As anyone who has read this blog in the past will know, I’m an atheist – not an angry one in the Richard Dawkins mould – but an atheist nonetheless. I’m happy for you all to celebrate your own festivals, believe in your gods and worship in peace. What I do object to is when people decide it’s time to shout in public about their faith and push their beliefs on others. Obviously at this time of year most of the major religions celebrate a festival – Christmas, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday, Bodhi Day, Hanukkah Armadillo and so on. But one thing has really irked me today.
The Church of England thought it would be a good idea for everyone to sit through an advert of the Lord’s Prayer as you sat down with your popcorn to watch Star Wars in the Cinema. There are so many things wrong with this that I don’t know where to start. I think ‘fuck off you arrogant bastards’ is probably as good a place as any though as they have a real brass neck to think that we all need to be told how to live our lives as we spend our hard-earned money on a night out at the pictures.
The complete disregard for the individual here pisses me off. There would be several faiths sitting together, including those like me who don’t believe in any book put together by committee and forced down the throats of their people in times gone by. I don’t even like Star Wars but I’ll have to take the boy along to see it, so that would be bad enough without the Lord’s Prayer being added to the mix.
Thankfully the UK’s leading cinemas have all banned the advert as they don’t show religious or political adverts in their big screens. And that’s as it should be in society. We should all have the right not to be hit over the head with another group’s beliefs. I don’t mind public events like yesterday’s celebration of Diwali in Edinburgh because that’s more about inclusive community than trying to convert or preach to people. Hell, I don’t even mind Christmas Carols – especially by a brass band. (but not the Salvation Army I’m afraid – their attitudes to inequality, hatred of gay rights, history of racism and conservative politics make them a rather unpleasant bunch).
I would also throw schools into the mix here and disagree with the ongoing preaching of the Christian faith to our children in schools. Across the UK our multi-cultural schools are being hit over the head with Jesus on a regular basis and I don’t think there should be a place for that in our classrooms in this day and age. There should be protection and freedom to those who wish to practise their beliefs – regardless how others may view it – as long as it doesn’t break the law and it’s not forced upon other people.
People will no doubt argue that we live in a Christian country and that is statistically true – more than half the population call themselves Christian, but almost a third have no religion and that is the second most popular response if you look at the last census. We make concessions for those with religion and religious belief, so surely the same accommodation should be made for me and my atheist and agnostic friends. I don’t want a soap box, a building to not preach in or a holiday to not celebrate – all I want is parity where I and my family don’t have to be preached at.
I’m aware that I could remove our kids from any religious activity at school, but they have to make their own minds up about it the same as me and Jill did. Also it would be a shame to miss out on the non-religious elements of Christmas and Easter that they enjoy. I think we need to remove the problem from schools altogether and do as the Americans do by dividing Church and State in many circumstances.
I want to live in a country that has the freedom to believe in what they want, but not the platform to try to preach to others. It’s easy to shout people down, use science and logic to counter their strongly held faiths or to point at them and laugh, but that’s not fair or decent. While I don’t believe in a god, I do believe in the right to hold that belief. Maybe if we were more secular in our schools whilst teaching about all religions (not preaching them) we’d have much less negative reactions to those of faith.