Ten Issues of a Secular Society

Should we have more separation between Church and State?

How far should we go in affirming ourselves as a secular society? Here are Ten Issues of a Secular Society. Often, these issues seem to revolve around seemingly trivial questions such as whether any references to God should be removed from a particular government institution. More generally, however, there are deeper cultural issues behind this, rather than a mere cosmetic attempt to be more politically correct. In a society with a diversity of religions, belief systems, philosophies and looks at life, doesn't it
make sense for government to take a more neutral or secular position in all this?

1.  Should Religion determine Trading Hours?

Should shops close on certain hours and certain days? Should shops and service providers observe Saturday and/or Sunday as days of rest, for religious reasons, or Christmas and Easter as public holidays?

2.  Should the word God be used on Money?

Should the words in God we trust be printed on banknotes and coins? Is the name of God, when printed on banknotes, used in vain? Government should - in my opinion - not have a monopoly over money in the first place - see financial reform. Nevertheless, as long as government does exercize such a monopoly, it should do so without bias towards any specific religion or belief system.  

3.  Should Government celebrate Christmas and Easter?

Should government departments rule out Christmas parties and stop sending Merry Christmas wishes to staff? Should Christmas be a public holiday, or Easter? Should Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Easter no longer be celebrated as a Public Holidays? Should government departments stop sending any greeting cards and messages to staff and clients at the end of the year, even when they don't mention Merry Christmas, but instead merely wish for a Happy New Year or Happy Holidays? Should Christmas Lights be called Festivity Lights, or Fairy Lights or just lights? Similarly, should Christmas Carols be referred to as just carols or songs? Should a public broadcasting station avoid broadcasting Christian celebrations around Christmas and Easter? Should they avoid mentioning associated celebrations in newsreports at all? 

4.  Should the Calendar be changed to BDI and ADI?

Should historians continue to use the phrase BC (Before Christ)? Officials at the Cheddar Caves museum in Cheddar George, Somerset, one of Britain's most popular tourist attractions, have changed all exhibit dates to BP (Before Present [Times]). As Cheddar Caves museum curator Bob Smart says, different religions have different dating systems. Some people suggest that we can continue using BC, as long as we insist that this means Before Current [Times], rather than Before [the birth of] Christ.  Alternatively, we can start counting from another date altogether, say, the day of the Declaration of Independence (D), resulting in years before (BDI) and after (ADI).

5.  Should Public Hospitals offer Religious Facilities? 

Should public hospitals use priests or pastors and have places of prayer? Should Gideon's Bible be removed from the drawers next to beds in public hospitals? Note also that, apart from secular considerations, there is the added argument that such bibles can spread contagious diseases. 

6.  Should Drugs be prohibited for Religious Reasons? 

In many middle-eastern countries, marijuana is commonly used, while alcohol is prohibited. In many western countries, alcohol is not prohibited, whereas marijuana is prohibited. The Koran prohibits alcohol, while Jesus drank wine and wine is served in many christian churches. Is regulation of drugs determined by religion, and if so, should it?  

7.  Should Priviliges for Religious Charities be ended? 

Should religious charities have tax privileges when they engage in commercial activities? Should Churches that sell CDs, organize bingos, hold real estate and sell food be exempt from Council Rates, Capital Gains Tax, Income Tax, etc? Should the Christmas Box, for donations, be removed from the desks of public offices? Should religious charities get government grants for social work and community activities?

8.  Should Government rule on Marriage?

Is monogamy, specifically the marriage between a man and a woman, merely a reflection of Christian values that no longer has a place in our current diverse society? Should polygamy be allowed or banned? What about gay marriage? Should married people have legal privileges in tax, inheritance, adoptions, etc? In the western world, it's common for children to go to the mother in case of a split-up, whereas women and children have less say in things in the Middle East.

More generally, are all these issues merely based on religious differences and, if so, should government support any specific religion in our current secular and diverse society? In my view, there's no place for
government at all in dictating personal relations - if people felt the need to, say, pledge vows, they can do so without a formal wedding procedure, couldn't they? Shouldn't they?

9.  Should the Ten Commandments be on Public Display?

Should the Ten Commandments be on public display, such as on a statue in front of a courthouse or in a public park? Perhaps christianity did play an important role in the history of America, but so did the American Indians and Innuits, to mention but two cultural and ethnic groups. The Supreme Court seems divided on the issue - it prohibited the display of framed copies of the Ten Commandments on the
walls of two rural Kentucky courthouses in one case, but in another ruling it objected the objections against the Ten Commandments on a 6-foot-tall granite monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol in Austin. Perhaps the Ten Commandments did play a historically important role in regard to the law, but at the same time, aren't they in many respects at odds with our rights?

10.  Should God be banned from School? 

Rather than to hang on to the many problems invoked by the current education system, we should seek more fundamental reform, establishing more direct democracy. We should introduce more competition into society, while allowing people more direct choice as encouraged by means of tax deducations and vouchers. Nevertheless, as long as there are public schools and as long as government gives financial support and further priviliges to schools, we should look into the following issues:

- Pledge of Allegiance

For years, a California father has been challenging teacher-led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance containing the word 'God' in public schools.  

- Dress Code at School

Should public schools prohibit students from wearing clothing and jewelry that have strong religious connotations, such as veils, headscarfs, large crosses, printed T-shirst with rekligious messages, etc?

- Educational Curriculum

What constitutes science at public school? Can a teacher at a public school mention Creationism or Intelligent Design as a serious alternative next to Evolution? Should public schools stick to a formal curriculum regarding science in the first place? Should public schools teach religion and, if so, should paganism, atheism and other beliefs be given equal space, next to christianity and other more conventional? What about sex education?

- Should Government give financial support to Religious Schools? 

Are priests who strongly believe in creationism fit to give a general education? Can churches give proper education on topics like history, science, evolution, biology and sexuality, given their own predisposition to creationism, immaculate conception and their views on sex?

Indeed, did you ever notice how much religion appears to focus on sex? Gender issues and sexual orientation seem to top the list of issues in religious discussions. Should the use of condoms be encouraged to avoid sexually transmitted diseases? or should condoms, the Pill and other forms of birth control be rejected, while abstinence should be seen as the sole means of birth control? Is masturbation a sin? What about a wet dream? Should procreation the sole aim of sexuality? Is it a sin to make sexuality one's main goal in life?

What about IVF, surrogate motherhood, sperm and egg donation, cloning and genetic manipulation, and other issues related to sexual reproduction?

Should gay and lesbian people be able to marry, adopt children, attend church and go to heaven? Can a priest or bishop be gay, female, lesbian, or married? Does a priest have to practice abstinence? All religions seem to have strong views on such issues, moreover, they seem to have a Freudian inclination to see sex behind things.

What about sex before marriage? What about people's secret lusts for fetishism, sado-masochism and dominatrices? What about extra-marital sex (adultery)? What about polygamy? When is sex OK and when not, and how should sex be regulated, if at all? Who can issue marriage certificates? Pornography, prostitution, abortion and the position of women, churches typically have a strong opinion on it.

The key issue in all these cases appears to be sex. It appears that religion evolves around sex, and that religious practices focus strongly on control over sex. Sex is also a simple way to define differences between various religions. Christians like to follow the traditional model of a male-dominated, monogamous man-and-wife marriage with many kids. The Islam is even more traditional and condones polygamy. Christians are generally more friendly towards women, allowing women to initiate divorce, generally while keeping the children and with the possibility of remarrying after divorce. Protestants are less traditional on issues like sex before marriage, gay marriage, divorce, etc. Anyway, the conclusion is that if you focus on sex, all pieces of the religious puzzle seem to fall in place.

What does this focus on sex mean for education? How fit are churches in general education, given this extraordinary focus on sex? Priests may claim to endeouvour to keep lust and sexual education off the curriculum, but if religion hinges so much on control of sex in society, then it inevitably does put sex on the agenda in many ways. And of course, we all know how much churches have been in the spotlight for sexual abuse against children that were trusted into their care. If religion is about sex, then how fit are priests to give a general education, given that sex is so high on the agenda?  

Sources and Further Reading: 

Secularism, marriage and more issues:  
http://groups.google.com/group/humanities/browse_thread/thread/8e9b9d23d83832da  http://groups.google.com/group/humanities/msg/7163c45883edc9fe   http://groups.google.com/group/humanities/msg/e733e7649565896e  

Ten Commandments on Government Property:  
http://groups.google.com/group/epistemology/msg/8bba031bd3a658b9  

Ten Commandments versus Bill of Rights:  
http://groups.google.com/group/morality/msg/e7dc4ef52fbef512  http://groups.google.com/group/discussion/browse_thread/thread/56a616fb37a9f906  

Pledge of Allegiance:  
http://groups.google.com/group/humanities/msg/303116ad470e467c

Sex and Religion:  
http://groups.google.com/group/humanities/browse_thread/thread/93a3205e455d2415  

 

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