the State to dictate such a private matter. Any religious services may be added on in the privacy of whatever religious venue (see below for religious venues);

[6] All buildings in public view to be secularised. All churches, temples, synagogues and mosques with religious appearance to be altered to look entirely secular or demolished (planning law to be altered to facilitate this). All chapels attached to secular buildings (universities etc) to be entirely converted to secular use with the removal of all symbols or religion (stained glass, statues etc) . No exceptions on sentimental grounds - if religious people want to take the religious symbols away to use them, fine. The banning of the ringing of bells except for public clocks. No sentimentality about Cathedrals - St Pauls, York Minster, Ely: they were built with an explicit religious purpose and their form is entirely religious, they are in the public square, the must come down. Any protest on 'artistic' grounds is sentimentality, unworthy of a true secularist.

[7] All dress to be secularised. No wearing of clerical collars or soutanes in public or vestments in procession. Ban also for hijabs, niqabs, kippahs and turbans in public. The wearing of any sort of religious clothing is a form of public witness and visual prosetylisation. Likewise the wearing of any political, philosophical or religious badge or imagery (eg kirpans, CND badges or any philosophical or political message) . Personal ideas - political, philosphical or religious either pro- or anti- have no place in the public square. No fancy-dress with any allusion to religion (tarts and vicars etc.)

[8] No performance of any music (oratorios, masses, chorales etc) in public facilities – schools, colleges, publicly funded concert halls - with a religious theme (including but not restricted to relevant works by Handel, Monteverdi, Tallis, Bach, Beethoven, Purcell). No performance of plays or other dramatic works with religious theme (including works by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Chaucer etc) in public facilities –schools, colleges etc.

[9] No public preaching or canvassing in any public place – these are entirely private matters to be discussed away from the public space. If you want a meeting – hire a hall with your own money.

[10] No public religious or anti-religious processions, walks or demonstrations. But likewise a ban on all Pride Marches, trades union rallies, political demonstrations, or parades of any description - including public acts of Remembrance. No Christmas parades with elves or Santas - these are mythical, quasi-religious figures with no place in the public square Any religious or philosophical discussion is a private matter to be conducted away from the public space. A road is for walking down, not for making a religious, political or philosophical points. No public display of Christmas or any other seasonal decorations visible to the public. including shop windows and private homes visible to the public highway. These are private matters, not for the public space.

[11] The banning of all holidays, religious or secular (Christmas, Easter, May Bank Holiday, August Bank Holiday, all other bank holidays). Since the taking of holidays is an entirely personal matter, there is no need for the state to dictate to individual businesses when they should give time off to workers. Likewise weekends. Public buildings, offices etc to be open 7 days a week for efficient public service. It is not for the State to define which days of the week people should, as a rule, take off. Having Sunday and by extension Saturday as non-working days unfairly privileges Judaeo-Christianity.

[12] The changing of all placenames and institutions with any religious significance (eg Christchurch, Bury St Edmonds, Charing Cross, Magdalen College etc). The removal of all religious symbols from the apparatus of the State, including the Crown, the Crosses of St George, St Andrew and St Patrick, the flag of Northern Ireland and the Union Flag (likewise the corresponding emblems of the armed forces)

I have absolutely no doubt that there are secularists, whose mad ravings you see in the comments of blogs etc who would want this. All of it.

I make the point because, if you look at all the above you see how much religion is part of life in our country, for good or ill (and I accept sometimes for ill)

But let’s put it to a vote. No half measures. No pick-and choose. No ‘cafeteria secularism’. Full, red-blooded, Dawkins-in-tooth and claw, Terry Sanderson secularism or nothing. No sentimentality about the language of the KJV and Milton. If you want religion out of the public square, then it goes, as do all anti-religious messages, too. Sauce for the goose and all that, a level playing field.

And if you lose – no, not if, you will lose – please go away.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said!

12:42 AM  
Blogger Brian Westley said...

You seem hysterical.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Bertie said...

It's been tried before with the cross at Nowa Huta. That went well didn't it?

1:09 PM  
Blogger Paulinus said...

@Brian Westley
You sound in denial

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well said that man!

5:10 PM  
Blogger Paulinus said...

Anonymous (FJ)

Father! 12.42 - you should have been in your bed!

Yes. Not very good at taking lessons from history are they? But then again, isn't that a definition of madness Einstein, I think) - trying the same thing again and again with the same catasstrophic results.

Thank you.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Left-footer said...

Perfect example of reductio ad absurdum, a great form of demolition.

Thank you, and God bless!

9:13 AM  
Blogger Paulinus said...

It's reductio ad absurdam because they are absurd.

5:31 PM  
Anonymous James said...

You know the council hasn't been banned from having prayers, it's been banned from making prayers a formal part of the meeting (which essentially made the prayer compulsory to the councillors). The councillors who wish are still able to have a prayer in the meeting room beforehand, they're just not allowed to make the atheist councillor(s) attend.

7:16 PM  
Blogger Paulinus said...


That's hardly the point. If you read the post my complaint is the incremental picking away at the fabric of the spiritual life of the country, the faked indignation and offence-taking at something as innocuous as prayers before a council meeting, or indeed a service at a church for Remembrance Day if he didn't want to go, he could always send a deputy who didn't share his scruples)

The (ex-)councillor is well within his rights to take it to court, but then again he opens himself up to the charge of being a nit-picking ninny.

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Amorality of Atheism

2:34 PM  

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